Beautiful Survivor–Book 3 in the Crime by Design Series

Final cover Beautiful Survivor even smaller

I am a great admirer of the survivor, whether it be an ancient artifact or a living being. In fact, anything or anyone who has withstood time and trauma deserves accolades and the deepest respect. That could be a Syrian refugee or a Roman amphitheater.  Or you, if you’re over forty. Not everybody gets the chance to grow older.

Because time is a wildcard. Time is a disaster not waiting to happen because it already has–successively and with impact. Look back into the centuries, or even across the days of a human life, and you’ll see wars, earthquakes, explosions, personal losses, heath crises, and heartbreak. Those that walk away, those that withstand the ravages of time, have stories to tell, and authors are tasked with the telling. All right, I admit, we embellish our tales and take license with the facts, but the core of truth is what matters.

I prefer my truths served with humor. It’s a necessary element of survival, perhaps the most important one. For that reason, you’ll never find my stories to be too serious. Even when I touch on weighty topics like crime, murder, death, and destruction, I lightened the load. Let the nightly news handle the raw matter. I’m here to entertain. I’m here to help you survive.

Beautiful Survivor, book three in the Crime by Design series, is soon to be released and, at its heart, it’s about survival, too. Yes, there is trauma, crime, fear, pain, but, you’ll still recognize the personal sinew that keeps the characters powering on.

This action suspense picks up where Phoebe McCabe left off in The Warp in the Weave and, as with the first two books in the series, it’s humorous, fast-paced, filled with vivid characters, a little romance, and bound to take you by surprise. This book is set in one of my favorite lands, Italy, a country that takes survival seriously. Think of the Etruscans, the Romans, the dolce vita.

Pick up your copy January 27th or pre-order from Amazon today.

What does an Antique Textile have to do with how Men Worshiped Women Thousands of Years Ago?

Ancient Goddess sm

Men used to worship women, I mean really worship them.

Our value wasn’t weighed by how thin we were (lean was mean), or how young, or even how pretty. We were valued based on our contribution as the life-givers, our ability to generate new life to continue the tribe and, following our fecund years, honor was bestowed on all we’ve been and done.

Research on ancient humans plunging way back to the Bronze Age, have unearthed round, bountiful female statues that would never make the cover of Vogue. Fertility Figures they’re referred to now, as if that can tidy them away among the fossils and dinosaur bones.

Ancient sites like Turkey’s Çatal Hüyük discovered an advance civilization where men and women appear to live in a harmonious balance of mutual admiration. The Goddess sits on her leopard throne in a shrine surrounded by symbols of male energy, the bull (some things never change), as if the male hunters and warriors served the giver of life rather than ruled her.

And the Goddess looks more like your great aunt Mable than Gisselle Bündchen .

Think about it. Was this ancient civilization so much more advanced than ourselves that we actually valued multiple kinds of womanhood? Could it be that we didn’t lose our value in society as we aged and ‘lost our looks’?

Which brings me to the title of this post: how does an antique textile relate to how men worshiped women thousands of years ago? That question lays in the heart of my second book in the Crime by Design series, Warp in the Weave.

The answer may surprise you. It certainly should change how you look at traditional carpet patterns in the future and, just maybe, how you view women, ancient or otherwise.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00YPF6FJG?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00IDDF452?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Give me History and I’ll Give you Life

Cover for Frozen Angel

Research, some writers love it and some find it a chore. I fall into the the first category. Give me an excuse to imagine life in another time, in another place, and I’ll take it on completely. Writers of historical fiction obviously need a sound background in the century of  their book, not just in terms of history but also social mores, clothing, food, and every single detail between. Some writers go so far as to research old cookbooks and make whatever dish that is to be served to a character so the reader may share the experience. That’s dedication. Pass the pig trotters and mead, boys. I can only imagine what Diana Gabaldon had with Outlander.

Every story is a human story. It’s all about plunging a reader into a place and time so real they can experience being human in another century, under a different set of challenges.  When society in the fictive world differs from the way you’ve grown up, the way you think is challenged, too.

