Interview by Author David Todd

I’ve known of David Todd as an engineer who works for a local firm I deal with a lot as city planner. We met recently at a panel discussion his firm hosted and realized we were not only fellow authors but Facebook friends. He’s been super supportive of the release of A Lovely Murder, the second Danni “Deadline” Thriller, and offered to interview me on his blog. Thanks, David, for the support!

Here’s a link to my interview by Author David Todd on his webpage:

http://davidatodd.com/2016/12/16/author-interview-lori-ericson/#comment-3645

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Book of Words: Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is… the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” — Mark Twain

This blog offers a different type of book review­—one that’s combined with vocabulary building. The words chosen may be familiar, but used in a unique way or not commonplace.

Included here, following a short review, are a few interesting words I found in Wilde Lake, a book released earlier this year by author Laura Lippman. Lippman, a best-selling author and absolutely superb storyteller, is one of my very favorite writers.

Wilde Lake is the story of a family, a family full of secrets. It’s also a tale about prejudice and how we may try to deny its existence but cannot truly shed the ingrained natuimg_2597re of it in our society, and in turn, ourselves. Lippman’s skill at pulling multiple tentacles of a story together thrives in this tale, but she eloquently succeeds at something unique even for her. The story is told from the perspective of one character, but some of it comes to us in the first-person account of a remembered childhood, while the rest is told in third-person present tense as all those story tentacles come together for Lu Brant, a newly elected state’s attorney. The combination of first and third person from the same protagonist is so competently handled that I didn’t catch it until well into the book. It seems to bring a more intimate view into the life unfolding in Wilde Lake. The unique characterization provides a deeper grasp of what is happening in Lu Brant’s life as she digs into her own family history while sorting out the facts of her first capital murder case in her new position. The layers of revelations and connections to Brant’s past keep the pages turning. From the book jacket: “If there is such a thing as the whole truth, Lu realizes—possibly too late—that she would be better off not knowing what it is.”

Words from Wilde Lake:

Suborn: v. bribe or otherwise induce (someone) to commit an unlawful act such as perjury. “They might have been led during the interviews. But I don’t think my father suborned perjury, not over so trivial a thing.”

 Ascetic: adj. characterized by or suggesting the practice of severe self-discipline and abstention from all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons. “AJ stands, walks to the edge of his pool. A lap pool, he defended to Lu when she mocked this expense by ascetic.” AND “He then made his own Eat, Pray, Love pilgrimage around the world, although ascetic AJ skipped the eating part.”

 Canard: n. an unfounded rumor or story. “Everyone knows the old canard that an attorney never asks a question to which she doesn’t know the answer, but that’s for court, after investigations, depositions, discovery.”

 Polemics: n. a strong verbal or written attack on someone or something. “’No,’ he says adamantly. ‘No more polemics disguised as memoirs.’”

 Ersatz: adj. (of a product) made or used as a substitute, typically an inferior one, for something else. “Heck, her father has had an ersatz wife in Teensy all these years.”

 Imprecation: n. a spoken curse. “The EMT guys decide to let her go home, although with muttered imprecations about concussions, and while Lu scoffs at them, she finds herself unaccountably nervous as bedtime nears.”

 Perambulate: v. walk or travel through or around (a place or area), esp. for pleasure and in a leisurely way. “’Your house? No, I just­—I just sometimes like to . . . perambulate,’ Davey said.”

 Frisson: n. a sudden strong feeling of excitement or fear; a thrill. “Lu feels a strange frisson of nerves when she goes before the grand jury to obtain a formal indictment against Rudy Drysdale.”

 Nascent: adj. (esp. of a process or organization) just coming into existence and beginning to display signs of future potential. “I wish he had saved his nascent memoir. I would have loved to read his version of his life, then and now.”

 Scrim: n. strong, coarse fabric, chiefly used for heavy-duty lining or upholstery. “As the song reached its climax, a scrim depicting the Tree of Life fell and somehow it seemed as if the chorus had become a living, breathing Tree of Life.”

Pejorative: adj. expressing contempt or disapproval, or n. a word expressing contempt or disapproval. “The original ‘villages’ of Columbia are now called the ‘inner villages,’ and the pejorative echo of inner city is not accidental.”

 Dilettante: n. a person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge. “During the campaign, Fred called her a dilettante, tried to suggest that she wanted his job so she wouldn’t be bored.”

Definitions are typically from The New Oxford American Dictionary.

What interesting words have you taken note of lately? What do you do when you come across an unfamiliar word while reading?

New Baby Arrives!

