a quick update on my writing, ask you a question about my next book, and let you know about this awesome promotion for some sizzling summer reads that I’m involved in. This week, I’m starting on the second draft of a murder mystery titled Death on the Boardwalk. It’s the first of a trilogy (at least) in a new Myrtle Beach Mystery series that will exist in the Lucas Caine universe. (They might meet in an upcoming novel 😉). Here’s a little preview for your eyes only.
So, here’s my question to you. Are you eagerly anticipating the next Lucas Caine novel, or should I write the last two novels in the Myrtle Beach Murders? I also have the next two Lucas Caine novels planned. Drunken Jack’s Revenge and (here’s a reveal no one has seen yet) Confederate Gold. I had thought about alternating between the two. Myrtle Beach Mystery, Lucas Caine Adventure, Myrtle Beach Mystery, Lucas Caine Adventure, etc. etc. You get the point. What do you think I should write next? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Here is an internal memo I received about the Spanish ‘Mercedes’ shipwreck. It comes from Lucas Caine, co-owner of Big Treasure Finders, LTD out of Morehead City, NC, I thought I would pass this along to you. Every now and then, he sends me some bits of info about lost treasures along the Atlantic Coast that he thinks might interest me. I think they could interest you as well.
This one is just a tad bit out of our range, but I thought you might be interested to know that Spanish archaeologists recently recovered artifacts including silverware, candelabras, and bronze cannons from the shipwreck of the Nuestra Senora de Las Mercedes.
What makes this interesting is that the Odyssey Marine Exploration outfit had raised about 600,000 coins from the wreck back in 2007. I think everyone thought that was all there was to it until an international seminar was held in Warsaw in 2019 where it was revealed that there was more to the wreck.
Apparently, Odyssey only focused on the coins (which Spain eventually recovered in court), leaving behind everything else.
The Mercedes went down 30 nautical miles off the coast of Portugal on October 5, 1804. The British Royal Navy sank the ship in what is now International Waters, violating an 1802 peace treaty. Nearly 300 crew members perished. The Mercedes carried a huge load of gold, silver, and copper that sat nearly 4,000 feet beneath the surface for over 200 years.
In 2014, the National Museum of Underwater Archaeology of Cartagena began plans to recover what Odyssey left in the Mercedes. They collaborated with the Spanish Navy and Spanish Oceanography Institute to achieve their goal.
The team spent the next three summers sending down ROVs and mini-subs to capture images of what was there, develop an archaeological map, and extract artifacts. They found that the Odyssey team was careless in their excavation in preserving the wreck. But the Spanish team captured the images they needed at that depth and developed a strategy to regain the artifacts.
They used high-pressure water jets to clean the area around their targets, particularly the cannons. This enabled them to delicately remove the dense, gray substratum deposits layer by layer, the same way an excavation on land would take place. They found that most of the artifacts were laying just on top of the seafloor. It took 35 hours to excavate one cannon.
The artifacts are being analyzed and restored at the museum of Cartagena. Maybe we’ll have to take a trip to Spain to check it out someday.
Anyway, I just thought I’d let you guys know what’s piqued my interest this week.
You know I love sharing what I’m reading with you all, especially Lisa. This month, I found an ebook giveaway for people who love thrillers. It’s called the Must-Read Summer Thrillers, Suspense, and Mystery Novels. In it, you can find a couple dozen FREE books across those genres. Here’s a link to it. Let me know what you find.
The ultra-competitive, hard-working Jevon Carter just couldn’t sit on his couch playing video games after the NBA shutdown.
On March 11, 2020, after Utah Jazz C Rudy Gobert tested positive for Covid-19, NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, made the call to suspend the season.
Playing in his second pro season, Carter had worked his way into a solid role with the Suns. He had been a bulldog coming off the bench. Head coach, Monty Williams, called on Carter to inject his intensity on the defensive end and to provide a boost on offense.
The Suns had just finished playing a game against the Portland Trailblazers when the NBA shut down.
Carter couldn’t believe it.
“It didn’t really hit me until they told me I couldn’t go into the gym anymore,” Carter said. “That’s when it hit me hard.”
So what does someone like Carter who finds himself suddenly cut off from the gym, his teammates, and coaches do?
He got on Google.
“I just went out and typed in different workouts,” Carter said. “I was going to outside parks and stuff, shooting on triple rims. It was super hard to hit on those rims. That was making me mad. I’m out there running all over the place, trying to get the ball.”
