GUILTY PLEASURES: THE ONE’S THAT STICK

Many years ago, I hooked into a public television series that brought to life the detective novels of Dorothy

Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter Wimsey
Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter Wimsey

L. Sayers. WHOSE BODY? CLOUDS OF WITNESS and UNNATURAL DEATH to name a few brought we, the devotees of Masterpiece Theatre and MYSTERY!, face to face with an immaculately dressed, preternaturally wealthy English nit named Lord Peter Wimsey. Fussy, feckless and a bit grating in his dedication to detail, he was the ideal sleuth, rambling freely against a background of country houses, ornate gardens and immaculately tended lawns. Fans couldn’t get enough of him and neither could his creator Sayers, whom aficionados said was actually in love with her creation.

Lord Peter might not be my type, but I certainly get the notion of a writer getting more out of the character than mere words on the page.

A lot of people have asked me where Jürgen Heuer comes from, and my answers vary, depending on my mood. Yes, he’s a work of fiction, but every fiction, to paraphrase Ian Fleming, “is precedent on some kind of fact.”

Rhett and BelleHeuer, like Sayers’ Wimsey, is incredibly real, although I doubt very much either she or I would make it through a meal with him without an outburst or two. Maybe it’s a condition of what inspires. The bad, the badder, the really, really broken. Good guys—perfect guys—just don’t pack the same punch. Heck, even Rhett Butler hung out at Belle Watling’s house of extraordinary extra circular activities, and NOBODY held that against him.

I did not set out to warp Heuer as much as I did. In fact, he plays rather nicely in the opening chapters of THE HEUER EFFECT which traces his early life. But there was something about the later man, the mature man, that courted the darkness. He’s been through the wars and has been affected by them, such that he screamed “go darker” and so I did.

simcoeThe idea that the bad side of a character is more compelling than the good follows me to this day: The anit-appeal generated by the real life figure of Capt. John Graves Simcoe on AMC’s excellent TURN: Washington’s Spies, is a case in point. Excellently portrayed by actor Samuel Roukin, Simcoe wreaks havoc among Republican forces in Setauket Long Island, hangs innocents without a blink, and composes creepy love sonnets to a winsome lass who’d shoot him herself if she could. And all the while, the lanky red coat finds time to prep for higher office north of the border as the First Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. (True stuff and crikey, we even named a lake and a civic holiday after him.)

It’s not the rich sets, protagonists and dialogue that brings me back. It’s Simcoe, and it pains me to say so.

Likewise, there’s the affable, ne’er do well Saul Goodman from BETTER CALL SAUL, another AMC sauloffering on hiatus after just ten episodes. Unlike Simcoe and Heuer, Saul is sweet, rubber faced and apologetically dishonest. With every bad deed, Saul struggles to do good and we love him for it. But each time he backslides into the old life—that of Slippin’ Jimmy from Cicero, Illinois—we’re on our feet, cheering. Shame we know how it ends: Saul is a prequel to BREAKING BAD. But the end’s not the point. It’s the “how” of the getting there that does it.

Heuer’s story isn’t over yet. The third book in the series “Unapologetic Lives” offers hope. But given this writer’s penchant for her creation, redemption is highly unlikely.

Salut, D.L. Sayers

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THENCE COMES THE DARKNESS…AND THE LIGHT

My guest blog at author Rachael Stapleton’s Mysterious Ink Spot. Appropriately dubbed “The Treasured and Tipsy Timeslip” the spot asks writers to detail places real and imagined that they have visited or would like to visit. Congrats to my friend Rachael for a cool idea and a truly off planet experience.

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. Only The Shadow knows…Bwahahahahaha.”

For many my age and younger, knowing the origin of the above might be a bit of a stretch: yet I do. Corny? Yes. Hilarious? Absolutely! The quote, or more correctly, the radio program to which this voice over belongs comes from none other than The Shadow, which got its start in pulp fiction and later ran an incredible seventeen years of American radio from 1937 to 1954.

