Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Gone Girls

My photo of Boquete, Panama.

When we were in Boquete Panama last winter, we learned of two mysterious deaths. The facts of the case were very bizarre, eerily strange and the kind of thing that great mystery books are made of. But, unfortunately, this case is not fiction. It's real life. And the fact that it still remains unsolved, just makes it even more compelling. 

The case stuck with us. In fact, we still talk about it. 

On April 1st, 2014, two young Dutch girls named Kris and Lisanne decided to hike on the El Pianista trail near Boquete, Panama. We had dinner right by it. It's beautiful. Boquete is a mountain paradise. In fact, rainbows are almost an everyday occurrence. But even a delicate rose has multiple, prickly thorns. 

The girls left their hostel, started the jungle hike and documented their expedition, by taking numerous photos. They even took a photo at the El Mirador lookout at exactly 1 pm. Two hours after the last breathtaking, rain forest photo was taken, Kris was making the first of many calls to 112. The emergency line. The last call came in on April 3rd. 

Despite an exhaustive search, they were never found.

Seventy-two days later, a blue back pack was found beside the Culubre river by an indigenous couple. The location where the back pack was found is a grueling, twelve hour hike away from the El Pianista trail and the El Mirador look out, where we know they started their doomed hike. It contained Lisanne's passport, $83 in cash, two pairs of sunglasses, their cameras, and two bras. It didn't appear wet. There was also one other object resting at the edge of the scene.  A lonely shoe.

The shoe contained a human foot.

But, it just gets weirder. One week after the girls went missing, one of their cameras recorded 87 new black, completely blank photos, taken between 1 and 4 am. There were also 3 photos of night scenes, basically just rocks and branches, to make a total of 90 photos.


Eventually, more bones were discovered. Twenty-eight to be exact, of the 206 that a body contains. And they belonged to the girls.

 There are multiple theories. 

Did they fall from a cliff into the river?
Were they attacked by animals?
Did they simply get lost?

Or...was it murder.

For more on beautiful Boquete, Panama, visit Sharon's Paws Create this week.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Flying Monkeys

So, what's in a great book pitch? I know you're dying to know. Well, flying monkeys. That's what. And if that doesn't make a whole lot of sense to you, well, let me explain... 

But first, let me digress. A scant few week's ago, I participated in pitchapoolza, sponsered by the The Book Doctors. It was a lot of literary fun. The Doc's received almost 800 pitches from wanna be's like me. And selected 25 for critique during pitchapoolza. Mine wasn't selected. But since I bought their book, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, I won a free 20 minute consult with David Henry Sterry. He's such a character! He has numerous titillating books under his belt, he's married to an agent and has lived a life that literary tales are made from. The take away? You guessed it. No flying monkeys. To make a long story short, it was like I was pitching the Wizard of Oz, but omitted the good stuff, like you know, flying monkeys. My pitch was not all that and a bag of chips. But, I thought it would be fun to post my old pitch and then later on, when I insert the flying monkeys, I'll post the revision. And all of you will be shocked and amazed. You may even have monkey nightmares like I used to have. Ha!

The Pitch

Something happened before the death of my father. A seed was planted. An idea burrowed its way into my brain and festered. But that was O.K. It needed time to grow and spread its tentacles. I know all about growing seeds. I’m a farmer’s daughter. The challenge was taking these beginnings that were rooted in reality and slowly weaving them into something else. A hybrid. A story that was inspired by real life events but is a complete work of fiction. They say that real life is stranger than fiction. I say that real life is scarier than fiction. The inexplicable series of events that preceded the death of my father inspired The Chorus of the Crows.

Sharon Wagner
The Chorus of the Crows

Oren Walton is a farmer. He has worked the land of his birth for his entire life and persevered through unthinkable loss, never losing his innate sense of humor. Now, he has Parkinson’s. A disease that is pushing his good nature to the limits of human comprehension. He’s hallucinating. Or, at least that is what his daughter Sedona and lady friend Lavinia are trying to persuade him to accept. He doesn’t believe it. And when Oren finds love with a mysterious new comer, he down right refuses to believe it. But one thing is certain for everyone that loves Oren. The struggle these hallucinations create and the mystery that surrounds them will never be forgotten.

