Monday, April 13, 2015

Spring in the Ozarks

I thought you'd like to see some of my spring shots.

I usually take my camera and drive around, taking shots, and have that planned pronto. There were some gorgeous white bark sycamores along one creek, but parking/walking there is dangerous. Those will have to wait until I have a "spotter" with me.

These are called different names, "Johny Jump Ups," "Wild Violets", etc. They are lovely in my back yard. Do you have other names for them?

I did take some good yard shots by the house, and the following are some of them:

We're having lots of storms in the Midwest, and we use our weather alert radios--keep those batteries fresh!
We're due for rain and more storms right now, so I'm working away, sliding into the finish with a new book before they hit. :)

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The Scarry Inn: Shirley McCann

KINDLE 2.99~PPRBK 11.63 Prime
Introducing: Shirley McCann has been writing for over twenty years. Her short fiction has appeared in various publications over the years, including Woman’s World, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and The Forensic Examiner, as well as many confession magazines.

 ~~REVIEW for The Scarry Inn
The Scarry Inn by Shirley McCann is a YA/New Adult Horror Story about a group of four teenagers driving to Flagstaff, Arizona for their Christmas break from school. Their car breaks down and leaves them stranded in a small town called Frighton on Christmas Eve, in the middle of a blizzard. The only lodging available is a new motel, called The Scarry Inn, named after the owners, Dick and Thelma Scarry. The inn isn’t open for business yet, but Dick’s sister Madge is sure he will let the teenagers stay. Sure enough, the kids are able to rent two rooms, one for the girls and one for the two boys. But when terrifying things start happening, the kids think Dick and Thelma are playing jokes on them as a publicity stunt for their new inn—until Kara gets murdered, that is. While the book isn’t exactly graphic, it is pretty scary, and not something I would recommend for young YA. But for older YA, new adult, and even adult, it’s an exciting, chilling, and well-written tale that will keep you glued to the edge of your seat. ~ Regan Murphy, Reviewer.

Let’s Get Started:

Q: Shirley, I’ve just read The Scarry Inn and enjoyed it.  Tell us a little about the story from your intimate/writer’s POV. How did you get the plot idea? What triggered it?
A:  The trigger came from a time when my husband and I were stranded in a small town called Ashfork, Arizona. We were on our way to Missouri from California, and our car broke down. Good thing is that nothing weird or scary happened. Just a rundown motel was the only thing we could find. We finally rented a car and made it to Missouri. But you, know the writers mind…


Q: There are so many great characters involved. I loved the friendly helper (Madge) who arranged for the teens to stay at the Inn—which isn’t quite ready for opening day, btw. She went home to make chocolate for her husband and left them there! If you had to pick one character, who did you like the best?
A: Probably Heidi. Although she was fighting for her life, she learned a huge lesson. You have to take what you get in life and keep moving forward. Dwelling in the past and what once was can stop you from enjoying the life you have.

Q: On the other hand, if you were a murderer and had your choice of what kind of personality you might kill, what would that person’s traits be?
A: Ooh. What an evil question? I think I’d kill all the skinny people in the world because they make me look fat. These people would constantly be shoving food into their mouths with nothing happening to their bodies. I’d probably have to stalk them awhile to make sure it was just their good metabolism that allowed them to eat. If they’re purging, I’d let them live. That’s horrific enough. And even exercising and dieting would be enough to let them live. It’s those good metabolism people that would have to die.

Q: The Inn serves a horrible dinner to the teens. What would you expect for a pre-opening holiday meal?
A: Well, considering the inn wasn’t open yet, and the owners weren’t expecting guests, I probably would have expected sandwiches. But if it were operational, I’d expect a nice soup or salad, followed by a plate of salmon, asparagus and baked potato. And a roll. And my choice of coffee or tea.

Q: Speaking of teens, The Scarry Inn is labeled as a Young Adult (YA) book. Many of life’s problems are included: divorce, the usual teen problems, etc. (BTW, I loved how you described the parents’ worrying when the teens went off the grid.) Why did you choose this market?
A: I’ve been a YA fan all my life. I read a lot of YA. I think a lot of adults still read YA. Look at the popularity of Hunger Games and Divergent. Even Maze Runner. It’s not just teenagers that are seeing these movies. There’s a lot of old folks like me too.

