The Top 10 Things I Love About Viola Roberts

The Top 10 Things I Love About Viola Roberts

When you narrate multiple books–“play” a character over and over–you feel like you know them. It is different from just reading a novel and archiving it off your kindle. Some months (like say, April, May, June), I’m living with Viola Roberts during every waking moment: recording her voice, hearing her thoughts, embodying her attitude.

Best of all, when I am preparing, recording, and editing the Viola Roberts Cozy Mysteries, I find myself spending a lot of time laughing. What I love about Viola is how much humor there is in her everyday life. She is always ready to crack a joke, express some silly self-awareness, and lighten things up. Like Murder. (Except not really. Murder is serious. Seriously fascinating.)

As a character, she can be a little blind-sided by her loyalty and love for her family of choice. She can be equally dismissive and judgemental about the competence of law enforcement (for no particular reason). But overall she is the writer I know with the most entertaining procrastination plans.

The Stiff in The Study is Book 2 in the series, and what I liked best about performing it was what I learned about the heroine. With that in mind, here are the top 10 things I love about Viola Roberts:

 

10. Like me, Viola loves small-town life. There’s nothing like knowing that if you go out, you’re probably going to run into someone you know.

9. Appreciation for the human form: Viola acknowledges beauty everywhere. Luscious and curvy, spare and lithe, blonde, red, white, black, male, female. Viola hasn’t come across a trans person yet, but I believe she doesn’t care. If they’re rocking their look, she sees it and it rocks her world.

8. Yes. That’s right. Viola saw that. I love someone who’s paying attention.

7. Architecture turns her on. Viola is aware and appreciative of buildings and interior design.

6. Pastries. I love a woman unafraid to scarf baked goods at a stakeout. Or take them to an interrogation. Hell, I love any woman who loves muffins the way I do.

5. Viola is polite (most of the time). Even if she won’t eat your pot brownies, she appreciates that you offered her one.

4. BFE! Viola is your Best Friend Ever. She’s got your back, whether it is getting you out of jail or supporting you at your latest book signing.

3. Ooodles of self-esteem. Viola is okay on her own. Family and friends are great; romance is fun; but at the end of the day, she can–and wants to–take care of herself.

2. Someone finally agrees with me that a beverage that “smells vaguely of rotten mulch,” should not be imbibed.

1.  The girl really knows how to turn a fork into a weapon.

 

Catch this amazing character in book 2, coming soon to audiobook!

 

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Team Momentum

Available now on Amazon, a book workshopped in my writing group!

If you enjoyed The Laundry Files novels by Charles Stross, you’ll enjoy this new book by Richard Hein. Richard’s work is darkly hilarious and his plot twists surprising. It was fun reading the draft and I’m impressed by his polishing.

Here’s the Blurb (I helped with that too!):

Samuel Walker loved being a Seneschal with the Ordo Felix Culpa, keeping the world safe from things that go bump in the night — especially when he got to bump them back. That was before he was given the choice of exile into a normal life or a bullet to the head.

Now in the corporate world, he fights red tape instead of demonic, alien creatures from other dimensions. So when Kate arrives, chased by monsters and carrying a message from her murdered brother, Samuel has no choice but to venture back into OFC’s line of fire.

Maybe this time, with the Archangel Michael on his side, he can go back to the life he prefers/was trained for. It’s going to be a struggle to keep Kate alive and evade punishment for the trail of blood he left behind, but if he can pull it off, Samuel might find that the world is a better place than he thought and absolutely worth dying for.

 

Sounds great, huh?! It is so much fun when someone you support goes live with a book. Or a sculpture you provided train tracks for. Or a painting when you donated the paint! (See the theme?) Helping! ME! MEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEME!

I participate in up to five writing groups. Why? I haven’t said anything like this for about ten years (the last time I job-searched), but I hold a professional certification in team building.

That’s right, I took a series of classes and workshops, practiced and participated, all so that I would be officially acknowledged as someone who can turn a group of people into a team. It’s something I’ve been doing naturally since I started kindergarten. Once I had a group to work my wiles on, I became the adorable little dictator who decides what game to play, casts the roles, and then directs how the story plays out. A Natural Leader. Firstborn, of course.

