Wednesday, July 8, 2009

More on small towns

I love small towns. I use one in my Ellen McKenzie series, Santa Louisa aka Paso Robles, CA., and have watched both of them grow over the last few years, but still remain small towns. Grandparents pick kids up after school and three generations go to the high school football games. Everyone knows everyone else, and that can sometimes be intrusive, but it sure helps when your next door neighbor plucks your kid out from behind the horse barn along with her own, where they were trying to light the matches that dad used the night before to light the barbaque. Those close relationships come in real handy when constructing a murder plot. Secrets are harder to hold onto when everyone knows your family history generations past, and has no hesitation talking about it. Residents of small towns share lots of things besides gossip. They'll turn out to celebrate weddings, christinings, and funerals. They'll bring cassaroles, pies, and cakes to any and all of these events and they stick together in times of grief and times of tragedy.
I live in Gaffney, South Carolina. We have been in the news a lot these last couple of weeks. A seriel killer landed in our town. Our town! Quiet, comfortable, friendly Gaffney. For the first time, folks locked their doors. They did more than that. They piled pans, bells, and anything else that might make a nose against them. Big dogs got adopted. One woman I know kept her shotgun with her, hung on her arm, for almost a week. I don't know if she knows how to shoot it, but it was there. I am scared of guns and have never owned one, but thought flightingly of buying some amunition. Why, I don't know. All I could have done was throw it at the guy if he turned up on my doorstep and I don't think that would have done much good. But we were scared witless. All of us. The killings were so random, so sensless, anyone could be the next victim. This wasn't a book, filled with hair raising thrills, this was real fear, the kind that made you leave on all of the porch lights and made your eyes pop open in the miiddle of the night whenever you heard a noise. The memory of that fear will not disappear quickly. The random cruelty of those shootings will leave a mark that will not be erased from this small community any time soon. And the grief that weighs on the families of the victims will be shared, in some small part, by all of us. The killer is dead and our fear is slowly dying as well. Life will gradualy return to normal. but I hope that another memory about these awful few days will remain with us. This community did what it always does, it came together. People comforted, protected, prayed for each other. They fed each other, hugged each other, and stood ready to do whatever needed to be done. And they will continue to do that. Small towns are wonderful places to live. Kathleen Delaney And Murder For Dessert

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I'm back

I haven't been on here since right before Thanksgiving, but I have a pretty good excuse. I can even get a not from my doctor, if I need one. Seems that right before Thanksgiving, two days before to be exact, I went to Georgia to pick up my grandkids and bring them back here, (here being South Carolina) only I started having some trouble with my left leg. Numbness, cold, very cold, and pain in the calf. I tried to ignore it because the kids and I had all kinds of plans. First, we were going to start our Christmas shopping and then Dalia and I were going to make chocolate cherry cake and a cranberry orange mold for our Thanksgiving dinner, Ronaldo was going to tear up all the bread for the stuffing (tearing is more interesting to a 6 year old boy than baking) and then we were going to go to Kings Mountain to hike the history trail again, things like that, only the leg got worse and their mother wouldn't let us start for my home until I got checked out at the local emergency room. Didn't get back out of the hospital until December 20th, minus one perfectly good leg. Well, I guess it wasn't that good. It seems that the blood would no longer pump through the arteries and vessels even though I had two stents implanted and had just had an arterial bypass. No blood flow means lots of bad things happen to the tissue. In other words, it dies, and as all us mystery writers and readers know, death is sort of final. So---that's why I haven't been around for awhile. However, I have a new one. Not nearly as shaply as the old one, and I am having to learn to walk all over again (I think learning to walk when you are around one is easier because you don't have as far to fall) but when this one starts to hurt, I can take it off and put it in a corner, which is more than I can say for the old one. This has taken some gettin used to, but I'm learning, getting stronger, and life is starting to return to some semblace of normal, so much so that I went out and bought a new car. thought both the economy and I needed a boost. So, if any of you reading this have had any experience with amputations and can or would like to offer a little advice or comment in any way, I sure would love to hear from you. In the meantime, keep your sunny side up, I'm working on mine. Kathleen Delaney

Friday, November 21, 2008

Well, that's finished. On to the new!

