Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rosemary McCracken - Family Matters

 Welcome to Rosemary McCracken, author of Safe Harbor. Rosemary is a fiction writer and a freelance journalist who lives in Toronto. Her first published mystery, Safe Harbor, was shortlisted for Britain’s Debut Dagger in 2010. It was released by Imajin Books this spring, and is available as an eBook and a paperback on Amazon.

Being a character driven author myself, I had a character-related question for Rosemary. When her protagonist, Pat Tierney, first learned that little Tommy Seaton was her late husband’s son, she wanted nothing to do with him. How did she come to accept him into her family?

From Pain to Gain

Talk about getting off on the wrong foot!

It started when Tommy’s mother barged into Pat Tierney’s office on the day before New Year’s Eve and delivered a bombshell that turned Pat’s world upside-down. The woman introduced herself as Jude Seaton and she said that Michael, Pat’s late husband, was the father of her seven-year-old son. Adding insult to injury, she’d brought the kid with her. Tommy was sitting in the reception area playing a video game on a hand-held device.

Pat took one look at him and her heart did a flip-flop. The boy was a miniature Michael: the same liquid brown eyes, the same wavy brown hair. He even had Michael’s dimple on the right side of his face.

And Jude had the nerve to ask Pat to look after him for a few days. She said the kid might be in danger.

Pat lost it. The man she’d loved since she was nineteen had lied and cheated and played her for a fool. Just like this woman was trying to do. “Get out,” she told her. “Now.”

And the woman did. She shoved Tommy’s booster seat into Pat’s arms and dropped his backpack on the floor. Then she bolted out of the office, leaving the boy behind.

What could Pat do? She was planning to spend a few days away in cottage country with her daughters and now she had young child on her hands. Michael’s son. A child she wanted nothing to do with.

But she took him home with her. She called Jude’s house all evening and early the next morning. Nobody picked up. She left a detailed message on Jude’s voice mail, and took Tommy up north with her daughters.

That’s how it began. At first, Pat’s girls, Tracy and Laura, had no idea that Tommy was their half-brother. Pat kept that from them for a while. She thought they’d blame her for their father’s affair, that they’d assume she hadn’t made their dad happy.

The day after she’d brought Tommy to Pat, Jude was found – murdered in her home. It was left to Pat to tell Tommy about his mother’s death. Her heart ached for the small boy who now had no parents. Was he alone in the world? Who would take care of him?

Jude’s family was located, but only his frail grandmother showed an interest in the boy. And the police believed Tommy might be the killer’s next target, and that Jude’s family and friends would be the first place the killer would look for him. So Tommy stayed with Pat for a few more days. He was a cute kid, and despite his terrible loss, he was friendly and trusting. Pat couldn’t help but like the boy.

Then his family sent him to a boarding school. The day Tommy left, Pat’s heart just about broke. A seven-year-old boy who’d just lost his mother packed off to an institution? Her only consolation was that the school’s security was tight. She figured Tommy would be safe there.

And through all of this Pat was trying to sort out her feelings for Michael and her memories of their marriage. They’d met at university and had been married nearly twenty years. She’d thought they’d had a good marriage. But now she knew about Jude…and Tommy. How many other affairs had Michael had over the years?

After a week at boarding school, Tommy went his grandmother’s home for the weekend. On Friday evening, he took her dog out to the backyard. And vanished. Pat was devastated to hear this. Where was he? How was he being treated? Was he…alive?

And Pat began to feel compassion for Jude. She’d been shocked when Jude had been killed. No one deserved to die before her time and to die so horribly. But it had been like hearing about a stranger’s death on the evening news. Pat had only met the woman once, and the meeting had not been pleasant.

Now she saw Jude as a fellow mother. Jude had been frantic with worry about Tommy, caught in the middle of whatever trouble she was in. She needed a safe place for him to stay. Pat could certainly relate to that. She knew what it was like to love a child, to be willing to give up her own life in a heartbeat to save that precious little life.

When Tommy was found alive and well the next day, Pat took him into her arms, inhaled the little boy scents of citrus and chocolate, and realized how much this child meant to her. It didn’t matter that he was Michael’s son. It didn’t matter at all. She only felt sad that Michael never got to know the boy.

And she knew she’d do anything to keep Tommy safe. His mother’s killer had to be found and put away.

Later, after she’d discovered what Jude had been mixed up in, after two attempts on her own life, after she’d brought down the leaders of the gang that had terrorized Jude, after the dust had all settled, Pat told her daughters who Tommy was. They were upset to hear about their father’s affair, but they thought it was terrific that Tommy was their brother. And they wanted him to live with them.

Pat hesitated. Her youngest, Laura, would be in university the following year. Tracy was beginning a law career. Soon they would be out on their own. Pat didn’t really want to be a hands-on parent again.

