Gotta Love them Freebies

Hey, it’s Rey.  So, we’re back on posting duty for the next week and a half.  Me first, then Lindy-Loo, then Cousin JJ.

The Connecticut Corpse Caper (Triple Threat Mysteries Book 1), our first unofficial case—where strange doings and dastardly deeds got us wanting to become private eyes—was recently added to the Free Books page on the Next Chapter website.  Woo-hoo.  Gotta love them freebies.

So you have a clue . . . a bunch of inheritance recipients are gathered for a week-long stay at JJ and my wacky aunt’s estate.  There’s a resident ghost, a bunch of secret corridors, weird sounds, and things (and people) that go bump in the night—like dead bodies.  Suspects abound, as does the weirdness; we amateur sleuths have our work cut out for us!

Why are those bodies dropping, you wonder?  Well, two-hundred thousand dollars is to be awarded to every person after he or she has stayed the course.  Should someone leave, regardless of reason, his or her share will be divided among those remaining.  Someone, obviously, wants to make sure that inheritance won’t be shared.

If you’re interested in learning what happened—like how we solved the complex crime—you can find Corpse here:

https://www.nextchapter.pub/free-books

As an FYI, there are currently over 50 series starters available, and more are being added weekly.  Just thought I’d give NC a little plug, too.  😉

Don’t Take it Personally

Writers and bloggers need to have thick skins—because criticism of the non-constructive variety, no or few likes, and limited followers can prove discouraging.  And being discouraged may prompt us to stop writing and posting.  How would we ever grow/develop if we let negativity [or something we deem negative] “influence” us?  How would we realize our dreams if we let someone or something affect our progress?

Taking criticism personally, on any level, in any profession, is of no-value add. Sure, it hurts.  In fact, it bleeping stings [I’m still applying hydrocortisone cream in an effort to quell the prickling].  And maybe we even get pissed off (a great phrasal verb that says it all).

Emotions have their place, but not when they affect our professionalism or conduct.  We should never respond similarly if we’ve been criticized or drag ourselves about the place with our tails between our legs because we didn’t receive the response(s) we’d wanted / hoped for.  So what if someone didn’t like a story or post?  So what if no one read said story or post?  But, alas, we do.  I do (this I readily confess as I rub on that hydrocortisone cream because that damn stinging won’t cease).

A fundamental fact: we can’t please everyone.  And we shouldn’t try to.  Maybe, just maybe, something we’ve written simply didn’t gel with anyone.  It happens.  That’s okay.  Use it as a learning experience.  Why might no one have responded or liked a particular post or work?  The tone?  Topic?  Shoddy writing?  Amateurish approach?  Or did it simply plop into someone’s inbox . . . among the many.  We can’t always read them all.

If you’re really bummed out about it, give it some thought—and try a different approach next time.  And if there’s truly nothing wrong with that piece you’ve so diligently crafted—at least, that you can determine—move on.

Was the criticism unjust, angry, ugly?  Understand that the criticizer is like the rest of us—far from perfect.  Maybe he/she was having a bad day.  Or took umbrage at something you stated, or umbrage at something totally unrelated and vented—at you.

No followers or likes?  You want them?  (I do!)  It saddens you that you don’t have any or many?  (Saddens me . . . a lot.)  Some folks seem to receive a gazillion likes, while some of us seem to get very few, if any.  So, what are we going to do?  We’re not going to let it get us down.  Sure, we can make it a full-fledged quest to acquire those likes, but it’s always possible that no matter what we attempt, they don’t/won’t come our way.  Know this: it may not be our fault.  There are many reasons why those likes and/or followers may not be possible (and some have to do with hashtag performance, posting times, and content shared, but that’s another post), but one of the many ones?  Many people tend to read and like posts of—or follow—people that are already pretty popular.  Simple fact.

Whatever the case, don’t brood.  Moping has no merit.  Why waste the day with a heavy heart?  Recognize that events—or non-events—happen for a reason and, generally (hopefully), make us stronger, better . . . and help us develop that thick skin.

What’s important [and necessary] is that we realize responses [or lack of] are not a reflection of who we are or what we necessarily write/post.  Never allow lack of likes, or non-constructive criticism, crush your self-esteem.

Give yourself a pep talk and a much deserved pat on the back—you’ve come far and you’ve got a distance to go.  Journey [move forward] with pride . . . and don’t take it personally.

Happiness is What You Make It

I’ve been reflecting a lot on life the last few weeks.  How insane it can prove.  How trying, challenging, difficult, dangerous, sad, maddening.   How uplifting, pleasant, fun and fun-filled . . . and how <bleeping> swift.

The daily visit to my mother at the long-term facility is proving an eye-opening undertaking.  It’s a journey through time—that of the residents and that of mine.  In the last few weeks, I’ve gotten to know the names of most of the staff and the thirty-some residents on that floor.  We may not be close, but there’s a teeny-weeny connection.  So, when one of the residents passes, it rather hits home in some inexplicable way.

I bring my mother a coffee and cookies an hour before breakfast is served and sit with her as she watches the bustling downtown view from the small dining room.  We chat about the weather, traffic, rude residents (those who make loud sounds annoy her)—oops, pardon me.  Fellow “hotel guests” is how she views them.

Happy to extend a helping hand whenever possible, I assist with dish clean-up before taking my mother for a walk in the long, maze-like lobby.  It’s not the same as a stroll in the neighborhood, but it’s something.  Weather permitting, and virus outbreaks aside, maybe, just maybe, outdoor strolls will become a possibility.

The majority of the “guests” don’t seem as alert or aware as my mother.  Many sleep away most of the day.  A few are spoon-fed.  The odd one cannot speak and many are hard of hearing.  A handful engage in conversations only they are privy to.  I suppose that’s inevitable when dementia enters the picture.

It’s a secure, strictly run facility, but those residing within receive much-needed care 24/7.  It’s a tiny, enclosed world—but it’s a safe one, and it’s theirs.  They have the opportunity to partake in activities, watch movies/TV, listen to music, and participate in social happenings.

At first, it made me sad to watch, to recognize that their days are truly numbered.  But happiness is what you make it . . . and the staff and caregivers (and family members) do their utmost to make it the best that it can be.

That many smile and/or wave, even laugh, is heartwarming; now and again, happiness rears its cheery, lovely head.  Perhaps it’s short-lived—much like life—but happiness is what you make it.  Appreciate and embrace it.

♥  Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length.  ♥   

Robert Frost (American poet)

Floater Day / Teaser Day

Hey, it’s Rey . . . and JJ . . . and Linda.

The Boss has a lot on her plate, so the three of us kinda volunteered to take over posting duties for today.  Kinda, because we’d really planned on taking a “floater” day.

While Lindy-Loo’s gonna float on her surfboard on the North Shore, my cous and I are gonna float on our Sach’s uncle’s sailboat.  It’s a gorgeous day for being on the sapphire waters of Oahu!

We’d packed our gear last night and are heading out the door, so there’s little time for actually writing a post.  But we put our heads together and thought—<bleep>—why not provide a little teaser from our latest case (Disco’s Dead and so is Mo-Mo).

Take it away, JJ!

           At sixty-three and 6’2”, Domenic Vespuzzi was agile and toned, thanks to a morning home-gym routine and decent diet.  The wavy pewter-gray hair (“plugs” per Rey) looked as lush as a shag rug.  The Burberry suit was impeccably pressed, as was the white Givenchy shirt.  A Burberry tie adorned the corner of the tidy desk.

          Domenic nodded to his young assistant, Gunther, as he placed a padded envelope on the corner, bowed his head, and left with a nod to us, seated in three matching executive chairs with antique platinum finishes. 

            He sipped espresso from a black- and gold-trimmed Versace cup and placed it on to the saucer, eyeing it for several seconds before passing Linda the envelope.  “The list of everyone you would be interested in speaking with is in there.  As well, you’ll find a key for my brother’s Naniwa Gardens condo.  We kept it over the years.  Maria-Luisa, Johnny’s wife, left in 2002 and Johnny Junior—JoJu—stayed to ’05.  It’s cleaned once a month, but everything has remained the same.  Maybe you’ll find something no one else ever did.”  He sighed softly and swiveled to peer at the unspectacular view of industrial Kapolei.  The interior certainly contradicted the exterior.

            Rey, Linda and I glanced at one another.  Were we being dismissed?

            Linda started to rise first and the sound of her shifting prompted him to swivel back.  His expression was one of sadness.

            “Johnny was said—rumored—to be many things but, to me, he was always a kindhearted kid.”  He chuckled briefly.  “He did have a good heart.”  He nodded to the envelope in Linda’s hand.  “I’m sure those you speak with will say the same.”

            “No doubt,” she said with a fleeting smile as she tucked the envelope in her leather satchel.

            “If you find the truth, I’ll give $25,000 to each of your favorite charities.  Monk seal saving, animal shelter, and homeless shelter,” he said, gazing from one face to the next.  He’d done his homework.

            “That’s very generous,” I said.

            His smile held little cheer.  “It’s more of an incentive.”