So that was the pitch. But before my consult, I came up with character descriptions. If you're curious, check them out. It was kind of fun actually. 

The cast...

Oren Walton

Oren was raised to be a steadfast, upstanding citizen of Bird Hall. The small, rural town is the only home he has ever known. And hard work is the frame work of his life. He was naturally blessed with good humor. But, that innate gift is being sorely tested. In several twists of fate, forces unknown to him threaten to pull apart the very foundation of his life. His only question is, why in the holy hell does the good lord torture him so? First, his wife and son are taken from him. Now, he has this gall darn disease. And after all of that bad luck, he's supposed to believe he's hallucinating the best thing that has happened to him since his wife Amelie? No, it can't be. His new gal is real. She has to be. But he can't deny that things just keep getting weirder with every passing day.

Sedona Walton

Sedona abruptly quits her job in true country music song fashion. Not that she would listen to that crap. Her dad needs her anyway. He's sick. And his Parkinson's is escalating. He's hallucinating for god's sake. Moving home is the least she can do. And, besides, ensuring he doesn't marry her uptight old teacher Lavinia is a top priority. She didn't expect much from the small town where she grew up. In fact, she expected the worst!  Especially since there are so many devastating memories embedded there. But, sometimes, things can surprise you. Like Jeb for one.

Amelie Walton

I died. But I still live. I live on through my precious words. Words that are being read by my beautiful daughter Sedona as we speak. If I could reach out from beyond the grave to ensure she keeps reading, I would. It could solve everything.

Lavinia Swift

Lavinia is determined to win over her old high school crush Oren, even if neither of them are spring chickens anymore. When she retired from teaching and her husband La Verne died, the loneliness was overwhelming. Sure, she plays cards with her friends, attends church and speed walks her way to good health. But, would a little romance be too much to ask for? 

Jebediah Landon

Jebediah's dreams of a life on stage were dashed a long time ago. Maybe he'll never be a screen star or even act in an off-Broadway play, but, he can still hold an audience spell bound. Jeb can't deny the thrill of an audience.  Even if his onlookers are only populating a lowly pew, instead of a plush seat in an auditorium. At least he is helping people. And, as the new pastor of the Methodist church of his youth, he sets his old dreams aside to focus on the here and now. Luckily, the here and now isn't so bad. After Sedona sidles back into town.

So that's it. For now. My new goal is to finish my book and write a pitch that will have David Henry Sterry watching the skies and ducking for cover. Why? Because the monkeys are coming...

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Punch Drunk Writing

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you."

—Ray Bradbury

Boy, do I wish I could take this quote literally. Because, sometimes when I'm struggling with an unruly chapter, like right now, I just wish I could make a gin martini and curl up with a good movie. Obviously, I could if I let the devil on my right shoulder call all the shots. I can do what ever the heck I want. My two cats might think they're the boss. But I wear the pants in this family. Just not black pants. You know, because I'd need a lint roller. 

But, is it a good idea to start drinking at 1:26 pm? No, only if you are the devilishly handsome Don Draper on Mad Men. I can only imagine what it would be like to be that hunk for a boozy twenty four hours. The world would be my oyster. Actually, there was a pretty disgusting scene on Mad Men where Don and Rodger eat way too many oysters and tip a few too many martini's over one of their famously long lunches. The first thing Rodger does when he sets a polished leather foot across the threshold of his office...is puke his guts out. Scratch being Don. Carrying a pickled liver every where I go is not my cup of tea. 

I used to drink during the day. It was when I was a flight attendant. But it's not what you're thinking. I didn't drink on the job. Although, I may or may not have pilfered a few first class mini's back in the day. No, I drank when I got home, exhausted from puddle jumping all over the Midwest. I'd make a Cosmo and watch Sex and the City. My husband still teases me about coming home to a wife half in the roller bag.

