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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!

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. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

What if?

All good fiction starts with “What if?”  Begin with “What if a human girl fell in love with a vampire?” and Stephenie Meyer creates TWILIGHT.  “What if there were a school for training witches and wizards?” Yep, Harry Potter. The questions begin the creative process.

MAGGIE RISING began one day as I drove past the home office of a local self-professed psychic. I asked myself, “What if a girl who worked as a psychic reader but didn’t believe in the paranormal had an undeniably paranormal experience?”
The more I thought about it, the more I knew I would write Maggie’s story. By the time I finished that book, Maggie was so real I knew she couldn’t stop with only one adventure, so I labeled it Book 1 in the “Maggie Rising Case Files.”

Of course the second question was what experience would introduce Maggie into the paranormal world? Since I was Maggie’s age (17), I’ve seen bulletins and posters asking “Have you seen this child?” Some offer rewards. I always wished I could peer into a crystal ball and find the lost children, not for the reward (I pictured myself graciously refusing the money), but simply to ease the pain of the loved ones. What if that happened to Maggie?

The rest was its own kind of magic, the special kind of madness that novelists all experience. (Yes, I hear voices. They all want me to tell their stories. Yes, I watch scenes play out in my mind; it’s like a movie in my head. Of course I talk to imaginary people. Doesn’t everyone?)

When a murdered girl starts showing up in Maggie’s dreams, Maggie’s certain it’s a nightmare. Then the rival high school’s homecoming queen goes missing and her picture turns up on page 1. From there, it was a matter of talking to our just-retired police chief to find out how the department would deal with a psychic informer. Later I got an escorted tour of the Butte County Jail. Ah, the places fiction can take us!

Maggie’s voice came with her. The more often she visited, the easier it was to hear her lightly funny, slightly snarky tone as in this opening scene:

“So, are you really a psychic?”
The girl at the counter looked like so many others I’d seen since hanging my shingle next to Aunt Betty’s last summer. I wanted to answer, Hey, look: You came here because the sign says Psychic Readings. What do you expect? Instead, I gave her my wisest, most knowing smile while sizing her up.
She was somewhat shorter than my five-feet-nine, but most women are, and she was curvier than I am, especially through her surgically augmented chest. Her blonde wasn’t natural, either, though her roots weren’t as dark as my near-black curls. Even her coloring seemed unnatural, more peaches-and-cream than my rubies-and-ivory, heavy on the cake foundation. The rest was easy: sorority chick; sporting her daddy’s credit card; party girl looking for a thrill and probably trying to figure out whether Jason (or Will or that guy from the frat mixer last night) was The One.
 “You’ve come to discover whether your love is true,” I said in my best impersonation of a movie fortune teller.
The girl’s look of happy surprise told me I was on the right track. “You want to know if your sorority sisters can be trusted,” I went on.
“Wow!” she said. “How did you know I was in a sorority?”
I gave her that all-knowing look again, not mentioning that the Greek letters on her sweatshirt were a pretty loud hint. “You want to see what the future holds for you—career, marriage, or both. You want to know about your future family.”
“Wo-o-o-o-ow,” she said again, drawing it out admiringly. “It’s just like you can read my mind!”
“That is why you’re here,” I answered in my wise persona, while silently thinking Duh, Chick. That’s why people get psychic readings. “The reading will be twenty dollars, please.”

Maggie is one of my fictional offspring now. I sometimes hear sweet-snarky voice commenting on the things and people I come across each day. Oh yeah. Maggie will definitely be back.


MAGGIE RISING is available wherever quality e-books are sold. It will soon appear in paperback as well. Susan Aylworth is the author of 13 published novels. Her lucky 13th, EASTWARD TO ZION, is available now from Covenant Communications. 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 to hear from readers @SusanAylworth or at www.susanaylworth.com, susan.aylworth.author@gmail.com. You can also follow her on Pinterest and Instagram. 


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lessons Learned Through Travel

It was the trip of a lifetime, the stuff dreams are made of:  My own romantic hero and I were off to visit the land of our heritage, the island that spawned most of our ancestors. For me that included Henry Gale, my model for James Martin in EASTWARD TO ZION, the new Covenant release out this month.We were going to Britain!

We scheduled a bus tour, one of those not-quite-whirlwind adventures with a bus full of strangers. The itinerary included almost all the sites we most wanted to see with a swing up the left side of the map, a turn in the Scottish Highlands, and a return down the map's right side. To counter the rigid schedule of the tour, we chose to spend a few extra days in London before the tour began and an additional week at the end, branching out to see intriguing sites the bus had missed. The combination seemed ideal.

And it was--or very nearly so. 51 of us from the U.S., Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and elsewhere boarded a brand new tour bus as strangers, but soon bonded as a group with common in jokes, shared admiration for our guide, Allen, and loud appreciation for our amazing driver, David, who took that vehicular monster down roads I'd have been hesitant to challenge with a Mini-Cooper. The experience was amazing.

It was also beautiful, fascinating, and highly educational, yet not all of the lessons were fun.

We had carefully planned our schedule so we'd have time to attend the births (or at least the hospital beds) of grandbabies Joshua (April 25) and Evelyn or "Evie" (May 1). We also scheduled around problems with my husband's work and mine--or so we thought.

I had promised readers a Memorial Day sale on at least one of my books, so I planned for THE MCALLISTER MEN, which includes the first three books in the Rainbow Rock Romances, to go on sale from May 23-26. I'd be out of town then, but I had Janice to tweet it for me, Alisa to post it on other social media, and Sharon to make sure the sale showed on all available platforms. Everything would be great! With that in mind, I organized the tweets Janice would send and bought numerous ads to share the news.

The sale never happened. Call it a failure to communicate. The ads came out, the tweets appeared, but the book never went on sale. I learned about it when I got a message while checking email from a hotel room in northern England. Panicky, I dashed off an email to Sharon only to receive an "out of office" message. Her office was closed for the long weekend. There was nothing I could do from where I was, so I watched the plans go up in smoke while ads came out proclaiming my sale and the retail platforms called me a liar. Oops.

The lesson I learned was simple enough: If you want something done right, do it yourself--or at least be close enough to fix it when it goes wrong. Sharon explained the misunderstanding and we're good, but I have yet to make things right with disappointed readers. So I'm now planning a more comprehensive offer and here it is:

SALE PERIOD:  July 1-7
ITEMS ON SALE:  THE MCALLISTER MEN trilogy, the first 3 books in the Rainbow Rock series, $1.99 (reg. $4.99).
                            A LITTLE NIGHT RAINBOW, book 4, 99 cents (reg. $2.99)
                            A RAINBOW IN PARADISE, book 5, 99 cents (reg. $2.99)
                            THE TROUBLE WITH RAINBOWS, book 6, 99 cents (reg. $2.99)
                            RETURN TO RAINBOW ROCK, book 7, 99 cents (reg. $2.99)
                            DANNY'S GIRL, book 8, 99 cents (reg. $2.99)

If you're counting, that's the whole series of Rainbow Rock Romances, all on sale July 1-7. I hope that makes up for the big build-up followed by disappointment. Thanks, folks! And stay tuned for more about Britain. Cheers!

Susan Aylworth is the author of 13 published novels. Her lucky 13th, EASTWARD TO ZION, is available now from Covenant Communications. Mother to seven, she is also "gramma" to 23. She lives with Roger, her husband of 44 years, and the two spoiled cats she serves in northern California. She loves to hear from readers. Contact her at www.susanaylworth.comsusan.aylworth.author@gmail.com or @SusanAylworth. You can also follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.