The Hero Blog Hop: Alexis Nevid tells it like it is

Meet Alexis Nevid, private detective, and somewhat reluctant hero. Here she is, sitting at the Coral Reef Tavern, enjoying her favorite refreshment, whiskey on the rocks.

Alexis is a loner, but she has one good friend: Frank Gibson of the Witchfire Police Department. In Check Out Time, she is introduced as a somewhat mysterious woman of Native American descent, with a penchant for Cuban cigars.

She spends a lot of time in her little rented office, her feet propped up on the scratched surface of her desk, amid stacks of papers and piles of books. This is where she is introduced to readers, calmly waiting for an investigation to “fall into her lap”. When Spencer Whellaby, wealthy store owner, bursts into her office and asks for her help, she is thrown aback to discover that he wants to her to investigate a suicide.

Interestingly, I never meant for Alexis to become an important character. But I absolutely love her– she is tough, and she tells it like it is. She is reluctant to get involved in the lives of others, but she is strangely drawn to Naomi Vogler, the main character of Check Out Time, whose sad story touches Alexis’s heart.

Meet Alexis Nevid in my latest Mystery release, Check Out Time. I have a feeling she will be returning in future works. After all, although Alexis has a habit of disappearing when she wants to, she tends to reemerge when we least expect it.

Buy Check Out Time on Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Available in print and e-book

Enjoy this short excerpt of Check Out Time . . . .

When Alexis didn’t want to be noticed, she had a talent for disappearing. As the sounds of the night settled in and bats fluttered in the overhang, Alexis sunk into the bench and became a statue—a part of the shadows. When the time came, she would be ready.

No one seemed the notice the dark shadow on the corner of a bench until it began to move, straighten, and become a human being. The night crew turned collectively and saw Alexis emerge from the darkness, smooth and snake-like, much like some denizen from another world.

“Where’d you come from?” Keith asked.

“I’ve been here,” Alexis explained. “I’ve been waiting.”

“Not for this . . . I mean, you didn’t know the power was going to go out, did you?”

“You’re quick, Mr. Ryan. I had a pretty good idea something was going to happen, but I didn’t know what. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” Alexis pulled a nine-millimeter out of a holster on her belt. “I believe there’s something in there waiting for me.”

“What’s going on?”

“I’ll tell you later.” Alexis walked toward the front door.

Thank you to my dear friend Brian’s father, Michael, for taking the Halloween photo of me and immortalizing Alexis.

Who’s your favorite hero? Reply to this blog post with your name and email. You will be entered to win a digital copy of Check Out Time. Good luck!

Beginning July 27 and ending on the 31, over 100 authors and bloggers will share their favorite things about heroes. And everyone is doing a giveaway, including me!

We have THREE grand prizes. You as a reader can go to EACH blog and comment with your email address and be entered to win. Yep, you can enter over 100 times!

1st Grand Prize: A Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet
2nd Grand Prize: A $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Card
3rd Grand Prize: A fantastic Swag Pack!

Enter to win! Remember to leave a comment.

Writers: What’s the most annoying question you’ve ever been asked about your work?

For me, the most annoying question is, “How much of your novel is autobiographical?”

If Taking 1960 were autobiographical, I would be a tormented artist with psychotic relatives, and an apparent talent for solving decade-old serial murder cases.

If Check Out Time were autobiographical, I would be a somewhat homely girl with admirably large biceps, grease stains under her fingernails, steel-toed boots, and a dog named Diesel.

I am not either of these characters, and it grows tiresome when people continually confuse my life with my fiction. I know this happens to other authors. I attended a book talk once where the author was discussing her stories, which were loosely based on events in her childhood. In the book, the character’s father was a negligent drunkard (or something to that effect) and people in the author’s family were wondering if she was slyly revealing long-kept family secrets.

In a way, the confusion can be a compliment. Perhaps I have created such a believable world that people can’t help but think it’s an expression of my own life.

