Tuesday, November 11, 2014

From the Stars to the Page

A Snitch in Time
by Sunny Frazier

Christy Bristol and the astrology mysteries I write emerged from a single incident while working for the Fresno County Sheriff's Department undercover narcotics team. I've been doing astrology for 40 years now, quietly, not really advertising the fact that I cast horoscopes. People tend to look at the practice of astrology with skepticism and I have always wanted to be taken seriously, not some sort of kook. When one of my detectives (Wolfe in the book) asked me to do a chart on a notorious drug dealer who was hooked on astrology and calling the 1-800 astrology hotline on a regular basis, I refused. I could just see getting up on the witness stand and saying, “Yes, judge, I did a horoscope on the criminal to scare him into showing us where the bodies were buried.”
But, what a great book, right? I actually did charts on not only the drug kingpin but also all the members of his meth crew. I used the case as the storyline for “Fools Rush In.” In the book, Christy is an office assistant, much like my position. Captured by the drug dealers, she uses her knowledge of astrology against them to stay alive. Much of what is in the book is true, as strange as it all seems. The publisher would not put my photo on the back cover for fear he might put a hit out on me from prison. The man conveniently died in incarceration.
I forced Christy to go undercover to a sex club to find a missing person in the second novel, “Where Angels Fear.” Christy's shyness makes this an excruciating endeavor but her wild friend Lennie (based on a friend from my wild days in the Navy) won't let her off the hook. By doing the horoscopes of three dead men, Christy finds the connection and the motive for their deaths. And yes, this is also based on a true incident, and yes much of the strange stuff I wrote about is true.
In every book, Christy grows and, hopefully, grows on the reader. She is Every Woman, not Wonder Woman. I didn't make her pretty or rich, but I gave her warts, insecurities and many of the same daily problems women experience. I also gave her the strength to overcome whatever I throw at her. 
 1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or historic?
Christy Bristol. She's fictional but is very similar to me in a lot of ways. Awkward!

2) When and where is the story set?
All of my stories and novels are set in the San Joaquin Valley. They are contemporary and set in the now. 

3) What should we know about him/her?
Christy is a 32 year old office assistant for the Central County Sheriff's Department. She's unmarried but has a hot boyfriend who she can't believe loves her. She's plain, but improving both in looks and confidence with every book.
Christy does astrology, receives unwanted glimpses into the future and relays messages to her sister, a nun, via ESP. She is not comfortable with her “gifts” and resists being pulled into doing horoscopes. Unfortunately, fate doesn't let her off the hook. 

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
In the latest book the main conflict is that Christy is at the wrong place at the wrong time. She just wanted a long weekend with her friend Lennie up in the Sierra Nevada foothills. But, when a murder occurs and the homicide detectives need an office assistant to man the phones at the substation and type up reports, she conscripted to work with them. Unhappy at the arrangement and anxious to go home, she decides to try and profile the killer using reverse astrology.
Her relationship with girlfriend Lennie is also strained because Christy takes an instant dislike to Lennie's latest man. She's jealous because her former co-worker now owns a newspaper and has left the drudgery of office work behind.
While up there, she is given a forest ranger's cabin to live in. He shows up and they have to share the small space. They bond over literature and his poetic nature. Never having had much attention from men, Christy is flattered that two men are now interested in her.    

5) What is the personal goal of the character?
In each book, I force Christy to go outside of her comfort zone and grow. In this book her impatience with the homicide team's inner politics and personality clashes finally  makes her throw up her hands and do her own investigation with the only tool she's got: astrology.
The conflict with her BFF comes to a head and Christy is forced to recognize that she has, in the past, belittled Lennie for her lack of education and sexual escapades. It's hard for her to admit that Lennie has been the better and less judgmental friend in the relationship.
Christy also has to decide between her love for the man who has stood by her but is frequently away and a new man who seems to “get” her on an intellectual level.  She's never had choices like this before. It's all very flattering.

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
The title is “A Snitch In Time.” No, nobody gets to read anything until the book is out.

7) When can we expect the book to be published?
The book is in the final edits at Black Opal Books as we speak. I think the launch will be early 2015.

And now, to continue the blog hop, I nominate Che Gilson and Liane Spicer.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Painting as Writer Inspiration?

(Convergence, 1952, Jackson Pollock)
A few years back, I was asked about my writing process when I was on a panel at the Left Coast Crime Mystery Convention, 2004. I had mentioned that my first novel began as a painting; my way of loosening up my creative muscles—a way in to find my story. I found that others in the audience also work with painting to find inspiration.


(The She-Wolf, Jackson Pollock, 1943)
I’ve had this blog for a few years now, but I’m not an author who posts about writing (which many do). I post about creativity and the things that inspire me. I am not trying to reach other writers, I am trying to reach my audience (some of whom might be writers interested in what I write about, but the majority will be readers only).

