Saturday, January 28, 2012

Prunella's Quest: A Tongue-in-Cheek Valentine Saga (Part One of Three)

No woman asks to fall in love with the wrong man. And Master David Cunningham Leff would never be Mr. Right.

He'd taken her down the garden path and left her among the rutabagas, so to speak. Well, no more. . .

Prunella Busby stared at her reflection in the duck pond. Comely was not one of the words society ascribed to her appearance Sallow-skinned old maid, yes. But not comely. Perhaps another visit to the matchmaker her father had sent her to seek the previous year. On that occasion, Mrs. Brimley had taken her on as a challenge.

"I'll find you a husband, dear." She held a finger to the air. Glorietta Brimley will prevail in this Herculean task. Mark my words, child." Her wig, a tad too tight for the woman's porcine head in Prunella's humble opinion, launched sprigs of tight blonde curls in various directions under her elaborate bonnet. An odd contrast to the crumpled texture of her skin. Eyebrows painted in thin black arches above her eyes, gave the impression of great surprise. Though Mrs. Brimley boasted of her experience and prowess as a titled matchmaker, her facial expression seemed to contradict, to betray her as a woman of ineptitude and inexperience.

No matter. Prunella had few options left to her.

"I will not help you. I can not help you. Please go. You, madamoisselle, are a cause perdue!"

These were Mrs. Brimley's first words in response to the new proposal. However, Prunella's father had advised her of the likelihood of this response from the matchmaker, and given her instructions as to how to proceed. She dropped a small pouch of gold coins on the secretariat beside which the matchmaker reclined. Her father urged her to drop the pouch from a height in order to provide the woman's ears with the sound of prosperity.

And as her father had predicted, the sound of prosperity was music to Mrs. Brimley's ears.

With renewed resolve, Mrs. Brimley had assigned no less than three servant girls to the goal of beautification. "Miss Busby must be made to appear presentable in no less than three months time. Three months time."

The servant girls, named after the famous ships assigned to Christopher Columbus, went about their assigned tasks with nary a hint of enthusiasm.

Nina, the eldest of the girls, though no beauty of her own accord, had the dolesome task of bathing Prunella in fresh goats milk three times daily to soften and make supple, the texture of her skin. The servant girl spit, quite accurately at a fly on the windowsill. "No man will have a woman with skin like your'm Miss. Bumpy as a plucked chicken and dry as starch." The buxom servant raised a damp hand from the bathwater to itch at the large black mole above her lip.

Prunella noted the presence of a black hair as firm as a flag pole that had asserted itself in the center of the blotch.

"Miss, I don't see how this is gonna help you none. Thar isn't a man in this town who'd have you, money or no money."

Pinta offered more than her sister's scant quantity of hope in the matter, though her level of sincerity might have been called into question were she asked to swear on the most holy word. Pinta bore an uncanny resemblance to a field mouse, mostly for the unfortunate fact that her ears protrouded outward from her head at a most unflattering angle. In the light of  day, her ears transmuted a prism of pink much like chapel windows, the blue of tiny veins serving as the lead in betwix'd.

She surveyed Prunella, pulling down her gums to examine her teeth, as if examining a sheep on the auction block.

"Well, what do you think of me?"

Furrows rose on the woman's forehead. "Your nose is crooked."

"I fell on a cobblestone when I was but five."

"Lips are thin and cracked. Hair without lustre. Skin sallow as old butter."

"Is that your final assessment?"

The servant squinted her small eyes causing them to recede into her face. "You'll never be a beauty, Miss, but you have one good quality."

"What quality is that?"

"Good teeth, Miss."

"Oh. . ."

"Miss, that's a compliment. Good teeth means you'll live long. Well, I believe they be good teeth anyway. We'll see when we clean them up."

She offered a sly wink. "My task is to beautify your hair and smile. Tell me, how often you wash your body and your teeth."

Prunella shrugged, noting the circles of perspiration fanning from under Pinta's arms. "When I choose to bathe, once or twice per year, my servant bathes me with lye soap. I don't wash my teeth."

She shook a finger at her mistress. "Twice a year, you say? That's too often. Drying to the skin. Once per year is more than enough."

"Very well then." Prunella agreed.

