Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A Writer's Life



You’d think that the main occupation of a writer would be, well, writing, wouldn’t you? The activity that takes up the majority of my time, the thing I think about the most?



Turns out, writing a book is a small part of it. You can write a hundred books, but eventually, you’ll want other people to read them. To do that, they have to be published. Aye, there’s the rub. (I’ll add that writing a book IS hard. You have to learn how to do it—read books, take classes, seek feedback wherever you can, and keep reading and writing, over and over and over, until something clicks.)    


So, you want someone to read it. Someone besides your close family and friends. Today, there are several ways you can get a book published. You can learn how to DIY, as I’ve done with one series and my short story collection. There it is—all published, with a professional cover (that I paid for), sitting out there on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other places too, for all the world to see. Um, why isn’t anyone seeing it? Because thousands of other writers have done the same thing and the field is crowded. I gave that series a leg up by having one of my actual publishers distribute it. Almost all my sales of that series come through them (Untreed Reads). 


Another way is to submit it dozens (or, in my case, hundreds) of times to small presses. After you learn to write an appealing cover letter, summarizing your book in one succinct paragraph. For that, you’ll probably have to take a class, or at least read books and articles on it. Then, when you do get a small press to say they’ll publish it, it’s sitting out there with your self-published series and a few people are noticing, but not many unless you learn to promote it. Another class or two, or ten. I’ve had the great good fortune to be associated with several excellent small presses, but I have to help them out with marketing and selling.



The old fashioned way is to attract an agent to do all that work. Ha! Getting an agent is harder than any of the above. If you’re sending a proposal, you’ll have to have the cover letter, a one or two page synopsis (take another class to learn to do that), and at least the first three chapters of a proposed book. Or, you can take 6-12 months to write a whole book and submit that—with the completely professional cover letter. Then you hope the agent gets you work published with a big enough press to get it onto an actual bookstore bookshelf. That’s the way to sell lots of books. The only way I’ve found, personally. Other writers can sell books in other ways, but, so far, that’s worked best for me, quantity-wise.


So, reading books about how to write, how to market, taking classes in all those things, writing blogs, writing guest blogs, putting out newsletters (first building a newsletter recipient list), joining writers’ organizations, getting my name in front of people by doing columns and reviews, giving away review copies in hopes of getting actual reviews, attending conferences so more readers will have heard about me, and doing tons and tons of networking—because priceless connections and advice come from my fellow mystery writers: every bit of that is valuable. And it’s not writing!

So now, that I’ve done a blog on all the other activities, I’ll submit this and…WRITE.

REPEAT FROM PREVIOUS BLOG—THIS IS STILL GOING ON UNTIL THE END OF THE MONTH!

An important announcement! All month long, my two Neanderthal mysteries will be on sale, in both paperback and hardcover! 15% off PLUS free shipping. If you haven’t yet picked up DEATH IN THE TIME OF ICE or DEATH ON THE TREK, this is the perfect time.

Untreed Reads, the publisher, makes an unusual offer, too. They can customize any print book you purchase to include a special message inside...at no extra charge! Just put in your notes what you'd like it to say. See all of the titles at http://store.untreedreads.com





photos from morguefile.com by, in order,
kconnors
dhester
mockingbird
lauramusikanski
click


Friday, May 10, 2019

Malice Conference and a Nice Sale


I’m back from a fully packed weekend in Bethesda for Malice Domestic and thoroughly exhausted and energized—at the same time. I know, it’s weird. It’s a wonderful thing to be breathing the same air as all those mystery writers and readers, sharing thoughts and laughs, and a few tears sometimes. Oh, and drinks. OK, not sharing drinks, but, you know.

As usual, I came home without any pix of my own. Several people posted some with me in them, so I’ll “borrow” some of those. 