So, I write about anything that strikes my fancy. Kind of like the painting process of Jackson Pollack. I throw, brush and dribble paint all over the canvas and let the creativity flow in whatever avenue it wants to flow until an image emerges for me to work with. If my audience likes the way I write, they might be interested in reading my stories.

This novel I am highlighting today was a tale within another tale, a story that formed like a painting. I write about past lives, and this story was the past life of two of the main characters in Dance the Dream Awake, my first novel. It emerged rather powerfully and began to take over when I was writing the sequel. I had to pull it out and make it a standalone Romance novel. I hope you will enjoy it when it is published in 2015, along with my first novel (a paranormal romantic suspense that will be republished, both with Black Opal Books).
I was nominated to talk about my new novel by my author friend, Carrie Padgett. You can read her answers for the novel she is working on at her blog.

 Here are the questions and my answers:

1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or historic?

I have two main fictional characters in a dual point of view. The setting is historical Heian Kyo, the era of the Pillow Books. My samurai is Saito no Shino and the object of his love is Fujiwara no Miyoshi, once his childhood friend, now a courtier to the Emperor Enyu.

2. When and where is the story set?

Ancient Japan, 980 A.D. The story starts in the tea fields of Mount Takao and moves to the Imperial City of Heian Kyo, Japan.

3. What should we know about them?

Shino starts out as a defiant boy coming into his manhood. His grandfather decides Shino needs discipline and structure to rein in his unruly behavior. He sends Shino for training with samurai monks in the Enrakyu-ji Temple of Mahanyana Buddhism to follow in the footsteps of his own father, a famous samurai.
Young Mihoshi is also ripped from her home when sickness invades their mountain home and her mother dies. She goes with her father who has been promoted to the higher class of Governor in a province just outside the Imperial City of Heian Kyo.


4. What is the main conflict. What messes up their life?

Shino overcomes his defiant nature and years later finds himself offered the position of chief samurai to the house of Fujiwara, Miyoshi's father. As samurai, he is of a lower class than Miyoshi, but realizes he loves her and has always loved her. Their love is a forbidden subject for serious consideration. She is slated to wed one of the sons of the Emperor's wives and although Shino can be Miyoshi's lover, he cannot be her husband.

5. What are the personal goals of the characters?

Shino wants to train other samurai to be the best fighters in Japan, to have status and prestige of their own. By doing so, he hopes to find a way to have Miyoshi for his own before it is too late.
Miyoshi wants the freedom to live her life as she does within the walls of her father's house, to have Shino as her husband and not be a fixture in the court of the Emperor. But her father disagrees and wants her safely ensconced in the palace. His word decides her fate.

6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we rad more about it?

The title is Haiku Dance. There will be more about it on my blog as time moves toward publication in 2015.

7. When can we expect the book to be published?

It is presently slated for publication with Black Opal Books sometime in 2015.

And now, to continue the blog hop, I nominate Kris Lynn and Sunny Frazier to talk about their books next Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014 on their blogs.

(Sunny will talk about her book right here on my blog at that time as she has no blog. But you can visit her website.)

Do you read historical fiction?

If a writer, do you have a certain method for inspiration that works for you best?


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Stuck Like Old Chewing Gum?

Writers are filled with neurosis. With all the time spent alone trying to work out a story, thinking being the major occupation, it is inevitable thinking about one’s self will be in the mix; about one’s place in the world, one’s place in relationship to other writers and other human beings or any number of subjects in the known universe—or outside it. A distraction.
Guilt is a major weakness to be chewed on and spit out. Anything we feel we should be doing and are not comes into the mix.
Mental trips rotate around our mind like a merry-go-round about our writing. “My work is superior, why isn’t it recognized as such?” Or, “My writing sucks, it’s not up to par, what if everyone hates it?”
Then there is writer’s block or lack of inspiration. “Maybe if I fix my work schedule and update my priorities, and avoid procrastination, and drum up some motivation—and maybe even find that perfect writing program that will simplify the whole writing process. . . .” And on and on.
Oh, and sarcasm. Lots of sarcasm pours out of molting writers.
Until finally that book or story is finished. And then the promotion and marketing begins. . . . "How can I promote enough but not too much? I don’t want to aggravate people.”  I can’t/don’t want to do that!”
So what’s a writer to do when he/she is too much in his head and is stuck on any number of subjects or processes?
Stop thinking. Take a break from your mind.
Meditate or take a walk and feel the air on your skin, listen to the sounds around you – or the sound of silence. Let your senses take in the world. Tamp down the processes you overuse and need a break from (thinking and seeing) and instead focus on smell, touch, taste – intuition. Give it enough time and you will feel the ideas, inspiration, motivations return as they slowly seep in or quickly pop up.
Sometimes that’s all we need to do and the last thing our mind lets us do. It wants to ‘figure it out at all costs.’ So, maybe it is time to forcefully pull the plug and get yourself some space. Give yourself a break when it seems you have the least amount of time. If it gets you past that stuck, resistant place, it is gaining you time in the end.
Oh, by the way, this works for anyone, not just writers. Then, when you're unstuck, pop in a fresh stick of gum and begin chewing all over again.

