It is with tremendous joy that I announce my second novel SCOOTER NATION has been picked up by SUMMER SOLSTICE for release very, very soon. The second in my UNAPOLOGETIC LIVES series, SCOOTER picks up two years after HEUER LOST AND FOUND. This time, quirky undertakers Scooter Creighton and Carla Moretto Salinger Blue take center stage in a two front battle to take back their street from a marauding gang of scooter bound civil activists and a self absorbed fitness guru. I’d like to thank my amazing EIC Kc Sprayberry and Solstice CEO Melissa Miller for taking me on for another round. With this kind of validation, I can, quite possibly, write forever. Publishing love from this gonzo writer to one and to all. Happy Friday!!!!!
It’s with great pleasure that I welcome multi talented artist, author Gilli Allan to the blog. As her biography suggests, the road taken was not a direct one, yet it yielded amazing results. A woman after my own heart. Welcome Gilli.
Gilli Allan started to write in childhood, a hobby only abandoned when real life supplanted the fiction. Gilli didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge but, after just enough exam passes to squeak in, she attended Croydon Art College.
She didn’t work on any of the broadsheets, in publishing or television. Instead she was a shop assistant, a beauty consultant and a barmaid before landing her dream job as an illustrator in advertising. It was only when she was at home with her young son that Gilli began writing seriously. Her first two novels were quickly published, but when her publisher ceased to trade, Gilli went independent.
Over the years, Gilli has been a school governor, a contributor to local newspapers, and a driving force behind the community shop in her Gloucestershire village. Still a keen artist, she designs Christmas cards and has begun book illustration. Gilli is particularly delighted to have recently gained a new mainstream publisher – Accent Press. FLY OR FALL is the second book to be published in the three book deal.
FLY or FALL
Eleanor – known as Nell – thinks of herself as a wimp. Even though her life has not been easy, she clings to the safety of the familiar. Married young and dependent on her teacher husband’s wage, Nell has stayed at home, in Battersea, with her children and her increasingly invalid mother. Following the death of her mother the family’s fortunes suddenly change. Trevor, is wildly enthusiastic about their ‘move up in the world’; he plans to give up teaching and move house away from London. Nell, however, is gripped by a nebulous fear of some unknown disaster waiting to trip them all up, but her husband, steamrollers her objections.
Now in her early thirties, and living in an unfamiliar landscape away from old friends, Nell feels cast adrift. She is increasingly aware that Trevor is no longer the man she married, and their young teenage twins, Jonathan and Juliet, are grumpy and difficult. The women she meets, Felicity and Katherine, seem shallow and promiscuous. The new house is unwelcoming and needs modernisation; she’s thrust into a continuing chaos of rubble and renovation. Patrick, one of the men working for the building firm, is infamous as a local Lothario, but he doesn’t make a pass at her. At first she’s grateful – she’s not that kind of woman – but her feelings towards him grow increasingly confused and ambivalent.
When Nell takes a bar job at the local sports club, she is exposed to an overheated atmosphere of flirtation and gossip. Influenced by her new friends and the world in which she now moves, she begins to blossom and to take pleasure in the possibilities which seem to be opening up for her. She meets and forms a deeper friendship with the quirky, new-age Elizabeth, a very different character to her other friends. As Nell begins to enjoy herself and to become enthusiastic about her life, it seems her husband is on a downward trajectory, on the opposite end of a cosmic seesaw. When she is pursued by a beautiful and enigmatic young man, called Angel, she is tempted into behaviour she would never previously have imagined herself capable. The earthquake, felt as a tremor of apprehension at the start of the story, rumbles through her life and the lives of those around her. When the dust settles nothing is as she previously understood it.
FLY OR FALL follows the dismantling of all of Nell’s certainties, her preconceptions and her moral code. Unwelcome truths about her friends, her husband, her teenage children and even herself are revealed. Relationships are not what they seem. The hostility between brothers is exposed and finally explained. And the love that blossoms unexpectedly from the wreckage of her life is doomed, as she acknowledges the hair’s breadth between wishful thinking, self-deception and lies.
By the conclusion of FLY OR FALL everything has altered for Nell, the woman who doesn’t like change. But she has rebuilt herself as a different person, a braver person, and she has embarked with optimism on a totally transformed life, a life that offers the chance of love.
Deep into her book tour, Gilli took time to answer The Proustian Questionnaire…
What are your thoughts on muses and do you have one?
I don’t have an external muse as in an ideal or mythical individual who inspires me. In my understanding, the muse is more associated with visual artists or poets. But I will try to answer this by offering a fictional muse.
When I was fifteen I read Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. I can’t now say whether this confirmed in me a predilection I already had, or was the original spur to the direction of my writing. The main protagonist of the story, Rodion Raskolnikov, is an impoverished student with a Napoleon complex. Believing that greatness in an individual elevates him above the normal constraints of humanity, Raskolnikov murders a couple of unpleasant, money-lending old crones, partly to steal from them and partly to prove his theory. If he is great, he can do this without guilt or remorse. But extremes of guilt and remorse then pursue and torture him for the rest of the book.
I have never written about an axe wielding hero who feels impelled to prove his superiority in so drastic a fashion! But I have always been fascinated by the tortured or damaged hero. Over and over again I have given my main male protagonist guilt and pain from some unresolved misdeed or loss in his past. Raskolnikov has a lot to answer for.
Characters have a great capacity to love, yet they’re starved. Why do you think this happens in fiction and in real life?
