Saturday, February 22, 2014

My Godfather Ate my Homework

Lelia Taylor, at Buried Under Books, gave me this opportunity to blog about my favorite subject.





My Godfather Ate my Homework 


Marta ChauseeMarta’s Chausée‘s first full-length novel,Murder’s Last Resort, was the winner of the 2011 Dark Oak Mystery contest.  Her creative non-fiction, memoir and poetry have been published in various literary magazines and won various awards.   
A Southern California native, Marta has been many things– junk mail envelope stuffer, foreign language teaching assistant, boutique owner, forensic document examiner, corporate wife, mother, mental health therapist and life coach. Put those experiences in a blender and see what you get.
     Thank you for inviting me to guest blog for you, Lelia. Just about a year ago, my life turned to shi*t, and I'm going to tell you exactly how it happened.
      As 2013 began, I wanted change, so I rented out my college-town bungalow, and became a gypsy, sleeping either at my mom's, my friend, May's, or my boyfriend, Alan's, while I looked for an apartment near the beach. 
      My boyfriend and I had never co-habitated.  It got ugly fast.   
      My idea of primitive surroundings is decorative pillows filled with poly foam.  His idea of acceptable living space includes twenty year old, discolored, cat-shredded carpet, a threadbare lump which was once a sofa, and a rusty reefer full of icy stalactites formed in the Pleistocene Era.      
Lifestyle choice was not our only problem.  I had to get out of there.  We had to break up.
      Enter May Sun, and her business trip to China.  Smooth transition.  I began to house-sit for May full time.  From cold, dungeon-like agony to sun-filled ecstasy.  May's home was outfitted with down everything, crystal chandeliers and fine porcelains.  Now this was more like it.
      One morning, as I relaxed at the breakfast room table, happy as a princess in a palace, the phone rang.  It was my godfather, Dennis.  He called to tell me he had broken his pelvis.  Would I come up to Seattle to help him and my godmother, Hella, who had advanced dementia?
     Well, sure.  What else was I doing?  I saw it now-- me, a cross between Flo Nightingale and Glenda, the Good Witch.  I practically packed a nurse’s costume, complete with a starched, little, pointy white hat, white hose, and white ortho shoes.  My godparents were childless.  Whom else did they have but me?  
     Marta to the rescue. Savior to all. Beacon of hope, squirting the milk of human kindness like Dale Chihouly squirts paint from giant squeeze bottles onto the canvas.  
     Hella already had full-time, live-in care, but Dennis wanted me to drive him on errands, fix the occasional meal, listen to his stories, and, between caregiver shifts, help out with Hella.  He never said it, but I was his insurance, his Mini Me in training.   
     I had deeply loved this man since early childhood.  He taught me to draw and paint. This man and his wife, retired Ice Capades stars, taught me to ice skate and snow ski.  
     I spent years wishing he were my dad, instead of my real dad.  I thought he loved me, too. Wasn't that why he called me to come visit?
     His sister, Doreen, also my beloved friend, called from England one afternoon.  They chatted a few moments, then he declared, 
“Oh yes, she’s here now."  
       He looked me over and frowned, "She tries to help." Mumble, mumble.  Then, "She's OK.  She's all lumpy dumpy, but she's OK." 
      Huh?  He hung up the phone. 
      "I'm right here," I said.  "I can hear you, you know."  
      He looked surprised, then crafted a blank expression, and asked me to make him some tea.
      Hella, meanwhile, sat in a corner, running her hands over her face, lolling her head in circles like a crazed parrot, and refused to even acknowledge Dennis.  She did, however, speak gibberish to, smile at, and blow kisses to everyone else in the house, including me.  Dennis sprayed us all with .357 bullets from his eyes.