What if you were an French-speaking Acadian girl banished from your colony up the Atlantic coast (now known as Nova Scotia) by the British in 1755 and shipped off to boggy Louisiana, just saying? What if you manage to find your way into the Ursuline convent, a convent sheltering young women from good French homes, with the view to marrying them off to the French settlers? The French King at the time, Louis XIV, fretted that New Orleans would grow into a cesspool of rowdies if they continued to breed with unsuitable women. His royal self decreed that the Order of St. Ursuline might properly harbor these French ‘Casket Girls’ shipped over from good French families as a way to improve the gene pool. Presumably, the irony of nuns training girls to be wives didn’t occur to him.

And then, circumstances change, as circumstances are wont to do. France gives Louisiana away in treaty to Spain in 1763 and a Spanish governor arrives to rule the French.  Now you have a French convent housing French girls for the marriage market and the Spaniards are coming. Oh, just imagine the fun!

Back to the Acadian girl, for a moment. Her status as an orphaned peasant farmer’s daughter thrust her to the bottom of the French social heap from the beginning. Hierarchies existed even in convents. She would never be a mate for a proper French gentleman, not that there were many of those in New Orleans at the time. However, it turns out she’s clever, can speak both French and Spanish, and burns with rage. What a perfect pawn, what a perfect spy…

This is how a human story is born, this one playing out in two centuries inside the pages of   Frozen Angel. Yes, I researched it to bits but the story drove me. The heart and mind of someone struggling to decide what is wrong and right in competing ideologies has always fascinated me. History provides such rich fodder.  Stir in a lot of fact and even more imagination, and the writer creates a heady brew. Continue reading

Sanity, Disembodied Voices, and the Writer’s Life

rogue-wave-front-cover.jpg

I am crazy. Certainly by some definition, I probably qualify. I walk around the house talking to people who aren’t there; I live in a parallel universe which can seem as real as the one surrounding me; and there are always multiple voices chattering away inside my head. In other words, I am a writer.

I am also a murderer, a liar, a manipulator of emotions. I can’t help myself. When a story begins taking hold, the morality inside my fictive world shifts polarities constantly. In order to write emotions, I must feel them.

Once, while lunching with a friend, she commented on how troubled I seemed. I confessed how I had just flung a character down the stairs and left her bleeding, alone and afraid. Equal parts guilt and worry interrupted my enjoyment of both her company and the chowder. It didn’t make sense by anybody’s definition, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the longer I stayed away from my desk, the more I risked Phoebe dying a long and painful death. I mean, I’m not completely heartless. Let’s just say I skipped dessert.

And then there’s talking to myself.  You remember the sayings about people who talk to themselves?  In my case, this means I’m holding a lively debate with a character, testing dialogue, and sussing out the authenticity of a tone in certain circumstances.  Yes, I’m the one in the otherwise empty car chatting away to the nonexistent passengers, something I did long before hands-free cell phones. You’ll also find me in the kitchen arguing away to the invisible while  busy with some menial task.  My life runs a parallel course, with me coexisting in both worlds simultaneously, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s me, crazy and loving it.

Why Must a Favorite Character Die? Or, why Authors have Murderous Hearts.

Jane Button Collector wrap Selfie

When I’m watching a movie, especially thrillers or films with plenty of characters, I’m always looking for the ‘dead meat’ , or DM’s for short. DM characters are usually primed to attract our sympathies but are guaranteed to be bumped off somewhere before the end of the movie. It’s kind of a predictable, watch-for-it moment, but it still gets me every time. After all, I cared about those characters. They snaked their way into my heart with good deeds and decent, good-guy actions until I had no choice but to feel their loss, regardless of whether I saw it coming.

Movies reveal their DMs more easily than novels which, due to the differences in length and form, take longer to unfold and may include more subtle character detail. Still, almost all engrossing fiction has a character or two who will meet an untimely end. Remember Little Women?  Louisa May Alcott breathed life into a cast of characters, made us love them all, and then killed off  beloved Beth. I can think of hundreds of examples, as probably you can, too. Nearly every piece of literature features the death of a beloved character. In fact, when you think of it, we writers are a murderous lot. Fellow writers, hold up your hands.

In a recent book club meeting, one of my readers asked why I felt it necessary to kill off a certain character. I felt on trial, she was that unhappy with this character’s passing. She liked that person, identified with the personality, and hoped to become reacquainted in a future book. I explained that, in fictional terms, I was only doing my job. If you’re not experiencing real human emotions, if you don’t care about the people you spend time with inside the covers of a book, the author hasn’t hooked you.

