Thursday, September 27, 2012

My Only Burn is Heartburn

Monday I'm giving a lecture on the art and craft of writing. As if I know more than my cats about this. But that's the funny thing about being published. Suddenly, everybody thinks you know something. Maybe you do, maybe you don't. You give it a shot. I do know a decent novel is not done with smoke and mirrors. It takes a modicum of talent, a studious amount of technique, and a helluva lot of work.
It's like playing tennis. The more you practice, the better you get. Now I'm not talking about the likes of Roger Federer. There's a certain type of genius going on there. A touch of 'forever' in what you do. The works of Michelangelo, Nijinsky, Mozart, Caruso, Elenora Dusa - just to name a few - have soared above the rest of their peers in their particular field. The guy with the lid on the left, BTW, is Nijinsky. When he died, he left his feet to science for study. They took the bones apart to see how he managed to soar so high in all his dance steps. They found normal bones.
I never considered myself a soarer. Certainly not on the same plane as literary geniuses. I have no great American novel burning within me. In fact, the only burning sensation I have is solved with Tums. Could be the ice cream.
However, I do know a thing or two about writing, I love to write, I am committed to being better at my craft, and hope I turn out a decent novel or two.
Sometimes you need a trampoline to get as high as those other guys. I've got one on order. Meanwhile, happy writing to us all. It's a gift to be able to do it at all, never mind eternity.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Writer's Slump

I don't have writer's block. If need be, I can sit down and write something. Aren't I doing it now? Well, I didn't say I could write something of value, just something. However, I have been working on the final cleanup of a novel I've been penning for the past six years, getting it ready for publication. You know how that goes: a tag line, a blurb, another tag line, a better blurb, a tag line that might make someone want to pick up the book and read it, a blurb that makes sense. Daunting.
Then there's the cover, back cover, the spine - and I'm glad something's got one - because my spine has turned to jelly.
What happens is after maybe 45-minutes of doing this and that on this project, I'm shot for the day. I don't want to go back to the draft of the 3rd book of the Persephone Cole series and get Percy out of the kitchen. I'm okay with leaving her there, gaining weight, not getting anything done on her latest case, because I am unwilling to switch gears from my stand alone mystery noir back to the Persephone Cole series.
This is unlike me. I usually like to juggle 2 to 4 writing projects at the same time. Helps to keep me from getting writer's block. I am now wearing that block around my neck. See albatross below and to the right.

I'm feeling overwhelmed. Lethargic.
Doesn't that closet need to be cleaned out? You know, you've really been neglecting the cats. Grab that toy and go play with them. Go kiss your husband, go take your shoes to be re shod, go to blue blazes, but whatever you do, Heather Haven, don't get any writing done.

Big sigh.

Okay, I'm done grousing. After I come back from the post office, I really have to get back to my writing. I really, really do.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Heap of Trouble is a Heap of Good Writing

Join me in getting to know author Lorrie Unites-Struiff a little bit better. A Heap of Trouble is a western humorous romance action story. That's a lot of stuff for Struiff to put in one book, but she does it with style! This book has something for everyone and I love the cover. It's, of course, by Suzannah Safi.
Lorrie lives in West Mifflin, PA, thirty minutes from downtown Pittsburgh. She lives at home with her husband and her favorite toy—a computer.
 Once a gold medalist teacher/manager for a big-name ballroom dance studio she has retired and now enjoys the quiet life of writing and watching TV. But she loves to have lunches with local authors to keep abreast of the challenging world of publishing.
Lorrie writes in many genres so you never know what she will come out with next. She never wants to bore her readers and enjoys the thrill of entertaining them by writing a good story.
Here's a few answers to questions, so we can meet the real Lorrie!

Thank you so much for the invitation to guest on your blog today, Heather.

1.      What is your favorite book?
Plum Island by Nelson DeMille. The first in his John Corey series. I love the way he can take a tense situation with gun fights, chases, etc. and still make me laugh. It’s a wonderful talent I wish I had.