It does cause problems, though. When my mother first read the book, she was very upset, and wanted to know why I had killed her off. It took a lot of explaining to make her realize that Naomi is not me, and Naomi’s mother is not my mother. I pointed out some very large differences: Naomi’s mother is curvaceous, short-haired, and enjoys baking cookies. My mother is none of these things.

How much of Check Out Time is real?

Well, mostly just my experiences. Initially, I came up with the concept when I was working overnight in a grocery store, and when I had just met my dad again in 2008. I made up Naomi, gave her some of my interests, and gave her a few situations that I was familiar with.

To me, “write what you know” means “write the sorts of things that you’re familiar with.” I think some people take the phrase too seriously. Especially with fiction, people wonder if the author experienced the same things as the main character, or if the main character is based on them.

For example, the latest gossip centers around E.L. James and Fifty Shades of Grey. Everyone keeps whispering, “You’d have to know a lot about that stuff in order to write it.”

So, does E.L. James have a BDSM dungeon in her basement? Maybe.

Did anything in Check Out Time really happen? Most of it didn’t.

Writers: What’s the most annoying question you’ve ever been asked about your work? 

Have you ever written anything with a particular goal in mind, only to have readers interpret it completely differently? How did this affect you? 

Leave a comment: I would love to hear your thoughts!

How my father inspired Check Out Time

As I sit here, still sick, still grieving from the loss of my father, I am thinking about how this loss was the devastating force behind so much of what I have done over the last year or so. Since yesterday was Father’s Day, I write this in his honor, just as I created the character of Roy Vogler, in Check Out Time, for my dad.

If I remember correctly, Dad’s accident was on January 23, 2010. I was determined to believe that he would recover, despite the stroke, and that things would continue as they had. I pictured myself moving back to Pennsylvania, driving over to his house and visiting Dad and my sisters, having dinner with him, all of us echoing the same sentiment: “Dear God, we came so close to losing you.”

This fantasy didn’t come to fruition. I lost Dad, for the second time in my life. I had three years to get to know my father all over again. I cannot even begin to describe how grateful I am for those three years. I try not to think about the what-ifs and the maybes. There have been a lot of moments where I have thought to myself, “If only I had contacted him sooner.” But the fact is, we reconnected when we did, and I have to accept that fact. In reality, things were the way they had to be.

But, oh! To be sitting across from him and realize how much we had in common. It was a mind-boggling experience. I tried to make Roy Vogler as close to the character of my father as possible, but I probably didn’t succeed %100. After all, the circumstances in my book are different, and Roy’s daughter isn’t completely me. There are aspects of Naomi Vogler that match my personality, but there are many things about the two of us that are different. Fact versus fiction– a novel doesn’t have to be accurate, it just has to entertain. But in my case, Check Out Time is not just a piece of entertainment fiction; it is an expression of how much I miss and love my father, the real Roy Vogler– Dennis Godshall, Sr.

Those of you who know me well enough will ask me if I’ve seen him. Yes, I have. I can get ready for bed at night and firmly ask, “Dad, I would like to see you in my dream tonight. Please visit me.” He will be there.

I know that I am not alone. He is far away, and it’s not easy for him to visit, but he manages it. It usually happens when I’m driving. I get the distinct impression that I am not alone. Very shortly after his death, on February 17, 2012, I was in school and I kept hearing people say things that sounded like something Dad would say. The feeling grew stronger when I heard someone whistling the theme to the Andy Griffith Show; that was something that Dad did well. When I went outside that night, there was no one behind me in the dark parking lot, and I felt a distinct tug on my sweatshirt. I knew it was Dad.

Our loved ones never really leave us. I know that Dad watches over me. The last time I saw him in the nursing home, I held his hand. When I cried, his forehead crinkled, and he stared fixedly at me the whole time. His lips parted as if he wanted to speak, but he couldn’t. I told him, “Dad, if you come to visit me, I will know it’s you. I will see you. We’ll never be all that far from each other.”