A lot of people are self-defeating when it comes to love. I know I was when I was young. At heart I think I was frightened of a relationship with a real, flesh and blood man, so I only ever set my sights on men who were unavailable to me. They were either gay, already engaged or married, or were womanisers who already had a bevy of more sophisticated, glamorous and experienced girlfriends. Added to this, I only ever fell for men who were very attractive and, despite being asked, refused to go out with those who fell short of my ideal, so I further limited the options open to me.
In fiction it is far more interesting to follow characters who fail to find love until the final pages – to follow their ups and downs, and their travails. If they meet near the beginning of the book, realise they are in love and consummate their passion straight away, where is the story?
Without giving spoilers, would you say you’re a “happy ending” writer?
I already had two books mainstream published when I joined the Romantic Novelists Association (the British equivalent of the Romance Writers of America). The RNA is a broad church; it covers a very wide range of women’s fiction from historical, through category romance and chick-lit, to erotica. Even though the membership writes in a wide variety of different traditions, it is very clear that the great majority of readers – and writers – of romantic fiction prefer the ‘Happy Ever After’ resolution to a story. Readers can feel cheated, and even become angry (and leave bad reviews!) if they are disappointed.
When I started out, my understanding of all this was pretty close to zero, but I wanted to be published. In my first book, Just Before Dawn, I followed many of the tropes of romantic fiction – including the HEA. Because I found a publisher swiftly for that book, I blithely felt ‘let off the leash’ when I came to start my second novel. In Desires & Dreams I simply wrote the story that was unfolding in my imagination, and I’m afraid I killed off my hero. I still say there was no way he could have survived. To stay true to the story and the characters, he had to commit suicide. But it was not an entirely doom laden ending. There was the strong implication that my heroine would grow, and become more independent and proactive about the direction her life was taking. I still defend my belief that that book WAS a love story and, more importantly … my publisher loved it!
Since those days, and knowing what I now know, I have never been so cavalier. I do not write the flurry of confetti and wedding bells type of ending, and my stories might not resolve exactly as every reader wants them to, but they are upbeat and offer the chance of future happiness.
If you could dine with any historical figure living or dead, who would it be and why?
I write contemporary relationship fiction, but I’ve always been fascinated by Richard III. He would be my guest and I’d feed him a dose of truth drug in his dinner so that I could get the ‘once and for all’ low-down on what really happened to the princes in the Tower.
Past, present or future? Where does your mind dwell?
Although I have a good visual memory, my memory is poor for facts and figures, names and dates. I don’t dwell much in the past. I envy those who can call up the detail of past adventures, and match faces to the names of old schoolmates, teachers and colleagues. I recall the headline facts of my life and, of course, there are individuals who stand out, but I can’t relive past events in any detail. That is one aspect of ageing I’m quite looking forward to. I hope to be able to call up passages from my life that at the moment are lost to me, or are only an impressionistic blur.
I do sometimes worry that I wish my life away. I don’t absorb and enjoy ‘the now’ sufficiently.
So I have to admit that I am always thinking to the future. What if….? What next….? Supposing…?
What informs your writing most?
The best way I can answer you is to try and explain why I write what I write. When I first started down this road, I was driven by the desire to write the story I wanted to read. I was ten and ‘my book’, written in a small form notepad, copiously illustrated, was only a few pages long. In my teenage years YA books did not exist and writing the book I wanted to read was the driving force that continued to impel me.
Now I read across a range of genres and I can find lots of books I enjoy – but there is still a gap (fortunately a narrowing gap) in women’s fiction. I enjoy contemporary fiction with a developing love story at its heart, and this is what I write, but I need something broader and more involving than the central relationship. In my own writing I try to honestly reflect the world I live in. Relationships are not straightforward – there are problems and issues which can challenge the most committed relationship.
To paraphrase the original blurb from my book TORN, I like to face up to the complexities, messiness and absurdities in modern relationships. Life is not a fairy tale; it can be confusing and difficult. Sex is not always awesome; it can be awkward and embarrassing, and it has consequences. You don’t always fall for Mr Right, even if he falls for you. And realising you’re in love is not always good news.
In the Seventies, school kids were encouraged to think globally and act locally. Have you ever flirted with this philosophy?
I’m not much of a joiner and I can’t say I was particularly active in any way. I was aware very early of the ecological problems the world faces, and the over-use of the world’s resources. On the local level, I hate litter and have been known to pick it up when I’m on a walk and bring it home to dispose of. I’m tolerant and broadminded and hate religious, sexual or race prejudice. I stood with a crowd outside the South African embassy in London once, to protest against apartheid and wouldn’t buy South African produce. I supported Women’s Liberation but never actively campaigned for it.
Guilty pleasures: we all have them. What is yours?
When I was young my guilty pleasure was definitely pickles. Preferably pickled onions or the sour ‘cocktail’ type gherkins. And mustard pickle came in a close second behind those two. Pickles were a guilty pleasure because I would help myself to whatever was in the larder when I was at home on my own. I would even concoct what I called a pickle mess – a helping from every jar of pickles, sauces, vinegar, mayo and ketchup. Sounds revolting now, but I liked it.
Reading the books of Ethel M Dell – English Edwardian lady novelist, who is arguably the first ‘romance writer’. They are very very funny.
Through my young adulthood I was always trying to lose weight. I don’t have a very sweet tooth, but the moment I embarked on a diet I instantly craved doughnuts – all varieties – cream, jam, custard et al.
