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Results may vary, but the plan is to post weekly, usually on Wednesdays. I'll be here. Hope you will, too!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Voices in Our Heads? Of course! We're writers!



Writers have the best jobs in the world:  We hear voices in our heads without being thought crazy (well, not too crazy anyway) and we get to tell lies for a living. When we’re writing cozy mysteries, we also get to kill people—imaginary people who will be missed only by their imaginary loved ones. Still the voices we hear become real on the written page, the lies we tell carry the very essence of truth, and the imaginary people whose imagined lives we end bring hope to the very real futures of the flesh-and-blood readers whose lives we touch. What could possibly be better?

The beginning of every new year finds me having a chat with those voices in my head, all of whom are jockeying for position. Whose story will be next? Who is emerging as the new heroine, love interest, victim, murderer, detective, hero or confidante? This year’s conversation sounded something like this:

MALE VOICE:  Yo! Pay attention! You put me off all of last year and I think it’s about time you heard my story.
ME:  Sorry. I’m working with Roman and Lottie just now. They’ve both been lonely a long time and…
MALE VOICE:  I know, I know, but life isn’t all about the hearts and flowers. I’m about to be murdered here.
ME:  Take a number and get in line. I’ve at least half a dozen potential murder victims in front of you.
FEMALE VOICE:  No kidding! When am I going to get to come out and play again?
ME:  Maggie, is that you?
MAGGIE:  What? I’m wounded! You don’t even recognize my voice anymore?
ME:  Of course I do, but it has been a while…
MAGGIE:  No kidding! You don’t have to tell me. You made me the star of one book, and then you told me to take a number.
ME:  Sorry. There are only so many hours in a day, only so many books in a year.
MAGGIE:  That’s what I tried to tell you when you were on deadline with MAGGIE RISING, but you just kept pushing me for a solution anyway.
ME:  That was in your best interest, you know. You didn’t want to spend any longer in the county jail than absolutely necessary.
MAGGIE:  My best interest? You say that now, but you were the one who put it on the cover that MAGGIE RISING was “the first book in the Maggie Rising Case Files.” I’ve been waiting ever since.
ME:  You’ll just have to wait a little longer.
2nd FEMALE VOICE:  What about me? You told me if I came to work in the Hope Creek Medical Center, you’d find someone special for me.
ME:  Hi, Caro. I’ve found him and I’m working on the plot line. If you can just be patient a little longer—
NEW FEMALE VOICE:  Patient? You told me that too. I’ve been waiting about two years since that day you found me wandering on the beach near Sydney.
ME:  And I do plan to tell your story, Lucy, but there hasn’t been that big a market for historicals lately—
LUCY:  Tell that to Harry. Until I go to live with Aunt Marjorie in Stowe-on-the-Wold, I won’t be able to come back to him again, and that will leave him stuck with that floozy from Leicester—
ME:  So tell her to take a number and—
LUCY: …and get in line. I know.
2nd MALE VOICE:  Have you figured out what you’re doing with me yet?
ME:  Oh hi, Sean. You’re going to be Caro’s love interest at the Med Center. Didn’t I tell you?
SEAN:  Hmmm.  Caro, huh? Um, yeah, I like that idea. So how long before you get around to our story?
ME:  Probably not more than five or six months.
SEAN:  Five or six…?! Really? Come on! I was just talking with Rand. He says he thinks his story would make a good follow-up when you get done with mine.
ME:  (sighing)  Tell him to take a number—
SEAN:  I know, I know, take a number and get in line. Hear that, Rand?
RAND:  Yeah, I heard. Do you think we can find a writer who isn’t quite so preoccupied with other characters?
SEAN:  We can certainly look around. Can’t hurt, since we’re just hanging out here doing nothing anyway.
RAND:  Hear that, folks? Sean and I are going to start looking around, seeing if we can find someone else to tell our stories. You wanna come?
ME:  Wait! What is this? Mutiny?
MAGGIE AND CARO:  It all depends. How soon do you think you’ll get to our stories?
ME:  Now this sounds like blackmail. I don’t think I like this at all.
SEAN AND RAND:  So how does it feel now the shoe’s on the other foot?
ME:  But I’m the one who created you, the one who thought you up! What will you do if you go to another writer, someone who doesn’t know you like I do?
ALL:  Sorry. We may have to tell you to take a number and—
ME:  (sighing harder) Ugh, take a number and get in line.

