Showing posts with label Kudzu River. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kudzu River. Show all posts

09 February 2015

Harper Lee and Me

By Fran Rizer
Okay, the picture on the left is not current.  It's my very first author photo used by Berkley Prime Crime in 2007.  It's even my natural hair color which is rare because I began experimenting with solutions to get away from being red-haired when I took the city bus downtown and bought my first package of hair dye from Silver's Dime Store at age ten.

Between then and my current "platinum blonde," a product of age and getting tired of touch-ups every few weeks, I've had brunette, auburn,
strawberry blonde, honey blonde, platinum blonde and even a pinkish mauve.  No, I wasn't ahead of the times.  That pink was a big mistake--the result of attempting an at-home color job.

What's the point of telling you all this?  Or to be blunt about it, what the heck does anyone care how many countless times I've changed my hair color?  I'm trying to show you that I've always embraced change.  That is until I signed the contract to release Kudzu River.

My readers were accustomed to the cozyesque Callie Parrish mysteries, and I feared I would offend some of them with Kudzu River, but it was a story I'd felt compelled to tell for years.  It was also a story that Bella Rosa Books, my most recent publisher, would not print because they only publish "family-friendly" writing.  When Odyssey South Publishing, a new southern company, accepted it, I grabbed the chance regardless of the reactions I might receive, but I feared those reactions..



The above quote from Harper Lee sums up what I felt I'd need when Kudzu River was released. I was positive that my usual readers would not like its grittiness and those who liked Kudzu would all be a different population from Callie's fans.  

Speaking of Harper Lee (and who isn't this week?) it ticks me off that this woman, who wrote a classic of our times and has had her one and only book required reading for students for years, has taken more than her share of flak through those years.  Regularly, some critic claimed that Lee's friend Truman Capote must have written To Kill a Mockingbird because anyone who writes that well would have written another one.  Now, "another one" is being released in July.  Reports are that though this book takes place from Scout's pov twenty years later than Mockingbird, it was written first.  The commentator stated that readers will probably be disappointed because Lee had not yet developed her skills when this was written.  I wanted to reach into NPR through my car radio and snatch that man right into the seat beside me so I could demand to know if he's read the coming release.  I'm sure this book will be a smashing success financially, but I don't know how Lee could need the money with the royalties she must receive every year from all those students having to buy Mockingbird. However,  if the coming book is "bad," why, at age eighty-eight, would she want it published? 

This is purely speculation, but perhaps Harper Lee is like so many of us writers less successful than she.  Maybe she just wants to see her first born in print.  Or, thinking like the mystery writer I am at heart, could it be that the manuscript has not been lost all these years as news reports claim?  Did Harper Lee not want this published but was manipulated into it at her advanced age?  I'm hoping to see an interview with her.  If any of you have seen a recent interview with Ms. Lee, please send me a link.

Back to my first born, Kudzu River was begun before the first Callie Parrish mystery, and it has gone through three name changes.  Teacher, Teacher became Red Flag which is now Kudzu River. An established writer who has been on the N Y Times Best Seller list told me years ago (when Teacher Teacher received its first rejection) that nobody's first book sells.  Just count it as "practice."  Instead of shoving it into a drawer and forgetting about it, I've spent years "practicing" on this book.

So far, Kudzu River has four reviews on Amazon, and I love and appreciate every one of them, but here are two from FaceBook that were posted with their full names.  I repeat these because they are from regular Callie readers:

From  Brenda:  Fran Rizer . . . My book review of Kudzu River . . . loved it.  It was my kind of book.  Mystery, murder, and love all entwined together.  I couldn't put it down.  You need to write a Book II.

From Watson:  Just finished reading Fran Rizer's Kudzu River  Can books keep you on the edge of your seat?  This one did==all the way through.  I've read a lot of books--probably thousands.  This is one of the best.

