Disappearing Words

When I was a teenager, I read a newspaper column about a myth related to the autumn equinox. After all these years, I can still see the kitchen table where I was sitting, and see which side of which page the column was on. I remember that it was about a Germanic pagan goddess of second chances who opened a path that was only visible on the night of the autumn equinox, a path seekers could take to redo a mistake or regret in their pasts. I made an effort remember her name and wrote it down, although I was confused as to whether it was Llobrodga or Llobrogda. Having had a short story published in a teen magazine, I already thought of myself as a writer, and I knew I would have to create a story about this myth someday. An image of the goddess’s twilight path of golden leaves stayed with me. When I finally wrote the story decades later, she didn’t exist. I looked up everything I could think of about goddesses of second chances and pagan mythology and the autumn equinox and found nothing. I can’t explain this. But I hope you enjoyed A Night in Betsy Gap.

The title came about a few years ago during a training session for professors who were teaching a first-year seminar class. One of the presenters was named Betsy, and she didn’t use all her allotted time, so someone referred to the open space in our schedule as the Betsy Gap. I said it sounded like some place out near Naked Creek (a real town in that part of Virginia) and we all started joking about the way things are done in Betsy Gap. The name stuck with me as perfect for an obscure place where a traveler could get stuck. Then I saw a prompt for a short fiction contest in which the theme was crossing a line, and it had to include the word six-pack and another which I’ve forgotten. The idea for a short story about Edie had been brewing in the back of my mind for a while, since she’ll never be onstage in the Mae Martin series. Her only role is in Hubert’s past. I was surprised when Will Baca showed up in the story, but this other-world experience prepares him for the big changes he goes through about ten months later in Ghost Sickness. (Not that he remembers.)

If you read the short story before it disappeared,  you know something Mae and Hubert don’t know, since Edie cut off contact with everyone she knew in Cauwetska, intentionally making herself hard to find. Her fate won’t show up in the series for a while. But in the September before the events in Ghost Sickness, she spent a night in Betsy Gap.

*****

A Night in Betsy Gap will return eventually, either in a short story collection or here next fall, after dark on the equinox.

“Book Prison”

Greetings from my cell. No worries, I like it here, and I do get out for exercise, social contact, and to teach yoga. The view of Turtleback Mountain from my back window is beautiful, and the cell is quiet. It’s my apartment. “Book prison” is a phrase I’ve heard other authors use, but I’ve never experienced it this way before. I have to get final revisions done before the next Mae Martin mystery goes to my editor in mid-September, and I keep finding more things I want to fix. Though I’ve done all the major revisions based on my critique partners’ input, I’m discovering things they missed, especially those pesky over-used words. I’m also making a few cuts and obsessing on getting the chapter-ending and chapter-opening lines just right. After that, I’ll need to read the whole thing again to make sure I didn’t change anything that affects the clarity and continuity of the plot. I have sketches of many unfinished blog posts in my “yet-to-post” file, but no time to polish them until I let myself out. Au revoir. My inner warden is telling me to get back to work.

Meet Mae Martin — a southerner who loves silliness, hates bullying, and has a very unusual talent for solving mysteries

Fellow paranormal mystery author Terri Herman-Ponce did an interview with my protagonist on her web site. I love this idea–interviewing the character rather than the author. Get to know Mae better, in her own words.

Terri Herman-Ponce

We’re on a character interview roll!

Over the weekend, I chatted with Mae Martin. She’s a southerner who loves silliness, hates bullying, and has a very unusual talent for solving mysteries. She’s also the product of Amber Foxx’s imagination, author of The Mae Martin Mysteries.

Mae is an extraordinary character with a very extraordinary way of seeing the world — one that’s very different from us.

Intrigued? Read on for more about Mae Martin and some fascinating mystery reading!


The first Mae Martin psychic mystery

Obeying her mother’s warning, Mae Martin-Ridley has spent years hiding her gift of “the sight.” When concern for a missing hunter compels her to use it again, her peaceful life in a small Southern town begins to fall apart. New friends push her to explore her unusual talents, but as she does, she discovers the shadow side of her visions– access to secrets…

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Signing Books at Book and Table, Valdosta GA

Should any readers happen to be in this area, I would love to meet you in person. I’ll be signing books and doing a short reading at Book  and Table, 120 North Patterson St. in Valdosta, GA on Friday the 14th of April at 7:00 and at noon Sat. the 15th. The bookstore/restaurant is run by one of my favorite authors, J. Michael Orenduff, author of the Pot Thief Mysteries. If you’re an East Coast fan of New Mexico mysteries, come meet both of us.

New Release and Ninety-Nine Cent Sale

Some of my favorite places in New Mexico are featured in the latest Mae Martin Mystery: the Mescalero Apache reservation, where Mae finally meets her friend Bernadette Pena’s family and attends a ceremony and a powwow; and of course Truth or Consequences, my home and Mae’s. I enjoyed bringing a few of the local businesses and the work of one of T or C’s stellar artists into the plot—with their permission, of course. The cover image reminds me of Mescalero with its high mountains and its sky full of stars.

ghost sickness ebook

Ghost Sickness

The fifth Mae Martin Psychic Mystery

A visit to the Mescalero Apache reservation turns from vacation to turmoil for Mae Martin.

Reno Geronimo has more money than a starving artist should. He’s avoiding his fiancée and his family. His former mentor, nearing the end of her life, refuses to speak to him and no one knows what caused the rift. Distressed and frustrated, Reno’s fiancée asks Mae to use her psychic gift to find out what he’s hiding. Love and friendship are rocked by conflict as she gets closer and closer to the truth.

The Mae Martin Series

No murder, just mystery. Every life hides a secret, and love is the deepest mystery of all.

*****

If you haven’t started the series yet, now’s the time. You can buy the first book, The Calling, on sale for ninety-nine cents. Sale runs August 10 through 25 on major e-book retailers. Click here for buy links for all books in the series.

 

 

Book Review: Snake Face

before the second sleep

Snake Face (Book III in the Mae Martin Mystery series)

Mae Martin is moving into the next phase of her life, what she’d been planning when last we saw her in Amber Foxx’s second psychic mystery, Shaman’s Blues. College in New Mexico has started and she cautiously enters a new relationship with Stamos, a fellow student with whom she later plans a road trip, given their destinations not far from each other.

snakeebooknew.jpgSnake Face, B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree

Very soon after the novel’s opening, Foxx utilizes a blend of dialogue and omniscient narration to bring readers up to speed on where Mae has been until now, and it works like a charm. The passages also introduce the above-mentioned Stamos Tsitouris as he and Mae get to know each other and work out an agreement for cross-country travel. Stamos provides background regarding his former wife and Mae recalls Jamie Ellerbe—known professionally…

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Shape-Shifters: How Did You Think of That?

SwainsonHawk23One of the hardest questions for a fiction writer to answer is exactly where an idea came from. I was asked that question recently about some of the imagery in one of my books. The short answer is that I imagined it, but the long answer mixes research, experience, imagination and dreams.

In what is basically realistic fiction with paranormal elements, I create some characters who have unusual abilities—psychics, healers, mediums, and shamans. A few can take—or seem to take— animal forms, and my Apache characters speak about this with fear and caution as the sign of a witch. Bearing is a horror story (though gore-free), so in that genre I made the shifting real. In the Mae Martin Mysteries, characters who shape-shift are not physically becoming animals but psychically manipulating others’ perceptions to create the illusion of another creature, or so strongly identifying with an animal that a psychic could pick up the imagery. The power of our minds to share images and information is astounding, and that ability is at the root of the stories I tell.

When I was choosing search terms to help readers find Bearing, one of the ones I chose was shape-shifter, a concept that I associate with skin-walkers and similar witches. I was surprised to find that there are shape-shifter romances. The possibility that this power was romantic had never crossed my mind. To me it’s scary, so it’s an element I use in fiction to give readers goosebumps. What makes an animal image scary to one person and beautiful and powerful to another is often regional and cultural. One of my Apache friends told me some terrifying stories of owl-witches that chilled me to the bone. He scared himself by telling them and said he shouldn’t be talking about the subject. When I was in my teens, I had what turned out to be a premonition, a frightening image of someone prowling outside the house hooting like an owl. Around ten years later, my roommate and I were disturbed at night by owl calls first at the front and then at the back of our townhouse apartment. Her cat’s hair stood on end and he quivered and made pitiful sounds, his fear scaring us all the more. We’d never seen him act like that. My roommate looked outside and saw a man she worked with but didn’t know well, and she called the police. The man admitted to stalking her but couldn’t explain what had gotten into him with the owl calls. Somehow that was creepier than if he knew.

