A Legacy

Ionia Martin has a new coloring book and and a story to remind us of the beauty around us.

readful things blog

My dad taught me to draw. In the beginning it was just doodles and random things. We would go out on nature walks and he would point out animal tracks and different patterns in the bark of trees, the shape of leaves and clouds in the sky that resembled animals. He taught me to create reflections by looking at water and watching the way it rippled outward as it was disturbed. He taught me to find beauty in the most barren of places and to appreciate the things we tend to overlook with an artist’s eye.

We would go home after these adventures and he would pull out a sketch book and show me how to transform the natural world into detailed pictures, and as I grew older, I took the things he taught me and made them my own. He was always telling me that there is no “wrong…

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What Makes a Good Anti-Hero?

 

antihero-character-archetype

The anti-hero is one of my most favorite characters, partly because he/she is guilty or ignorant of multiple moral wrongs taking the low road while taking the high road in the end.

There is a difference between a villain protagonist and an anti-hero.

Being able to clearly define your protagonist as a villain, by seeing that objectively in the story they play the role of the villain while someone else plays a heroic role that the villain protagonist is opposing and conflicting with, helps tell you if you’re dealing with a villain protagonist or an anti-hero. When there is in fact someone else in the role of villain while your protagonist arcs toward a heroic attempt at some conflict resolution which the other identified villain attempts to disrupt, then you probably are dealing with an anti-hero.

As I understand it, they’re sort of opposites – the anti-hero is unlikable on the surface, and does a lot of minor misdeeds, but when push comes to shove always does the right thing. On the other hand, a villain protagonist is likable and seems like a good person most of the time, which makes it easy to root for them even though they do some truly horrible things. Basically, the anti-hero does all the little things wrong but the big things right, whereas the villain protagonist does all the little things right but the big things wrong.

I love Tim Dorsey’s anti-heroes, Serge and Coleman. Serge is a genius and Coleman is an addle-brained, leftover hippy mentally stuck in another era with a serious drug habit. They are, in many ways, polar opposites, but share a deep sense of their definition of right and wrong. Serge is smart and Coleman is dumb. That’s an excellent combination for funny.

They’re almost always up against a detective who is (sometimes deliberately) falling short of identifying them as the culprits. Sometimes, he knows they’re the culprits, but turns a blind eye for the better good.

Serge and Coleman are serial killers in Florida, but they only bring death to those the reader would really like to see die. Like vigilantly justice. Scammers, assholes, mean people who hurt the vulnerable and weak. So you can’t help but root for them, even though you know they are bad guys. Their methods are scientifically fascinating. I don’t think they have ever killed anyone the same way in the eight books I have read.

I’ve been learning from Facebook the many things that people are repulsed by and the things they want society to rectify. Taking notes, I’m looking at the possibility of having of having one or two of my characters morph into anti-heroes. It will take some creativity to pull off, but the wheels are turning.

Can you think of anti-heroes you admire?

 

Nearly on the Road

Two weeks until I leave for Sleuth Fest. I have my check list. I know you’re all probably tired of hearing about this, but I’m excited and when I’m excited, I ramble.

I have check lists:

  1. New lap top loaded (my Valentine’s gift)
  2. iPad loaded
  3. Business cards with contact info (nothing fancy)
  4. Log-line and short pitch (memorized)
  5. Long pitch/short synopsis (printed one page 1.5 spaced)
  6. Long synopsis (three pages, double spaced)
  7. Cover letter (generic: three brief paragraphs)
  8. Reader’s Corner critique sheets (20 printed)
  9. Reader’s Corner introduction and chapter one (printed in case of IPad failure)
  10. Cover Image printed (Just in case)

I still need clothes. I don’t think they would appreciate my pjs or nudity.

A friend is doing a photo shoot for me soon for bio pics.

I’ve done my homework and the agent I am hoping to pitch to won the Nobel Prize for being a really cool guy and was Knighted by Queen Elizabeth  for just being himself. (Seriously…it must be true. It’s on his Linked-In page. ) He’s with Curtis Brown.

I practice my pitch all day and I read my Reader’s Corner at least three times a day. A few days ago I got to pitch my book to strangers. It was fun.

We went to see Tim Dorsey author of my favorite crime adventures stories starring Serge and Coleman who are serials killer anti-heroes who take down Florida scammers and kill them in bizarre ways that usually involve science. Serge is a genius and Coleman is an addle-brained stoner. He told some funny stories, signed books, then split before I could get a picture with him.

Afterwards, the crowd was hanging around chatting about authors and writing and upon learning I, too, was a writer, I was asked about my book. It really felt good to be prepared to pitch it and everybody said it sounds like something they would enjoy reading. That’s just terrific for me because his readers are part of the audience I’m aiming for. I had a captive audience and didn’t feel guilty at all.

I’ve already gone to Twitter and followed everybody who follows authors who read Florida crime fiction authors. I got lots of follow backs, but still follow twice as many people than follow me. I’ve never really caught onto how to use Twitter effectively, but I’m learning and trying.

I’ve updated all of my social media sites to include mention of my crime romps and plans for the series.

You may have noticed that my new wordpress address has been changed to sknicholls instead of redclayandroses1. That was advised by an author whom I greatly respect, Sue Colleta. If you are interested in crime fiction, she has a terrific murder blog dedicated to all things crime and then some. You can find her here. She also has a newly published book “Marred”, you can pick up here.

The change required a Redirect Upgrade that costs only $13.00 per year. That was necessary to keep all my old posts connected to the new URL. Once I made the name change, I had to export all of my old blog content, which had migrated to the new URL, to my desktop, then import three files back to the old address one at a time, wait for processing to be complete, (a few hours) then perform the simple redirect. I had guidance from the happiness engineers.

I’m feeling pretty confident that I’m prepared for Sleuth Fest as best as I can be. Now I’m going to keep practicing and go shopping for clothes.

Any suggestions?

Have I overlooked anything?

I have three more books in the series outlined and one is fully fleshed out, so my next step is to get busy writing up the next book in this series. I have big plans for new characters in the series and Richard and Brandi have just gotten a taste of what’s in store for them. What fun!

Announcing my new editing service

Got a book you want published but feel it needs some polishing first. Kevin Brennan has a new service.

WHAT THE HELL

Toytypewriter

Welcome to my shingle-hanging announcement, folks! As of today, I’m open for business as an editor of indie books destined for publication on Amazon et al.

I’m calling the operation Indie-Scribable. Indie for the indie part, and “scribable” for scribes. Clever, eh?

Come on over and have a look at my brand-spanking-new website.

I haven’t talked about it on the blog, but for most of my career I was an editor. I started at a medical publisher back in St. Louis, copyediting three or four different journals — such learned organs as Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, and, my favorite, the Journal of Enterostomal Therapy! Oh joy.

After that I was managing editor of the American Heart Association journal, Circulation, and then the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Yes, I paid my dues in the…

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The Hurdles I’m Jumping Along the Way

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Before I get started, I have a confession to make. I went without caffeine eight months, but finally broke down a couple of weeks ago and started back with a cup or two a day—no sugar. I was waking with brain fog that prevailed for two hours and couldn’t get anything accomplished in the early morning.

Happy to say the fog has lifted, and it wasn’t so difficult to learn to drink coffee without it. My blood sugar remains under control.

For the past week, or so, I have been preparing for Sleuth Fest. I have about memorized the first chapter in my book, which I plan to read aloud. It’s on my iPad, and I also have a paper copy, but fumbling with them always slows me down. With the papers, I use all but ten seconds of my ten minute time limit (which includes my brief introduction), but with the iPad, I end with twenty to thirty seconds remaining. This is reading slow and clear enough to be well understood.

I’ve done public reads before, but short stories for my writer’s group, not reading from my book. And I’ve read at my local library. With some of the short story reads, the lighting in the venues was terrible, and that slowed me down. I know our Reader’s Corner at the convention is set by the pool patio outside at night (weather permitting), so I’m thinking having it on the iPad is the best way to go…with a backup on paper for the just-in-case scenario.

The long synopsis and the short synopsis have been completed and proofed. The cover letter has been written and I’m presently engaged in memorizing my pitch.  I memorize words best by writing them down over and over. It’s just something about how my brain files information. So my fingers are numb.