"I will rinse your hair with cold spring water and a tincture of elderberry bark and a mash of garden snails to provide it with lustre and shine. And we'll use a willow tree twig to clean your teeth each day. With a great deal of effort, I believe my sisters and I will be able to help you look ah the least objectionable and perhaps even presentable enough to lay hold of a gentleman in need of a boost to his inheritance."

Prunella smiled. Truth at last. "Thank you."

The third sister, Santa Maria, had less enthusiasm than either two. Her disdain for Prunella had no mask. 

Her duty? To sand the deep calluses on Prunella's feet and elbows, to trim her twisted toenails, treat them with warmed paraffin--and to pluck all the hair from the tops of her feet.

At work on her mistress's feet, Santa Maria's wrang her mouth into an odd contortion and remarked, "Your toenails resemble sea shells, Miss."

"Thank you," Prunella beamed a bright smile her way thanks to a daily tooth cleansing with a willow twig. "I'm fond of the sea."

Thursday, January 5, 2012

In Interview With Susan Sleeman. . .Spyglass Lane Mysteries!

Who doesn't love a good mystery? I don't even need a cold, rainy day as an excuse to curl up in an easy chair with one. And the next best thing to reading a mystery is writing one! Below is an interview with one of my fellow mystery authors, Susan Sleeman. 
A Little History. . .
A group of us who were originally contracted and published through another publishing house, received our rights back in the summer of 2011 when the mystery line was discontinued. Yes, authors do get the rights to their books back--eventually or, as in our case, when a line is discontinued. Enter Spyglass Lane Mysteries, a joint venture between the authors and  MacGregor Literary IncBelow is a blurb from the website. Hope you'll take a moment to visit:

Ready to laugh? Swoon? And then put on your thinking cap?
Spyglass Lane Mysteries is a collection of Christian cozy mysteries—modern-day whodunnits with colorful characters and plenty of wholesome romance.
Releasing to most e-reader devices every Thursday through and, the mysteries are authored by some of Christian publishing’s favorite and best selling authors.

We've all taken a foray into the world of e-publishing together--a bold move tempered by the excitment of  the company of so many great fellow mystery writers. Since the books were orginally contracted and began as traditionally published books, the editing and content is high quality and the low digital price is highly affordable.

What inspired you to become an author and when did you get your first big break?
The life long love of reading inspired me to want to write a book, but it was God who arranged free time for it to happen. I’ve always enjoyed writing from creative to technical writing I’ve done in the corporate world, and I said for years that I was going to write a book, but I was so busy working full time, raising children, and volunteering at church that I never made the time. Then I had some health issues that limited my physical activity and I was forced to sit for long periods of time. So I started to research the craft of writing and began my first book. Soon I was writing as often as I could and actively pursuing publication.

In 2008, Barbour Publishing contracted my cozy mystery titled Nipped in the Bud. This mystery line folded, not only once but twice and now many of the authors are working together to release them in e-book format under the Spyglass Lane Mysteries imprint. You can find details about the entire line at

The same year, I contracted a romantic suspense book with Love Inspired and now have a three book series published in this line. These books, High-Stakes Inheritance, Behind the Badge, and The Christmas Witness feature the three Morgan brothers of Logan Lake, Oregon and can be purchased wherever books are sold.

What is the most important thing you want your readers to take from your books?
No question here. God is in charge and, if we know what’s best, we will seek His guidance and follow His leading. I guess since this is something I continually struggle with, it shows up time and again in my writing. But I know I am not the only one who has a hard time wanting to be in charge of my life and so I write about it to remind others, too. We are taught as we grow up to be independent, take charge, and make something of ourselves, and we lose sight of the fact that only with God’s guidance can we become everything He has created us to be.

What are you currently writing?
I have a new romantic suspense series called The Justice Agency releasing this year. This series is about five adopted siblings who work in various fields of law enforcement until their adoptive parents are murdered. When the police can’t figure out who killed their beloved parents the Justice siblings come together to solve the case. They discover in the process that they like working together and they form an investigative agency called The Justice Agency. They dedicate the agency to helping people who traditional law enforcement is either unable or unwilling to help. Double Exposure, the first book of this series will release in June  and Dead Wrong will release in November.