Two boxes of books arrived today, and I couldn’t be more excited and proud. A Lovely County was published in January last year. A Lovely Murder, the second in the Danni Deadline Thriller Series is out this week.

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I’m hosting a book launch this Sunday, November 13, at the Fayetteville Public Library, Fayetteville, AR, from 2 to 4 p.m. to make it official. If you’re in driving range, please come.

I want to share this moment because the thrill of publication is just as strong as the first time. It’s kind of like having a baby and then the baby’s sibling. I love both books. I love the nurturing of each word to create my babies. And I love the stories still floating as embryos in my head yearning for birth.

One thing that stays strong with me is the gratitude I feel for my publisher, Pen-L Publishing. They are the VERY best! Duke and Kim Pennell have held my hand from the first pitch of my story to this past week when lining out what my bookmarks will look like. They are supportive and diligent, allowing me to have the last word on the cover and most everything, all the while providing the best in editing and professional help through the process. On top of all that, they are nearly as excited as I am to see this baby arrive.

So, come if you can on Sunday. Hear me read a little from the book, pick up a copy of my new baby, and have a cookie and punch to celebrate!

If you can’t come, check it out on Amazon or on from my publisher, Pen-L at http://www.Pen-L.com/ALovelyMurder.html.

Book of Words: Intrusion by Mary McCluskey

Good writers choose their words carefully. This blog offers a different type of book review by combining it with vocabulary building. Included here are a few interesting words I found in Intrusion, a book released in July by British author Mary McCluskey. Some of the words McCluskey used were British and unfamiliar to me, so I included them in this blog.

Intrusion pits a woman who has hit rock bottom against a long-lost best friend with a hidden motive. Mary McCluskey deftly pulls the reader into the emotional turmoil of Kat Hamilton’s shattered life. The mourning mom struggles to support her husband’s efforts to maintain his standing in his law firm and fights to find meaning in her own life, but can barely get through each day. When she’s at her lowest, evil steps in to help push her over the edge. I found Intrusion to be an exciting psychological thriller that kept the tension high while ever increasing the stakes all the way to an end with a unexpected twist. McCluskey knows how to keep the reader guessing.

Cover pdf provided by Author Mary McCluskey

Cover pdf provided by Author Mary McCluskey

Words from Intrusion:

Cabochon: A gem polished but not faceted. <Origin> mid-16th century: from French, diminutive of caboche ‘head’. “Sara gave a small smile and looked down, twisting the cabochon emerald ring off her finger, then holding it for a few seconds, as if checking its weight, before replacing it.”

 Sepia: A reddish-brown color associated particularly with monochrome photographs of the 19th and early 20th centuries. <Special Usage> a brown pigment prepared from a black fluid secreted by cuttlefish, used in monochrome drawing and in watercolors. “These memories dropped softly, completely intact, into her mind. Sometimes, they were in strong, primary colors, occasionally in a kind of sepia, like old movies.”

Intransigent: Unwilling or refusing to change one’s views or to agree about something. “He is a lawyer. He has the nitpicky legal mind. I never dreamt he would be so intransigent.”

Janus: An ancient Italian deity, guardian of doorways and gates and protector of the state in time of war. He is usually represented with two faces, so that he looks both forward and backward. <Special Usage> two-faced; hypocritical; two-sided. “In profile, the two sides of her face could look quite different: one side so bare, the delicate bone structure clear and unobstructed, the other side hidden by a cascade of rich brown hair. A Janus face, Maggie had said once.”

 Sussed: (Chiefly British, informal) A verb meaning to realize, grasp. An abbreviation of suspect or suspicion. “Though Sister Judy may have sussed me.”

 Gobsmacked: (Chiefly British, informal) Utterly astonished; astounded. <Origin> 1980s: from GOB + SMACK, with reference to being shocked by a blow to the mouth, or to clapping a hand to one’s mouth in astonishment. “They’ll all be gobsmacked.”

Definitions are from The New Oxford American Dictionary through Kindle.

 

“The word is only a representation of the meaning; even at its best, writing almost always falls short of full meaning. Given that, why in God’s name would you want to make things worse by choosing a word which is only cousin to the one you really wanted to use?” ― Stephen King

What interesting words have you taken note of lately?

Book of Words: EXHUME by Danielle Girard

“The most important thing is to read as much as you can, like I did. It will give you an understanding of what makes good writing and it will enlarge your vocabulary.”

— J.K. Rowling

I’m using this blog to offer a chance at building a better vocabulary through the books I read. I’ll provide a short review of the book followed by a few words I think the author used in an interesting way or that might not be familiar, at least to me.

