A Character Interview with Ellie Gooden – the Protagonist in the Ellie Gooden Mysteries


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Some fun for you all today!  I present to you an interactive character interview with my heroine from the Ellie Gooden mysteries, conducted by amazing author and interviewer extraordinaire, Kelly Blanchard.  If you like what you see here, make sure you check out her website, Meeting With The Muse  where you can find both Author Interviews and Character Interviews in this unique and entertaining interactive style.  Shameless plug:  an interview with moi is there, along with an interview with one of my favorite villains too!

Now, without further ado, I give you Ellie Gooden.  This conversation actually takes place right smack dab in the middle of Office Heretics, the NEW Ellie Gooden mystery, coming to bookshelves everywhere in April!

Ellie paced behind the counter of her coffee shop, brimming with frustration. She didn’t understand why the Author wanted her to speak with this “interviewer”, especially when it meant calling her back to Horizon while she was in the middle of dealing with Lacey’s death in Chicago. Maybe the Author thought it would get her some free publicity for her shop, but even though Ellie knew that was a good thing, she didn’t like people asking her questions. Invariably the topic of her parents’ unsolved murders came up, no matter how off-topic she declared the subject to be. And those were questions she just wouldn’t answer.

She could tell her anxiety was ratcheting up when she found herself polishing the stainless steel espresso machine for the fourth time. Everything in the shop gleamed – Marg hadn’t started baking for the day, so even the kitchen was spic and span. Ellie couldn’t – nor wouldn’t – hide a smile of pride as she looked around her at the place she had created. The Sacred Caff was more than she had ever hoped it would be. And now, after almost a year after opening her doors, she was finally in the black too.

The red and black lacquered ice cream tables, with matching wrought iron chairs, the tessellated tile floor, and of course the various black and white cow=themed knick-knacks gave the place warmth and charm. Her eyes flicked up to the kitschy cow-shaped clock over the swinging doors to the kitchen. Five minutes to go until this woman the Author had mentioned would be coming by. What did she want? Why was it so important to speak to her? And just how uncomfortable would she make Ellie feel?

She blew out a breath as she waited. She hated waiting.

Kelly stepped through the front door of the coffee shop and looked around, taking in her surroundings. She noted the woman behind the counter and nodded to her as she continued to glimpse around while approaching the counter. Finally, Kelly came to the counter and smiled at Ellie. “Hi, I’m Kelly Blanchard–here to interview Ellie Gooden. Is that you?”

Ellie put on her best corporate smile and stretched out a hand. “Hi yes, I’m Ellie. So nice to meet you.” She gestured at the menu board behind her. “May I get you something? Coffee? Tea? We’ve got some amazing Cranberry maple orange scones leftover from yesterday.”

“Do you have hot chocolate by any chance? And thank you for meeting me. I love this place. Very lovely.” Kelly glanced around once more before setting her gaze on Ellie again, smiling. “What made you come here and open this shop?”

“One hot chocolate coming up. It’s made with fresh milk from our very own organic dairy. You should take a tour up there while you’re in town.” Ellie busied herself getting the milk chocolate ready, then returned with one of her signature cow-shaped mugs. “As for here…” she smiled. “I got sick and tired of the corporate rat race. I used to be in marketing, in Chicago. I looked at a lot of places but Horizon has a certain charm. The people are great, the scenery is beautiful, and I’ve always liked the idea of running something. Calling something my own. Being able to call the shots, and do something that makes people happy too.” She frowned briefly. Why had she said all that? She hadn’t meant to. No one had ever called Ellie a chatter box and here she was babbling away. She shook her head, smiled another corporate smile at the woman again.

Kelly accepted the hot chocolate with a thanks and listened as Ellie spoke. “Well, I like it. It suits you, and I’m sure things are quiet here in Horizon.” Then Kelly paused, pondering her next question before speaking again, “You said you came from Chicago, marketing. Were you born and raised in Chicago? And did you go into marketing because that was your dream, or because you were just good at it?”

Ellie leaned against the counter. “I’m from the Chicago area. I was born and raised in a small suburb northwest of the city called Crystal Lake. I’m sure you wouldn’t have heard of it. A nice place to grow up. My dad was a college professor – economics, and my mom did… well, all kinds of stuff. Real estate, managed the offices of a friend who was a doctor… she liked to change things up, I guess.” She wiped at a spot on the counter. “As for marketing – I don’t really know. I guess because I was good at it. I knew I needed to earn a living and after college, I was having trouble finding a job and a friend of mine got me a position at a marketing firm in the city. Things just kind of rolled on from there.” She looked out the front window, at the sparse foot traffic. It was too cold for tourists today. “I guess it was just easier to stay than to try to leave.”

“What would you have done if you left?” Kelly wrapped her hands around the warm mug and sipped on her drink.

“Well my degree was in art history.” She gave a chuckle. “Yeah, I know, whatever possessed me, right?” Clasping her hands together, she studied her nails. “I thought about applying at the Art Institute a couple of times, but early on I just didn’t have the confidence. I just didn’t believe I could beat out other candidates. No one who knows me know believes how insecure I was then – I’ve grown a lot and being in marketing helped me do that. It might have been nice to have a job where all I had to do was immerse myself in a bunch of old paintings.” She inhaled, gave a little shrug. “But that was a million years ago. I’m really happy now, with this. My dad would be…” Her voice caught and she swallowed quickly, cleared her throat. “Can I get you a refill?”

“Oh, I’m good, thank you.” Kelly shook her head, but she had caught what Ellie almost said and decided to press it a bit. “Was your dad an artist or marketer as well?”

Ellie glanced up sharply. “My dad? No. He taught economics at the local college. Almost every dinner included some discussion about so-and-so’s new theory of the free market or the rise of Chinese capitalism or what the Fed was doing wrong. Most of it went over my head. If he had an artistic bone in his body, I never saw it.” She stopped abruptly. She hadn’t meant to sound critical. She’d loved her father dearly. “Not that he was a bore. He was a great guy. Just not an artist.”

