Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!
I am happy to welcome Cheryl F. Taylor back to Escape With Dollycas today!
The Brain of the Writer
by Cheryl Taylor
Writers have sponges in place of their brains. We absorb everything we’re around and then squeeze it out over the page. At least that’s the way it feels to me at times, and probably to many of the people who have wound up the target of my constant questioning.
It has been pointed out to me that I can ask more questions than the average 3-year-old… and just like a toddler, my questions usually start with “why.” In some areas of my life that habit has benefitted me. For many years I worked with students with severe emotional disabilities, autism or behavioral issues. My students always liked that I listened to their side of the story, even when I didn’t approve of their actions. My parapros, not so much, as they at times wanted me to see their sides and none other.
The long term effects of this habit, however, has been to fill my brain with all these snippets of human behavior and thinking. Not necessarily “normal” human behavior and thinking, but still human. I’m not really into trivia, although I know some writers who are. When it comes to the actions of people, however, I can’t seem to get enough, and it’s been that way as long as I can remember. I want to know why. Why did you choose to treat your friend that way? Why did you choose to shred your paper into a million pieces? Why did you react in a certain way? Why? Why? Why?
I unconsciously seek out random bits of information, like a sponge being wiped over a dirty counter, and once those gobbets of data fall into my brain, they never leave. They might be covered up, obscured or hidden for a period of time, but then I’m writing, and those bits and pieces float back out again to color my characters.
Just yesterday the ongoing presence of this strange habit was brought home. I was visiting a friend of mine, Suzanne Morrison, at a local rock show where she was a vendor. (She’s actually mentioned in the new book.) We were discussing the change in a nearby river due to a fire a few years ago. I’d finished explaining why I thought I’d seen the changes I had, then finished with, “Well, you were a firefighter, you know this.” She looked at me in shock and asked how I knew she’d been a firefighter, that almost no one these days knew that. All I could say was that at some point she’d mentioned she’d been a wildland firefighter, among other things. It stuck and has been floating in there for years. Who knows when it might get squeezed back out again.
The great thing about cozy mysteries is that I’ve got time to learn all the whys behind their actions. As the series develops, we all learn more about the characters, and what motivates them to make the choices they do. I learn about the characters in the same way that the readers do… in other words, the characters tell me about themselves. I’m not the type of writer who plots out a character beforehand. Instead, I put those characters into situations, and they then “tell” me who they are.
For example, in Murder on the Wind, the second in the Rock Shop Cozy Mystery series, we start to learn more about “why Jackson is as caring as he is of others.” The answer is because he has been taking care of his sister since their parents were killed. (I really admire that guy). In my “cozy apocalyptic” I had to learn the whys a bit faster. Still, I couldn’t stand to write something without knowing the whys.
I have no doubt that every writer who creates characters who live, breath and jump off the page has a similar raging curiosity to know the whys behind their characters. Other writers must have sponge brains, which absorb the spirits of people they know and then leak out into their characters. It’s part of our anatomy, but it sometimes gets crowded in here.
Thank you, Cheryl, for visiting today!
Keep reading for my thoughts of Murder on the Wind.
Murder on the Wind (Rock Shop Cozy Mystery)
2nd in Series
Setting – Arizona
CT Communications (February 3, 2019)
Paperback: 272 pages
Kindle ASIN: B07NCNZ688
Amy Stone has recently returned to Copper Springs, a small town on Historic Route 66 in Arizona, in order to run her family’s rock shop, Stone’s Gems and Minerals. In a horrific welcome home, however, she was faced with the murder of the shop’s employee, and forced to defend herself against the actual murder, with the help of the shop’s new assistant, Jackson Wolf.
Now that things have settled into a more peaceful way of life, Amy and Jackson are looking forward to things returning to normal.
Unfortunately, a fun field trip to a local mine, organized by the local rock club and the Copper Springs Historical Society, throws their new found peace into turmoil as one member of the field trip is assaulted and the body of a miner who disappeared over thirty years ago is discovered.
Amy and Jackson are determined to clear their friend Pete Martin’s name. That proves to be a difficult task, as Pete has been witnessed arguing violently with the assault victim not long before he was pushed into a mine shaft and left to die. Along the way, the duo find themselves faced with the older mystery… why was the miner killed, and who will he kill next?
It has been a while since we visited with Amy (Amethyst) Stone but the story picks up shortly after the end of the first book. Amy is managing the family’s rock shop while her father recovers from a broken leg. She and Jackson Wolf, the shop’s assistant, had recently solved a murder and are about to be tied up in another one.
Traveling with a group of people from the rock club and the local historical society they visit a nearby mine that is now run by two sisters. While searching for some prizes among the spoils a scream rings out. People rush to find one person has fallen down a shaft. His wife is claiming he was pushed by Amy and Jackson’s friend Pete Martin. Pete claims he was nowhere near the man. To get to the bottom of the story the first must get injured man out of the mine. While doing so they make an eerie discovery, a skeleton of a man thought to have left the area over 30 years ago. Now Amy and Jackson have two mysteries to solve.
What really drew me into the first mystery was the Stone family, Nick, his wife Crystal, Amy, who also has a brother named Jasper Onyx Stone and a sister named Opal Jewel Stone Amethyst’s middle name is Gem. They along with Jackson Wolf were all characters I wanted to know better. This time Amy and Jackson take center stage as the family remains in the background. They again make an excellent team of amateur sleuths. I love their relaxed and easy dialogue.
I really enjoyed the way the author blended an old murder in with a new mystery. She surprised me with a twist that sent the story in a whole new direction. It was very well-plotted and there were plenty of clues to mine before the real jewel is revealed.
Ms. Taylor’s descriptions of the tunnels in the mine really took me there. So much that my slight case of claustrophobia reared its ugly head. Darkness, water, bullets, and more. I was worried for those characters so much it had my heart racing. Closed in places have always been a problem I tackle one issue at a time. I don’t think mines will ever be a place I will conquer.
Cleverly written with very engaging characters. I found this book to be very entertaining and hope to visit the characters again. I just hope we don’t have to wait as long.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”