My guest today is Mary Curtis. Welcome, Mary.
Hi, Anna, it’s good to take a break for a chat. Thanks for inviting me over.
Tell us about yourself.
When I retired from writing for corporate clients I decided to retire to a beautiful place by a tidal river. So here I am, with wonderful new friends and finding it fascinating to be able to develop my own story ideas. What else can I tell you? Well, I have three cats and lately have been visiting feral cat colonies with a friend who is involved in a local TNR program. That means feral cats are trapped, visit a wonderful vet who checks them out to make sure they are healthy and then spays or neuters, as needed. Then they are returned to their habitat where volunteers make sure they have food and water. I tag along because the second book in the Gilded River Chronicles features an artist who also volunteers in a similar program. It’s fascinating to visit the colonies and I’m amazed at how healthy the cats are when taken care of. But it can be heart breaking too.
I have a soft spot for cats. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
I love my here and now but I have always wanted a little white house on the Isle of Capri. I felt such a connection when I visited, I seriously wondered if I had lived there in another life. Besides, it’s a short ferry crossing to the mainland and then on to Venice. Oh, boy, I love that beautiful but threatened city. I spent hours wandering the narrow alleys, standing on a bridge and thinking of those who had been there long before me, and sitting sipping cappuccino and watching the passing parade.
It would take too long to recount and truly they couldn’t be called a career. They were just stops on a long journey to make enough money to take the next bus, train, ferry, ocean liner to somewhere new. If anyone is truly interested I wrote a post about my convoluted writer’s journey a short time ago for Marion Sipe, the artist who developed both my book covers. It can be found here: http://marionsipe.blogspot.com/
What genre do you write in?
I have to chuckle when thinking about this question. My brainwaves are all over the place. Luscious & Lethal, the first book in the Gilded River Chronicles is a contemporary romantic suspense. However, the third book in the series will have a touch of paranormal. My first published e-book was Taming the Hawk, a historical romance with some villainy. I also have two paranormal stories waiting for serious editing, while more historical WIPs glower out at me from my files. So you see, I tend to jump around. It’s so much fun that way, although it can get confusing.
How many books have you written? Do you have a favorite?
As noted, I have two published e-books from MuseItUp Publishing. However, there are probably seven stories waiting for attention. Plus, I’m working to launch a new blog, called A Writer’s Journey. A while ago I had a really bad fall and was out of commission for two months and couldn’t sit at my laptop for more than five minutes at a time. It was so frustrating but while lounging about I came up with the idea for my new blog. Plus it would involve a really scary notion—I would publish a chapter of a story once a month in the blog. It’s an old idea, Dickens did it as did other writers and some authors still do so today. My scary idea was to publish a chapter of a work-in-progress, not a finished manuscript. So, A Candle Without A Flame was born. The cover is also by Marion Sipe and it is wonderful. I hope you can stop by and check it out when the blog is ready to roll.
What is your favorite part of writing?
I love developing characters from a wisp of an idea. Then finding ways to harass and befuddle them until they do amazing things they never thought possible. Sometimes they surprise the heck out of me.
LOL! What is your least favorite part of writing?
Oh, I do hate to say this but it is writing the final scenes. I can agonize over the denouement until I’m frazzled. Then, maddeningly, the ending that I first visualized pops up and waves at me. Why does that happen? Please, someone tell me.
What is your typical day like?
Do you really want to know? Okay, here goes. A typical day means checking to see who has thrown up a hairball in the oddest places—once into a container holding a thriving plant. The poor thing never recovered. Next I feed the furry horde, go take a shower, come back to find piggy Pepper has stolen someone else’s breakfast. Finally, I make toast with peanut butter and marmalade and a glass of water for myself. It’s good for the system you know. Then I fire up the laptop, go hunting for the file I need, realize I forgot to jot down the page I was editing and have to riffle through a hundred or so pages to find it. By then I’m ready for my usual huge shot of cappuccino with loads of froth. Some of the froth goes to Gypsy. I know, I know, cats aren’t supposed to have milk. But, hey, she will be twenty years old this year and I think that means she can have whatever darn thing she wants. Then I may go out to lunch with a friend, or decide to clean out my closet, or write up a new chapter, or…I think you get the message. I lead a very dull life but it has its moments.
What advice can you offer to anyone deciding to self-publish?
I haven’t actually done that yet, except for publishing my work in progress, Candle Without A Flame, in my own blog. But I do know this. You need someone to check over your work. I have been a freelance writer for a long time and an editor before that. YOU DON’T ALWAYS CATCH YOUR OWN MISTAKES. Please read and re-read that. Maybe tattoo it on your forehead or stick a flag on your computer. If you can’t afford an editor, and many of us can’t, find a willing reader who has a good grasp of grammar and an eye for detail.
All self-pubbed books are rumored to be shoddily edited. What do you say to that?
Yes. No. Sometimes. While I was lying here with cracked ribs and moaning in pain I read well over a hundred books on my e-reader to transport me into another life. Some were self-pubbed others were e-books from established publishers. And yes, quite a few e-books were poorly edited and had lousy design problems. But hold on, not all of the problem books were self-published. Far too many came from well-known publishing houses and included the works of some of my favorite authors. That said, not all the e-books on my list were poorly edited or had flaws in layout.
How likely are people you meet to end up in your next book?
Are you trying to get me in trouble? Of course people I meet don’t end up in my books. Well, hardly ever. Okay, occasionally. But it is surprising how people never see themselves as others see them. So, I hope I’m safe from a punch in the nose.
I tend to fly without a flight plan. It gets me into a lot of trouble when the characters decide they want to go east and I’m headed west. I have tried plotting and found my writing tended to be flat and overworked.
