Moonlight Author’s Mystic Mysteries

Memorable Characters

Unforgettable

I’ve been a voracious reader since I learned to read. Picking through all the stories to find my favorite hero or heroine is not going to be easy. For one thing, my memory is shot! In spite of that, there are a few who stick out in my mind over the years and they are familiar and probably typical. (smiley face) The four are my favorite reads of all times.

Olan – The Good Earth by Pearl Buck

The nameless bride in Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Jo in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Corinne in We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates

There is something about each character that effected me and not always positively. In The Good Earth, the abused, unattractive servant Olan is given to poor farmer, Wang Lung as his bride. Buck described her as plodding and dumb, and then from time to time glimpses of a different Olan peeked through.  I wished she’d been given the opportunity on more than a handful of occasions to show her true intelligence and cunning. Brutal though it was to read, killing her newborn when Olan knew her chances of survival were slim during the famine was the act of a desperate mother who was able to plan. Or when they fled to the city, she taught her sons to beg to survive. Finally stealing the handful of jewels from the hiding place in the wall of the palace opened the door for her husband to acquire abundant wealth in his lifetime.

What can I say about my number one favorite, Rebecca? We know right away that a book titled with the late wife’s name but leaving the new wife unnamed that she’d better get the hell out of there. The poor, unattractive girl who had the misfortune of  catching the eye of the rich Max DeWinter! That life of regimentation and judgment! I don’t care how rich and handsome the guy was, he was a creep. I’d like to rewrite it where she runs from Manderley, or when Mrs. Danvers talks down to her like a dog her husband steps in and fires her.

I still have my first copy of Little Women, a cheap hardcover I bought for myself with saved up allowance from the dime store, and it’s marked up with my childish cursive. Jo was an enigma, even to me as an eight year old girl. I knew there was something about her that should have precluded marriage to the aging professor. It was creepy! Jo was a victim of her times. She should have been free to go to the city, become a best selling author, and find a female lover and partner.

Corinne Mulvaney still haunts me. I blame her for the eventual demise of her family. I cried, “fight, woman, fight for your family!” I don’t remember enough to explain why it had that effect on me, and I don’t to reread it. That book ruined a vacation for me. It was the best, saddest, most compelling, maddening novel I have ever read.

In my book, Pam of Babylon, readers either hate Pam for her passive acceptance, or love her, finding those qualities admirable.  When I wrote it, the first thing that came to me was the scene in which she embraces her late husband’s beautiful mistress who saw his body before Pam did. Lol! Eighteen novels later, she’s finally finding her voice. Will the answer be yes or no?

Tomorrow, September 25th, is release day of my new romantic suspense novel, Esmeralda’s Happy Time Cabin for Lost Hikers. Kelly and Jeff Fairchild live a charmed life in their renovated Victorian mansion in the Jersey suburbs. Wall Street traders with a golden touch, they plan their vacations with the same detail and finesse used with their deals on Wall Street.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               The next big outing is a hiking trip on an island in the Canadian Muskoka. Everything is perfection, from the brand name of their hiking boots, to their silk long johns. Nothing can go wrong, right?

 

Moonlight Author's Mystic Mysteries

Pogo—My Hero and My Favorite Possum

Hoo boy, this topic is a tough one for a bookie (that’s a foodie, only for books). Favorite hero? I love the strong, silent types like Henry Fonda or Armand de Montegue  in my Caribbean adventure, Whirlwind Romance, and the snarky, smart types like my hero Rancor Bass in The Pit and the Passion or Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. I love heroes who are really competent, the best of the best—the ones you can count on, like Bruce Willis in the movie Red, or Ian Fleming’s James Bond, or Gideon Bliss in The Mason’s Mark.  I love those who are hard to reach, like Griffin Tate in the Penhallow Train Incident, or John Galt of Atlas Shrugged. Smoldering, brilliant, gruff.