He did what he might have done had he still lived in Morgantown. He hiked. Hitting the trails and mountains around Phoenix to help keep in shape. He trained at home with his two roommates. Push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, crunches. Whatever he could do to stay in shape.
When not exercising or playing board games and cards, Carter exercised the mental part of his game. He watched film on the top guards in the league. Dissecting what made them the best, and figuring out how he could implement those traits and actions into his game.
When the NBA announced that they would resume the season–tentatively on July 31st–on a truncated schedule in a bubble in Orlando and that players could resume workouts on a limited basis, Carter leaped (probably literally) at the chance.
The Suns have a chance to make the Playoffs for the first time since 2010. Carter is ready.
“Let’s go shock the world,” Carter said.
With someone like Carter in the fold, they just might do that.
Want a free copy of one of my adventure novels to read this summer?
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Although they never shared the same field in Morgantown, two Mountaineers could wear the same uniform in New York.
The Giants are looking to strengthen their stable of receivers. They already have the former WVU touchdown-scoring machine in David Sills on the roster. He spent most of his rookie season in the Giants’ practice squad before getting called up to the active roster.
Tavon Austin is still available as a free-agent, and his connection to their coaching staff could bring him into consideration as ESNY’s Ryan Honey suggests:
I know, Tavon Austin is nowhere near a tall option at 5-foot-8. Nonetheless, he has pure familiarity with Giants offensive coordinatorJason Garrett, who was his head coach in Dallas from 2018-19. Thus, Austin knows Garrett’s playbook and could easily become accustomed to the gameplans.
Austin hasn’t impressed much in the passing game since the 2016 campaign — one of his final years with the Rams. During that season, he recorded career-highs in both receptions (58) and yards (509) and notched three touchdown catches. Since that year, he’s caught a combined 34 balls for 364 yards and three touchdowns.
To be honest, he’s probably the last guy on this list who I’d want the Giants to sign, but you have to admit connections mean something in this league. Austin’s prior relationship with Garrett along with his offensive playbook could lead to the 30-year-old potentially signing a cheap deal to come to East Rutherford.
Whichever team Austin signs with will be the third of his pro career.
Could a destination closer to his childhood home in Maryland and the place of his college years in West Virginia be in his future?
Here is an internal memo I received about the long-rumored treasure said to be off of Amelia Island in Florida from the long-lost San Miguel. It comes from Lucas Caine, co-owner of Big Treasure Finders, LTD out of Morehead City, NC, I thought I would pass this along to you. Every now and then, he sends me some bits of info about lost treasures along the Atlantic Coast that he thinks might interest me. I think they could interest you as well.
You know I’ve been talking about this Amelia Island Treasure for a while, so I thought I would give you some background on it.
The San Miguel set sail from Havana in July of 1715, along with 12 other ships bound for Spain as part of the Plate Fleet. The 1715 War of Succession had drained the nation’s funds and needed what was basically a stimulus package from their outlying lands in the Caribbean.
The fleet got caught in a bad hurricane near Vero Beach, FL. Eleven of the ships sunk, killing over 1,000 people. Some treasure was salvaged, but roughly half of it is still out there somewhere.
One ship, the San Miguel, was one of the 11 ships lost in the storm, but there’s reason to believe that it escaped and made it north before eventually sinking. The San Miguel was the fastest ship in the fleet. Logic dictates that it would have been given the most treasure since it could have escaped possible attacks from pirates. Blackbeard anyone?
The reason the San Miguel is so sought after is that it was the register ship of the fleet, meaning it had permission to carry important cargo and passengers. It likely carried the Queen’s Dowry full of silver, gold, gemstones, spices, tobacco, and indigo.
Captain Doug Pope has spent years looking for the treasure aboard his 3-legged Polly-L research vessel. You should see this thing. It’s state-of-the-art and gives Pope and his crew the ability to stay over a site for days at a time. He’s spearheading the search for the San Miguel. Hopefully, he’ll find it.
Anyway, I just thought I’d let you guys know what’s piqued my interest this week.
Here is a brief excerpt from The Search for the Fountain of Youth. Enjoy!
. . . A gloved hand brushed aside several broken plates and grasped the bottle. The hand pulled it closer to a scuba diving mask for a better view.