The reviews on Amazon are longer.  I invite you to check them out at Fran Rizer, Kudzu River, Amazon.com.  Also, if you're not familiar with kudzu, check out Youtube, Phil Ruff, "Kudzu video."  He tells all about kudzu in a song that he has authorized us to use in the trailer for Kudzu River.

Until we meet again, take care of . . . you.

Continuing to embrace change, my next book is horror, and I'm currently writing a children's book.




  





08 December 2014

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

By Fran Rizer


Meet Shug

"I'm sorry, so sorry.  I should have told you.  Let me  go.  No one will ever know.  You'll never see me again.  I'm begging you: please, please let me go!"
    The fearful pleading had no effect on Shug, nor did the sheer terror on Carly's face.  Shug no longer wanted to be parked in a tiny sports car with Carly--much less during a horrific storm--but his maniacal rage was directed as much at life as it was toward Carly and the weather.  Shug closed his eyes and slapped himself frantically, repeatedly pounding his hands against his face, wide-spread fingers beating against ears that couldn't stand hearing Carly's words.
    Lightning streaked through the darkness and into the car, illuminating Carly's anguished face and naked body.  Screaming unidentifiable words, Shug pulled a .38 from under the driver's seat.
    "No! Oh, God, no!" Carly shouted and grabbed at the door handle, but it wouldn't work.  Tried the window control.  Still no way out.  Hammered at the glass with clenched fists--desperate to escape.
    "Bye, bitch," Shug said and pulled the trigger.
    Once. Keerack! Twice. Keerack! Three times. Keerack!  The harsh stench of gunpowder filled the air.  Torrents of crimson gushed from the crater in the back of Carly's head.  Gobbets of bloody tissue spattered on the shattered glass.

"Dead as hell."
    Those words echoed in Shug's mind as his trembling hands clenched the steering wheel, trying to hold the battered old Ford on the road.  Wind whipped against the vehicle and rocked it from side to side.  Worn wipers battled against rain sheeting the windshield.  He gave up on reaching his destination--a wooded area on the other side of town--and stomped the brakes.  The car slid across the empty street before skidding to a stop beside the gutter.
    "Damned sure dead as hell," Shug whispered while looking into the rear at Carly's naked remains."Not she . . . it.  That dead body is an it," the killer thought.  Its arms ended in bloody stumps, and the smooth legs bent awkwardly, obscenely.  Shug stepped out into the rain and opened the back door.  Streaming water splashed the corpse as he struggled to pull it from the Ford.  His muscles burned from the strain.  Carly's body felt heavier than when he'd moved it from the sports car to Carly's battered old Ford.  The carcass plopped in the gutter.
    Just as well.  The front of the head was a big mess of bloody tissue and bone--leaving no clue to what the victim had looked like.  This pleased Shug and brought more shrill laughter from his lips. No face, no clothes, no hands.  The appearance had lied just as much as the garments had.  Carly didn't deserve to be identified.
    The .38 lay on the front seat.  Shug reached across for it and dropped the gun onto the pavement before sliding back into the car.  Soaked to the bone, he shivered.  The full quotation returned to his mind as he drove away from the abandoned remains and weapon.
    "The guy was dead as hell."
    They were the opening words of an old Mickey Spillane novel that Shug had sneaked out of Father's private bookcase and read as a child.  A recent issue of one of Shug's literary magazine subscriptions had stated that Charles Dickens's "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times" in A Tale of Two Cities was the finest opening sentence ever written.  Screw that.  "The guy was dead as hell" was much better.


