The past isn’t what it used to be

My older brother recently sent me an email about his 50th high school reunion in our small Midwestern hometown. I haven’t been back in years, so he described the changes since our childhood.

The drive-in teen hangout was gone and the family sit-down restaurant had expanded. My elementary school building had been razed years ago, and my high school—which was brand new in the 1970s when I attended—had been demolished for an even newer building.

The streets now have two roundabouts—why, I don’t know. It’s not as if the town ever had gridlock or even heavy traffic.

The city library I frequented, although the same on the outside, has changed inside, I’m sure. Computers have replaced the old card catalog I rifled through. Harry Potter and other newer books are probably on the shelves that once held the Sue Barton books I read.

The grand brick-and-stained-glass church building where my family worshiped is a mattress store. The congregation moved into a newer building that resembles a barn.

Most of the old stores are gone. The downtown movie cinema is now a community theater playhouse, and a movie multi-plex has sprung up in the commercial district on the edge of town.

Every now and then, when I’m tired of the incessant traffic, high prices and nanny laws in SoCal where I live, I think about my hometown, at rather, an idealized version of it.

A few years ago I had an urge to move back. But why? When I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to leave for the “big city.” I never ate at the drive-in, and was bored by school (no AP classes for gifted students). Shopping choices were limited to a handful of mom-and-pop stores, especially after the Sears and JC Penny moved out.

Physically my classmates have changed, but not so much socially. I had few close friends when in school, and by now those who still live in the hometown have their own social circles. I couldn’t break in.

I suppose it’s human nature to continually seek a non-existent Paradise where life will be perfect. When we’re faced with adult responsibilities, it feels good to retreat into a childhood where our biggest worry was returning a library book by the due date, or choosing the flavor of ice cream we wanted on the apple pie.

“The Twilight Zone” had several episodes about a man (why not a woman?) returning to his childhood home and finding he no longer belonged. This no doubt sprang from Rod Serling’s recollection of his upbringing in upstate New York. After moving to L.A. as an adult, he and his family made annual pilgrimages back to NY State for quiet vacations, away from the stress and egos of Hollywood.

When I get blue, I think about the opportunities I have here in SoCal. I could not have written my Sandy Fairfax series if I had not experienced the TV/movie industry and SoCal life for myself. I’ve seen some nifty museums and met some great people. I love my church and the clergy. I have a steady job. Although I miss the fall leaves and cooler autumns, I love not having to drive on winter snow and ice.

Perhaps childhood memories best belong in the past, because the reality is so much different today.

 

 

 

 

 

Travel with me on my blog tour

Today I’m kicking off a two-week Great Escapes blog tour to promote “The Quirky Quiz Show Caper.” Please stop by at any time and leave a comment! And please check out the character interviews; those were fun to write.

 

July 18 – A Blue Million Books – INTERVIEW
July 19 – Brooke Blogs – GUEST POST
July 20 – My Devotional Thoughts –  REVIEW, INTERVIEW
July 20 – 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, &, Sissy, Too! – SPOTLIGHT
July 21 – Island Confidential – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
July 22 – Babs Book Bistro – GUEST POST
July 23 – Lisa Ks Book Reviews – INTERVIEW
July 24 – Tea and A Book – REVIEW
July 25 – Socrates’ Book Reviews – REVIEW
July 26 – Bookjunkie’s Book Blog – REVIEW
July 26 – A Holland Reads – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
July 27 – Back Porchervations – REVIEW
July 28 – Queen of All She Reads – CHARACTER INTERVIEW
July 29 – Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers – GUEST POST
July 30 – LibriAmoriMiei – REVIEW
July 30 – Reading Is My SuperPower – SPOTLIGHT
July 31 – StoreyBook Reviews – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

 

Sandy’s new adventure

Here it is, Sandy’s latest mystery, “The Quirky Quiz Show Caper,” fourth in the series. I’ll be doing plenty of guest promotional blogs in the near future and you can read a blurb about the book on Amazon.com, so there’s no need to repeat a story summary here.

