Mar 152017
 

Lisa Brunette

GUEST POST

Quirky Is As Quirky Does:

Character and Setting in CAT IN THE FLOCK

Readers often say they appreciate the quirky characters and settings in my Dreamslippers Series, which centers on a family of private investigators with the unique ability to slip into a person’s dreams. This ability, which has its limitations, isn’t their only quirk. The matriarch is a 77-year-old yogi with flamboyant manners and a self-styled New Age belief system that proves to be a challenge for her granddaughter, who grew up in the Midwest with conservative Catholic parents.

Along with the dreamslipping ability, unconventional names run in this family. That septuagenarian PI legally changed her name to “Amazing Grace,” and her granddaughter was named “Cathedral,” in honor of her mother’s devotion to the faith. The girl herself prefers the shortened form, “Cat.”

To complicate matters, the ability to dreamslip has skipped a generation. That’s why Cat must travel to Seattle to apprentice with Amazing Grace as the series opens in Cat in the Flock. She needs to learn from her grandmother how to hone the skill, as well as how to make use of it as a private investigator, which has been her grandmother’s vocation for many years. As you can imagine, three strong women with varying religious and political bents and a psychic ability thrown into the mix makes for natural-born conflict.

Of course, being a Midwestern transplant in Seattle means that Cat allows her grandmother see that city with fresh eyes. Cat is also both metaphorically and physically drawn back to the Midwest, though—so much so that she returns after a mere three months’ apprenticeship with Grace. And she delves right into the belly of the beast, so to speak, going undercover in a fundamentalist megachurch. There she meets several potential villains, one of whom is my least favorite character in the book, because he’s emblematic of the real church patriarchy and judgmental authority. Writing the scene where Reynolds Chambers confronts Cat was difficult, but in a good way.

I’ve always loved characters in fiction who seem outside the norm, who flout societal convention or go against the grain. In my early years, I was a huge fan of every odd character the comedian Jerry Lewis played, such as Cinderfella or an orderly involved in madcap adventures. Next came Carol Burnett’s memorable character sketches. Even a small walk-on character such as Hee Haw’s Minnie Pearl would thrill me to no end with a single eccentricity: the price tag left dangling from her oversized hats. Give me someone’s crazy Aunt Wilma or eccentric cousin Larry, and I’m instantly entertained. As soon as these characters walk into a scene, they have everyone’s attention; the story in fact begins to turn on their larger-than-life actions.

Later in my infatuation with le strange came some truly out-of-this-world types, like Mork from Ork, the Greatest American Hero, and Max Headroom. These quirkmeisters teach us about ourselves by revealing how arbitrary our social conventions truly are, how dependent they are on everyone agreeing on X. They pose excellent—not to mention hilarious—questions: What are the effects of taking in a steady stream of advertising? What if we could suddenly fly? What if we all sat on our heads instead of our butts?

Even during my academic training in literature, I gravitated toward the quirky end of the canon. Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day, Toni Morrison’s Sethe, the many characters peopling Zora Neale Hurston’s fiction… My favorite females were made indomitably strong by the challenges they’d faced, and if that forge wrought them into a shape that didn’t fit any mold, we were all the better for it. During my eight-year stint as a college teacher, I again preferred the quirkmeisters, opting to teach Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew for the witty repartee, and introducing my students to Jonathan Swift’s biting poetic parody instead of relying on his more well-known works.

Part of the reason I’m drawn to read, view, and write these characters is because they’re so familiar to me. While Cat, Mercy, and Granny Grace are all fictitious characters, they were informed by a lifetime growing up in a large, rambunctious, mostly working class family of pranksters, sarcastic jokesters, and storytellers. They’re all with me when I write.

Author Bio:

Lisa was born in Santa Rosa, California, but that was only home for a year. A so-called “military brat,” she lived in nine different houses and attended nine different schools by the time she was 14. Through all of the moves, her one constant was books. She read everything, from the entire Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mystery series to her mother’s books by Daphne DuMaurier and Taylor Caldwell.

A widely published author, game writer, and journalist, Lisa has interviewed homeless women, the designer of the Batmobile, and a sex expert, to name just a few colorful characters. This experience, not to mention her own large, quirky family, led her to create some truly memorable characters in her Dreamslippers Series and other works, whether books or games.

Always a vivid dreamer, not to mention a wannabe psychic, Lisa feels perfectly at home slipping into suspects’ dreams, at least in her imagination. Her husband isn’t so sure she can’t pick up his dreams in real life, though.

With a hefty list of awards and publications to her name, Lisa now lives in a small town in Washington State, but who knows how long that will last…

Lisa publishes a bimonthly newsletter. Sign up and receive a free book!

You can also visit Lisa on her Website 🔗, on Twitter 🔗, & at Facebook 🔗.

Lisa will be back on March 22nd….Don’t miss the 4th installment for Author Of The Month

Check out my Review of CAT IN THE FLOCK here.

