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Monday, April 29, 2013

The Trouble With Charlie by Merry Jones (Author Guest Post / Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Merry Jones, author of The Trouble With Charlie!

Author Guest Post

A Day In My Writing Life

One thing that I like about being a writer is that there is no typical day. Even with publishers to produce for, I’m pretty much my own boss. And, as the boss, I get to decide what I do or don’t do and when I do or don’t do it. I can wear or not wear what I want. I don’t commute. I don’t get a limited time for lunch or coffee break or vacations. No one stands over me, supervising my work. I can procrastinate for days, even weeks, if I want.

One thing I don’t like about being a writer is that my boss is a relentless, merciless tyrant. The workday never ends. Five pm comes and goes, but until a book is finished, the boss won’t let me leave it. Even if I stop writing, the plot and characters persist in my head, distracting me from “real” life. If I skip more than a day or two of writing, I get nervous, cranky, panicky and, yes, bitchy.

So a typical day? No such thing. But what is typical is pressure. The sense that I should always be at my computer, writing. That I am never ever finished.

Granted, when I’m starting a new book, there are days I don’t actually write at all. I spend a lot of time away from my office, thinking of situations that would lend themselves to a thriller or suspense novel, taking notes, making lists of ideas and fragments of ideas. Once I’ve got some interesting possible topics, I go to the computer and do research, learning more about them. I’ll read about, say, honor killings or artifact smuggling or brain injuries—whatever I need to study up on in order to plot a novel based on the subject. I’ll interview experts. I’ll visit locations.

If the book is part of a series, I catch up with the characters, putting them in new circumstances, noting how they’ve changed. If the book stands alone or starts a series, I spend days with the new characters, getting to know them, figuring out their back stories, learning about their foibles.

Meantime, I go about my daily chores, grocery shopping, doing laundry, going to the gym, whatever, but my head is busy sorting out a storyline or a psyche. I’m so involved in this non-existent world, that I tend to be distracted in the existing one, making wrong turns in the car, forgetting a hair appointment, etc.

By the time I actually get to page one, I’ve pretty much thought out the book. That is not to say that I follow this plan, but I always have a workable storyline to fall back on if nothing better arises as I write.

When beginning a book, I write for two or three hours, five to six days a week—more if I can. As the book progresses, so do my hours. By the time I’m writing the climax, I’m up to five to seven hours a day. I know people who do put in longer hours, but I can’t. My head empties. I lose my rhythm and the pacing slows down. If I force myself to keep writing when I know I should stop, I usually have to toss those last few pages the next day.

Here’s my pattern: Every day when I start to write, I begin by reading what I wrote the day before. This is partly for continuity—so I can pick up the mood and the momentum where I’ve left it. But it’s also for revision—I tighten and tweak as I read. Then I add anywhere from three to ten pages. No more. Usually about five.

So that’s my writing routine. But it’s not the whole deal. Every day I allot time for book promotion and social networking. After the release of a book, I write between ten and thirty guest blogs and do as many on-line interviews as I can get. I schedule on-line radio chats, book giveaways, lectures, workships, signings. I prepare and send out a newsletter about four times a year and put writing related stuff on Facebook and Twitter. I revise my website. I attend writers coffeehouses and speak at book clubs and writers’ groups. Promoting and connecting with readers and other writers are like writing; the processes are never finished. No matter how much I do, there is still more that I could/should have done.

I try to structure my days into chunks: Exercising, writing, promoting, chores and family. Sometimes I manage to follow that pattern. More often, this writer’s day is full of unpredictable interruptions, long to-do lists and the nagging sense that no matter how many pages I type, how many blogs I post, how many ideas I research or panels I sit on, my boss will never be satisfied. For her, nothing I do will ever be enough.

About The Author

Merry Jones is the author of the suspense novel The Trouble With Charlie, as well as the Harper Jennings thrillers (Winter Break, Behind The Walls, Summer Session),and the Zoe Hayes mysteries (The Borrowed And Blue Murders, The Deadly Neighbors, The River Killings, The Nanny Murders).

Jones has also written humor (including I Love Him, But...) and non-fiction (including Birthmothers: Women Who Relinquished Babies For Adoption Tell Their Stories.)

Jones has a regular contributor to GLAMOUR, and her work has been printed in seven languages and numerous magazines. Her short story, BLISS, appears in the anthology LIAR LIAR, a project of the Philadelphia Liars Club.

In addition to the Liars, Jones is a member of Mystery Writers of America, The Authors Guild and International Thriller Writers.

For the last fifteen years, she has taught writing courses at a variety of institutions, including Temple University and Delaware County Community College. She has appeared on radio and television (local and national), and participates in panel discussions and workshops regularly.

The Trouble With Charlie by Merry Jones ~ Virtual Book Tour Page: Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

Book Reviews

The Trouble With Charlie by Merry Jones
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover - 272 pages / Kindle - 1936 KB / Nook - 2 MB
ISBN: 1608090744
Genre: Mystery / Suspense / Thriller

BUY THE BOOK: The Trouble With Charlie

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours.

Book Description:

The biggest trouble with Charlie is that he's dead. His soon-to-be-ex-wife, Elle Harrison, comes home from a night out with friends to find his body in her den, her kitchen knife in his back. And, oddly, Elle has no memory of her activities during the time he was killed.

Another trouble with Charlie is that, even though he's dead, he doesn't seem to be gone. Elle senses Charlie's presence--a gentle kiss on the neck, the scent of his aftershave wafting through the house, a rose that seems to move from room to room on its own. And a shadow that appears to accuse her of murder--and with whom she argues.