        2.      Who is your favorite writer?
Oh, my gosh! Do you want me to take up three pages? I have so many, but sadly, lately I haven’t had much time to read. I miss it. With two books out; the promoting is taking up so much time, even my writing is suffering. I think most authors know the feeling. Then there is real life that keeps interfering, too. 

3.      How old were you when you were first published?
Not answering that one. Lol. I don’t want readers to faint.

4.      What writing style do you most abhor?
I don’t like deep character style, where you are in the head of a person for many pages. I get bored and think, “get on with the story already.” I like action, a bit of character is fine, in fact good. But, let’s get to the story.

5.      What is your favorite writing clichĂ©?
Have your picture taken when you’re young, and don’t give up your day job.
6.      What is your favorite word?
(It) is my favorite word. It encompasses so much. Lol. But, yes, I have learned long ago not to use ‘it’ a lot. Although it’s still my favorite word.

7.      When and how do you write? (typewriter, Mac, in a cafĂ©, for four hours each morning, etc?)
Picture this. Here I sit in my tilt-back chair, in the den, surrounded by my TV, books, Kindle, love seat, stereo, etc. My feet are up, my laptop on my lap and I’m so comfortable I can nod off at times. What more can I ask? I write at different times of the morning or afternoon. In the evenings, when my eyeballs are hanging on my cheeks, I’ll watch TV until bedtime.

8.      What is your greatest fear when you first turn in a manuscript?
I could have done better. They’re going to hate it. As you can tell, I have a very low ego.

9.  In what era do you wish you’d been born?
Does it have to be had been? I’d love to be born in the future. Why? I don’t think we are advanced enough as a civilization to have peace among all nations. Of course, it may be worse in the future, I realize that. But, I have hope. And I hope most of all for all the greed to be gone. There will be no cause, power or money, to have greed. Now I think I’m getting into fantasy. Lol.

10.  Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
I find in every story I write it’s always a different overused phrase or word I use. Is that odd?

11.  Which talent would you most like to have?
I’d love to have my talent back for multi-tasking. Don’t laugh, it’s true. Seems I can’t walk and breathe at the same time anymore. Or is it just all these stories paddling around in my brain?

12.  What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Proving to myself that I can get published. It literally shocked me. It shocks me that readers really like my stories. Like I said; low ego.
13.  Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
I hope you mean fictitious hero. Wow, that’s a toughie. Again, I have so many, it would be hard to write them all down. After reading for many, many years, I can’t choose just one.

14.  How would you like to die?
Seriously? I’d like to go to sleep and just not wake up. I’m a coward. I think most of us would prefer to die that way instead of suffering a long illness. I once had a good friend that suffered cancer and could not be cured. Her words to me, I’ll never forget. “This dying stuff is hard work.”

Sorry to leave you on such a bleak note. But let’s go to a happier subject. My new book release from Muse. We’ll go from bleak to humor in one easy jump.
Cole Walker, Sheriff of Cold Creek, has more woes than he can handle.
He thought chasing rustlers would be the worst of his problems, until Mattie Wells, the new gal in town, jingles his spurs with just a smile, and he falls head over heels.
Then he finds a runaway monkey under his desk, and his inclination is to get rid of him. Cole has this fear of critters that goes back a mighty long way, so the sooner the better.
But Mattie thinks Beggar’s adorable, so what’s a man supposed to do? Now, he’s forced to put up with the little fur ball...uh...ringtail monkey, even when the furry thief starts stealing the townsfolk’s trinkets.
Then there’s the matter of the cattle rustlers who keep stealing the Double J’s cattle. JJ blames the farmers, the farmers don’t like JJ, and an all-out war is about to commence.
Cole and his deputies, Wade and Sully, have their hands full trying to keep the uneasy peace between the farmers and the cattleman. As if that’s not enough pressure, Mayor Farley gives them a month to find the thieves before he calls for outside help.
Cole’s trying to win Mattie’s heart, but the little lady has a dark secret and vows never to marry. While harboring a secret of his own, Cole tries to pry out her secret, in hopes of changing her mind.
Cole chases Mattie, the rustlers, and Beggar in a town full of fun characters and chaos.
Can he bring the rustlers to justice, peace and order to Cold Creek, the townsfolk’s loot back to their rightful owners, and win Mattie’s heart?
Yep, Cole has a heap of trouble on his hands.