Right. Kelly had forgotten what Ellie said earlier about her father working with economics. However, Kelly also saw how defensive Ellie got when speaking about her dad, and she assumed it was because of what happened to her parents. Kelly wasn’t ready to bring that up yet. “Then I assume you weren’t close to your father. What about your mother?”

“My mom?” In her mind’s eye, she could see her mother’s smile, the way her whole face lit up and the corners of her eyes crinkled. “Mom was a force of nature. If you wanted something done, something organized, mom was the person you got on board. She would have made Alexander the Great look like a slacker. But she wasn’t overbearing or bossy. Just knew how to motivate folks towards a cause.” Ellie chuckled. “Even cleaning a messy room.” She looked down at her short nails. She’d finally stopped biting them, after almost a year and a half. Now, answering these questions, the urge to start chewing at a rough edge was almost overwhelming. Instead, she picked up her cleaning cloth and brushed at the counter. “So would you like a tour of the shop?”

“Sure thing.” Kelly nodded, stepping away from the counter. “So what happened to your parents? You speak of them in past tense.”

Ellie guided Kelly behind the counter and into the kitchen. “This is where the real magic happens. I have a woman, Marg, who does our baking. She is a genius with dough, despite being the messiest cook I’ve ever seen.” She leaned back against one of the spotless counters. “But she can also clean like the devil when the day is done, to keep the health inspectors happy. I’ll pack you up a selection of treats before you leave, so you can sample the wares. They’re definitely worth a mention in your write-up.”

She glanced at the woman, who was watching her intently. Ellie knew, with that sixth sense, that she was waiting for an answer to her question. “My parents are dead. An… accident.” There. Please, let it end there.

Kelly stopped and stared at Ellie. “You hesitated. It wasn’t an accident, was it? Were you there?” She asked softly because she could sense Ellie’s guard being very tense.

Ellie took a ragged breath. Why? Why did this woman have to dig? Why was this always what people wanted to know about? People were such ghouls. “No, it wasn’t an accident. They were killed by an intruder. No, I wasn’t there, but I was the one who found them, afterwards.” if it wasn’t for the Author, Ellie would have ended the interview there and escorted the woman to the door. But she knew she had no choice. The Author had said to answer all questions put to her.

“I’m sorry to bring up such painful memories.” At least Ellie had acknowledged what had happened, so Kelly decided to change the subject a bit. “What’s your favorite memory of your dad?”

Ellie relaxed a little. She didn’t like to talk about herself, but at least this was something happy. “I think that would have to be the time he and I went backpacking through the Smokies. Mom didn’t want to go – she liked her nature all neat and confined to garden beds. It was the summer of my sophomore year of high school and dad was itching to show me part of what he called his stomping grounds – the backwoods where he’d spent most of his childhood summers. We had the most amazing week together.” She smiled. “Amazingly dirty, smelly and sweaty. But amazing nonetheless. Hiking during the day where we saw all kinds of wildlife and then sitting around the campfire at night, watching the stars. And he told me so much about his growing up, things he’d never shared before.” Tears sprang to her eyes and she hurriedly wiped them away. She didn’t cry anymore. And especially not in front of strangers.

Kelly smiled softly at the memory and looked back down at the mug in her hand as Ellie wiped away her tears. Glancing back up, Kelly then asked, “And what’s your favorite memory of your mother?”

“Mom? Gosh… I don’t know. I guess if I had to choose, I think it would be the Christmas me and Dad got her the army of garden gnomes for her garden. I think I was 13 or so. Dad woke me up at four in the morning and we hauled 15 garden gnomes, all different, out of where he’d hidden them in the shed.  We tramped through a foot of snow in the back yard and positioned them all around her garden beds. In the dark! When we led her out later that morning to show her, it was like the sun had come out from behind the clouds. She was so happy. She grinned for days. She even named them all – and whenever I’d help her weed, she’d make me talk to them and address them by name when I had to pick them up to dig out something underneath them.” She laughed. “It was ridiculous. But that was mom.”

“That’s pretty awesome, and I’m sorry for your loss. Nothing can replace your parents.” Kelly began meandering around the shop now, looking at different things as she considered her next question. It might be hard for Ellie to talk about, but Kelly needed to ask, so she looked up at Ellie. “I hear you also lost your friend Lacey recently–killed, and you’re trying to figure out who killed her.” Kelly set the mug on the counter and turned to face Ellie once more. “How is that coming along?”

A shock ran through her, almost like a physical blow. How had she.. and then she remembered. The Author. She clenched her jaw, as she thought about the cops. “It’s… it’s a mess. The cops, in typical cop fashion, are convinced it was nothing more than a mugging. They’re useless. They were useless when my parents were killed and they’re useless now, no matter what Charlie thinks. They won’t even consider another solution – and clearly it was no random mugging.” She glanced up at the woman, daring her to contradict her. “Lacey told me someone was trying to kill her. She knew.”

As if on cue, she felt the air grow chill around her, as though Lacey’s spirit intruded onto the physical plane. The angry, biting force of the woman’s personality swirled around Ellie, goading her on. Ellie pulled her energy in around herself and pushed Lacey back. Not now, she thought at the ghost.

“I know it sounds like an episode of Murder She Wrote, but Lacey asked me for help, and the cops won’t do anything, so it’s up to me to figure it out.”

“So what have you learned? I’m with you. If Lacey knew someone was trying to kill her and then she shows up dead…I don’t get what it looks like, it’s likely a murder with someone covering their tracks. So…what do you have?” Kelly lifted her brows as she turned completely to face Ellie and watch her.

“Other than one very pissed off Lacey? Not much. Kate and I talked to her co-workers. I guess it wasn’t surprising that folks didn’t like Lacey much. She was ambitious, manipulative, and not above stepping on others to get what she wanted, like that promotion she just earned. But none of that seems like something someone would kill over. Still, I won’t give up. I’m going to keep digging. I need to search her condo – maybe there’s something there.” She sighed. “Something has to turn up.”