Now, I suppose, it is alcohol. I am always trying to drink a little less and feel vaguely guilty when I don’t stick to the new regime I’ve set myself.
Your greatest victory?
Having my son. I lost two babies before he arrived. So that was a momentous event, one I had to work at – a surgical intervention, a long period of hospitalisation and then living very quiet life.
Second to that is having the first novel I ever completed, published.
Tell us about the one that got away. Person, place or thing.
Different aspects of the ones that got away appear in every one of my books. More than that I’m not prepared to say.
What are some of the overriding themes in your work? Do you have a favorite?
I think this is answered in the above questions.
Who do you admire and why?
An impossible question. I could name so many, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Emily Pankhurst, but they all sound a bit pious. So I’m going to plump for my own ‘cockney’ grandmother, who we all called Nan. Louisa Jane Routley was a small woman, but she was feisty and she was determined; in other words, a force to be reckoned with.
Born into a working class family in the east end of London, she wasn’t from a totally impoverished background but she had a poor and humble beginning in life. She was her father’s only child; he died in the Boer war before her birth in 1899 and her mother then married his brother. Nan’s memories of her stepfather were of a man who became violent and abusive when drunk. She had several younger half brothers and sisters.
She was fourteen, when her eighteen year old boyfriend, Jim Kelsey, went to fight in WW1. He was fortunate to be wounded badly enough to be invalided home from the Somme, but not so badly he didn’t make a full recovery. After recuperating, he spent the rest of the war in Ireland. They married and doubtless at her instigation, my grandfather (Pops) joined the Post Office – a respectable white collar job. This was the beginning of their move up in the world. They married and had two daughters – the eldest, my mother – and moved house twice, to finally settle in the respectable outer London suburb of Orpington. She was the only one from her generation in the family, to manage this step up out of the class she’d been born into.
Nan’s incredible drive, energy and ambition were something to admire. Her house was always spotless. Pops loved his garden, and Nan cooked, pickled, bottled and made jam. My salivary glands still respond when I think of her steak and kidney pudding and her apple pie. She was widowed when she was only in her 60s. Although devastated by the death of her quiet, kind, and dependable husband, she went on to live another 35 years, until she was nearly 104, still in possession of her faculties and of her fiery and indomitable spirit.
Are writers fully formed works of art or works in progress?
Definitely works in progress, I also believe that writers are born not made. In my view, having been put on this earth with the impulse to write is not the same as being a good writer. You may have the embryonic instincts and drive to tell stories, but you have to work at your craft. I know I am an immeasurably better writer now than I was when I had my first book published.
For more Gilli, check out her LINKS:
If you want it, I’m including the link to
TORN MyBook.to/gilliallansTORN (universal) or
FLY OR FALL- myBook.to/GilliAllan (universal)
Brad Flynn had a rough start to life. With an abusive father and an addiction problem, his life hasn’t been easy. He has always been the resident bad ass and the town drunk. Even when he gets sober and becomes an upstanding member of the community it doesn’t seem to change the town’s mind about him. If it weren’t for his two brothers he would have no one.
His past doesn’t make having a love life easy either, but when he meets Kendrick Ashby, the local bar own, he wants to give it a try. The only problem is Kendrick has his own problems, ones that make having a violent boyfriend impossible. Both have to decide if dating is even worth a try.
Kendrick didn’t even bother to knock on the door. He just walked into the house like he owned the place. Caden looked up at him from his seat on the couch with raised eyebrows, but didn’t say a word about him barging into a house that wasn’t his. It was almost as if Caden expected him just to walk in, which was weird.
“Oh good, you’re here. I have some ribs I need you to show me how to cook,” Caden said.
“Okay. But where’s your brother?”
“Luis isn’t home from work yet.” Caden grinned at him.
Kendrick glared. “Smartass. I meant you’re older brother.”
“Luis is my older brother.”
“Caden.” Kendrick took a step closer to him.
Caden chuckled with delight. “God, you’re so touchy. It’s going to be fun having you around.”
“Don’t forget. You need my help with those ribs.”
“Fine. He’s in the shower.”
Kendrick walked down the hall and knocked on the bathroom door when he came to it.
“Come in. Again. You pee more than anyone I know, boy.”
Kendrick sat on the closed toilet seat and gathered up his courage to speak. The fact that Brad was okay was a relief. For some insane reason Kendrick couldn’t understand, he really thought Brad was going to hurt himself. Beyond sounding annoyed with Caden—who could blame Brad—he was unharmed. Kendrick sighed and silently thanked God for that fact.
“I don’t like being hung up on,” He finally said, because that was annoying. If this relationship was going to work then he really needed to be more assertive.
Something crashed down on the tub floor. It sounded like a shampoo or conditioner bottle. “Ouch. Shit.” Brad said.
“Are you okay?”
“Fine. What are you doing here?” Brad said, sounding even more irritated and surly.
“I wanted to make sure you’re okay.”
“I’m just fine. Can I have a shower by myself now?”
Okay that was it. Kendrick had enough with the attitude. Kendrick quickly stripped off his clothes and pulled back the shower curtain. He stepped in behind Brad. Brad whipped around when Kendrick entered. “No. You can’t.”
“Jesus Christ, Kendrick.”
About the Author
April lives with her husband and two kids in Southwest Michigan. She has been an avid reader for several years. Writing her first story at the age of ten, the characters in her head still won’t stop telling their stories. If April isn’t reading or writing she can be found outside playing with the animals or taking a long walk in the woods.