Marta Chausee Clydesdale     I cooked the bacon wrong one morning, and got yelled at. He snapped at me when I couldn’t find his tax papers. Gee, I guess I couldn't remember where he put them before I got there.  
      "Lord, you're clumsy," he remarked the next day, his voice laced with contempt, as I stumbled once, trying to balance around waist-high mounds of outdated catalogues and musty-smelling magazines. 
    "Yes, Dennis.  I am a Clydesdale, and we're not known for our grace," I wanted to say. En route to the garage later that day, where he asked me to practice opening his safe, I tripped in the dark, and my foot went through an empty cardboard box.  He howled as if I had just crushed his priceless collection of hand-painted quail eggs.
    I escaped for a few precious minutes on Day Three to pick up an Rx for him at the drug store. En route, I called my mom and hissed into my cell phone, “I am never coming back here again, as long as Dennis is alive.”
      And of course, that was all it took; Dennis promptly died.  I was out of the country when it happened, so kind neighbors took over the executorship of the estate, and placed Hella in a memory care facility.  Thank You, God. 
      A few weeks later, my welcome home gift was the news that I was now in charge of everything.      
Hella, the house, the attic crawl space, the ham radio room, the garden shed, the covered storage patio, the cars, the garage and its rafters.  All mine now.  All either dusty, sticky, molding, dripping and/or oozing.       
An early version of Dennis’s will had a moving truck fill up all their possessions, and dump them in the front yard of my home in Claremont.  
“Do your best with it all, dear,” was scribbled in the margin in Dennis’s cramped handwriting. Gratefully, he changed his mind in 2009, and left all that stuff up there.
If Dennis had one thing, he had at least three things, and all three of those things were covered in grime. Electric generators, lawn mowers, power tools, sleeping bags, blowdryers, catalogues, magazines, papers.  We must have tossed out 3000 razor blades.  Suicide, anyone?
      Dennis loved feral cats.  Over the years, they wandered in and out of the house, leaving their calling cards behind.  The house reeked of mildew and soaked-in cat piss.  Made the old boyfriend’s place look and smell like a five-star resort.

Marta Chausee Guns     Dennis, the pack rat survivalist.  His safe room/woodworking shop/garage, was loaded with enough hand-guns, shotguns, Lugers, AK-47s, and rounds of ammo to outfit every person in Renton Highlands. 
      Twenty-five gas masks, and 4 huge cartons of Army-issue emergency meal rations were stacked in a corner.  Giant backpacks lay on make-shift shelves, ready for the nuclear holocaust for which Dennis was prepared.  We unpacked them, expecting water purification pills, things to barter, maybe even gold coins.  
      Instead, they were filled with ancient underwear, the kind with holes and worn-out elastic, ratty old clothes, more gas masks, mosquito repellant, and waterproof matches for Hella and himself. 
Had he no pride?  They were going to run around like bums in those rags after the nuclear holocaust?
      The irony was, they both had huge wardrobes of pristine clothing.  After the Ice Capades, Dennis had worked for ABC Television, and Hella had worked for Dean Martin and Dick Clark.  
      They had party togs to die for-- in mothballs for years, but I reckoned that made them impervious to nuclear holocaust. Why not show some flare, and pack some of those sparkling, big-shouldered duds from the go-go 80s?  Who wants a boring post-nuclear holocaust? 
      Dennis was a ham radio nut, master carpenter, oil painter, photographer, welder, and a model builder.  Inside the house, his hobbies spilled into every room.  Sifting through 2500 square feet of junque, collected by a nutty genius-hoarder, cowed me.  Midnight trips to dumpsters were made, things were given away. Twenty-eight electric and manual typewriters were donated to Goodwill, right back to where they came from. Oh gosh, I nearly forgot the 17 plastic cameras.  Estate sales and garage sales were held.  
      Old boyfriends came back into the picture, earning gratitude and new appreciation by being rock solid, super helpful and heroic.  Giant, blue dumpsters were rented and filled.  Junk-drunk neighbors went through what I thought was useless crap, but they seemed to like it.  Even paid money for it.  Finally, bonfires blazed.  

Marta Chausee Dumpster
     And the year had started out so well!  My first full-length novel, Murder’s Last Resort, was released by Oak Tree Press on February 8, after two years of brutal scrutiny by Sunny Frazier, the acquisitions editor.  Back in 2011 when we first met, she all but pried open my mouth to check my teeth and gums.
      "You've got to be healthy, fit, prepared to market and promote," she said.  "You give your all in that first year of publication." 
    "I'll be great at it," I answered with aplomb.
    "Create an elaborate, detailed marketing plan," Sunny said. 
      I wanted my book picked up, so I got right on it.  Best marketing plan wins.
      Poor Oak Tree Press!  They got exactly 90 days of feverish marketing out of me, before the 80-something body snatchers took me away.

