Edits, Round Two

This past week I have been working on the second round of edits Tracey Matthews from Five Star sent me a few days before Easter.

Have you ever worked with the Track Changes feature in MS Word? If you have, you know Word doesn’t remove deletions, it strikes through the words and lines so an editor and writer know what changes each has made. The document ends up a colorful three-hundred pages (give or take). It’s easy for an extra space or period to get lost among the changes, or for a piece of dialogue to go without a closing quotation mark. Tracey, a fantastic editor and fact checker, went through the Murder, By George manuscript and corrected these errors.

Tracey also requested an alternative word choice in a couple of spots and pointed out inconsistencies in the text and confusing passages. For example, too many dialogue tags (he said, she said, the dog said) can slow the story’s pace, but attribution is needed at times to break up long stretches of conversation and to identify the character who uttered the marvelous quip or profound insight.

Finally, Tracey went over the Ancillary Materials document I submitted with the first edit. Included in the document are short descriptions of Murder, By George  for the book jacket and Five Star’s catalog and a full plot synopsis for the cover designers. I should have the cover image to share with you by early summer.

Here’s the copy that will appear in the publisher’s catalog for Murder, By George:

Retired soap actress Veronica Walsh leads a fulfilling second act in her Adirondack hometown of Barton. With a new business and thriving romance, she has no time for amateur sleuthing. Then architect Scott Culverson buys a vintage box at a flea market and discovers a valuable painting inside a locked drawer. An argument over the painting’s ownership ensues, with Scott battling both the artist’s family and Ella and Madeline Griffin, whose mother received the painting as a wedding gift. When Scott is stabbed to death and the painting stolen, the Griffins ask Veronica to help clear suspicion from their hot-tempered great-niece.

Veronica’s sleuthing introduces her to a colorful cast of characters. Whom can Veronica trust, and who will lead her to the brink of death?

That’s enough about the second in the Veronica Walsh mystery series. I’m still promoting the first, All Things Murder! I’ll be doing a reading from the book at the Sloatsburg Public Library in Sloatsburg, New York next Wednesday, April 22. I’m looking forward to meeting the library’s patrons and sharing with them a selection from my debut cozy. It should be a fun evening so if you are in the area, come join us!

Happy Sunday, everyone!

 

 

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Weekend Wishes

On this special weekend, I would like to wish all celebrating the respective holy days a very happy and blessed Passover and Easter. May you enjoy the days with your family and friends!

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A Release Date, By George

I received a short but sweet e-mail from my Five Star (and five-star!) editor, Tiffany Schofield on Friday. Murder, By George, the second book in the Veronica Walsh Mystery series, will be released January 20, 2016!

It may seem like a long wait, but we’re already three months into 2015. Happy Spring, by the way. I’m excited about the January release (of course I’d be excited about a release date any time of the year). It will be a welcome antidote to the post-holiday doldrums ushered in by the cold days of January. Promoting the book will enliven the winter months for me, and for readers, nothing beats curling up in a comfy chair with a cup of hot cocoa or tea and a good book while it snows outside, right?

One note- the book will ship from Five Star’s warehouse on January 20. It will take a couple of weeks for it to reach seller warehouses, so I estimate it will be available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other vendors the first week of February. Just in time for Valentine’s Day shopping. Hint, hint…

That’s my news for the week. Like the email from Tiffany, short and sweet. I hope you all have a great week!

 

 

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Remembering A Humble Priest

As an alumna of the university, I am a proud and blessed member of the Notre Dame family. This week, we mourned and celebrated the priest who led our family for thirty-five years, the remarkable Father Theodore Hesburgh. Father Ted, as we affectionately called him, passed on February 26 at the age of 97.

The tributes to Father Ted have been numerous. Father Edward Malloy, who succeeded Father Ted, and our current president, Father John Jenkins, gave moving eulogies at the wake and funeral, respectively. On Wednesday evening, the university held a beautiful ceremony at which many, including former president Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, and Indiana Governor Mike Pence, shared their memories of Father Ted.

In addition to serving as the president of Notre Dame, Father Ted advised presidents and popes, helped President John F. Kennedy form the Peace Corp, and was the chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Father Ted’s advocacy for human rights and social justice took him to more than one hundred countries.

Father Ted had a powerful impact on many lives, including mine. For 130 years, Notre Dame accepted only male students. Father Ted changed that in 1972 when he decided Our Lady’s university should include the Blessed Mother’s daughters, too.

When I decided in 1973 that I wanted to attend Notre Dame (I was seven; my brother Bob was a freshman at Notre Dame that fall), I did not know that women had only gained admittance to the university’s undergraduate program the previous year. I just knew I wanted to go there. I worked hard over the next ten years to receive an acceptance letter, which arrived on December 12, 1983. It was one of the happiest days of my life.

I met Father Ted in my sophomore year. That year, I and another woman were responsible for setting up, and cleaning up after, our dorm’s Masses. So I was in the sacristy when Father Ted arrived to say the dedication Mass for our newly renovated chapel. We shook hands and had a brief conversation about the service. It was another great moment in my life.

Over the last week I have been wondering who I would be if I hadn’t first dreamed of, and finally attended, Notre Dame. During my grammar and high school years, I made choices based on what would help me get into Notre Dame, from the classes I took to the books I read during summer vacation. What if I didn’t have that focus in those early years? Perhaps I would not have been so persistent in pursuing my writing dreams as an adult.

Obviously, I would have attended another university. Good grief, I might have gone to USC or the University of Michigan, two of Notre Dame’s football rivals. I might not have majored in Sociology and English. I would have a different group of friends. Perhaps I would have studied abroad for a semester or year (once I set foot on Notre Dame’s South Bend campus my freshman year, I did not want to leave).

I could now be living in a different city or state. I could be a transplanted Northerner living in Georgia or Texas! I could be married with five children (holy cow). I could be a sushi eater (double holy cow). Maybe I would not be a writer (that thought makes me sad).

I am very grateful to Father Ted for looking upon the statue of the Blessed Mother atop the Golden Dome and imagining a conversation with Mary, knowing she would want to know why a school named in her honor didn’t admit women. I am grateful for all Father Ted did to make Notre Dame a wonderful place to spend four years of my life and for the magnificent work he did to make Notre Dame one of the best Catholic universities in the world. I am very proud to be a member of the Notre Dame family, and I will always remember the kind, humble priest who led and loved us.

 

 

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From Page to Screen

It’s Oscar day! Tonight the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will celebrate the best films of 2014 with a red carpet entrance, hours-long ceremony, and after-parties that will run into the wee hours of Monday morning.

That means it’s a good time to talk about books!

A number of this year’s nominees are adaptations of novels, biographies, and non-fiction bestsellers—American Sniper, The Imitation Game, and The Theory of Everything among them. Rosamund Pike is nominated for her performance in Gone Girl, the mega-bestselling book by Gillian Flynn that was also a huge hit at the box office last fall. Julianne Moore, heavily favored in the Best Actress category, has already won a number of awards for her portrayal of a woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the film based on Lisa Genova’s novel, Still Alice.

Hollywood has been adapting novels for the silver screen for decades. The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Grapes of Wrath, The Godfather, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest are classics of both print and film.

Yesterday afternoon, after watching one of my favorite movies based on a novel, Bridget Jones’s Diary, I went online and checked out a list of Oscar-nominated adapted screenplays. A number of the titles on the list I have loved as a viewer and reader: The Age of Innocence, Wonder Boys, and Nobody’s Fool.

A few of the other works on the list I haven’t read but very much enjoyed watching, such as Sideways, The Descendants, and The Constant Gardener. Then there are All the President’s Men, Lincoln, Captain Phillips, 12 Years a Slave, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. So many good films to see, so many good books to read, who has the time for anything else?

Some books are so influential and timeless they have been set to film multiple times: The Great Gatsby, A Christmas Carol (the version starring George C. Scott is my favorite), and Dracula.

Film adaptations of popular books are not always successful movies. Something is lost in the translation from page to celluloid and the film lacks the magic that captured the reader’s imagination. The film based on Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres, one of my favorite books of the 1990’s, was a faithful adaptation of the novel, so much so that it seemed to me the filmmakers had a list of plot points that they checked off during filming but didn’t mine them for the emotional depth Smiley masterfully portrayed in her story. At other times, a screenwriter’s artistic license elevates the source material, making the theatrical viewing more rewarding than the reading experience. Forrest Gump and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape come to mind, and debates have been had over the Harry Potter and Twilight books and movies. Not to mention the current Fifty Shades of Grey.

So what are your favorite books that have been adapted to film? Did you enjoy the movie, or was it a disappointment?

And for whom are you rooting tonight? I haven’t seen any of the films. I’m not much of a filmgoer; movies are released on dvd so quickly after their theatrical releases that I wait and borrow what I want to see from the library. I am pulling for Best Supporting Actor favorite J.K. Simmons, whom I have loved since his days on Law and Order, and Michael Keaton. How can you not root for the guy who played Mr. Mom, Beetlejuice, and Batman?

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What Day Is It?