Featuring lurid tales narrated by a supernatural all-seeing being that always knew better than the affected hapless humans it oversaw, The Shadow spoke to me in reruns throughout the Seventies.

What got me was the voice. What hooked me was the medium. Radio, you see, forced me to conjure up images of just where the plays took place. As a ten year old, it was no mean feat, seeing that my world barely extended past the hydro field in summer and the school yard in winter.

“What evil lurks?” I wondered. And was it always in sinister places?

The answer, I found, lived in dreams, and it was to some of these that I return over and over again years after they first played out. That I have recurring dreams—usually in Technicolor—I think speaks to the impact of radio: if given a choice, I would color my dreams no matter how frightening. Somehow, in color, the sinister seems palatable. Even inviting.

PLANET OF THE BATHROOM STALLS
Apes
I could relate to Cornelius’ sensitivity, but I could not get my head around the human “hunt” scene in PLANET OF THE APES. Gross.

I remember finishing a harrowing week of Grade 12 second term exams. Exhausted, relieved and flat out broke, I had no choice but to celebrate my accomplishment with a long sleep. Waking in dreams, I was confronted by a highly stylized ape man in an orange jump suit. He wasn’t Roddy Mcdowall from Planet of the Apes, but a curious hybrid that co-opted equine features in a high cheek-boned, narrow face that embraced intelligence and a promise. The ape did not speak as he took my hand, ushering me over verdant hills backed by brilliant vistas I instantly recognized from the beats out of Sgt. Pepper’s.

We were barely out of the Seventies at this point, so strawberry fields made perfect sense, even if my companion—a behemoth of eight feet or more—could have easily made Poe’s House of Usher his home. I asked him where he was taking me, but the ape said nothing, pulling me along with kind, if not gentle urgency, until, at last, we arrived at our destination: a row of bathroom stalls as orange and shiny as his coveralls. He wanted me to step inside the first one, yet I could not. It was a pay toilet, and I didn’t have a dime.

THE LAKE AND THE DRAGON
Wikimedia Commons 3.0
Wikimedia Commons 3.0

It will be eighteen years this May since my amazing German daddy passed away while on vacation in sunny Florida. His death, completely unexpected, knocked all of us near to him on our collective rear ends. Yet his passing was perfect—at least for him. My dad came from another age, an age currently celebrated on AMC’s Mad Men. Cool, collected and always on top of his game, my pa drank scotch and smoked cigarettes to his end of days: his pockets, when turned out, contained an empty pack of Chesterfields. He smoked his last one. Good on you pa. I missed him in those early days—I still do—yet in the afterburn of the funeral, seeing him again was paramount. It was not long before he visited me in dreams, this time in a lake setting muted with sepia tones save for a cobalt sky and bone bleached trees denuded of their summer leaves. My dad, you see, was renowned for saving the day. And so it came as no surprise when I tipped my fishing boat and fell into the dark water, that he would rescue me from an odd looking creature that reminded me of TV’s H.R. Pufnstuf.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5e9yCB-hiw Confronted by the large yellow beast with his

I didn't mind Puf, but I really dug Witchypoo's ride.
I didn’t mind Puf, but I really dug Witchypoo’s ride.

oversized spots and tousled felt-twist mane, my first impulse was to shoo him away. “Be gone absurd beast with your goggly doll eyes!” Before I could reach him, strong arms overtook me, drawing my close. It was dad in his favorite black and rust hunting jacket, impossibly dry despite the cold water we found ourselves floating in. Pufnstuf, the dragon, opened his soft felt mouth at the sight of dad, as if to frighten him, but my father just laughed, reaching out with one of his short fingers (the rest of it claimed by a band saw in the Fifties) to poke the silly bugger in the eye. Puf retreated beneath the waves. I haven’t been back to the lake lately, nor have I been visited by the large, yellow, felt-mouthed beastie, but I wish it so most terribly. My dad is there, and I’d love to see him again.