Janet Bolin, Linda Wiken, Vicki Delaney, me, Daryl Wood Gerber (Avery Aames) and Sheila Connolly--by Daryl (Canadians to the left, Americans and one Irish American to the right)

Elisa A. Varey, me, and Laura Oles, by Elisa

Me, Grace Topping, and Kristin Kisska at Malice Go Round
Me, Julie Hennrikus, and Sheila again by Carol Pouliot


This Malice was the most fun ever so far! I was kind of dreading my panel, since I left town before the info went out, so I had no files with me. The story the moderator wanted to discuss was “Dream Girl” in the BOULD anthology. Darned if I could remember the names of the characters! Since I had bought copies for my family, I found I could download a free digital version onto my little Amazon Fire that I took with me. (First time I’ve ever traveled without a laptop! I always bring one and NEVER use it.) The panel turned out to be hilarious, entertaining, and a whole lot of fun.

Ed Aymer, moderator, and Robin Templeton, Alan Orloff, me, Eleanor Cawood Jones, and Josh Pachter--SO honored to be sitting with such talent! Photo by Art Taylor, husband of the Agatha winner, Tara Laskowski.

Stylized photo by Elisa of me and Mary Lee Ashford (with Steve Carter in the foreground), lamenting the flooding back where we're both from in Iowa and Illinois.

No picture of my and my daughter at the banquet SITTING NEXT TO ANN HILLERMAN! Darn!

And now for an important announcement! All month long, my two Neanderthal mysteries will be on sale, in both paperback and hardcover! 15% off PLUS free shipping. If you haven’t yet picked up DEATH IN THE TIME OF ICE or DEATH ON THE TREK, this is the perfect time.

Untreed Reads, the publisher, makes an unusual offer, too. They can customize any print book you purchase to include a special message inside...at no extra charge! Just put in your notes what you'd like it to say. See all of the titles at http://store.untreedreads.com




Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Mr. Rogers Had It Right


I rarely bring up current events here. My work is meant to help people escape from whatever they need to escape from and current events are often that. But something momentous happened this week that I’d like to address.

from Wikipedia
Everyone reading this has probably heard the saying from Mr. Rogers, either first hand or reported later: “Look for the helpers.” That was his mother’s advice to him when he heard scary news.



On Monday, we all watched as Notre Dame burned, the spire fell, we all worried about the priceless treasures inside, whether we had ever been there to see them, planned to go someday, or just knew they were there.

from Vox article


The French firefighters, of course, were the heroes of the day, saving most of the structure and the artwork. The French people were a close second, singing Ave Maria as theywatched from below. The rest of the world suffered with them and, as soon as most of the danger was over, even before that, vowed to help rebuild the magnificent French national symbol.


Did you know that a sacred mosque also caught fire the same day? The flames were quickly put out and no real damage was done. This quote that came from the same day is from a Newsweek article on it:

The Palestine News Agency reported that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' office "expressed its deep regret Monday over the fire that broke out at the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in the center of the French capital of Paris, which caused the collapse of the cathedral tower."

"The Presidency confirmed its solidarity and sympathy with our friends in France over this incident," the outlet added.

Dome of the Rock from Wikipedia


More good helpers.

Notre Dame will be rebuilt and will probably be just as grand and awe inspiring as it ever was. Here’s another thing. There are a few other churches that recently burned that need a lot of help. The Notre Dame fire actually sparked (pun intended) a spike in donations to help the three Louisiana churches that were totally destroyed by a hateful lunatic. In fact, millions of euros have been donated overnight!
William Widmer New York Times


The helpers are always there. Most people are good at heart and try to do the right thing whenever they can. We don’t hear about them because they don’t make good spectacular splashy headlines. But they’re always there. And they far outnumber people who would burn down churches because of the color of the skin of the worshippers.


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Presentation on Series vs. Standalones


STANDING ALONE OR GOING TOGETHER: WRITING A SERIES VS. A STANDALONE: Behind the scenes for my presentation at the Authors Guild of Tennessee a few weeks ago.

Here’s the speech I prepared. I didn’t stick exactly to it because I got lots of participation—Yay! The parts that are bolded are for my benefit, so I can glance at the paper while I’m speaking and not have to read the whole line.

I had 20 minutes, so I prepared this at 15 minutes and counted on input from my fellow writers, which, as I said above, I got.




I write short stories as standalones and as series, in a few cases. But in novel writing, I have much more experience in series writing, so I’ll start with that.