This book a little different from the previous stories in the series in that the murder, finally, takes place in chapter one. Some sages say mysteries must have the body in chapter one, or even on the first page, but nobody has complained about the late arrivals in my previous books. Generally I like to build the world first so the reader knows what’s going on, who’s who and can feel invested in solving the crime. I also avoid a lot of backtracking and exposition dumping.

Another difference is that the story seems, at first, to take place all over the place. The prior three books were set in a “closed community,” a finite number of characters contained in one location: a hotel, a movie studio or a cruise ship. “Quiz Show” settings include a college campus, a movie studio, an old art deco theater, a multi-million-dollar estate as well as various businesses and residences. And the cast list is never ending.

It may seem that the story is rambling both everywhere and nowhere in particular, but in the conclusion all of the subplots and suspects are draw together into one place. I’d been wanting to try my hand at such a story with seeming unrelated threads that eventually tie together into one neat bow.

The book also concludes a story arc begun in the first novel. Sandy’s been estranged from his parents, siblings and children. In book two he begins to make amends with his parents. Book three found him patching up old grudges with his sister.

In book four we finally meet his brother, Warren. Throughout the other books, Sandy had made insulting remarks about Warren and now we finally meet the man himself.

It’s the classic “prodigal son” parable: Sandy is the wayward son who left, indulged himself, and returned home a changed man. Warren is the good son who always behaved himself. He resents his scandalous brother trying to ingratiate himself back into the family. But circumstances force Sandy and Warren to put aside their feelings and work together.

Also in book one we learn about Sandy’s rocky relationship with his demanding father. That arc also reaches a comfortable conclusion in this book.

So what’s left for Sandy to do? At present my thoughts are to give him a rest and begin a new series that’s been on my mind for over a year. I can always return to Sandy at a later time if readers demand more. There are still a few more challenges he needs to face and always another mystery.

 

Fall update

Like the cobbler’s children who go barefoot, I’ve been too busy with other blogs to keep this one current. I post once a month on two group writers’ blogs, write a monthly newspaper column, do occasional blog guest posts, work a full-time job and somewhere find time to write mystery novels. Oh yes, and feed the cats.

I post at The Cozy Cat Chronicles, a blog for my fellow authors at Cozy Cat Press.

On the first Monday on each month I post at Ladies of Mystery, an eclectic group of women mystery authors of various genres. It’s been challenging but fun to think of new topics each month and not talk about my work constantly. Our posts are suppose to deal with “mystery” in one way or the other and I’ve been discovering novel ways to push the envelope as to what constitutes a “mystery.” Frankly, the whole writing process is a mystery to me. When I finish a piece I ask myself, “How did I ever do it?”

As for books, I’ve started the third draft of the fourth in the Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol mystery series, “The Quirky Quiz Show Caper.” I may be the only author to use the letter “Q” not once but twice in a book title. This one was a toughie. In the first draft, I threw out the first 50 pages and rebooted with a different approach. I almost gave up but my publisher encouraged me to finish. The book’s looking better now and has what I consider the funniest scene I’ve ever written. I’m anticipating the book’s release in early 2016.

After that I’ll give Sandy a well-deserved rest and start a new cozy series set in 1967. Far out! I have a number of ideas in place with an interesting female protagonist, an unusual small town setting and an exciting, unique concept. Stay tuned!

This fall I started a new writing project, a monthly column, Roots of Faith, for the Acorn Newspapers, the umbrella title of five community newspapers serving Western Los Angeles county and Eastern Ventura County in Southern California.

The challenge is to write articles that appeal readers with a wide range of religious beliefs. I can’t evangelize, although I stay in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and I keep clear of controversial topics; I’m not interested in fielding emails from readers who disagree with me! So far the response has been positive; even the priest and a deacon at my parish have liked my articles.

I’m writing more now that I ever have in my life (except maybe all those grad school papers). What’s gratifying in my work is getting published in paper and via Internet instead of generating rejection slips-I’ve had my fair share of those.