THE DREAMSLIPPERS SERIES

Click on titles below for synopsis via GR:
CAT IN THE FLOCK (Dreamslippers #1) Check out my review here.
FRAMED AND BURNING (Dreamslippers #2)
BOUND TO THE TRUTH(Dreamslippers #3)

Praise:

“A fascinating tale of mystery, romance, and what one woman’s dreams are made of. Brunette will keep you awake far into the night.” — Mary Daheim, bestselling author of the Bed-and-Breakfast and Emma Lord/Alpine mysteries

“Already hooked, this reader intends further sojourns in Cat’s dreamslipping world. Highly recommended.” — Frances Carden, Readers Lane

“Gripping, sexy and profound, CAT IN THE FLOCK is an excellent first novel. Lisa Brunette is an author to enjoy now and watch for the future.” — Jon Talton, author of the David Mapstone Mysteries, the Cincinnati Casebooks and the thriller Deadline Man

“A little Sue Grafton and a dose of Janet Evanovich… is just the right recipe for a promising new series.” — Rev. Eric O’del

“The launch of an intriguing female detective series… A mystery with an unusual twist and quirky settings; an enjoyable surprise for fans of the genre.” — Kirkus Reviews

AUTHOR OF THE MONTH ~ GIVEAWAY EXTRAVAGANZA


Entry link is located on the sidebar.

Read an excerpt:

Prologue

Sherrie marched into her daughter’s bedroom and dragged a child-sized roller bag suitcase out of the closet. The girl stood in the middle of the room, still in her pajamas. Milk from breakfast had dried around the edges of her lips.

“Ruthie,” the mother said. “I need you to get dressed. We’re going to take a…trip.” Sherrie tried to make her voice sound cheery, but the desperation she felt came through in her tone.

“What’s wrong, Mommy?”

Sherrie set the suitcase on the bed. The bubble- gum pink had once seemed innocent but now looked fleshy and indecent. She glanced at the clock over the bed. He’d been golfing for a good fifteen minutes by now, long enough for her to make sure he didn’t come back for a favorite club or the right gloves. She wanted to be on that morning flight by the time he got home and discovered them gone.

She flung open the chest of drawers and grabbed all of the girl’s socks and underwear, a pair of corduroy pants, black cotton tights, a sweater the color of a Midwestern sky. Nothing pink. Only warm things. Seattle in her memory was cold and wet. It was a grey city; grey clouds over grey buildings. Even the water was grey.

One doll would fit. Made of cloth, it could be folded in on itself and slid down the backside of the suitcase.

“Can I bring the ballerina skirt?”

Any other day, she would have corrected her daughter, who needed to learn the precise names of things. Tutu. There it was in the closet, hanging because it took up too much room in the drawer. She yanked it free, sending the hanger to the floor. Ordinarily, she would pick that up; her house was so clean it hurt her eyes with its spareness—as if theirs were a showroom house, not lived in. She left the hanger there, aware of the thrill this fraction of disobedience gave her. She shoved everything into the little pink case, but with the fluffy tulle taking up so much space, the zipper would not close. The choice was clear. The doll would be a comfort to Ruthie in Seattle, but the tutu would not.

“We’ll come back for this later,” she said, tossing the tutu onto the bed. The zipper closed, the sound of it satisfying.

“No, Mommy!” Ruthie stomped her foot. “I want it now!”

“Then you’re going to have to wear it. Now get dressed while I pack my clothes.” But she felt a pang of guilt for her reprimanding tone, and for having to leave the tutu. Bending down, she used her thumb to wipe some of the milk crust from her daughter’s face. “I’ll let you wear anything you want on this trip, okay, sweetheart? And clean your face with the cloth in the bathroom, like Mommy showed you.”

The girl nodded, as if sensing this was not the time for a tantrum.

Sherrie’s own packing, she did with even less consideration. Under things, shirts. A fleece hoodie. Warm socks. She remembered she needed layers in Seattle. Sometimes it could seem warm even though it rained and the sun had not come out for weeks. Her keepsakes in their tiny, locked chest would not fit. They were the only things she had to remind herself of her life before this, but she would have to leave them behind.

Sherrie kept watch on the clock and glanced out the window twice to make sure his car wasn’t out front even though she knew he wouldn’t be home for another hour. The sun had risen blood-red over the cornfields in the distance, lighting them as if on fire. She’d miss that. And she thought of thunderstorms, which seemed never to occur in Seattle. She’d miss those, too.

Ruthie appeared in the doorway. Her face was clean, but none of her clothes matched. She was wearing pink high-tops that seemed wrong for the city they were going to, the situation, and everything else, but she had apparently decided not to wear the tutu.

“Time to leave.” She took the girl’s hand, promising to herself she’d never let go.

Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

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  3 Responses to “LISA BRUNETTE ~ Author Of The Month (Guest Post, Showcase & Giveaway Extravaganza)”

  1. Yes, quirky! See that’s why I liked this book so much! I love quirky books, quirky characters and quirky story-lines.
    I loved the names you chose – I have a thing with names in books! You know… I just thought of something – I should keep a notebook with great names and what book they came from!
    Thanks Lisa for giving me that idea! LOL

    This was a great book. I read it a few weeks ago but now I am listening to the audio! Ha! I’m loving it as well.
    I am so looking forward to book 2.

    PS&BTW – I loved Cinderfella, and Mork & Mindy.

    What a great guest post!

    • Thanks so much for your comment! I’m so glad you got a practical tip out of the post, and I’m so flattered you’re diving into the audiobook for Cat in the Flock. I hope you enjoy the other books in the series as well. All the best!

  2. Cheryl, I’ve done many guest posts over the past three years since publishing my first novel, but this one is my favorite! Thanks again for the invitation.

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