Here are the many ways you really should plan, many things you should think about when writing a series:

SERIES
WHAT’S INVOLVED
--continuing characters; which POVs to use; make sure you have a strong enough cast of interesting and varied characters to carry them through several books.
--setting; stationary or moving around; if moving around, what will tie the locations together
--what will hold the series together; theme, occupation, setting
--how many books the series will run; though this is sometimes impossible to tell
--clever or intriguing/beguiling series title; titles of the individual books, tying them together

--series are popular in fantasy, sci-fi, supernatural, dystopian, YA, and mystery. SOME OTHERS?

specific for mysteries:
--who will continue; who will not (victim and killer);
--varied murder methods, or similar ones?
--mysteries are MUCH easier to sell as series
--It’s considered desirable for readers to be able to pick up the series anywhere along the way, then to fill in with previous books, without spoilers. This can be tricky to write and you have to be careful not to kill off anyone who will be missed in the future. This also applies to the villain, unless you have a continuing villain. You also cannot have serious suspects appearing in subsequent books, so you have to have a LOT of throw away characters.
SERIES AS STANDALONES—ANY OTHER GENRE THAT DOES THAT? (Harry Potter)
A GENRE THAT USES A SERIES THAT HAS TO BE READ IN ORDER?





PROS
--In some of the sub-genres of mystery, series are preferred
--Even in other genres, eg. nonfiction, a series is sometimes called for
          Ex: True crime, business rules, life goals
          In other words, if you write a really good book, people will want another       one.
--Your series name (or similarity in titles) will be what brings readers back.
--EXPECTATIONS: You will probably want to continue with the same general plot structure since your readers will expect it. You’ll set up the readers’ expectations and, if you want them to continue to buy your series, you’ll have to satisfy those hopes.
--The reader knows what they’ll get from one of your series books.
--Story Arc: You can continue a story arc across the series, for many books
--I find it very nice to receive a 2 or 3 book contract rather than a contract for just 1.
--It’s easier, over a series, to delve into different aspects of your MC, even different aspects of minor characters, to deepen and develop the characters, the narrative and to interest the readers.
--If you’ve built this world, it’s fun to use it again and you have a familiar setting you don’t have to recreate.
--It’s a luxury that you can explore relationships between different characters in different books.
--If you’re writing an epic journey, you have lots of room to complete it. Eg: the Hobbit Books

CONS
--The writers often get tired of their main characters and feel they must keep writing them.
Agatha Christie got sick of Hercules Poirot and Arthur Conan Doyle got sick of Sherlock Holmes.
Christie was able to kill off Poirot, but Doyle killed off Holmes and had to resurrect him!
--You must be very careful to continue the mood and tone throughout the series. If you are writing other things at the same time, or between books, this can be hard. You may need to reread parts of all of you earlier book or books.
--Make sure you’re not writing a series that could have been one book.
--It’s like having a dinner party and, after the dinner, the guests don’t leave. They stay and expect more. And more. And more.
--Your readers will expect another book fairly soon. You MUST keep writing the series.
--Using continuing characters creates a problem in that, each time you introduce the characters in each book, you must tell the reader who those characters are. You must not bore the reader who already knows them, but you must not mystify the reader who has never met them.
--You must be careful not to continue a series after you’ve exhausted it.
--If your story isn’t strong enough, it might not merit even a second book and your readers won’t appreciate that.


NEUTRAL
--One site I consulted, Writers Edit, suggested that they sell in equal numbers, that neither series nor standalone is more popular overall.
--Your writing style and subject matter may tell you which you’re better suited for. Most people do one of the other, I think. OPINIONS?
--You might consider a spin off or a companion book as an in between measure.


STANDALONES
WHAT’S INVOLVED
--Title to make the reader pick it up
--Point of view; which and how many
--You’re free to structure these any way you want to. Since there will be only one, but plotting can be way out of bounds for your genre and you’ll be hailed as an original
--While there ARE popular standalones that don’t have developed characters, you’ll do better if you do create real, life-like personalities to carry your story.