So if you don’t find a new post here, I’m probably blogging or writing somewhere else. But in future I’ll try not to be a stranger on my own blog.

 

 

An Ode to “Batman ’66″

The release earlier this year of ABC’s Batman TV show on DVD and the Batman ’66 comics based on the iconic show have spark a revival in Batmania.

I recently rewatched the show’s first two seasons (I’m not a fan of season three because Batgirl does nothing except show up to throw a kick or two, and losing the cliffhangers ruined the show). Here are my observations.

Law enforcement: A college communications professor told me that Batman portrayed the police as clowns. During the peace and civil rights protests of the 1960s, the cops beat, gassed and hosed down unarmed citizens. The police enforced segregation laws and threw blacks into jail for, well, being black. No wonder law enforcement was viewed with suspicion and contempt.

Batman played out this anti-fuzz attitude with a police force so incompetent it couldn’t arrest a jaywalker. Chief O’Hara did nothing except wait for the batphone to ring. Several times Commissioner Gordon asks O’Hara if he felt capable of stopping the latest crime wave. O’Hara hangs his head in shame and shakes his head. The police only show up at the end of each episode to arrest the crooks after they have been subdued by the dynamic duo.

The villains: If the police are dopes, the arch criminals are little more than pranksters. They only steal; they don’t kill, rape, maim or commit arson. A few kidnappings occur, although the victims are never physically harmed and a few are not even tied up during their captivity.

The crooks only take from banks and jewelry stores, which are insured, or from the wealthy who can afford to lose a million or two. Sometimes the baddies will spray dye on citizens but otherwise they cause no serious danger.

Why do Gordon and O’Hara panic when these overgrown bullies show up? Why can’t the police pull out their guns and order the crooks to surrender?

The villains are stupid in that they always leave blatant clues signaling their next move. If they were more secretive, they would never be caught. But given the brightly colored, outlandish outfits the crooks wear, obviously they want attention.

If Gotham City suffers so much crime, why do people choose to live there?

Whey is the batcave so well guarded yet stately Wayne manor directly above is a crime trap? Criminals constantly walk the grounds, enter through unlocked doors, and steal from hidden safes that they know about. Can’t millionaire Bruce Wayne afford an alarm system and security guards?

If stately Wayne manor is so huge, why do the occupants use the same room all the time (besides the fact that building more sets costs the studio money)? And why don’t we ever see the people eating in a dining room? Or using a kitchen, bedroom or bathroom?

How was the batcave built without anyone knowing about it? Did Bruce Wayne blindfold the builders and drive them to the construction site? How did he purchase and install a nuclear reactor without government regulators finding out?

How does Dick Grayson find the time to be an honor student, serve on school council, and still fight crime? Do the criminals only strike after school hours (in only one episode do we see Dick in school)? When he and Batman are caught in a death trap, how does he manage to escape in time to go to class the next day?

Why is concealing Batman’s identity so important? If people knew he was Bruce Wayne, so what? It would avoid the silliness and charades when Batman and Bruce Wayne are expected to show up together.

Why hasn’t Batman been arrested for child endangerment? What loving, responsible parent/guardian would allow a child to be beaten, tied up and harassed by criminals every week? Is Dick’s young, developing brain traumatized from this exposure to wickedness?

Why hasn’t anyone figured out their identities, especially since Batman and Robin make no attempt to disguise their voices?

I had the privilege of meeting Burt Ward a few years ago at a promotional event. In real life he talks the same he did as Robin, with that same “Golly gee whiz!” enthusiasm. Holy typecasting!

What are you thoughts on the “Batman” show?

 

 

 

Amateur Sleuths: Useful Crimefighters or Meddling Busybodies?

Amateur sleuths–are they a help or a hindrance?