            “We don’t need any incentives,” Rey said brusquely.  “We’re good at what we do, and we give every case 150 percent.”

            He studied her face for several seconds before offering a dry smile.  “I do have a meeting in fifteen minutes that I’d like to get ready for.  Is there anything I can tell you before we part ways, ladies?”

            “Were you ever part of the mob scene?” Rey asked casually and rose.  As did he.  With her incredibly high-heeled strappy sandals, she stood equally tall. 

            “Would it matter if I did?” he asked nonchalantly.

            She met his keen gaze.  “Only if you murdered someone.”

Aloha Saturday!

Free-For-All

. . . as in free for all and not an argument or bruhaha.

My publisher, Next Chapter, has undergone a wide distribution expansion and have added ProlificWorks as part of their marketing platform. This fabulous service will allow readers to download my book for free.  No hitch.  All you have to do is sign up for their mailing list.

My initial free giveaway is the first book in the Triple Threat Investigation Agency series—The Connecticut Corpse Caper.  Find out what exciting (challenging, dangerous, curious, and crazy) adventures impelled JJ, Rey, and Linda to become professional private eyes and set up shop on the beautiful island of Oahu.

You can find this ProlificWorks giveaway here:

https://claims.prolificworks.com/free/Y8UINrA0

The gals and I hope you’ll partake.  😊

Declutter The Home, Declutter The Mind

Experiencing writer’s block?  Work block?  Life block?  Give thought to doing some decluttering.  It can prove quite therapeutic.  It frees/organizes physical spaces while soothing stress and clearing the mind.

When I’m at a loss as to what to post, I focus on something else, something simple, distracting, but absorbing.  For some, it’s cooking.  For others, like me, it’s getting the home in [some sort of] order.

Besides taking you away from the task of posting, consider the benefits of decluttering.  You’ll have:  ♥  less to clean/dust and manage down the road  ♥  less stress, because there’s nothing more stressful [and annoying] than seeing all the things that need cleaning and/or decluttering  ♥  more time (because you won’t have to do as much or work as hard the next time around)  ♥  a sense of accomplishment (if not relief).

Now, you’re undoubtedly thinking of all the rooms that will require the removal of unneeded/unnecessary “things” and groaning and moaning at the thought.  Don’t.  One thing at a time, at a day.

List all the decluttering/reorganizing you want to do . . . and dedicate one or two hours a day—or week, whatever works for you—and do it!  I’ve been binge-decluttering for a week now, one room and area at a time.  I know my limits—like when I start frothing at the mouth or swearing once too often.  When I’ve reached either stage, it’s time to walk away and chill.

While you’re decluttering/reorganizing, look at what you’ve accumulated over time.  Ask yourself, honestly, the following questions. Do I really need to keep this?  Does it serve a purpose?  Or is it just a dust-collector?   

Check off your completed tasks at the end of the aft/day/eve.  Even one checkmark is something to be proud of.  You did it!  You really did it.

And you know another little plus about decluttering?  It’s “unintentional” exercise, something I don’t believe I get enough of.  With the shelf-scrubbing, moving [of items], bending and crouching, I do believe I’m getting a fairly decent workout.  And that’s very good.  😊

Now, will decluttering/reorganizing/cleaning remove the writer’s block?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  I find, when I’m distracted and/or focused on something else, a post idea often pops into my head . . . like posting about decluttering!  <LOL>

Hmmmmmm.  Maybe the next post should be about dusting techniques. 

The Good, The Bad & The Humdrum

If, as a blogger/writer, you’re scheduled to post certain days, but you’ve no real (edifying/entertaining) content, should you publish?

It’s a conundrum, to be sure.  My commitment is never missed: Wednesdays and Saturdays always feature a post.  The topics are related to the theme of my blog: writing, blogging, editing, and the Triple Threat Investigation Agency series.  Now and then, I’ll add something “motivational”—how to remain positive, staying focused, finding time to blog/write, and so forth.  I rarely stray from the theme . . . unless giving a personal update. 

Some days and even weeks, the brain fog is thicker than the peasoupers found in Ripper’s Whitechapel haunts (let’s see how well the recently ordered Prevagen really works).  Still, I’ll post on those two days.  After all, I’ve committed!

But those posts aren’t always good (i.e., I’m not that pleased with them).  They can prove humdrum, even bad (though I’d prefer to think those are few and far between).

So, to post or not to on those days when the ol’ gray matter isn’t cooperating?  When one’s well—for the interim—has run dry?  Does one toss something onto the blog for the sake of respecting the commitment (and hope for the best)?