Then there are the diffident, funny, introspective types. Jimmy Stewart in Harvey or…Pogo.

So…I’m going to have to go with Pogo as my favorite fictional hero.

Pogo is a cartoon character created by Walt Kelly in the 1940s. It was first published in 1948 in the New York Star and continued until Kelly’s death in 1973.

As Benito Cereno said in 2015 in Comics Alliance, “Walt Kelly was a poet of the nonsense school of Lewis Carroll and his mastery of wordplay is unmatched. His love of twisting language shows in the unique “swamp speak” of the animals of Okefenokee: a spell-binding admixture of genuine rural Southern dialect with a generous dollop of malapropism, naiveté, “human” foibles, and satiric wit.” http://comicsalliance.com/tribute-walt-kelly

Pogo & Albert

How do I describe Pogo? He’s a possum, first off. He lives in Okefenokee Swamp with his friends Albert the Alligator, Churchy La Femme, the turtle, Porky Pine, and assorted impish or oddball characters. Together, they opine on questions of politics, human relations, food, even careers, as they fish and laze in the hot Georgia sun. Pogo is kind, forgiving, loyal…and relentless in his logic. Always open to debate, he listens carefully to an argument, then fractures it in one sentence. But graciously.

Kelly himself (in a 1969 TV Guide interview) described Pogo as “the reasonable, patient, softhearted, naive, friendly person we all think we are.”

In this era of antagonism, even hostility of one group toward those who don’t share every single one of their views, I like to be reminded that it is possible for everyone to get along so long as they are patient, respectful, and above all, listen.

Examples from the wisdom of Pogo and his friends:

  • “We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities.”
  • “Having lost sight of our objectives, we redoubled our efforts.”
  • Looking back on things, the view always improves.
  • The best break anybody ever gets is in bein’ alive in the first place. An’ you don’t unnerstan’ what a perfect deal it is until you realizes that you ain’t gone be stuck with it forever, either.
  • Pogo: “Eventual Porky, I figger ev’ry critter’s heart’s in the right place.” Porky Pine: “If you gotta be wrong ’bout somthin’, that’s ’bout the best thing they is to be wrong ’bout.”
  • “I’ll tell you, son, the minority got us out-numbered!”Congersman Frog.
  • Porky Pine: “Y’know, ol’ Albert [the Alligator] leads a life of noisy desperation.
Authors

Strong Heroines Make Memorable Characters

Well, here I am again, attempting to answer another question about favorites—which I really don’t have an answer for. The reason this is difficult for me is because it’s not specific characters who stand out for me as much as it is their traits, personalities and sense of humor, which is why I enjoy specific authors.

I guess sometime during the past ten years, I’ve switched my mindset over to writer, even when I am reading a story for enjoyment. These days, I don’t have much opportunity to read, but in the past, I would read an entire novel a day, and sometimes more.

Read more “Strong Heroines Make Memorable Characters”

Moonlight Author's Mystic Mysteries

She Was Not Lying…Tomorrow Really IS Another Day

I have read tons and tons of books over the years, and I have found many heroines that I admire and enjoyed getting to know. But, hands down, the heroine I love the most is Scarlett O’Hara. Yes, I know, she’s almost a cliché, but there has never been a heroine who has made the impact on me that Scarlett made. On the surface, she’s not all that admirable. She’s a simpering, self-centered, southern belle, who will do whatever it takes to get what she wants. But even early on, she exhibits a few good qualities in her love for her parents and for Mammy. However, her true character is revealed as the story unfolds. Yes, she will still do whatever it takes to get what she wants, but she will also fiercely protect those she loves and fight to the death for survival.