Lucas Caine couldn’t believe his eyes. After careful research and a tip from an offshore fisherman, he and his business partner, Darwin Trickett, discovered what they hoped was the wreckage of the Patriot. Since the ship disappeared sometime around New Year’s Day in 1813, rumors and legends of what happened to the ship and its passengers swirled.
They discovered the ship in two-hundred feet of water in an area dubbed ‘The Graveyard of the Atlantic.’ Their first clue was a pile of ballast lying a depression. Upon closer investigation, they found the carcass of a ship covered by sand and other debris lying around the pile of rubble. Not much remained.
The answer to the shipwreck’s identity might lie in the bottle clutched in his hands. To this point, he and Darwin had no definitive proof that this was the Patriot.
The remains of the front half of the ship where the name would have been were no more. Lucas’s brother, Blake found a fork with, they think, a name engraved on it. Sailors during this period owned a fork on which they had their name inscribed. Lucas had to get the piece of cutlery back to the lab for further investigation and see if the name matched any sailor known to be aboard the Patriot.
Not much survived. A pile of ballast and other lumps in the sand were the only clues of a shipwreck. Lucas did most of the diving. Darwin stayed on board their ship to give support. His size made it difficult for him to maneuver through the sometimes-dangerous wreckages. Darwin was six foot, eight inches tall and weighed over three-hundred and fifty pounds on a good day. Lucas stood a few inches shorter, still six-three, but had a body honed from years of swimming.
They each recognized the other’s strengths and weaknesses. Their present roles in their company, Big Treasure Finders, Ltd., suited them.
“Lucas?” Darwin called through Lucas’s earpiece. “Lucas, what’s up? Talk to me.”
Lucas tore his gaze off the bottle long enough to take stock of his immediate surroundings. Small fish darted to and fro. Specks of algae floated in the water in front of his mask.
“Uh, yeah. I found something,” Lucas said.
“What is it?” Darwin giggled.
Lucas sounded like Mickey Mouse due to the mix of air in his tank, which included helium. Darwin found it hilarious because he was big Disney fan. Lucas answered, “A bottle.”
“A bottle? Neato. Fantastic.”
Lucas heard the sarcasm dripping in his friend’s voice. “Darwin, it’s not just any bottle. This thing has paper, a message perhaps, rolled up inside, sealed tight.”
“You’re joking, right?”
“Nope.” Lucas checked his remaining air supply. He would have to stop on his way to the surface to decompress to keep from getting the dreaded bends. “Darwin, I’m headed your way. Air is running low.”
“Okay, get up here. Be careful.”
“Trust me,” Lucas said. “I will.”
A short while later, Lucas stood on the deck of their research vessel the Queen Anne’s Second Revenge. After he and Darwin, and the help from a few friends discovered Blackbeard’s lost treasure two years before, they went into business together searching for old shipwrecks off the Carolina Coasts and down into Georgia. Their venture was more expensive than they ever imagined. To date, none of those came close to holding or leading to what they found on their first adventure, but they’d done enough to stay in business. Barely.
They quickly realized that deep-shipwreck diving was hazardous. Every dive held many forms of peril. A person could run out of air if they got tangled or trapped in wreckage during a dive. Of the ten million certified scuba divers in the United States, only a few hundred risked their lives and dive deep for shipwrecks.
Lucas Caine and his younger brother Blake were two.
The bottle sat in front of Darwin and Lucas on a white metal table against the portside wall. Findings from Lucas’s dive littered the table’s surface. A bead of water on the green glass dripped onto the tabletop. The boat rocked on the water. Seagulls honked overhead.
Silence stretched as they regarded the significance of the bottle’s contents, Lucas said to Darwin, “Okay big guy. This is your area of expertise. Can we just uncork the bottle and see what the note says?”
Darwin stroked the bushy goatee on his chin. Lucas remembered that when he first picked Darwin up in Raleigh, North Carolina on their way to the Outer Banks to start the search for Blackbeard’s treasure, it had been four or five years since they’d seen each other. At the time, Darwin had large, unkempt afro, thick beard, Coke-bottle glasses, and ratty clothes, not because that was his choice of style, but more because he didn’t have the money to do anything about his appearance. After they discovered the treasure, Darwin got a makeover. He kept his hair cut tight around his skull, owned a pair of glasses that would cause him to stand out at New York Fashion Week, and dressed only in Brooks Brothers clothing.