THE HOUSE OF USHER AS HOME
maxresdefault.jpg
maxresdefault.jpg

Edgar Allen Poe’s Fall of the House Usher stayed with me if only for the author’s assertion that the cursed family tree ran vertically and without branch. “How strange,” I thought at the time. Yet, when I woke for the first time in an amazing home—high ceilinged and trimmed with thick mahogany baseboards and crown molds—I knew where I was. Imagine a long hall, the plaster walls stained cerulean blue to compliment large crystal chandeliers to mark a white ceiling honeycombed with bowed crossbeams of black and tar. The hall, never ending, opens every thirty feet or so into rooms beautifully decorated from the Age of Empire; each a different color, each recognizable every time I visit because I’ve had this dream before. And never, ever, is there an intersection along the way. It is Usher’s family tree, but I do not fear it. This is not a family tree cursed, but a home filled with history, its rooms lovingly curated by something I have yet to see.

MISTRESS BISCUIT AND HER SHORTBREADS
www.travelmob.com
http://www.travelmob.com

In a similar vein, I have visited the home of Mistress Biscuit many, many times. Each time, it is the same. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The front door opens into a spectacular foyer, shitake monochrome walls accented with glass and chrome backed by sky high windows capped by a vaulting ceiling twenty feet above our heads. I say “our” because the guests are there, wrapped in looks reminiscent of the disco era, but tasteful to one who was there. “Mistress is busy,” the tall, slightly balding fellow in livery informs me. “Would madam care for a swim before chicken?” Don’t mind if I do. Pocketing a couple of sweeties fetched off a silver tray of shortbreads and arugula, I head to the indoor pool where a friend awaits. He is young, wearing a white terry cloth robe. I have no idea who he is.

Trippy, no?
Thank you, Rachael Stapleton, for taking me back…

Adult, unapologetic, and cognizant, I wish you good day. Let’s stay above it.

ABF

For more Rachael, please visit:

www.rachaelstapleton.com

http://rachaelstapleton.blogspot.ca/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Rachael-Stapleton/137831156290570

https://twitter.com/RaquelleJaxson

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7271862.Rachael_Stapleton

LIGHT BULB NOT INCLUDED

Where I come from, Hydro electric power is at a premium. That’s because environmentally conscious legislators stick handled some ballyhoo through our august house of parliament mandating the use of high cost mercury filled light bulbs. These, said to last forever,—(they don’t)—force tremendous savings, resulting in surpluses that the aforementioned legislators give away to our neighbors so that the status quo is maintained and we can enjoy higher prices.

Bully for us. There’s always a silver lining.

While others bitch and moan over the obvious injustice—my Sensy Burner™ for example has been without tiny bulb since the kibosh on luminescents—good hearted optimists like me embrace the darkness. And a good thing too: Darkness, like paint stripper, takes away everything cracked and peeling.

Every year around my birthday, I meet up with my old friend The Muse for a little vin rouge and a lie or two. I love these meetings, especially since they date back some thirty odd years.

Muse and I have had our fair share of triumphs and failures that include, but are not limited to, expanding waistlines and thinning hair. None of these matter, because in the afterglow of what is time, space and many, many vintages, neither he nor I change.

If anything, we travel backward.

“You haven’t changed a bit,” one of us says each year, usually after the first bottle.

“I know, eh? Funny how that is.”

Sometimes, after rehashing an old tale with plenty of add-on embellishments compensating for faltering memories, one of us will start eating out of the other’s plate without any thought to the patrons sitting next to us. We can do this, we tell ourselves, because the grey hair and lined faces that announce us on arrival gradually fade as the hours wear on.

Youth, you see, has a way of getting away with things that time and sober thought cancel out. It’s true every time; this year was no exception:

“Madame? Monsieur?” the concerned wait staff interjects once the peas start rolling onto the floor. “I must give you a caution. We here at M**ton’s take the utmost pride in the atmosphere we present and we rely on our patrons to do the same.”