PROS
--there’s a freedom in the roles assigned; you can make anyone at all the killer, even the narrator
examples: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd; Murder on the Orient Express (although this involves a series sleuth, Hercules Poirot)
--Your name on the cover will be what brings readers back.
--This is like having a dinner party, concluding it, and having the guests leave satisfied. But ready for you next dinner party, should you throw one.
--You get to build a new world for each book.
--You can relax a bit before starting a new book, since it doesn’t follow another one that built up hope in the reader.
--If you only ever want to write one book, this is the way to go.
--You’re creating unique and different characters that can fit only this story, this time, and this setting.
--Mystery, romance, romantic suspense, horror, and crime can often be a perfectly good standalone. OTHERS?
--In this one book, you’re doing your very best for these characters, this setting, and this theme. You can pack it all into one tidy, dazzling package.
--You can test the waters with a standalone. It may be that the publisher and the readers want more, so it can give you an opportunity to continue and built on this one book for a series, or at least a sequel.

CONS
--You can’t build on these for future sales. Each one will stand or fall on its own. Stand Alone, after all, right?
--Story arc: It has to be completed within the confines of the covers of this book.
--You don’t have as much room to develop rounded characters. There’s a temptation to use stereotypes, but that won’t net you good reviews or sales.
--You must build a new world for each book.


HOW TO DECIDE
CONSIDERATIONS
--If the book is wildly popular, the publisher and/or the public may demand more. So, should you always plan for the possibility?
--Is your story too big for one book? You might have to tell an episodic story, one long story told over several books. Not really a series, but multiple books to hold the complete story.

REFERENCES:
https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/the-essential-guide-for-writing-a-series-vs-a-standalone-novel/#Publishing-Considerations

https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2016/11/03/series-vs-standalone-books/

https://www.dlandsborough.com/blog/2017/4/27/series-vs-standalone

https://writershelpingwriters.net/2012/01/series-vs-the-stand-alone/
most of the help is in the comments here

http://gillianeberry.blogspot.com/2013/04/series-vs-standalone.html
Another one with lots of good comments

morguefile photo from diannehope

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Picasso and Cave Art


First, let me tell you about a curious incident regarding Picasso, from the time when one of my sons was about 3 years old. A traveling exhibition came to town, a showing of Picasso art, and we went and took the kids. We had two at the time, two boys, seven and three.


The line of people passed by the paintings hanging on the wall behind the rope, puzzling over the cubist creations. We would look at the painting, then peer at the small card telling us what it was. Then our three-year-old started piping up. I don’t remember the exact paintings we saw, but it went something like this, for instance.

“Dere’s a lady,” he would say and the title would be “Ma Jolie” My Pretty Girl.
“Dey habbing a picnic.” That would be for “Luncheon on the Grass.”  


This went on and people started to notice our little savant. Pretty soon, everyone was waiting for him to tell us what the paintings were. He didn’t have years of culture and conditioning and standardization to get in the way of his understanding of Picasso’s primitive meanings. He immediately understood each painting, even though none of the adults could.

Now, on to cave art.

I recently learned of a book about some 32 symbols found in Ice Age caves, symbols widely used in many places. The theory is that everyone must have understood what they stood for, but their meanings are mostly lost today. I ordered the book, The First Signsby Genevieve Von Petzinger.



So, here’s my solution. I have the book. All we need to do is to find a three year old to tell us what they mean. We’ll never discover it for ourselves.

photos from https://learnodo-newtonic.com/pablo-picasso-famous-paintings
and https://www.pablopicasso.org/luncheon-on-the-grass.jsp
symbols from https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23230990-700-in-search-of-the-very-first-coded-symbols/





Sunday, February 17, 2019

Short Story Sunday





I’ve been thinking of ways to thank my faithful readers and fans and came up with Short Story Sunday. I’ll post a free short story on my blog on Sundays, Probably random Sundays, if I know myself.

This was my first one ever published, in the July-August issue of Future Mystery Anthology Magazine, with the title of “Flash.” Later, the next February, it places 2nd in their “Fire to Fly” contest among their own published stories.

I really got my money’s worth out of this one. In the form below, it appeared in April in Web Mystery Magazine. It was slightly edited by Rosalie Stafford, the editor.

Then, in 2007, it was reprinted in B.J. Bourg’s Mouthful of Bullets magazine. As you’ll see it’s a bit dated now, since electronics are involved, but I still like the way it reads. I hope you will too.

**After the end, I posted an awesome review it received in 2007.


FLASH MOB by Kaye George



Two hundred beepers woke up and chirped their signals to their keepers.  The ones being paged read the scrolling messages, smiled, stuck the devices in their pockets and purses, and headed out.

*****

Melissa breathed a barely perceptible sigh of relief.  Can’t relax too much yet.  In two hours it will all be over.

*****

Last week he called her at work.

“We should go out to dinner tonight.  I made a big sale.  Got the check in my hand.”

“That’s great, Matt!  What time?”

“Sure you’re up to it, Mel?”

Not that again!  Yes, she had cancer.  Yes, she was weak from her treatment day before yesterday.  But please, Matt, don’t treat me like one of your porcelain dolls.  She ignored his question and asked her own.

“What did you sell?”

“That Currier and Ives print – the one you always hated.”

“Ah yes.  The one that has brown all around the edges and people that look out of proportion.  How much?”

“Hang on to your wig.”

She gritted her teeth.  How many times had she told him not to joke about her wig?

“I got three hundred.  And it’s been a very good week.”

Her jaw relaxed and she pictured his proud, shining eyes, the color of melting dark chocolate.  “That’s great, hon.  Let’s go to the new place in Dover.  Lisa said the food was good, atmosphere great, and the prices not too awful.”

“I’ll be home around six.  Leave around seven?”

She remembered that as their last good night.

*****

Two hundred email flags popped up with their various dings, chimes and whirrs.  Two hundred users clicked on the latest notice, grinned, and got up.  Time to go!

*****

The restaurant was even better than Lisa had led Melissa to believe.  The food was excellent.  And the ambiance was positively romantic.

Matt’s eyes were dark pools in the dancing candlelight.  And Melissa knew she looked better here than in a brightly lit place.  Her pale skin had grown papery thin and even sagged a bit at the jaw line.  Cancer treatment was not for the faint hearted.

The salads had just been cleared and the table crumbed when Mel caught a whiff of strong perfume.  She felt almost dizzy from the nausea that rose in her throat.  Intolerance to strong odors was another not-fun side effect.

The wearer of the offensive stench paused at their table.

“Matt, darling!”  she effused and leaned over to smooch him on the cheek, her mink dripping onto the tablecloth.  The woman, forty-ish, slim, and overly jeweled, looked at Melissa. 

“Is this the little woman?”  Her smile, stiff with what was probably Botox, was aimed at Matt.  Good thing.  She missed the daggers coming from Mel.

*****

One hundred cell phones rang, cawed, tweedled, and sang.  One hundred people pressed buttons and watched messages go by.  All right!  Fun time.

*****

“Who was that?” spat Mel after the clanking, furred socialite drifted off to her table in the rear of the restaurant.

“Shh!  Not so loud,” whispered Matt.  “She’s the rich bitch who bought the Currier and Ives.”

“Oh, so she’s stupid, too.”

Matt frowned as the waitress slid their entrees onto the creamy white of the linen tablecloth and asked if they would like their drinks freshened.

“What do you mean ‘too’”?  Matt asked when they were alone again.

“Huh?”

“You said she’s stupid, too.”

“Oh, I meant besides being generally annoying.  I mean – kissing my husband in front of me.  How gauche!”

Matt bent his head to his food and his nostrils flared in that way that said he was pissed.

“What?” she demanded.  “Why are you upset with me?  Because I don’t personally like one of your customers?  No big deal.  I’ll probably never see her again and certainly won’t tell her what I think.”

His look softened.  “I know you won’t, Mel.  Sorry.”

Melissa wasn’t really looking for it, but couldn’t help noticing how touchy he was the rest of the evening.  She also noticed the society babe give Matt a wink as she left a few minutes before they did.