I’ve decided this is what comes from writing uppity characters with minds of their own. This year I’m making a new resolution: I will tell as many of their stories as I can. I may have to commit my own set of crimes with the others, drugging them all into silent submission to avoid having them mutiny. I don’t like taking numbers, and I’m not good at standing in line.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 13 published novels and has part in three boxed sets, all 16 titles available now. Her recent release, MAGGIE RISING: Adventures of a Part-Time Psychic, has just come out in paperback as well as e-book. Mother to seven, she is "gramma" to 23. She lives in northern California with Roger, her husband of 44 years, and the two spoiled cats they serve. She loves hearing from readers at  www.susanaylworth.com, @SusanAylworth or susan.aylworth.author@gmail.com. You can also follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Happy birthday to me!



Tomorrow, December 21, is my birthday.  Yes, I’m one of those Christmas babies the world always pities so. When it comes to public sympathy, being born on or near Christmas seems to rival the dreaded February 29 birth date. (I have a grand-niece who missed that by a couple of hours, sneaking in a bit before midnight on the 28th during our last Leap Year.)

Though others may lament it on my behalf, I have never minded the Christmas-time date. My parents always made sure to keep the two celebrations separate. My birthday present, though it might appear beneath the tree, was never wrapped in Christmas paper and was always just as nice as the gifts given to any of my non-Christmas siblings. Like them, I got to choose my favorite meal for dinner. (I didn’t make it too tough on Mom; for years, my favorite was spaghetti.)

As I got older and more aware of the Christmas hype all over the world, I began to feel that everyone in Christendom was celebrating with me. Though that view may be a bit egocentric, it always kept my birthday happy, and I loved that my dad liked to call me his Christmas present. The first-born child, I came home from the hospital on Christmas day—a few long decades ago.

That brings me to the real angst of tomorrow. I will be 64. Yikes! 

I want to ask the cosmos, “How did this happen? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was a carefree girl? A happy new bride? A new mom? A first-time grandmother? Though the girl inside me doesn’t feel much different, the body is definitely letting me know it’s been around the block a time or two. 

My brand new left knee (replacement on Nov. 19) is still making peace with the rest of me. One day I hope to lope up the stairs again (there are five in front of my house) without the aid of a cane or a strong man (thank goodness I have one!) to help pull me up. 

Now my other joints are behaving as if they’re jealous of the new knee and my muscles all wear out quickly whenever I dare to exercise. Oh yes, this body is definitely feeling its wear.

Not only that, but my oldest grandson, Austin, has just announced he’s found the lovely young lady he’s going to marry next May 29. Within the next five years, I could be a GREAT-grandmother. Double yikes.

Of course there are compensations. For instance, there are the darling grandchildren, from Austin down to Josh and Evie, born to two different families six days apart and now eight months old. And their newest little cousin is due next March. I wouldn’t trade one of them, not even to have my 23-year-old body back.

Although I’m tempted to ask as the Fab Four did, “Will you still need me, will you still feed me?” I know the most important person in my life (my dear husband, that “strong man” I wrote about earlier) certainly will. He’s been an ideal nurse during the month since my knee surgery. Not only that, he owes me: He turned 64 last July.

While I may well mourn the passing of the good health I once knew, the body that did what I asked of it whenever I asked, the quick responses and ready ability, I count up the experiences, the joys, the successes, the wonderful people in my life and know the years have been worth it. Given the chance to be 23 again, I’d have to say “no thanks.” I love being right where I am.

[NOTE: If you don’t recognize the Fab Four or the lyrics, please go look them up. Some things even young folks should know!]

Susan Aylworth is the author of 13 published novels. Her lucky 13th, EASTWARD TO ZION, is available now. Her recent release, MAGGIE RISING: Adventures of a Part-Time Psychic, has just come out in paperback as well as e-book. Mother to seven, she is "gramma" to 23. She lives in northern California with Roger, her husband of 44 years, and the two spoiled cats they serve. She loves notes from readers. Write her at  www.susanaylworth.com susan.aylworth.author@gmail.com, or @SusanAylworth. You can also follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.



Monday, October 20, 2014

Halloween? No Thanks!

Of all the non-holidays we celebrate, my least favorite is Halloween. Oh I understand the attraction: dress-up and play-pretend were big in my childhood repertoire. On Halloween adults can dress up and pretend to be someone or something they’re not. That’s the beginning of what I dislike: I’ve known a few adults who pretend to be something they’re not in their daily “real life.” It isn’t pretty.