“It takes a lot to want to kill someone–more than simple dislike of someone. There has to be motive. The same thing with your parents’ murder. Personally, I can’t help but wonder if there’s some kind of connection there, but…that’s just me being a Muse.” Kelly shrugged “Now, you mentioned Charlie. Is he helping you with this case?”

Ellie rolled her eyes. “Charlie. Gods above. Yes, he’s helping. He actually got us a copy of the coroner’’s report, which I know was breaking a few rules. We’d never have gotten it otherwise and I’m very grateful…” She trailed off. Indebted more like and she so didn’t want to be indebted to Charlie McCallum.

“But there’s something more there….between you and Charlie.” A small smile wiggled across Kelly’s face. At the look Ellie gave her, Kelly laughed, and then she shrugged. “You ask so…loathsome of him, but usually that just means the reverse is true.” Kelly sat at a table and set her chin in her palm as she looked up at Ellie and smiled. “So tell me about Charlie. What’s he like?”

“He’s infuriating, that’s what he’s like. He’s a know-it-all, and smug about it. Plus… plus he’s just so… bouncy. The eternal optimist. It grates on the nerves, that perpetual Peter Pan grin. Everyone thinks he’s cute, like a little puppy dog. They’d pat him on the head and scratch behind his ears if they could. He never plays by the rules, he can’t hold down a job, he mooches off Kate without a second thought. Like, right now, he got evicted from his apartment because he couldn’t pay the rent, so he’s living in Kate’s basement. Rent free!” She gritted her teeth. “I never thought I’d agree with Kate’s husband, Dan, about anything, but when Dan says his little brother needs to grow up, he’s right!”

“Oh, he sounds like a typical guy, but due to his ‘never plays by the rules’ attitude, I think he’s just the guy you need working with you because, as you said, he already got you a report you wouldn’t have otherwise,” Kelly pointed out then folded her arms on the table and drummed her fingers. “Okay, so you grew up with Lacey and Kate, right? And Kate’s Charlie’s sister, so you’ve known Charlie for a long time too. Why is Charlie helping you with this though?” She furrowed her brows. “Out of everyone, why do you allow him to help you?”

She opened her mouth to speak, then closed it. Why, indeed? “I guess the truth is, because I need him. Because he believes that Lacey’s death was a deliberate murder. And because…” She looked behind her aggravation, behind the way he made her want to choke him. “Oh fine. He’s got my back. He has this way of worming his way into things. He saved my life last spring so I guess, despite the fact that he drives me crazy, I trust him. I can’t say that about too many people.”

“Okay, so…do you ever suspect though there’s a tie-in with your parents unsolved murder and now Lacey’s murder?” Kelly glanced up at Ellie. “I mean, most people may experience the violent death of a loved one at least *only* once–ever! But with you, it’s two separate occasions but three people. Have you ever thought about that?”

Ellie frowned, then shook her head. “As much as I hate to admit it, I think the cops were right about my folks. There were at least assailants, possibly three. The cops think they were drug addicts, looking for money. They may even have been acquainted with my dad from the college. They cleaned out everything of value in the house after… after they killed my parents. And the…the way the killed them. Only someone strung out on drugs could have done what they did. No normal person could have…” She shook her head again, wishing the image of her parent’s bodies could be erased from her mind. “Death just seems to follow me around. You might have read about it already, but last spring, just before the grand opening of the shop, I discovered the former owner of the building dead in my kitchen.” She shivered. “He’d been murdered too.” She looked up at Kelly. “Maybe I AM Jessica Fletcher! Horizon’s very own harbinger of murder!” She gave a nervous laugh.

“Have you ever looked into your own contacts and people you’ve worked with or anything? Because, I mean all of this could be totally random, and Death could just follow you as you say, or maybe someone’s targeting you…to hurt you or to scare you.” Kelly shrugged. She was certain she was way off base with this one, but if it had been her, she’d do that research just to be safe. “As for Lacey’s murder, do you have any suspects or anything to work with?”

Why hadn’t she thought of that? “I guess maybe I’ve been trying so hard not to think about what happened with my folks that that never occurred to me. Maybe that’s something Charlie could help with.” She shrugged. Defintely something to think about – especially once the thing with Lacey was put to bed. “As for Lacey, I’m not sure. I keep getting a feeling about her boss. But other than that, I really don’t know. He just gave her a big promotion – why would he want to kill her? There’s a big piece missing,, I just need to keep digging until I find it. I’m hoping searching Lacey’s condo will give me some answers. She took all the time to call me, to tell me someone was targeting her. Maybe she left me some other clues. A nice big letter laying out everything in detail would be nice.” She looked atKelly and grinned. “But something tells me it won’t be that easy. Lacey had a bit of a paranoid streak. And she liked to play games.”

“I can see this being another game…even if she didn’t invent her own murder. Whoever killed her may not even be aware it’s all part of a game. She’s still playing, and the good news is she thinks you can win.” Kelly smiled at Ellie. “If she didn’t think that, she wouldn’t have called you mentioning the threat to her life. If I were you, I’d dig more into your past with her, and yes, dig into her work, people there, and everything. If she liked to play games, she likely played the wrong person once, and you need to figure out who that is.” Then Kelly glanced at the clock on the wall and sighed as she rose to her feet. “It’s about time for me to leave though, but thanks for taking the time to chat with me. Remember though, with Lacey, I bet it’s someone who also plays games and didn’t like being played by Lacey. And I hope you the best in regards to solving it.”

Ellie stood. “Um.. thanks. That’s good advice. But here, before you go, let me get you some treats for the road.” This was certainly the strangest interview she’d ever been part of, she thought, as she packaged up some scones and other pastries into a box. Handing the goodies to Kelly, she met the woman’s eyes. “I guessing this interview won’t be appearing in any newspapers, will it?”