In the process of trying to prove her innocence, Elle investigates Charlie's death--and his life. A psychiatrist diagnoses her with a dissociative disorder that causes her to "space out" especially when she's under stress. This might explain the gap in her memory, but it doesn't clear her.

As Elle continues to look into Charlie's life, she uncovers more and more trouble--an obsessed woman who might have been his lover. Siblings with unresolved bitter issues. A slimy untrustworthy business partner. And wealthy clients with twisted, horrific appetites.

Before she knows it, Elle is involved in more murders, a struggle for her life, and a revived relationship with Charlie, whom--for all his troubles--she has come to appreciate and love only after his death.

Book Excerpt:


Sometime before Charlie moved out, I began reading the obituaries. It became a daily routine, like morning coffee. I didn’t just scan the listings; I read them closely, noting dates of death, ages of the deceased, names of survivors. If there were photos, I studied faces for clues about mortality even though they were often grinning and much younger than at death. Sometimes there were flags at the top of notices, signifying military service. Salvadore Petrini had a flag. Aged 64. Owner of Petrini’s Market. Beloved husband and father and stepfather and brother and uncle. Viewing and Life Celebration at St. Patrick’s Church, Malvern.

Some notices were skeletal, giving no details of the lost life: Sonia Woods went to be with the Lord on August 17. Viewing Friday, from 9 to 11, First Baptist Church. Service to follow. These left me disturbed, sad for the deceased. Was there, in the end, really nothing to be said about them? Were their lives just a finite number of breaths now stopped?

For weeks, I followed the flow of local deaths and funerals. I tried to surmise causes of death from requests for memorial contributions in lieu of flowers. The American Cancer Society. The Vascular Disease Foundation. The American Heart or Alzheimers Association. When there were epigraphs, I read about careers accomplished, volunteer work conducted, music played, tournaments won. Lives condensed to an eighth of a page. Less, usually.

Though the notices were brief, the words and patterns of language had a gentle rolling rhythm, comforting, like prayers, like nursery rhymes. And between listings, stark and straight lines divided one death from another, putting lives neatly into boxes, separating body from body. Soul from soul. Making death quantifiable and normal, a daily occurrence neatly announced on paper in black and white, on pages dense with ink, speckled with gray smiling photos. Smiles announcing that death wasn’t really so bad.

I don’t know why I was compelled to read those listings every day. At the time, I’d have said it had to be about the death of my marriage. After all, my own life, in a way, was ending. My life as Charlie’s wife was dying, but there would be no public acknowledgment of that demise. No memorial service. No community gathering to mourn. Maybe I read the listings to remember that I wasn’t the only one grieving, that others had lost even more. Still, I would have felt better if the obituary page included dead marriages and lost identities: Mrs. Charles Henry Harrison (nee Elle Brooks) ceased to exist on (date pending), when the couple’s divorce became final. Maybe it would help to have some formal recognition of the demise of my former self. Maybe not.

It’s possible that my own losses brought me to the daily obits. But I doubt it. Looking back, I believe what drew me was far more ominous. A premonition. An instinct. For whatever reason, though, every morning as I chewed my English muffin, I buried myself in the death notices, studying what I could about people who were no more, trying to learn from them or their photos or their neatly structured notices anything I could about death.

Of course, as it turned out, the notices were useless. None of them, not one prepared me for what was to happen. According to the obituary columns, the circumstances of one’s life made no difference in the end. Dead was simply dead. Final. Permanent. Without room for doubt. The pages I studied gave no indication of a gray area. And the boxes around the obituaries contained no dotted lines.

My Book Review:

After ten years of marriage, Elle Harrison is divorcing her lying, cheating, inheritance stealing husband Charlie. But her chance to move forward with her life takes a traumatic setback when she comes home from a night out with best friend Becky at a local bar to discover Charlie sitting on the couch in her den stabbed to death in the back with one of her kitchen knives. Everything turns into a blur for Elle, she doesn't know why Charlie is in her house or how he was killed, she doesn't even remember portions of her day. Could it be that Elle killed Charlie? Has she "pulled an Elle" by zoning out like best friends Susan, Becky, and Jenny claims she always does, or has something more sinister occurred and Elle is the scapegoat?

The Trouble With Charlie is an intriguing whodunit that engages the reader in solving the mystery all the while keeping them guessing along the way. Author Merry Jones weaves an entertaining tale of murder, mystery and suspense set in Philadelphia and written in the first person narrative with Elle Harrison taking the reader along for the ride on her zany adventure to uncover the mystery surrounding the murder of her soon-to-be ex-husband Charlie.

Mixed with humor, danger, paranormal involvement, potential suspects and enough twists and turns that keeps you turning the pages until the surprising conclusion, you'll find yourself recruited as one of Elle's amateur sleuths on a quest to solve the puzzle that was Charlie's murder. The author weaves a masterful tale that takes the reader in many directions: between the murder mystery, Elle's psychological backstory, Elle's relationship with her best friends, and the paranormal activity, you can't help but try and keep up with this fast-paced riveting thriller.

With a quirky cast of characters who are very entertaining: from zany Elle and her hilarious best friends Susan, Becky, and Jenny; to ghostly Charlie who communicates with Elle from beyond the grave; to a host of potential suspects who each have a motive for murder; they keep the reader on their toes wondering who really was Charlie's murderer. With witty and humorous dialogue and interactions; an intriguing storyline that takes the reader on a madcap adventure that alternates between the present with Elle's memory flashbacks to the past; and a richly detailed description of familiar Philadelphia landmarks; The Trouble With Charlie is a tantalizing whodunit that will engage your imagination to the very end!


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  1. Extraordinary review and post, as always. Thank you for sharing your thoughts of this read.

    1. Hi Cheryl! Thank you for the opportunity to host the virtual book tour event. :)