One of my biggest hang-ups comes from the fact that I rewrote my log-line about a hundred times before deciding on the best one. Now I have bits and pieces of the wrong lines stuck in my head and they slip out unexpectedly when I try reciting the correct one.

For anyone trying to write a synopsis, I found a really cool link to how to un-demonize the process by fiction editor Beth Hill here:

http://theeditorsblog.net/2012/07/15/clear-the-dread-from-the-dreaded-synopsis/

And another author, Helen Jones, recommended a helpful book today on her blog:

http://journeytoambeth.com/2016/02/05/the-joy-of-synopses/

Write a Great Synopsis – An Expert Guide,’ by Nicola Morgan

Helen has her log-line down to twenty-six words.

Mine is a dual-plot thriller, and I’ve gotten it down to thirty-two. I’m not going to try to cut it any closer than that, to do so would make it less appealing and less likely to demonstrate its entertainment value.

It’s not a log-line I would use to promote the book, but a great one for an agent pitch.

I’ve been looking over the Sleuth Fest schedule and, of course, there are workshops I’d love to attend that conflict with times other workshops and panels are being held. I’ll have to narrow down choices soon.

A photographer friend is going to be doing a photo shoot in the near future. We’re going out to a park that has cypress knees and tropical foliage in hopes of getting some outdoor shots that might be useful, and he has professional screens that we can get some photos in front of. You will likely see changes in my social media and bio pics once this gets accomplished so don’t be surprised if the thin, bright, young woman with long blonde hair on the side turns into a plump, gray, short- haired old lady. It happened rather suddenly and surprised me. No witch cast any spells on me that I know of, time and good food.

It is truly amazing when I think of all that has transpired over the past five years. I went from working eight to sixteen hours a day in a pediatric extended care ward and a psych hospital to sitting in front of a keyboard for sixteen plus hours a day. I’ve published one book and written three. My free time is spent reading and researching, learning about the business, marketing, writing and trying out new ideas.

Being a nudist and a nurse with a most extroverted personality who used to teach and speak before large groups, as well as work with people most intimately, I’ve gone through some changes on a personal level.  In crowds and public groups, I suffer social anxiety and despise small talk. I’ve gotten deep inside my head. I need this Sleuth Fest, not only to learn and promote my work, but to get outside myself. I’ve become an introvert. Not that being one is a bad thing. I honestly believe it helps with regards to creative productivity in writing.

I’ll end here by asking for a small prayer, if you pray, and positive vibes of energy and good luck.

Hitting the Ground Running with Crazy Characters

With Sleuth Fest just a few weeks away, I’ve been practicing my Reader’s Corner piece. Twelve attendees were invited to pick a short read with a ten minute time limit. I haven’t decided if I want to read half a chapter in five minutes, or the whole chapter in ten. From what I gather from people who have done this before, the shorter reads hold the audience’s attention better. But, high action prevails over exposition or back story. To cut my piece to five minutes would clip off the high action. It’s a crime romp and the tone of the book is well demonstrated in this piece.

The suggested categories are:

Hitting the ground running

Calls to action

The usual suspects

Peeking through keyholes

Clever tricks

Milieu scenes

Stark confrontations

Mulling it over

Crazy characters

Cliff hanging suspense

And there should be a point to the read.

I can read my first chapter aloud in less than ten minutes. It’s a “hitting the ground running” chapter that does introduce the crazy characters. It’s also a non-spoiler chapter that will show in the book’s Look Inside, so I don’t mind sharing. However, I recently read a post about NOT naming street names in fiction, unless they are iconic. The photos show the iconic gay club complex and an iconic Orlando street in the first chapter. The piece I plan to read names several streets. My editor didn’t seem to mind, as they are necessary for the car chase. Now I’m wondering if I should strike them for more generic terms.

Chapter One

There was only one thing worse for business than not solving cases and that was keeping a new client waiting, and this one was the former mayor. Already running late for a meeting in Winter Park, Richard Noggin drove north on Orange Avenue through moderate nighttime traffic in his sporty, silver, two-seater Mercedes convertible, the top down and the air-conditioner blasting. As he approached Michigan Avenue, coming into downtown Orlando, two figures darted onto the road from his left.