“No, it won’t.” Kelly shook her head. “I’m not *that* kind of interview, so everything you said to me will remain between us. Don’t worry. But hey, I’m more than willing to promote your shop and send people your way. It’s quite a lovely place!” Kelly grinned. “And thanks for the treats. You have a good day, Ellie. And don’t give Charlie too difficult of a time.” With a wink, Kelly left the shop.

Hope you enjoyed that!  Character Interviews with Kelly are wicked fun!  And be sure to check out Restless Natives – An Ellie Gooden Mystery on Amazon.  Plus… coming soon (end of May) will be Book 2 in the series, the book who’s events are described in this interview!  Be on the look out for Office Heretics soon!  Thanks!

Illegitimi noncarborundum!

All Who Miss Their Turn Are Not Lost


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I had a very strange experience this morning.  I was driving to work in the fog, down a road lined with corn fields, and suddenly nothing looked familiar.  I couldn’t see any identifying landmarks and even though I have driven down this road hundreds, if not thousands, of times, I had no idea where I was.  I wasn’t even sure if I had inadvertently somehow made a wrong turn somewhere without realizing it.  It was, for that split second, very frightening.

Of course, moments later, I saw the dim outline of the big barn that marked Galligan Road, where I turn.  A sense of relief flooded through me.  All returned to normal.

But that moment of doubt, that sudden panic, got me thinking.

When we have those moments in life, what keeps us going?  Some would answer faith, some would say it is their certainty that they are on the right path.  There really is no right answer – just whatever it is that keeps you moving forward.  For me, what it amounts to is Hope.  Yes, with a capital letter.

When I am lost, turned around, flailing, it is the Hope that I will once again find my way, get back on track, solve the problem, that keeps me from throwing up my hands and sitting down in the dirt to cry.  Okay, I still cry, I just don’t give up.  For me, with Hope comes Possibility.  It is possible, I say, that my turn is right up ahead, somewhere in the fog, even though I can’t see it.  It is also possible that maybe that isn’t my usual turn, but will get me where I need to go.  In fact, it’s possible that although it isn’t my usual turn, and might not get me where I originally set out to go, I might actually end up someplace even better!  Without Hope, I would never see the possibilities.  I would drive on, hell-bent for leather in a panic, laser-beam focused on locating the route I see in my memory but now unrecognizable in the fog, effectively blind to that little side road to Shangri-la hidden in the fog.

So yes.  Hope.  Possibilities.  These are my life preservers.

I fill my writing with Hope.  I like happy endings.  There may be disappointment, devastation, grief, sorrow, pain, challenges and villains, but in the end, there must be a sense of peace.  A kernel of goodness.  The Hope that no matter what, Love, with a capital L, not just the romantic kind, remains.

My nickname at work is Pollyanna.


Any of you remember that film?  The Disney one with Hayley Mills?  The nickname is often not meant as a compliment, implying that I’m somehow impossibly naive or unrealistic, but I choose to take it as one.  I am not always cheerful – that would just get annoying – but I am curiously optimistic about life, the future, our species, the planet.  I apparently have an overabundance of Hope.  So on this chilly, foggy, gloomy day, I offer you some of that Hope.  Take it and suck all the possibilities out of it.  If you hope that this afternoon the sun will come out, there is always the possibility that it will.  Maybe here, but maybe not here.  Maybe someplace else, someplace you could travel to.  Maybe the sun isn’t the one in the sky but the one in your heart.  The one that can ALWAYS shine brightly.

Oh dear.  That makes me think of that song from Annie.  You know the one I mean and you surely don’t want me to start singing, so I’ll just leave you to your day with the following words:

The sun will come out tomorrow  I mean:

Illegitimi noncarborundum!

Who Loves Ya, Baby!



What a touchstone word.  A word loaded with history and baggage, fraught with an ocean of emotion.  On this sunny first day of spring, I’m plunged into the whirlpool of that ocean, tossed back and forth like a paper boat.

Let me rewind the tape for you a bit, so you understand the context of my current sea-change.

Yesterday I had the honor and misfortune of attending a Celebration of Life for a very dear friend’s father.  He passed suddenly and left behind a stunned family and crowd of friends.  As they gathered for not a memorial, but a true celebration, I was first, honored to be invited to take part, and second, amazed and thrilled to see the enormous turnout.

I didn’t know Tom well.  I had only met him on a handful of occasions, but his presence was large – a smiling man with an open heart and a perpetual twinkle in his eye.  I wish I had been given the opportunity to know him better, especially after hearing all the loving and oftentimes humorous stories shared by his friends and family at the Celebration.  He lived life well, loved well, and was loved well in return.

After the Celebration, I was honored again to be invited back to a private gathering for family.

Honored.  The word doesn’t even begin to describe my emotions.  This family, Sue, her mother and father, her husband and his father and sister – all of these people, over the course of the last few years, have invited me into their clan, made me feel welcome, made me feel part of their loving community.  I treasure that.  I cherish it.

All this makes me consider the notion of family.  You see, I am adopted, and despite the best intentions of my loving adoptive parents, I have always felt a certain distance from my adoptive relations. A certain sense of otherness – knowing in my heart that I was not really part of them.  For years – decades – this sense of otherness fostered a gnawing loneliness, a desperate sense of isolation.  I longed for ‘my people’, but had no way of finding them.  For a time I thought that perhaps by finding my birth family, I could fill that void, but my birth records are sealed in the intractable state of Texas, so after years of beating my head against that brick wall, I gave up.

I had DNA testing done, trying to at least get a sense of where ‘my people’ came from.  Apparently, somewhere in the dim past, my genetic ancestors were in Ireland.  Somehow, that didn’t answer the need either. I mean, we’re talking thousands of years, not two generations back.

Over the last ten years, as the majority of my adoptive family has passed on, including my parents, the sense of being adrift grew acute, like an infected tooth.  I grew obsessed with the sense of not belonging.  And then, as things do, the pain eventually faded to a dull ache, as the ‘root’ of the bad tooth died.  I shoveled as much stuff as I could over the dim throb of ‘otherness’ and thought I had buried it deep enough that perhaps it would never rear its ugly head again.