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Exhume (Dr. Schwartzman Series, Book 1) by Danielle Girard

I really enjoyed this thriller and had a hard time putting my Kindle aside until the end. The protagonist, Dr. Annabelle Schwartzman, is very well written by Girard. I found myself feeling it all as the young medical examiner works to solve the murder of a woman who could be her twin. She soon realizes the killer chose the victim for that very reason. As the plot thickens and the threats mount against her, Schwartzman gains strength rather than cowering in the knowledge that her own life is in danger. I found the story gripping. Girard is an excellent writer. Check her out at daniellegirard@com.

This book, because of its medical examiner character, offered a number of unfamiliar words.

Words from Exhume:

Manubrium: The broad upper part of the sternum of mammals, with which the clavicles and first ribs articulate.  “She fingered the place where her necklace always lay flat against her manubrium.”

Parasympathetic: (adj.) of or relating to the part of the automatic nervous system that counterbalances the action of the sympathetic nerves. It consists of nerves arising from the brain and the lower end of the spinal cord and supplying the internal organs, blood vessels and glands.  “Her parasympathetic nervous system now back in control, her empty stomach ached, leaving her nauseous and exhausted.”

 Hemangioma: A benign tumor of blood vessels, often forming a red birthmark.  “Behind Stein’s right knee was another birthmark, this one a hemangioma. The hemangioma—sometimes called a raspberry—was the result of blood vessels that clustered in utero and never fully dissipated.”

 Aquiline: (adj.) Like an eagle. Special usage: (of a person’s nose) hooked or curved like an eagle’s beak.  “Plenty who were tall and thin as she was, even some with an aquiline nose like her own and others who had been born with a nose like hers and then had the hump surgically removed.”

 Whorls: A coil or ring, in particular: a complete circle in a fingerprint.  “’I’ve seen documented cases where they’ve pulled whorls off flesh.’ ‘Whorls?’ T.J. asked. ‘From fingerprints,” Harper explained.”

 Clinodractyly: A medical term describing the curvature of a digit (a finger or toe) in the plane of the palm, most commonly the fifth or little finger towards the adjacent fourth finger or ring finger.  “Her long, lean fingers, fingers like her father’s had been, like her own, their tips curved in just slightly, making them appear slightly arthritic. The clinical term was clinodactyly, a condition that caused a curvature of the digits, though theirs was mild enough to go unnoticed unless one knew to look.”

 Alveoli: A small cavity, pit, or hollow, in particular: any of the many tiny air sacs in the lungs where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place. “Oxygen flowed into the bronchi, then into the smaller bronchioles and into the alveoli. Two adult lungs were the home to some three hundred million alveoli where the oxygen dissolved into the moisture-rich covering of the alveoli and diffused into the blood.”

Definitions are typically from The New Oxford American Dictionary through Kindle or Wikipedia.

What interesting words have you taken note of lately?

Book of Words: Skeleton’s Key by Stacy Green

I’m using this blog to offer a chance at building a better vocabulary through the books I read. I’ll provide a short review of the book followed by a few words I think the author used in an interesting way or that might not be familiar, at least to me. In this case, I included “antebellum” because the definition states that it can be used for the period before any war, and I found that interesting. I’m only familiar with it being used before the American Civil War.

Photo from the Facebook page of Stacy Green. She attributed the photo to Melinda VanLone, author.

Photo from the Facebook page of Stacy Green. Green attributed the graphic to Melinda VanLone, author, who created it for Green’s Delta Crossroads Trilogy.

Skeleton’s Key (Delta Crossroads Trilogy, Book 2) by Stacy Green

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Skeleton’s Key and just picked up two more books by Stacy Green. She’s a fantastic storyteller. I love the characters and felt their pain, tension and thrills as they struggled to sort out the complexities of the puzzles of murder and the history of an antebellum home. The book’s plot reminded me a little of the Nancy Drew mystery, The Hidden Staircase, one of my very favorite books when I was much younger. Saying that, I must add that there’s no doubt that Skeleton’s Key is for mature readers. It kept me guessing throughout and surprised me with a twist in the end. Her Delta Crossroads Trilogy is fantastic, but this author is quite prolific. I intend to check out more of her work!

Words from Skeleton’s Key:

Warded: Any of the internal ridges or bars in a lock that prevent the turning of any key that does not have the grooves of corresponding size or form.
“Dani again examined the locking mechanism. ‘It’s warded.’ ‘Meaning a skeleton Key probably opens it.’”