Meet Katie Wray

    "Darn! Darn! Darn!" Rain pounded the windshield so brutally that Katie Wray couldn't see the lines on the superhighway, even when lightning brightened the night sky.  She'd almost run off the road when she exited I-26 onto I-95.  Now she could barely distinguish the exit to Walterboro.  Best get off the road and find a room for the night.
    As she swerved onto the exit lane, the car hydroplaned into a spin.  Katie forgot everything she'd ever known about handling skids and screamed as she lost control of the vehicle.
    Miraculously, the movement stopped with the passenger side of the car slammed against a retaining wall.  Katie patted herself to see if anything were broken or bleeding.  She'd probably have some bruises from the seat belts, but the air bags hadn't inflated.  She shook herself and lost some of the anger she'd been carrying against the rental agent for not having a compact available and forcing her into their most expensive rental--though possibly one of the safest--a Mercedes.
    The loss of that fury made room for Katie's rage at her sister Maggie.  A long day of delayed flights had left Katie worn out and eager to be off the plane when it landed after eleven o'clock that night.  All summer long, her sister Maggie had used Katie's apartment and new Fusion free of charge--while promising to meet her at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport when Katie returned to South Carolina.
    Katie realized she should have planned to come home for a few days between her summer tutoring out west and returning to work at Tanner Elementary School. "Weary."  It was an old-fashioned word, but it described how Katie felt--totally exhausted.  She'd looked forward to sleeping during the three-hour drive to her hometown, Tanner, South Carolina.  Instead, she was battling a terrible rainstorm in a rental car at three in the morning because her sister Maggie had let her down as usual.  Katie didn't even consider that Maggie might have forgotten.  They'd spoken by phone right before Katie boarded the plane.  Like so many times before, Maggie had chosen to do something else instead of meeting responsibility.
    As she walked around the car to look at the damage, Katie stumbled.  No tires had blown, and nothing seemed to be seriously bent though there was definitely some cosmetic damage.  The Mercedes appeared driveable.
    Whoosh!  An old Ford came out of nowhere and nearly hit her.  Katie hadn't seen it before it sped around her.  She felt assaulted.

Comments

    If you're still with me (and I hope you are), you've just met two of the main characters in Kudzu River as they appear in the first chapter. I'm already being asked, "Why'd you quit cozies?" The answer is that I haven't quit cozies; I've added thrillers and a horror that is scheduled for publication in 2015.  There's another cozy (but it's not a Callie) half-done on my computer and another horror haunting my mind.

    The questions about genre lead me to a question for fellow SleuthSayers and readers today:
Why do you write? Though some writers become wealthy, there are millions more who don't.  What makes us write?  My answer:  To me, writing is similar to playing dolls when I was a child.  I create an environment and characters and then I'm free to manipulate them however I please.  The difference is that my doll characters are not all Barbies, but I'm still having fun controlling them. Does that mean that psychologically I have "control issues"or does it mean, in Madonna's words: "Girls just wannna have fun"?

It's time to share----------Why do you write?



  
Kudzu River is a novel of abuse, murder, and retribution. It's a tale of a serial killer and how his actions entangle the lives of three women. Odyssey South Publishing is releasing it January 6, 2015.
     
Until we meet again, take care of . . . you!
  

    

29 September 2014

Genre-Jump

By Fran Rizer

Back in the '60s (when I was young, dumb, and having fun), youth of America followed Holden Caulfield's early '50s search for life's meaning and found themselves in fields of flowers and hippies. Now that I'm in a different kind of '60s, I seem to be seeking myself in other ways.

Some of you (hopefully most of you) are familiar with my six Callie Parrish cozeysque novels.  Fewer people have read my first two books.  Aeden's Two Homes is a children's picture book, and Familiar Faces & Curious Characters is a collection of dramatic monologues for intermediate-age drama students.  Both are out-of-print, but a new regional publisher has agreed to take a look at them.

What does this have to do with my search for self now that I'm entitled to the senior citizen discount where I shop?   I'm changing genres. (Not genders, genres!) I will now reference a few of the many others who have done this:

Lawrence Block - Crime fiction author, including Matt Scudder novels and the Bernie Rhodenbarr novels.  Quite successful in this genre, but back in the '60s and '70s, he wrote more than a hundred books of soft-core erotica, including seven "sensitive evocations of lesbianism" written as Jill Emerson.