*****

Dozens of grocery stores, marts, and drug stores experienced a run on red balloons.  Disappointed shoppers, arriving after the red ones were sold out, settled for pink and orange.  They were all in a big hurry.

*****

The next night Matt was late again, but brought roses home.  She’d had a tough time staying at work all day.  Her boss had given her permission to leave whenever she couldn’t make it through the day, but she rarely missed more than two days for her treatments.  It was getting harder, though.

Matt, looking extremely pleased with himself, found a vase under the sink, filled it with water, and stuck the fragrant blooms on the table beside the couch where Melissa had collapsed a half hour earlier.

Melissa, drained, couldn’t summon the energy to move the roses.  “Matt, honey, could you please put them across the room?  The smell is bothering me.”

“Sure thing.”  He swooped the vase up, set it on the shelf near the window, and strode with enviably healthy legs back to the couch.  “Rough day?”  He smoothed her forehead and gave her a chaste peck.

Mel swallowed.  There it was!  That horrid perfume.  She lurched up and made it to the toilet before losing her lunch. 

“You okay?”  Matt called from the hallway outside the bathroom.

“I’m fine.  Just go ahead and have dinner without me.”  She sat on the floor, leaning against the cool gray tiles of the wall, too tired to cry.

*****

The next day she called in sick to work, then phoned the doctor’s office and said she had to see him that day.  When she got there she only had to wait fifteen minutes in the outer waiting room and five in the examining room.

Dr. Leigh bustled in, shut the door, and took a seat on his stool, shuffling the papers he was holding and avoiding her eyes.

“I’m not doing too well,” she started. 

He held up his hand.  “I don’t doubt it.”  He raised his gaze from the floor and concern filled his eyes with pain.  “I got your last test results early this morning.  They’re not good.”

“Not good,” she echoed, the chill of the room entering her spine.

“The tumors are growing.  Your treatments aren’t working.”  His voice was gentle, kindly.  “I’m sorry, Melissa.  I think it’s time to stop treatment and make you comfortable.”

So that was it.  She had the death sentence.  Tried, convicted, and no appeals allowed.  Melissa had intended to confide in Dr. Leigh that she suspected her husband was having an affair with one of his rich customers.  On her way to the office she had pictured his soothing presence convincing her that she was wrong.  She had pictured leaving with her heart lighter.  Instead, her heart weighed so much it felt like it was sitting on her stomach as she drove slowly home.

Maybe this would be the last session with the toilet bowl, she thought as she wobbled to her feet after vomiting for a good ten minutes.  Without treatment, she should at least feel better.  That’s what Dr. Leigh has intimated.

But how could she feel better when she knew – okay she admitted that she did know – that Matt was getting something more out of that client that her money?  She tried to look at their life from his point of view.  She had  been extremely hard to live with since her cancer was diagnosed.  One treatment option after another had not panned out and now the last resort had been declared a failure.  She was given a few months at the most.

Matt would be home in a couple of hours.  Unless he called again and said he would be late.

How could you abandon me when I’ve never needed you more?

She called him some choice names out loud.  That felt good.  Maybe she would let him have it when he came through the door.  She paced, energized by her bitter hatred, rehearsing the coming scene.

Then she stopped.  Wait.  If she told him she was dying, what would he do then?  Would he just leave her completely?  God knows things had been rocky since her diagnosis.  Matt had never dealt well with illness, his own or others, and hadn’t displayed many moments of graciousness lately.  Mostly just impatience and exasperation.

No, she wouldn’t tell him.  But she would have to do something.

*****

Five hundred people got into cars, onto buses and bicycles, or just started walking toward the antique district.

*****

She called in the next day, Friday, and quit her job.  Her boss said she had five days of vacation pay coming, and he’d see if they could keep her on the payroll for two more weeks. 

After she hung up she thought how odd it was that she had told her boss she was terminal, and not her husband.

The weekend was pleasant.  She could tell Matt sensed that something was drastically different, some line had been crossed, but he had no way of knowing what it was.  Maybe he suspected she knew of his affair.  She didn’t tell him she had quit her job, but pondered how she was going to keep him from knowing.  And why she wanted to.