Obviously, I know what the quote is really talking about. Because I feel the same way. I don't want anyone breaking my creative bubble until I've finished writing my first draft. But then again, is there ever really a good time for someone to tell you your writing stinks? Or, that getting anything published for real is about as likely as me waking up in bed with John Hamm? That's the thing about writing. I can do what ever the heck I want. 

Chapter 23: (revision) The Flight to L.A. 

"Ah, miss? Stewardess? Yes, you. Hello." The distracted flight attendant sets down her coffee pot and sashays up the aisle like a curious kitten, adjusting her necklace and leaning low towards the man in the suit. "What can I do for you Mr. Draper?" she asks, unconsciously picking a piece of lint off his tie. He hands her his glass and asks for another round on the rocks. "What's your name?" he asks. "You look like a Barbie or maybe a Shawna." "It's Sharon, Mr. Draper. Sharon..."

I've reviewed A Feast For Crows, just in time for the new season of Game of Thrones on HBO. I'm chomping at the dragon bit for the next season and the next book! Over at Springtime in Magnolia

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Colon of the Crows!

It all started outside our hotel room last month. On the 4th floor. All the way at the end of a long, dimly lit and lonely corridor. We tiptoed down the hall, terrified of the carpet beneath our feet. It was right out of American Horror Story Hotel; adorned with palm trees accosting the eyes inside a groovy coastal motif. Oh, man. I get goose bumps just thinking about it. We opened the door to our room, only to discover a beautiful bay view. But, of course, we checked the bed for any evidence of a putrefied man in need of Colgate Maxwhite toothpaste sewn into the mattress. Shit like that happens. Well, on American Horror Story Hotel anyway. There was real evidence of a public crime. However, it wasn't in our room, it was dripping down the railings of our balcony. It also pooled on the cement floor like psychedelic mildew at a motel 6. But this was the Holiday Inn at Lido Key in Sarasota Florida. Sinister? Perhaps. Hmmmm. Have I dropped the right hints?

It's not much of a horror story really. But then again, every story has to start somewhere. Ours started at dinner. We had chicken and broccoli pizza on the balcony. And Centenario Rum. Centenario is Costa Rica's finest sugar distilled delight. But what does Centenario have to do with this story? Nothing. I just love the stuff.

After dinner we...wait a minute. This isn't that kind of story. Flash forward to breakfast. We ordered the Holiday Inn's famous cinnamon swirl french toast. It was worth dying for. BBWWWAAAHH!

Then....we had a visitor. He watched us from behind the neighbor's privacy fence. They were fast asleep next door, probably wearing dental night guards, snoring and completely oblivious to the criminal lurking on their balcony. Slowly the creature inched closer, enveloping us in a war of wills. We nervously listened to his claws clacking on the railing as he approached. Click, clack. Click, clack. Before we knew it, we were paralyzed, watching the creature boldly steal a morsel from our breakfast tray with a flurry of feathers.

Oh my God. We forgot about the pizza! The creature returned. His beady black eyes revealing everything we needed to know about his true identity. He was a killer. A pizza killer. 

After he finished ravaging our scraps, he tried to send us a lewd message. And I'm not talking about the kind of message crows deliver on Game of Thrones each week. No, this was gross. But, there was something the crow didn't bargain for. The cheese he'd scarfed down from our greasy pizza box. His message got stuck. He bent his superior brain between his legs, looked up to his nether regions, appraised the sticky situation and did the only thing a feathered beast is capable of doing. He tore at his droop of poop and flung it to the wind. 

An excerpt from The Colon of the Crows. Not to be confused with The Chorus of the Crows!

True Story.

Don't be scared of all this silliness. Be sure to head over to Sharon's Paws Create for sunrise photos to die for. BBWWWAAHHH! 

The links: