Welcome to my new series, The Hook Reads, where I list items I have read today. That’s right, you are about to be regaled with thrilling tales of everything from what’s on my grocery list to online instructions of what to do when someone accidentally drinks his wife’s paint brush dipping jug. (That’s the jug filled with water and oil paint residue that my wife uses to clean her paint brushes in.)
Strap in, kids!
All right fine, so this is actually a series of posts featuring fellow authors and like-minded individuals who have answered their brain’s call to share their creative bursts with the world. So let’s welcome todays
victim guest, Lisa Orchard, everyone!
(That applause was pretty weak, I know we’re still in a pandemic and you people are tired, but come on!)
As a father to a daughter who recognizes and acknowledges the the world’s inequities (the kid is truly “woke” as her fellow kids say), it bothers me that there aren’t enough fictional female heroes that have achieved pop culture fame.
So thank God for small-town-gal-turned-best-selling author Lisa Orchard. Her Super Spies series does its best to bring balance back to the world of literature, giving us heroines people of both genders can relate to. Check out the synopsis for Lisa’s first foray into the world of the Super Spies:
In a small town in Michigan, fifteen-year-old Sarah Cole is stuck spending the summer at her Aunt and Uncle’s with her sister, Lacey. She’s not happy with the situation until she befriends a girl named Jackie.
The three girls stumble upon the ruthless murder of a reclusive neighborhood woman and what’s worse? One of the officers investigating the crime believes the girls are responsible for her death. Fearing that this officer will frame them for the murder, the girls organize their own detective squad. They become the Super Spies and start their own investigation.
The Super Spies can’t understand why anyone would want to murder the “Cat Lady” until they start digging into her past and discover a horrible crime that happened thirty years ago. They uncover a connection between the two crimes and attempt to bring this information to the police, only to be reprimanded for meddling in the investigation. Not only are the girls upset by the admonition, but they also struggle with the fact that their exuberant investigating could provide a legal loophole allowing the killer to go free.
Frustrated by this turn of events, the Super Spies realize it’s up to them to snare the Cat Lady killer. Or die trying…
Now it’s time to administer some anesthesia and pick Lisa’s brain. (Incidentally, anesthesia is Greek for “without sensation”. It is a state of controlled, temporary loss of sensation or awareness. I can’t think of a better way of describing what it’s like to read this blog.)
ONE) What is your writing process like? Some authors have a dedicated workspace set up that guarantees solitude (sadly, I do not) while others can literally write anywhere. (Lucky buggers.) Do you have a Fortress of Lisa’s Solitude?
My writing process? I find that I write whenever I can. My most productive time is in the morning. I get up before everyone else and try to get in a good solid hour or two before I start my day.
(I do the same thing. Solitude can be essential to a writer’s success.)
I write curled up in my blanket with my caffeinated beverage and my laptop on my lap. I have a desk, but I rarely use it. 😊 I find that I can write in the evening, but it’s not as productive and I do get interrupted quite a bit.
TWO) I wrote my first novel to help channel some of the anxiety I was feeling at the start of this crisis – the same one the world is still going through. You’ve said the voices in your head are what inspired you to start writing, but how much of Lisa Orchard is in her books?
There is a lot of Lisa Orchard in my books. The Super Spies series was inspired by my desire as a teen to be a detective. I wanted to be like Nancy Drew. (LOL!) So, the characters are combinations of myself and my friends from that time.
THREE) I love the idea of creating my own fictional universe and I’m not alone; my daughter loves the One Chicago television universe. Have you ever considered spinning characters from The Super Spies series off into their own adventures that would feature “guest appearances” from Sarah Cole and her allies?
Oh sure, I plan on writing more in that series. However, I’ve got a couple stand alone novels that are taking up my time at the moment. I have a lot of time invested in them and I want to get them off the ground before I work on something new.
FOUR) Writing can be an incredibly-freeing, fulfilling process, but having to market the finished product on your own can be soul-crushing. You seem to be a perpetually-upbeat soul. What’s your secret?
I try to be upbeat, but to be honest, I’ve had moments where I’ve felt overwhelmed by the marketing of my work. It is hard work and I’ve found that I spent more time on the marketing of my books than actually doing the writing itself. Since, it’s the writing that I enjoy the most, I’ve decided to focus on that and not worry about the marketing so much.
That being said, it’s good to have a marketing plan where you can do author visits at schools and various conferences. Those kinds of appearances do help. I’ve also done writing workshops for various youth organizations and conferences. Anything like that will help get your name out there. For you, since you’re writing for adults, you might want to see if there are any writing conferences in your area where you can give a presentation on writing science fiction stories. Or maybe create a book club where the members read and review science fiction books.