Talk about character growth…here are some of the things this coddled, self-involved, delicate southern belle did as the story progressed…

  • She nursed wounded soldiers and helped hold down a man while his leg was amputated
  • When the Yankees were invading Atlanta, she stayed behind to help her arch nemesis instead of fleeing to safety
  • She delivered the baby of her arch nemesis
  • She took the baby and her arch nemesis with her when she fled burning Atlanta, when she could have left them behind.
  • She dealt with the loss of her parents and became head of the family
  • She worked her fingers raw to feed her family and bring Tara back to life
  • She ran a business and made it a huge success
  • She shot and killed a marauding Yankee and then helped bury his dead body

She proves herself to be resilient, smart, strong, brave, and tough. A survivor. And she never lost hope, as evidenced by the last lines of the book:

“I’ll think of it tomorrow, at Tara. I can stand it then. Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.”

I would love to write a character with all the complexities and admirable traits of Scarlett O’Hara, but I can’t see me ever having the talent to pull that off. She was most definitely one of a kind.

Moonlight Author's Mystic Mysteries

A Timeless Inspiration

Ever since my childhood imagination discovered Madeleine L’Engles, A Wrinkle In Time, the idea of time travel intrigued me. As I grew older, my interest naturally evolved to more intricate plots like H. G. Wells’ Time Machine…and the timeless love depicted in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlanderadded to my fascination. Whenever a time travel movie released, I was mesmerized by the timeless inspiration. From Back to the Future, Somewhere in Time, The Lake House, and Time Traveler’s Wifeto made-for-TV stories like Two Worlds of Jenny Loganand The Philadelphia Experiment. [If you love time slips, the last two are DVD’s available on Amazon.]

Choosing a favorite hero or heroine across the years had me sifting through myriad books in that genre alone. But when I considered the stories that stayed with me long after I closed the book, the answer stood out like no other. One hero actually had a lasting effect on my life. Nicholas Stafford, Earl of Thornwyck, the extraordinary romantic hero in Jude Deveraux’s A Knight In Shining Armor wins hands down. If you’ve never read the book, you haven’t experienced an incredible romance that transcends time. To tempt your passion consider this: Read more “A Timeless Inspiration”

Moonlight Author's Mystic Mysteries

I Witch I Could Think of a Favorite Heroine

My favorite fictional hero or heroine? That can change depending upon what book I’m immersed in at the time. Although after some contemplation, I realized there was someone who stood out in my mind. A heroine, of course, because I do enjoy a good kick ass heroine who can take care of herself—plus a little magic always helps. Read more “I Witch I Could Think of a Favorite Heroine”

Moonlight Author's Mystic Mysteries

Favorite Heroine: The Bronze Horseman’s Tatiana

I’m excited to kick off another Moonlight and Mystery blog series, this one on each author’s favorite hero or heroine!  In the past, we’ve done a series of posts on settings for our novels and a book that impacted our childhood.  But this is the first time we’ve had to pick favorites!  I’m not going to lie, as an avid reader, it’s tough.  I did a post on my own blog years ago on my favorite fictional couples, and I forced myself to narrow it down to five (note – I had not read The Bronze Horseman yet!).  But one hero OR heroine?  Nearly impossible. Read more “Favorite Heroine: The Bronze Horseman’s Tatiana”

Moonlight Author's Mystic Mysteries

What Can I Say? I Don’t Have One Favorite…

But I do have several favorite authors.

In this second Moonlight and Mystery author post, I’m supposed to share my favorite mystery novel with readers. But here’s my dilemma; I don’t really have an all time favorite. Usually when I read, it’s because I enjoy the writing of a certain author as opposed to the specific content of a story.

There’s another reason why this post is difficult for me; sometimes I have to be in a certain frame of mind to read the books written by some of my favorites. My life is very complicated, as the mom and caregiver of a severely autistic son, and I find as the years go by that more and more I look for books with only a happily ever after ending.

Which is all I seem to be able to write as well. Isn’t that silly? I hate cliffhangers, and I don’t enjoy leaving too much of a mystery for the reader to puzzle about when I finish a story.

Unless it involves a complicated plot involving something like human trafficking and capturing members of the ring, which of course is a struggle if the net is widespread.

