Looking for something new to read and short on money? You're in the right place, where I'll be featuring writers and their (free!) work!
This month meet Melissa Herman, author of paranormal mystery Unfashionably Dead!
Fashionista Cheline Morgan’s life is turned upside down following the discovery of a corpse outside the building where her best friend lives. After coming to terms with the death, Cheline attempts to solve the mysterious circumstances surrounding it, while her best friend appears more guilty by the minute. Will she find the murderer before her BFF ends up in jail or worse…dead?
Meet Melissa and read an excerpt below!
Tell me a little bit about your writing journey. How long have you been writing and how did you get started?
"I started writing song lyrics probably when I was in first grade—about forty years ago and I eventually migrated to poetry, short stories, and finally novels. The road has been long and it hasn’t been easy. With four kids and moving every couple of years, sometimes writing has had to take a backseat to life, but a promise I made to a group of my ESL students always lurks in my thoughts. They wanted me to write a book. I’ve completed six. Now I just need to work toward publishing them."
Why paranormal specifically? Is it something you write often, or is this your first venture into the genre?
"I love paranormal. I’m a huge Twilight fan and I love just about anything Charlaine Harris writes, especially the Sookie Stackhouse series. I mourned both series until I realized that maybe I could write something of my own. However, vampires were dead according to agents, so I needed to come up with something different. I had a few attempts at paranormal prior to Unfashionably Dead, but they were seriously horrible…and some are still unfinished. I’ll work my way back to those abandoned stories."
What are your goals for your writing?
"I would love to see my stories on the shelves at Target, Walmart, or my local grocery store. I’m not sure if that’s realistic though. I plan to query UD for a few months once I have a home and my computer back. If I’m not successful with that route, I’ll consider self-publishing."
What inspired Unfashionably Dead?
"I already touched on a couple of the series that inspired UD, but it was strange how the story came about. I was driving my son to preschool through the Georgia countryside, and we went past this creepy house. Not sure why Cheline came to me at that moment, but she had a story and wanted me to tell it…and she wouldn’t leave me alone. (Is it possible she possessed me?) I wrote the first chapter as soon as I got home and then I started planning the story. Her voice would wake me up at all hours of the night and refused to leave until I finished the book. Lately, she’s been pestering me to return to her sequel. I just don’t have a workspace (or my computer…and a lot of things) right now."
Who is your favorite character in it and why? Tell me a little about them.
"I have a love/hate relationship with Cheline because she wouldn’t let me sleep, but John is probably my favorite character. I love that he’s weird. I love that he has a good reason for just about everything he does, especially when he complicates things for everyone."
What was the most challenging part of the book?
"I mentioned earlier that I sat down and planned the story, mostly because at its heart, UD is a mystery. I needed to know my killer. I needed to plant those clues. Then reapers came into the picture and my alpha reader loved them so much and wanted more of them. I had to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to incorporate them without a massive rewrite. It gave UD about 15k extra words and the potential for a series."
Do you have anything else you’d like to say to the readers?
"Thank you for reading this! I hope you enjoy the story."
“Is she dead?” a woman asks from a crowd gathered several feet away.
“I think so,” another says, her voice choking back tears.
Wow! Someone died? How awful.
The body is too far away, so I inch forward, trying not to push into the burgeoning crowd. Corpses don’t just turn up on Harbor Island. Death is ugly, and this is where the pretty people of Tampa live in the safety of their gated communities and security guards. It’s not like my side of town, where drug overdoses, robberies, or some weird Florida occurrence like the guy who ate the face off another guy seem to happen on a weekly basis. Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but it isn’t anything like here.
A man steps back and I quickly take his spot. The regrets come quickly as I notice the shoulder-length, greasy, black hair of the guy who lives down the hall from Lanie. I think his name is John, but I’ve pretty much tried avoiding him in the two years Lanie has lived in Palma D’Oro. He clearly has money since he can afford to live here, yet I’ve never seen him all cleaned up. He consistently looks and smells like he hasn’t showered.
Body odor wafts into my nose. Yuck.
John turns around and glares at me.
I wonder which imaginary friend he’s going to talk to tonight but asking is a tad rude. Instead, I glare at him until the silence becomes uncomfortable. “Can you move?” I quickly add a please to it, but his expression only hardens.
Hands gripping what appears to be a large chess pawn, he says, “Go to the other side.”
Weird. “That’s what I’m trying to do. I have to get through the crowd so I can enter the building.” As if it’s not obvious. It’s not like I’m going to climb the levels of the parking garage when my shoes are wobbly and an elevator is only a few feet away.
Still, he wears a stony expression on his face. I haven’t always been nice to him, but I’ve never been rude to him. I’ve just always kind of avoided him for fear of catching whatever disease his grime-infused clothing might contain.
“Really, I want to see Lanie. If you’d move, I’d be that much closer to seeing her.” My voice is squeaky. I hate it when it does that.
“You don’t want to see this,” he says without emotion.
The realization sinks in. It’s Lanie.
My gaze flutters up the coquina building, to the seventh floor. A pale blue curtain is flapping outside the window of the apartment three windows to the left, Lanie’s apartment.
“No!” I scream. “Not Lanie!”
John’s expression turns to confusion, but the crowd’s attention remains focused on the corpse.
“Let me through. Now.”
He throws his free hand into the air and says, “You aren’t going to like what you see, Mom.” He puts his hand on an old woman’s shoulders and guides her away.