Muse clears his throat before blowing the pretty little table candle out. “There,” he says, affecting invisibility. “No one can catch us now.”

It’s not until the next morning when I wake up safe and sound in my own bed that I realize that I’ve time traveled backward. “How did I get here?” I ask my husband while trying to blot out the natural light that recuts all kinds of crevices into my wise old face.

“The train,” he replies. “Muse piled you on the first one going east.”

“That’s bold,” I comment, before realizing that there could be no other conclusion: neither The Muse nor I could make sense of the e-schedule as posted despite the tinkly lights showing the way.

“Where are you going?” I query my husband who, with keys in hand, makes a bee line for the door. “It’s not even noon yet.”

“Light bulbs,” he says pointedly. “Two out in the family room.”

I laugh as I wave him off.

For as much as I curse the light and the hydro that brings it, there is no escaping the reality of a new day and the bright things it possesses.

THANK YOU, O MUSE. UNTIL NEXT YEAR… AND TO OTHERS: HAPPY ST. PADDY’S DAY!

Adult, unapologetic and cognizant, I wish you good day! Let’s stay above it.

ABF

TAKING THE DAY OFF

Spring is just around the corner my loves, and on the cusp of it and all the promises it carries, there is sun, snow melt and a city calling me out for a walk about. I’m doing it.

Happy Monday, One And All.

Back tomorrow…with a pint or two of the green stuff.

BESTS!

ABF

ON THE EVE OF HER BIRTHDAY, THE AUTHOR TAKES A DAY OFF WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM SOLSTICE

Guest Blogger: A. B. Funkhauser

Posted on March 11, 2015

HERE SHE COMES, MISS AMERICA

In the run up to the release of her debut novel HEUER LOST AND FOUND A.B. Funkhauser copes with the responsibility of really, really getting published…for real.

If I tell my friends one more time that writing picked me and I not it, I’ll probably get tee pee’d. But if casual pranks among friends comes with the territory, I’ll take it, because I mean every word. Over the course of the last twelve weeks, I’ve been asked to talk about everything from “process” to “voice” to “inspiration markers” and I’ve answered as best I can. I wrote, I said, because I felt I had to; I created characters and scenes because they ‘spoke’ to me and I transcribed; and I talked about myself—my hopes, my dreams and my fears—because this is what promotion is and promotion is key regardless of what my parents taught me about modesty and not trumpeting accomplishments.

I had a novel. I pitched it. And Solstice said “yes.” Now I have to sell it. *yikes*

SHAKIN’ LIKE A SPANIEL

With the ‘yes’ came the validation—the idea that maybe I had something decent after all—and with it an in-body experience that gave volcanism a whole new meaning for me. “Here she comes, Miss America” was the first thing that came to mind when I opened Summer Solstice Editor-In-Chief Kathi Sprayberry’s contract offer email last November.

Was this really happening? Will you marry me? Yes! Oh, yes! I will. I do…and then I slobbered like Miss America. For all those years I denounced the phony tears under the big tiara, this was the payback: Her tears were real after all, and so were mine.

SELL, SELL, SELL

I had my publisher, and with it my marching orders. In the space of a few weeks I had a website, a blog, a book trailer and a half century’s worth of tag lines, log lines and elevator pitches that would make Don Draper notice. I belong to “Promote Your Book” sites on Facebook, am mastering the fine art of twitter blasts on requisite Hash Tag Days of The Week, and long to upload THE BOOK onto Goodreads. There isn’t a coffee house in my county that doesn’t know me, and my former embalming instructor is dodging me because he knows I want the alumni list and going after said list is wildly inappropriate. I have compiled lists of local media to acquaint; public libraries with bulletin boards to be pinned, and arts and letters events that I will definitely go to, provided I lose that last five pounds that separate me from my party clothes.