Until yesterday.  Until I sat there, surrounded by people remembering the life of a man I knew really only by reputation and through stories told.

Yet, as I sat there, for once, I didn’t feel like an outsider.  I felt part of that collective of friends and family, despite the brevity of my acquaintance.   In those moments, and as I made the long drive back to Chicago, the idea crystallized in me that family can be more than one thing.  More than the people who supplied your DNA.  More than the wonderful adoptive parents who gave their love to you.  More than the generations that came before and that will come after.  Family can be the amazing people who you collect and surround yourself with – the people who open their hearts to you and invite you into their lives.  It can be the people who see you through those dark nights of the soul – even when you’ve never even met them face to face.

My Family

Today, my heart is full.  Now that I have truly redefined my foolishly limited definition of that emotionally charged word, I realize I have so many wonderful family members now.  People who I am proud to call relatives, dear sweet friends I meet regularly for coffee, colleagues I have worked with who remain my steadfast friends, despite changes in jobs and life events, people I went to school with and with whom I’ve shared the majority of my years, people I’ve met online, people with whom I share my spirituality, fellow writers and people who, like my dear friends Sue and Art, have made me part of their family.  Oh, and let me not forget the wonderful man I married and my beautiful, awe-inspiring daughter.

On this first, sunny day of spring, I am profoundly grateful to ALL my family.  You all know who you are.  Here’s hoping the future allows me to increase my family a hundredfold.  Thank you for holding me in your hearts the way I hold you in mine.

Illegitimi noncarborundum!

Author Interview: Raven Blackburn

Fabulous character interview with author and artist Raven Blackburn! Interview by thw amazing Kelly Blanchard.

Meeting With The Muse

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Raven was written by Raven Blackburn.)

Night had fallen fast in these woods, but Kelly had come prepared—with flashlights and extra batteries, but she didn’t have her flashlight on at this moment as she stood near a tree at the edge of the woods. The bright full moon lit the night, and Kelly enjoyed the peace it brought. Knowing who she would be meeting here, she wouldn’t be surprised if any vampires lurked, and she vaguely wondered if solar-powered flashlights would kill a vampire because—well, sunlight. Probably not, but still—that would be an interesting addition for a story.

The sound of leaves crunching underfoot caught her attention, and Kelly snapped her gaze up to see her visitor approaching. She flipped on the flashlight but shone it near her visitor’s feet to light the path. At last they were in hearing range, and Kelly voiced…

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Mini-post! Steampunk Meets the Doctor (Who, that is)!

So during my writing night last night (we have a group), for those of us who are “waiting at the gate” for Nano, it was suggested that we take our main character from our Nano novel and put him/her in a completely different setting or time and just roll with it. Somehow Jonathan and Coggs ended up “borrowing” HG Wells’ Time Machine and went into the future… and encountered Doctor Who. It was such a hoot! I had no idea where it was going, and then, suddenly, Unit showed up. Jelly baby, anyone?

Evil Dairy Gods, Orange Cheesy Goodness and Other Things That Suck

Greetings, fellow babies.  Yes, it’s been a while.  Life has been throwing me more than the usual amount of curve balls, but I am still here and still swinging.  Wow, two baseball metaphors in a row and I’m not even a big fan!  Must be the disaster that are the Cubs, weighing on my mind.  I don’t know why I expected a different outcome – but then the very definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  And we all know I’m crazy.

Anyhoo…  Today’s post is about changes.  I don’t know about you but I hate them.  I like a certain amount of consistency in my life.  That’s probably the result of having grown up as an Air Force brat, moving every year or two, having to start over someplace new.  Now… I avoid new like the plague.

Or at least, I imagine that I do.  That doesn’t explain why I feel the need to completely rearrange my living room every couple of years or why I’m constantly trying to find a new route to the Evil Day Job to shake up the tedium (or avoid traffic snarls).

Some changes, however, are decidedly unpleasant.  Recently I’ve been having to change my diet.  Now, I don’t mean going to Jenny Craig or only eating beet soup – although being a short round Irish woman, I could always stand to lose a few pounds.  Okay… more than a few.  No, I’m talking about eliminating foods that I used to love that now seem not to love me so much.  I’m calling it the “No CH Diet”.  And I am decidedly unhappy about it.

Come back, Muse!  Come back!

Come back, Muse! Come back!

If you’ve read any of my Stalking the Muse articles, you probably know that one of the ways I attract my Muse, retrieving her from her extended sojourns in Bermuda, is with Her favorite snack food.  CHeetos®.  Ah, the wonders of orange, cheesy goodness.  It’s the only snack brand that has actually coined its own word – ‘cheedle’, meaning the orange stuff that you scrape off your fingers with your teeth after you’ve eaten some.  I can actually wax poetic about those crunchy little orange tidbits.  But now there are apparently two ingredients in this snack that suddenly don’t agree with me:  the food-coloring annatto and *gasp* CHeese.

Now, remember.  I am a short, round woman of IRISH descent.  CHeese is in my blood, right alongside potatoes.  I don’t know how to make a meal without either of those ingredients.  But suddenly CHeese is off the menu (thank you very much, evil gods of dairy!).  Fortunately, potatoes are still okay.  I think I’d curl up and die if I couldn’t eat those!

Next on the no-no list turns out to be CHocolate.  Because CHocolate has dairy in it.  How on earth am I supposed to do Nano this year without either CHeetos® or CHocolate?  That’s… that’s crazy talk!  The Muse will NEVER come back from Bermuda.  She’ll lay there on the beach, being served Midori Melon Margaritas by hot young men, feeling the whoosh whoosh whoosh of the surf on her dainty, manicured toes and I’ll be left here, in Chicago, in winter, barricaded in my suburban garret (oh, okay, my corner of the spare room) burning old manuscript pages to keep warm because I’ve been creatively abandoned!

