Head’s Up

October 9th is riding in like a frenetic witch on a motorized broom—and it’s proving to be positively spoo-ooky in Wharton County, Pennsylvania.

That day, I’m quite pleased, if not tickled pink, to feature one of my favorite amateur sleuths: Kellan Michael Ayrwick.  In addition to detecting part-time, he’s an accomplished Braxton College professor who has worked extensively in TV—surely you’ve seen the popular show Dark Reality?  Most importantly perhaps, Kellan is the loving single father of Emma, a clever and most charming girl of six going on sixteen, as he likes to teasingly state.

Please drop by for an enlightening and entertaining interview … discover fascinating family facts and learn which “case”, to date, has proven the most challenging for our budding sleuth.

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Feeling Hawaiian Blue

The gals at the Triple Threat Investigation Agency are still solving their latest case (Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha).  It’s a challenge, but who doesn’t love one or three of those?  As they run around Oahu, searching for clues and tailing villainous sorts, I’m realizing how much I miss Hawaii . . . and am feeling blue.

While I can live vicariously through P.I.s JJ, Rey and Linda, it’s not the same as strolling along the Canal where pretty plumeria are found in abundance … ambling in Ala Moana Park with its awesome banyan trees and vibrant rainbow shower tress … sitting on a sandy beach sucking shave ice … sauntering in non-tourist neighborhoods, admiring the serenity and everyday familial life. WPhawaiiWestHawaiiToday

I’m pining for loco moco and Spam musubi, taro chips and poi, poke and mocha, and anything haupia.

I long for the sounds of the squawking seagulls, the early morning keek-keek-keek of the mynahs, spraying waves, breeze-blown foliage, beachside cheer, and food-truck chatter.

Yeah, I’m feeling blue, but not that of Presley’s “Blue Hawaii”.  Fortunately, Hawaiian music cures that.  For a wee while every day,  I tune out my work-heavy world and travel back to the Islands.  One special song , most of you have heard, is “Hawai’i Aloha”.  King Kamehameha IV dearly loved the Christian hymm “I Left it all with Jesus” so much, he asked if it could be rewritten.  Reverend Lorenzo Lyons obliged and wrote the lyrics, James McGranahan the music.

I’ll leave you with Israel (Izzy) Kamakawiwo’ole, a talented singer/musician who left this mortal coil much too young …..

VERSE 1: 
E Hawai’i e ku’u one hanau e 
Ku’u home kulaiwi nei 
‘Oli no au i na pono lani ou 
E Hawai’i, aloha e 

HUI: 
E hau’oli na ‘opio o Hawai’i nei 
‘Oli e! ‘Oli e! 
Mai na aheahe makani e pa mai nei 
Mau ke aloha, no Hawai’i 

VERSE 2: 
E ha’i mai kou mau kini lani e 
Kou mau kupa aloha, e Hawai’i 
Na mea ‘olino kamaha’o no luna mai 
E Hawai’i aloha e 

(repeat hui) 

VERSE 3: 
Na ke Akua e malama mai ia ‘oe 
Kou mau kualona aloha nei 
Kou mau kahawai ‘olinolino mau 
Kou mau mala pua nani e 

(repeat hui)

 

What’s in a Name?

Bee to the blossom, moth to the flame; Each to his passion; what’s in a name?

Too much sometimes.  As in eye-squinching, brow-furrowing overkill.  Some writers feel a need to ensure readers know who’s speaking, or being spoken to, frequently—as in all the time frequently.

Jeff jumped and almost dropped the phone when he saw the number on call display.  He stared at the phone for a couple of seconds in disbelief and then hit the answer button.  There was silence on the other end.  “Hello, who is this?” Jeff asked anxiously.

“Jeffrey, is that you Jeffrey?” a female voice on the other end asked.

Jeff hadn’t expected a female voice.  The number on call display belonged to Marcus Smith, who was only to call if urgent.

“Jeffrey, is that you Jeffrey?” the female voice at the other end asked again.

“That depends on who’s asking,” Jeff said angrily.

“Jeffrey, its Jane Holloway.  Marcus Smith gave me this number.  He’s been shot and told me to call you.  Marcus said he needs to see you, Jeffrey, as soon as possible. Please come, Jeffrey!”

“Jane?  Jane?  Are you there?  Where’s Marcus?”  Jeff suddenly realized that Jane had ended the call.  He stared at the phone and wondered what the hell was happening.

“Jeff, who’s Jane?”  Nancy’s voice from behind Jeff demanded in a voice that was both inquisitive and peevish.