Who knew this adventure would take me to such exciting places?

This weekend, I turn 50, and instead of handing out my shiny new postcards at the monthly breakfast I attend, I will have to entrust them to another to do the deed: my husband insists on spiriting me away to celebrate—sans postcards.

Maybe if we come home early???

Sigh.

ABF

March 11, 2015

A.B. Funkhuaser is a funeral director, wildlife enthusiast and classic car nut living in Ontario, Canada. Her debut novel, Heuer Lost And Found, combines adult, paranormal and dark humor in a fiction set to hit the market April 23, 2015. Presales begin March 26, 2015.

For more on A.B., please visit her at:

www.abfunkhauser.com

www.facebook.com/heuerlostandfound

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004110336663

https://twitter.com/iamfunkhauser

Be sure and check out her book trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3beUBWf2CQ

A visceral journey of two people: one living, one dead.

“Ever closer, ever farther, I will see you again one day, in the good place.”

Unrepentant cooze hound lawyer Jürgen Heuer dies suddenly and unexpectedly in his litter-strewn home. Undiscovered, he rages against god, Nazis, deep fryers and analogous women who disappoint him.

At last found, he is delivered to Weibigand Brothers Funeral Home, a ramshackle establishment peopled with above average eccentrics, including boozy Enid, a former girl friend with serious denial issues. With her help and the help of a wise cracking spirit guide, Heuer will try to move on to the next plane. But before he can do this, he must endure an inept embalming, feral whispers, and Enid’s flawed recollections of their murky past. Is it really worth it?

“Heuer? What kind of a name is that?”

Aside from a word rhyming with “lawyer,” Heuer is a man. German born, a U.S. citizen, he is layered, complicated, bitter and possessed of a really weird sense of humor. Dying alone and seemingly unlamented, he wakes as a preternatural residue, forced to live with his decomposing body over a one week period until he is finally found by a neighbor he despises. “If there’s a hell, it’s right here, and I’m standing in the middle of it.” Following his body to the funeral home, he is relieved to find Enid Krause, funeral director and former lover. Charged with the task of preparing his body for burial, she is less than gracious, declaring his dramatic return after a twenty year absence, unwelcomed and unappreciated. Crestfallen, Heuer doesn’t know what’s worse: dropping dead and not being found, or being found and being insulted.


ALL ROADS LEAD TO RAY’S CAFE

Long ago, before dinosaurs roamed the planet, a young woman sat down at her desk to write. Situated in the darkest corner of the Ontario Legislature and hidden beneath the main staircase in the north wing, the woman, attached to the research unit of the third party, had every prospect before her. They were in third place; they could only go up. Years later, they did. But that’s for another blog. Lady writer-in-waiting had miles to go and a mountain of human experience to conquer before she could get anything near an arc or inciting incident.

Which brings me to Ray’s Cafe in PICKERING, ONTARIO, CANADA. Intimate, homey and tucked away,

As good as it looks.
As good as it looks.

it is a gem in the early stages of pre-discovery. Monochromed with tons of natural light, it sports a large centre fireplace, plenty of comfy seats and croissants to live on to the end of days. I am well acquainted with Ray’s.

How many miles must Ray’s go before an inciting incident of its own brings Toronto and region to its doors? I wondered over a frothy cup of late winter hot chocolate.

I for one rue the day. Ray’s Cafe is MY place; its plush banquettes upholstered in a way such that a writer with laptop can stay all day and not accumulate bottom feeder sores.

Ah, but I’m selfish.

Ray and Melissa welcome me and let me stay. Heck, I can set myself up and read out loud on a stool if I want to. Melissa even let me park my newly printed postcards with book deets and flattering photo of the author on the sideboard near the recyclers. And there are plenty of other business cards to keep mine company.

Thanks Melissa. Thanks Ray.