Email : email@example.com
Website : http://authoraprilkelley.com
Best of luck to April Kelley in her endeavours. Stop by anytime.
In support of HEUER LOST AND FOUND releasing on April 23 on all Amazons, Bookgoodies, Solstice Publishing and wherever else Createspace is sending it, I will be popping in on fellow authors through to May 18 (with weekends off—I need my beauty sleep!) Here’s the roster for week one. Feel free to stop by.
Monday, April 20
Interview and Review with Shyla Wolff, Shyla Wolff’s Thoughs
Tuesday, April 21 Guest Post with Rachael Stapleton, The Mysterious Ink Spot
Wednesday, April 22, Spotlight with Saph’s Book Blog
Thursday, April 23, Guest Post with Mythical Books
Friday, April 24, Interview with Eclipse Reviews
Covering off the home desk www.abfunkhauser.com while I’m away are some amazing guest authors who will be answering a Proustian questionnaire of my own design as well as showcasing their latest projects, blogs, interviews and more. Check them out. First up, John DeBoer, author, medical doctor and duffer (that’s golfer for those of you not in the know). Welcome, John.
Biography: John DeBoer
After graduating from the University of Vermont College of Medicine, John L. DeBoer, M.D., F.A.C.S. completed a surgical residency in the U.S. Army and then spent three years in the Medical Corps as a general surgeon. Thirty years of private practice later, he retired to begin a new career as a writer.
When not creating new plot lines for his novels, Dr. DeBoer pursues his interests in cooking, films and film history, politics, and the amazing cosmos. Though he’s an avid tennis player, his yet-to-be-fulfilled goal is to achieve a level of mediocrity in the frustrating game of golf.
The father of two grown sons, he lives with his wife in North Carolina.
Get more John DeBoer this coming Monday, April 20 http://www.abfunkhauser.com
It was with great pleasure that I appeared recently on fellow Solstice author Malay Upadhyay’s blog AUTHORZ & CHARACTERZ in support of the upcoming release of HEUER LOST AND FOUND. You may recall that Malay was featured here recently to promote his work Kalki Evian: The Ring of Khaoriphea. Like yours truly, Malay has no problem whatever assigning qualities magical and mystical to humble creatures. In that spirit, he endeavoured to interview me IN CHARACTER; in this case as the incomparable Rat, whose influence in Heuer’s funeral parlor exceeds what one might normally expect. Reproduced today…
Interview with A. B. Funkhauser
Hallo, guyz! Today we are going to teeter around a deathly zone – a fine line between thiz and that world. Az our ezteemed guide, we have A. B. Funkhauser, a funeral director cum wildlife and clazzic car enthuziazt from Ontario, Canada.
Zhe takez uz through her debut novel, Heuer Lost And Found – which combinez Adult, Paranormal and Dark Humor in a fiction – az a rather unexpected creature.
Fly: Welcome, Mz. Funkhauser. I zee you are in a different mold today.
AB: You bet, Fly. Rats have a nasty reputation, but there’s more to me than good looks and an above average competency in Latin. We are clean, clever and very friendly, which is why my life and death in HEUER LOST AND FOUND is celebrated favourably by most of the characters.
Fly: That’z awesome! If it’s any support, flies get a bad rap too. But here we are in a funeral parlor. What’s new?
Rat: Silent. More than usual. The guys – Enid and her manager, Charlie – are trying to make ends meet because deaths have been few and that has robbed them of their payroll! Heuer’s death, while hard on Enid, was the first death call in weeks. He really saves the day.
Fly: I find a zcary zenze of irony in all this! But let’z talk about the novel. Heuer Lost & Found beginz with the death of Jürgen Heuer. How did your alter ego come by that idea?
Rat: It was in the winter of 2010, and after a long day at the funeral home she looked down the long hall joining the director’s office to the back door leading three steps up and out into the parking lot. The back door on the cover is a more than accurate representation of it. It’s from a real funeral home, you know? Anyway, a thought occurred to her at that moment: What if a slightly life-challenged mortician tripped over her man shoes and landed squarely on her posterior, only to learn that someone she once knew and cared about had died, and that she was next on the staff roster to care for his remains? Freaky, no? But there it is Ad infinitum
Fly: Tell uz about Heuer?
Rat: Beyond a word rhyming with “lawyer,” Heuer the lawyer is a very conflicted man. Intensely private, he craves recognition, but doesn’t want anyone to get too close. When he finds my shattered body on the floor of the Wisteria Slumber Room, he approaches, commenting on the exceptional beauty of my fur. At that moment, he recognizes beauty in an unlikely thing. I found this particularly charming about him. I must confess, however, to being more than a little put out when he confronts my murderer. I had great hopes for moral redress; instead, he takes pity and tries to help her. What can I say? Ecce homo.
Fly: That’z exciting. Where can the readerz get accezz to theze?
Rat: Through Amazon.com .ca .co.uk Bookgoodies and the publisher www.solsticepublishing.com. Here are some buy links:
Buy Link (United States)
Buy Link International (Country specific Amazon sites)
Book Goodies: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00V6KLAMA
Direct buy presale link (United States): http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&field-author=A.B.%20Funkhauser&search-alias=digital-text&sort=relevancerank
Also, information will be posted as it becomes available on her website www.abfunkhauser.com and her author page on Facebook www.facebook.com/heuerlostandfound. I believe she posted a most excellent profile of your alter ego there, Fly. (laughs)
Fly: Zome inspiration that. What would you zay haz inzpired A.B. Funkhauser in real life?