No CHeetos®?  No CHeese?  No CHocolate?  How can I live like this??

So I made some CHanges.  And then discovered a whole bunch of other things that my suddenly finicky digestive system doesn’t like either.  Caffeine.  Lettuce.  Gluten.  Very shortly now, I’m going to be left with a diet of cardboard and grass clippings.  *sigh*  My fervent hope is that once I cut out all dairy for a while, and give my system a bit of a restart, that the other foods can come back on line.  The thought of Nano without CHeetos®, CHeese, CHocolate OR caffeine leaves me in a cold sweat.  At least give me the caffeine.

So I’m lighting a candle to the evil gods of dairy, being kind to cows and giving myself 10 days to detox.  If you wouldn’t mind, could you put in a good word for me too?  Meanwhile, I’ll be here, jonesing for a cappuccino with a side of baked brie and some salted caramel dark chocolate.

Illegitimi non carborundum!

A Little excerpt from Office Heretics – the new Ellie Gooden mystery, coming soon!

Thought you might like little peek at what’s going on in Ellie’s world right now.  Pretty much the usual… murder, mayhem, flying vases…  Enjoy!

Even though it was late, Ellie didn’t feel like sleeping. Once up in the little room with the sunshine colored walls, she set out her portable altar, cast a circle of protection and sat for over an hour in the middle, trying to ground and center and talk to the Goddess. It took her longer than usual to slide into a meditative state. Her thoughts were scattered, jumping from one thing to another. She had just about decided to give up when she heard a loud thunk.
Her eyes flew open. The ladder back chair in front of the little antique secretary lay on its side on the floor. Now how had that happened? She glanced around, saw nothing, but even as she stood slowly, she felt the hair on her arm stand on end.

There was energy in the room.

She put out a hand, felt something pushing at the bubble of protective energy she’d created when she’d cast her circle. Something dark and angry.

Abruptly, the light on the dresser flickered then went out.  Ellie pushed imaginary roots from the bottoms of her feet down through the first floor of the house, down through the basement and into the earth beneath, looking to connect to the Goddess. When she felt completely centered and grounded, she reached out her left hand, her receptive hand, and tried to sense whatever lay beyond her circle of protection. Immediately, she felt anger and pain and an image of Lacey came into her head.
Ellie almost relaxed her guard, now knowing at least the source of the energy. “Pissed, are you?” she asked the spirit.
An object came flying at her then skittered around the edge of her circle and slammed into the wall behind the head of the bed with an enormous bang. Ellie was shocked. She’d never met a spirit that had been able to manifest itself enough to affect physical objects. Lacey must be both furious AND powerful. That scared Ellie a little – it was no secret that Lacey had dabbled in darker forms of magick. Doing her best to keep the fear from her voice, she crossed her arms over her chest. “You don’t scare me, Lacey. I’m sorry you’re mad, but I only spoke the truth and you know it.”

The lamp on the dresser flickered back on again, just in time for Ellie to see a faint ripple in the air, like a heat wave. There was a sense of pressure on her protective circle and then a sensation in her gut of something snapping or popping. Frigid air suddenly surrounded her and she felt herself being blown back and off her feet. She fell against the end of the bed, caught herself and pulled herself upright with the help of one of the bed’s posters. The force of the attack frightened her, but backing down was not an option, ever, with a spirit. “You still don’t scare me.”

There was a flash of movement, something she couldn’t quite focus on, and a second later the painting of a seaside cottage that hung on the wall by the door suddenly crashed to the floor. The glass over the print shattered, spraying her feet and legs with needle-sharp splinters.

There was a sound out in the hall, and Ellie heard someone say, “What the hell, Gooden?”

Damn that idiot.  What the hell was he doing out there? “Stay out, McCallum. And keep Kate out.” She had to protect her friend – whether Kate appreciated being protected or not.
The door to her room opened just as the alarm clock from her nightstand flew towards her, nailing her in the shoulder. 
Charlie stood in the doorway, eyes wide. “Jesus wept!”

An icy gust of air swirled around Ellie and then a vase of flowers from the dresser hurtled towards her, catching her on the side of the head.
“Damn!” She dropped to one knee, felt warm blood on her fingers. Pulling up energy through the soles of her feet, she envisioned glowing light surrounding her then extended the bubble of protective light to Charlie. Feeling as shielded as she was likely going to be, she turned to face the seething mass of angry energy that raced around the room like a spiritual cyclone. “Get out, Lacey! You don’t belong here anymore!”

An Interactive Character Interview – Meet Charlie McCallum from my Ellie Gooden Mystery Series


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Had a chance to have Kelly Blanchard sit down with one of the major characters from my Ellie Gooden mystery series a few weeks ago.  Kelly offers writers a really amazing experience by conducting a unique style of interactive interviews with both authors and their characters.  Thought you might find this fun, as well as giving you a peek into the head of one of my FAVORITE characters to write about.  Please let me know what you think!  Enjoy!

Kelly pushed open the door to her Muse Shop and found one of her best friends, Abby, keeping watch behind the counter. She smiled and approached with coffee in hand. “Coffee—as requested.” She handed Abby her drink.

“Thanks! It’s been quiet here. No crazy plot bunnies, and no characters bursting out of the mirror demanding to talk with you.”

This made Kelly chuckle. “Good. Hopefully it’ll stay that way. I have a guest coming. His name is Charlie—dark, curly hair. When he comes in, send him to my office upstairs.” With that, she headed past the shelves full of books, artifacts, and antiques toward the spiral staircase.

“Don’t forget, you have an interview at the coffee shop later today!” Abby hollered back at her, and Kelly raised her cup.

“Thanks for the reminder. I should be done before then!” Making her way up the stairs, she came to the sitting area in the loft but went past it to the door. Opening it, she smiled at the sunlight through the wide windows which greeted her. It overlooked the spacious lush garden of the Muse Shop—larger than most people expected, but Kelly noticed the clouds on the horizon—a coming storm.

