Saturday, January 18, 2014

Country Justice

Welcome to my world.  My real world.  The one that holds my heart.  The world of Country Justice.

I always like to know the story behind the story. Because I know there is one.  Always.  Writers claim their work’s fictional and mostly it is, but in its center—something happened somewhere, sometime, someplace, in that writer’s life that triggered it.  The story behind Country Justice?  Where did Turkey Creek, Rockland County, Georgia come from?  I know the places of Country Justice because I live there.  I know the characters of Country Justice because I’m part of them and they are part of me.  Oh, they’re not real characters, of course.  Not really.  They’re bits and pieces of here and there, now and then, this and that, mixed and mingled to produce the other. 

Nor are the locations real.  Exactly.  Every small town, southern or not, are microcosms of society, a miniature little world wherein everybody knows everybody else’s business, heritage, secrets, what they had for supper, their usual bedtime.  It’s a patchwork quilt, sewn together into a sturdy fabric, stitched with a strong thread of familiarity. 

In that world, everybody knows Maggie Kincaid hasn’t spoken to her father in twenty-five years. They know Billy Brayton died twenty-five years back.  An accident in basic training,  it was, and a damn shame, too, that boy was one of the finest football players ever to come out of Rockland County, even if he was kinda rough around the edges.  Too bad nobody told Billy. See, there’s a gray Mustang coming lickety-split over the hill, the driver’s Billy and guess what, folks? He ain’t dead.  Turkey Creek doesn’t know what’s about to hit it.

The seeds of the plot for this book made some faint murmurs a long, long time ago. But they didn’t blossom until my son-in-law, a K-9 Deputy Sheriff for my home county, told me a story.  A story with some striking similarity to the opening scene of Country Justice.  Come visit, why don’t you?


Clayton Chapel loomed out of the darkness, caught in the spear of the patrol cruiser’s headlights. Deputy Alec Wimberly left the engine running per protocol and got out to do his obligatory night check walk-around, eyes open for stray teenagers. Clayton Chapel’s reputation drew them like magnets. He ran the flashlight’s beam around the dark windows of the second floor. And froze. For just a moment.

He raced hell bent for leather back to the car and scrambled in. The cruiser careened down the country road in a flurry of squealing wheels and flying gravel. He didn’t look back. If he looked back, he’d see it. He knew he would. The silhouette of a little girl in banana curls, backlit in the window. Pounding organ music still rang in his ears.

He slowed just enough to negotiate a wide turn onto Highway 96. Back on the asphalt, he could pretend it never happened. He checked the speedometer and eased off the gas. Or tried to. For a moment his foot, lead on the pedal, wouldn’t obey. He reached to his shoulder and hit the send button on his radio phone.

“Rockland 19, back on patrol from property check at Clayton Chapel.”

“Ten-four Rockland 19.” Dispatcher Aileen Sanders hesitated. “You okay, Nineteen? You sound kinda funny.”

“Fine. Nineteen out.” His heart rate slowed. I didn’t see anything. I didn’t see anything, I didn’t hear anything, and I’m never gonna see it again. Because I ain’t goin’ back there alone. Ever.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Characters have minds of their own. Ask a writer. Any writer. It’s happened to all of us. We’ve got this idea in mind, see. Fabulous plot. We know just how to do it. And it’s already all fleshed out in our minds, so it won’t take long.  Ha! Unfortunately, we didn’t check with the characters first.  Seems they’re not ready to talk yet. So guess what, gentle readers? They aren’t talking. And if they don’t talk, we don’t write. We sit and stare at a computer screen and ask ourselves why, oh why, did we ever think this book was ready to be born when it so obviously isn’t?