As she watched him flip the burgers on the stove Sunday night she wondered if she had been too hasty.  Maybe he wasn’t having an affair.  Her overwrought state could be making her imagine things.  Maybe the client had merely been in the shop and that overpowering smell stayed with Matt after she left.

She seemed to have more energy than she’d had in a long time and jumped up to get the salads as he pushed the patties onto the plates she had set on the dining room table.  The meal was restful and they watched out the window in a companionable silence as the winter sun sparked its radiance into the sky just before it died for the day.

*****

Some people arrived a little too soon and found ways to loiter until the appointed time.  Others circled the block looking for parking spaces.  The four-tiered garage at the corner filled up and cars started entering the one two blocks away.

*****

It was a relief to quit her job, but she missed the people after just two days.  Two busy days, though.  There was an urgency to her life, now, since she knew if was finite.  The first thing she did was clean the house from top to bottom.  Amazing how much better she felt without the deadly treatments.  Dr. Leigh’s prescribed pain relievers gave her a sense of floating above the world, but didn’t seem to prevent her energy from flowing. 

By the time Matt got home she made sure she was dressed in her regular working clothes so he would think she went to work.  She tried to act tired from work, but he noticed how bubbly she was and attributed it, rightly, to her condition.  Wrong condition, though.

“You’re bouncing back from this last treatment, Mel.  Maybe something’s finally working.”

“I hope so,” she murmured, sipping the wine he had so gallantly poured.  She rested her head on his shoulder as they watched a movie on television, smiling when he started snoring softly halfway through the picture.

*****

Nearly five hundred people blew up their balloons, mostly red, ready to for the next step.

*****

Now that Mel knew exactly what to expect, a weight was lifted.  It was wonderful to know that her last days on earth wouldn’t be lived in the torment she’d undergone for months.  She didn’t have to worry about how many pain pills she took because the end was so near.  And she didn’t have to dread an unknown future.  Somehow, she didn’t really dread her end. 

The next day, Wednesday, Melissa decided to go through her closet and dispose of her clothing and jewelry.  She pulled a box out of the closet and discovered a cache of old photographs she’d forgotten all about.  It was great fun to go through them.  Sort of a summing up of her life.  She wondered vaguely what would happen to her photographs, her books, her favorite set of china.  Maybe it was the painkiller, but she couldn’t get too worked up about it.

As she drew a picture of Matt on the beach out of the bottom of the box she heard his voice downstairs.  A glance at the clock showed it to be noon.  He didn’t usually come home from his antique shop in the middle of the day, usually ate in the store and gave the employees a lunch hour.

She was about to call to him when she heard another voice.  A female voice.  A chuckle, then a grating laugh.  Footfalls sounded on the stairs and Melissa smoothly shoved the box into the closet and followed it in, pulling the door shut behind her.

The next hour was torture.  She hunkered in the dark and listened to her husband confirm her fears, the ones she had dismissed as irrational.  She recognized the society dame’s harsh smoker’s voice and heard the clank of her bracelets as the mattress – the mattress to her bed -- gave creaking noises and the headboard whacked the wall in a way Melissa didn’t recall it ever doing.

After some sickening sweet talk they took an interminable amount of time getting reclothed and leaving.  As Melissa heard the front door slam she burst out of the closet and looked at the bed in horror.  One of them, probably not Matt, had made it up so neatly she would never have known.  She knew she wouldn’t sleep there again.  She would feign nausea and take up residency on the den couch.

*****

Almost five hundred people gathered outside the shop, Matt’s antiques, their balloons swaying in the slight breeze, strings becoming tangled.  Some of them began to laugh.

*****

She had read about flash mobs in the paper.  The first one she heard of, at Grand Central Station, was a gathering of people who  burst into applause at the Hyatt Hotel for fifteen seconds.  Others consisted of people all going to a certain store and asking to see the same rug or pair of shoes.  According to one report, the appeal of the flash mob was its lack of agenda.  Folks got the message on their pagers, their computers, or their cell phones, then willingly, eagerly, convened at the appointed place and time and followed the instructions given on their various electronic devices.

