Zestful Blog Post #195
Winter 2017 Newschat
Dearest Blog Friend,
I’ve duplicated here my Winter 2017 Newschat for those who aren’t on my Newschat mailing list. My apologies for the double post if you’re on both lists.
I hope your 2017 is off to a:
3) halfway decent
4) not terrible
start. Mine sure is!
The best news I offer today is Crimes in a Second Language, now available on Amazon. Crimes is a departure from series work for me—this is a standalone novel about the relationship between two very different women in contemporary Los Angeles. The story was inspired by my late, great aunt and her relationship with a Mexican-American housecleaner. From the back cover:
Is smart and dead better than dumb and safe?
Elnice Coker and her husband Arthur, retired schoolteachers, move from Indiana to the Hollywood Hills in a last-ditch attempt at novelty and happiness. California alone can’t do the trick, but when Elnice befriends her housecleaner, Solita, her life opens up to friendship and intrigue. Elnice teaches Solita English although Solita’s common-law husband, Luis, is against it. The women build a secret, tentative friendship.
Meanwhile, wannabe novelist Jason M is busy writing faulty information into tech manuals for airplane-making machines at a factory in the Valley. One of a swarm of corporate saboteurs scattered around Los Angeles, he’s bossed by a nameless, exacting mentor. But when he begins to have ethical doubts, he discovers it’s harder to get out than it was to get in.
The lure of easy money casts its spell over everybody, and as Elnice and Solita grow closer, they encounter treachery and danger where they least expect it. The saboteurs intertwine, innocent lives hang in the balance, and as Elnice risks everything to dig deeper, she learns the value of rejecting safety—and living life to the max. [End of cover material; scroll down to start Chapter 1.]
Speaking of covers, is this not a fabulous one?:
[Cover by Tree House Studio.]
Before I get you started on Chapter 1, other news:
My blog, Zestful Writing, continues to cook along. We cover the writer’s life, writing techniques, language use and abuse, and whatever else seems worthy to talk about of a Thursday afternoon.
I keep writing articles for Writer’s Digest magazine and their various special editions; currently you’ll find my pieces in the January, February, and March/April issues. (After that, a bit of a break…but I’ve sent along some new ideas to the mag, so we’ll see what’s next.) I contributed to the new edition of the Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, from Writer’s Digest Books.
I’m developing ideas for online teaching, so stay tuned for that. Am also working on Best Boy, the fourth in the Rita Farmer mystery series.
Here’s the beginning of Crimes in a Second Language:
1: The Dog Does Not Answer
A white woman with her hair in a bun and perspiration spangling her upper lip disembarks a bus in a Los Angeles neighborhood she’s never been to before. Her stomach jiggles but not in an uncomfortable way. She is old enough to know the rewards of daily fiber supplements, sensible enough to be undaunted riding a bus into this place—in the daytime anyway—and desperate enough to do what she is about to do. The bus driver glances sideways with a molecule of curiosity as she hops down.
Desperation breeds nerve.
Nerve breeds action.
And this woman must act. Today. Lethally.
She walks one block in a random direction, her dusty white Keds rolling over the craggy sidewalk, her head swiveling as she frankly scrutinizes the storefronts. This is the right neighborhood, or really it is a right neighborhood.
Ned’s Bar-B-Q and Sons.
Dangerous-looking characters drive past, their arms flexed sternly over their steering wheels. A baby wails in a loopy rhythm.
Not long ago, for sure, this woman would have been frightened to be here. But she’s got a grip on this city now—all of it. She belongs here.
A stray dog emerges from between two parked cars and humbly approaches. The woman perceives that the dog, half pit bull at least, is a female who must be nursing puppies somewhere; her teats are pronounced and low. It follows her, licks her hand from behind, circles around and looks up at her.
“What do you want to tell me, little dog?” Her voice is slender and clear, in contrast to her fat belly. Her words originate at the root of her tongue, not quite throatily; hers is an earnest voice that would be appropriate for a simultaneous interpreter or a documentary narrator.
Her name is Elnice M. Coker and she was married to Arthur T. “Bullet” Coker until yesterday, when he died before her eyes. His death was inappropriate and ghastly, but chosen. “Elnice” had been his last word.
She wishes people wouldn’t mispronounce it. Elnice rhymes with Elvis; in fact the names share a Teutonic root.
Elnice is feeling desperate, nervy, and lethal because she has learned that slow death is not the worst thing that can happen. Her shadow swings along beneath her, keen in the caustic light of the city today.
A cluster of needle-eyed little boys in pyramidal pants give her and the dog a once-over. They can’t finger it but she looks different. Not because she’s white and wearing dirty clothes—other soiled white people live in the neighborhood. Perhaps it is her purposeful manner. Not acute enough yet to perceive or care, the boys go back to their boasting.
“Did too. I am serious.”
“My sweet butthole.”
The dog does not answer Elnice’s question. She cocks her head at the animal—just in case—but it remains silent. Everything is all right; Elnice has made her deal with God, and everything is all right.
Another liquor store presents itself. She examines the exterior and, evidently finding something favorable, walks in. She pretends to shop for pretzels until her eyes adjust to the stale light. She turns to the man behind the smeared plexi barrier. He is a Korean with a pencil-line mustache, close to her in age, whose years of running this liquor store in South Los Angeles have given his face the look of a tombstone made of old wood.
“I want to buy a handgun,” she tells him, “off the street. Do you know someone who can help me?”
Thank you for being my friend!
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