The secret’s out now. 🙂

https://www.facebook.com/rayscafeespresso

http://rayscafe.ca/about/

OMG. I have a YouTube Channel and a Book Trailer

I’ve been dancing around for weeks here on the blog and finally, at long last, I can release DAS BOOK TRAILER. Months in the making, I can say, without a hint of irony or fiction, that HEUER LOST AND FOUND, THE TRAILER, is all mine and made with my own two hands. Another milestone on the path to publishing. The learning curve has been incredibly steep and it is only the beginning, but I’m ready…I think. 😉

NOW AND FORWARD

Adult, unapologetic and cognizant, I wish you good day.

ABF

WHY I CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT THE MCMILLAN TAC 50

Ever had a guilty pleasure? Sure you have. For me, it’s the documentary. Grainy, gritty and often featuring hand held footage that makes the brain slosh against the walls of the cranial vault, they are exciting because they represent things I know relatively little about. Because of this requisite lack of knowledge, I’m drawn in, wanting more, abandoning the Netflix et al to dig out particulars from Wiki and Google after the show ends.

When I was young, it was Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom that turned my crank, documenting week after week, the exploits of things furred and feathered on the Savannah, Serengeti and in the Amazon to name a few heavy hitters. A few shows come to mind when looking back. Time lapse photography

Beautiful and deadly.
Beautiful and deadly.

charted the life and death of blossoms in one instance and funky caterpillers that napped under thick ice in another. Watching the little beasty reborn one spring after another was a lot to believe and yet, there it was. Likewise, the remarkable Cheetah, topping 93 miles per hour—but only to a maximum of two minutes—culminating in a killing, combining grace, elegance and gore in one fluid motion.

That I love animals (except arachnids; these freak me out) regardless of genus and species is given; that the comely Cheetah’s exploits drove me to the fridge to sate my hunger each and every time was the sum total of the guilty pleasure heretofore mentioned in paragraph one.

Which brings me to the McMillan Tac 50, a tapered long barrel of a .50 calibre sniper rifle so powerful as to be able to punch through concrete walls and take out three targets at once and at a distance of one mile or more. I had no idea.

“Come on,” my husband yelled from the top floor bedroom. “It’s sniper night on (the watchamacallit discovery-type channel, but not Discovery, I do not think *scratching head)”

Now before I’m lumped in with Michael Moore, who has every right to express his opinion, I want to tell you that I, too, have firearms experience. Although I haven’t seen American Sniper to which which my friend Gilda, a.k.a The Smartest Woman in the World (more on her later), gave a five star endorsement, I can appreciate the swirl of excitement both positive and negative that surrounds the film. Handling a firearm is overwhelming. Powerful, dangerous, it is also a precision instrument requiring careful cleaning and tending lest it jam and explode in the operator’s face.

Like many kids of my generation, it was not uncommon to take hold of Grandpa’s .22 calibre rim fire varmint rifle and shoot up spent pop cans off a rotted old log out back of the cottage. Though we’d never taken a firearms course and had never heard of things like PROOF and SAFE, the idea that we not point the thing at one another was kinda inherent. Likewise, the natural bracing that came with the squeeze of the trigger. To big shots, a .22’s recoil is laughable, but to a 12 year old it was real enough.

Which brings me back to the McMillan Tac 50. While I’ve never seen .50 calibre ammunition up close and for real, I could easily infer from the doc that these are mighty big buggers. As is the recoil. One user in the doc basically said that it’s not a weapon you enjoy being behind after 10 or 12 shots. I get that. I felt the same way after two weeks of night shifts at the funeral home. But it’s a job, and those who do it, do it because they want to. And so I was really surprised to learn that a Canadian sniper holds the record for long distance shoot to target: one and a half miles. I dont’ know what to make of such information other than to say that I’m intrigued.

Who invents weapons? Chemists? Genies? Engineers? Alchemists? Rocket scientists? Professor Snape? I’ll let you know, once I pry myself away from Wikipedia.