I have finished the last rewrite-Ihope-of the latest adventure of Ellen McKenzie and Dan Dunham. In this one, Dan and Ellen get married, but not without a lot of roadblocks. Like, a houseful of homeless people, one of whom is brand new to this world, and a couple of murders which need to be solved before the wedding can commence. (Don't you just love big words) Anyway, I've worked and reworked this book quite a lot and think its about right, and its done. So on to the next project. Except I'm feeling a ittle lost. I always do when I finish, really finish a book. I've lived with these people so long, their trials and tribulations have become my own, that I feel a bit lonely without them. It's like when your last kid moves out and you stand in front of the washing machine and don't have anything to put in it. It's enough to unsettle the strongest woman.
This next book is supposed to be a "stand alone", meaning that it is not destined to be a series, and I really want to write it. I think the story is good and when I sat down to start it,I thought I had the plot already thought through. Only its not working out that way. I don't know these people yet. They aren't doing the things I want them to, not behaving in the ways I thought they would. I feel a little as if I'm attending a party with a bunch of people I've been introduced to, but don't really know. So-I'm spending a lot of time, sitting and staring into space as I try to work this out.
One of the first things you learn when you are trying to write fiction is that all action springs out of the character of the people in your story, so you'd better be more than casual aquaintances. (I hope I spelled that right. I don't want to get out the dictionary so please just go with it if I didn't.) Anyway, characters. In the workshops I have been giving, the ones where we take an idea and from that work out a story line, I keep telling everyone, would the person you just made up do that? For instance, would the shy little girl who can't bring herself to smile at the devistatingly handsome man who has just asked her to dance, really go to bed with him an hour later? Probably not. Nor would she pick up a gun and shoot him.If she's really that shy, that timid, she's probably never even held a gun. Or is that true? What would have to happen to make her so frightened that she would pick up that gun? And what is she doing in that bedroom anyway? Or is she really that--. You get the idea.
Every event, well, every or or less major event in the story leads to another event. You are constantly pushing the story forward, setting up some kind of scene, conversation, that propels your characters to the next event, and each time the tension needs to build. If our timid young lady has never read any Victorian romance, she just may buy the etching story and go to the bedroom to see these wonderous things. Imagine her horror when he expects a little more than what she's prepared to give. She backs up to the edge of the bed, one hand to her mouth, the other drops to the bedside table where, to her surprise, rests a pistol. She picks it up, says "stop, you cad," but he doesn't and she pulls the trigger, and---. No, I don't buy that one either, but we did move her forward with a cliche ridden lie from the dance floor to the bedroom, letting each action move the story along. Even if the story stinks, we moved it.
So, keeping these things firmly in mind, I will go back and see if I can move this new story along. These people are still strangers, but each day I seem to know them better, and as the days go by, I think we can untangle the plot threads that are in a terrible knot right now. If I can only figure out why that nice young man went into that ally in the first place---. I'll keep you posted. Kathleen Delaney

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Monday, August 6, 2007

I moved to South Carolina from California a whole 6 months ago. I love it here, so green and pretty, so humid. I'm looking a little wilted but my ferns sure like it. The people here are friendly and very welcoming. Since my natural tendency is to spend my time either typing away on whatever my current project is, or to wander through the house with my nose in a book, having friendly people who invite you to do something is good. And fun. It was the birthday of one of my neighbors. I've only met her once. She stopped by as I was finishing up a very muddy yard project, but she pretended not to notice the streak of red dirt across my face where I'd whiped away the sweat. People here are very polite. I was careful to present a somewhat better appearance at her lunch. It was fun. I met several new people and some I'd already met, and somehow managed to volunter to help with the holiday heritage house tour.
I leave Friday for California. For the first time, I have a direct flight from Charlotte to LA. I am looking forward to that. For some reason, I have never gotten through Dallas/Fort Worth without a delay, so this should be much better. I have a book signing at Metropolis books, in downtown LA on Saturday, the 11th. Even though I've spent almost 70 years living in California, I have managed to avoid the downtown area, so I am looking forward to this. I'm pretty sure its changed since the red car used to run. So, if you are somewhere near 440 S Main, drop in on Saturday. The rest of my time in CA will be taken up with grandchildren. 7 of them. We are all going to Disneyland. Aged from 11 to 1. They call Disneyland the happiest place on earth. I sure hope so. I wonder if anyone has ever set a mystery in Disneyland, or would that be sacralige?