Rat: She has an amazing support group—her family, her writer’s group The Brooklin 7, and pretty well everyone she comes into contact with, from friends at the grocery store and local coffee house to the lady who helps her with her printing at Staples. She also maintains close connections to friends and work colleagues in funeral service, a business I must say that can easily be misunderstood with little effort. She believes in the work, and through writing has tried to shine a light on it.
Fly: And any author or artizt can vouch for how important thoze things are. Working as a funeral director, what iz Mz. Funkhauser’z take on life?
Rat: Like most funeral directors, she is governed by a strong sense of altruism fueled by the belief that life chooses us and we not it. She celebrates it daily, from simple chores to writing new chapters. And she loves the outdoors. It’s been a long winter here in Canada. She needs to get outside and roam.
Fly: In the ztory, we have Enid on one zide, who lozez zomeone important to her – Heuer – without a chance to zay a final goodbye. On the other zide, we have Heuer whose ztory, and in zome way, life itself unfoldz after hiz death. In a zingle ztroke, you introduce uz readerz to both our greatezt fear and our greatezt wizh!
Take uz through thiz experience with regardz to getting zecond chancez in life. Which perzpective would you zay you lean more towards in real life?
Rat: The first thing Funkhauser got rid of after her thirtieth birthday was the idea that all she had in front of her was second chances. She decided instead to roll with the idea that it’s all a continuum…good days, bad days, successes and failures. She refuses to see the end. She sees the next day and all the promise that comes with it. On a micro level, if she suffers less than three disappointments in a day, it’s been a pretty amazing day!
The character Heuer in life goes through the motions of working and acquiring “stuff”. His house is literally packed to the ceiling with ‘treasures’ signifying a life in progress. But there is no real human contact. He avoids his neighbors wherever possible, does not have a spouse or significant other, and lives through what he sees on the television and in old photos. After death, being found is prime to him because his objects can’t call for help, and there is no one out there looking for him.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Enid. She has done everything her society expects of her: she has a career, a spouse, family, friends and hobbies. But her life is changing. Her eyesight is blurred; her step, less sure footed. “There is unfinished business here,” Heuer says, and it’s to that business that the book turns; so not so much a second chance, but a recognition that the drama and comedy are still continuing.
Fly: That anomaly iz a work of art! I have to bring up a literal one at thiz point, though – The Lamp. Very much living, myzteriouz and absolutely fascinating! Care to introduce uz to it?
The Lamp embodies the spirit of the funeral home matriarch who died decades before. Anchored to the floor by her griffin’s feet, she can travel in the minds of others, but cannot leave her place in the dusty, cramped funeral home basement. There is a parallel here; that her domicile closely resembles Heuer’s and that their predicaments are similar. It was inevitable that the two should become allies, although their relationship is a strained one.
Fly: And you embody one of them?
More Heuer, I think. As I said earlier, rats have a bad rap owing to history and human malfeasance. The same is true for Heuer. He carries with him the sins of his father. Just by being born, he is convinced that he is bad, and rather than try to overcome it, he embraces it in his twenties. The tragedy for him is that his life is a lie and all the angst that ruled him in life was completely without merit.
Fly: Alright, don’t say anymore! I can barely control my urge to flip through the pagez right till the very end. When doez the book come out?
Rat: It hits all the AMAZONS April 23, 2015. Presales began March 26, 2015.
Fly: Time to mark our calendarz then. For now, we make do with the preview. Thank you, dear Rat, for your attendance today.
Rat: You can call me ‘The’. That’s my first name.
Rat: (laughs) That’s my point, dear friend. You and I share the same hang-ups. Of course we’d align. Amicitiae nostrae memoriam spero sempiternam fore.
Fly: The Fly, mind you. It’s time to get out of the funeral parlour! And to all the readerz, enjoy the excerpt from Heuer’z pozthumouz world!
AN EXCERPT FEATURING “RAT”
Rat should have seen it coming. He was a rat after all and therefore genetically predisposed to a shorter life. As such, he should have taken better care. But tender concern for his friend obscured his view, and this deprived him of a rodent’s perfunctory need to avoid detection.
Mrs. Emmy Shawson-Cooke-With-An-”E” late of The Springs by way of Baycon Hill had died quietly in her bed in her ninety-sixth year. Owing to her advanced age, her family decided that a little-more-than-this-side-of-nothing was required to get her on her way as quickly as possible. To that, arrangements were concluded between Teddy Shawson-Cooke-With-An-”E,” her great nephew and heir, and Charles Emerson Forsythe, funeral director extraordinaire.
“I’m very sad to hear of your great aunt’s passing,” Charlie said somberly, for he liked Emmy very much. A wealthy woman, she was a doyen, a neighborhood fixture, raising funds for world wild life, Christian children and Ethiopian famine relief. But she was more than just money. At the heart of her was a genuinely good human being who said what she meant, and acted on her commitments. In the early years, she was a constant fixture at Weibigand’s, resplendent in a magnificent suite of emeralds that Charlie never tired of commenting upon. “I bring in the business, don’t I Charlie?” she would say through cherry lips under a pillbox hat. Indeed she did, and Charlie encouraged her familiarity. Both shared a special bond. Even after her (some said) forced relocation to the nursing home in The Springs, she never failed to fire off emails to her Charlie to make sure he was okay. And Charlie always visited her on her birthday and at Christmas.