But in my writing life, I’m a total newb. No books published. Only one short story. And a LOOOOOONG way to go as far as my confidence is concerned. Still, misery…newbieness…loves company. And the reality is that I have Skillz; they just aren’t fiction writing skills….yet.

So, while I leech off of my betters…better writers…I offer them a recompense in administrative, emotional, and team-building support. Because those things are easy for me and…can be lacking….sometimes…in writing groups. It takes a leader or facilitator to set up a structure and point everyone in the right direction.

I do it because I LOVE doing it and because it builds momentum; builds community. When Richard is successful, I am that much closer to being successful. As a team, a group, we can do so much more–make so much more–than I can all alone.

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The Venom in the Valentine

The Venom in the Valentine

In the spirit of full disclosure, I provided developmental editing for this installment of the Viola Roberts Cozy Mysteries. Even seeing it in its raw form, this is my favorite read so far in the series.

Shea MacLeod has climbed to new writing heights with her unique way of mixing of the hilarious with the sinister. Every reader will be able to relate to what happens when average people fall prey to their base prejudices, but Viola’s unique perspective as a writer and amateur sleuth means that readers can again expect many unexpected plot twists!

With her friends, Viola just can’t catch a break, not even on a weekend getaway. MacLeod combines the accurate pitfalls of Valentine’s Day Expectations with the terror of having quaint, old-fashioned love notes become a weapon sharp enough to cut a reputation to the quick…or even to the kill.

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Angel’s Devil (Jake Brand, PI #1)

Angel’s Devil (Jake Brand, PI #1)
Angel's Devil (Jake Brand, PI #1) by M. Louis
Angel’s Devil (Jake Brand, PI #1)
by M. Louis

I listened to the audiobook on a long drive. I’m not usually a fan of crime thrillers, but this had enough of a mix between Jake, the main character’s, inner world and the outer world to hold my interest.

I suspect I would not have finished this book if I’d been reading. It has a pretty big cast of flat characters and a lot of wallowing. The inner dialog between the angel and devil are well intentioned as comic relief, and they work sometimes, but not often enough.

The Angel is not very angelic. Both characters berate Jake, so there’s a lot of self-harm and self-loathing on display here; not my bag. The best bits are the actual trying-to-figure-out-what’s-going-on and I enjoyed the little surprise ending very, very much.

I didn’t care about what happened to the characters, but the narrator’s amazing voice and skill in distinguishing between characters, made the book come alive.

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The Time Traveling Fashionista Series

The Time Traveling Fashionista Series

Full disclosure: this series was recommended to me by my 11yr old niece. I’m reading it specifically to discuss with her, and I am not a regular YA reader or audience. That said, this series of three (so far) books are quick, fun, reads that are fresh in their optimism. The series is entertaining without dystopia, dripping drama, or dragging descriptions of self-loathing. For that alone, I applaud the author!

What the author accomplishes well is consistency of a pre-teen voice, capturing a juvenile’s attitude towards the world, and a YA plot with appropriate danger and character growth.

What is really disappointing about the books is a lack of story that portrays the main character, Louise, as the thing that theoretically makes her special: a knowledge–nay, passion–for fashion clothing. There’s a lot of name-dropping and a distinct lack of actual knowledge. Which, come to think of it, is quintessentially YA, isn’t it?

In particular, I was disappointed by the way the book alludes to Louise and her mother’s love for old movies. I know from my own childhood experience, if that was true, she would know the difference between a hoop skirt and panniers. If Louise was actually looking things up, as she so often says she is, in her ‘Vintage Fashion’ book, I expect she would understand a lot more about history, dressing, and culture, if not from the book, from watching old movies themselves. You CANNOT have a character, ostensibly obsessed with fashion, who has seen GWTW, not know how underpinnings such as corsetry and bum rolls work.

So the book rankles because I want the heroine to be smarter and better than she is. If that is the author’s intention, she is doing it perfectly, but as a reader (and to be very fair, NOT the target audience), I want more examples of Louise’s knowledge from her professed obsession.

