The Plunge–or Characters Achieving Gravitas

 

 

Writing a series with the same characters appearing from book to book offers so much opportunity for character growth that I can’t resist. Nobody stays the same. Like all humans, characters grow, learn from their experiences, and evolve into a much stronger version of themselves. Take Phoebe McCabe who launched the Crime by Design series in Rogue Wave as an immature and easily lead young woman, especially vulnerable to the men in her life. Yes, part of her is me. Or, was me.

When I think back to some of the decisions I made, or failed to make, in my early days, I could bang my head against a wall. I was afraid of everything, especially what people thought of me. It was more important to be liked than it was to be smart, and often being smart guaranteed not being liked. Women were not judged by their intelligence so much as by their looks and malleability. I’d sit quietly, stamping down my opinions lest some authority figure think less of me. Silly Putty was so popular in those days. Sound familiar? Most women growing up in this society have experienced some version of this to lesser or greater degrees.

So, five books later for Phoebe and several decades later for me, and the interior landscapes of both character and author have changed. The ground has hardened, the mountains have formed, and that great stony ridge running down the length of the human continent might finally be considered a backbone. And now I love nothing better than voicing my opinion, especially if it sparks a lively debate, whereas Phoebe McCabe will risk almost everything to get in THE LAST WORD.

Getting in the last word is an indicator of a strong sense of entitlement to speak one’s truth, whether it be right or wrong, loved or despised. At the very least, it signifies that the speaker stands for something and is willing to take the fall in its defence. In Phoebe’s case, it took awhile to sort through the weight of her heart versus the burden of her moral code. One so easily overrides the other though at the nexus of those two often conflicting elements, Phoebe makes a decision which results in her taking a very deep plunge. The younger woman character couldn’t have done what she does in book five and this older author hopes she’ll never have to do anything remotely similar.

The Plunge (coming out February 16th) is a turning point for the Crime by Design series. Though it’s still on the light end of the thriller spectrum, the character of Phoebe McCabe has at last gathered some gravitas. THE PLUNGE ON AMAZON

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Beautiful Survivor–Book 3 in the Crime by Design Series

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.

Give me History and I’ll Give you Life

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

Description: shrinking the distance between armchair and reality

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