Saturday, January 12, 2008

Behind the Title “Death at the Double Inkwell”

Like most of my stories, a title usually presents itself before I start writing the book. Characters will be invading my mind, their lives playing on my mind’s screen, and while reveling in their lives, an “essence” of their stories will develop. That essence ultimately becomes the title of the story. And if I’m lucky–as I have been thus far with publishers, the title I come up with initially gets to STAY.

In my first DDIW Chronicles podcast [link], I talked about how DDIW came to be. At the very beginning, I knew a few things about the story: there would be twin mystery novelists and there would be a death–and I had an idea of who would be the one to die.

So, the title, Death at the Double Inkwell isn’t a metaphor or some deep thought of the book; it literally arose because of the death and because the two main characters were twins (double) and writers (inkwell).

Sorry to disappoint those who thought I might be deeper than this. LOL Sometimes, I’m so not.

When LLP accepted my book for publication, there was a chance that the book wouldn’t be called DDIW. I can’t even remember the other suggestions, but I stuck with championing for Death at the Double Inkwell as the title even when my pubber said, “But there is more than one death in the book.”

And there was. LOL In a revision, I had added a few more corpses, this is true. But as I argued, there was one big death that moved the main characters through their storylines (though I have to shake my head now because what death is “little” – such the thoughts of a writer).

But of course, the title only tells part of the tale; there are still 80,000+ words that do a great job in visually showing how these twin mystery novelists must ban together and deal with the death (and the aftermath) that occurs.

Learn more about Jovan and Cheyenne and the trouble that follows them by picking up Death at the Double Inkwell.

The Men of DDIW

Jovan and Cheyenne are the major chicas of Death at the Double Inkwell, but several men play integral roles to the telling of this story, and each man is his own man, too, with unique personalities that range from the misguided to the strong Alpha male.

Cordell Anderson is the love of Jovan's life. The two met in college, and Cordell was quick to pursue her and make her his wife. He's the founder and CEO of Anderson Technologies, a thriving technology company...or is it? So many secrets surround Cordell it's hard to figure out just who he truly is. And as the story moves on, so many of those secrets are revealed that it takes Jovan's memories of the good times for us to see that he wasn't always an ass.

Timothy Anderson is Cordell's younger brother. He and Cordell get compared to one another all the time--in looks alone. Their lives are as different as sun and moon. Whereas Cordell is a take charge, get what he wants when he wants it kind of man, Timothy is quiet, reserved, timid. He has collected some demons over the years, and in the past, he has used harmful means to eradicate those demons. He's now trying to be on the up and up and make his life right, but a tragedy soon unravels his progress and his life.

Jimmy Devane is an associate of Cordell's, which would be fine if he wasn't A) an "associate" of a lot of Cordell's competitors and B) an absolute slime ball. His allegiance is to the thing or the person that can get him the most money, damn the consequences.

Detective Ian Davenport is "the" man of the pack. He's strong, confident, caring, and determined to right wrongs and put wrongdoers where they belong: in prison. When tragedy strikes Jovan's life, Ian is quickly immersed into both Jovan's and Cheyenne's lives, much to Cheyenne's chagrin. And despite the fact that he needs to be impartial to solve the case, Ian quickly finds himself drawn to the in particular.

Mark Brockman is a do-gooder, but when it comes to dealing with a serious situation in his life, he decides to "do him" instead of handling the situation, which leads to consequences he's not prepared to handle. When his world is turned upside down, he finds comfort in the most unlikeliest place.

Each of these men has an agenda when it comes to Jovan, and she has to figure out which ones mean to do her harm and which ones mean to help her out of the darkness she's cast into.

Learn more about these men by picking up Death at the Double Inkwell.

It’s available NOW at Amazon.

The Importance of Sisterhood

They say that behind every great man there is a great woman.

I really think that saying is beside every great woman is a great sister who always comes with the straight, no chaser advice, warm hugs, and a ready-to-take-on-all-challengers stance when things get a little sticky.

Every woman can recall at least that one sister—from birth or from another mother—who has been there to listen to her frustrations over a relationship, her aggravation over a job, her devastation over a loss, and her infuriation over being done wrong. And she can recall that sister railing with her over her man and then getting real to show her where she went wrong. She can recall the friend telling her to look for another job, to find something that will make her happy and keep her living well. She can recall sistergirl sharing tissues with her as they both cry over the emptiness she feels at having lost someone. She can recall sistergirl saying, “OK, where’s my Vaseline and sneakers?” when it time to crack a skull or two open on her behalf.

There are a plethora of self-help books written about how women can find the man of their dreams and keep him, but we often forget about the importance of having a great sisterfriend, that woman who can see you bare, ugly truths, lies, secrets, and all, and who will still stand beside you, like a trooper, helping you to grow into the strong woman you are destined to be. There are many components to a person, and a romantic relationship can satisfy many of those components; however, nothing can replace the relationship of sisterhood and how it, too, can feed your soul.

Jovan Parham-Anderson from Death at the Double Inkwell [Amazon] has a sister like that: her twin, Cheyenne.