As far as being upbeat, I find that if I focus on enjoying the process and not becoming too attached to a specific outcome, I don’t feel so overwhelmed. I don’t worry so much about becoming a New York Times bestselling author and focus more on improving my craft. That’s where I get my greatest satisfaction because my writing is improving, and I can see it. It doesn’t matter if the world doesn’t notice because I do. Sorry. This ended up being a long-winded answer. LOL!
FIVE) A writer is always “on”, and so inspiration can strike anywhere, at any time. What’s the oddest time or place you had a creative burst?
Probably when I was on vacation. We were going for a boat ride and I didn’t have anything with me to jot down my idea. Luckily, I remembered and was able to write it down when we returned home.
SIX) This pandemic has wreaked havoc on much more than our bodies. Has your outlook or writing been effected by the events of the last fourteen months?
Surprisingly, no. The pandemic has made it easier for me to write because we aren’t hauling our kids to social events like we were in the past, and we haven’t had as many obligations either. The pandemic has forced us to slow down and stay home and that’s only helped my writing. One positive thing out of a very dark time, that’s for sure.
I want to thank Lisa for agreeing to this interview after I promised to destroy the negatives. I had a lot of fun learning from a more experiencd writer and hope you did as well.
Now here’s an excerpt from Lisa’s debut Supr Spies adventure, the buy links for her work and Lisa’s contact information including her pin code. (By the way, “1234” is just lazy, girl.)
What You Need To Know About Lisa:
Lisa Orchard grew up loving to read. She was “hooked on books” by the fifth grade and even wrote a few of her own. After deciding to put her communication skills to the test, she graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in Marketing, but the voices in her head wouldn’t leave her alone so she began chasing her life-long dream of writing stories. A love of suspense and the drama of all things human inspired the Super Spies series and later, the Starlight Chronicles.
Lisa reached the bestselling author status in 2013 with her Super Spies series and has been writing ever since. This also led to her entering the amazing Author Mentor Match program where she found her tribe. Currently she’s working on a couple
stand-alone novels that will “leave your jaw on the floor.” When she’s not writing,
Lisa likes to spend time with her family, reading, hiking, and running from the voices nobody else hears — her characters never stopped talking, after all.
How To Contact Lisa Since She Doesn’t Have A Bat-Sginal:
Twitter: Lisa Orchard (@lisaorchard1) / Twitter
Blog: Home (lisaorchard.com)
Amazon Buy Link: Amazon.com : lisa orchard
The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer excerpt:
“Do you know who that was?”
Sarah Cole whirled around and spied a tall, skinny girl standing a few feet behind her. “Are you talking to me?” Shading her eyes, Sarah cocked her head to get a better look at her.
The skinny girl nodded, her mop of wild curls dancing with her movements. “Yeah, do you know who she is?”
Sarah gazed down the street at the wizened old woman shuffling away. She wore a faded housedress, which appeared to have been slept in for at least a couple of nights. It looked like the wrinkles had wrinkles.
The woman’s hair was a listless gray, trapped in a feeble bun at the nape of her neck. Some of it had escaped and trailed behind her as she walked, the limp strands swaying with the old woman’s faltering steps. Minutes ago, Sarah had helped her with her cart—it had gotten stuck on the doorjamb as she left the corner drug store.
Pulling her honey-colored hair out of her eyes, Sarah spun and studied the skinny girl, not quite sure what to make of her. “No, I don’t.”
Sarah continued her scrutiny and noticed the skinny girl stood at least five inches taller than she did. Her curly hair burst from her scalp in a frantic frenzy. She looks like an exploded cotton swab. Pursing her lips, Sarah suppressed a bubble of laughter.
“She’s the Cat Lady,” the bony girl said, an expression of guarded curiosity mixed with fear on her face.
“Who’s the Cat Lady?”
The skinny girl pointed at the old woman shuffling away. “She’s a crazy lady. A witch.”
“A witch?” Sarah scoffed. “I don’t believe in witches.”
“It’s true,” the skinny girl whispered emphatically. She stared at Sarah, her dark eyes reflecting the conviction behind her words.
“I don’t believe you.”
“No one has seen her in years. She never leaves her home.” The skinny girl glanced toward the Cat Lady again, and then walked closer to Sarah.
Realizing the skinny girl was scared, Sarah glanced down the street a second time. She watched the hunched, old woman make her painful shuffle down the sidewalk. The Cat Lady didn’t look dangerous to Sarah. She appeared to be a weary old lady making her way home.
“There’s no such thing as witches,” Sarah said.
“She’s a witch, an evil witch,” the scrawny girl insisted. She nodded her head again, sending her dark curls into another wild dance.
Sarah glanced down the street a third time and watched the old woman limp away. She didn’t look like she had the strength to pull her cart, let alone perform black magic. “How do you know? Does she practice voodoo or something?” Sarah smirked at the skinny girl, realizing she had a flair for the theatrical. “And if she never leaves her home…why is she out on the street now?”