Do you have a process you use to get un-stuck? I'd love to hear about it.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Perfume Perfidy

Well here it is—fall again. The flyers are coming out advertising the nesting-instinct-items—you know the ones from Macy’s Home section. I resist the urge to buy another comforter or quilt, but Oooh look at that blue and white one, it matches my dinnerware. Of course they will not be seen at the same time, unless I serve breakfast in bed which is not likely to happen any time soon because breakfast is not my favorite meal of the day. It’s hard for me to look an egg in the eye before eleven—brunch is good, though.
So I resist and close the Home Sale magazine flyer for Macy’s. But then the perfume inserts fall out. Aaagh! I’m in trouble now. Like I need another perfume. (My perfume weakness is documented in my 2012 post)

I resist the Dior Jadore ad—you know, the one with Charlize Theron striding confidently down the crystal, chandelier-dripping hall in the Chateau de Versailles, while the camera artfully focuses on her long, model-strutting legs traversing the parquet floors (reminds me of my days in the sun when my legs were long, thin and supple and my knick-name was Long Tall Sally. Sigh!)

Anywho—on to the next, a Gucchi Guilty Pour Homme ad. Ohhh! Maybe I should buy my man that scent? No! . . . (I’m doing a good job of resisting this morning.)

Versace?—not tempted. (toss)

Jimmy Choo (Whaaat? Shoes weren’t enough, now perfume?) The Man scent is nice, though.

Prada’s Luna Rossa—my hand is shaking. Tempting me.

Last it’s Dolce & Gabbana’s Dolce. Hmmm. I open the tab and rub it on my wrist . . . . Okay, I’m in serious trouble—it’s anybody’s guess where this is headed. A Trip to Macy’s might be on the agenda today.

What's your flyer ad weakness? Perfumes? Linens? Furniture? Shoes . . . uh, don't get me started on that one.







Thursday, July 17, 2014

Filling the Dry Well

It’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been taking a breather and getting some space in my expectations. I think writers, at least this one, need space from the responsibilities of either writing or promoting. A vacation from the writing business.

When I overdo on anything, I get sort of nauseous. Then I know it's time to back off and regroup. I am not afraid to stop everything to do this. Promotion be damned. The pressure is always on to write, write, write. And then, promote, promote, promote. But sometimes that is the last thing needed by this writer. To put pressure on myself when I need a break is to further dam up my energy.

So, in May, I went to the ocean. I took several days and planted myself alone in an environment that fed and healed my soul. I was grateful to have that time and that place. I was housed in the midst of trees and animals in the woods of Pacific Grove, California. 

I watched deer walk by my window most days, squirrels play in the dirt and chase each other around the trees and ravens greet me loudly each day when I stepped outside. Sometimes leading the way, sometimes dogging my heels.

A short stroll along the walkway built over the ecological area to preserve the native plants from damage took me right to the ocean.

I people-watched, climbed over rocks to the tide pools, noting anemone and birds while collecting shells and pretty bits of things like a bird.

I observed the various bird tracks on the sand in early morning before people waded through destroying the poetic visual. And noted the waves and change of tides over the span of those few days

I laid back on the warm sand, eyes closed while running my fingers through the grains and taking in the warmth of the sun on a hazy, cool afternoon.

Poetry ran through my head. Writing ideas flitted through my mind. But I just let them slide by, knowing they would come back to visit when I was ready to write again.

I drank coffee in the misty, foggy mornings while seated on the leather couch inside the lodge, reading stories on my Kindle.

Warmed by a blazing fire the staff kept stoked all morning, I jotted down notes of the trip and ideas for stories to come.

One story has since evolved into a flash fiction piece in Sirens Call Publication e-zine, called Night Lover, an erotic horror story which was a new genre for me in their Crypto theme. It is free to download at the site.

I also came up with an idea for a past-life short story, more in my genre, and eventually entered it to the SLO Nightwriters contest, themed: Déjà vu. (I'm waiting until the end of July to find out what happens with that one)

So if you find yourself blocked, stuck, dry, barren, depleted, blank—i.e. writer’s block, then try a change of place. A place where you can notice the details around you that you miss in your everyday life. The fresh perspective is effective in filling your dry writing well.

Does a change of place appeal to you? Work to fill your well?


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Breathe in, Breathe out

This post is targeting writers, but really it's for all artists—everyone (whether a home-maker or a mechanic).

To start, I will say this to the writers. I am not an expert on craft, so I have nothing for you there. That is your job as a writer to go find a teacher, a craft book and/or a writing group. There are many good teachers on-line, as well.