He’d even lost weight, Lucas noted. At one time, Darwin’s appearance frightened small children. Now at thirty-years-old, he had a scholarly, welcoming exterior.
“Usually,” Darwin answered, “you uncork the thing and see what’s in it.”
It shouldn’t be that simple, Lucas thought, and then said, “I don’t know. If this came from the Patriot, it’s been down there for over two-hundred years. Wouldn’t the dampness and moisture surrounding the paper make the ink run? I mean, would we be able to read it?”
“Dunno. Might be okay.”
Lucas shook his head in consternation. “It seems like that’d be reckless. Popping the cork like that. Out here in the middle of the Atlantic.”
Darwin shrugged his shoulders. “We could wait until we get back to the lab where we’ll be able to control the atmospheric conditions. Keep it cool and in low humidity.”
“I prefer that way better.”
“If you say so, boss.”
Lucas and Darwin were fifty-fifty partners in their enterprise, but Darwin often let Lucas make the final call on important matters such as this.
Lucas smiled. “What did I tell you about calling me that?”
Darwin affected a look of innocence. “What? Boss?”
“Yeah that. Don’t call me that. We’re equal in this thing, remember?”
“I know,” Darwin laughed.
“Besides, it makes me feel old.”
“Whatever you say, boss.”
The wreckage of the Patriot rested in shallow water twenty miles off the coast of Nags Head. For centuries, the shifting winds and currents caused the sandbars to shift. The warm waters of Gulf Stream coming up from the Caribbean and the frigid Labrador Current streaming down from Canada come together here. Their collision causes stormy, dangerous seas. Ships passing through this region extending from the Chesapeake Bay to the north and to the Outer Banks to the south dealt with rough seas and dense fog common to the area.
Hundreds of shipwrecks and thousands of skeletons litter the ocean floor in the Graveyard of the Atlantic. So many wrecks occurred here that the government required lifesaving stations placed every seven miles along the coast of the Outer Banks. These posts would later become the U.S. Coast Guard.
Lucas had to get special permits to dive there.
Over time, a shipwreck forms its own ecosystem. Tiny creatures attach themselves to steel and wood hulks. Those creatures draw predators that attract their own predators, and so on, all the way up the food chain. Open-water fish such as codfish, pollack, and tuna visit these wrecks to feast.
One thing Darwin and Lucas did after starting their business was to develop a rapport with the offshore fishermen. Shipwrecks become the lifeblood of fishermen. Fat fish makes the fishermen’s bank accounts fatter.
Fishing charter captains have their own secret spots. The secret spots made them rich. They build a collection of these sites as they operate. The fish are always there. They might discover these spots while scanning their bottom finder for sudden lumps out on the ocean floor. They don’t know what ship is down there, but they know these humps attract fish like moths to a flame. The captains don’t allow customers to bring navigation equipment with them because they don’t want their rivals to learn where their secret spots lay.
Darwin and Lucas were not direct competitors to these fishermen. They traded money or other favors for information about a potential wreck site. One of these tips led to the discovery of the Patriot.
The name etched on the spoon Blake found among the debris confirmed that this was, in fact, the Patriot.
After finding the shipwreck, Darwin and Lucas waited several days for the forecast to cooperate before coming back and attempting another dive. Despite having a modern vessel, the conditions in this part of the ocean could make life miserable for salvors such as themselves.
While they waited for the weather to clear, they returned to their headquarters in Morehead City. Once there, Darwin took the bottle to a special climate-controlled room they had installed during the construction of their office. This laboratory was like a rare-book room in a library: no windows, low humidity, and low temperature. Glass cabinets lined the walls while a long worktable sat at its center surrounded by chairs. A tall red chest sat in one corner, similar to a tool chest used by auto mechanics. It contained various implements for working on ancient and fragile artifacts: tweezers, magnifiers, surgical gloves, X-Acto knives, dental picks, brushes, and other small tools.
Darwin rested the bottle on the stainless-steel table. Their lead assistant and researcher, Lisa Kramer, had lined a metal ice bucket used for chilling wine with dozens of packets of silica gel. The same small, white packets that come in shoeboxes. The silica creates a moisture-drawing barrier around the bottle. They hoped that this setup would suck out any water remaining in the bottle. Then, they could withdraw Theodosia Burr Alston’s letter without worrying about wetness disintegrating the paper or causing the ink to run.