In a recent review of my latest cozy, a blogger (who otherwise loved the book) was irked by my sleuth’s involvement in the case. He “sticks his nose where it doesn’t belong regardless of personal risk and requests of law enforcement.” True, but my sleuth identified the murderer long before the police had a clue

One of the requirements for writing in the cozy genre is that the protagonist must be an amateur sleuth, not a private eye, police officer, FBI/CIA agent, spy or even retired from the force. Those looking for such characters should turn to a thriller, police procedural, hard-boiled or noir.

What’s the attraction of the amateur sleuth? The AS is generally a woman (but more men protagonists are popping up in cozies), usually single (but not always) who often owns some kind of mom-and-pop shop in a small town. The AS is not trained in police work but somehow gets sucked into a murder case, usually because the AS knows the victims or the person suspected of the crime or the AS just happens to be hanging around the crime scene.

The charm of the AS is that the reader can identify with the heroine, who is an average person just like herself, more so than she can relate to a law enforcement professional. Often the AS is engaged in a hobby or occupation that interests the reader.

The reader can solve the crime along with the AS. The reader sees the same clues as the AS and the game is on to see if the AS or reader can sort out the red herrings first. Since the AS has no access to crime labs or highly technical police equipment, the reader and AS are working on a level playing field.

In a cozy, the AS is surrounded by parents, kids, crazy relatives, friends and eccentric townspeople. The reader loves to see how the AS handles her various relationships and can probably relate to some of the wacky characters.

In a cozy, the reader doesn’t need to decipher unfamiliar police terminology or try to assimilate into the close-knit culture of the thin blue line. The cozy reader doesn’t have to see the awful sights an officer sees at a crime scene.

So what is the value of the amateur sleuth? Can’t the police solve the case themselves?

Cozies are fantasies. Much of what happens in a cozy would never occur in real life. A cozy is entertainment, not a forensics textbook. The aim is to engage the reader in solving a puzzle and share in the family life of the protagonist, not to present an accurate depiction of police work.

The AS has access to and can communicate with people that the police can’t reach. The AS may find a clue a tired, overworked officer missed. The AS might look at a crime with fresh eyes and a new perspective. And in some cozies, the local law enforcement officers are not the sharpest tools in the woodshed.

My amateur sleuth, Sandy Fairfax, 38-year-old former teen idol, gets involved in cases because he’s the one who finds the body and some compelling reason forces him to start detecting.

In “The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper,” the police suspect him.

In “The Sinister Sitcom Caper,” the death occurs on a movie lot and the studio executives are more anxious in covering up the crime than in solving it.

In “The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper,” the shipboard security is relying on land-based police to handle the case.

In my current WIP, Sandy finds the body in the offices of a close family member and the detective assigned to the case is pulled away to handle a high-profile murder.

Sandy has the type of personality that cases him to “stick his nose” into other people’s business. In his youth he was energetic and active, outgoing and not timid. He was reckless and often engaged in risky behavior. On his TV show he did most of his own stunt work, so he’s a daredevil and not fearful. he speaks his mind and is not shy at striking up conversations with strangers.

He’s not working steadily, so he’s bored and looking for something to stimulate his mind. He’s had run-ins with the police in the past, so he’s pleased to beat the cops at their own game.

And deep down Sandy has a strong moral core that seeks justice and wants to help the underdog. He feels guilty at squandering much of his life in drinking and inactivity, so solving a crime provides him with purpose and a sense of accomplishment.

What traits do you like to see in an amateur sleuth? What value do you see in an amateur sleuth solving a crime?

 

SHOP TILL YOU DROP ONLINE AND IN STORE

In recent years brick-and-mortar stores, especially bookshops, have bewailed the rise of Internet shopping. Is one type of shopping better than the other?

I enjoyed browsing at the local Borders bookstores. I’ve found some books that I probably would not have noticed otherwise. However, my last venture to a Borders was annoying. I was casually perusing the shelves. Every 10 minutes, a clerk asked if I needed help. After this happened several times I was ready to shout, “No, I’m not shoplifting, now leave me alone!” Then all the Borders stores closed and the clerks didn’t bother me anymore.

The local indie mystery bookstore closed a few years ago. I went to several book signings and met some great local authors but the store mostly promoted the “big name” titles that I could find at a regular bookstore, a big chain department store or a library.

