A Cozy Teatime

This past weekend I was one of six local authors to host a book event, A Cozy Teatime, (named for our love of cozy mysteries) at the local bookstore, Welcome to the Bookstore.

DSC_0005As a child, bookstores were the portal into so many worlds to which I wished to travel, the pages of each book an opportunity to expand my world. That hasn’t changed. There is still nothing quite like being transported into other places and sharing in the lives of other people through characters. As an author, it’s a special privilege to make that happen for readers.

A Cozy Teatime was spent visiting with book lovers, eating scones and drinking hot tea, enjoying the Christimas tree by the fireplace, and surrounded by shelves upon shelves of books. I don’t think it gets better than that.

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We had author readings, drawings, cultivated friendships, and simply had fun.

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From left to right is: Myself, Chris Goff, Karen Whalen, Margaret Mizushima, Rose Ramirez, Donna Schlachter/Leeann Betts, and Cynthia Kuhn.

Check out their websites. These ladies are immensely talented! You won’t be disappointed.

Until next week…Seize the day. Carpe diem.

Like What You Do; Choose What You Love

Like What You Do; Choose What You Love

What may appear to be a small difference between two things can lead to a significant difference in the ultimate enjoyment of something.

Examples that immediately come to mind include:

  • While a cup of coffee from Starbucks and a cup of Folgers are both coffee, there is a distinct difference between the two.
  • Nikon and Canon cameras both have obvious similarities, yet each has characteristics unique to each.
  • A Kindle and a Nook are both e-readers, but each has their distinct differences.
  • Liking what you choose to do vs. choosing to do what you like.

When I was a new mom I signed up to take an online journalism/short story writing course. I absolutely loved every moment of that course and should have kept my love for that in mind as I traveled blindly on the highway of life over the next couple of decades. However, since I already had my cosmetology license, it was more practical to find work in a salon and make instant money as I raised my children. Since money is an obvious necessity, especially while raising children, making instant money made sense and was the responsible thing to do.

As life passed by and the needs of my family changed, my boys’ dad worked, earning enough money to support our family.  I was able to stay home with my boys and provided daycare for a few children to supplement that income. While the children napped or during quiet times, when I could have been writing, I found myself whiling away the time by doing other things like cleaning up after a house full of children. Necessary? Yes. But I could have squeezed in a few minutes of writing throughout the day or after my children were tucked in for the night. Instead, I only thought about it.

As my children grew, I changed jobs to best accommodate their schedules. Never did I think to practice my writing skills by actually writing. Rather, I spent that time with even more dreaming of the day that I could write again.

As my children continued to grow, I survived through a divorce by working where I needed to in order to best accommodate my children’s schedules and to make instant money. It never occurred to me to actually write simply because I enjoyed it. Once again, I pushed that dream to the back of my mind for a later date when I would have the time.
That “time” never appeared as I continued my education for things that were more practical. Things I had a tendency at which to excel.  I took a medical transcription class not because I  loved to transcribe medical terminology, but because my typing skills were fast and accurate and because I wanted to work out of my home. That worked until life circumstances pushed me to get a job outside of my home.

When I landed a job in the legal profession and learned I had the capacity to do well at that, I decided to go back to school to receive my Associates of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies. It was a wonderful opportunity that made sense, because my job provided a  tuition reimbursement program, which meant as long as I maintained a 4.0 GPA the entire program was paid for with the exception of books. So, essentially, I received a free degree. It was something I did because I could. Not because it was my dream. And while that education is something no one can ever take away from me and something I can always use, it wasn’t what I loved. I liked what I did, but I didn’t choose to do what I love.

I liked what I did, but I didn’t choose to do what I love.

Since then, I work at a job that does not require that degree. A job that I truly like, nonetheless, but it’s a job that I chose, not a job that chose me.

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The difference is, in addition to my paying job, I now choose to write, the one thing that truly brings me joy. It’s something I’ve done–or dreamed of doing–throughout my entire life. Something that breathes air into my lungs and gives me life. Not something that takes my energy away, but something that gives me energy. And that, in turn, has breathed life into the job I do by day. And, hey, now that I’ve pursued my passion of writing, I even make money at doing what I love. Bonus!

It’s important to like what you do, but it’s critical to do what you love.

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Finding Peace Through Gratitude

Finding Peace Through Gratitude

Writing fiction has always been my passion. Mysteries, cozy mysteries, suspense, contemporary fiction, it doesn’t matter. I love getting lost in the land of make believe, creating characters, settings, and stories, living vicariously through them. And when I read a story, it’s all about being transported into the world of which I’m reading, feeling like I know the characters. It’s that connection that’s critical. And it’s that connection that makes the end of a good book come too soon.

That being said, I’m dipping my toe into some non-fiction writing and working on a book titled Finding Peace Through Gratitude. Its pages are about the storms I’ve weathered in my life, coming out a better person on the other side, all credit given to the two “G” words – God and Gratitude. It’s an interactive book with a challenge for the reader at the end of each chapter. The projected publication date is January 1, 2018.

Hop on over to my non-fiction website if you’re so inclined. It’s a place I’m developing to be calm and peaceful, somewhere to escape the busyness and chaos of the world. A multi-vitamin of sorts. Posts will continue here, on my fiction website, on Wednesdays, and I’ll be posting about nature and gratitude on my non-fiction site on Fridays.

See you there in the quietness.Tranquility!

 

 

 

 

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

 

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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