I guess what I’ll do is share some of my favorite authors and tell you why I enjoy what they write. So many stories I read these days offer me no surprises and I can usually guess easily who a killer is.

  

Linda Howard is one of my all-time favorites because of the way she manages to interject humor in her romance suspense series. My favorite book from her has got to be OPEN SEASON. I have never laughed so hard and it’s a story about a serial killer! 

https://www.lindahowardbooks.com/

  

Nora Roberts. What can I say? Nora is Nora. I’m not so much into her older stories as I am in her standalones, but she has a few fantasy series which I loved (under her own name), and it’s hard for me to recall the names of the ones I liked best, but at least half of what she’s written was worth reading and sometimes even reading again.

 

Tami Hoag I don’t read as much as Tami Hoag as I used to, because her stories tend to have conclusions that are a little up in the air. But if you want unique stories and lots of surprises, she’s a fantastic author.

 

I used to enjoy Nicolas Sparks too. As a matter of fact, I’ve had some reviewers compare what I write to his novels. But his writing is a little off track these days, apparently because he was recently divorced.

Romance suspense isn’t the only genre I love. I still enjoy reading regency romance. Mary Balogh and Grace Burrowes are two of my favorite authors, and occasionally I read books by Stephanie Laurens as well.

I have hundreds of books on shelves at home. John Grisham, David Baldacci among others I read occasionally.

But my tastes have changed through the years. I used to enjoy the typical romance, but so many plots and storylines have become repetitive. Even with new authors, I tend to see the same plots and storylines; they’re just told in a slightly different way.

I wish I had more time to read. I used to read about 15 novels per week (yes really!!) But since I’ve become an author, something strange has been happening—success!! So not only writing, but promoting, seems to have taken over my life.

 

Moonlight Author's Mystic Mysteries

English Inspiration: Mary Stewart & Me

Mary Stewart

As a child I was a voracious reader—and have only slowed lately in order to keep my mind clear for my own murder mysteries (i.e., I can’t multitask). I read everything I could get my hands on—including some that were—in retrospect—inappropriate. Tom Jones and Brideshead Revisited went right over my head. Early favorites were the Oz books, Mary Poppins, and E. Nesbit’s tales of magical adventure. If a book was deemed a “classic” I’d go for it on the assumption that it wouldn’t be a classic if it weren’t good. Except for Dickens, to whom I’ve never cottoned, that rule usually held.

I particularly loved romantic suspense and mysteries, especially British ones—Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, and the novels of Mary Stewart (1916-2014). In fact, in my interview for college, I tried to pretend I only read heavy tomes on historical subjects, but somehow the subject of Mary Stewart came up and the professor and I had a marvelous conversation. I learned a lesson about human nature that day. Be honest: everyone else is pretty much in the same boat.

I checked Amazon for a list of Stewart’s books and realized I read all but the last five of her romantic suspense novels plus the Merlin trilogy! From her first, Madam, Will You Talk (1957) to Touch Not the Cat (1976), I devoured them. Mostly set in Europe (Stewart was English), they usually feature an unsuspecting heroine who lands in a puzzling mystery. Along with adventure, you’re assured of a fine romance as well. Some of you may remember the movie The Moonspinners, starring Hayley Mills.

Loch Awe in Scotland

Something else I discovered: Mary Stewart lived on Loch Awe in Scotland—a place I remember fondly. It is a picturesque small loch west of Loch Lomond. The Hotel Ardanaseig—a beautiful 19th century castle—sits on one bank. Its guest quarters are in the Rose Cottage up the lane. We stayed there on the last leg of a trip I took with my family. Imagine my delight to discover that one of Stewart’s mysteries I hadn’t read was entitled Rose

Rose Cottage

Cottage! I finished it yesterday.

 

 

 

Stewart’s books inspired my current approach to writing a story more than any others. Like her, my heroines are feisty, my heroes clever and non-gooey, my settings exotic, and my mysteries cozy.