While Darwin and Lisa worked on preserving the bottle and its contents, Lucas reported their finding of the Patriot to the Society for American Archaeology, the World Archaeological Congress, and the Society for Historical Archaeology, the federal United States government, and the government of North Carolina. He gave the exact GPS coordinates and date of discovery. That way they would get credit for the discovery and hold the salvage rights.
The world of marine salvage could be cutthroat. Companies and investors often spent millions of dollars trying to track down vessels laden with gold and treasure. They made a risky choice when leaving the Patriot for a few days due to the weather. If other salvage companies caught a whiff of Lucas and Darwin found, then there would be half a dozen ships steaming toward the Diamond Shoals within a few days, regardless of the weather.
There are 7.4 billion people on Earth. Humans are all over the globe. However, vast areas from the jungles of Central America to the savannahs of Africa to the icy escarpments of Antarctica have gone unexplored.
While the archaeological world sends their resources to those zones to further our knowledge of the past, there are spaces tucked away, much closer to home, near where you live that are untouched.
One such place in North America has gone unseen by the outside world for over four thousand years. It is near a populated area. People who passed by this entrance since the exploration of the continent began never knew of its existence. No one knew that a highly secretive tribe lives inside this opening.
These people, they watch.
Their ears have ears.
The name “Lucas Caine” came into their hearing. Now they must learn more. And they will.
Because nothing stops this group of people. Nothing.
Here’s something you can do for cheap for your summer getaway.
This month, Caleb is making his first two novels, Moment of Impact and A Murder in Concord, available for just 99 cents! Download today!
Caleb’s second Lucas Caine adventure was named as a Notable Book Set in North Carolina by the University of North Carolina in 2013.
Meet the Mahoney’s, one of the richest families in the state of North Carolina. Owners of the wildly successful Mahoney’s line of restaurants, they are a picture-perfect family and pillars of the community of Concord—until the morning the owner, Trent, is found dead in the middle of the highly secure Mahoney’s, Inc. parking lot. There are no witnesses and no suspects. Trent seemingly had no enemies, leaving the police baffled. The only person who appears on the police’s radar is Trent’s assistant, Lucas Caine—the person who found Trent and the last person to see Trent alive.
When Lucas finds himself in the crosshairs as a potential suspect, he launches his own investigation using his intimate knowledge of the Fitzgerald family to try to clear his name. He finds a dark side to this family no one knew about, and what he finds could lead to his death.
Caleb’s debut novel, Moment of Impact, was the first Lucas Caine Adventure. It was targeted at teen readers, but adults have enjoyed it as well. Check it out.
Lucas Caine is an average high school student leading an uneventful life in a small West Virginia town. He plays on the football and basketball teams, and has a crush on a girl, Elizabeth, who barely knows that he is alive.
That is, until something rare happens in this small town: a new family moves in. Enter Jake Schofield: an enigmatic and mysterious character who is in the same grade as Lucas and Elizabeth.
Immediately Jake does something causing Lucas and the girl of his dreams to come together, and they start to figure out that something is wrong with Jake and that he has a thing for Elizabeth as well.
As Lucas tries to unravel the mystery of Jake’s past, Jake is busy causing trouble for Lucas and his friends, leading to a crash-bang climax between Jake and Lucas.
Then Lucas’ life may never be the same . . .
Caleb will be signing copies of Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure at the Edisto Island Bookstore on Friday, August 5th from 4-6pm with fellow authors Hope Clark and Chipp Bailey. Drop by if you’re in the area!
On Wednesday I received word that my new novel Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure was named as a semi-finalist in the 2016 Adventure Writer’s Competition, sponsored by the Clive Cussler Collector’s Society.
This is a huge honor for me as Cussler’s novels are one of the things that inspired me to begin reading in the mid-1990’s. The formula I used for Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure is patterned after many of Cussler’s works.
Our finalists will be announced approximately September 4, 2016. “Again, only a single point divided the tenth spot from the four-way tie for eleventh,” said Peter Greene, the competition director. “It literally came down to the last judge’s submissions to get a top ten.” 2016 was the largest entry field of fifty-eight qualifying entries out over almost seventy total entries.
“There were so many great entries, I think the judges had their hands full, but in the end, they did a great job. On to the manuscript round,” said Greene. Judges now have almost a month to submit their scores.