Mayor Farley glanced up from his papers. “Howdy, Cole.” The Mayor ran his eyes over Beggar, who stood in front of the desk with his head down. “I heard about your little buddy there. What can I do for you two today?”
“We came to return your stolen valuables.” Cole untied the bandana and spread the items over the desk. “Seems I have a sneak thief on my hands.”
Mayor Farley’s shaggy white eyebrows shot up an inch and his mouth dropped open. “Who…when?”
“Last night.” Cole pointed down at Beggar, who still stared at the floor.
The Mayor shook his head and hid a bemused grin behind his hand. He winked at Cole, and then eyed Beggar over the desk, and shook his pudgy finger at the ringtail. “You’ve been a bad, bad boy.” He stroked his white goatee and drew his shaggy eyebrows together. “What do you think, Sheriff?” He thrummed his fingers on the desk. “Should we hang him?”
Beggar screamed, wrapped both arms around Cole’s leg, buried his face in the hollow behind Cole’s knee, and snuffled.
Keeping a straight face, Cole said, “What say we give him another chance, Mr. Mayor?” He made his voice stern. “One more time, and I promise I’ll tie the noose myself.”
“Agreed.” The mayor slapped his desk.
The monkey slumped to the floor.
Mayor Farley chuckled and motioned for Cole to have a seat. He took out the makings from his silk vest pocket, offering Cole the pouch. They both rolled a cigarette and settled back in their chairs. Smoke curled lazily in the room. The Mayor flicked lint off his suit sleeve. “Any news on the rustlers? JJ’s about to bust a blood vessel.”
Cole rubbed the back of his neck. “This ain’t making any sense. What’ve they been taking? Half-dozen or so head a week? Rustlers usually take more steers than that.” He leaned forward. “Another thing that’s puzzling. We found tracks heading toward the river. Then some older tracks head north, newer tracks go south, some even go back west, across the river. We don’t rightly know where to look. We’ve been chasing our tails, riding one way, then the other.”
“Hmm.” Mayor Farley shifted his bulk on the chair. “Could be someone has a grudge against JJ and wants to aggravate him. Or the farmers are terribly riled about his strays.”
Cole shrugged, reached down, and petted Beggar. “Oh, they’re plenty riled, but I don’t reckon a corner or two of ruined crops would cause them to steal, or I’d of found some sign in their barns, or on their property somewhere.” He furrowed his brow, took a puff on the cigarette. “I’m thinking a couple of outlaws are holed up in the hills picking off a few head at a time, burning a different brand to sell them as their own. Hiding them till they have plenty to drive on west to the stockyards.”
“Sounds logical. The town has faith in you, Cole. You’ll figure it out. You always did have good instincts.”
“I sure hope it’s soon.” Cole fingered the brim of his Stetson, balanced on his knee. “Wade and Sully are camping out on the range and they’ll keep on searching. Told them to be back in time for Saturday’s social.”
Farley rose and opened the window. The rumble of buckboards, the whinny of horses, and the sound of voices floated up from the street below. Thumbs in his vest pockets, the Mayor rocked his girth, heel to toe, and looked out over the town. “Farmers and ranchers never did mix well, you know that. Corn stalks have been broken, wheat patches flattened. If JJ tried harder to keep his cattle on his side of the river, the farmers might be more tolerant of a few strays here and there. Widow Cox comes to town once a week to curdle my ears about her flower beds and elderberry bushes being trampled.”
He turned to Cole, a discouraged frown settled on his face. “Don’t know why JJ won’t sell some beef here in town instead of us having to haul meat in on ice wagons. All the folks in the territory would benefit if he did. He’s so blasted sure the farmers are to blame, he refuses to have anything to do with them, which in turn doesn’t help us.” He walked back to the desk and ground out his cigarette. “Government never should have opened up free range to the west. The farmers homesteaded our side, proved their worth, and got the proper deeds. This town depends on them.”
Cole stubbed his cigarette in the tin on Farley’s desk. Beggar lay on the floor next to his foot. “Yeah. Then JJ comes along and trouble starts.” He rose to leave, slapped the Stetson on his head, and nudged Beggar with his boot. “Doesn’t help me neither. Now I gotta find the rustlers quick to stop all this anger and hate between folks before it gets out of hand. I feel a heap of trouble coming our way.”
“’Fraid so,” said Farley.--------------------------------