Like anything, use names in moderation. Yes, sometimes readers need to be reminded who is speaking or being referred to, particularly if there’s a lot of dialogue.  By and large, however, we’re pretty decent detectives: we can deduce the obvious.

So, how about some quick rules about names?

Once you’ve given a character a name (or maybe a pronoun to refer to him/her), keep using it.  The hero’s name is George.  Don’t call him “the man” or “the government agent”, or “my older brother”, unless perhaps someone is describing him as such.

No:  The tall man stood and looked over at Henry.  “I want to know what happened,” George said.

Yes:  George straightened to his full height and eyed Henry warily.  “I want to know what happened.”

Don’t refer to relationships repeatedly.  Neddy, for example, has a habit of referring to his sister and girlfriend as “the two women” (over and over and over again).  Once in a while, depending on the action/scene, sure, do so.  Constantly, however?  No.  Nor does Neddy need to tell us that Margaret is his sister … over and over and over again.  We understood that the first time it was mentioned.  Don’t overuse titles and personal/professional relationships; stick to names and pronouns.

Now, some characters may have several names (maybe they work undercover, lead different lives, are criminals).  If this is the case, keep those to a minimum.  Too many names for one character can lead to confusion, particularly if they thrown here, there, and everywhere.  If a lover calls his sweetie “Cutie-pie”, cool.  Make sure no one else calls her that, unless maybe in jest.  Be aware of which character(s) would know and use that other name; ensure this is evident and logical.  Use common sense and consistency—give a character multiple names only if the plot/character warrant it.

When you open your story, keep your characters—and names—to an “understandable” level.  There’s no reason to introduce all the primary characters, and secondary ones, in the prologue or first chapter.  And if you name [a lot of] characters early on, give them a purpose.  Don’t throw them in for the sake of padding the plot or because you want readers know these characters exist.  Too many characters at once is, simply, too much.  Some can appear later, as the scene and story [logically] dictate.

One major rule: do not, please, constantly call people by name in dialogue. We don’t do this in real life (listen to conversations at work, on the bus, at home).  Characters shouldn’t do this, either.  It becomes annoying, to say the least.  Use names in dialogue with a particular purpose—basically, to let us know who’s speaking to whom (when dialogue is lengthy) or inform us that someone new to the scene is speaking.

Names should enable us to follow the story easily and effortlessly—to understand what is happening to whom.   ‘Nuff said.

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◊ Helen Hunt Jackson (American poet and writer; activist of Native American treatment by US government)

Jumping on the Blog Tour Bandwagon

The Writer’s Grab-Bag isn’t a stop on the book tour, and the original plan was to wait until the end  . . .  but what the heck?  Let’s aim for sooner than later.

James J. Cudney IV—Jay—has a fourth book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries called Mistaken Identity Crisis.  I had an opportunity to read it a wee while back and thoroughly enjoyed it, as I did the others.  It has all the elements of a cozy— an affable protagonist [with adorable young daughter], likable regulars, a host of suspects, and the putting-together-the-pieces-of-the-puzzle mystery. WPJay3

Kellan is a Braxton professor and amateur sleuth.  He has a supportive family, love interest, and eccentric in-your-face grandmother you gotta love. The case officially begins when a missing ruby is found near an electrified dead body during the campus cable-car redesign project.  Not only must Kellan must locate the real killer to protect his brother, he has a delicate if not dangerous personal family matter to resolve.  Add a sundry of jewel thefts to the murder, feuding mobsters, and you have a thrilling, fun whodunit.

Come visit Wharton County.  Get to know the townspeople.  Learn how Nana D does as the new mayor.  Follow Kellan as he sorts through the suspect list . . . and solves the case.

A worthwhile read, my friends.  Enjoy!

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Learn more about Jay’s books at https://jamesjcudney.com.

Foever Poi . . . Forever Happy

The cover for Forever Poi is ready—thank you, Creativia!

The purple and red work well . . . attention-grabbing in its simplicity.

How do the gals feel about this one?  JJ’s likes the lips—they speak to her.  Linda thinks the colors and font are hot.  Rey loves the lipstick (a shade she’d wear in a blink).  As an FYI, the tsking and sighs have ceased; she’s officially over the fact she and her colleagues no longer grace the covers.WPForeverPoi4

When the last cover arrives, that makeover for The Triple Threat Investigation Agency Facebook page (and this blog) are gonna happen.

Speaking of happen, if anyone would like to help make this new book happen, I’d be very grateful . . . thankful, happy, delighted, grateful, overjoyed, stoked, grateful, indebted, and pleased.