The gatherings were mostly innocuous, with a few exceptions, one being a photographer who was  beaten by the event organizer.  The report in today’s paper, hinting that the fad was likely to die out soon, spurred her to make up her mind quickly.  The idea she’d hatched seemed perfect.  The cover it would afford was ideal.  She knew Matt’s gun would be in the drawer at work where he always kept it.  There was one at home and one in the shop.  They had both taken the course required by the licensing people when they bought the guns.  Matt’s valuable inventory had decided him to get the first one, then it seemed only right to have one to defend the house also.

Melissa looked at her watch.  Time to go.  The note was written which would explain everything.  She tucked it into the bottom of the desk drawer, next to her insurance policy which named Matt as the beneficiary, put on her coat, and left.

*****

Matt looked out the front window.  The street was full of people carrying balloons.  They started into the shop.  One balloon caught on the ceiling fan and popped.  The mob twittered.

“No!”  shouted Matt.  “You can’t come in here.  Get out!”  He flapped his hands and even pushed a couple of them, but some of the crowd forced their way in.  Dozens of mobbers filled the shop and the ones that didn’t fit pressed up against the window, all getting as close together as they could.

“Hi Matt.”  He whirled around.  Melissa had come in the back way.  She smiled.

“What is going on?” he called to her, fighting his way to her side.  He grabbed her arm.

“Come into the office with me, Matt,” she said, putting her lips next to his ear.

Puzzled, he followed her.

The crowd grew eerily silent.  Matt closed the door.  Mel went behind his desk, drew the gun from the drawer and brought it slowly up in front of her.  Matt froze.

The mobbers checked their watches.

Melissa checked hers.  She pointed the gun at Matt with her gloved hand, just to see what he would do.

“Mel,” he breathed, hyperventilating.  “What are you doing?”

“Saying goodbye, Matt.”  She knew his were the only fingerprints on the gun.  As five hundred balloons popped, Melissa pulled the trigger.

Those nearest the office noticed the sound, in spite of the noise.  Melissa had calculated correctly.  The first ones into the room drew the conclusion she had planned.  Matt was standing over her body.  His prints were on the gun.  Five different cell phones were used to call Nine One One and the response was instantaneous, since the police, suspicious of the mob, had converged outside.

The note was found in a search of the house.  It instructed the authorities to question Matt if anything happened to her.  Matt was convicted within a year and sentenced to life in prison.

THE END


This review appeared a blog called Speakeasy, which, like the magazines that published this piece, is bygone.


Friday, November 2, 2007
This well-told tale has such a clever device I'm envious that I didn't think of it. The intercuts of people answering their cell phones and checking their palm pilots is so intriguing that you keep reading just to find out what that's all about, to heck with the crime. The characters are beautifully drawn, especially the viewpoint character. You feel sorry for her without having your tears jerked. Keep your hands off my tears, thanks anyway. That George doesn't dissolve into maudlin sentimentalism in order to suck you in makes this a vastly better story than it would have been otherwise. The story is taut and believable. Check it out over at Mouth Full of Bullets.
Posted by Susan Brassfield Cogan at 12:26 PM 

*****AUTHOR’S NOTE: I, of course, see edits I would love to make now, but I have refrained. You will, no doubt, especially after I’ve pointed it out, notice my inexplicable but persistent penchant for names beginning with the letter M. Also, the double-spacing between sentences, which is how we used to do it.




photo from morguefile.com by Prawny 


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

THRILLOGY!


Don’t you love that word? I love the way it sounds, what it evokes, but even more, I love that I have one just now published at Wildside!



Mine is a collection of all three of my Imogene Duckworthyshort stories. It’s great to have them together in one place. If you go NOW, for the next week, it will be FREE. After that, it’s only 99 cents, so you can get it then if you don’t have time now. (Link to get it free!)

While you’re there, be sure to check out the others. Mine is the 11th in the series, so there are 10 more to enjoy (if my math is correct) (I’m not good at math).

The three stories are “Immy Goes to the Dogs” “Snatched Potatoes” and “As the Screw Turns.” the first two are from Immy’s childhood, and the third is a tribute to the smartest cat I ever had.
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