. . . It’s a conundrum, to be sure.

Never Look Back, You’re Not Going That Way

The actual saying, by leading transcendentalist, Henry David Thoreau, is actually: never look back unless you are planning to go that way.

1satI prefer the above (title) version, found on illustrator Emily Elise’s poster (thank you, Sophie).  I’ve always been a firm believer in never looking back.  A bit of bad luck, that, recollecting.  It doesn’t really have much benefit, unless you’re at a family gathering and reflecting on amusing or meaningful moments.  Otherwise, looking back—particularly at those times you wish you could kick yourself in the butt about—can prove depressing or discouraging.  What happened  can’t be undone.  End of story.  Hopefully, you’ve gained knowledge and insight from actions taken, lessons realized, and mistakes made.  Accept them.  Embrace them.

Effectively now, I’m all about moving forward.  Many years have flowed past [escaped] me and I could easily weep over that.  But I won’t.  It’s water under the bridge—those lessons [finally and most assuredly] realized.

Don’t let things that “might have been” discourage you.  It’s a no-win situation.  Things happen for a reason.  Maybe we can’t see that at the time . . . maybe we can’t see that for months or years to come.  But everything and everyone in our lives serve purposes; they define us.

Pull up those [strong] shoulders and never look back.  You really aren’t going that way.  You have a unknown [exciting] future to welcome, agreeable/challenging/fun deeds to do, intriguing places to see, and interesting individuals to meet.

Take pride in who you are . . . and who you’re becoming.  Sure, you erred; we all did and do.  But that’s life.  You want to smack yourself in the head about something?  Do it.  Then move on and . . . yes! . . . never look back because you’re not going that way.

It All Happened . . .

. . . too many <bleeping> years ago to count.

I was thinking—yes, I still manage to do that these days, but barely—that I’d post about the Triple Threat Investigation Agency series.  You’ve heard/read enough about the five books, but not how it all got started—or the rollercoaster ride of publisher and agent queries, and [many] rewrites.

The Connecticut Corpse Caper was meant to be a standalone—inspired by those B&W mysteries and movies with haunted houses that I loved as a kid.  Couldn’t get enough of them.

I figured out the basic plot (multiple murders with missing corpses), location and setting (antebellum mansion with lots of hidden corridors and rooms, of course) and that there had to be a resident ghost.  The rest—décor, dialogue, events—fell into place.

Characters I also determine (flesh out) as I go along re descriptions, likes and dislikes, habits, and history, but I do have an idea what they are professionally and age-wise beforehand.  Do I decide who the murderer is from the get-go?  Not usually—not until pretty much the end.

The first “edition” done, I began sending it off.  Got rejections from publishers and agents.  No reason, just the usual not-accepting rhetoric (it would have been nice to receive a teeny-weeny bit of input).

Eventually, when I was about to give up, an agent signed me up.  Within a month, she’d found an interested publisher.  Woo-hoo!  Well, when I found out who it was, I naturally went researching.  Not a good one—bad rep.  You couldn’t even access the site.  I won’t go into the details, but I told the agent I’d heard unfavorable things about the publisher, which evidently put her in a bad mood.  She told me no one else had liked my manuscript, that the dialogue sounded the same for everyone, etc.  More researching.  It seems said agent pretty much only used that one publisher.  Not sure if she’s still doing that now.  Don’t really care.  Fortunately, she was professional enough to let me out of the contract, and for that I’m [still] grateful.

And her criticism was appreciated (even if not delivered in a particularly pleasant manner).  I reread the manuscript with different eyes—and <bleep> if she wasn’t right.  I’d made my  characters all sound the same!  Another rewrite . . . and another . . . and character manipulation.  I refocused.  Put on my editor’s cap (it had blown away during a heavy gust).  Gave my characters distinctive ways of communicating: phrases, expressions, curse words, gestures.

Proofing and editing one’s work is vital, but getting input from other sources (preferably not friends and family members, who can be rather subjective) is so necessary to make a story happen—for it to come alive.

I so enjoyed revising and completing Caper—and JJ, Rey, and Linda loved playing amateur sleuths so much, they wanted to go professional—that it had to serve as a springboard for a series.

Something positive truly does always emerge from the negative.  It may not seem readily evident at the time but, down that ever-winding road called Life, it [eventually] becomes apparent.

While I may more oft than not take advice/input with a grain of salt (writer’s ego and whatnot), I will also ultimately (a few days/weeks later) give that advice/input more serious reflection.  I don’t like to give up, as I’m sure, you don’t either.  Sometimes, however, we do need to give over . . . even if only a wee bit.

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