Friday, July 16, 2010

The World According to Brandy: My Side of the Story

By Branderson Cooper "Brandy" Force

I understand my mom has been spreading malicious lies about me on Facebook. First, she told you about incident in the car. Allow me to explain. They took me to the doctor and he gave me some medicine that knocked me out. When I woke up, my belly was sewed together and I had a lampshade on my head. That look really didn't work for me. The other dogs in the neighborhood were making fun of me. It was a mess. The people I live with kept shoving pills down my throat, and I blame the pills for the in-the-car pooping incident. Even I, who have a seemingly endless supply of poop at the ready at all times, can't poop twice in 20 minutes unless I'm on something. Agreed?

Now, about the welcome mat situation. Can I help it if they put a mat at the door that I find particularly tasty? What's a girl to do with that kind of temptation and nothing but time on her paws? Personally, I find rectangular welcome mats somewhat passe. I mean who doesn't have one of those? How many families can say they have an isosceles triangle for a welcome mat? When the triangle welcome mat becomes the "in thing" will anyone remember that I was the one who started that trend? I like to think of my design sense as avante garde. Deal with it!

The dog door I installed on the back deck was just practical. Easy in, easy out. No muss, no fuss. That's what I'm all about. Busting through the second screen to the big deck just seemed to make sense from an engineering standpoint. If I have access to the small deck, why not the big deck, too? I knew you'd see it my way.

Finally, about yesterday's sofa peeing incident. That was definitely Mom's fault. She went away for DAYS and DAYS and didn't even tell me she was going. Then she came back and rather than spend the entire day playing with me, she was busy on that damned silver thing with the apple on it. So when she put it on the downstairs sofa, I figured if I took a whiz on it then maybe it would have to dry for a while before she could use it. That would buy us some play time, right? Apparently I didn't pee hard enough because after she flipped out, she cleaned it up and went back to work. Rather than play time, I got a time out. Major fail. That silver thing is my enemy when it comes to scoring time with mom. I'm getting out my hard hat and protractor and going back to work to figure out a way to get rid of it. I'll report back to you on my progress.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Visit to Washington, D.C.

(More snippets from the blog tour! This one was written for the Australian Romance Readers!)

Thanks for having me back for another visit the day before my new book, Fatal Affair, launches at Carina Press. I thought I’d talk to you all today about one of my favorite places to visit: America’s capital city!

Driving into Washington, D.C. at night from the Northern Virginia side of the Potomac River is one of my favorite things to do and see. On the far right by the Tidal Basin is the Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument. I never look at Jefferson that I don’t think of my late dog Roscoe getting a big idea to jump in the freezing water many years ago and us having to fish him out. Oh how we laughed! He was not the sharpest tool in the shed sometimes!

Moving along the waterfront we come to the Lincoln Memorial, Kennedy Center, the Watergate, and Georgetown University. As we cross the 14th Street Bridge, airplanes leaving Ronald Reagan National Airport fly overhead, so close that it feels like you could reach up and touch them. Looming in the distance, the U.S. Capitol stands watch over the entire city. Just crossing the bridge, you begin to feel the heartbeat of Washington.

I’ve driven over the bridges that lead into Washington hundreds of times and that night view never, ever gets old for me. There’s something so magical about the monuments lit up at night, especially Lincoln. Before the mid-1990s, I had only visited Washington as a tourist. In 1996, I was hired by a company headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, which is just over the 14th Street Bridge from the city. Suddenly, I was in and out of Washington all the time, and I soon discovered there was a lot more to the city than what the tourists see. For one thing, there is traffic. Lots and lots of traffic! There are beautiful neighborhoods and then there are desolate stretches marked by poverty and neglect. America’s capital city is no different in many ways than most other large cities, but the monuments lend an aura of history and magic that make it a one-of-a-kind destination.

Often when starting a book, one of the biggest decisions authors face is where to set their story. However, when starting Fatal Affair, I knew a United States Senator was going to be found dead in his Washington apartment. The idea of setting a book in one of my favorite cities was exciting. And then Fatal Affair grew into a series, and Fatal Justice will soon follow, also set in Washington. As I ponder book 3 in the Fatal Series, the opportunity to set multiple books in Washington makes me giddy with writerly joy.