The closest bookstores now are a Barnes & Noble and a small indie general bookstore, both about 20 miles away. I could take time from my weekends to drive there, battle traffic, hunt for a parking spot, or I could sit in the comfort of my home and browse online. Granted, I’d have to wait a week of so for the book to arrive, but the post office is only three blocks away for easy pickup.

Last November I received a B&N gift certificate so I made a trip to the store. I made sure to arrive early in the morning before traffic got heavy. Finding parking spot was not impossible and I parked closer than I expected, an eight-minute walk to the door.

The front of the store had a huge Nook display. The first floor contained magazines, comic book action figures, sales items (i.e., the price is cut because nobody wants them), a cafe, DVDs and music, tote bags and reading lamps, Dr. Who stuff and, surprisingly, a few books: reference, self help and some specially bound “classics.” The kids’ section was a generous size, but I don’t have kids.

To find the fiction and rest of the nonfiction I had to ride the escalator to the mezzanine. Why tuck books away on the second floor in the back of the store? The mystery section was a bit forlorn. The “new titles” section pushed the usually best-selling suspects and only one or two local authors (B&N does not carry my books on their shelves. For shame!).

I didn’t see any Father Brown mysteries. Isn’t that considered one of the “must read” classics? A clerk said she could order a book for me, but I’d pay for shipping to my home or return to the store for pick up (Hmmm, a certain online retailer offers free shipping). When I remarked, “you don’t have a wide selection,” she relied tartly, “We can’t carry every book.” That was true. The selection in all areas was quite limited.

Back downstairs I couldn’t browse a certain section because a large man stood in front of the shelves, blocking my view. So I moved on. At least when I’m online I can look at any book uninterrupted.
I ended up in the DVD/CD area. By now I was getting tired of standing and walking (at home I can take a break before I resume online shopping). I looked for Christmas music, but even that section was pitifully skimpy. I finally found a music CD marked down to the price of my gift card. Hurrah!

I took the CD home, opened it and the jewel case broke. No wonder it was on sale. I’d received broken jewel cases with some of my online orders so I mailed them back for a replacement and the online retailer provided a return label with postage.

The next week I schlepped back to the store to return the CD. The clerk said the store didn’t have another CD of that title. I said I’d take store credit. I spent an hour browsing around. I returned to the clerk who had simply found another jewel case to replace the broken one. This case had a small scratch in it but the CD played all right and I guess that’s what mattered the most.

I had a pleasant time browsing in the store. I enjoyed flipping through a book to get an idea if I really wanted it. I was introduced to a number of books that I would probably not have found online. I didn’t know this particular CD existed. But I admit I love online shopping at times convenient to me without having to drive and not waiting in line for checkout.

Online shopping also provides a far great selection of items-not just books-than I can find in the local stores. And online one isn’t pestered by salespersons striking up a conversation and pushing for sales.

I like to support local vendors. But a brick-and-mortar store is limited by what it can hold in its walls and what it can sell. It’s a matter of supply and demand. If the Internet can supply what I demand, I’ll buy it.

Do you prefer shopping online or in person?

A Cozy Tribute To Elvis

When I was writing the third book of my cozy mystery series, “The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper,” I didn’t consciously think of modeling the story after the format of an Elvis Presley movie. But why not copy the best?

Elvis made 30 films from 1956 to 1969 (not counting the concert documentaries in 1970 and ’72). While he dreamed of acting in serious dramatic roles (he really showed his chops in “King Creole”), the studios and his agent locked him into romantic/fantasy flicks with thin plots and often weak songs.

But despite what critics may say about the artistic quality of the films, every movie Elvis were highly entertaining, made earned a profit and packed theaters. Small wonder the studios had him churn out three films a year.

So how does my book resemble an Elvis movie?

My series protagonist is Sandy Fairfax, a former teen idol in his 30′s who is charismatic, good looking, funny and smart. He loves women and they adore him. He has rabid fans, plays guitar, and can break your heart with a song.