The Winner will be announced Saturday evening, October 8th at the Clive Cussler Collectors Society Convention held in Denver, Colorado at the Ramada Plaza Northglenn. The event will take place October 7-8-9. If you plan to attend, please make your room reservations as soon as possible. Finalists may attend the award dinner and ceremony free of charge, and are encouraged to attend the convention, however, it is not a condition of the contest and is not required.
During and after the publication of Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure, I have become acquainted with many other fellow authors. I love seeing how they go about their craft: what they write, how they write, what inspires them, etc.
I reached out to Connie Chappell, Author of Wild Raspberries and Deadly Homecoming at Rosemont, and asked her a few questions about her latest work.
Give us a short history on you and your work.
I’ve been a writer since 2007. I’ve been an author since 2015. I make that distinction because, in April of 2015, my first novel, Wild Raspberries, was released. My second novel, Deadly Homecoming at Rosemont, was released in February of 2016. Wild Raspberries’ genre is literary fiction while Deadly Homecoming is a mystery.
The difference between the two genres, from a writers’ standpoint, is what drives the stories. Literary fiction is character-driven while Deadly Homecoming is plot-driven. The emotions of the Wild Raspberries’ characters drive that story. In Deadly Homecoming, it’s the clues revealed to solve the mystery that drives that story.
Have you won any awards for your writing?
My publisher, Black Rose Writing, nominated Wild Raspberries in 2015 for the Maxy Award. The novel qualified because it was published by an independent publisher. Award announcements were made May 2, 2016.
Maxy Awards issued this statement about its choice for Best Literary Fiction: “Chappell does a wondrous job allowing her words to speak for her characters, immersing the reader in scenes where dialogue would have typically done the trick.”In Wild Raspberries, Chappell authored a subtle and daring story. When protagonist Callie MacCallum sews her first quilt after the death of her lover, Jack Sebring, she doesn’t realize she’ll be drawn into a Sebring family battle between his wife and daughter-in-law. Each of the women harbors her own heartaches and diverse secrets. They, nevertheless, unite in pursuit of a resolution to their mutual crisis: the welfare of a child.
May 2 was a very exciting day for this author.If you get a chance, do a little research on the Maxy Award. I was particularly drawn to this award contest by the promise that a portion of the proceeds would be donated to a foundation that provides therapy to individuals with developmental disabilities.
What are you currently working on?
The book I hope to see released early in 2017 is an independent sequel to Wild Raspberries. I say ‘independent’ because readers won’t need to read Wild Raspberries first. The title of the new book is Proper Goodbye.
Proper Goodbye is Beebe Walker’s story. Beebe is a character in Wild Raspberries. I decided to tell her story separately while I was still working on Wild Raspberries. Her story grabbed me that much.
In Proper Goodbye, Beebe’s life changes when she learns about a secret buried in her father’s cemetery. I bet that premise is already drawing you in. Buried secrets! Gotta love that!
The perpetrator of this buried secret is Beebe’s mother. I promise you’ll meet many memorable characters in Proper Goodbye and a dog named Barleycorn.
How do you get inspired to write?
Waking up in the morning is all the inspiration I need. From that first morning I sat down to write, inspiration has never been in short supply. At some point, I began to think like a writer and read like a writer. That transformation is a permanent one. I firmly believe I can never go back.
Where did you get the idea for Wild Raspberries?
The premise behind Wild Raspberries comes from a writer’s very basic requirement to tell a story that has never been told before. I decided to tell a love story from the “other woman’s” point-of–view, a love story that begins after her lover dies. In Wild Raspberries, the longsuffering wife is the one who possesses questionable character traits.
Of utmost importance when I sit down to tell a story is the desire to tell all sides. That said, Wild Raspberries explores an ample supply of good and bad deeds on behalf of both women.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
I can honestly say I’ve never had writer’s block. Sometimes, I have an idea for a scene and struggle over how to get it started. That struggle usually results in a free-write, where I type out whatever I’m thinking about for the scene: descriptions, purpose, characters’ movements through it, their emotions, conflicts. I type fast with my eyes closed so I’m not distracted by typos. Eventually, I type a sentence or phrase that clicks. My fingers stop, and I know I have that all-important first line that spurs my imagination into high gear.
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
I like so many things about being a writer that it’s hard to label one as the best. I like the fact that I can’t not write. I must write. I like the routine I’ve put in place. I’m up early at 4 a.m. Most days, I give it two hours. But, oh, those mornings when I get to write until my brain literally shuts down and I can write no more. Those are precious mornings.
