CI – Claire Davis

 

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CI = Character Interview, not Confidential Informant. 🙂

Welcome to the world of Claire Davis, side-kick of Melanie Hogan in the Melanie Hogan Cozy Mysteries, and co-owner of Melanie’s hair salon, A Cut Above.

Can you provide a physical description of yourself?
Hmmm…that’s kind of awkward. Let’s see…I’m taller than Melanie, but that doesn’t take much. I’m 5’6, to be exact, so I wear flats a lot. I’m African-American with brown eyes and kinky-curly hair. I love bright-colored hair scarves and bright colors in general. I love to work out so there’s that, too. Melanie and I couldn’t possibly be more opposite from one another but it works for us. Our friendship is as solid as they come.

Where do you live?
I’m originally from Southern Florida, but I’ve lived in Birch Haven, Minnesota for several years.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Paris! The city of love. Or Italy. I love the happy, robust Italian families I’ve see in movies. They’re always hugging and kissing and eating meals together.

What is your favorite pastime?
Being with my daughter, Sydney. She’s eight years old and looks so much like her daddy, my late husband. Tyler was in the military and died while on duty.

What is your favorite way to spend a weekend?
Saturday’s are spent at the salon. Mel and I own A Cut Above so Saturday’s really not a weekend for us. Our weekends are Sunday and Monday. Those days I love to spend with Syd, Mel, Jack—when he’s in Birch Haven—Rubie, and at Rose’s house with Melanie. Rose is Melanie’s grandmother and the sweetest, most kind-hearted, yet spirited, woman I know.

What is your biggest secret?
I don’t think I’ll ever be over my late husband. Tyler was everything to me. I’m super lucky to have my current boyfriend—and the only once since Tyler—Cole Mahoney, but I can’t ever give him my whole heart. Tyler will always have a huge part of that.

What makes you angry?
Life is too short to be angry.

What brings you the most joy?
My friends and family. There is nothing better than spending time with them and watching them when they don’t even know I am.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?
When one of my flouncy-bouncy skirts got caught in the wind and flew up. Melanie never lets me forget that.

What is your most admirable character trait?
That’s the one thing Melanie and I have in common. I’m super loyal. Also, I don’t let things bother me. I don’t hold grudges or resentments. Life is too short for that stuff.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
Maybe to be a little more discerning about who I trust. I want to believe everyone is good and for the most part, I truly believe they are. But every now and then I’m reminded that not everyone is nice. Especially lately with all the trouble makers Melanie has been attracting lately.

You can catch me in Shear Madness, Shear Deception, Shear Malice, and soon in Shear Murder.

Carpe Diem

 

The Company We Keep

We Become Who We Spend Our Time With

Even though it’s not Wednesday, I had to sneak in an extra post.

This morning as I was running around Lake Estes in beautiful Estes Park, Colorado, my thoughts circled around who I am today, who I was, and who I want to be. Thank God–literally–that I’m not who I was, that I’m finally comfortable with who I am, and that the power to be who I want to be lies within me.

On a recent episode of Hallmark’s Chesapeake Shores (I admit it, I’m a Hallmark Channel junkie), the character played by Treat Williams told his daughter that life is about the re-writing more than the writing. If you don’t like what’s on the page, change it.

Wow! Just wow!

The profound truth of that statement is so enlightening and empowering. Our lives are not changed by anyone else unless we allow it to be.  We have the ultimate power to change our own lives in any direction we want it to be changed.

Last weekend I was out to breakfast in a busy restaurant with some of my extended family. A table of six, not far from our table, got their food, bowed their heads, kids as well, and prayed over their meal before eating. It wasn’t the in-your-face-notice-us prayer, but humble and discreet. My husband and I always pray before meals at home, and when we’re in a public place I will sometimes quietly bow my head and silently give thanks. But only sometimes. Why not all the time? Because I forget. It hasn’t become a habit. That morning, I asked my nephew who is a youth pastor in Minneapolis, MN, if he would say the prayer over our meal. It was powerful, it was beautiful, and it was meaningful.

A week later, I was having dinner with some friends. Our food arrived, we were talking and laughing, enjoying one another’s company. When I got home I realized I didn’t give thanks. I didn’t have the reminder from someone around me, I got busy having fun, and simply forgot. While that’s not a bad thing, I want to be the person who gives thanks all the time, not just sometimes when I remember.