Sounds like Elvis, doesn’t it?

Elvis sang several songs in his films. Sandy performs seven concerts aboard a cruise ship.

Elvis movies had pretty young women. My cast of secondary characters includes: Celeste, Sandy’s attractive sister; Cinnamon, his beautiful choreographer, and Helen Wheeler, one of Sandy’s former live-in girlfriends.

Elvis films have an antagonist, someone who dislikes the King and is out to defeat him, whether in a car race or to steal his girl. My book has a shipboard murderer. When Sandy starts sniffing around for clues, the killer has Sandy in his sights.

Elvis films had exotic settings. Sandy’s on board a cruise ship headed for the Bahamas.

Elvis always won the girl in his films. Sandy has his eye on a woman but she’s traveling with an old boyfriend. Will Sandy succeed in wooing her away?  You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Elvis films often had a comic sidekick. Sandy has his biggest fan, Bunny McAllister, for comic relief as well a several oddball characters (who are also suspects!).

Elvis was a scrappy fighter and he generally threw a few punches in his films. Likewise, Sandy fights back when he’s in a sticky situation.

Of course no discussion of The King would be complete without Elvis impersonators. Yes, a couple of them show up in the ship’s Halloween costume gala.

In the best homage of all, each of the 22 chapter headers in my book is the name of a song that Elvis recorded.

So what is your favorite Elvis movie or song?

 

 

The Rise And Demise Of TV Theme Songs

One of the favorite albums in my record (vinyl) collection is a two-disc set from TeeVee Toons called “Television’s Greatest Hits” with no less than 65 theme songs from ’50s and ’60s shows. The themes cover children’s shows, comedies, dramas, detective, sci fi and late night talk shows. Some of the recordings are not the original performances (no doubt due to licensing restrictions) but the album is still a delight for the nostalgic TV junkie.

I love the opening title credits and the theme music of my favorite shows. To me, the credits are as much a part of the program as the story. The credits set the mood and tone of the program and get the viewer ready to laugh or be serious. When the viewer sits down to watch a show after a hard day’s work, the credits eases him into a world of enchantment and entertainment.

In modern shows, the cast/crew credits are almost an afterthought, slapped across the bottom of the screen while the viewer is trying to watch the story. Tacky!

My vote for the best title credits ever is “Mission: Impossible.” Every single episode of the seven-year run of the original series had different visuals comprised of action clips from that particular show set to the jazzy beat of Lalo Schifrin’s unforgettable score. The fan could instantly tell which episode was playing just by the credit sequence.

Another great opening credit was the 1966 “Batman” that used a stylized pop-art animation, a nod to the show’s comic book origins.

Many classic TV themes are what I call “story songs” that introduced the series concept and the characters so the viewer could jump into the story. Let’s see a show of hands of those who can sing from memory the themes for “Gilligan’s Island” and “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Davy Jones made “The Brady Bunch” theme a staple of his live shows.

My favorite “story song” is from “Alias Smith and Jones,” which used a spoken narration over the snappy music (“Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, the two most successful outlaws in the history west. And in all the trains and banks they robbed, they never shot anyone.”). In a dreadful twist of irony, Roger Davis, who spoke the narration for the first season narration, replaced Pete Duel as Hannibal Heyes in the second season after Duel’s untimely death.

The most recent example of the “story song” that I know is “Castle,” introducing the ruggedly handsome mystery writer and his muse, a female NYPD detective. Unfortunately, by season four the clever credits had dropped out altogether. Why? Maybe the producers thought that after three years the viewers knew the characters, or maybe the humorous credits no longer fit with the darker storylines, or perhaps the network need the extra few seconds to cram in more ads.

Some theme songs were such great works that the studios released an extended version of the music on a single. In my music collection I have the “Hawaii 5-0″ theme redone lounge-style as “Martini 5-0″ by The Blue Hawaiian surf band.

The beauty of a great theme song is that it stuck in the viewer’s brain all week along, so the hapless victim kept thinking about the program even when she wasn’t watching it.