Ignoring the view, Kelly went to her desk off to the left side of the room. This way any guests could walk to the window and stare out if they wanted to. In another corner of the room, she had a few chairs and even a couch for those who wished to be comfortable during their conversations, and throughout the room on shelves and end-tables were unusual trinkets she obtained from different worlds.

Going to her desk, she found a plate of her homemade chocolate chip cookies there as well as a folder. The cookies would wait for a bit, but for now she opened the file, turned her back on her desk and leaned against it as she flipped through the information she had on her guest: Full name: Charlie McCallum. Former police officer, mid-thirties. Freaking brilliant, but very down to earth. Kelly put down the folder. Well, this should be interesting.

A knock on the door brought her eyes up, and she pushed away from the desk with a smile. “Come in!”

Charlie poked his head through the door. He didn’t really understand why his sister-in-law Kate had made him come here. He didn’t need any counseling and besides, this place didn’t look like a doctor’s office. But he loved Kate – she was like the sister he’d never had. And he’d do anything for her. So here he was. Weird looking place, that was for sure. Like some place Kate’s best friend Ellie Gooden would hang around. He pushed her quickly out of his mind. Whatever feelings he had for her, they surely weren’t reciprocated. In fact, he was pretty sure she despised him, although he wasn’t sure why. Focus, he thought. Focus. He looked at the woman standing inside. Pretty, in a cerebral sort of way. Could she be a shrink? Or was she a witch, like Ellie? “Um, I was told I had an appointment here?

Kelly smiled. “Yes, you must be Charlie McCallum. I’m Kelly Blanchard. Please come in.” She motioned for him to come in. “I’m not a shrink if that’s what you’re wondering, and I’m totally not your traditional doctor. Cookies?” She turned picked up the plate and turned back to him. “Homemade–best ever.” She smiled at him warmly.

Charlie could smell the cookies – it was what had finally enticed him up the stairs. “Man. Yeah, thanks. I have a weakness for chocolate chip cookies.” He gave her what Kate called the patented Charlie grin scrubbed at his long curls, then snatched a cookie before she could rescind the offer. “Thanks!” Biting into it, he groaned. “Oh man. That’s good. Kate, my sister in law, is a wonderful woman, but she can’t bake for shit. Her cookies taste like saw dust” Jeez! Why had he said that? He glanced away. “But don’t tell her I said that. I wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings.”

Kelly chuckled. “Not to worry! Anything you say here won’t ever be repeated. Care to have a seat?” She motioned over to the chairs in the corner. “Or you’re welcome to pace around if you prefer, but tell me about yourself. What is it that you do?”

He glanced at the couch, knew it was the proper thing to do to sit. But he’d never been very good at sitting. “Um, mind if I just sort of walk around?” He moved to stand in front of the book shelf, quickly scanning the titles. “I’m, uh sort of between things at the moment. I’m trying to get my PI business off the ground, but clients are hard to find. At least, the paying kind. Ellie says I need to have a marketing plan but…” He shrugged, grinned sheepishly. “Business stuff isn’t really what I’m good at.”

“Yeah, tell me about it. Being a business owner too, I totally know what that’s like.” Kelly leaned back against her desk as she watched him pace. “So how did you get into the PI business? Read a lot of mysteries as a kid?” She smiled with her question but then snatched up a cookie off the plate and tore off a piece to eat it while she observed him.

He glanced at her. “As a kid, I just read a lot period. Mysteries, science, history, you name it, I read it. Still read a lot. I don’t sleep much so reading is what I do to fill the time while everyone else sleeps.” He smiled. “You tend to lose friends when you call them at 3 in the morning just to chat.” He plucked a copy of Dante’s Inferno off the shelf, skimmed the pages, put it back. “The PI stuff, well, I like to solve puzzles. I used to be a cop but when that didn’t work out, I thought being a PI was a decent way to play to my strengths.”

“Why wasn’t being a cop your thing?” Kelly furrowed her brows as she tilted her head.

He didn’t want to go there. He really didn’t. Anger boiled up inside him, and he clenched his jaw before forcing himself to relax. “Let’s just say that the whole “Protect and Serve” thing is misleading.” He scrubbed at his head, picked up a small ancient Egyptian ushabti and ran his long fingers over the glazed turquoise-colored faience. He could almost hear the whisper of the prayers for the dead. “Politics shouldn’t get in the way of justice. No one should be above the law.”

Kelly nodded, but she also sensed his answer, so she pushed away from her desk and went to the chairs to sit down. If he joined her, that was fine. If not, he could remain standing or pacing–whichever way he felt comfortable. “I completely understand that, and does your current job allow you to do what you feel must be done?”

He let out a breath, thankful she hadn’t pushed. “Sometimes. But sometimes even with the freedom to pursue things, you don’t get to the answers you’re looking for. There’s this case… a cold case. I managed to get my hands on the file – I won’t say how – and even though I’ve been pushing on it for almost a year, I still can’t get anywhere. I suppose I should just let it go – but it means something to a friend of mine. Well, not really a friend of mine. A friend of my sister-in-law. But, still, even if she weren’t a friend, this is a case that deserves closure.” He flopped down on the couch, took another cookie. The gooey sweetness was comforting. “It’s frustrating.”

“Just a total random guess, but is this friend Ellie?” Kelly raised her brows as she watched him.

He snapped his head up. How had she known that? “Um. It’s an open case. I really can’t discuss it.”

She knew by his response that she was right, so she gave a nod. “Okay, don’t talk about the case.” She sat back in her chair. “Tell me about Ellie. Who is she to you? Or who *was* she to you?”

He rubbed the back of his neck. Who was this woman? “Ellie is… Ellie’s just… she’s a friend of my sister-in-law. They’ve known each other since college. Last year, she left her marketing job here in the city and moved out to some podunk cow town in Wisconsin. She runs a little coffee shop up there… when she’s not stumbling onto dead bodies and throwing herself in the way of murderers.” He chuckled. “Jeez. Sounds like a TV show, doesn’t it?”