One of my good friends in high school had repeating nightmares about wolves looking through every window of her house, and the way she told it gave me the shivers. When I was a very small child, I had repeating nightmares about bears, including a strange one in which I was a fourteen-year-old boy camping on a hunting trip with an uncle, and it ended with being attacked—I think killed—by a bear. No one in my family hunted or camped, and I had never seen a bear or a gun or even a tent at the age at which I dreamed this.

A little girl I knew years ago liked to think she had hawk powers. We were swinging in swings and she told me the reason she could go so high was this special power she had. She stayed in my mind, too, as another way that people identify with animal spirits.

This can be a “treasure hunt” through the series now. (Obviously the bear story is the standalone Bearing.) Readers will find the wolf, the hawk and the owl in the Mae Martin series. No spoilers. I’ll let you look for them.

Phew! Yee-ha! And a Pitiful Cry

I know life is made up of moments lived, not a series of goals and strivings, but I love how it feels when I get something done. Today I finished preparations for the course I’ll teach over the three-week January term. It’s hardly an adventure, more of a task, leading to a mere “phew” of satisfaction. The fun will come when I have students next week, new people with fresh ideas and thoughtful questions. I can’t have the fun, though, without the work.

With writing, the joys run backwards. Today I also finished the first satisfactory draft of the next Mae Martin mystery. I describe it that way because my writing process goes through so much ongoing revision and recycling that it’s hard to call anything a first draft. The moment of knowing that this is the plot that works and this is the ending is exhilarating, a big “yee-ha!” I dance quite a bit at this stage of writing, something I don’t do in my college office. I’m excited about revising the book, too, and sharing it with critique partners and revising it more. I even enjoy the picky details of word choice and sentence structure, of deciding what to cut and what to add, and experimenting with the best way to describe certain feelings and actions. It’s work that doesn’t feel like work, all the way to the final draft.

Getting sales and reviews is the work that feels like work. A book isn’t fully alive until it has readers, just as a planned-out college class is nothing until it has students. I have to do this work, but I look at Twitter and Facebook, trying to think of witty snippets of chat, and I shrivel. No, please, there has to be better way. My New Year’s resolution is stop whimpering and become a marketing genius without boring or annoying anyone. (That’s what would make me a genius.) I need to learn to dance with delight about filling out an advertising form, or at least look forward to the “phew” of having done it. Instead of just tweeting links, I will take up the challenge of composing something original and intriguing in 140 characters or less. Follow me on Twitter and see if I succeed. But don’t hold your breath. I’d rather be writing a hundred thousand words of fiction, or even next semester’s syllabus.

IndieBRAG Christmas Blog Hop: A Free Holiday Short Story

ALL-ABOARD-with-medallionB.R.A.G. Medallion authors are taking you on a holiday tour through their blogs. On this stop, enjoy my new short fiction for the season.

Santa Claus Checks in at the Fat Buddha Spa

Mae Martin raced her twin stepdaughters to the pasture fence and almost let them win, making it a three-way tie. The llamas looked up from grazing on the dry winter grass, blinking their long lashes. Taking walks to visit the neighbors’ animals had been a favorite pastime for Mae and girls when she’d lived with them. Now, on her first holiday visit after separating from their father, she was trying to keep everything as normal as possible. As the six-year-old girls clambered onto the fence, Brook shouted. “That’s what I want for Christmas. A llama.”

“Are you sure?” Mae picked up a small purple glove from the weeds and put it in her pocket. The late December day was growing warm and both girls had taken off their gloves and hats. “I thought y’all wanted a tarantula.”

“We do, but Miss Jen is scared of spiders.”

Their father’s new girlfriend didn’t share Mae’s appreciation for crawly critters. “She might think a llama was cuter, but I don’t think anybody can afford one right now. You do know your presents come from family, right? Your daddy said y’all don’t believe in Santa anymore.”