. . . Did I say grateful?

What’s THE Story?

What’s THE Story?

Hey, it’s Rey, the last and best <LOL> in the story posts.  There are so many, it was tough to determine which to share.

Following the template created by the gals before me—specifically The Boss, Linda, and JJ—away we go!

∞ Personal

A two-parter.

The first is about the prickly relationship between my mother and me.  She didn’t much care for me becoming an actress, something I knew I’d be come hell or high water when I was nine years old.  When I left home at 19 to pursue that dream, it created an even bigger rift.  In truth, though, we’ve never been close.  Her thoughts about life and the cosmos and all that were a bit odd (okay, if I’m going to be totally honest, they were downright loopy).  Since I’ve become a P.I. the two of us have made an effort to forget the past and accept each other for who and what we are. WPReyprickly

Is it working?  Yeah, kinda.  Time will tell.  So while the final “Mom & Me” chapter has an outline, a full draft still needs to be written.  It’s all good.

Linda, JJ and I are in the same boat re lack of relationships.  Considering I’ve been married three times, I’m not that keen on commitment.  And given that most of the guys I’ve dated have been major duds, yeah, so not keen.  Confession: I like flirting.  It’s fun!  Sure, I wouldn’t mind having someone to date on a semi-steady—but not serious—basis.  I like eyeing gorgeous guys, being in their company, having them feed my ego.  That’s fun, too!

I think, though, that the relationship I really need to develop is the one with me.  I have a lot of growing and learning to do (as Linda has said on more than one occasion), and I’m kinda looking forward to that.  So the “Rey & Co.” chapter, at this time, is only a list of points and to-dos.  I’m guessing it won’t be completed for years to come and that’s all good, too.

Professional

Another two-parter.

I was a B-actress for years, as you know, and still do some acting, mostly in commercials and, now and again, community theater.  Love being in front of the camera too much to stop doing it completely.  It’s the ham in me (as Linda has also said on more than one occasion).

Do I see myself returning to it full-time?  Maybe, when I’m older—as in retirement older.  So the final “Rey the Artiste” chapter won’t be available for a few decades.

Then, of course, there’s the Triple Threat Investigation Agency.  I enjoy being a P.I.  Love it, love it, love it!  I even get to act now and again when we’re trying to get info outta someone or snoop around a business or company without attracting attention.  It’s challenging and dangerous, for sure, but it’s also rewarding, and I’m not just talking financially—it’s very satisfying helping people in need.

The last chapter of “Private-Eye Rey” will have to wait to be completed.  There are a lot of scenes still to happen.  Love it, love it, love it!

Lucky

Took me a while to find the right adjective.  Life hasn’t always been smooth.  I’ve struggled to eat and pay rent.  I didn’t (don’t) always get along with people.  But I’ve been lucky to do what I’ve wanted to (dreamed of), meet some fantastic folks, live and work on the beautiful island of Oahu, and grow as a person.  I’d never admit that last one to Linda, but I truly believe I’m developing and changing.  I haven’t been much of a reader or learner, but I make an effort—nix that.  I don’t try: I do.  May not always be successful, but that’s not important.  It’s what’s accomplished, even if only to declare, “I did that”.  <LMAO>  That sounds more like something Linda or JJ might say. WPReystoryUSE

Yeah, I’m very lucky and I’m gonna keep counting my blessings.

What’s Your Story?

We all have one—personal, professional, life-changing, funny, sad, and/or <insert adjective of preference>.

Given I’m a writer and blogger, it seemed appropriate to share mine.  But which one?  . . . Well, why not two or three: personal, professional, and faith-bound [adjective of preference].

♦ Personal

As I grow older and [finally] mature <LOL> I view life and events from different perspectives.

Some of us have wonderful parents, others have tolerable/fair ones, and a few have ones we wish could be returned to the Customer Service desk.  I grew up with alcoholic parents.  Mom was nasty, Dad quiet (save for glassy eyes, you could never tell he’d been “imbibing”).  I didn’t like my mother much and she—gauging by the attitude and comments—didn’t much care for me.  Childhood and adolescence consisted of humungous tummy knots and treading on eggshells.  Imagination was my BFF. WPstory2USE

The final chapter of this personal story is that I eventually realized my father did love me in his unique, undeclared way.  His own life events (including internment) had shaped him and he did the best he could considering the circumstances.  Mom had made unwise choices and blamed the world—and me—for them.  Maybe it wasn’t the right thing to do (blame someone else) but decades later I finally understood the reasons behind those choices.  I forgive her.  I even love her (she is my mother, after all) and I’ll continue to take care of her during these twilight years.

Professional

I’d wanted to be a writer since Mr. Kennedy complimented something I’d written in Grade 7 English class.  My childhood BFF, Imagination, had already nudged me into composing comics and chronicles.  Later, they evolved into books.  Confession: I wasn’t good.  At all.  Joining writers’ groups and taking classes provided guidance, and while I absorbed all I could, I didn’t necessarily apply it.

Serving as ESL and SE teacher/trainer, and technical editor, didn’t help in the creative writing front.  It was only when I heard instead of listened, read other writers (by the truckloads) and sat back with a truly critical eye that it all started falling, slowly but surely, into place.  That true “a-ha(!) moment” arrived after what seemed a short lifetime.

The final professional chapter will be written the day I finally lay down the four-ink pen and leave the keyboard behind.

Life—and work—is all about learning and growing, realizing and applying.  It’s all so very good.  Tricky and testing, but very good.

Faith-bound

Maintaining faith has been a struggle.  Although I sincerely believe in the Big Guy, his Son, and the Good Book, I—like many—frequently ask “why?”  “Why me?”  “Why this?”  “Why can’t I get a break?”  “Why . . . why . . . why?”  <LOL>  Maybe it’s easier to view ourselves as victims, to place the blame elsewhere.  Accepting responsibility and/or taking action can prove daunting.

We’re given challenges for various reasons.  In my case, I honestly believe He wants me to learn forgiveness and patience.  The forgiveness I believe I’ve acquired, the patience—hell no.  Oops.  Heck no.  I truly am my father’s daughter: he possessed none, either.

The last chapter in this story is that I will master patience.  It will continue to be a struggle, unquestionably, but it will happen.  My faith will grow and stabilize . . . and I’ll be a better person for it.

There you have it.  Three short-and-sweet stories that have shaped me and/or will continue to do so.  It feels good to purge, to wear the ol’ heart on the sleeve, to be honest and open.

The next three posts—more stories—will be authored by the trio from the Triple Threat Investigation Agency.  (Rey’s already pumped up.)

And what about you?  What’s your story? WPstory3USE

Making Choices / Feeling Good

Last weekend I posted about contracting with a publisher.  As with most things in life, I’m always a tad nervous about taking on something new (okay, a lot nervous).  Not sure why.  Just am.  Silly me, I know.

In any event, as posted, I took the plunge and signed on with Creativia.  So far, so good.  In point of fact, pretty gosh-darn good!

After joining the Creativia Facebook team, I received numerous greetings from fellow authors.  It was heartwarming to be welcomed in such a, well, welcoming manner.  <LOL>

Who knows where this [new] publishing road will lead?  All I know is that I’m pleased to be on it.  Perhaps I won’t make much money, if any (I’m a realist), but I’m definitely looking forward to this new adventure and learning all I can along the journey.  WPgoodclipartquery

Yes, having to make choices can be [very] scary—but there’s nothing better than feeling good about actually making them.

Still Lovin’ Nancy

Not long ago, I reviewed three Nancy Drew mysteries as part of a stopover in Nostalgia-Land.  Another visit—er, post—seemed in order, given I’d read three more of the YA mysteries.

Mom-care is becoming increasingly more challenging and leaving less time for me to do much for myself.  So when Mom is taking a nap, Nancy proves the perfect quick and easy read.  I’m transported back to a quiet childhood time when life was perhaps no less stressful but, somehow, simpler.

The first two are originals from the 60s while the third features a new 70s cover and is “modernized”.  For example, in the old books, Nancy’s titian-haired (brownish-orange) while in the newer ones, she’s reddish-blond.  Male cops no longer rule supreme.  And lo and behold, instead of frequently wearing dresses/frocks, the girls regularly sport jeans.

The Clue of the Dancing Puppet

A mysterious dancing puppet haunts the grounds of an old mansion, where the Footlighters’ playhouse is also located.  Amateur sleuths Nancy, Bess, and George are enlisted to help solve the case and this time we’re whisked away to the world of community theater.  The dancing-puppet mystery has added dimensions: an erratic self-absorbed leading lady and an overly charming (if not cheesy) Shakespearean actor.  Along with Nancy’s searches for clues, two jewel thieves show up on the scene.   Not a bad read; not a great read.  The keep-your-constant-interest component isn’t quite there.  A 3.5 out of 5.

The Clue of the Broken Locket

Interestingly enough, this was first written in 1934.  When I looked at the copyright page, I saw the very early date and had to check it out.  The premise back then: when adopted parents can’t take care of baby twins, Nancy goes searching for the legal birth mother with the help of a broken locket.