Swerving and slamming on the brakes, tires squealed as he screeched to a halt in the middle lane. They stood like deer in the headlights, a tall woman and a young girl. A transfer truck thundered past on his left, its horn blasting him senseless. The woman whacked the car’s hood with a pair of stilettos and jumped, grabbing the girl close.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Richard yelled as cars whizzed past on either side. The woman marched the girl by the shoulders around to the passenger’s side. “Hurry. Let us in!” Releasing the girl, she tried the locked door, then grabbed the window ledge with both hands, shoes dangling.

He eased off the brakes, starting to roll, and looked across the car. Standing in the street in her sequined white halter and miniskirt, the woman looked terrified, panting and wiping her windswept, auburn locks back from her face. The almond-eyed girl even more so, with facial bruises and a busted lip. He took his foot off the gas. Dammit, he couldn’t drive off and leave them in the middle of the busy street. Before he could let them in, the woman tossed the high heels and her oversized shoulder bag inside, threw her long, lean leg over the door, and plopped herself into the passenger’s seat. She yanked the young girl over onto her lap.

“Drive,” she screamed. “Drive!”

Richard raced to the intersection.

“Turn left here!” she ordered.

“Isn’t this the direction you came from?”

“Just do it!”

He had a green light and took a hard, fast left in front of oncoming traffic, heading for Orange Blossom Trail, known locally as O.B.T. Then it hit him – these two had come off the Trail; the hooker trail in the red-light district. This was asking for trouble, but his investigative curiosity took over. “Why are you running?”

“Because standing on the curb waiting on a bus wasn’t an option.” A black car raced past in the opposite direction. She ducked, trying to pull the girl down with her. “I don’t think they saw us.”

“How could they have missed you? She’s sitting with her face pressed against the windshield.”

“You’re exaggerating.” The woman sat upright, shifted the girl in her lap to one side, and stroked the dash of the car. “Damn, your payments on this pretty girl must be more than Donald Trump’s monthly tab for hair spray.”

“She’s paid for.” He rolled his eyes and shot her a quick look. “Who are you hiding from?”

“Men with guns. Damn, I hate guns.”

“What men?”

“All I know is I was coming out of the Brown Pelican Lounge on south O.B.T. when this girl came charging across the parking lot next door in front of the Shady Breeze Motel, screaming, ‘Help, men with guns!’ I looked at her and her busted lip, and hearing ‘Guns!’ figured we ought to run. I snatched off my shoes and did just that.”

“Why didn’t you take her inside and call the police?”

“Let’s just say there were a few gentlemen inside whose company I didn’t care to keep.”

“So, you ran with her?”

“You catch on real quick. Two guys chased us on foot and two ran for their car.”

“Now what am I supposed to do?”

“Turn right at the light and take me home.”

“You live on the Trail?” he asked, only half-joking. He slowed for traffic at the intersection. Her scent caught him. The voice was mellow and raspy, like a smoker, but her fragrance was cinnamon and oranges, her skin, the color of fine café latte. Arms wrapped around the young girl made her cleavage deepen. She turned to him with emerald eyes sparkling.

“I’m staying at the Parliament House.”

“The gay club?”

“Resort. The Parliament House Resort. I’m a showgirl. Name’s Brandi, formerly Brandon.”

Richard did a double take, swallowed hard, and took a right turn, proceeding north on Orange Blossom Trail. “Where were you taking her?”

“The twenty-four hour pharmacy on Michigan, to get something for her lip, and let them deal with her. I dunno. What would you do?”

“I’d probably call the police.” He sped up and passed a few cars ahead.

“I’m sure those guys with the guns would’ve waited for us to do that.” Her sarcasm as strong as her perfume. “I used to be a cop and I know they’re not gonna do a damn thing for her. As far as they’re concerned, she’s just another poor girl walkin’ the streets.”

“Somehow, you don’t strike me as a cop.”

“It was a brief stint.”

He ran through the caution light at Kaley Avenue. “Call the police and have them meet us at the Parliament House. I have an important dinner appointment in Winter Park and I’m already late.”

“And I have a show to do tonight,” Brandi fired back.

“Well, I can’t keep her.” He glanced at the silent girl. “What’s your name?”

“Cara Kieu.”