Emeralds? Rat was barely two years old and so had never met Emmy Shawson-Cooke. But he knew well enough about gemstones and other things too, and so it was to this that he turned his attention as he repositioned himself inside Charlie’s monk strap Prada slip on. They were in the front office, Rat’s favorite room by far. It faced the street, was pleasantly lit, and with its high coffered ceiling, offered stunning acoustical advantages. Charlie was reminiscing with Teddy about the gemstones: They sparkled blue at their centers, spanning outward only to be confined devilishly in beveled frames of seawater green. Spectacular—like the Bering Strait meeting the Caribbean Sea. Emmy’s late husband Cecil joked that they could shame Tsars and tease laughs from stone.
“I beg your pardon,” Charlie said noticing Rat beneath him. It was Charlie’s habit to remove his shoes in mid-afternoon to promote better circulation, but they were in the way now under the large desk and he took care not to disturb the Weibigand mascot as he moved the shoes off to one side.
Teddy Shawson-Cooke shifted from haunch to haunch, his incredible heft straining the pound for pound capacity of the Faux Toscano Victorian Rococo wing chair he was sitting on. Forsythe, sensing the man’s discomfort, did his best to speed up the meeting. Emmy had prearranged her funeral and Teddy was undoing as much of it as he could because, he said, “there was no one left” and “doing her up for nothing was just plain stupid.” Truth was, Teddy had the power to add the money saved from a cheapo funeral to his aunt’s estate, from which he could pay himself as executor.
Charlie smiled down at Rat who, in an act of implicit trust, dozed off in his shoe.
“Allow me, if you will, to think out loud,” Charlie said, in anticipation of what Teddy wanted to serve up next. If the meeting went on much longer, Emmy’s casket choice would be undone too and no one at Weibigand’s—Charlie most all—could bear to put Emmy into anything less than the mahogany she’d paid for years before. “Your great aunt put her faith in us to carry out her wishes. I understand where you are coming from, but I must insist on the single night of visiting she paid for.”
Shawson-Cooke, in saying nothing, red-flagged Charlie, and he picked up speed. “Now the emerald suite. I trust she will be wearing it, as always?” Teddy replied that it was “long gone” save for the ring which, he hoped, “found its way out of the nursing home before someone else got to it.”
Down on the floor below, Rat dreamed of Carla and, more particularly, her less than utterly no-good spouse Danny Blue—a musician in a band that had, in the space of two years, eroded the family fortune on protracted road trips through northern Canada. Designed to boost the band’s profile and hopefully springboard them into other gigs in Manitoba, the latest tour had bogged down south of Parry Sound and Danny Blue had forgot to come home. The issue at hand was money. Plain and simple. And in dreams, Rat searched for a solution.
Thank you Malay for your kind hospitality. All the best to you and much success for Kalki Evian.
“Come with me, and I will show you worlds.”
At last, HEUER LOST AND FOUND is ready to go with presales beginning March 26 to the launch on April 23rd on Amazon. It’s been a long, exciting journey marked with encouragement and a lot of learning. I’ve made so many friends along the way, so much so that I owe this space and the people that help fill it a special nod all their own. In the coming days, I’ll be talking up my ladies in the Brooklin 7, my incredible sister and authorly inspiration Cryssa Bazos, and long time friends Gilda Heinrich Rousseau and Suzanne Fairbrass Stacey. I will also pay homage to the crew at the Wine Rack, the guys on the Canadian Poncho Car site, and the amazing staff at the Pickering Metro; all of whom make stepping out the door an adventure. Thank you. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Solstice Publishing, it’s staff—who are also writers—and the amazing authors I’ve grown close to as a member of the Solstice Family. All in due time. Today, is for every person I’ve spoken to who expressed interest in HEUER LOST AND FOUND. I owe you an excerpt.
Two Weeks Ago
The house, like the man who lived in it, was remarkable: a 1950s clapboard-brick number with a metal garage door that needed serious painting. Likewise, the windows, which had been replaced once in the Seventies under some home improvement program, then never again. They were wooden and they were cracked, allowing wasps and other insects inside.
This was of little consequence to him.
The neighbors, whom Heuer prodigiously ignored, would stare at the place. Greek, Italian, and house proud, they found the man’s disdain for his own home objectionable. He could see it on their faces when he looked out at them through dirty windows.
To hell with them.
If the neighbors disapproved of the moss green roof with its tar shingles that habitually blew off, then let them replace it. Money didn’t fall from the sky and if it did, he wouldn’t spend it on improvements to please strangers.
They were insects.
And yet there were times when Jürgen Heuer was forced to compromise. Money, he learned, could solve just about anything. But not where the willful and the pernicious were concerned. These, once singled out, required special attention.
Alfons Vermiglia, the Genovese neighbor next door, had taken great offense to his acacia tree, a towering twenty-five foot behemoth that had grown from a cutting given to him by a lodge brother. The acacia was esteemed in Masonic lore appearing often in ritual, rendering it so much more than just mere tree. In practical terms, it provided relief, offering shade on hot days to the little things beneath it. And it bloomed semi-annually, whimsically releasing a preponderance of white petals that carried on the wind mystical scent—the same found in sacred incense and parfums.
It was a dirty son of a bitch of a tree that dropped its leaves continuously from spring to fall, shedding tiny branches from its diffident margins. These were covered in nasty little thorns that damaged vinyl pool liners and soft feet alike. They also did a pretty amazing job of clogging Alfons’ pool filter, turning his twenty-five hundred gallon toy pool green overnight.