Q: Which is your favorite holiday and why? You’re not going to kill characters on Valentine’s Day, are you?
A: Hmm. Hadn’t thought of that. But certainly not at the Scarry Inn. I’m not doing a holiday theme with The Scarry Inn. But Christmas is my favorite holiday. And like I said earlier, my husband and I were stranded on the Christmas holiday, so writing about that seemed appropriate at the time.

Q: While traveling, have you ever experienced staying somewhere you really didn’t like?
A: Oh yeah. Definitely Ashfork, Arizona. The motel wasn’t well insulated, so it was cold, but the one thing I thought most interesting was that despite the cold weather, there were ants crawling along the doorframe. I HATE bugs of any kind. Creeped me out. Other than that, I don’t get to travel much. Pretty much a homebody these days.

Q: All these teens needed to top off the absence of phones and cells, a horrible hostess, was an Alfred Hitchcock movie—which I think Scarry Inn would make a great movie, btw. But what is your special pick for a scary movie and why?
A: I’d LOVE to see The Scarry Inn on the big screen. Send producers my way. But my favorite scary movie is an old one called, I Saw What You Did. It’s about a couple of teenagers who call random people and tell them they know who they are and they know what they did. One guy they called had just killed his wife. I can’t remember how he finds them – I’d love to see it again- but it is one scary movie.

Q: The Scarry Inn stuck-travelers were served iced tea on a freezing day. What would you drink during a blizzard? Or any day?
A: Hot tea, hot Chai tea, hot chocolate.  But I’d still have an iced tea too. Can’t beat good tea. But no coffee for me. Hate the stuff.

Q: Okay, this is where I ask the really deep questions, like favorite hobbies, favorite author, favorite way to pamper yourself?
A: Reading is my hobby. I devour books. I also like to crochet, although I don’t find much time anymore. Mary Higgins Clark is my favorite author. YA author is Lois Duncan, who wrote such classics as I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Killing Mr. Griffin.
Pamper Myself? You kidding? I’m still trying to figure out time to do that. I’d love a massage once a month, but can’t even find time to have my hair done, so probably not gonna happen. These days, pampering includes a pair of pajamas, cup of green tea, a huge bowl of popcorn and a good book.

Q: Deeper yet. If you were to choose a color of polish for your pedicure, would it be blood red, or would that remind you too much of the murders you commit on paper? What shade would you choose and why?
A: I’d love red. It’s my favorite color, but I think it chips too easily. Pink is usually my choice. It’s serene. But I like the idea of red for my book signings. Will have to get that done this week.

Q: When you write, do you have favorite music or absolute quiet? What is your writing schedule?
A:No schedule at all, unless I can make myself get up really early on my days off. I get up at four when I work (which isn’t much, by the way), so sometimes I like to sleep later. I have a paraplegic husband and babysit three grandkids during the week. I grab whatever time I can. BUT, IF I can get up early, I have a thunderstorm CD that I love. (CAIT'S NOTE: This is one of the reason I admire Shirley so much. Writers deal with life issues and if you're meant to write, you will, through almost everything. Almost.:))

Q: ANONYMOUSLY YOURS is also popular now. You mix characters well in it, too. This cast of THE SCARRY INN characters is large, each with a special background and relationships, i.e. the worrying parents, the conflicted daughter, the remarried father, a teen who feels unloved, the truck driver and the pregnant wife, etc. You seem comfortable bringing all the lives together. Is that a result of having your own very busy life?
A: It’s possible. But I think everyone has busy lives in one way or another. I think as writers we probably do include some of ourselves into our writing.

Q: Can you tell us more about your intended series, The Scarry Inn as the first? Also, tell us more about anything else you’re writing?
A: The Scarry Inn will include six books in the series. The first one sets it up. The second book, which I hope to finish soon, will include a murder mystery weekend. Except the murder won’t be fake. Of course a few of the characters will also be in the next book. I’d tell you who, but it would let those who haven’t read it yet know who they shouldn’t suspect in the first book. You’ll just have to read the next one to find out.