Murder's Last Resort     What is the answer?  Pick younger authors?  It’s not my poor health that tanked my big marketing schemes.  It was the poor health and demise of others.
     I thought my second novel would be completed and ready for edits last November.  Not so.  I couldn’t even produce the dreaded Christmas letter this past December.  Now, that's bad.  
     My energies are sapped.  Creative juices?  I must have scrubbed those away, when I scoured the bathroom at the hellhole up north.  
     Last December, I brought Hella to a dementia community in Eagle Rock, where we often visit.  Or, I should say, I stroke her hair, while her head lolls.  I remember with fondness my two book launches in March and April of last year.  Seems like another life.  
     And there's more  My beach place-- cool but tiny-- is a disorganized mess. The boyfriend is out of the picture again.  I'm moody and living in boxes. I hate my life.  I see my Clydesdale future before me– poor, fat, old, and involuntarily celibate.  They shoot horses, don’t they?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Why she writes HOT!

Hi Friends!

It's been a while, eh?  I am bogged and buried in renovation, quite near the legless lizards in the dunes habitat of LAX.  B-o-r-i-n-g.

Let's move on to something sexy.


Have some Melodie Campbell!  She's one of my Canadian writing buddies. British subjects have such a way with words.  Has a man ever said to you what one of her suitors said to her?


WHY I WRITE HOT – and Why Others Read It
By Melodie Campbell
I write comedies – screwball, caper, fantasy, you name it.  The laugh gene is part of me and always will be.  But lately, I find my fiction has gotten hotter.  
Why?  Why now, after more than 20 years of writing fiction, would I be changing my style to incorporate breathless scenes of sexual passion along with the fast action I am known for?
The shocking answer came to me, when I posted this recently on my Facebook Author page:
Readers often ask if any parts of my novels are based on real life. Not really. But occasionally I will draw from the past. This dialogue, from my current work in progress ROWENA AND THE VIKING WARLORD, was once spoken to me by a man. Lars says it to Rowena:

     "It is odd,” he said. The look in his eyes was something almost religious. “Most times when I look at you, my body throbs to lust. But other times, you are so beautiful, it takes my breath away. I see you as a thing of splendour, too precious for any man to touch. It calms me just to feast my eyes on you.”
     My voice caught in my throat. This was the most stunning thing a man had ever said to me.
My shock: In writing that fiction passage, I was reliving the past.
Youth is gorgeous.  I can still remember times when I would walk into a room and all male eyes would turn to me. Times when the air around me was electric with attraction.
And even more excruciating – those few times when a man would do anything, say anything, lie, beg…to (how do I say this gracefully) satisfy his overwhelming want of me.
That doesn’t happen anymore, at least not with anything like that intensity.  But I remember it still.  Wistfully.

There is an old adage: Writers live twice. Whether unconsciously, as I did here, or with deliberation, writers sometimes pull from their pasts to move their imagined plots forward.  
I discovered today that when I write hot scenes, I am reliving the way a man wanted me.  The power of it.  The utter joy from it.  The feeling of life teetering to the point of no return, and nothing else being more important than that moment.
So I’ve come to this conclusion: Common thought is that women read hot romance/suspense books to experience the ideal romance or carnal encounter they never had.  Maybe so, but that isn’t all.  I think many women read them to relive the giddy sexual power they themselves once had over men. That power is fleeting, as we all know. 
Certainly, my books reflect this.  Rowena experiences many of the things I once did.  I write in first person, so I invite you to slip into her skin, and experience what she does.
Relive that sexual passion.
AUTHOR’S QUESTION: What about it, men?  Do male writers and readers see their past selves on the printed page?  Do you relive your sexual past in the books you write? 
Melodie Campbell achieved a personal best this year when Library Journal compared her to Janet Evanovich.  She has over 200 publications, including 100 comedy credits, 40 short stories, and 5 novels. She has won 6 awards for fiction and is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada. 
ROWENA THROUGH THE WALL, book 1 in the Land’s End series, ON SALE for 99 cents until Sept 30!
ROWENA AND THE DARK LORD, book 2 in the Land’s End series, is NOW AVAILABLE




Friday, August 16, 2013

Sexy Amazon Promos


Billie Johnson said I should post on what it's been like to ramp up for my 50 online Amazon.com reviews.  But first-- don't you want to hear about my day?