Roald Dahl - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (aka Willie Wonka), Fantastic Mr. Fox, and The BFG (Stephen Spielberg is filming this favorite of mine for release in 2015.) are examples of his fantastically successful children's books.  "Lamb to the Slaughter" (woman beats her husband to death with a frozen leg of lamb, then cooks the murder weapon and serves it to the policemen who investigate the killing) is an example of his classic crime stories.  Macabre stories in Kiss, Kiss and salacious ones in Switch Bitch and the novel My Uncle Oswald (about "the greatest fornicator of all time") illustrate Dahl's versatility and comfort in many genres.

Ian Fleming - Author of both the James Bond spy series and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - nothing else needs to be said.

Stephen King - Best known as a writer of horror and sci fi, King's recognition as MWA's Grandmaster in 2007 was based on his crime fiction, including "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" and The Green Mile.

A. A. Milne - Creator of the Winnie-the-Pooh books, he also wrote The Red House Mystery, proclaimed by critic Alexander Woolcott as "one of the three best mystery stories of all time."  This classic English country house "locked room" tale of murder has been in print continuously since its first publication.

Philip Roth - Portnoy's Complaint and two dozen other literary novels won him numerous awards. In 2004, he took his first stab at the branch of sci fi called "alternate history," about the fictional results of anti-Semitic American hero Charles Lindbergh being elected president.

E.B. White - Successful and memorable for an unusual combination:  Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web, both widely beloved children's books, and the classic reference work on the subject of clear writing - The Elements of Style.  Written by William Strunk, Jr., one of White's college professors, this style guide was edited and revised by White.  His publisher released it as by "Strunk and White."  E.B. White is as well known for this handbook of grammar and style as he is for that spider and pig.

Please note that I listed these gentlemen in alphabetical order. (I promise I'm not compulsive, but I tend to alphabetize all lists except for groceries.  I think it's my way of not showing favoritism as well as a hold-over from my days in the classroom.) I am not comparing myself or my writing to any of those writers, but they do demonstrate that authors aren't limited to one genre, and I am using them as an introduction to my own genre-jump.

Joanne Fluke, author of more than twenty highly successful Hannah Swenson cozy mysteries about a lady baker, has had five suspense novels released by her publisher, which happens to be Kensington. I've long admired Ms. Fluke as having reached my idea of the height of accomplishment. Though I've had the pleasure of book talks, readings, and signings in Borders, BAM, B&N, and Indies as well as libraries and book clubs, Callie never achieved my goal.  Those Hannah Swenson books get displayed right there on the book racks I yearn to occupy:  Publix and BiLo.

When I bought Fluke's The Other Child, I found "A Letter from Joanne Fluke" explaining her venture into this new genre on the very first page. (My apologies for putting that heading in quotes but not printing it exactly as it is in the book:  All caps.)  At the risk of being called a copy cat (I've been called worse), I borrowed that idea, and the very first page of my soon-to-be-released new book appears below:


A Note from Fran Rizer

A very  special thanks to all the readers of my previous books, the Callie Parrish mysteries, which are cozyesque---not quite cozies, but no overt sex, profanity, or described brutality.  For this reason, Callie has had some youthful readers, whom I appreciate.

KUDZU  RIVER is different.

It’s a much grittier book about three women whose lives become entangled as a serial killer leaves a trail of murdered teachers up and down the coast of South Carolina.  At times the writing goes beyond gritty to raw. It is not meant for children.  This is a tale that could not be told in cozy style, but it’s a story that I feel compelled to share.

I cannot think of better words to describe the differences between  Callie’s books and KUDZU RIVER than these:

KUDZU RIVER is to cozies what a great white shark is to a guppy.
                                                         -------Richard D. Laudenslager
                                                                      Author of Wounded


I'll be back in two weeks and tell you more about KUDZU RIVER. Meanwhile, if you have the time and are interested in reading and reviewing this for SSers, email me.