Alas, the day of the great theme song is over. Nowadays a scripted show is lucky to have a few seconds of a “sting” or sometimes nothing more than a chord! Why? The change occurred during the rise of cable TV when the studios were desperate to keep the viewer from clicking to another channel. The idea was to hook the viewer into the story immediately. Also, with today’s DVD sets and streaming video, “binge” viewers who watch several episodes continuously might find repeated viewing of the same credits tedious and time consuming.

In my Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol mystery series, Sandy starred in a ’70s TV show called “Buddy Brave, Boy Sleuth.” And he even has his own theme music–a two-minute instrument piece called “Land O’ Pies” (don’t ask me what that means) on Michael Nesmith’s CD “Rays.” The first time I heard this piece I thought, “Yeah! That’s Sandy’s theme song!”

So what are some of your favorite TV theme songs? And if you’re a writer, do your characters have a theme song?

Blog hop: Meet Celeste Farmington

Today I’m bopping along on a character blog hop. I was tagged by Connie Archer, the national bestselling author of the Soup Lovers Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime: A Spoonful of Murder, A Broth of Betrayal and A Roux of Revenge, set in the imaginary village of Snowflake, Vermont. The fourth book in the series, Ladle to the Grave, will be released in April 2015. Connie was born and raised in New England.  She now lives on the other coast. Visit her website and blog at www.ConnieArcherMysteries.com, Facebook.com/ConnieArcherMysteries and Twitter @SnowflakeVT.

In this blog hop, authors are to discuss a main character from a work in progress. In the third book of my Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol mystery series, set in 1993, we finally meet Sandy’s sister, Celeste Farmington. She’s the “baby” of the family with two older brothers, Warren and Ernest Farmington (Sandy’s real name).

Celeste is 33 years old and lives in a rented bungalow in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles. She has long blond hair and is pretty in a girl-next-door sort of way. She was born blind due to a birth defect. Instead of sending her to a school for the blind, her mother home schooled Celeste. As a result of spending so much time alone, Celeste is not comfortable around strangers or in unfamiliar places.

Like her brothers, Celeste was classically trained in piano and is gifted in music. During the 1970s she recorded two critically acclaimed folk rock albums, A Dragon in the Forest and Gently Sings the Dove. However, her work was overshadowed by her brother, Sandy, who shot to teen idol fame with his best-selling bubblegum albums and TV show. She begged Sandy to use his notoriety to advance her career but nothing worked out and her music was soon forgotten. But Celeste didn’t forget and she held a grudge against her brother.

When Sandy’s musical career fizzled he turned to drink and ignored his family. Celeste felt shut out and neglected. She gave up on music and turned to making abstract ceramic sculptures with little success. She stayed at home, reading books-on-tape and Braille, and struggling to make ends meet on government benefits.

Now Sandy’s back in her life. He’s sober and he wants Celeste to join him in performing a week of shows aboard the USS Zodiac on a Caribbean cruise. At first she’s still angry with him but she moves past old hurts and capitulates. Learning the music and adjusting to life outside of her comfort zone prove difficult but she perseveres.

Aboard the Zodiac, the concerts are a hit but the trip turns deadly when Sandy finds a dead body in his dressing room. He does some amateur sleuthing while Celeste tags along. When Sandy escapes a death trap set by the murderer, Celeste becomes the killer’s next target. Will they both stay alive long enough to restart their careers?

Find out more about Celeste and her famous brother in The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper, due for a November 2014 release.

I’ve tagged Joyce Oroz to continue the blog hop. She is a retired mural artist who writes murder mysteries set around mural painting in California. She says, “I have come to realize that writing is a lot like painting but without the mess. I love sending my protagonist, Josephine Stuart, off to dangerous places to flush out a murderer. It’s how I deal with the scary things in life-I write them down and then take away their power. I have written six mystery novels in the last nine years. My latest book, Roller Rubout will be out this fall.”

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=joyce+oroz