  
It SUCKED!  First, I searched for kitchen cabinets in the OC.  Look at the guy who waited on me in the warehouse.



Then, I nearly got creamed on the #405 North.  There was an accident right in front of me. I braked till my foot went through the floorboard, and all those callouses got smoothed off my heel.  


An hour later, as I neared LAX, my front right tire blew.  Some heroes from AAA rescued me.  I thanked them, waved a jaunty good-bye, and went nowhere.  Over and over, the van fired up, but when I shifted into gear, the engine died.  Off to visit the Pep Boys on the back of a flat-bed truck.


My poor, noble Hobart.  My buddy, my road trip prairie schooner.  My schlepper of dogs, kids, au pairs, cats in crates, from Chicago to Omaha, to Gutenberg, to Denver, to Reno, to Vegas, to LA and back-- so many times.  Hobart has always been there for me.


Manny, Mo and Jack quoted $700+.  Holy Cow, that wasn't going to happen.  Got the bill down to $265 and felt smug.  Later, I discovered my Vuarnets gone from the glove box.  Fooey.

***


OK, so Billie Johnson told me at the PSWA Conference that 50 reviews on Amazon kick in a whole new alorithm.  Amazon promotes you more.


I'm at 46 reviews the book is bigger and it does a little curtsy.  Can't wait to see what it does at 50 reviews-- maybe a little Irish jig, a tip of the hat.  At 60 reviews, it might do a slow strip and a pole dance.  Who knows?


Before I started my push to get 50 reviews, I had  23.  Over the past six weeks, I have received 23 more reviews by being a pus-boil pain in the ass to anyone I know who has bought my book.  I've also been posting on FB in a fever, like a pigeon tapping a lever for a food pellet in a Maslow Box, 3X a day. Chris Swinney, my media coach, says this works.



I'm having fun on Facebook.  The happiest surprise is that some people buy the book just to review it for me.  Including people I never knew in high school.

Let's face it-- they weren't my friends back in the day.  They towered above timid, little, bookish Ugly Betty me.  But now-- they seem to like my book and me.  Who would have guessed, as I cowered at my locker in my undershirt, changing for gym in 7th grade.  Everyone had a training bra but me.  My no-nonsense, German mom was unswayed by my begging and tears.  "You vhill get a bra vhen you neet one."


Just goes to show-- you live long enough (you need a bra), everything ends up OK and you need only 4 more reviews.


Marta Chausée



Purchase:  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_13?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=murder%27s+last+resort&sprefix=murder%27s+last%2Caps%2C390

Review:  http://www.amazon.com/review/create-review/ref=cm_cr_pr_wr_but_top?ie=UTF8&asin=1610090497&channel=reviews-product&nodeID=





Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Naughty, Naughty!

     Is that a broadsword on your belt, or are you just glad to see me?

“Hot and hilarious!”
“A fantastical tour de force”
“The Princess Bride with Sex” 

     My guest today is fellow Posse member, Melodie Campbell.  Let me tell you about The Posse.  We belong to Sunny Frazier, acquisitions editor for Oak Tree Press.  Sunny told us she was putting us together to be of support to one another.  
     Like all great manipulators, Sunny told us she had positive intentions for us-- we'd have each others' backs, we'd learn online blog etiquette, yadda, yadda, yadda.  Only NOW does she tell us, she organized us as part of her vast fan base.  I feel so used.
     But enough about Sunny and me-- here's a hot little number, Melodie Campbell, and her hot new little number, Rowena and the Sexual Revolution.  No wait... that's not right... Rowena and the Dark Lord.




Why do I want to read Rowena and the Dark Lord?
Can I whet your appetite with this?  Welcome to Land’s End, where the men are real men, the women are scarce, and the sex is…well…pistol hot. But that’s only part of the book. Honest. 