What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
I would say: Beware! Aspiring writers get bad advice. I know I heard bad advice. I heard conflicting advice. Trust your instincts, especially when the advice you’re given isn’t sitting well with you. Ask your questions of more than one person.
Secondly, follow basic rules. Learn the building blocks of writing: What are the parts of a scene? The parts of a sequel? When and where should backstory be included? Understanding the foundation makes the story flow.
Tell us about multiple points-of-view.
When I sat down to write Wild Raspberries, I decided the story would best be told if the reader heard directly from the five main characters. One of the compliments I get repeatedly is that those five characters are distinctly different from each other. That was my goal.
Before I wrote the novel’s first paragraph, I decided to let those five characters introduce themselves to me. I wanted to hear from them. I wanted their story in their words. I decided they should each answer the same question which was: Why shouldn’t you be judged by the worst thing you did in your life? Click on the links below to hear their answers.
What are some of your favorite parts of Wild Raspberries—for instance, a favorite line?
Yes, I do have a favorite line in Wild Raspberries. It’s the book’s closing line. It’s spoken by Callie, and the book is really Callie’s story so it’s fitting that she closes it up. Callie is sitting on the couch in the West Virginia cabin where she and Jack hid their long love affair. She’s thinking about Jack. The line is: “Love, larceny, and wild raspberries, they made a heady, heady brew.”
I just love that line.
Wild Raspberries also contains my favorite quote by Sir Oscar Wilde. The first time I read it, it made me pause to think about the quality of love that’s contained in his words: “If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life.”
Isn’t there a great deal of love in that sentiment? I think so.
Do you use the five senses when you write?
Using the five senses is one of those things writers are taught because the senses draw the reader into the book. It helps the reader gain a better experience in a scene. Real quick, the senses are: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste.
When Wild Raspberries moves from Maryland to West Virginia, I wanted to introduce the reader to the new location, immerse them in it, so to speak. Here’s that introduction, which, at the same time, introduces Lucius Dameron.
“August ripened sweetly in the mountains around Baron, West Virginia. Lucius Dameron considered them stocked with the fullest complement of nature and wonder. The pollinating wilderness proudly displayed its fragrant offspring. Roadside wildflowers in maize and mauve and melon bordered the narrow gravel-and-dirt trails that seemed to wind all the way down from the sky. Lapping streams, forever in motion, wore grooves, like wrinkles in weathered skin, into the mountainous terrain. The streams’ clear whispers told of both timeless and innocent secrets. The mountains sustained life, Lucius’s included, with the heady scent of pine, the sticky ooze from maple trees, and the hum of paradise.”
How did you come up with the title Wild Raspberries?
When I get the idea for a book, it never arrives with the title. Sometimes, I struggle more with the title than the 100,000 words needed to tell the story. I struggled with Wild Raspberries. I can honestly say, it was painful.
The book had several titles throughthe course of writing the story, but I wasn’t satisfied. I tried them outand abandoned them all. So when the book was pronounced done, it still had no title.
I finished the book on an August weekend. So, with no title, and an hour’s worth of grass-cutting time ahead of me, I decided to work more titles through my head. I was nearly 95 percent done, just four or five more mowing strips to go, and all possible titles rejected, when I looked over to the edge of the woods that borders my property.
Absent-mindedly, I thought, Look. Wild raspberries.
I took two steps and stopped dead. I liked the title Wild Raspberries. It had nothing to do with the book. But I liked it as the title.
Since the story was done, I had to come up with a thread I could wind into the book to make the title work. And that’s what I did.
The addition of this storyline really enhanced the backstory and brought a new dimension forward. First, I told the Wild Raspberries thread to myself. I wrote it out, then I found the appropriate spots to weave the new thread into the book. As I recall, I wove it through four locations. The last being the book’s final scene, tying the story back to the title.
Tell us about the characters in Deadly Homecoming at Rosemont.
I began writing Deadly Homecoming at Rosemont—the first Wrenn Grayson mystery—as I always do by letting the main characters introduce themselves and their stories to me. All of their stories are told around the caveat of what they were doing “the summer Trey Rosemont was murdered.”
Click on the links to hear the mystery’s four main characters introduce themselves.
What do you like best about Wrenn Grayson’s character?