Nor are some of the costumes adults wear. Some can be attractive enough, perhaps too attractive. I live in a college town and I wonder sometimes—on the rare occasions when I dare to go out on Halloween night—how some young ladies don’t freeze to death, wandering the streets dressed in little snips of fabric that would barely tip a scale. The provocative nature of adult costumes is part of what bothers me. When they’re not dressing in costumes designed to provoke one interest, adults are often appearing in another. I detest those that slander good people with look-alike masks or make light of weighty matters. The fellow dressed as a Klansman makes me downright cranky.


Even worse are the ghouls. While some adult costumes are clever and draw my smile, others make me turn away in sheer disgust. What’s appealing about a “zombie” with its eye hanging from the socket? A vampire with blood dribbling off its chin? A walking corpse with an arm half-missing? If it were any other day of the year when we saw that level of blood and gore on the streets, we’d be calling 9-1-1 and starting triage. Why do we put up with it just because it’s October 31?


Mostly I’m troubled by the kids. From a child’s point of view, Halloween is fantastic: Get dressed up, then go out wandering the streets doing a see-and-be-seen among your friends, trying to outdo your buddies with the cleverness or attractiveness or ghoulishness of your costume. Then go home with a load of sugar, get pumped on it and spend the next month on a sugar high while you consume it all. What kid wouldn’t love that?


From the point of view of a mom and gramma, we’re taking our beautiful, perfect children, dressing them to appear mangled, provocative, or creepy, and sending them out to beg candy from strangers. This after we’ve spent 364 days telling them not to accept candy from strangers. Tell me how this makes sense.


Okay, so I’m growing older and arguably stodgier, but I’m ready to give up Halloween—just throw it away and pretend it never happened. Why not? Pretending is what it’s all about.


Susan Aylworth is the author of 13 published novels. Her lucky 13th, EASTWARD TO ZION, is available now. Her recent release, MAGGIE RISING: Adventures of a Part-Time Psychic, has just come out in paperback as well as e-book. Mother to seven, she is "gramma" to 23. She lives in northern California with Roger, her husband of 44 years, and the two spoiled cats they serve. She loves notes from readers. Write her at  www.susanaylworth.com susan.aylworth.author@gmail.com, or @SusanAylworth. You can also follow her on Pinterest and Instagram. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Creepiest Monster of All



Halloween is fast approaching, that time of year when every TV channel brings out its creepiest movies and programming. While waiting in a grocery store line recently, I heard two people behind me talking about the creepiest movie monsters ever.
One voted for Dracula, the one in the modern remake of Bram Stoker’s novel. The other mentioned an angel-demon character in a movie I hadn’t seen, adding, “There’s nothing creepier than that.”
I guess I wasn’t good at hiding my snigger. “Oh you think you can do better?” the first one said.
“Hannibal Lector,” I responded without pause. “The scariest monsters are always human.”
“You have a point,” the first shopper said. Both of them nodded and started talking about scary human monsters.
It’s that belief that humans are always the scariest that led to my creating the bad guy(s) in my paranormal murder mystery, MAGGIE RISING: Adventures of a Part-Time Psychic. Maggie is a 17-year-old high school senior who works part-time in her great aunt’s shop doing psychic readings.
“There’s nothing paranormal about it,” she assures the reader as she explains away her ability to see auras and read people’s thoughts. It doesn’t take long before readers, and eventually even Maggie, start to realize this “normal” teen isn’t quite as ordinary as she seems.
          For instance, here’s the scene at the end of Chapter One:

I closed the door carefully, checking to see how sensitive my alert bell was. It chimed despite my best efforts. Good bell! The fact that I’d never yet been able to fool it encouraged me to think it would always let me know when someone came in. Mr. Haskins made a good point: a girl who often works alone can’t afford to be too careful.
I walked through to the back of the house, the low-ceilinged kitchen, bathroom and back porch with its laundry set-up. It’s also where the ladder goes up to the loft. That loft isn’t tall enough to stand up in and is almost certainly a building code violation. But since the house is more than a century old, nobody paid much attention when Betty bought the place last spring. She’s worked in an old, tumble-down shack on East Avenue for as long as I can remember. It was only when she chose to bring me in as a partner that she bought this larger place in a busier location and moved the business here.
 My mom and dad don’t know this yet, but once I start college, I plan to move in here and take on more hours in the reading parlor. If I sleep in the loft, I can move out of their home but avoid paying rent and Betty can still keep the whole upstairs as a separate apartment for Merc. She needs his rent to make her payments. 
Sorority Chick’s crisp new twenty went into Betty’s strongbox under the sink. I was just reaching the parlor when the alert bell rang again. I looked up to see a clean-cut college guy at the counter. Another man behind him was reaching to shut the door.
My first thought was Cool. Mr. Clean-Cut Guy brought a buddy. Two times twenty is better than… Then the other man began to turn.
The hair on the back of my neck stood up. There didn’t seem to be anything weird about him unless you counted his super-short hair that clearly showed his scalp or his whole left arm covered in blue, green and red tattoos from his shoulder to just above his wrist. Still this was a university town and neither the skinhead look nor the tattooed sleeve was that unusual. I couldn’t explain it, but that second guy was creepy. He just was. As he turned to meet my gaze, our eyes connected. All the hair on my body prickled, and an icy chill slithered down my spine.
Creepy? Oh yeah. And the man she comes to know as Creepy Rich isn’t the scariest monster Maggie encounters. This Halloween, when you’re thinking of ghosties, ghoulies, and non-human monsters, remember the terror a true monster can generate. And shudder with fright. 

Susan Aylworth is the author of 13 published novels. Her lucky 13th, EASTWARD TO ZION, is available now. Her recent release, MAGGIE RISING: Adventures of a Part-Time Psychic, has just come out in paperback as well as e-book. Mother to seven, she is "gramma" to 23. She lives in northern California with Roger, her husband of 44 years, and the two spoiled cats they serve. She loves notes from readers. Write her at  www.susanaylworth.com susan.aylworth.author@gmail.com, or @SusanAylworth. You can also follow her on Pinterest and Instagram. 
Find MAGGIE RISING at Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/Maggie-Rising-Adventures-Part-Time-Psychic/dp/0990376656/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1412651961&sr=8-13&keywords=susan+aylworth, or anywhere you buy quality books and e-books.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

When I was a preschool listener, Dr. Seuss was one of my faves, which made me much like every other English-speaking kid. I loved Horton, saw just about everything on Mulberry Street, and learned that “a person’s a person, no matter how small.” It was Oh, the Places You’ll Go! that set my imagination soaring. I knew I didn’t want to be “left in a Lurch on a prickle-ly perch,” and I was certain I wanted to go many places. I was part of a whole generation that dreamed of flying to the moon and watched as some of us did.

Still I never imagined all the places I would go, especially once I became a novelist. My first book, published in 1990, took me to an airport to learn what the inside of a small Cessna looked like and what could cause it to fall from the sky and then to be very hard to find. The Rainbow Rock Romances took me back to the Painted Desert area where I lived during my high school years, both in books and in real life. If I wanted to write about the area and its people, I had to study up.

More recently, Maggie Rising has taken me into the Butte County Jail to learn jail procedures, how a female prisoner is “processed” and what her day-to-day life entails. Maggie will definitely take me to more interesting places, but it was my status as a voter and not my work as a novelist that took me to the county courthouse this week. I was called to jury duty.

After nearly a full day of jury selection, at about 4:20 p.m. my name was called, one of the last two names chosen. Neither side of the case objected to me, so I’m now serving on a jury—presently as an alternate. The case hasn’t been completed yet; thus I can’t yet share anything about it, but I’m learning some fascinating facts about court procedure that must surely appear in another novel, perhaps one of Maggie’s cases, in upcoming months and years.

Real life court isn’t much like the courtroom dramas I saw as a child and, even when it’s interesting, court procedure rarely has the big dramatic moments that happened every week when my mom watched Perry Mason. Unlike Law and Order, cases are not settled start to finish in an hour. Unlike the shows in the CSI franchise, not all law enforcement personnel are among “the beautiful people,” nor are they all young, single, and gifted with the intuition to follow a trail straight through from A to Z without detours or interruptions. Still I find it all fascinating.

The case I’m watching now will never end up in a book—except, perhaps, in highly distorted fictional form that none of the actual participants will ever recognize, but it may well become the seed from which various future scenes will be sown. It’s just one of the fascinating places Dr. Seuss never imagined I’d go.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 13 published novels. Her lucky 13th, EASTWARD TO ZION, is available now from Covenant Communications. Her recent release, MAGGIE RISING, has just come out in paperback as well as e-book. Mother to seven, she is "gramma" to 23. She lives in northern California with Roger, her husband of 44 years, and two spoiled cats they serve. She loves notes from readers @SusanAylworth, susan.aylworth.author@gmail.com or www.susanaylworth.com. You can also follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.