But her thoughts turned to the small boy with Michael’s eyes. As the girls had said, Tommy was part of their family. He was their half-brother. He was Michael’s son. He was Pat’s…he was Pat’s child, too. Because family can extend beyond blood ties.

And the Tierneys had a big house, a friendly dog and a spare bedroom. They had plenty of room for Tommy. And plenty of love to give him.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Feeding Word of Mouth

“No one has ever become poor by giving.” Anne Frank

 Nothing is more effective than word of mouth advertising. Nowadays, word of mouth includes Twitter, Facebook and other social media. We tweet, re-tweet, follow, like and friend to show our support. I want to send out a big thank you to everyone who has done that for me as I worked to promote two books.

Thanks to your support, Under A Texas Star made it to the #2 spot in westerns and is still in top 100 six weeks after its big promotion.

The reviews and fan mail have been wonderful.

Deadly Legacy has also received some wonderful reviews, but I have it on the authority of my publisher (and she should know) that it needs more to really take off. Since I too have been a publisher in the past (also a retail manager, entrepreneur and briefly a light bulb salesperson) I'm not going to just sit back and wait.

I remember, way back in my teens, when Faberge gave out samples of their Organic Shampoo with Wheat Germ and Honey. On the strength of that free sample, my mother became a regular customer. I can't give out copies of my books to everyone (the free promo is past) but I can gift a copy of Deadly Legacy on Kindle to the first three people who agree to review the book on Amazon. All you have to do is...
  1. Go to the Deadly Legacy on Amazon and scope out the free sample. There's no point in getting a book you wouldn't enjoy - that would be like sending a shampoo sample to a bald guy.
  2. Email me at abruce@alisonbruce.ca.
  3. If you're one of the first three past the gate, I'll send you a gift certificate for the book.
  4. When you're done, write a review on Amazon and let me know when it's up.
And if you've already read Deadly Legacy, or picked it up to read, could you tell two friends so they can tell two friends and so on and so on.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy-ish Mother's Day

Pardon me while I have the Mother's Day Blues. I'll get over it when I go pick up my kids. Right now, though, I'm having a moment.

Three out of four mothers depicted in the photo on the left are gone. The fourth is me, holding my little sister.

Nana, on the right, died at the ripe old age of almost 92. She was old all my life - at least from my perspective. When my sister and I had tea with her, on Thursday afternoons after she came home from work, she wouldn't have been much older than I am now. I'm not old, therefore she can't have been. Right?

I have many happy memories of those teas with Nana and breakfasts on Saturday mornings. The teas were special though. Thursday was payday. On her way home, Nana would stop at the bakery and pick up Petit Fours or Queen Ann's tarts.

Grandma Bruce made excellent date squares but was hampered, in my childhood memories, with being Jehovah's Witness. She died long before I understood what that meant. Still, I remember watching her cook. (Nana and Grandma lived in apartments in our house for my early childhood.)

My mum is on left in the photo. I watched her cook too. I also got hands-on experience in the kitchen from an early age. Mum was a great story teller and wanted to be a writer. I still have a short piece she wrote for class called "Madam Your Tranquilizer is Showing". Someday I'll pull it out and share it with you. It's a hoot!

Mum was diagnosed with aggressive small-cell lung cancer in January of 1999, and died on my sister's birthday the same year (November 6). In addition to being sad, my sister was really pissed off about that.

Within weeks of my mother's diagnosis, my sister Joanne (the baby of the family) found out she had breast cancer. She had surgery almost immediately, but it was almost six months before they scheduled the follow-up chemotherapy. She died, way too young, in 2003, at age 42.

Joanne was my little sister, but she took the lead in most things. She was a mother before me. I remember driving to Hull to see my first niece. I was alone in the car and had stocked up on healthy snacks that I could nibble on while driving so I wouldn't have to stop other than for gas, coffee and the inevitable trip to the loo. I had a baby book addressed to Maude for a gift. When I got there, I found out they changed their minds and call the baby Sophie.

Claire was born in Toronto. They hadn't left the birthing room when I arrived from Guelph. No pit-stops that afternoon.

Two years later, my niece Sophie, and her little sister Claire, got to hold their new born cousin, Kate. Three and a half years later, Sam was born - the exact same difference in time as between Joanne and I, and Sophie and Claire. Weird, huh? It's not like we planned it.

I miss Nana and Grandma, my Mum and especially Joanne. I also miss my Aunty Yang and Aunt Ruth. But later today I'll have Sophie and Claire and Kate and Sam with me. I'll have a happy Mother's Day. Hope you do too.