Spanish moss: A flowering plant that often grows upon larger trees, commonly the southern live oak and bald-cypress in the lowlands and savannas of southeastern United States. It’s also native in much of Mexico, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Central America, South America and the West Indies. It grows hanging from tree branches in full sun through partial shade.
“At night, under the silvery glow of the moon, the wisps of Spanish moss were ghostlike-the spirits of the past weaving their way through the twisted branches of the tree.”

Daguerreotype: A photograph taken by an early photographic process employing an iodine-sensitized silvered plate and mercury vapor.
“Hard to tell with the state of the picture, and the fact that it’s a daguerreotype further distorts the color.”

Antebellum: Occurring or existing before a particular war, esp. the American Civil War: the conventions of the antebellum South. The origin is Latin, from ante ‘before,’ and bellum ‘war.’
“After the dust settled, Jaymee inherited one of the town’s other flagship antebellum homes, Magnolia House.”

Definitions are typically from The New Oxford American Dictionary through Kindle, or from Wikipedia.

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is… the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” — Mark Twain

Do you look up words as you read?

Publishing Choice is Personal

It’s a tough world in publishing these days. How do you decide which way to turn? Hold out for the big publishing contract that will likely never happen and doesn’t have the advantages it once did? Self publish and do all the work yourself?

The idea of self publishing is a viable consideration, but there’s something about the credibility that comes with signing with a publisher. Not to mention that a publisher takes care of working out a cover, formatting, etc. etc. etc.! Small indie publishers can offer so much to a new author these days that big publishing houses don’t. Namely, individual attention and a bigger percentage in royalties.

I published my first book with a small indie publisher. I’m proud of the effort I put into that first book, and the outcome.

Kimberly and Duke Pennell of Pen-L Publishing offered me a contract for three upcoming novels. My response, "Where's my pen? Then, a big THANK YOU!"

Kimberly and Duke Pennell of Pen-L Publishing offered me a contract for three upcoming novels. My response, “Where’s my pen? Then, a big THANK YOU!”

I recently signed with a different indie publisher based in Arkansas for my future books. I’m so excited that they were interested in my writing. Duke and Kimberly Pennell, who formed Pen-L Publishing just a couple of years ago, already have 75 or so titles under their belt. I opted to sign on with them mainly because of the integrity so evident in the two of them, but also because of their love of the craft and their dedication to creating a good product.

The choice was very personal to me. My writing is my heart. What I create with my voice is a part of me. I want to know that I can trust and feel proud of my choice in a publisher.

In November, Pen-L will publish A Lovely Murder, sequel to my first novel A Lovely County. I’m proud to say that A Lovely Murder took The President’s Award and 1st Place in the Unpublished Manuscript contest at Ozark Writers League late last year, so I can’t wait to see it in print.

Pen-L also graciously contracted to publish two more of my novels next year. A Lovely Grave is the third in the mystery series about small-town reporter Danni Edens. A fourth novel has yet to be titled.

The Thrill of FINALLY Getting in Print

After years, I mean decades, of working toward a goal, it’s really a great feeling to meet it. I started thinking about writing a novel based on a series of stories I wrote in 1994 about problems in the Arkansas 309 prison program. Lack of confidence, life, and other issues kept me from ever starting to work on the novel for ten to fifteen years. Then I piddled at it forever. My daughters will even tell you that I wouldn’t even call it a book for years. It was “my project.” Seven or eight years ago I got more serious about it, joined Northwest Arkansas Writers Workshop and rewrote it. Then I rewrote it again, and again, and again.

A Lovely County FrontThanks to Shannon Press, a division of Oghma Creative Media, A Lovely County has been published and released on Amazon this week!

I can’t tell you how thrilled and excited I am with this accomplishment. Yes, I am writing still. I have a thriller in the works that may turn out to be a novella, and I’m working on the second in a series about reporter Danni Edens, the protagonist in A Lovely County.

Thank you to everyone who supported me through this process, especially Sara and Hillary, my daughters, and my ever-proud husband Lloyd. Also, I doubt I’d ever get to this place without the Northwest Arkansas Writer’s Workshop. Thank you to everyone who read and critiqued and encouraged in our weekly sessions.

Here’s the link to my newly born Amazon page:

Laura Lippman Offers Another Great Read

Photo by Lori Ericson

Photo by Lori Ericson

Laura Lippman has the ability to put together a mystery plot like a tightly stitched patchwork quilt with a mixture of fabulous fabrics that you want to wrap yourself in and never let go. I get to the end of one of her books and am always amazed at how the story comes together with twists and turns around amazingly real characters that are fleshed out in revealing layers. This is particularly the case in her 2014 novel After I’m Gone.