The girl opened her mouth to speak, and then shut it again as if she realized Sarah had a point. “Well…the delivery boy must have quit.” She pulled on a wayward curl and frowned. “Because there’s no way she leaves her home. I haven’t seen her in years.”
“Uh huh,” Sarah said, raising her eyebrows and pursing her lips.
The skinny girl must have seen the doubt in Sarah’s expression, because she crossed her arms over her bony chest and moved another step closer. “Just let me tell you the whole story; I’m sure you’ll change your mind. My name’s Jacqueline Jenkins.” She drew out the syllables emphasizing her name like a movie star or the Queen of England, JAAAQUELEENE JEEENKIINS. Jutting out her hip, she faced Sarah as if she were posing for a magazine. “What’s yours?”
“Sarah Cole.” Speaking through tight lips, Sarah was able to stifle another bubble of laughter.
“You can call me Jackie, though. That’s what my friends call me.” She studied Sarah for a moment. “You’re new in town, aren’t you?”
“Yeah. We’re staying with my aunt and uncle while my parents are on vacation.”
“Me and my sister, Lacey.” Sarah scrutinized her surroundings. “Is this the whole town of Harrisburg?”
“Yep, this is it.” Jackie opened her arms wide as if she were presenting the town to her.
Sarah stifled another giggle. She looks like Vanna White on the Wheel of Fortune.
“Where are you from?”
Sarah cleared her throat and sighed. She wasn’t looking forward to being stuck in this podunk town for the summer. Looking down the street, she realized there were only two traffic lights in the tiny burg.
“We’re from Walker, you know, the big city.” Sarah held up her hands and formed quotes with her fingers when she said the words ‘big city’. “Do you guys have a bookstore?”
“Nope, but we do have a library.” Jackie pointed to a weathered old building standing on the corner. “But no on33e goes there this time of year.”
“Why not?” Sarah’s spirits sank even lower as she realized she wouldn’t be able to buy her true crime novels.
“Because, it’s summer, silly.”
Sarah rolled her eyes. “Oh, I thought you were going to say it was haunted by the Cat Lady.”
Jackie cracked a wide grin. “Nope, she never comes out of her house.”
“Except for today.” Sarah shot Jackie a skeptical look.
“Once I tell you the whole story, you’ll be a believer.” Jackie hooked her arm through Sarah’s. “Good thing you ran into me, otherwise you would have gone the whole summer without this knowledge. Come on, let’s follow her home.”
Sarah chewed on her thumbnail. “I don’t know—”
Jackie pulled on her arm. “Come on…she’s a legend in this town. Don’t you want to see her house? People have gone in…and never come out.” Jackie’s eyes darkened with the mystery and her voice dropped for emphasis.
Sarah continued chewing on her nail; she thought about her options and realized she didn’t have many. She could go home and hang out with her younger sister (yuck) or check out the supposedly crazy Cat Lady’s house.
Sarah’s inquisitive nature got the better of her and she pulled her thumb out of her mouth. “Okay, let’s go.”
Jackie beamed and pulled Sarah down the sidewalk. “So, what grade are you in?”
“Hey, me too.” Jackie put her arm around Sarah.
The girls trailed the crazy lady, staying a good block behind her. As they walked Jackie filled her in on the Cat Lady legend. According to Jackie, at least three people had mysteriously disappeared from the town of Harrisburg, all of them victims of the Cat Lady curse. Sarah couldn’t help but be drawn in by the stories. There was the former grocery delivery boy, Gus, who delivered her groceries and never returned to the store. The next victim was the good doctor, who used to do house calls until he disappeared inside her house, and then last but not least, old lady Farnsworth, who was discovered dead after a dispute with the Cat Lady.
Listening to her new friend drone on, Sarah watched the infamous woman wind her way home. She couldn’t help but notice how frail she appeared as she shuffled down the street. The poor woman didn’t look strong enough to make anyone disappear, let alone cause the death of a grouchy old lady.
The air was thick with humidity. Sweat formed on Sarah’s brow as she rounded the corner toward the Cat Lady’s place. Sighing, she wiped it away. How much farther do we have to go? Glancing at the huge oak trees lining the sidewalk, Sarah realized this was an old part of town just because the trees were so big. Sunlight dappled the walkway, leaving dark shadows as it forced its light between the leaves. No one roamed the streets; Sarah thought this was odd and her heart picked up its pace. Jackie’s stories are getting to me.
“Okay,” Jackie whispered, clutching Sarah’s arm. “We’re almost there.” Jackie stopped and cast a skittish glance around her. “Let’s cross the street.”
Strolling across the street, Jackie tried to appear casual by swinging her arms and whistling, but Sarah knew she was faking it.
Sarah stopped her when they reached the opposite sidewalk. “Okay, what are we going to do?”