My point is how easily influenced we are by those around us. Subconsciously, we take in and absorb the world around us. We become who we spend our time with. There are some powerful Bible verses about this as well:

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” – 1st Corinthians 15:33

Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared. – Proverbs 22:24

Your boasting is not good Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? 1 Corinthians 5:6

Take the time to figure out who it is you want to be, who you want to grow into, and how you want to re-write the pages of your life’s book. Because you, and only you, have the power to make that happen. Surround yourself with the people you admire and respect and you will become someone you admire and respect.

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Character Interview

Grab a Cup of Java and get to Know Melanie Hogan

This month I’ll be posting character interviews from the world of the Melanie Hogan cozy mystery series, which thus far includes Shear Madness, Shear Deception, Shear Malice, and coming in 2018, Shear Murder. This week’s interview is with Melanie Hogan, the protagonist in the series. I hope you enjoy getting to know Melanie. 

Can you provide a physical description of yourself?
Other than my greener than average eyes, similar to a cat’s eyes according to Claire and Jack, I’m Plain Jane. I don’t like a lot of makeup, and typically wear my hair loose or in a ponytail. My favorite things to wear are jeans, black boots or black sandals, both with chunky high heels to make me a bit taller than my five-foot-two frame, and hoop earrings. I have hoops of every size and color.

Where do you live?
In a small town called Birch Haven, Minnesota. It’s up north about an hour from St. Cloud.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I rather like staying home or at my Nana’s. Those are my two favorite places in the world. If I ever get adventurous and travel outside of my comfort zone, I’d visit Ireland or Scotland.

What is your favorite pastime?
Hanging out with my best friends—Claire, Jack, and Rubie. And, of course, with Nana in her kitchen. She loves to teach me how to cook and we’ve made some pretty good progress, proving there’s hope for me in the kitchen. I’m also kind of a loner and love spending time alone.

What is your favorite way to spend a weekend?
Owning a salon, Saturdays are spent neck deep in hair color and perm solutions, inhaling fumes from artificial nails and hair spray, and listening to the hum of blow dryers, stationary hair dryers and the chatter and laughter from our clientele. I love hearing the secrets they tell. On the wall of my salon hangs a plaque that says If These Walls Could Talk. If they could talk indeed. Sundays, I love to spend hanging out at my log house. I enjoy sitting on the balcony that overlooks the lake reading my devotionals, drinking coffee, and an occasional glass of wine with Claire. I also like to take my little boat out on the lake and drift.

What is your biggest secret?
Well, it wouldn’t be a secret anymore if I told you, now, would it?

What makes you angry?
Thanks to my birth mother, Violet, and my ex-husband, Cain, infidelity and dishonesty. I harbor just a wee resentment toward them but am working through it slowly. I might just get there before I die. Maybe. Also, anyone who hurts my friends and Nana.

What brings you the most joy?
Nana, Claire, Jack, Rubie, and Claire’s daughter, Sydney. I know it’s kind of creepy, but I love children, and since I can’t have them, sometimes I pretend she’s mine.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?
Showing up on the first day of beauty school wearing the ugly black polyester uniforms when everyone else showed up in “cool” clothes. Apparently, everyone else read their welcome and orientation packet better than I did. Which is super unlike me. I’m typically a more thorough and follow-the-rules kinda gal than the average person. Well, until a couple of years ago, that is, when dead bodies started littering my life.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
My sarcasm. But it is what it is.

What is your most admirable character trait?
I’m more loyal than a dog to my friend and to Nana. That and I’m probably the most stable person you’ll ever meet. Well…there, again, until a couple years ago. My life was so stable, planned, and predictable, that I longed for some action and spontaneity. And boy did I get it! I quickly learned to be careful what I wish for. Carpe Diem

 

Development of the Melanie Hogan Cozy Mysteries

Melanie Hogan Cozy Mysteries
I’m often asked by my readers, “How do you come up with your ideas?” To which I chuckle and joke, “My mind is a scary place.”

Okay, so maybe I’m not joking. Not completely, anyway. But since I write cozy mysteries and suspense, both that contain “clean” romance, I think I’ll pass my mother’s inspection.