The newer version has two lookalike cousins (who, of course, don’t know about each other initially).  There’s a ghostly launch—love those spooky apparitions!—and a mysterious mansion that goes by the great name of Pudding Stone Lodge.  We have some sinister persons who make mystery-solving difficult for Nancy, Bess and George, and there’s record pirating to boot.  The trio certainly have their sleuthing skills put to the test.  Luckily, they have some assistance from their favorite beaus: Ned, Dave, and Burt.  I liked this one a lot.  A definite 4.5 out of 5.

The Clue in the Crumbling Wall

Our young enthusiastic sleuths—Nancy, Bess and George—have a twofold mission this time.  Not only must they endeavor to locate an inheritance concealed in the walls of dilapidated Heath Castle, they have to track down the beneficiary of a will before the proviso expires.  The grounds of the estate have a maze, a multitude of crumbling walls, and a couple of watchdogs (real ones, as well as human ones).  A 4 out of 5.  (In terms of Nancy, I suppose I’m a traditionalist: I prefer the “originals”.  It’s all about revisiting fond memories in Nostalgia-Land.) WPNDuse1

. . . Yeah, still lovin’ [needin’] the escape.

Tea & Crumpets with Personality

Recently, the trio from the Triple Threat Investigation Agency posted about three writers they’d like to sit down to dinner with.  That provided something to ponder: who would I like to dine with?

Having imparted favorite authors in previous posts, I opted for five people of days gone by that would make the love-to-meet list . . . and it would be over high tea with sweet scones and flavorsome finger sandwiches.

The selection comprises champions and rogues, the wholesome and the unsavory.

Jesus

He was/is, after all, “The Man”, a person in power, a great influence and influencer, the Son of God.  How humbling—and overwhelming—it would be to be in his presence.  I’m a believer.  Others aren’t and that’s fine: to each his or her own.  For me, though, it’s a tad disquieting to read about scholars and the like who argue whether the Jesus found in the Bible is an accurate reflection of the Jesus born just prior to the first century.  . . . But then, it’s all about faith, isn’t it?  And, while I readily admit mine can be tested and tried (frequently in fact), I’ll cling to it like a life preserver.

Marie-Antoinette

The last Queen of France was born Maria Antonia Josepha Joanna von Österreich-Lothringen (as Rey might say, gotta love a name like that).  Claimed to be a pawn, this fascinating woman was a mere 14 when married to Louis XVI (reputedly a cowardly man and unmindful husband).  There’s something about the pomp and pageant of that time, the French Revolution, the clandestine undertakings, the elaborate fashions and hairstyles that intrigue me.  Marie-Antoinette possessed notable shrewdness and strength, and amazing courage during her trial and execution.  Unquestionably, a force in her own right.

Henry VIII

I believe I always possessed a fascination for this intriguing royal figure—ever since watching Keith Michell in the spectacular series The Six Wives of Henry VIII.  At 17, he became king and presided during “creepily fascinating” periods in history: the English Renaissance and English Reformation.  The six marriages aside (which make for great soap-opera storylines), he accomplished much in terms of military campaigns, politics and religion . . . and even penned a song and wrote a book.  Definitely someone who’d provide enthralling historical accounts and gripping narratives.

Mata Hari

Another great name: Margaretha Geertruida “Margreet” MacLeod.  But the stage name of Mata Hari is so much better.  Strong-willed and determined, she realized at a young age that sexuality would get her places.  A Dutch exotic dancer, courtesan/mistress, and infamous “spy”, this attractive woman was convicted of being a double agent for Germany during WWI and executed by a firing squad.  Films like “Mata Hari”, starring the equally enigmatic Greta Garbo, fed the mystery and controversy that still surround her life.  Maybe she’d be willing to share a few intrigue-packed moments over a cup of Lapsang Souchong?

Calamity Jane

There are numerous famous (infamous) western desperados and gunslingers, and all are fairly fascinating, thanks greatly to Hollywood.  It’s hard not to feel a touch of envy re those romanticized villains, outlaws, and baddies—the thrill of riding the range, being unrestricted, having no ties.  A wild-west life would have been uncontrolled and sometimes calamitous, which makes Martha Jane Cannary, better known as Calamity Jane, the fifth companion choice for tea sipping and scone nibbling.  Losing her parents at the age of 12 compelled her to make her own way through that oh-so-wild west.  Another resilient woman, she’d have fine tales to share about her hard-drinking, rabble-rousing years . . . and those benevolent ones where she played nurse to smallpox sufferers.

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