I give the books a first star because I love the idea; I was a costume-obsessed youngling and I am glad there is now a series out there for people like me. The second star is because of the subtly subversive way the book introduces learning history via fashion instead of by rote–Pretty Well Done! And the third star is because if my niece can read it and love it, the book MUST be doing its job reaching the target market in tone, voice, and content (though I can’t wholly vouch for that).

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The Danish Girl

The Danish Girl
The Danish Girl, by David Ebershoff
The Danish Girl, by David Ebershoff

This is a beautifully written novel, my criteria being that never once was I ejected from the prose by what felt like an out of place word. I enjoyed the portrayal of deeply interesting characters with unique life experiences, and took it at its word that it was not trying to portray a real historical event, merely taking inspiration from one.

There were things I found completely satisfying: the artists at work, the rich locations, the identity confusion we all face–to greater or lesser extent–as we come of age and our physical bodies mature. What I see as the true strength of the book is the way it illuminates the shining acceptance and flexibility of good people, acting from a place of love.

There were also things in the book that disturbed me: I wanted just a little more medical details (not graphic) in order to understand the mechanics of what was physically happening. Not enough to want to look them up, but if the book let me down in some way it was in denying my modern understanding of medicine with hints instead of descriptions. Certain interactions that I longed for between characters were also left out. I think this portrays the reality of life, it doesn’t get tied up in a neat little bow, but I was sad as a reader not to be gifted by the author with certain scenes between characters.

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies #1) by Seth Grahame-Smith, Jane Austen, Philip Smiley (Illustrator)
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies #1)
by Seth Grahame-Smith, Jane Austen, Philip Smiley (Illustrator)

This is a book with 319 pages, of which, when combined, perhaps 3-5 pages of the contents are very clever and amusing. Do not neglect the Reader’s Discussion Guide, which is perhaps the part of the book containing the utmost hilarity.

The rest of the book is the borrowed genius of Jane Austen, but because it is incorporated without the range and craft that authoress possessed, her best phrases and structure are merely repetitive.

By all means, read it (if you read quickly, or have nothing whatsoever else to do) for the sprinkling of fun you can find inserted herein; but expect much of your efforts to be unrewarded drudgery.

I expect the movie will be far more rewarding, and the zombies themselves to be able to play a more central role.

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The Final Empire (Mistborn #1)

The Final Empire (Mistborn #1)
The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson
The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson

I didn’t start this book April 19: I RE-started it. I actually began months and months ago and put it down to read or…do ANYTHING else…a few times. That’s to tell you this is a slow to start book.

The Last 33% of the book is fantastic though, delivering all of the emotional and intellectual punch of great epic fantasy. The plot twists were half unexpected and half-just-as-hoped-for. As a romantic, I loved the ending.

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Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (Dirk Gently #1)

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (Dirk Gently #1)
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (Dirk Gently #1) by Douglas Adams
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (Dirk Gently #1),
by Douglas Adams

Re-reading out of order, which makes me want to turn around and re-re-read Long Dark Teatime RIGHT NOW. Alas, I will move on to other books looking for wonderful locations for my Pilgrimage.

This book turned out to be chockablock full of not just geographical places but buildings – with addresses. On my pilgrimage I shall see if they exist (they probably don’t) and hopefully do some of the fun things the characters do: Eat pizza (anchovies are wrong. I do not care about accurately re-creating fiction when it comes to fish on pizza. WRONG!), consider a Greek menu through the window, and perhaps take in a Bach concert in London. Or feed a Dodo. Maybe not that last one.

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The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (Dirk Gently #2)

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (Dirk Gently #2)
The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (Dirk Gently #2) by Douglas Adams
The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (Dirk Gently #2),
by Douglas Adams

This remains one of my all-time favorite books, by one of my favorite authors. This re-read was to plumb the content for locations I want to visit during my upcoming 42 for 42 trip: I am traveling to 42 places that occur in Douglas Adams’ novels for my 42nd birthday.

I’m hoping to see Miss Schechter’s view of the Park, the street the Draycott’s lived in, the places Dirk couldn’t buy a cigarette, and the train station in our world that is hiding the great hall of Asgard.

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