When asked “What’s a cozy mystery?” my answer is always, “Something you would be comfortable with your grandmother reading. Think Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote.” That usually does the trick. In fact, it was watching so many episodes of Murder She Wrote that made me fall in love with mysteries, though I don’t think they were coined “cozies” back then.

My cozy mystery series is set in small town Birch Haven, Minnesota, which is essentially its own character. The steady cast includes the protagonist, Melanie Hogan, who co-owns a hair salon with her best friend, Claire Davis. Enter Jack Dancy, the third musketeer with Melanie and Claire. Jack is a clothing and jewelry designer from Minneapolis. Add Rubie and the rest of the stylists who work in the salon, as well as Melanie’s grandmother, Nana, a retired nurse who raised Melanie since she was four years old, and Melanie’s go-to. Nana is modeled after my own grandmother who was my go-to. Most of Nana and Melanie’s chats occur around the kitchen table or when Nana is giving Melanie one of her famous cooking lessons. Each book includes one of Nana’s recipes at the end. In fact, Shear Madness, book one, includes two recipes. The cast is diverse in every way possible, which makes for fun interactions and endless story lines.

Birch Haven is a combination of two towns I’ve lived in, towns that hold a special place in my heart. Melanie’s lake house is fashioned after the house I grew up in. So when writing the books, I get to be back in those places again, which makes it fun and more intimate. When I read the newspaper, watch TV, or read a book, I will frequently ask myself, “So what if that happened in Birch Haven?” From there it takes on a life of its own.

As each day unfolds, it’s ripe with potential storylines. It’s a matter of training the mind to actively think like a writer rather than passively watch and listen. Just be careful what you say to another in the grocery line or waiting for a latte at Starbucks, because if a writer is within earshot, it could end up in a book.

The series includes three books so far, Shear Madness, Shear Deception, and Shear Malice, which was just released on June 11th. Shear Murder is in the works and scheduled for a 2018 release. Stay tuned for more.

Carpe Diem

 

Beauty in Brokenness

Nature in its Perfectness

I spent a lot of time in nature this past weekend and marveled, as usual, in all of its splendor. The perfect creations as well as the stunning beauty in the broken.

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And I started thinking…wouldn’t it be wonderful if we appreciated people as we do nature, in all of their brokenness and all of their flaws? If we truly accepted people exactly as they are, broken and bruised, and simply admired them for what they have to offer the world?  After all, we’re all a little broken, but each of us is so unique, so beautifully and wonderfully made.

Next time you see glass that’s broken or cracked, hold it up to the light. It’s those cracks in the glass that lets the light shine through. It’s not the perfectness, but the cracks, that create a brilliant light show you otherwise wouldn’t see.

“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” –Leonard Cohen

Broken and Beautiful

This week may we look for the broken and choose to love them exactly as they are. Don’t judge or try to fix, just accept. Acceptance is the key to greatness and that greatness unlocks the door to bountiful love. And love, pure love, is what the world desperately needs.

“Finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find.”                   –Terry Tempest Williams

And now it’s off to the final week of Camp NaNo with its virtual cabins, campfires, and s’mores, and 30,000 words into Shear Murder, book 3 in the Melanie Hogan cozy mysteries.

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And in the Beginning…

Beginnings

For those who have read my bio, you know my writing years began at the tender age of four. I took my fat little crayons in my fat little fingers and decided to experiment with words on the knotty pine walls of the living room. My parents were not impressed! But even back then, I had something to say and writing was the natural way for me to say it.
As the years went by, that didn’t change. The only thing that did change is that I graduated from crayon on walls to pen on paper. For that, my parents were grateful.

In my teen years, it was writing that helped me work through the tumultuous teen emotions and heartbreak. Many summer days, I lay in our little fishing boat, tied up to the dock, rocking as waves rolled up against the shoreline and lapped the bottom of the boat. I clutched my pen and paper and wrote poetry like there was no tomorrow. The words flowed endlessly. When I wasn’t in the boat, I was perched on the end of the dock, my feet dangling in the water, or plopped on my bed in my basement bedroom, crafting more poetry.

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Fast forward a few years. I was still writing when I got pregnant with my first son. I penned 2 ½ novels (yup, not just 2, but 2 ½), which are still in boxes in my home office. I took a few writing classes, too. Then came my second son. The writing stopped. There was no spare time.