Adult, unapologetic and cognizant, I wish you good day. Let’s stay above it.

ABF

Photo Credits:

Tac 50 and Cheetah: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en Creative Commons Share Alike 3.0 Unported

The Unvarnished Interview

In the spirit of brave self-promotion, I continue today’s post (see Heuer Advance Review) with an interview given by yours truly to the ever intrepid Bernard Foong. It’s another first for me, and another reason to do a victory lap around the neighborhood (after I shovel the sidewalk), because self promotion goes against everything I was taught growing up. Careers in politics, the car business and funeral service notwithstanding, I have managed to stay under the wire…until now.
Heuer, Heuer. What have you done?
  1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

That’s always a bit tough for me. I was raised in another time where shouting out accomplishments was

An expression of the author's feelings through a doppelganger.
An expression of the author’s feelings through a doppelganger.

considered rude. But I’ll try. I’m a Pisces that celebrates the Year of the Snake, but unlike dear vain snake, work extremely hard not to be mendacious. (Laughs) I have a furtive imagination, love art in all its forms, and cannot live without music playing somewhere in the background. If forced to choose between comedy and drama, comedy wins…every time.

  1. What do you do when you are not writing?

That’s easy! I’m outside. Unlike you, dear friend, I live in the four seasons (hint of jealousy here) and have the coats, boots and sunscreen that goes with them. I have a large wild flower garden that I tend in summer, and a very long driveway I shovel in winter. And I love classic cars, particularly those from the muscle era. Summer and autumn are for road tripping to see the shows. I try to get to the Woodward Dream Cruise in Detroit, Michigan every other year.

For a car enthusiast, Woodward is the Holy Grail.
For a car enthusiast, Woodward is the Holy Grail.
  1. Do you have a day job as well?

Yes, although I am on hiatus and that has paid off, as you see (big grin). I’m a funeral director, licensed to practice in Ontario, Canada. For me, it ranks as one of the best jobs I’ve ever had next to seeing to my family.

  1. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

I began writing in 2010 in response to the loss of a dear friend. In funeral service, the families we serve ask how to cope with the pain. One way to manage is to seek out others—groups, counselors—those who have walked in their shoes and really know how it feels. Another approach is to write a grief journal. My friend and I went through school together, and during that time we became sympats where comedy was concerned. We laughed at the same things. It didn’t take long for my journal to take a comedic turn before straying off into outright fiction. I finished Heuer five years later.

  1. How did you choose the genre you write in?

The characters decided it for me. They are bossy, incorrigible and I completely adore them. They were impossible to ignore.

  1. Where do you get your ideas?

I put a foot out the door and live day to day. You wouldn’t believe the kind of trouble you can get into at the grocery store.

  1. Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Absolutely, but it’s more likely because another story or character is nagging at me. My first teacher called this popcorn writing, where you just push away from the current project and go on a tangent with a wild horse scene. It’s exciting and informs the other projects.

  1. Do you work with an outline, or just write?

I mull for about a year, and then churn out the first draft during NaNoWriMo in November. I don’t plot per

I do on occasion take walks through cemeteries.
I do on occasion take walks through cemeteries.

se, but I do know where I’m going before I begin. This is also where some of those popcorn scenes find a home. After the first draft is complete, I return to the previous project in line to revise and refine. It’s a whole system that works for me. You see why I had to go on hiatus?

  1. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

Absolutely everything Kurt Vonnegut ever wrote. From him and Dr. Seuss, I learned the value of having outrageous character names. My current fiction includes a hysteric named Sigrid Bork. I love her.