Buy Page: A Heap of Trouble

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Life Resumes!

How cool is this! Coinciding very nicely with my latest mystery novel offering, Persephone Cole and the Halloween Curse, is a Halloween contest at the Books We Love Publishing House, complete with a basket of goodies as a prize. Visit for the details!
Persephone Cole and the Halloween Curse is the first of a mystery series taking place over the holidays and stars a 1942 female gumshoe nearly six feet tall and, nicely put, a full-figured gal. If you've ever wondered how Sam Spade, Lew Archer, or Phillip Marlow would act as a woman, this might answer the call.
Persephone Cole and the Halloween Curse starts off the Persephone Cole Holiday Mystery Series, but the second novel, Persephone Cole and the Christmas Killings Conundrum, was actually written first. After a few emails back and forth between the publisher, Books We Love, and me, it was decided we needed to start the series off in the fall. So I committed myself to writing a novel - albeit a short one - in three months. I'm the one who should have been committed.
I don't have to tell anyone who has written more than a postcard, you don't dash off a novel, even one at 60K. I mean, you can, of course, but who would want to read it? So if I was going to deliver anything with a modicum of readability, I had to cram eight months' to a year's worth of work into three months.
Goodbye summer-time fun, goodbye  playing with my cats, goodbye life as I knew it. Did I mention goodbye having fun with my husband, who as a teacher, had the summer off?  This meant he couldn't disturb me until the afternoon. Get your own breakfast, answer the phone, don't bother me. I would come up for air sometime around two, when he would get a kiss. I would get back to it after dinner. The summer of 2012 will be remembered by me as me and the computer, attached at the hip. Fortunately, husband Norman is a musician and understands the creative mind. Or the crazy mind. Take your pick.
One of the downsides - for me - of not having a lot of time is I lost perspective on my work. I didn't have the luxury of setting it aside and coming back to it with a fresh eye. Every work needs to be treated like bread dough. Set it in the corner for a time and allow it to rise. Then you go back in and punch it around until it conforms to what you want. That's writing. Messy dough.
So not having the time to do that, I was more dependent on others, fellow writers who took pity on me, read the story, and made suggestions. Thanks to people like Roseanne Dowell and Baird Nuckolls, who are professional editors, as well as authors, I got through it. It was harrowing, but I got through it.
Don't get me wrong, I love to write. I love my characters. I love my mysteries. But I'm at the age now - 49 plus, plus, plus, and holding on for dear life. What that means is I don't want to go back to treating writing as a miserable job, like I did in my twenties and thirties. I want to have a good time. I want to laugh. I want to play with my cats, my friends, and my husband.
But in the end, it was worth it. The series is off to what I hope is a great start.
For the record, I love Persephone Cole. Percy's everything I would like to be. A trail-blazing 40s gumshoe, with a wicked sense of humor, and a take no prisoners attitude. She tells it like it is and lets the chips fall where they may. And she loves fedora hats and butter. My kinda gal.

Check out Persephone Cole and the Halloween Curse.
And visit Books We Love for some great reads!