Friday, May 4, 2012

May the Fourth Be With You

I had a stress test today. A couple of weeks ago I had suspicious chest pains that might have been indigestion and therefore could also have been a heart attack. Just to be on the safe side, I was sent for an echo cardiogram and a stress test.

The first part of the procedure was the usual medical history run down. This bordered on comical as I, in Lieutenant Columbo fashion, kept remembering one more thing. For instance, I listed my surgeries, from tonsillectomy at age four to knee surgery a year ago."Oh yeah, and I had to c-sections," I added a little later. "One in 1996 and the other in 2000." I always have trouble remembering the birth of my children as major abdominal surgery.

It was also a bit sad.

"Now I'm going to ask you about your family: mother, father, sisters, and brothers," said the technician.

My mother died at age 72 of aggressive small cell lung cancer. My sister died of breast cancer at age 42. My father died of congestive heart failure after surviving a series of heart attacks and strokes. He was almost 85. Four years ago, on May the 4th, we held his memorial.

I picked the date, of course. I am, after all, the official family space cadet. As soon as I heard that it was one of the dates available at Wellington Terrace, the home my dad spent the last couple of years of his life, I new that it was the date. Soon, invitations went out with "May the fourth be with you."

Family, friends, people I had never met who knew my father decades ago, and residents of Wellington Terrace who had only known him for a year at best, mingled in the large room. My cousin Arlene supplied the munchies and I supplied the coffee. The kids and I put together shadow boxes representing different parts of my father's life, and I produced a slide show of photos to display on my laptop.

Not being religious, there was no service. Instead, people took turns raising a toast to Nelson Bruce, sharing something of the way he touched their lives.

My mother encouraged me to be a writer. It was something she always wanted to do. My sister pushed me into getting serious about getting published. Her message was that life was too short to keep waiting for a better time. My father didn't say much one way or another, but if he hadn't supported us while I took care of my sister and him (as well as my kids of course), I wouldn't have had the time or energy to write.

Neither my mother, sister, nor father got to see me become a published author, but each of them lives on in some way through my books. That May the fourth memorial, for instance, inspired Joe Garrett's wake in Deadly Legacy. However, you'll be relieved to hear, no one died when we toasted my dad.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Deadly Legacy Free Today

Even in the future, the past can kill you.

In 2018, rookie detective, Kate Garrett lives in the shadow of her near-legendary father Joe. When Joe dies unexpectedly, he leaves Kate half interest in Garrett Investigations, his last case that ties to three murders, a partner she can’t stand, and a legacy to live up to.

Free on Kindle from May 1-3, 2012

Okay, now that I've got the news out, let me tell you about my incredibly blonde moment.

Scroll down and you can read about my adventures filing my taxes. In most other respects, I'm responsible adult. I just have a blind spot when it comes to taxes. I'm as bad as my eleven-year-old son and homework.

Evidently, I'm also chronologically impaired. Despite knowing that Monday was April 30th, the deadline for taxes, I thought May 1 was Friday and my book promotion went from Friday to Sunday. I found out my mistake when I saw Deadly Legacy being promoted by someone else!

Yes, I am a natural blonde (albeit kinda reddish-brown blonde right now). Today I did something I hate to do - I perpetuated the stereotype.

Forgive me fellow blondies.

Tax Time

Every year it's the same thing. 

 I hem and I haw. Suddenly the dishes seem very important and I have a book to write - right? Anything but do my taxes.

I know it isn't that big a deal. I use a program now - it does all the heavy lifting. I just need to organize my information and plug it in. Still, I put it off to the last moment. But that's okay, because I have most of the material I need waiting in a file. Right? Wrong!

This year, it seems I got a bit distracted and didn't put my T4s in their usual safe place. A half hour of hand-waving and cursing finally produced the missing documents. Whew! Time to celebrate by catching up on shows we missed during the week. I'd do my taxes after that.

I didn't have to worry about my invoice log. Not every bit of paperwork gets shunted aside. There was an expense log to bring up to date. No problem. Then I remembered that I had book sales to report and inventory. (Someday I'll have to get a proper accounting program - then I'll have something else to avoid.)

Finally I booted up the program and started filling in the information. I completely missed the instruction that would allow me to transfer and update the information from last year. Water under the bridge. I was a bit more frustrated when I realized that I forgot to gather the housing information for my Ontario Tax Credit. I had to pause the program while I dug it up on my laptop.

While I was there, I checked my mail, followed up on a few Tweets. This somehow led me to looking up Thomas "Doc" Durant, a railroad baron.

Once I got back to the taxes, there was only a bit left to do before I could play solitaire while the forms printed. No one would fault me for finished the game before going back to work.

So, it's now 3am and I've finally finished my taxes and just remembered all the other things I have to do. First on my list, sleep.