This chemistry compromised the neighbor’s pleasure and it heightened his passions, blinding Alfons to the true nature of his enemy. He crossed over onto Heuer’s property and drove copper nails into the root system. It was an old trick, Byzantine in its treachery; the copper would kill the tree slowly over time leading no one to suspect foul play.
The acacia recovered and Alfons said nothing. Heuer planted aralia—the “Devil’s Walking Stick”—along the fence line and this served as an even thornier reminder that he knew. And if there was any doubt at all, he went further by coating his neighbor’s corkscrew hazel with a generous dose of Wipe Out.
Intrusive neighbors and their misplaced curiosities were, by turns, annoying and amusing and their interest, though unwanted, did not go unappreciated. The Greeks on the other side of him weren’t combative in the least and they offered gardening advice whenever they caught him out of doors. The man, Panos, talked politics and cars, and expressed interest in the vehicle that sat shrouded and silent on Heuer’s driveway. He spoke long and colorfully about the glory days of Detroit muscle cars and how it all got bungled and bargained away.
“They sacrificed an industry to please a bunch of big mouths in Hollywood,” Panos would rant in complete disregard for history: Al Gore and Global Warming didn’t kill the GTO; the OPEC oil crisis did. But there was no point in telling him that.
Panos was an armchair car guy and incurable conspiracy theorist. He also kept to his side of the fence, unlike his wife, Stavroula, who was driven by natural instinct. Not content to leave an unmarried man alone, she routinely crossed Heuer’s weedy lawn, banging on the door with offers of food and a good housecleaning.
Heuer had no trouble accepting her cooking. But he declined her brush and broom. Was it kindness, or was she trying to see inside? He suspected the latter.
No one was ever seen entering Heuer’s house and while this piqued public interest, he never gave in, not even to those who were kind to him. He liked Panos and Stavroula and he regretted poisoning their cat.
But not enough to let them in to his home.
Others on the street had less contact with him. Canvassers at election time would disturb him, in spite of the lawn sign warning the solicitous away. That this didn’t apply to neighbor kids brave enough to pedal cookies and magazine subscriptions in spite of the sign, was a testament, perhaps, to some residual soft spot in his heart that endured.
Even so, he knew that people talked about him and, frankly, he had trouble accounting for their fascination. Short, curt, bespectacled, he courted an ethos that favored enforced detachment. When people got close enough to hear him speak, they detected a trace of an accent. Now faded after years of U.S. residency, his speech still bore the unmistakable patterns of someone undeniably foreign. Elaborate, overwrought and heavy on the adverbs, he spoke very much like his neighbors. Yet the distance between them was incalculable…
Day 1: Post Mortem
Heuer shook his head, finding it especially odd that he would think of such things at this particular moment. The circumstances, after all, were beyond peculiar. Coming out of thick, dense fog, standing upright, looking wildly around, and having difficulty comprehending, the last thing that should trouble him was human relations.
The man on the floor would have agreed, had he not lacked the resources to speak.
Heuer canvassed his surroundings. The room, still dark, the shades drawn, and the plants Stavroula forced on him, wilted and dry, bespoke of an unqualified sadness. His computer, left on and unattended, buzzed pointlessly in the corner, its screen saver, a multi-colored Spirograph montage, interspersed with translucent images of faceless Bond girls, twisting ad infinitum for an audience of none.
The bottle of Johnnie Black lay open and empty on the bedroom floor, along with a pack of Marlboro’s, gifts from an old friend. The desk chair lay on its side, toppled, in keeping with the rest of the room. His bed sheets were twisted, the pillows on the floor, and there were stains on the walls; strange residues deposited over time representing neglect and a desire to tell.
He looked down at his hands. They kept changing; the veins, wavy, rose and fell like pots of worms.
There was no evidence of eating, however, and this was really weird, for it was in this room that Heuer lived. Flat screens, mounted on the ceiling and on the desktop, kept him in line with the world outside in ways that papers could not. Screens blasted twenty-four and seven with their talking heads and CNN, whereas papers were flat and dirty, suitable only for the bottoms of bird cages. He cancelled the dailies first and then the weeklies, seeing no value whatever in printed words.
Pictures were another matter. Several in paint and charcoal and sepia covered the walls and floors. He loved them all, and he stared at them for hours when he pondered. His beer fridge, humidor, and model rocket collection completed him; housing the things he loved, all within perfect reach.
His senses, though dulled, honed in on a scent, distant yet familiar, coming from inside the room. It was bog-like-foul like a place he’d visited long ago, buried under wood ash. He frowned.
What was the last thing he ate? Did he cook or go for takeout? He wanted to go down to the kitchen to check, but found, to his astonishment, that he could not get past the doorframe into the outer hall.
Nein, das kann nicht sein!—Now this is not right!—he fumed, switching to German. He would do this whenever he encountered static. The spit and sharp of it forced people back because they could not understand what he meant.
Unballing his fists he felt his chest, registering the sensation of “feel”—he could feel “touch,” but he could not locate the beating heart. Consciously knitting his brows, he considered other bodily wants, his legal mind checking and balancing the laws of nature against the laws of the impossible. He could not, for example, feel “hunger” and he wasn’t dying for a drink either.
Was this a mark of passage into the nether? The man on the floor had no comment.