Tell us about your current release.
Nipped in the Bud is book one in my Garden Gate Mystery Series. Read Between the Tines and Seed You Later, books two and three will be published later in the year. These books take place in Oregon in a fictional town named Serendipity and feature Paige Turner, a landscape designer and host of a local radio show. After Paige bickers with a town official and that day he's discovered dead in a mound of mulch, she finds herself in . . . well, a pickle! With no alibi for the time of death, she struggles to prove her innocence and needs help staying out of jail. She enlists the help of lawyer Adam Hayes and soon discovers she has feelings for him. The question is will his knowledge of the law keep her out of jail and will he win her love?

Of all the characters you’ve created in your books, which is your favorite and why?
I love Paige Turner in Nipped in the Bud for many reasons. She's a quirky character who has a habit of thinking of people by the plants they resemble and treating them accordingly. As a landscape designer and host of a local radio show with more whacky callers than legitimate gardeners, Paige is more at home with plants than people and is often uncomfortable in social settings. She is often outspoken and fails to filter what she says before speaking. She has a knack for finding trouble and there is no trouble bigger than discovering a dead body. And of course, she loves gardening, which is a passion of mine, so I can't help but like her.

Where do you get ideas for stories?
My ideas come from watching TV, reading the news, seeing new inventions or advances in technology. I’m always asking what if when engaged in these activities and that often translates into a book. I put the ideas in a file and call them up when needed.

How long does it normally take you to write a book? How many books do you write per year?
It takes me about two months to actually write and give a thorough edit to a book once a synopsis is completed. Of course, there are always edits and rewrites for the publisher after that, but my goal is to complete three books a year.

Do you put yourself into your books/characters?
Because of our experiences and perceptions, we all put something of ourselves in our characters, but I try to make each character different and unique and that means they have to possess a variety of characteristics. If anything, I try to write characters that have features I would want to have or that I admire.

What is your typical writing day like?
I don’t really have a typical day as my writing day depends on whatever deadline I have at the moment. Let’s say that I don’t have a contract deadline, but pray that it never happens, and focus on what I would do if a day were typical.
While drinking my coffee, I start the day answering emails and posting Facebook and Twitter updates. Then I read the chapters I wrote the day before to get back into the feel for where I left off and do a bit of light editing as I read. Next I write the next chapter or as much as I can write before I no longer know where the story is going or need to do research. If research is required, I make calls, send emails, or work on the Internet until I resolve the issue. By now it’s lunchtime and as I eat I read postings from various news lists or groups I belong to. This is followed by checking email and of course wasting a bit of time on Facebook. Okay so maybe I do the Facebook and Twitter thing more than this, but hey, the writing business is a lonely business to be in.
I will write until about four in the afternoon at which time I’m kind of brain dead and I work on my website or work on updating until dinner, which I or my wonderful husband will cook. I take a short break for dinner and then continue the website work. When my eyes are crossed from the computer, I pull out a suspense book and read. Now that is a wonderful way to end the day.

What is something most people don’t know about you?
Something many people don’t know is that due to both my work and my husband’s work, we have lived in nine states since we’ve been married. We started our married life in Wisconsin where I grew up—go Packers—and then moved in order to Texas, Minnesota, New York, Michigan, Georgia, Alabama, Oregon, Texas again (it’s such a big state you have to live there twice), and now Florida. We have loved every place we’ve lived but do have a special fondness for the Portland, Oregon area where one of our daughters still lives and the other goes to college.

What kind of activities do you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?
I love to read. Though as I writer I learn from reading other writer’s work, and some might see this as work, it is still a joy for me. Especially if it’s a book that I don’t need to review for I also love to spend time with my family watching TV or a movie, playing a game of just hanging out. When the weather is not brutally hot as it is now in Florida, I love to garden.

SUSAN SLEEMAN is a best-selling author of inspirational romantic suspense and mystery novels. She grew up in a small Wisconsin town where she spent her summers reading Nancy Drew and developing a love of mystery and suspense books. Today, she channels this enthusiasm into writing romantic suspense and mystery novels and hosting the popular internet website Susan currently lives in Florida, but has had the pleasure of living in nine states. Her husband is a church music director and they have two beautiful daughters, a very special son-in-law and an adorable grandson. To learn more about Susan visit her at her –
Or on Twitter

Cozy Mysteries by Linda Kozar

Gate Beautiful Radio Show--November 21, 2013

Family Reunion--Oregon 2012

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Meet The Christian Authors--2011

Meet The Christian Authors--2011
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