The edit of Murder, By George is done! After three weeks of hunkering down over my computer keyboard, I returned the edit to Gordon Aalborg this morning. With this first phase over, I made a cup of tea and fell asleep watching the morning news (I’m already Super Bowl-ed out).

When I awoke, I realized it was February 1. A glance at the calendar informed me it is also National Freedom Day. I Founded by Major Richard Robert Wright Sr., this holiday commemorates the date in 1865 that President Abraham Lincoln signed the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery. A very good day indeed.

What other holidays do we celebrate in February? We know it is Black History Month and that Valentine’s Day is the fourteenth, but did you know it is also Great American Pie Month, Canned Food Month, and National Children’s Dental Health Month? It’s also National Cherry Month, which goes hand-in-hand with those pies.

Tomorrow is Ground Hog Day, the day when groundhogs are dragged from their burrows and forced to make a weather prediction.

February 4th is Create A Vacuum Day. Would that be the appliance that cleans floors, or a void?

Saturday the 7th is Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day. I can do that. And afterwards, I’ll take a walk through the neighborhood and celebrate Wave All Your Fingers at Your Neighbor Day. Remember, ALL your fingers.

And this is just the first week of the month! In February we’ll also celebrate:

Boy Scout Day (8th). Do a little role reversal and help a Boy Scout across the street.

Don’t Cry over Spilled Milk Day (11th). Celebrate optimism today by walking on the sunny side of the street.

Singles Awareness Day (15th). This is for everyone who didn’t get a box of chocolate on the 14th.

Do a Grouch a Favor Day (16th). But what if they don’t appreciate it and hit me?

Random Acts of Kindness Day (17th). This should be every day!

Chinese New Year (19th). Are you a Sheep? It’s your year!

Hoodie Hoo Day (20th). The day to beat the winter doldrums by going outside at noon, waving your hands, and shouting “Hoodie Hoo!” Who would like to go first?

Dogs make out very well this month. There’s Love Your Pet Day (20th), Walking the Dog Day (22nd), and International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day (23rd). Have fun Nick, Pela, and Starr (my four-legged relatives).

Public Sleeping Day (28th). I’ll celebrate by falling asleep at my office desk. Do you think anyone will mind?

It looks like we have a fun month ahead of us! Enjoy it, everyone!

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The (Sub) Plot Thins

The edit is here! The edit is here!

Yes, the first edit of Murder, By George is here. It arrived in my email inbox last Monday, along with the suggestion that I cut a subplot. Yipes! As editor Gordon Aalborg pointed out, this storyline, which features Veronica’s friend Glen Weber, slows the pace of the overall story and lends nothing to the mystery. So…delete, delete, delete.

I am now eliminating those passages that involve Glen, Veronica, and a house for sale and am adding a scene or two that relate to Veronica’s search for architect Scott Culverson’s killer. Murder, By George will be better for this effort, and I thank Gordon for his excellent insight and guidance.

I’m also experiencing a common lament of writers: I can’t stop tinkering with the manuscript. As I read over the three hundred pages, viewing them in the context of Gordon’s comments and changes, I’m finding a line here, a word there, that seemed perfect months ago and now strike me as all wrong. It’s a good thing next Monday is my deadline, or I’d keep revising until Murder, By George is a Western set in the 1870’s.

That’s what I’ve been doing, thus this short post!

Today we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A towering figure in American history, Dr. King was one of the finest leaders this country has ever known. Now, almost forty-seven years after his death, Dr. King’s words and actions still guide and inspire, and indeed carry particular significance in these times of struggle. Let us each take a moment today to reflect on his wisdom  and legacy. And let us strive every day to judge others “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Have a terrific week, everyone.

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Happy New Year

Happy New Year to you all!

I hope you had as wonderful and fulfilling a Christmas season as I did. It started with a beautiful Mass at my parish on Christmas morning, followed by a day spent with my mother, uncle, sister and her family, and my brother and his family. My aunt and cousins visited from Massachusetts over the weekend, bringing with them more laughter and good cheer.

Though I had most of the two weeks off from work, I reported for duty on Monday, albeit from home. Isn’t telecommuting a wonderful thing?

Tuesday brought the Music City Bowl. My alma mater, Notre Dame, won the game against LSU thanks to a last-second field goal kicked by Kyle Brindza. It was a very welcome win after the Fightin’ Irish had a less-than-stellar November.

A nice surprise came on New Year’s Day when I visited Escape with Dollycas and discovered Lori’s list of her Best Reads of 2014. All Things Murder made her Top 15!