He thought about his bowels and if they needed attention, but that, to his great relief, no longer appeared to matter. Regularity, in recent years, wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. When he was young, he reveled in a good clean out after the morning coffee because it reset his clock and established the tone for the rest of the day. Not so latterly. His prostate had kept its promise, letting him down, enlarging, pressing where it ought naught. Awake most nights, he lost sleep and dreams.
With this in mind, he bounced up and down on the soles of his expensive shoes in an effort to confirm if he was awake or not. Perhaps he was sleepwalking, or heading off to the can for another urinary evacuation that wouldn’t come?
The man on the floor ruled out these options.
He tried the door again, and again, to his dismay, he could not leave.
What to do? What to do?
‘I think, therefore I am,’ went the popular saying, but what good was ‘being’ when one was confined to a bedroom like a rat in a cage?
He struggled to remain calm, just as he became aware of that heavy oppressive feeling one gets before receiving bad news. Pacing back and forth across the ancient floorboards in the house he was born into, he checked for the kinds of incriminating evidence the court of public opinion would hold against him once found. Pornography, loaded handguns, too many candy wrappers all had to be dispatched before someone inevitably broke the door down.
As light turned to dark and day gave over into night, Heuer’s thoughts came faster and faster, in different languages, interspersed with corrugated images, accompanied by generous doses of Seventies rock; a fitting sound track for the old life, now ended.
He fell to his knees. Somewhere in this mélange was something to be grateful for and with time, he was sure, he would figure out what that single, great, thing might be. For now, all he could really do was take comfort in the fact that his death had been perfect.
See the first trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3beUBWf2CQ
Definitely see the NEW ONE
Interview Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2yhaXfh-ns
Interview Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoPthI1Hvmo
Book Goodies: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00V6KLAMA
Thank you. 🙂
The nascent author discusses funeral parloring, Six Feet Under, lasting friendships and never looking back in part 2 of her first ever radio interview for 102.7 FM Whistle Radio Stouffville. Woot! Woot!
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?
- 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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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?
- 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.
- 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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- What project are you working on now?
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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
My friend and fellow Solstice author Rocky Rochford reminds me of my dear Doctor Who. Curious, excited and always WORKING. His latest, The Devil You Know, now available on Amazon, details one curious con’s face to face with the devil incarnate and the consequences this provokes.
Ladies and Gents: Rocky Rochford.
Greetings to one and all, my name is Rocky Rochford, writer, poet, scuba diver and sword collector, among other things. As I have been so kindly given the space to talk about myself and my works, let’s get to it.
Scuba Diving, Photo taking, Adventure Seeking, Sword Collecting, Writer & Marine Conservationist. That’s me. I’m a handful of years into my twenties, but after living life on the road, going town to town before finally settling down, I’ve gained great insight into the world and her workings. From Day 1 I have been a Writer and a Writer I shall forever remain.
I like to consider myself to be a Student of Everything, and yet a Master of Nothing, who does not
choose what he writes, but writes what chooses him, be it fantasy, crime, poetry, philosophy or even adventure. After all life is a journey we all get to experience, just like a good book.
Every read of one of my typed works, is another trip into the imagination of my mixed up, crazed and deranged mind. Welcome to the World of Rochford.
And just one of those works happens to be my newly released “The Devil You Know,” an 8 Chapter long ebook to introduce you to a conman who gets an offer he can’t refuse, one that would see him return in the full length novel “The Devil You Don’t.”
The Blurb reads a little like this:
Meet a conman who always carefully chooses his marks. Then one day he discovers that he’s been someone else’s mark, and not just for a little while, but his whole life. Think you know the Devil? You don’t know Jack.
And if that’s got your taste-buds waging, allow me to hit you with an excerpt:
I’ll never forget the day my life changed, never to be the same again, the day I met him. I knew it was him the second he walked into the bar. I didn’t need to see those yellow eyes of his, or to notice the curve of his mouth as he smiled gladly upon the mere sight of me. Out of all the bars in the world and the Devil walked into mine.
“Shit” was the word that came to mind.
The Devil You Know released on Amazon and www.solsticepublishing.com on the 30th of January and is available on every version of Amazon, so what are you waiting for and pick up your very on copy of a devilishly good tale.
My personal Website: rockyrochford.wordpress.com
And of course links to my works (listed from oldest to latest). Quick little thing I should mention, I am an author of many genres, I’ve recently released a Poetry Collection. I have written a number of short stories, both stand-alone pieces and part of a continuing series. As far as genres go, I write Fantasy, Adventure, Thriller, Psychological Thrillers, Espionage, YA & Supernatural:
Phoenix Rises – a Deep Water novel: (Full length novel)
The Spirit of Iris – Part of the Rise of the Elohim Chronicles: (Full length novel)
Dead on the Floor – Part of the Entwined Saga: (Short Story)
Hour of Darkness – Part of the Rise of the Elohim Chronicles: (Short Story)
Don’t Turn Around – A short tale about Murder: (Short story)
The First Glance – Part of the Entwined Saga: (Short Story)
Little Boy Death The Life of: (Poetry Collection):
I Watched Her Die – Part of the Entwined Saga: (Short Story)
Burning For You – Part of the Entwined Saga: (Short Story)
Save Her – Part of the Entwined Saga: (Short Story)
The Devil You Know: (Short Story)
Link coming soon
A quick thank you to our kind and lovely host and to you, the readers, for putting up with me. Till next time.
Kind and lovely host thanks you, Sir Roch. Keep writing, sir.