But, all that aside, what turns a writer’s heart to murder?  The simple answer is because we must. In many cases, we love our characters, too. They emerge from our imaginations in some alchemy of creativity and intense observation, and almost like children, we watch them develop. In my case, I don’t give  birth to a character to see him or her die, but as the story world unfolds, often someone must. Writing, like art, should move you. Readers want to laugh and cry so that, when they turn the last page of the fictive world, they feel as though they’ve experienced something authentic.

Were you moved? Did you shed a tear? Good, because I did, too. I promise never to take a reader anywhere I wouldn’t go myself.  Rest assured that while you cry over the demise of a favorite character, I did the same while bumping them off. Otherwise, I am guilty as charged.

Description: shrinking the distance between armchair and reality

In the bazaar

Readers often comment on the vividness of my settings, which in Warp in the Weave happens to be Turkey.

Ms. Thornley’s descriptions of Turkey are so vivid, I could almost picture myself walking alongside Phoebe in the bustling streets and breathing in the air of the ancient caves”  

and  “She sucks you right into the world she creates with her vivid descriptions! I could see the colors and hear the chatter in the Turkish bazaars.”  These are only two comments plucked from reviews but all reference setting as one of their favorite aspects.

I can’t help myself. Apparently this descriptive bent began in elementary school, since my teachers remarked on it from my earliest years (probably while I was failing math).  Descriptions are like sprinkling a powerful flavor pack over a too-small world and watching it expand to magnificent proportions.

So I invite all five senses to the party. Most of my books are set in an evocative location–Bermuda, New Orleans, London, Turkey. Travel being, among other things, a sensory experience, I try to bring my readers with me on a ride much as I do on my escorted textile tours. By shrinking the distance between armchair and reality, readers plunge into the immediacy of place and time so that wherever the story takes them, they stay with me.

Warp in the Weave’s action launches in London but jettisons to Turkey, beginning with Istanbul. For avid textile shoppers everywhere, here’s a taste:

Down a set of concrete stairs, past a busy outdoor cafe, through a throng of tourists threaded by young men delivering trays of tea, I arrived at last at the Arasta Bazaar. An outdoor pedestrian arcade lined with modern shops tucked into old gray stone walls, it displayed all that had made Turkey a trade crossroads for centuries–textiles, tiles, gold, silver, jewelry.

My steps faltered. I was seeking Erdogan Sevgi Carpets, which I had yet to find, but to walk past the Isnik tile shops, the store selling silken robes and vests, the jewelry shop glittering with lapis and high-karat gold, the shop specializing in embroidered pillows, and, of course, all the other carpet stores, was nearly impossible.

Everything I loved and honored resided here, and the merchants knew how to display their offerings, how to jumble patterns and colors together so that each excited the other in a harmonious symphony. My eyes couldn’t bear to pass them by without proper acknowledgment.

“Miss, I have more inside.”

I looked up from where I stood transfixed before a window displaying a magnificent Ottoman-style carpet, not old but expertly crafted in brilliant hues and intricate patterns, probably at least 25 knots per inch. A young man wearing the Turkish street uniform of jeans and leather stood in the doorway smiling.

“Um, I’m only looking, thank you, but this is a gorgeous piece.”

Before I knew, I was sitting in the shop, sipping the small glass cup of tea Erkan offered, appreciating the show as he rolled out carpet after carpet until the floor at my feet was an overlay of wool and weaves. Most were new, the products of either small households or the many carpet cooperatives that operated across Turkey. Though handmade, they were still commercial productions and not what interested me as a collector or dealer, though beautiful nonetheless. A few emerged that were clearly older, less regular, with discolorations in the hand-dyed wool. They were pleasing but not spectacular. I insisted to Erkan that I was only looking, which he ignored while proceeding to show me even more.

Pictured a photo of two of my fiber clients in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, October 2011

http://www.amazon.com/Warp-Weave-Crime-Design/dp/1514187922/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1436528414&sr=8-1&keywords=warp+in+the+weave&pebp=1436528417233&perid=1T4E2E769KFT5XWJ9FQY