  1. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

I worried a lot about having one book followed by writer’s block to shut me down for good. So I decided to

Exteme excitement resulting in blurred vision.
Exteme excitement resulting in blurred vision.

get some manuscripts down—four to be precise—so that I’d have a body of work to play with when pitching to agents and publishers. The last four years were dedicated to pure creation without pressure to produce to a contract. It was sensational. During that time, I plugged into Twitter pitch parties on the recommendation of a writer friend, and that’s when things really started to happen. I queried, synopsized, wrote dozens of tag lines and met hundreds of amazing people who got me to Solstice Publishing. Now I have to learn about and engage in—boots first—marketing, which is very challenging because of the way I was raised (see question one). I’m enjoying Twitter parties and blogging. Frankly, I didn’t know I had it in me. A great surprise.

  1. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

Nope. It was all organic. I tripped, I fell, I studied, and I applied. I got better.

  1. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

It’s early in, so stats aren’t there, but I will direct a lot of applause to the writing groups I belong to—The Booklin 7, Writers Community of Durham Region, and amazing teachers at Writescape—for plugging me in with others dedicated to the same goals. Marketing is a learning curve and a steep one, so look to others engaged in the same activity; ask questions and try things on. Tweet, Tweet, Tweet. Blog, blog, blog, and follow your publisher and agent advice. Support other writers by reading their work, reviewing and attending their promotional events. If you want society to know about you, you must socialize.

  1. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?

I love them all, but can only dedicate my energies to one at a time. The others? Their day will come.

  1. Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

Heuer Lost and Found is adult, unapologetic and cognizant with a hint of dark humor. At 237 pages, it is a

Everything is sentient; everything is a potential character--at least where I'm coming from.
Everything is sentient; everything is a potential character–at least where I’m coming from.

compact study that rocks ’n’ rolls with the help of an erudite Latin speaking rat and a wise-cracking floor lamp with ulterior motives. They’re off beat and badly needed to help my protagonists: a dead, unrepentant cooze hound lawyer, and his very much alive boozy lady undertaker who he used to know back in the Eighties.

  1. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

I think all fiction is informed by real life experiences, but I have yet to meet sentient rats or floor lamps. (laughs) The funeral home in Heuer is actually a composite of four different establishments, none of which survives today. As to the characters, some guy buddies insist that they are Heuer, but they’re not. There’s actually a little of me in him, but I guess it’s to be expected if I’m the one behind the keyboard.

  1. What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

SPOILER: The very end, because it’s where the Kleenex box comes out. When that happened, I knew I’d got it right.

  1. How did you come up with the title?

From the short story. Heuer actually made it into three separate shorts before becoming a full-fledged novel character.

  1. What project are you working on now?

    POOR UNDERTAKER is the fourth in the series "Unapologetic Lives"
    POOR UNDERTAKER is the fourth in the series “Unapologetic Lives”

Poor Undertaker is next in the series, which tracks the ups and downs of the Weibigand Brothers funeral establishment. Its every bit as much a joy as the first, second and so on, because I see this remarkable building go through all its incantations. At one point, it’s actually bought up and is not a funeral parlor any more.

  1. Will you have a new book coming out soon?

We’re at least a year away, I think. Scooter Nation is next, but I’d like to give it another go over before setting it free.

  1. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?

Absolutely. My series is non sequential, so the character that dies in one is born again in the next. They’re

SCOOTER NATION is the second in the series and is definitely more Gonzo in nature.
SCOOTER NATION is the second in the series and is definitely more Gonzo in nature.

never far away. There are a number of themes I return to, but some of my favorites include: the negative impacts of nostalgia; the problem with prying; insular people coming out into the light; finding kindness in peculiar places; and letting go of that thing you need so that you can keep it forever.

  1. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

I’m an upbeat person, so if I’m criticized, I turn it into a plus by learning something from it. The best compliment I ever had came from a teacher who said my voice was “strong and unusual”. That really made my day.

  1. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Get it all down before trying to make sense of it. It’s a journey and often a very long one. Enjoy every leg of it knowing that there’s more just ahead.

  1. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Observe, listen, and do not ignore the excellence to be found on HBO, Netflix, Showcase, etc. This is your university.

Fin.