Me too! Will you share some encouraging words for authors still struggling for that first contract?
Never, never give up. I wrote articles and copy for other people for many years, but my first novel was published when I was seventy three. If you love writing, just keep on keeping on. The more you write the better you get. I also received some very wise advice from one of my favorite authors. James Lee Burke. He said I should write my story, not the story someone else wanted me to write. So I did, and Lea Schizaz, at MuseItUp Publishing, accepted Taming the Hawk and Luscious & Lethal and I hope others to come.
What’s next for you?
Both my e-books, Luscious & Lethal and Taming the Hawk can be purchased from my publisher at MuseItUp Publishing, on Amazon and at Kobo. As soon as my blog, The Writer’s Journey, is ready to go, I will post it on my Facebook page, so please check in now and then at:
Thank you for sharing the wealth of your experience, Mary. Stay off the ice! Broken ribs are painful. Hope you are well on the mend.
Married…to a man who is a dark brooding stranger. As the carriage trundled towards Anton’s home, Amee wondered if it was possible to die of a broken heart Grief, sorrow, anguish, all flowed together threatening to overwhelm her. Perhaps it was the injury to her head that caused such distress. Could physical pain do that? She didn’t know…didn’t know anything anymore. How had she come to this? The world began that sick, dizzying whirl and her mind spun out of control. The hours since injuring her head had been purgatory. Last night she had finally fallen into an uneasy sleep and dreamed of Brampton Grange and heard her papa’s voice calling her to come see his latest invention.
When she woke the pillow was wet with tears and she recalled how her head hit something unyielding when Anton hit her. Now the ache in her jaw where his large hand connected was minor to the spears of pain shooting from the crown of her head to her neck and down her back. Perhaps her skull was cracked. That was it. She was broken like a china doll dropped on a rock never to be put back together again.
Arriving at the house in Grosvenor Gardens, Anton climbed from the carriage. Still she sat without moving. “Come, Amee. It is time to be done with your ill-temper.” He reached in and grasped her wrist remembering too late it was bruised. Still she did not move.
“Bloody hell!” He had put up with enough of her waywardness. The sooner he left for his club and got down to the business of drinking the night away the better. He climbed back into the carriage and dragged her from the seat.
His tone was harsh. “Enough of this nonsense you are not a child and I will not put up with your hostility.” He pulled her down the steps and turned to wave Sam away. Behind him he heard a small wavering cry and swung around a second too late to prevent her collapsing at his feet.
“Amee! What is wrong?” He crouched beside her and lifted her veil and saw the nasty black bruise on her jaw. Her eyes were closed. He laid the back of his hand against her cheek. It was hot and dry as tinder. He picked her up and mounted the steps to the front door. Sam ran ahead to open the door for him. Anton noted the groom’s grim face. He was definitely at odds with his master. The thought was dismissed for he had Amee to see to.
Cranley came hurrying across the hall and asked, “Mr. Templeton! Has there been an accident?” He seemed rooted to the spot as his master pushed past him.
“Send someone for the doctor, Cranley. Immediately. My wife is ill.”
“Y-your wife, sir?”
“Yes, my wife, damn you, get a move on.” He quickly carried her up the stairs to the bedchamber next to his. All was in order and ready for her. He strode to the bed, laid her down then sat beside her. Her face was dreadfully pale and yet high spots of color touched her cheekbones.
“Amee, pet. You must wake up and tell me what is wrong.” His hand cupped her hot cheek again. He removed the pins from her bonnet and pulled it off then opened the top buttons of her blouse. Fear made his gut roil.
“Water.” Yes, he should bathe her face with cool water. He went to the bathroom, wet a towel and brought it back. At the cold feel of it, she murmured something he couldn’t make out and turned her head away.
He brushed the tumbled hair back from her brow. “Be still, Amee. A doctor will be here soon.”
“Sir, may I help?” He turned to find Mrs. Grant standing behind him.
“Her skin is burning and she has fainted.”
The housekeeper took the dripping cloth from his hand, folded it neatly and gently laid it on the girl’s forehead. “I was afraid of this. Her fever is much worse. It would be best to remove her clothing so we can bathe her with cool water.”
“A fever, why? I know her face is bruised surely that could not cause a fever.” His fingers pushed the lapels of her jacket aside and fumbled as he opened the rest of the buttons of her blouse. The housekeeper reached out to push his hand away.
“I will call a maid to help me, sir.”
His look brooked no debate. “This is my responsibility, Mrs. Grant. I will lift her if you will strip the garments off.”
Mrs. Grant was red-cheeked as she said, “Please take care. Her head injury is nasty. She should really not have left her bed today but seemed intent on fulfilling a promise. The poor lady worried about something dire that would happen if she could not go with you.”
“Her head injury?” Anton felt like an idiot as if he had to repeat everything to try and make sense of it. He shook his head. “I do not understand.”
“There.” Mrs. Grady dropped the clothing at her feet and unfastened the laces of the small corset and pulled it free. “My goodness. The lass is hardly big enough to wear such a garment.” She bit her lip as if her words were too revealing in front of a man.
It took only a few more minutes to strip Amee to her chemise. Then he untied the ribbon garters and rolled down her well-darned stockings and dropped them with the other clothing on the floor. There was a band of steel around his chest as he pulled the covers over her. He had not failed to note, as Mrs. Grant probably had not, the purple bruises on her upper arms and around her wrists. A monster! He was a bloody monster and should be shot and hanged and…
MC—I hope this small ‘tease’ intrigues you enough to buy Taming the Hawk. Thank you for taking the time to check in.