Sunday, September 28, 2014

Shadow of Death Available for Pre-Order

Cover Reveal!


I am so excited to show you the fantastic cover for Shadow of Death, the second in my Community of Faith mystery series. The idea for this cover came to me early in the writing of this book, but I was unable to find an appropriate image on the stock photo sites. Then one evening while watching the news, during the segment that includes viewer photographs, I saw this fabulous photo by Ed Mullins and knew I had to have it for the cover.

A while later, several people recommended Karen Phillips as a cover designer. Karen took Ed's photo and designed the final cover. I love this cover so much, I'm now having her do a new cover for Faith, Hope, and Murder as well. Oh, and Ed is once again supplying the photography.

Shadow of Death Now Available for Pre-Order!


Shadow of Death is now available for pre-order at the bargain price of 99 cents. This price will only be available until October 15th, so make sure to order your copy now! On October 15th, the price will go up to $2.99--still a bargain. Official release date: November 3, 2014.

Here's the book blurb:

When Faith Andersen agrees to join a retreat at the Crazy Creek Guest Ranch for a weekend of horseback riding, barbecues, and fellowship, she thinks her biggest problem will be rekindling her romance with the handsome pastor of Desert Water Christian Church--until the ranch foreman is found murdered and mutilated, and the primary suspect is her best friend's husband.

With an ex-wife and child to support, John Menard is reluctant to pursue Faith on a pastor's salary. The retreat might be a good time to find some time alone with her, a chance to break it off, before they're too involved to turn back.

In the heat of the Arizona summer, there aren't many guests--and even fewer staff--at the ranch. A flirty young woman on her way to graduate school who doesn't seem to fit the rough and tumble atmosphere. An aging television star trying to revive her career with a western series. Her furtive young male companion. The ne'er-do-well son of the ranch's housekeeper and handyman. And, of course, the members of the church.

Cut off from civilization by monsoon flooding, law enforcement is unable to reach the ranch to investigate the murder. With a psychopathic killer on the loose, Faith and John are compelled to join forces to hunt down the murderer. But can they identify the culprit before he--or she--claims another victim?


Read for Free!


Both of my Community of Faith mystery novels (Shadow of Death after November 3), along with my Lacy Davenport mystery short stories, are now available to read for free through Kindle Unlimited. With this program, you can borrow as many books as you like for a monthly fee. If you don't belong yet, you can try out Kindle Unlimited for free for one month. If you already belong, please consider borrowing one or more of my stories.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Story

I spend a lot of time thinking about story. The one I'm working on, the one I'm reading, the ones by my fellow (or should that be sister?) authors, the ones in the Bible, the ones in movies, the ones on television. I must have at least ten books on my bookshelf on how to tell a story, most of which I've read from cover to cover, some more than once.

It takes a lot of talent to tell a good story. First of all, the story needs to have characters you care about. If you don't care about the characters, you won't care what happens to them. They have to face a problem that matters. They have to struggle to solve that problem, failing at first, but succeeding in the end.

Now that the Red Sox have gone into spring training mode with no hopes of salvaging anything from this season other than evaluating young players for next year, I no longer spend four hours watching baseball after my day's work is done. That gives me more time to work on my stories, but it also leaves me in a quandary. What do I watch on television in the evening when I'm too tired to read?

This week I've become aware of how many reality shows there are and how often they're replayed. Even a year ago, it seems to me there were more choices, more variety, more stories than there are now. Every channel has reality shows that they rerun over and over and over again. I can catch Duck Dynasty, Storage Wars, and Chopped, multiple times a day and multiple times a week. Not that I'd want to. Most of those I don't even watch the first time they air.

Fortunately, WE (Women's Entertainment) shows reruns of the original Law and Order for hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. These are stories I can watch over and over. But you think there would be something new of the same quality. There was. It was called Longmire. Longmire may come back, but it's been a struggle, both by the producers and the fans, trying to make that happen.

So this week I was excited to accidentally find the pilot of a new show in time to watch it. I usually have no idea when new shows are premiering. In the old days, new shows premiered in the fall, ran for twenty-six weeks, then, if they were good, rerun for another twenty-six weeks over the summer. Yes, twenty-six brand new episodes. Not thirteen. Not ten. A half year of originality. If the show didn't make it, summer replacements showed up and sometimes made it into the fall line-up. A show had time to develop, time to build an audience, time to get to know whether this was going to be a good one or not.