Breathe In

Structuring your writing
For as many writers as are out there, there are just as many ways to structure your:
  • Writing time
  • Writing style
  • The way you get inspiration
  • The way you execute that inspiration

Too many writers worry about the how of the above (pantser  vs. plotter), effectively freezing their energy and leaving them incapacitated by the shoulds and should nots.

Every writer must find his own way, ultimately, but the Art (dance, visual, written…music) must be studied and learned before beginning to practice professionally (there’s another should—but this is different, so take heed). You’ve heard it before but I repeat it:
Before you can break the rules, you must know the rules.

Too many young writers are throwing their work out there (publication) and are then getting discouraged because no one is interested/excited/buying (but sometimes that latter one is not because of skill).

The Emotional component
There are basic, underlying structures that are at play upon which your art is founded. If you fail to know what those structures are, your creation will lack the strength and power it might otherwise have—a nice way to say it might suck.

As I’ve said, I’m not an expert in craft instruction—so to me, when a piece fails (aside from writing skill), it’s because it’s lacking the proper empowerment (the blueprint or keys to a reader’s emotions—and emotions are what hook a reader. Not all keys fit the locks on all reader’s doors. So you want to have as many keys as possible to open the most doors (emotional and mental triggers).

Sometimes the trigger is a love of words strung together in a beautiful, compelling way. Other times, and for more readers today, I think, the hook is the emotional tug at the heart, the recognition that the writer knows what the reader is feeling and is talking to her. Then the reader gets caught up and is carried along.

So, if you’ve learned your craft, and understood this emotional component, where do you go from there? How do you get inspired? It is said, just plant your bottom in a chair and start. I disagree, but then if you’ve been following me any length of time, you know I'm ornery and disagree with the status quo a lot.

Breathe Out

Art is not created in a vacuum
Sometimes you need to get away from the books and the thinking and just be in life. Rub up against others and experience, exchange ideas and absorb living before you are able to transmute those experiences effectively into art.

Live life to be able to write about it in a compelling way. Be an Auntie Mame and go for it.

I have a novel that I started but had to put aside to finish the present one (which is now sitting with a publisher-smile).  I decided that this time I am going to organize it in a plotter's way (I’ve been so pantser in the past). So, I am taking my own advice and am going to the ocean, to Monterey, California this month to get re-invigorated and focused—expressly on that novel--my own writer retreat. I intend to complete it more quickly than I did my last one. I’m embracing the new experiences and stimulation my days at the coast will undoubtedly have—because I expect as much. (rubbing my hands gleefully)

If you are at that same moment in your writing, don't just dream of a writer's retreat, create your own—go forth to be inspired and energized.

Then go and write.
 Where are you in your writing? Need inspiration?







Sunday, April 20, 2014

Murder in the Worst Degree

Guest poster, Marilyn Meredith, long time friend and author of 35 published books is doing a blog tour and has agreed to post on my blog today. She is here to talk about the latest book in her Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series.
Romance in Rocky Bluff?

Cora Ramos is not only a good friend, but a San Joaquine Sister in Crime, and we both have books published by Oak Tree Press. Cora’s book is full of romance, and she asked me how romance plays a part in Murder in the Worst Degree.

Anyone who has read the last few books in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series knows that Officer Gordon Butler has been most unlucky in many ways, and this includes the romance department.

When he was new to the Rocky Bluff P.D. he lost his wife to his partner. He was interested in Stacey Wilbur, but she gave her heart to Detective Doug Milligan. When he did find someone who seemed to return his love, she turned out to be the prime suspect in a murder. Despite his efforts to clear her name, things didn’t turn out as he hoped.
An attractive new hire immediately caught Gordon’s eye, but he wasn’t the only one to notice her.

Maybe things are looking up for Gordon in Murder in the Worst Degree, but both he and his recent love can’t help but wonder how the new Chief of Police feels about fraternization among fellow officers. Until they can find out, the romance might have to be put on hold.

And that’s about all I’m going to say about this particular romance. If you want to find out how it turns out for Gordon, you’ll just have to read Murder in the Worst Degree.
Blurb for the latest RBPD mystery, Murder in the Worst Degree: The body that washes up on the beach leads Detectives Milligan and Zachary on a murder investigation that includes the victim’s family members, his housekeeper, three long-time friends, and a mystery woman.
Bio: F. M. Meredith aka Marilyn Meredith is the author of over 35 published books. She enjoys writing about police officers and their families and how what happens on the job affects the family and vice versa. Having several members of her own family involved in law enforcement, as well as many friends, she’s witnessed some of this first-hand.


Once again I am offering the opportunity to have your name used for a character in a book if you comment on the most blogs during this tour for Murder in the Worst Degree.
Tomorrow I’ll be visiting here