The story easily jumps around a time period spanning several decades of family life, albeit a unique family life. Told from the perspective of five different family members and a few additional key characters, each reveals human qualities that bring out the best and worst innermost workings of heart and soul.

It’s a story of love, greed and betrayal as Felix Brewer creates a life of luxury for Bambi Gottschalk and their three daughters with somewhat shady business dealings that eventually catch up with him. He takes the chicken’s way out, avoids the penitentiary, leaving behind his family and a lover, along with a briefcase full of instructions and clues to where enough money is stashed to keep them living in style. But his family never knows about that briefcase and are left wondering if his mistress is the only one he cared enough about to provide something to sustain her in the wake of his departure. When she disappears exactly ten years after Felix vanished, it’s assumed that she has joined him on some tropical island. Years later her body is discovered. That discovery brings out secrets the Brewer women have kept from each other that nearly cost them all, until one of Felix’s women puts it all together. She finds that long-held desire created the mess and robbed her family of a life they deserved.

After I’m Gone is an excellent read, a complex mystery that won’t disappoint. The reader is likely to be slapping their forehead as the story unfolds in the end. I find myself doing that often at the end of Lippman’s books. I particularly like her standalone novels, but her Tess Monaghan series is also worth every turn of the page.

In full disclosure here, I had the pleasure of meeting Laura Lippman years ago. I attended “Of Dark and Stormy Nights,” a conference held in Chicago by Mystery Writers of America. I was fascinated to hear one of my favorite writers explain her craft, but absolutely delighted when we happened to share a shuttle to O’Hare Airport at the end of the conference. And, of course, I took a few precious moments of her time and shared a story idea I had brewing in my brain. She told me to go for it, to write the book about a corrupt prison system, a serial killer and a reporter from the Ozark Mountains who puts it all together. That book, A Lovely County, is coming out in a few months, and I’d like to thank Laura Lippman for encouraging me to get it written. I can only hope to be a Lippman kind of writer that keeps readers enthralled until the final page.

Hell No, Dear Abby!

Dear Abby recently advised someone to provide a review of a self-published book that would get around the fact that the book was not worth reading. She said to use the words “a real page turner,” although the book was very poorly edited. “Reader in The Southwest” said the book was filled with misused and misspelled words, and punctuation problems. The writer had even switched the names of two characters. “Reader” couldn’t even force herself to finish reading the book, but her friend’s husband had written it and her friend had edited it. She felt it was too late to say anything negative about the book because it was already printed.

Photo by Lori Ericson

Photo by Lori Ericson

Dear Abby was being asked what to do in response to pressure to write a great review on Amazon. Abby advised her to find something she liked about the book and mention that it was a “page turner” because the reader did have to turn the pages.
I often take note of these Amazon reviews in determining whether or not to read a book. Giving a false review and misleading those who may purchase the book is wrong. If you’re not impressed with a book, don’t write a review.
I also think this issue speaks to the facts of self-publishing. If you can do it and do it well, make money from your writing, all power to you. But if you don’t get your work properly edited and just put it out there, it’s doing an injustice to all the self-published writers trying to do it right.
As a newspaper reporter for nearly twenty years, I’ll be the first to admit I need an editor and so does everyone. By the time I’m done even writing this blog, I’ll read back through it and find things that need changing. Sometimes I’ll make those changes and add in new errors. It happens, and it happens to the best of writers.
Mary Farmer at http://merryfarmer.net blogged recently about self-publishing being a business and the steps she takes to get a book out. She’s doing it right, not relying on just herself. She has beta-readers, editors and a publicist.
For all those self-published writers who are simply having a spouse or friend read through their masterpiece and then putting their work out there for the world to try to waddle through, I say keep it to yourself. I also say you deserve any bad review you get! I’ve become angry at being ripped off every time I’ve tried to read a book that I came to realize was not properly edited and not vetted by anyone with a good eye for detail. So far, I’ve simply not provided a review. With this kind of advice from Dear Abby, I feel that maybe it’s time to say what I feel as nicely as possible but honestly.
My first novel is my baby. It’s being read now by a series of editors with a publishing company. I hope every single wrong detail, misspelling and incorrect punctuation mark is discovered. I’ve spent more hours than I care to admit on this first book. I’ve rewritten, edited and ran much of the book through my writing group, but I know there are still things to find, fix and improve.
How do you handle writing a review for a book you found lacking?