I’m curious about your impressions of Washington. Have you visited America’s capital city? Or just seen and heard about it on T.V. and in the news? Do you follow U.S. politics at all? What do you really think of what goes on in Washington? Honestly! I want to know! :-)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Another Great Review for Fatal Affair!

From My Thoughts, Your Thoughts:

I loved this book! I read this book in nearly one sitting because from the first page, I couldn't wait to figure out who the killer was and whether Nick and Sam would be able to make it work.

First, the characters are great. Nick and Sam have a bit of a history, but not enough for either of them to know each other well. Yet, they have both held a little torch for the other and have followed each other's careers. I like that Sam has work issues to overcome. It makes her effort in the Senator's case more believable. It also creates tension that leads the reader in different directions on the path to finding the killer. Then there's Nick. Without much family, he's adopted the late Senator's family, and they have claimed him. He's come from nothing and made something of himself that makes his adopted family proud. He's handsome, done well for himself, and 100% infatuated with Sam!

The story itself takes a couple twists and turns that really kept me wondering all throughout the book. Was Sam going to make it to the trial? Was the brother the killer? Will Sam be fired for her involvement with a material witness? Sometimes, the twists become too much and there are too many story lines, but not here! It worked for the book, let us get to know the characters, and still gave a great ending without my being able to predict it until it was upon me. That, is what makes a great suspense!

This is the first of a series, and I'm can't wait to read the next one. I excited to see how Sam does with her promotion, whether or not Nick accepts one hell of an offer, and how they work both of those things out within their fledgling relationship. All that said, this was a funtabulous read, and I'm anxiously awaiting for Fatal Justice!

Read the full review. Thanks Becky!

Single Titles Gives Fatal Affair Five Stars!

"There will not be an instant of FATAL AFFAIR which you will want to skip, as clues are subtly given yet nothing is concrete until the final staggering revelation."

The Fatal series starts off with a story of political intrigue, an unexpected romance and plenty of mysteries to solve amid the escalating danger. Marie Force points readers in the direction of numerous suspects, and the road to discovering the identity of the brutal killer is filled with countless barricades to make the investigative journey extremely difficult and definitely compelling.

After being required to take a leave of absence because of an unfortunate incident during a search, Sergeant Samantha Holland is finally back at work. The Washington, D.C. detective is quickly given a case which could improve her public status, or it might destroy her career completely if she does not handle everything by the book. Senator John O’Connor has been murdered, and it is up to Sam to discover his killer as swiftly as possible. One major obstacle right from the beginning of the investigation is having to repeatedly talk with the senator’s chief of staff, Nick Cappuano, a man with whom she spent just one night but has never forgotten.

Read the full review. Thank you, Amelia!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Building a World Within a World

(More re-posts from the blog tour!)

When I started work on Fatal Affair, I knew I wanted to write about a female Washington, D.C. police detective named Sam Holland, so the first thing I did was research the Metropolitan Police Department. Whoa! I quickly learned the department is enormous with levels and layers and complexities I couldn’t begin to bring to my story without weighing it down with details the reader would find tedious at best. Being the “seat-of-the-pants” writer that I am, I pressed on with the book as I pondered how to deal with this world-building challenge.

Over the course of the book, a department of my own making began to take shape. There’s a chief, deputy chief, detective captain, detective lieutenant, detectives, patrol officers, a medical examiner, etc. The chief of the real-life MPD is a woman. I would’ve loved to have done that in my books, but I needed the chief in the Fatal Series to be a crony friend of Sam’s dad. Her father, a disabled former deputy chief, plays a big role in this series, so his character helped me to inform and shape the others. Sam’s struggles to contend with being the daughter of a fallen hero while working for men she used to call “Uncle” is a central theme of the series.

I also tried to give each of Sam’s fellow officers context in their relationship with her. The chief was her Uncle Joe when she was a kid. The deputy chief is still a close friend of her father’s, as is the detective captain who serves as Sam’s mentor. Her lieutenant is her nemesis. He believes she’s gotten where she is in the department because of who she is and sets out to cause her all sorts of trouble as the series unfolds. Within Sam’s closest group of coworkers, her partner serves as a kid brother of sorts, while other colleagues fill a variety of roles in her personal and professional life. Over the course of the series, I hope to develop each of these relationships by giving these characters stories that keep them front and center in Sam’s life.