Until we meet again, take care of … you.

08 September 2014

Introducing Callie Parrish

by Fran Rizer

Last Monday, Jan Grape wrote about the Meet My Character Blog Tour.  Tagged authors write about their main characters by answering questions on their blogs.  The writers then invite one to five other authors to join. Jan tagged me, so here goes:

1.  What is the name of your character?  Is he or she fictional or a historic person?
At the launch for TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE STAR,
THERE'S A BODY IN THE CAR, these Callie fans showed
up dressed as Callie on the left and Jane on the right. They
definitely matched the way I see these characters as I write
about them although Callie is known to dye her hair 
frequently so is occasionally blond.
The main character of my first six books is fictional Callie Parrish. Her full name is Calamine Lotion Parrish.  When her mother died giving birth to their sixth child, Callie's father got drunk--really drunk. This was his first daughter and the only thing female he could think of was the color pink.  The only pink that came to mind was Calamine Lotion.  Callie frequently thanks heaven that Pa didn't think of Pepto Bismol.  If you don't recognize the particular shade of pink in front of me in the above picture, it's a Victoria's Secret pink bag which contained a gift from Jane.  

2.  When and where is the story set? 

Callie's adventures are set in contemporary times and primarily in the fictional town of St. Mary located near coastal Beaufort, SC. In the series, Callie and her BFF, visually handicapped Jane Baker, have encountered murders in other places such as a bluegrass festival on Surcie Island and a casket manufacturer in North Carolina.

4.  What should we know about him/her?

Callie works as a cosmetician/Girl Friday at Middleton's Mortuary for her twin bosses, Otis and Odell Middleton.  After graduating from St. Mary High School, she left St. Mary to attend the university in Columbia, SC, where she married and worked for several years as a kindergarten teacher. After her husband "did what he did" to make her divorce him, she returned to St. Mary where she spends time with Jane, her daddy, her five brothers, and whoever she's dating. She likes working at the funeral home better than teaching kindergarten because the people she works with at Middleton's lie still instead of jumping around all the time, don't yell or cry, and don't have to tee-tee every five minutes.

Callie's time teaching five-year-olds led her to stop using some of the language she grew up with living in a house with only her father and five older brothers.  Instead, she "kindergarten cusses," which consists of "Dalmation!" when she's irritated and "Shih tzu!" when she's extremely annoyed. She has a Harlequin Great Dane dog who's named Big Boy though he acts more like a girl dog. Callie is a talented banjo player and vocalist, but she's not perfect. She can't cook, and she's flat-chested which led her to wear inflatable bras because she's scared of breast-augmentation surgery.

5.  What is the personal goal of this character?

In the first books, Callie's goals (besides solving murders and her own personal survival as well as Jane's) were to convince Jane to stop shoplifting and to comfort families by providing peaceful memory pictures of their deceased relatives. She also wanted a closer relationship with her redneck father and to meet a romantic interest as unlike her ex-husband as possible.  She achieved these goals except finding the right romantic interest, but she's still looking.

6.  Can we read about this character yet? 


The top three Callies were published by Berkley Prime Crime, and the
first three on the bottom row were published by Bella Rosa Books.  
 Kudzu River is not a Callie Parrish mystery.  In fact, it's as far from cozy
as possible.  Kudzu River is a novel of abuse, murder, and retribution 
that's scheduled for release by Odyssey South Publishing in November.  
The six Callie Parrish mysteries are all available electronically. The first three are out-of-print, but used copies can sometimes be found on Amazon.  Callie books four through six are available in print and electronically from Bella Rosa Books and on Amazon.

7.  Who do you tag?

I've tagged Janice Law, and her Character Blog will appear right here on Monday, September 22, 2014.  A surprise Character Blog is scheduled for my first Monday in November.  If you're interested in participating in the Meet Your Character Blog Tour, let me know. 

Until we meet again, take care of . . . you.