Conversely, sometimes the absolute reverse happens.  I was happily working away on a re-write of the third book I ever wrote, one that’s been sitting in my closet for lo, these twenty years past, unseen by the public eye. Soon to debut as Black Turkey Walk. Good plot, good characters, even some good dialogue. Lousy writing.  (Hey, I wrote the first version twenty years ago, people!  We all got to start somewhere.) I was having a good time. It was familiar territory, visiting with characters already birthed. And very satisfying, knowing that this time I’d acquired enough skill and experience as a writer to (please God!) do them and the story justice, certainly not the case in the first version that’d been sitting in my closet.

Now to properly appreciate what happened at that point, I have to share something some people already know, and some don’t. I swore when The Coven, third book in the War-N-Wit, Inc. series published (free on Amazon 9-15 through 9-17, 2013, by the way), that it was the last War. That I would never do another.  That the characters were done talking to me. Resurrection, the second book in the series was hard to write but The Coven? I fought for every word. 

Oh, they’d cut loose occasionally and dangle a carrot down on the corner and I’d go after it, and in the end, they finally caved and told me what happened. My private theory? The Witch just happened, came out of nowhere. Which is usually the case with my books, I don’t plan any of them. The characters were so much fun, I figured they’d always be fun. So without having any real conversations with those characters beforehand, I just blithely announced the second and third book of the series and the basic plot of each, and assumed they’d be delighted. 

Of course, they’d just jump right on the bandwagon and tell me the story. I took them for granted, something that one should never do with real (as in actual physical) family or friends. And like real family and friends who are taken for granted, these characters were pissed.  Not so much so they didn’t eventually bail me out (again, just like real family and friends do, no matter how upset they are with you), but they sure took their time about it. I’ve never been as relieved to type “The End” after any book as I was to type “The End” to The Coven. So I swore “never again” and moved on to other projects.

Then I saw a picture on a Facebook post. This one. Two black cats sitting on a rock in the woods. Readers of the War-N-Wit series know one of the pivotal (and entirely accidental) characters of the series is a black cat (well, mostly, he’s a black cat, anyway) named Micah. And that picture—it just sat there looking at me. Micah and friend? Maybe? So a few weeks went by and the what if’s started. What if certain characters from the Wars didn’t want a book but some did? A spin-off. A really—off the wall, for lack of a better description—spin-off. With maybe guest appearances from some of the other War characters. Hmmmmmm. So I started one. Because it just insisted. A spin-off. A spin-off to be called MeanStreet, LLC.

Then a funnier thing happened. Everybody just jumped up and started talking. And I realized that certain parts of that spin-off just wouldn’t be the same unless told in the voice of the “Wit” of War-N-Wit, Inc., Ariel Garrett. And before I knew it, MeanStreet wasn’t a spin-off anymore, it was a full-blown War. Then another Facebook picture appeared. This one. Doesn’t seem like it’d have much to do with a War-N-Wit, Inc. book, does it? Well, guess what? You’ll have to read the book to find out why, but considering the segment I’d just finished when I saw this picture, I laughed my rear-end off and took it as a sign.

Then just today, another Facebook picture appeared. This one. The final sign. It'll make sense after you've read the book. Oh, yeah, MeanStreet, LLC had a mind of its own. It was meant to be. And my fervent oath of  “No more Wars, ever again!” has been changed to another fervent oath. “No more books, ever again, until the characters tell me they’re ready!” Live and learn. Will there be more Wars? I honestly don’t know. Depends on the cast. But I’m thinking now that I’ve learned my lesson, they might decide to visit again. If they do, I’ll listen. But no more command performances. I’ve promised them, a promise extended to all characters brewing in my brain.  So for now, back to Black Turkey Walk. Because its time’s come round to be born. Finally. Now that MeanStreet's finished it's invasion!

War-N-Wit, Inc.

Another wedding day dawns for the ever-growing Garrett-Forrester Coven as Spike and Stacy get ready to say “I do”! Don’t expect weddings bells and white gowns, though. It’s off to the Drive-Thru Tunnel of Love at the Little White Wedding Chapel in Vegas. Again. It’s sort of a family tradition. But what’s supposed to happen in Vegas just refuses to stay in Vegas. And you’re not going to believe this side-trip!