Traditions, Luck and Inspiration

Shamrock March 11 is Ron’s birthday and one of my favorite days of the year. It requires a lot of thought, intuition and, sometimes, the luck of the Irish. We have been married since God was a baby and every year around the middle of February we have this conversation:

Me: “What would you like for your birthday?”

Him: “Chocolate cake with chocolate icing.”

Me: “No, for a present.”

Him: “Not a shirt.”

The shirts are a tradition. He knows he’s getting a shirt; he’s just being contrary. But he’s serious about the cake, which of course, he’ll get. (Thank you, Miss Cindy!)  And I do try to come up with a surprise of some kind. Occasionally, I even pull one off.

For a while, we went to D.C. for his birthday weekend. Brunch at the Old Ebbitt Grill, a movie at the Uptown, lunch at our favorite Greek restaurant near DuPont Circle and a few museums to round out the mix and prove we aren’t only there for the food. Then came the magical year when I accidentally pulled off the best birthday celebration ever. A never to be repeated epic that I had nothing to do with, but took all the credit for.

This miracle of non-planning started when I stumbled over an incredible $99 a night room at the Capital Hilton. When we checked in, we learned we’d grabbed the last room and all the other guests were there to attend the Gridiron Club Dinner, an event featuring the President of the United States and the Marine Corps Band. I told Ron I’d arranged the party for his birthday.

Saturday evening, from our comfy club chairs in the lobby bar, we had birthday martinis and single malt Scotch and watched a parade of dignitaries (both in fact and in their own minds) sweep in through the front entrance of the hotel. Dressed in glittering formal attire, they first posed for photographers before being swept along for a second, less glamorous meeting with the Secret Service. This was a D.C. version of Oscar’s red carpet and was serious entertainment for political junkies like us.

Then we went to dinner and Ron wore his new shirt.

The next morning, we took the Metro to the Smithsonian Station to do the museum tour before heading home. The escalator from the station deposited us above ground to a trumpet fanfare and a drum roll. Clever girl that I am, I immediately said, “I arranged that just for you.”

Ron looked over my shoulder and said, “You are good. A parade just for me?”

Parade? St. Patrick’s Day! I’d already taken credit for everything else, including the good weather, so I quickly said, “But, of course! A party with the President, a parade and a new shirt.”

“And…”

“Chocolate cake with chocolate icing.”

Traditions are wonderful.

Happy Birthday to my sweet Ronnie and Happy St. Patrick’s Day Week to you all.

Shamrock Shamrock

 

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Progress, Distractions and Issues

In January’s blog, I wrote about resuming work on my mystery novel, Adverse Possession. I was fresh off completion of Whispers, a 33-week serial that Susan Reiss and I wrote for Attraction Magazine. I was getting used to writing on my own again and eager to complete the first draft of Adverse. So far, so good. I am well past 93,000 words and closing in on the final pages. I’ve also gotten sidetracked by a new toy and a problem I didn’t know I had.

I’m an easy sell for software and Scrivener has been calling to me for a while now. Back in December, I finally gave in. This super-cool writing software is turning out to be every bit the God-send its testimonials proclaim. Every day I seem to stumble over a new feature that makes me happy. Just imagine what I could accomplish if I actually followed the instructions. The only downside to Scrivener, so far, is my growing obsession with the neat trick that lets me highlight a series of files and see the word count. I can also get the word and page count for the entire draft in a few seconds. I spend way too much time doing the ‘How Much Have I Done Now’ search. I wouldn’t be surprised to find there is a Scrivener alarm to tell me to knock it off and get back to writing.

My other writing distraction of late has been the worrisome matter of the Title. I use the capital ‘T’ because it is an Issue. My novel is a mystery, the first of a series involving a woman who inherits a house, angry relatives and a sixty-year-old murder. The first working title was Squatters’ Rights. Then, never being enamored of the word ‘squat’ (painful exercises, those), I changed to Adverse Possession. I’ve recently learned that this nice, legal term has given some people the very wrong impression that I am writing horror. Zombies and vampires and possession, get it? Now I’m toying with Nine-tenths of the Law. So far two people I’ve polled sort of like it. Neither of them is me.

Onward toward March, a completed first draft, a solid start at rewrites and a Title. Wish me luck!

I’d love to hear from you! You can email me at easternshoremysteries@gmail.com.