This brings me to New Year’s resolutions. I’ve resolved to spring clean throughout the year. I have a lot of stuff I haven’t used/looked at in years crammed into drawers and closets. It’s time to let it go. I figure if I do a little bit of clearing out every week, the task won’t be so overwhelming than if I attempt to do it all at once.

There will be lots of writing this year, too. The first edit of Murder, By George should arrive this month. After the lull of the holidays, I can’t wait to launch into the publication process for this second book. And I’m working on the third installment of the Veronica Walsh mystery series. It will take place during winter and will involve Barton’s community theater. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

So how about you? How was your holiday season? And what resolutions have you made for 2015?

Have a great week, everyone!

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Christmas Wishes

 

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I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year. I hope you enjoy these last few days of the year with your family and friends, and if you won’t be spending the holidays at home, I wish you safe travels.

Jeanne

 

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Build A Tree

Last weekend I put up our family’s Christmas tree. An artificial tree. Some of you are now cringing, aren’t you?

My philosophy: With an artificial tree, I don’t have to trek to the local tree stand every December, agonize over which tree to pick, hand over a wad of my hard-earned money, and then struggle to get the tree into and out of my car and up to my living room. I just have to pull a box from the basement shelf and carry it upstairs.

Bare

We’ve always had a “fake” tree, with the exception of one Christmas in the early 1980’s. That year, we bought a live tree, set it up in the living room, and diligently watered it every day. I remember one thing about that tree: My father knocked it over Christmas Day, in the commotion of the arrival of his mother and sister. Dad nimbly righted the tree and made sure the lights, tinsel, and ornaments were in order. No damage was done and my mother never knew of the incident.

I enjoy putting up the tree. I can make an analogy of how placing each branch in its proper place so the tree isn’t lopsided is like writing a book, but not in this post. This post is about how the ornaments we hang make the tree, whether it be a tree bought from the Smith Family Tree Farm or Sears in 1989.

There are many decorations on our tree that evoke the spirits of loved ones long gone and times when life was simple and carefree. Handmade ornaments are “gifts that keep giving,” year after year stirring our memories and warming our hearts.

Pink & Red

The above ornaments were made by my paternal grandmother. We have ten of these beauties in green, blue, yellow, pink, and red. Using sequins, velvet, and ribbon, Grandma turned plain Styrofoam balls into treasures we place front and center on our tree.  I think of her every year when I place each on a branch and throughout the season when I admire the tree. I’m sure every member of my family has the same sentimental thoughts. It’s amazing how the ornaments, at least fifty years old, still look brand new.

 Angel

This angel is very dear to me. I remember the day I created her so clearly. It was December 8, the Immaculate Conception, a Holy Day, so we Catholic grammar school kids had the day off. I went with my friend Kathy and her mother to our local pizzeria, where we each had a Sicilian slice. We then went to Kathy’s house for what is now called a play date. We each made an angel, using a pink egg carton, pipe cleaners, and glitter, and then watched The Nutty Professor with Jerry Lewis. The angel’s crown may be a bit loose, and I had to give her a new wing a few years ago, but she still holds the power to bring back the memory of that day spent with one of my first friends.

Marilyn Ornament

The Christmas in the year my sister-in-law Marilyn joined our family, she mailed us a box of handmade ornaments, one for each of us. The above, made of pine needles and cones, is the ornament I was lucky enough to receive. Each year when I hang it on the tree, I think of Marilyn’s thoughtfulness and generosity, and of her enormous talent. This is my “real” tree hanging on the artificial tree. So really, I have the best of both worlds.

Banner

I made this ornament in my early years of Catholic school. The use of macaroni is classic, and the assembly simply, yet the message is powerful and reminds us all of the true reason for the season.

Joann

Mass-manufactured ornaments can also hold special meaning. The above two remind me of my friend Joann. We worked together for seventeen years, and for many of those years I helped Joann put together our department’s small tree. When we moved to an open-space environment this year and we had no place to put the tree, Joann asked if I would like to take the boxes of ornaments home. She didn’t have to ask twice. So now every time I hang these CVS-purchased decorations, I’ll think of Joann and our time shared in the corporate jungle.

So put it all together and voila…

2014 Tree

There’s one last thing I love about the tree. One year in my childhood, as I was helping my mother put everything away, she told me of a tradition she kept every year. While taking the ornaments off the tree, she would pray for each member of the family, asking that they would have a happy, healthy year, and that we would all be together the next Christmas. It’s a nice way to end the holy season.

What holiday decorations bring back fond memories for you? And do you go with a live tree every year, or do you love the fake as I do?

I hope you are all enjoying the season. And I want to wish a very happy Hanukkah to everyone whose celebration begins on Tuesday.

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