Q: Would you like to give a special shout-out or thank-yous to those influencing you or your writing?
A: My family has always been supportive. My sisters, brothers, and my mom have rooted me on from the beginning. My immediate family has never read a thing I’ve written. The writers groups, Sleuths’ Ink and Ozark Romance Authors are great for writers because we get a lot of support and push from them. And, of course, there is Cait London, who is quite the PUSHER of writers, herself.

Be sure to check out THE SCARRY INN and more of Shirley's writing: Anonymously Yours, Got Time? 13 Solve It Yourself Mysteries, A Collection-13 Short Mysteries, and The Necklace-A Middle Grade Mystery.


!!!Keep up with Shirley by visiting her Website/Blog and Social Media:  Facebook and Twitter.

From Cait: As a longtime friend, I've found Shirley to be always cheerful, positive and truly enjoyable company all the way around. But I'm sure Shirley would love to hear from you, so please comment or share with the icons below this post. Let's hear it for Shirley McCann!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Editing a WIP


Today I am editing my WIP (work in progress). I’m at the roundoff point: This manuscript needs a serious “Relook” before ending. Cruising into homebase, the final rough draft, this is very important.

 This WIP was not lucky enough to have a straight shot through. It had many interruptions. Because it is the second in series, it has to be balanced with the first book. That means the timelines have to be right, the places and characters matching the previous book.
One of the most important things that is sometimes skipped in how-to write sessions is the roles of the characters and their importance. Characters have a part to play or they don’t need to be in the story.
I already know some points that need to be covered. At first glance, I know that the male POV (point of view) needs to be strengthened, And one particular male’s scene diminished. With a large cast of characters it’s important to keep track of the protagonists and let the other characters wait for their own stories. I keep notes on characters that will have their own stories.
All writers have certain individual strengths.  This male point of view is very important in this story, and perhaps one of my strengths is writing male POV. Perhaps.
A second point in this WIP edit is that one of the elements needs to be fleshed out and continue more consistently in the story. In one point, the rough draft drags and needs to be tightened, allowing more room for the high points. MASSAGING THE WORK is more FEEL than anything.
In the writing of this story, there were many stop and go’s, so consistency of the theme and story line needs attention. There are parts of two quotes I like to remember when writing a story: 1. From Nora Roberts: “I can fix a bad page…” and 2. From Jayne Ann Krentz: “Don’t let anything stop you.”
I like to remember those two portions of longer quotes. Things do you stop you from writing, but you can fix a bad page and massage a story. It’s great when you can take a straight shot, but as writers, we sometimes we deal with doing our best shot in the time that we have--then editing it into our best.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Spring into Repurposing

Since I'm writing about small farm/small town/homey stuff today in the second book of my Basket Series, (THE BASKET MAKER'S WIFE is the first) I writing about repurposing, spring plantings, etc.

Here's a review from an Amazon buyer of THE BASKET MAKER'S WIFE: "Fantastic. I loved the characters and the special relationships. The humor with how the hero deals with the heroine was just hilarious. I can't wait for the next book and will be checking frequently to see who will be next in line with their courting basket."

Currently, I'm researching chickens, and that is a tip about one of the 2nd story's elements. :) This story has had many life-interferes and if you're a writer, you'll know I call them Novel Interruptus.

Meanwhile, I'm crocheting, planting seeds, spring housecleaning, and generally enjoying the season--except the sneezes. :)

Here's what I did this morning, on my repurposing plan:
Those are McDonald coffee cups (I think they have the best coffee ever and they are so nice when they hand it out the window, too.). I've saved them.

 I cut off some of the top part, punch holes in the bottom with a pencil so water can be absorbed, and planted basil seeds. I love fresh basil. My potted chives last all winter, but sad to say, basil does not.

They are in a plastic lettuce container, the lid beneath to add extra support. They are on a table by a window. This isn't the best place for them, so I am hoping they will sprout anyway.

I have more seeds to plant, a plastic cake container at the ready. If we can repurpose, we should.