New Beginnings in the Middle

January 2016 –

This time last year, after months of planning, character sketches, plotting – and when I ran out of anything else to do – writing, I was 67,000 words into my novel, Squatter’s Rights. I had several short stories in print, others awaiting publication dates and I was testing a segment of Squatter’s on the (very) patient members of my writing group. At this point in a fictional tale, the author should shake the storyline up a bit. Right on cue Susan Reiss, author of the Silver Mystery series, generously offered me the opportunity to co-author a weekly mystery serial for Attraction Magazine.

By March, Susan and I were racing toward our first weekly deadline and for 33 weeks we produced an episode of Whispers each Tuesday. The project seemed to go on forever. I often refer to it (with a smile, Susan, I promise) as writing boot camp. Susan taught me a lot and we both learned how to write with a partner – something neither of us had done before. Many weeks the only downtime between episodes was a few hours of sleep. Then, just as Christmas decorations went up, Whispers ended. The first morning without a hard deadline found me staring at a blank computer screen and wondering why I’d never noticed how irritating a little blinking cursor can be.

I still had my book to finish, of course. I have a notebook for each project I’m working on and Squatter’s book is filled with ideas that came to me at odd times over the nine months I spent with Susan on Whispers. I kicked off the resurrection of the project by moving it onto Scrivener software, no small task, which I’ll write about in later posts. I changed the title to Adverse Possession and I’ve committed to a 2016 publication date. I added the new title and publication projection to my author bio months ago, but back then, 2016 was ‘next year’.

Now 2016 is here. Once again I have a deadline and am a little wobbly on how I’m going to meet it. I took a break over the holidays, but it is time to get back to work. Finishing and publishing Adverse Possession will be different from the weekly schedule of Whispers. No partner, no editor, no reader feedback, no cocktail parties hosted by generous sponsors. I feel like Cinderella after the ball; I still have this one slipper…

I’ll let you know how it goes, but in the meantime, anyone who wants to throw a cocktail party or produce a glass slipper, send me an email – I’m in!

~

I’d love to hear from you, so feel free to leave me a message below. And please check back as I continue to post about writing, editing and publishing my next book, “Adverse Possession”.  Thanks for reading!

Cheril

Until the Next Adventure

On April 28, the first episode of a new weekly mystery serial Whispers, A Maggie Maitland Mystery was published in Attraction Magazine’s print and on-line editions. With today’s final episode, the story ends, questions are answered and puzzles are solved. In deference to readers who have told us they read the episodes in batches, no spoiler alerts here. Except to say we especially loved wrapping up Maggie’s adventures during Midnight Madness in St. Michaels. Who electrocuted Finn? Stabbed Paulina? Will Rose finally get Joanie’s baby? And what is in those cookies? Get the answers to all your Whispers questions at http://www.attractionmag.com.

To all of our readers, a heartfelt “Thank you”. You have made this grand experiment a joy and a privilege. And to the Attraction staff – you are the best! Thanks for a fun ride. Until the next adventure…..

THE (Almost) END

Thanksgiving is four days away; Christmas is on the horizon and what happens in between? WHISPERS, A Maggie Maitland Mystery will post for the last time in Attraction Magazine.

On December 1, the final installment will answer all the questions that have plagued Maggie and her friends since April 28, when WHISPERS debuted in print and online.

Eight months of murder, mayhem and oddities (just WHO is Snake Man, anyway?) will all be answered in the final three episodes. What more could possibly happen? Catch up where you left off or read from Episode One, but get ready for the last weeks of WHISPERS – You won’t believe what’s coming next! Get more Maggie at http://www.attractionmag.com.

The Whispers Logo

Toby Jugs and Mugs

2015-07-19 09.06.14With my pipe in one hand and my jug in the other
I drink to my neighbors and friends
All my cares in a whiff of tobacco I smother
For life, I know, shortly must end
From: The True Hearted Fellow – British drinking song, circa 1835

For years the Tobys sat on a small bookcase at the end of a long hall in my mother-in-law’s home. Ron and I inherited the whimsical collection and have added to it without giving much thought to the history behind the little earthenware and china vessels. Tobys are modeled on characters from British history and literature. Sherlock Holmes and Captain Hook joined us as a nod to our love of mystery novels. Others Tobys were just in our paths at the right time and at the right price. Ours is a hodge-podge collection, not unlike a group of friends who meet in the village pub for a cool beer on a warm summer evening.

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