“Yeah. We figured it out.” Stream perched on the top rail, swinging her legs. “We watched this TV show with Grampa Jim and Granma Sally about these people who have reindeer in some place near the North Pole.”

“Lapland?”

“Yeah. And those things are big. There’s no way they can fly.”

“What about magic?”

Brook sat beside her sister. They studied Mae as if they felt sorry for her. Poor mama. She’s not caught up with us yet. “Magic is for little kids who can’t figure things out. We’re gonna be bug scientists when we grow up—”

“Nun-uh.” Stream wriggled and sat straighter. “That’s your job. I’m gonna be a race car driver.”

Mae walked up and placed her hands on their knees. She loved their independence and eccentricity, but they could be tactless about how smart they were—like her ex-mother-law—and she needed to take that attitude down a notch. Gently. “Now what in the world is Santa Claus gonna do if all these kids don’t believe in him?”

Brook frowned, saying he couldn’t do anything if he wasn’t real, but Stream started to laugh. “He’ll pop like a bubble.”

Mae did her best to act serious. “Did you tell your friends there’s no Santa?”

The girls exchanged glances. Brook said, “We got in trouble for it at school. It made some kids cry.”

“It might be hard on ol’ Santa, too. Popping like a bubble. Before you tell any more kids he’s not real, I think I’d better give him a call and see how he’s feeling.” Mae took her cell phone from her jacket pocket and pretended to make a call. She rolled her eyes and sighed as if waiting a long time for an answer.

The girls poked each other and giggled. Stream whispered to her sister, “She can’t call him. She’s making believe.”

Mae raised her eyebrows, giving them the oh yeah? look, and then a triumphant smile as if she’d finally heard a voice. “Well hey, Santa buddy. What’s up? You know Summer Stream and Autumn Brook Ridley don’t believe in you anymore? … Oh. Of course. I can’t surprise you. You know who’s naughty and nice. “

Brook protested, “We weren’t naughty. We told the truth.”

“But did you tell it nice?” Mae turned away, lowering her voice to resume her conversation with Santa. “I hope they didn’t hurt your feelings. They told half the kids in Hertford County, North Carolina—You’re kidding! … So what are you doing now? … Really? Shut up! I live there. I just left for my vacation.” She put her hand over the phone. “You won’t believe it. He’s checked into a spa back in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. So many kids stopped believing in him, he’s taking this Christmas off.”

“What’s a spa?”

“It’s sort of like a motel with extra stuff. The ones where I live have hot springs and massages. People go there to relax and get healthy.” She got back to Santa Claus. “Which one? You at the Charles? La Paloma? … I never heard of that one. The Fat Buddha? … Oh. Reckon I wouldn’t see it.”

She explained to the girls, “He’s at a spa for supernatural beings. Regular folks can’t see it.”

Both girls frowned, and Brook asked, “A spa for what?”

“Supernatural beings. Kinda like ghosts or angels, but not exactly. It’s run by a big fat Buddha. You know who he is?”

The_Laughing_&_Lucky_Buddha!_A_stroke_of_Luck!_(413428647)

Stream nodded. “Granma Sally has his statue on her desk. She says he helps her stay calm when she does taxes.”

“He’s helping Santa, too. And they’re hanging out with another fat supernatural, Ganesh. He’s this Hindu god with an elephant head.”

“An elephant head?” Stream whooped.

Brook asked, “How come they’re all fat?”

Mae repeated the question to Santa and listened while she worked on an answer.

“He says it’s because they’re supernatural. They don’t have to be in shape to be healthy. Ganesh …” She had to stop and think again. Her neighbors in T or C were into yoga and they had a Ganesh poster in their living room. Finding it strange but beautiful, she’d asked Kenny to explain it. “Ganesh is fat but he’s big and strong, too. People call him the remover of obstacles. Like an elephant can pull a fallen tree off a road but a human can’t.”

Ganesh_2Stream looked skeptical. “Do people believe in the elephant-head guy? Like they believe in Santa?”

“Some do, but a lot of people just believe in what they all stand for. Like being generous and happy and enjoying life. Santa says they’re hanging out in the hot spring together and these other guys helped him with something he was worried about. So, you did him a favor, giving him a vacation, but he wants to go back to work next year, and he’ll need kids to believe in him again.”