I am not well. As I try to recover from my physical sickness, I feel the hurt in my heart. The only photograph that I have of Dad and I, taken months or a year before his accident, is sitting by my laptop. I see his face every day. And I consider how this heartbreak drove me to change my life in some very large ways.

I remember standing in Dad’s house and saying excitedly, “Dad, I’m writing a book with you in it! You’re going to be one of the characters.”

Now, I want to say to my father, “Dad, I wish you could be here to see this book with you in it. I miss you more than I can say.”

I solved my own personal Mystery when I was reunited with my father. I saw how alike we were, and it was an eye-opener for me. In Check Out Time, Roy says to Naomi, “Like father, like daughter.” It’s the same in real life. After Dad’s accident, I made a concrete decision to go to school for Automotive, and decided that, one day, I would open my own automotive repair shop. Dad has influenced my life so much. I am always thinking, “I wish he were here to see it.”

But then I remember– He is here. And he always will be.

PWC Book Club: Now reading Taking 1960

The PWC Book Club is reading my Paranormal Mystery novel, Taking 1960, for the month of June. I am honored! Click here to view the e-Book on Oaklight’s website, and read more about my first Mystery novel.

About the book club:

The Pagan Writer’s Community book club reads and discusses one pagan themed book each month. Our affiliation with Pagan Writers’ Community means that most members are writers as well as readers (but this isn’t a requirement for membership.) We may post discussion topics or study questions of our own or borrowed from other sources, but all participation is optional. Feel free to discuss each month’s book as much or as little as you like, post your own questions, or link to relevant articles or files elsewhere. When possible, we hope to direct members to free or discounted e-books or online texts of our chosen books. If you’re searching for a place where intelligent pagan writers discuss pagan books–this is it.

What are we reading next?

July — The Magic of Findhorn by Paul Hawken
August — Stalking The Goddess by Mark Carter

How can I participate?

Click here to visit the PWC Monthly Book Club on Facebook. Join the group, pull up a chair, and you’re in! We would love to have you.

All in a day’s work

I work at a library during the day, and when I get home, I try to go for a walk around sunny North Palm Beach.  Then I eat, have a cup of tea, and settle down to edit.  Some days are more difficult than others.  For example, there are some evenings that a certain furry friend of mine feels that I am not paying enough attention to her.

That’s Petunia.  She thinks that editing is a waste of time, and that I should be petting her and playing with her.  Her favorite game is “fetch”.  I throw a little toy mouse, and she fetches it, and brings it back to me.

“What are you doing? You should be petting me instead!”

I have done all of the editing that I needed to do tonight, so perhaps I will go play with Petunia.  Or maybe I will be scolding her instead, because she loves to scratch things and tear furniture apart.  Well, I suppose I have my job, and she has hers . . . .

The promise of a good editor

When I was in high school, I was very fortunate.  I was introduced to all of the right people– editors, writers, and those who had been in the publishing business for a long time.  My first novel, Taking 1960, was edited by a wonderfully talented woman.  Not all writers meet the right people.  Some flounder– some meet the wrong people.

If you have not already, please check out Preditors & Editors, the site that pinpoints scams in the editing and publishing world.

With every editing job that I am hired to complete, I strive to do only my best.  After all, I know what it’s like to be a poor writer, and to want nothing more than to see your work in print.

That being said, I am always disappointed when I hear of an editor who has provided mediocre results (or worse) and charged more than they should have.  Two of my closest friends have had this experience very recently.  In both incidents, the authors were led to believe that they would be getting crucial feedback, as well as in-depth editing.

One friend was charged three hundred dollars.  The editor supposedly had a great background and had “been in the business” for many years.  They gushed about him at writer’s groups, and my friend thought he was a sure thing.  She forked over her money for a couple small changes, and a lot of disappointment.  He had charged her all that money and had done next to nothing with her manuscript.  He didn’t even provide feedback.  She paid him because she had already agreed to pay, without seeing samples of his work.  The second case was very similar.  The author expected a lot, and got very little.