That’s easy. Her quirkiness.This is a woman who has a compulsion to pull weeds. Now that I’m hearing from readers, I find that there are many others who are compulsive weed-pullers, and they are not embarrassed to admit it.
In addition, I like that Wrennwrites historical articles for the local newspaper, and she feels that she must possess a kinship with those locations in town that entice her to write a story.
Click on the link to hear a passage from Chapter 2 of Deadly Homecoming at Rosemont, aptly titled Unnatural Compulsion. That’s followed by Wrenn’s description of her current assignment: writing about Piedmont Alley.
Yes, there is a map for Havens, Ohio, which is Wrenn Grayson’s hometown. For those of you who like the Wrenn Grayson mystery series, the second and third mysteries in that series are written and my mind is spinning out an idea for the fourth. Of course, Deadly Homecoming at Rosemont is Wrenn’s first mystery.
With each new mystery from Havens, I create another downtown business or housing addition, new streets, a hospital, motel, churches, and more. All of this, I add to my Havens map. From book to book, I need consistency. The map gives me that.
I also have detailed maps of locations like Piedmont Alley. Piedmont Alley has ten businesses located there, so I mapped them out.
If I continue to improve with website construction, I would like to upload the Havens map so my readers cantake a virtualtour of the town. All the buildings and streets would reference whichever mystery that location was created in. I think a virtual tour would be fun.
Have you ever received advice from a professional writer?
I was honored to spend about an hour and a half with bestselling author Larry Beinhart. He wrote the novel, Wag the Dog, which is political satire.
One of the lessons I took away from my time with Larry was to “write in a straight line.”That simply means write the story in the order scenes happen. Don’t write about a current scene in the book, then jump back for a lengthy narration of backstory. Don’t come forward again, then go back to a time that occurred before your last visit to backstory. His point was, there needs to be order.
When I wrote Wild Raspberries, I intended to begin that story at the point all four ladies arrived in West Virginia and met Lucius. When I got started, nothing was working. I had too much backstory.
Eventually, I gave in and started the story earlier while the ladies were still in Maryland. In the book, when the ladies finally get to West Virginia, we’re on page 78. That’s nearly one-fourth of the book. Too much for backstory. So, thank you, Larry! Telling the story in a straight line was one of the efforts I made to write a successful book for the reader, and it made writing the book easier.
Do you have a favorite non-starring characterin Deadly Homecoming at Rosemont?
Yes, I do have a favorite character in that category.
First of all, I absolutely love creating characters. I want them to be memorable so every character must have a unique personality. Every character I write about is there to entertain the reader.
The non-starring character I most enjoyed creating in Deadly Homecoming at Rosemont is Norb Engle. Norb is a locksmith and general fix-it man. Wrenn goes to Norb’s shop looking for her new friend, Wilkey Summer. Wilkey works for Norb.
It’s interesting that this question was asked because I was recently on the phone with a fellow writer, and she told me that her friend Mary and she were discussing Mary’s book. Mary was contemplating the age-old question writers ask:Who’s my audience?
Who’s my audience, I repeated back. Why, I am. I’m my audience.
I got into the writing game to entertain myself. Early on, I had no idea if I would get published. Mind you, I get up at 4 a.m. to write for two hours before I get ready for work. I want to entertain myself. I write for myself. I think that’s why my characters are so vivid and memorable. They’re people out of my imagination who I make real. Why, at 4 o’clock in the morning, would I hang out with humdrum characters? No way.
One of the best compliments I can receive is a reader telling me they think about my characters after they lay the book down. My characters go with them into their day. That’s awesome.
What book or movie has Wild Raspberries been compared to?
The US Review of Books wrote this about my debut novel, Wild Raspberries: “Similar to Robert Harling’s ‘Steel Magnolias,’ and Tracy Letts’ ‘August: Osage County,’ death, grief, and healing form the foundation on which Chappell’s tale is built. The Southern and Midwestern locales of those stories are replaced here with the manicured lawns of the Maryland suburbs and the rolling hills of West Virginia. While similarities for those works may be noted, Chappell does a fine job of sprinkling enough wit, pathos, and surprise in her story to make this novel far more than a knockoff.”
Where can readers go for more?
My website, ConnieChappell.com, is the best location to learn more about me and my books. I can be contacted via email through my website as well. Reviews are included there along with a host of podcasts. I also have author pages on Amazon and Goodreads.