But back to the new show. It's called The Mysteries of Laura and stars Debra Messing. I was hopeful. More than hopeful. A mystery! A woman detective! Maybe this would be the new Law and Order.

It wasn't. The most vivid image I remember is of Laura's twin sons covered in red paint. Them and everything around them. Half the show dealt with her out-of-control children, who get thrown out of preschool for their misbehavior, and her pending divorce from her idiot husband. With no place to park these terrors, she brings them to the police station, where her coworkers are thrilled to see them and spend more time bouncing them around than working on the case. Even reality shows aren't this unreal.

Oh, and before that happens, Laura and a partner go to question and/or arrest a suspect. I'm not sure which. I was already only paying half attention to the show. It's at this odd kind of club, where people are wandering around in scanty costumes. Instead of being all Lenny Briscoe and walking up to the guy like cops, the partner gets the idea to "blend" and try to uncover information that way. Next we know, Laura is in a $350 purple bathing suit, with a deep-cut V that goes to her waist, and the camera is taking long shots of her body. Last  I noticed, they hadn't questioned anybody. It was farcical, but not funny.

At the point where the two kids urinate on one another in public while Laura is distracted by an argument with her husband, I turned it off. I think this was supposed to be funny, too.

Season Five of Downton Abbey doesn't start until January. The next episodes of Sherlock are over a year away. Castle isn't what it used to be. And Firefly? All that remains are the DVDs I rewatch every couple of months to remind myself of what a good television show is. Why can't we keep shows on the air that have story?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Discovering the Bible


I didn't grow up in a household where anyone read the Bible on a regular basis. We were a Christian home, went to church every Sunday, attended Sunday School, and my brother and sister and I were in the various choirs growing up. But our exposure to the Bible was those Sunday School lessons and the weekly readings in church. We learned the story of Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, Joseph and his coat of many colors, the Christmas story, Easter, and Pentecost where the disciples received the Holy Spirit.

Then there were the cultural allusions to the Bible, things like the patience of Job, the kiss of death, and killing the fatted calf. Most people are familiar with those, even if they don't know where they came from. And movies like The Ten Commandments, Solomon and Sheba, The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Last Temptation of Christ, and even Jesus Christ Superstar.

But all of that is a very limited part of the whole Bible. The Revised Common Lectionary leaves out whole books, skips verses within selections, and only includes one of the Gospels each year. How many people have heard of the minor prophets Micah, Nahum, or Haggai, much less read them?

Years ago, I felt that I should read through the entire Bible. I even started several times. Genesis was easy, because many of those stories were familiar. Exodus wasn't too bad, because I knew a lot of that, too. But then I would get to Leviticus, which is primarily composed of all the laws of God for the Jewish people, or, worse, Numbers, which has endless lists of genealogy, and I'd be done.

Then there were the times I decided to start with the New Testament, thinking that would be easier. Then I'd get to the parables, stories told by Christ that were supposed to be simple enough for the common person to understand the message. Only they weren't simple to me because I wasn't a first century farmer or fisherman. There were other things I didn't understand because I hadn't been raised in the culture of the writer.

It reminded me of reading Shakespeare. Shakespeare is recognized as possibly the greatest English writer who ever lived. However, he writes in Elizabethan English, which is quite different from the English we speak today. Phrases common then aren't common now. Words he used have fallen out of fashion. Fortunately, in junior high school, I had an English teacher who loved Shakespeare and was able to explain the language to us so that we could appreciate it.

I also learned that there were different ways of translating the Bible, two extremes and several blends in between. One extreme aims for the most accurate literal translation of the original Hebrew and Aramaic. The other aims for the most accurate interpretation of the words. Both methods have their problems. A literal translation may be meaningless because, like Shakespeare, the phrases or words used are no longer in common use. Paraphrasing leans heavily on the understanding of the translator of the historical, cultural, and linguistic context. In both methods, the translation can be influenced by the bias of the translator. What if the word is a homonym, like down? Did the writer mean the direction or the soft feathers of a duck or goose? Sometimes it's easy to distinguish because of context, but what if you have a phrase like "duck down"? Does the writer mean to squat behind something or to qualify which bird the feathers came from? Translators make choices and, because they're human, they're going to be influenced by what they currently believe to be true.