Here are some gorgeous guys, my favorites. These are the large kind, absolutely gorgeous. If you can enlarge, look at the center daffodil, which has a red bug on it. What kind is that? Looks like a praying mantis?

There are plenty to cut, if I wished, and I may, and the choice of vase is major. There's a tall white one with blue flowers--think imitation Ming, and an all white heavy one with roses outstanding.

But for right now they are too beautiful to touch.
Then, finally, because I'm also working on a crochet story that may be a novella, but crocheting is definitely included in this 2nd THE BASKET MAKER'S WIFE  book (I think. Editing sometimes rules out too many elements) is Tunisian crocheting, which fascinates me.

One of my goals today is to learn how to finish without those loop holes. If you know, please email?

Tunisian also curls, so if you have tips, let me know?

The red object holding down the curl is the travel watch my parents gave me when I headed off to college. Times have changed, eh? :)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Writer's Bridge


(That's one of my actual white-oak baskets on the cover. It will be on the back of the paper version, too. Thank you, Naj Qamber Designs.)

When you're stumped by what happens next in your story, and you know what happens after that, some writers recommend typing the word Bridge.

That is one idea. The intention is to come back and fill in the "bridge" scene when you are ready.

However, this has previously not worked for me. I am usually a fast shot writer, which serves me best to write straight on through, and then edit. I'm a cross between a "Plotter" and a "Plunger". I usually Plot, but then I Plunge. :) Sometimes I'll find that a scene is needed and write it in in the edit.

I am trying that bridge idea for the first time today. What I usually do, when faced with a stumper of a next plot-point scene, is completely leave the work and take a drive. My car is my think-box on an open road. Usually the answer comes before I'm home and I quickly sketch it out.

I've heard of other things writers do when stumped, like putting on a cap or a black cloth, or facing a blank wall. I say, go for any trick that works for you, individually.

When I have to leave a story, just for lunch or perhaps for a time break, I try to leave of snippets about the next scene. This gives me a running jump on the next writing session. Also, when I am writing, I may leave Notes at the top of the manuscript. These might refer to names, ages, whatever. Those would be fast reference in addition to my trusty synopsis or plot. I loved PageFour Outliner (PC only) but am learning other software now.

Recently, because of Life's Novel Interruptus, I've done lots of reviewing to get back into the second of a series story. In fact, I had to re-plot. In review, I also saw that the POV of one protagonist needed to be stronger and more frequent. I also made that in my editing notes. Then one of the elements needed more research. (Chickens. Raising chickens.)

Since this book is the second in the Basket Maker series, I was also setting up a third. That included being careful of introducing The character consistently throughout the book and what writers call "Holes". It also included making certain the major characters were in play throughout.

I've sketched out the bridge scene, the necessary components before leaving my desk for today. But if I can, a straight shot works the best for me. Just this time, Life and Novel Interruptus happened.

This Bridge thing works differently for individual writers. Sometimes writing past the scene you need to "bridge" actually swings the plot in a different direction. The "Bridge", if written, may hold the plot in its intended direction. But it never hurts to try new things, like trying to dictate more. :)

As I wrote in an earlier post, a story has a beat and a pulse, and writers use action/reaction within this method. If a Bridge does not break the momentum, that's good. If it throws the pulse off, that's not so good. I already know, that at this point, the previous scene needs to be shortened to focus on the real meat this particular BRIDGE scene provides. So shaping on either side of the Bridge scene needs to be considered in the edit.

Here's a question to consider in the Shape of the Story: Is it possible to use these tactics to provide that Bridge scene?: 1.) Drop that dead body into the story. 2.) Use a different POV or 3.) Begin a new chapter and filter in whatever scene is needed in the edit.

But I am trying that Bridge deal today, determined to move forward on a story that has waited through a few bumps. I've blocked out the major points, using all caps, you know. :) NOTE TO SELF: type stuff.

Since this is a series, I also keep in mind the character holes/development in the transition to the next book. Characters do grow, like babies, you know. :) We build them.

Usually my stories wait for me to unravel them, by the way. They seem to always be there, no matter the time or life between. Is that how they are for you?