“We’re going to watch her.”
Jackie pulled on one of her curls. “Yeah, see if she does anything…you know…witchy.”
Sarah furrowed her brow. “Won’t she see us?”
“Trust me.” Jackie winked.
Sarah followed her new friend to an old church, reaching it just after the Cat Lady disappeared inside her home. They scurried behind an old oak tree growing on the church’s lawn. With a thudding heart, Sarah hugged the tree. These stories are definitely getting to me. Feeling the rough bark of the tree calmed her. She felt safe hidden behind the solid oak. After all, what could happen in broad daylight?
Peeking out from behind the tree, Sarah stared at the house. It sat in the middle of the block on Jefferson Street in a state of disrepair. Ancient gutters sagged at one end, and it needed a fresh coat of paint. The front porch ran the full length of the structure, settling on the south side. It reminded Sarah of a drooping smile, the kind of smile she’d give if she’d just received a shot of Novocain. Dirty windows, which resembled sinister eyes, peered at the girls with their unblinking stare. A chill ran down Sarah’s spine. It’s like the house knows we’re here. She noticed the grass hadn’t been mowed in weeks and the house appeared abandoned. Cats dawdled on the stoop, the only signs of life around the place.
“Go up on the porch,” Jackie urged.
Sarah raised her eyebrow and smirked. “You go up on the porch.”
Jackie shook her head. “No way.”
“Are you scared?” Sarah teased, grinning at her.
“Absolutely. I could go up on her porch and never be seen again.” Jackie’s solemn expression told Sarah she believed her own words.
The girls watched the house, waiting for a glimpse of the infamous witch. After what seemed like hours, there was still no sign of her.
Sighing, Sarah fidgeted. She was antsy, her legs cramping from staying in one position for so long. “Let’s go,” she said, doing a deep knee bend. “I’ve got to get home. My aunt and uncle will wonder where I am.”
“Okay, we can come back tomorrow.”
Just as the girls were about to leave, three rough looking boys swooped down the street on their bikes. Jackie grabbed Sarah’s arm and pulled her back behind the oak.
“It’s the Wykowski boys.”
Sarah didn’t move. She had no idea who the boys were, but from Jackie’s reaction, she figured they were trouble.
“These guys are total creeps,” Jackie whispered as she peered out from behind the tree.
Sarah hoped they would ride past them and be on their way. Much to her dismay, they slowed and began circling in front of the Cat Lady’s house. She groaned. We’re never getting out of here. The three boys stopped circling and Sarah poked her head out to see what was happening. They were in the middle of the street whispering to each other.
Jackie pointed at a tall boy with dark, shaggy hair. “That’s Tim. He’s like the leader.”
Suddenly, Tim yelled at the house. “Hey! Cat Lady! Do you eat cat food with all your cats?”
The boys hooted with wicked laughter and then grew quiet. Sarah could tell they were waiting for a reaction from the withered old woman. When one didn’t come, they took up their screams once again, yelling for the Cat Lady to come out on her porch.
After several minutes of ranting and getting no response, the boys produced three huge, overripe tomatoes. They glanced up and down the street, and then hurled the tomatoes at the house. A couple hit with a loud splat, smearing red pulp all over the dingy siding. Sarah’s heart skipped a beat. This will definitely get the Cat Lady out of her house.
The rowdy boys took off on their bikes, laughing at their prank. Tim, the shaggy haired boy, rode ahead of the other two and jumped the curb, as if by coming closer to the house he dared the Cat Lady to come out. Glancing back, he laughed, and the two other boys joined in. He didn’t pay attention to where he was going, and Sarah watched as he smacked right into a stop sign. Yelping, he fell in a heap and his brothers stopped to help him. They weren’t laughing now. Climbing back on their bikes, the boys took off down the road. Sarah noticed Tim glanced back at the house, his expression filled with a mixture of fear and bewilderment.
“See, I told you she was a witch,” Jackie whispered.
Books really are magical, aren’t they? I want to thank Lisa, not only for the interlude from reality, but for being here in the virtual flesh. Check out her links, work, and her home with Google Earth. (That’s still a thing, right?)
See you in the lobby and the virtual bookshelves, kids…
Excellent interview the two of you. Super excerpt too.
Thanks, John! I appreciate Robert hosting me on his amazing blog!
The pleasure was all mine, Lisa.
Lisa’s the best, isn’t she?
Thanks for the intro to Lisa and her work. Looking forward to reading her.
Thanks for your interest in my work. I hope you like it!
She’s giving the world some great new literary icons.
Thanks, Robert for allowing me to be a guest on your wonderful blog. I appreciate it!
No worries, Lisa!
It’s an honor to have you here; I’ve admired your work for years now.
I really enjoyed the interview and the book review. I love mysteries. Thank you, Hook.