“We can’t make them.”

“No—but you can keep it to yourselves if some new believers come along. You know why he wants to go back to work?”

Brook asked, “Does he get paid a lot?”

“No—he does it to be kind. And this is what those other fat dudes at the spa told him. He’s been too generous. See, they don’t get as carried away with their roles as he does. They help people by changing their lives, not giving stuff. He’s been giving people way too much expensive stuff, and they’re starting to think Christmas is about getting big, fancy gifts. So next year, he’s gonna cut back. Give stuff that means more and costs less.”

Mae took a deep breath and let it out. She hadn’t known she was going to say that. But as a college student with a part-time job and not much cash, she’d had to buy small gifts this year—child-sized team T-shirts for the College of the Rio Grande Tarantulas and a pair of stuffed toy versions of the mascot. She’d wanted to do more, but the trip east had cost all she could spare, and yet she didn’t want the girls to think she loved them less because she didn’t live with them anymore.

“Like when we make you presents,” Brook said.

“Exactly.” Mae smiled in relief.

“Good,” said Stream, “because we—”

Brook dug a fist into her sister’s arm. “Sh. You can’t tell her.”

“That’s right.” Mae put her phone in her jacket pocket. “Being surprised is part of the fun.”

The girls stared at her pocket. “Mama,” Brook said, “That was rude. You hung up on Santa without saying goodbye.”

“Oops. Look like I’ve been naughty, too. Good thing he’s taking the year off.”Santa_Claus

            *****

This interlude occurs offstage during the third Mae Martin Psychic Mystery, Snake Face.

Snake Face and Shaman’s Blues (book two) received B.R.A.G. Medallions.

Dive into the series at a discount. E-books are on sale for $2.99 on all major online bookstores, paperbacks have been reduced from $17.99 to $13.99, and the series prequel, The Outlaw Women, is free. Sale ends January 10.

https://amberfoxxmysteries.wordpress.com/buy-books-retail-links

https://amberfoxxmysteries.wordpress.com/free-downloads-retail-links

*****

For links to all stops on the blog hop, go to: http://www.bragmedallion.com

 The next stop on the indieBRAG Christmas Blog Hop is today, December 18 with Malcolm Noble

Win Four Books: A gift to thank you for reading my blog

I’m honored that so many people read my reviews and reflections. Obviously, I love to write, and it’s good to know that my words reach people who share my enthusiasm for books, my love for New Mexico, and my interests in alternative healing, mindfulness, and mysterious phenomena. To thank you for following my blog, I can’t give you all a gift, but I’m having a drawing. Two of my blog readers will win the current four books in the Mae Martin Series in paperback. Here’s how:

Send an e-mail to ambfoxx@earthlink.net  or

ambfoxx@yahoo.com

with the heading Blog Follower. Let me know which blog or blogs you follow (I have four*), and I’ll enter you in the give-away. I will reply confirming your entry.

You can ask to subscribe to my new release mailing list at the same time if you want, but I will not automatically subscribe you. Fear no spam. It’s not coming.

On Monday Sept. 28th at noon I’ll close the entries and put all the names in a virtual hat and have a colleague pull two out. I will contact the winners and ask for their mailing addresses, and contact the other entrants with only the first name and last initial and general location of the winners, i.e. “Winners are Jane X in Saskatchewan and John Y in Florida.”

If you’re not yet familiar with my fiction, you can read the book descriptions on my home page https://amberfoxxmysteries.wordpress.com and also try a free sample:

https://amberfoxxmysteries.wordpress.com/free-downloads-retail-links

*The four blogs are:

https://amberfoxxmysteries.wordpress.com a blog about the mysteries of life and reviews of mysteries set in New Mexico.

https://everywhereindies.wordpress.com a blog dedicated to supporting and reviewing the work of indie authors who publish everywhere, not just Amazon. (It started as my Nook book shopping list and grew.)

http://ladiesofmystery.com a group blog with seven other women who write mysteries, dedicated to the topic of writing, from craft to inspiration, with freedom to digress as we see fit.

http://amberf.booklikes.com a book review blog covering everything I read, from yoga philosophy to cozy mysteries to literary fiction to thrillers and more.