When my second son was in high school, I got my Associates of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies, and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. While everyone else was impressed, I knew it wasn’t what I was meant to do. My heart longed for the days when I was a writer.

When my second son graduated from high school, I followed my dream. I got back to writing and haven’t looked back. While I still maintain a day job in the legal field, my true calling, my avocation, is writing.

As I think about the journey to where I am now—five published books, two more in the works—there are three suggestions I have for beginning authors.

1.) Find a writing community, or even one or two other writers. Non-writers, family and friends included, think we just sit down, write and voila! A book appears. A non-writer can’t possibly know the blood, sweat, and tears that go into a piece of creative fiction—or non-fiction. And if that’s the only mindset you’re subjected to and hearing on your writing journey, you’ll start believing it yourself. Eventually you’ll start to think of yourself a failure when you’re unable to just sit down and magically produce a novel.

Additionally, the non-writer can view writing as a waste of time unless the writer is making a lot of money. You may hear that you should be spending your time on something more worthwhile, something “important,” whatever that means. “Important” means different things to different people. Writing is hugely important to me. And if you’re a writer, it will be to you, too. It’s not about how much money we make (though, I imagine you wouldn’t catch any of us complaining if we made a dollar to two), it’s about a need to express the creative side that’s burning inside of us. And it’s work. Hard work. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

“To labor in the arts for any reason other than love is prostitution.”
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

That being said, not all non-writers think this way. And if you feel they are, it’s important to ask yourself if there’s any validity to your feelings or if it’s your own insecurity and self-doubt that makes it feel that way. We writers are frequently tormented with self-doubt. It’s what many of us do best. Either way, let it go. If you don’t already, you’ll soon have a writing community reminding you you’re not alone. 

2.)  Plan your week and schedule in writing time. When first starting out, set a timer and just write. Don’t get up under any circumstance. Not for anything. This exercises your butt-in-chair muscle, even if it’s only for 15 minutes at a time. And don’t open the Internet to check anything. Your email will still be there when you’re done with your writing session, and your Facebook likes will still be there waiting. Even hard-core social media addicts can stay away for 15 minutes. If not, invest in Freedom. After you’ve created a habit of writing, play around to discover which method most accommodates your lifestyle—continue with timed writing sessions, decide on a set number of pages per day, word count goals, etc.

3.)  Don’t compare yourself to anyone else in the writing industry. We all have mentors and people we admire in the writing industry (think Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Joanna Penn) but don’t strive to be just like them. You are you. And you are fabulous. You have something unique to contribute to the reading world. And it would be a waste to deprive the world of that because you’re trying to be like someone else. As well, comparing yourself to other writers is the kiss of death. I struggle with comparisonitis as much as the next person, but I recognize it for what it is and kick it to the curb as soon as I realize that it’s trying to sink its fangs into my writing life.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

And now it’s back for week three of Camp NaNo and more virtual camping.

Bonfire-Brainerd

Carpe Diem

Book Launch Partytime

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This past Saturday was my book launch for not one, but two books. Finding Abby was released in November. Life got in the way and I didn’t advertise, promote, nothing. With my recent release, Shear Malice, book three in the Melanie Hogan cozy mystery series, I decided to have a double release. And better yet, sharing it with a fellow author, Donna Schlachter and her alter ego, Leeann Betts. What a better way to celebrate literary success than with a fellow author!

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In each Melanie Hogan mystery I include a recipe from Nana’s kitchen. The recipe for Shear Malice is Nana’s Scrumptious Chocolate Zucchini Brownies. To stick with the theme, I made some for the launch party. While baking a recipe from scratch takes longer than opening a box, the results were amazing and well worth the time!

Next up? An author event in October with some cozy mystery authors. The planned theme is Cozy With Tea–a variety of hot teas, scones, a fire in the fireplace, and books, books, books.

And now it’s back to Camp. Camp NaNo, that is. A time for relaxation and fun, with virtual bonfires, smores, and campfire chatter with other campers. I’m sharing a virtual cabin with several fellow writers from the Longmont and Boulder area, and creating book four in the Melanie Hogan cozy mystery series, Shear Murder.

More to follow…

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See you next week. Until then…

 

Carpe diem