Lordy, lordy, did someone turn up the heat in this room?  What made you go there?
I’m a former comedy writer, so I set out to write a rollicking adventure series with lots of funny moments based on the premise of “Girl out of Time.” Take a modern woman, put her back with medieval warriors, and see how she manages to survive in a primitive world using modern wiles.
Even though I write comic fantasy, I try to make it as realistic as possible. So what happens when a medieval earl sells his soul to become the most powerful mage in the land? The woman he wants is powerless to resist him, of course, and dammit, he isn’t going to settle for dot dot dot…
And you know what? A girl from modern day Scottsdale, Arizona may just not mind that kind of attention. You gotta admit, it beats endless E-Harmony first dates.

Don't even mention E-Harmony to me.  A friend of mine went on, and they could not match her with one single person!  This is an attractive blonde, with a reed slender frame-- a writer and a commercial artist. Perhaps the creative types are intimidating.  I'm liking Rowena and her world better than dating in 2013.
Rowena Through the Wall, first in the series, was the # 1 time travel on Amazon.ca in Feb. 2013. Reviewers have called this series “Game of Thrones Lite.” It's pretty darn hot, too, if I say so myself...

Why don't you lay an excerpt from book 2, just released, ROWENA AND THE DARK LORD on us?  Isn't that what you came for?
Well, yes!  Filled with brutal, sword-swinging danger, yet sexy and funny, I hope you’ll like the Land’s End series.

Excerpt from ROWENA AND THE DARK LORD
Cedric moved to the window with startling speed, eyes sweeping the land for riders. “I don’t blame you for this. I hardly blame him. You are too much a temptation. I need to get you back to Huel.”
He spun back, eyes on me again. I cried out from the pain of it and I felt his answering howl, as the draw shook him where he stood.
“Damn the gods! How can I hold my powers at bay with you so close—“
He was across the room in a second, down on the floor over me, gathering me to him. The pain gave way to unbelievable release—not joy, oh no, never joy—but like a cage of pain being ripped away. I didn’t try to resist it. No, I didn’t resist his hand in my hair, his lips on my throat moving down and down. Already, my legs were moving apart, betraying the thoughtless, helpless creature I was becoming.
His mouth moved down further and I let him, dear God, I welcomed it, his mouth on my skin, knowing me, claiming me, and then…
I jerked and cried out when he entered me. He roared like a lion, pulled back, then burst forward again, and I grabbed his tunic hard and pulled. The cloth ripped in my hands, and I heard him laugh like a demon. His face came down on mine, and we were drowning, fighting for air, and I let go—gave in to the madness, and the waves roared, the room pitched, and I was one with something greater than human—
The room was still now. I opened my eyes. Cedric was sitting cross-legged beside me on the floor with concern on his face. Concern?
“I lost you for a time there,” he said. “How are you feeling?”
This was an old Cedric—a Cedric from before the magic had ruled him. I saw an anxious boy there for a moment, and it confused me. I swallowed hard. The last thing I remembered was being lifted into the night sky. What happened just before that?

Whoa, Nelly!  Somebody hand me my smelling salts... that was too good, Melodie, too deliciously good!  But I liked it.  ;)
I'm so glad.

Lay some bragging on us, Melodie.  When it comes the things you write, you wear more hats than my Aunt Hildie.  
I achieved a personal best this year when Library Journal compared me to Janet Evanovich.  I have over 200 publications, including 100 comedy credits, 40 short stories, and 4 novels. I have won 6 awards for fiction.  
Enter for a $50 Amazon gift certificate and 15 book Giveaway!  Free!  Deadline May 10 www.funnygirlmelodie.blogspot.ca
ROWENA AND THE DARK LORD, book 2 in the Land’s End series, is NOW AVAILABLE! Buy Link: 
And the one that started it all: ROWENA THROUGH THE WALL, book 1 in the Land’s End series


Melodie Campbell
"Impossible not to laugh" Library Journal review of THE GODDAUGHTER

Thanks for dropping in, Melodie. You have a lot to brag about-- but I have to think about that later.  Right now I need a cold shower.
Thanks for having Rowena and me, in a manner of speaking.  Bye!