“A bit, yeah.” Kelly smiled but then scooted to the edge of the seat as she leaned forward, setting her elbows on her knees and clasped her hands together to watch him closely. “But who is Ellie to you?” She could tell by his reaction and body language this was more than a mere friend of his sister-in-law, so she added gently, “You can trust me. Remember, I’m not going to tell anyone anything you say–ever, and after today, you may never see me again, so you don’t need to worry about anything. Here, you can say whatever you want. Anything and everything.” She say back in her seat. “I offer a listening ear.”

He sighed, rested his elbows on his knees, and looked down at his worn red Converses. “God. Ellie is possibly the most infuriating woman I’ve ever met. I guess I’ve had a crush on her since… since I first met her. That was at Dan and Kate’s wedding rehearsal.” He couldn’t help grinning. “She has an edge. In her circle of friends, she was known as Hit and Run Gooden. No guy ever managed to get more than two dates. I’m pretty sure she’s incapable of committing. Well, not to her work, she’s totally dedicated to that. But to another human being? Other than Katie? I don’t think it’ll happen.” He grinned. “So in addition to the fact that for whatever reason, I think she’s hot, she’s like this enormous challenge. A puzzle to be solved.” He chuckled, sat back and rested his hands on his knees. “I like puzzles, did I mention that?”

A warm smile spread across Kelly’s lips. “Well, that makes perfect sense! Have you even tried to approach her about how you feel?”

He laughed. “Are you nuts? I like all my parts exactly where they are, thanks.” He shook his head. “She once threatened to cut off my privates and feed them to her neighbor’s piranhas.” He winced at the thought. “And she’d do it too. Plus, she’s a witch. Well, Wiccan. She can probably turn me into a newt.”

“So?” Kelly raised her brows “I’m a Muse, got magic of my own.” She motioned to their surroundings. “And I terrify any guy who ever even tries to approach me, but there’s a trick. Don’t act on feelings. Yeah, you might have feelings, but don’t act on them. Approach her as a professional, work together, don’t try anything funny, but be sincere. It may be eventually she will see how much she needs and wants you in her life, and then you’ll be past all the danger she could present. Otherwise…” Kelly shrugged. “You’ll be just like all the other guys, not one who stands firm and challenges her even if she can literally turn him into a frog. And that would be disappointing. So tell me, are you better than all the other average guys out there? Or are you just like them?”

Damn, but this woman made sense. “That was kind of my plan. I just keep showing up. It pisses her off, but lately, she has been able to actually be civil to me for a minute or two at a time. And once, she actually called me Charlie, instead of ‘McCallum’.” He grinned. “And to answer your question, I AM better than all the average guys. I don’t bail on people. I don’t disappear when the going gets tough.” He frowned, thinking about his father. “I’m not that kind of guy.”

“So, she’s being civil with you a little more and called you by your actual name. You’re doing something right. Her anger is her defense. She’s probably flabbergasted that a guy would really be interested in her, so she doesn’t know how to respond. Usually she manages to scare them away, but she hasn’t been able to do that to you, so she’s not sure what to do.  Whatever you’re doing, just keep doing it. Be patient with her, be reassuring. Don’t ever expect anything from her and let her know that, but do try to be there for her.” Kelly then smiled as she sat back in her seat and nodded at him. “I think you might be surprised.”

Then she glanced at the clock on the wall. An hour had already passed, and she sighed, shaking her head. “Unfortunately, our hour is up.” She rose to her feet. “I’m sorry if you didn’t get to talk about what you wanted to talk about, but…I think we discussed something very important, don’t you?” She tilted her head as she observed him.

He gave a little laugh, grinned. “Um, yeah. Although… frankly, I still don’t know why I’m here. I thought maybe Katie might have wanted me to talk about what happened on the Force, but…” He shrugged, then climbed to his feet and stuck out his hand to her. “Thanks. What you said… it makes a lot of sense.”

She shook his hand. “I never know what these conversations will be about, and if you ever want to come back and talk about what happened on the Force, I’d be happy to listen. In the meanwhile though, good luck with Ellie.” She offered him a warm smile. “And take the cookies.”

He gave a little fist pump. “I was gonna ask if I could take one more. This is even better. And hey, if you’re ever in Chicago, I can hook you up with a table at one of the best jazz clubs in the city. Just give me a holler!” He picked up the remaining cookies and shoved them in his jacket pocket. “Thanks, Kelly! You’re alright.”

She grinned at him. “Thank you.” With that she escorted him to the door and watched him leave. The conversation likely covered nothing either of them had expected, but Kelly could never predict the direction of these conversations. She merely hoped he’d walked away with something worthwhile.

Hope you enjoyed that!  It was so much fun to do.  And be sure to check out Restless Natives – An Ellie Gooden Mystery on Amazon.  Plus… coming soon (end of May) will be Book 2 in the series, Office Heretics!  Thanks!

Illegitimi noncarborundum!




Character Interview: Nan Sampson Bach’s Juan-Carlos

As promised, here is an interview with the antagonist from my upcoming fantasy series, The Gatekeeper Saga. Enjoy!

Meeting With The Muse

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard, and Juan Carlos was written by Nan Sampson Bach. Juan is the antagonist in Nan’s fantasy series ‘The Gatekeepers Saga’.)

Juan-Carlos Miguel Orellano de Campos moved quietly around the large living area of his penthouse in the coveted San Remo building on Central Park West, preparing for his guest.  The Interviewer.  He re-arranged the sensuous turquoise satin throw pillows on the mid-century divan then adjusted the opacity of the window shades to manipulate the brightness of the morning sun.  Not glaring enough to blind, but bright enough to cause his visitor to face him when they spoke.

From his windows was a stunning view of the Park.  Sunlight glittered on The Lake, patches of spring green grass contrasted with the darker leaves of the trees, and a myriad of utterly insignificant human beings scurried along the park’s paths, believing they…

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