These two may look alike, but their personalities are polar opposites. Whereas Jovan is often quiet, reflective, and quick to find fault with herself, Cheyenne is loud, opinionated, and always ready to put blame on the right person.

Despite their differences, the two connect in powerful ways when the other steps up to be there for her sister.

When Jovan thinks her husband Cordell is having an affair, who does she run to? Cheyenne

When Jovan suffers an unimaginable tragedy, who does she run to? Cheyenne

When Cheyenne's temper places her in harm's way, who comes to protect her? Jovan

When Cheyenne catches feelings for someone who seems to be her arch-nemesis, who does she spill the beans to? Jovan

Even when Jovan’s and Cheyenne’s lives are put in danger, they rely on one another to make it through.

As betrayals and lies surface, and the twins find themselves in peril, will relying on their sisterhood keep them alive?

You'll have to read Death at the Double Inkwell to find out.

It’s available NOW at Amazon.

The "Everything's Great, But..." Woman

We know her.

On the outside, she is a woman that most men want and most women envy.

She's the "everything's great, but..." woman.

You know.

She's beautiful. She has a great job. She has great friends. She has a great family. She has a great home. She has a great car.

Her future is so blindingly bright your retinas can sear just trying to imagine what her future looks like.

And when she smiles that toothpaste-commercial smile, it makes her whole universe that much brighter.

But the smile is fake.

A woman like this can't afford to let everyone know what's really going on in her world.

Because everything's great, but...

...she's not happy.

And she's usually not happy because of some man.

Sometimes, she has everything BUT the man, and she goes home to all her wonderful things and feels empty and lonely.

And sometimes, she has everything AND the man, and when the two are together, people are that much more jealous of her because she appears to have the perfect life.

Yet she goes home to all her wonderful things, including her husband, and feels empty and lonely.


In my debut novel, set to drop next month--Death at the Double Inkwell [Amazon], Jovan Parham Anderson is the "everything's great, but..." woman. She's a bestselling mystery novelist, has a wonderful twin that she writes great novels with--she has loving parents, and everyone in their hometown in Maryland consider Jovan and her twin Cheyenne to be just DARLING. And then there's Cordell, Jovan's husband. She's loved him since college, and he her, but at some point that love began to dismantle and the facade of Jovan's idyllic life begins to crumble.

And before she can even think about the situation clearly, her focus moves at one point away from her husband and to herself.

Is SHE the reason he's being distant? Is SHE not doing something right?

She wonders if her curvy figure is no longer attractive to Cordell--after all, he does call her out a time or two about her weight.

She wonders if she's not doing enough at home--considering she's a successful businesswoman just as Cordell is a successful businessman. Is she not being Suzy Homemaker enough for him?

More WHYs cloud Jovan's thoughts regarding her marriage and herself, especially when an event occurs that rocks the very foundation she's built her entire world on, causing
Jovan to question everything about her life with Cordell.

How can the "everything's great, but..." woman have EVERYTHING great in her life...with no buts?

She has to take control of her life, see the TRUTH of her life, determine what she NEEDS in her life, and act accordingly.

Will Jovan do all of those things?

You'll have to read Death at the Double Inkwell to find out.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

BACON BITS >> The First Time Rush

The first time I did it, everything inside me went electric.

I sat on the edge of my bed, rocking, mumbling something unintelligible.

Tears fell from my chin and hit my denim-clad thighs.

My left hand gripped a steak knife I kept in the back of my panty drawer. Three times, I’d taken it out, pressed it hard against my skin, ran my tongue over the blade, willed the urge to act to come forward.

It didn’t.

It did now.

Jaw set.

Eyes wide, bouncing around the bubblegum pink walls of my room.

Heart pounding in a way that made me snatch a breath with each beat.

Right hand balled into a tight fist that shook with confusion.

“Do it,” I gritted through clenched teeth. “Just do it. Stop being a bitch. Do it.”

I closed my eyes, and the darkness gave way to flashes of memories I prayed to escape from.

“Take,” I said on a breath. “Away. The. Hurt.”

Anger built inside me.

I opened my eyes, and without a thought, I stroked across my bicep like a bow over a violin string.

I screamed one short, high-pitched note then bit my bottom lip and went dreamy-eyed as my blood gushed from the slash then pooled itself down either side of my arm, staining my white tee.

Shudder breaths pushed from my mouth as I watched the “ra” of rape well itself up from the slash.

I stared, mesmerized by the stickiness of my tee against me, the lines of blood that trickled down my arm like veins.

“Stars,” I whispered as my brain went fuzzy and my heart skipped beats in my chest like hopscotch.

I didn’t go under. I wouldn’t. I couldn’t.

This was my first time, and I wanted to experience every nuance of it.

I watched as my blood thickened and congealed on my arm, on the blade.

I grabbed the white towel beside me and pressed it against the slash.

I stood, and on too-light legs, I walked to my dresser and stared into the mirror.

Blood laced my bottom lip where I had bit it. I sucked it up, closed my eyes, and sighed.