“Where do you live?”

“I not know much English. Cara Kieu scared.”

Richard gave Brandi a hard look. “Listen, I can’t keep her. You’re going to have to figure this out.” He reached into the pocket of his sport coat. “Here’s my card. Call me later if you can’t deal with her, and I’ll see what I can do.”

She took the card. “Richard Noggin, P.I. Just my luck, I get picked up by Dick Head, P.I.” She tucked the card into her purse at her feet.

“Yeah, I get that a lot.”

He felt Brandi’s soft touch on his shoulder and cringed, her hand caressing as it moved up his neck. What the hell was he getting himself into?

She nudged him and smiled. “Has anyone ever told you that you have the most striking crystal-blue eyes? They’re really set off by your thick, dark hair.”

“Yeah, I get that a lot, too.”

“I notice things about men.”

“I’m sure you do.” He leaned away, hoping she’d get the message that he wasn’t interested.

They crossed the intersection at West Church Street. A black Nissan pulled out behind them. Brandi jerked back her hand and ducked, pulling Cara down with her. “Holy shit, it’s them!”

“Hold on.”

He took a fast right onto West Central and another onto Parramore. The Nissan followed. He sped through the stop sign at Jackson and turned left into oncoming traffic on South Street, a busy, three-lane, one-way road. Cara screamed and clung to Brandi.

“You’re going to get us killed!”

“Wasn’t that your problem in the first place?” In his rearview, he noted the Nissan cross South Street behind them.

Horns blasted as cars roared by left and right. He saw a black Nissan speeding along on the next street over. Dodging angry traffic, he careened past the Amway Center, turning onto yet another one-way at Hughy. With no sign of their pursuers behind them, he plowed through.

Cara Kieu screamed again as he swerved to avoid a head-on collision with a city bus. After a couple of blocks and a quick left, he drove around the State Marshall’s Building, then made several fast turns through the downtown neighborhood streets. Soon, they would come out on the Trail.

He’d made a complete, albeit dangerous, wide circle. When they reached Orange Blossom Trail in front of the Parliament House, he parked the car on the corner. “Get out.”

Brandi looked at him in disgust. “You can’t just leave us here.”

“You need to get out and run. I don’t know how long we’ve got before these guys are back on our tail.”

“Okay, we’re outta here.” She opened the door, pushed Cara from her lap, grabbed her shoes and bag, then jumped from the vehicle and slammed the door. “Thanks for the ride, dude.”

Richard watched as they crossed O.B.T. to the Parliament House. RuPaul’s Raja: Heaven Scent gleamed on the billboard. Beneath all the neon multicolor, Brandi dazzled, looking like she was right where she belonged.

He sped away north up the Trail, and east onto Colonial through Little Saigon, then headed north on Mills Ave, with no sign of the black Nissan all the way to Winter Park.

 

 What do you think?

 Do street names in fiction bother you?

 Would you cut this down to a five minute read?

Red Clay and Roses – a review

Susan Toy featured a review from Marie Bailey on her Reading Recommendations–Reviews blog yesterday. The review was Marie’s first “Different” sort of review and is quite amusing in and of itself. Marie was one of the first people I met on my blogging journey when I first published. I applaud her creativity. Since this review, Red Clay and Roses has received a revision. This is a perfect example of why your reviews as readers mean so much. Authors learn so much from readers who honestly express their opinions about the works they read, and Marie really handled her concerns with grace and charm. Have a read. It’s delightful.

reading recommendations reviewed

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Red Clay and Roses
by S.K. Nicholls

Purchase copies here

A Different Kind of Book Review

Melissa set the tray of coffee mugs, sugar bowl and creamer on the table, and quickly began to pour the coffee. Her hands shook a bit and she missed Maggie’s cup by a hair. Maggie cocked an eyebrow in wonder. Mary was fixing plates of mini-scones and cookies for them to nibble on, oblivious to her cousin’s anxiety. This was their first book club meeting, although Melissa wondered if a book club could have as few as three people and still be a club. She told herself it didn’t matter. Now that she and Maggie were living in town, it would be a way for the three cousins to see each other regularly.

“Well, I can’t wait to talk about the book we read for tonight.” Mary put the plates of goodies on the…

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