That lead me to believe the only way to know what the Bible really said would be to learn Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek and read the original texts. That seemed like a daunting task, since it would require learning multiple new alphabets and cultures to make sure I was doing it right. That idea got put on my "Someday" shelf.

When I started my transition to retirement two years ago, I arranged my off days so I could attend the weekly lectionary Bible study at New Spirit Lutheran Church. Tuesday of each week, we read and discuss the passages from the Revised Common Lectionary for the following Sunday. Pastor Alan is very knowledgable and a good teacher, the same way my junior high teacher was with Shakespeare. Many of those obscure-to-me passages have become clearer because of his explanations. We have time to go into the lessons in depth, unlike the fifteen minute Sunday morning sermon.

And now Pastor Alan has started a Read Through the Bible class which I've joined. He does this every few years and I decided this was the year I'd make time to do it. The idea is to read three chapters of the Bible each day and then to have a once-a-week discussion class where we can question things we've read. That's not nearly enough time to discuss twenty-one chapters, but it does help. Theoretically, in a year, we will have read all of the Bible and I will have accomplished one of my goals. In reality, it will probably take more than a year to finish.

So all of this is prelude, a way to say that things I've read in the Bible or learned recently will probably be popping up on this blog on an irregular basis. In between, I'll still be writing about Tucson things, and definitely will be posting updates on my latest fiction.

Photo Credits:
By Amandajm (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, September 01, 2014

Long Live Longmire!


In case you've been under a rock this past week, A&E (from now on referred to as The Network That Must Not Be Named or TNTMNBN) decided to cancel their hit show Longmire. That's right. I said "Hit show." Longmire was TNTMNBN's top-rated scripted show, second overall only to Duck Dynasty.

After the season finale, which TNTMNBN stretched for an extra ten minutes by adding about a gazillion commercials, I was sure they would renew Longmire. But there were a couple of problems. First of all, Longmire is produced by an outside production company. In other words, they had to pay for the right to broadcast the series. Obviously, paying for something of value has fallen out of fashion in America.

The second reason was that Longmire did not rank highly enough with the coveted 18-49 year old demographic. This really ticked me off. The Longmire demographic skewed older, was popular with the people who actually prefer story to stupid.

I'm in that demographic. I don't watch reality shows. (Okay, for those of you who have read my blog before, I was a fan of Ice Road Truckers, but even that show got stupid this season.) I don't care what celebrities or faux-celebrities do on a daily basis, especially since those shows are as made up as any scripted show. I don't watch Dating Naked. (Seriously? This is the message you want to send young people? This is how you think people should meet and choose a mate? What happens when they start sagging, like we all do?)

Oh, and we older folks buy stuff. We don't just sit on the porch in our rocking chairs. We go on vacations. We play golf and hike and eat out. We drive cars. We baby boomers have caused a population bubble all through our lifetimes, affecting the economy and trends and society. I think it's a big mistake for television to ignore us.

It was because of the television series that I discovered Craig Johnson's marvelous books. I read lots of mysteries, but there are so many, it's hard to keep up with them all. As soon as I knew there was a mystery series that the television series was based on, I wanted to read the books. I met Craig Johnson at the Tucson Festival of Books two years ago. He's an engaging speaker and a generous and warm person. I bought "The Cold Dish" then and had him autograph it for me. I console myself with the fact that there are plenty of Longmire books I haven't read yet.

The producers are trying to find another network for the series. The fans are working hard to create grass roots support. In particular, the Longmire Posse, with a Facebook page here and tweeting as @LongmirePosse, has been tireless in attempting to show popular support for the show using the hashtag #LongLiveLongmire.

The odds of a canceled television show being picked up by another network are slim. It's been done in the past, but not often, so while I hope there will be more Longmire on TV in the future, I'm not optimistic. At least it got two more seasons than Firefly did. And, like Firefly, I have the DVDs of Longmire and will probably watch them often in the future on those long nights when there's absolutely nothing on commercial television worthy of my time.