In the bathroom, I dropped the knife into the hot sudsy water in the sink.

I stripped off my clothes and stepped into the awaiting steamy bath water.

I leaned back and watched the blood warm itself and leak from the slash.

I moaned, satisfied, ravenous.

There would be more nights like this – when my parents were gone and I was alone to think about things humans should never have to think about.

There would be more nights like this.

“pe” and other bits of words threatened to overcome me if I didn’t release them somehow.

BACON BITS >> Clothespins

Out back of my house, there is a clothesline. When we don’t want to be stifled by the heat of the dryer, we put our wet clothes there. On strong summer days when the sun beats down on backs and a stiff breeze blows, we pin up jeans and tees, dresses and shirts, to be whipped about and dried in God’s dryer. We bunch small corners of the clothing and pinch them onto the line with wooden clothespins. Along the green wire line, thirty clothespins stand at attention, holding tight to the fabric its job is to hold on to, to keep from falling below.

Out back of my house, there is a clothesline. Clothesline does more than just dry clothes. It’s the net for a game of volleyball in my Pop Pop’s backyard, but it’s so much more than that, too. Today, I sit on the stoop, the sun seeping its heat into my t-shirt, not drying today but drenching my skin. I feel sadness in my heart over the trials that afflict me and mine, and I gaze upon the clothesline. Wire wrapped in green, stiff plastic. An empty clothesline. Clothespins standing at attention yet they do not protect clothing. There hasn’t been a stitch of clothing gripped in their grasps for years.

Out back of my house, there is a clothesline. It doesn’t hold clothes, but in a golden, summer flash, I realize something about that clothesline. It mirrors life. It mirrors God’s love for us and that He is there even when we think He is not. As a clothespin holds fast to fabric, God holds fast to us, keeping us from falling below. You ever hang up a shirt on a line? Notice how the fabric droops between the two clothespins? That’s our happiness drooping. That’s our pain. That’s our fear that God is not there to help us. But notice how the fabric rises and the clothespins cinch the fabric. They gather the fabric from its drooping and protect it from within their clasps as if to say, I am here. I will not forsake you. I love you.

Out back of my house, there is a clothesline. An ordinary, empty, wire wrapped in green stiff plastic clothesline. Weathered wooden clothespins stand at attention. It is these things, at this time in my life, that filter God through me. If God can be seen in such ordinary things for me, what things can He be seen in for you?

BACON BITS >> Storytelling Genesis

In the beginning, there was an image,
and it was good.

On day one, the image stirred you,
wrestled with your psyche, and evoked
emotions that had lain dormant. You
carried that image, like a baby
pic in a wallet, pulling it out to show
others as you smiled – the proud parent.

On day two, like a journalist, questions
flowed from your mind –
who this image,
what this image,
when this image,
where this image,
how this image,
why this image,
until whole humans formed in your mind,
their eyes vibrant blue or brooding brown,
their limbs movable,
their minds full of angst and yearning,
just the things good stories
are made of.

On day three, you retrieve the image and
see these humans walking about you,
their mouths moving, but nothing being heard
until your anxiety dissipates, then voices,
soft murmuring voices that tickle your ear
tell you that they are ready to be written.

On day four, image taped to side of laptop,
humans crowd around you, voices sing
a dissonant tune like a fork scraping a metal pan,
but you calm yourself, yet again, channel the
anxiety, eradicate the “is the idea good,”
eliminate the editor, and funnel your thoughts
into one question: “What’s the best way to
begin this thing?”

On day five, you stop, the dissonance so loud
you can taste it in your mouth, sour like curdled
milk. Before you, long stretches of nothing lie,
with only the tips of the ending seen just beyond
the horizon. You bang the desk, you stand, you
pace, you hear the footsteps of humans, hear
the voices of humans, and you wonder how you
will travel the width of your middle wasteland
and tell a story that’s worth reading. In the middle
of the night, as snores make their escape, you will
jolt from the bed, race to your laptop, smile because
it’s on and still warm, and you will write the conflict,
the tension that was always inside you, waiting for
its release.

On day six, you can barely catch your
breath as you and the humans you have birthed
take your time heading to the last page. You know,
on the smallest scale imaginable, what it’s like to
create a life – far beyond that of just being a mother
or father, for you have giving life, and you have set the
stage for that life, and now you must lay the life to rest.
Living, breathing, real, they touch you, pleading with
you, asking you, “Can there be a sequel,” but you know
this one is finished. The last period will be the last
period. And when that last period is placed, you sit
back, take a deep breath, shed a tear, and think, “I
think I’ve done them justice.”

On day seven, you rest, fingers sore, carpel tunnel
flaring, mind spent. You’re proud, for you have
taking that one image – the same image you hold
in your hand now – and created a world filled with
lives and scenarios and trials and grief and joy and
wonder and closure. As you close your eyes,
ready for the nap you haven’t allowed yourself to
have since the image burned into your memory,
you sit up with a start: “I need to go back and rework
the beginning. Doesn’t have enough punch.”

And…on the eighth day, the new beginning,