Here are a few ways that you can prevent this from happening to you.

An editor should be prepared to show that they know their stuff.  I offer to review the first fifteen pages for free, and provide honest feedback.  This gives the author an idea of how I operate.  Any editor should be able to provide some kind of sample, even if it’s only two or three pages.  I don’t see why this should be a problem.  If they expect you to hand over your cash, they should be willing to show you their stuff, so to speak.

An editor should also be able to provide references.  If you’re hiring someone to replace your flooring or fix your air conditioner, your first thought is to ask around.  “Hey, have you hired this guy? Is he good?” The same goes for an editor.  You should be able to read about their background, who they have worked with in the past, and get an idea of their work ethic.

Do your research.  Cross reference companies and independent editors with the Preditors & Editors website.  It’s a shame, but there are a lot of people out there who would be more than willing to take your money for absolutely no effort on their part.

If you are careful, and you do proper research, you shouldn’t have a problem.  Never hand over your money without knowing for sure what you’re paying for.

The promise of a good editor is “worth a thousand words”.  Just make sure that you’re actually getting a good editor before you agree to pay.

Advice to aspiring authors

This is from an interview that I took part in six years ago, when my first short story, “For I Have Sinned”, was published by Wild River Review.  Looking back on it, I really liked what I had to say.  Feeling discouraged about your own writing? Read on.

Don’t give up. Learn how to take a lot of criticism. You won’t become a better writer unless you’re willing to have your work ripped to shreds. I also have a good technique for writing stories and novels and I’ll try to explain it the best I can. Remember that everything progresses in big circles. Experiences that change you will continue to do so for many years. The same thing goes with a story. When I write a novel, I try to visualize the story as a giant circle. Eventually, the main character thinks about something that occurred many pages back because they’ve been affected by it. Your writing has to flow. A river never stops for the rocks; it just tumbles right over them. I don’t know how better to explain it. That everything circulates and goes back to the beginning, I think, is the most important aspect of writing a story. Otherwise, you’ve just got this endless yarn wiggling around and looking for a place to ground itself.

Help?

I work in a library.  Before I started working there, I had a very limited spectrum that I stuck to.  I read the same authors (usually).  We are a small library, so all the employees get a chance to learn different tasks.  We all check in books and check them out for patrons.  That means that my hands touch more books than I will ever actually read.  In this manner, my reading spectrum has expanded to include authors that I never thought I would read.  I even tried Danielle Steel once, but I couldn’t get through the first seven pages.  Admittedly, it was one of her new ones, Legacy, and I am thinking that she was probably a much better writer when she first started out.  At least, I hope so.

Some of my favorite books that I have randomly come across at the library are books that I probably never thought I would read under other circumstances.  The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World was a really neat book, but I couldn’t get through the whole thing.  Once it went into all the math, I couldn’t continue.

When I picked up Love Affair by Leslie Kenton, I knew it was a book I would have never read under normal circumstances.  Not because I didn’t want to, but just because I wouldn’t have come across it had it not been for the library.

My favorite find recently was a book called Night Train, set in 1963 in North Carolina.  It is about a two young musicians who forge a friendship across the boundaries of race.  The author’s writing style is just fantastic; I thought it was quite unique.

And now, I am reading a book that I never thought I would ever pick up: The Help.  I am generally not the type of person who enjoys anything that the mainstream media promotes.  Not because I’m necessarily against the mainstream media (that discussion is for another time) but simply because my tastes are usually a little odd and “off the beaten path.”

I am surprised that I am enjoying this book.  I couldn’t stop reading it last night, and I stayed up much too late trying to get to the next chapter.  Thanks to the author’s talent for engrossing story telling, I woke up late this morning, feeling excessively groggy.  But it was worth it!

I started reading the book because I am going to see the movie with my friend Tina on Tuesday.  I thought it would be more of a chore than anything else.  Once again, thanks to the library, my horizon has been broadened.

What is everyone else reading?