So I created my own version of the Metropolitan Police Department. I note in the acknowledgements that it is a department of my own making and is in no way intended to mirror the real thing. As a reader, how do you feel about world building? Do you look for the world to closely mirror the real thing whenever possible or do you prefer to immerse yourself in the world the author has created and suspend your disbelief during the story?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

What I Did For Work

(More re-posts from the blog tour!)

Long before I ever touched pen to paper to write fiction, I worked full-time from home. In fact, I still work full-time from home 12 years after beginning what, at the time, was a grand experiment. In 1998 I was the only person I knew who worked as a telecommuter to an out-of-state company. Today, the trend is much more common but no less challenging.

Here is the short story of how I ended up a telecommuter: Nearly 15 years ago, I returned to the United States with my husband, who was in the Navy, after living in Spain for three years. We brought home a three-month-old daughter and two dogs who’d joined the family in Spain. Relocating to the Washington, D.C. area for a three-year tour, I immediately began looking for a job. A month or so later, I was hired as the communications director by an Alexandria, VA-based national organization that today has 15,000 members. The only downside was my hellishly long commute—50 to 90 minutes each way, depending on the time of day. The only reason I could bear this horrible commute was because I knew that in three years my husband was due to move again.

Those three years passed in a blur. We added a son to the family a month before we were due to move to Jacksonville, FL. As I was packing up my office, my boss wandered into have a chat. What if, he said, you stayed on remotely? How could this possibly work? I wondered. But the more we talked about it, the more feasible it became, and we agreed to give it a whirl. So I moved to Jacksonville with a three-year-old who had spent all her days with daddy (who worked the night shift while we were in Maryland), a one-month-old who didn’t sleep through the night until he was 18 months old, two dogs, AND a full-time job at home. And did I mention that my husband was moving from an office job to an aircraft carrier? And did I mention that the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy was in a particularly strenuous deployment cycle during the three years he was stationed on board? Is it any wonder I call the Jacksonville years the “Calgon Take Me Away” portion of my life as a mother. To be honest, I barely remember the four years we lived there. It’s all a blur.

One spring, as my company prepared for its annual meeting, I was desperate to get in some hours in the office. I hired the neighborhood girl who often babysat for my kids and closed the door to my office. Well, that didn’t work at all. The kids knew I was in there and were literally clawing at the door crying for mommy. A week later, I hired her again only this time I’d gotten smart about it. I said, “Bye, guys! Mommy will be back in a little while. Have fun with Corrine.” Bye, bye they said, and all was well as I walked out my front door, around to the back of my house, and crawled into the office window I’d opened earlier. Success! Three hours later, I called the house from my office phone and asked Corrine to take them outside for a bit so I could take a potty break and grab a snack. That bought me a few more hours. We live, and we learn. As a work-at-home mother who relied very little on daycare, I can tell you down to the day how long it took me to get two kids into school full time: 10 years, 1 month and 23 days. That’s a long time to juggle kids and work!

Today, my kids are nearly 15 and 12. They have never known any other existence than a mom who works full time from home. Because I wasn’t already busy enough, I’ve added a book-writing gig to my docket, which has gotten quite busy since my first book, LINE OF SCRIMMAGE, was published in 2008. I think the greatest legacy of being a work-at-home mom is that it has made my kids very self-sufficient. They get their own snacks, they make their own fun, they know better than to interrupt a phone call for anything less than blood, and they get to see their mom working hard to provide a nice life for them. The downside is that something else, at least during the work hours, often has to take priority over them. Sure, their dad works all day, too, but they don’t see that. They know it, intellectually, but they don’t have to compete against it for his attention.

In the final analysis, I hope they’ll remember that I was here to greet them after school every day and to run them around in the afternoons to various activities. Now that my daughter is in high school, located two doors up the street from our house, I think she wishes I were a little less available after school. However, I’ve come to realize that being home with them now is far more critical than it was when they were babies and I was forced to crawl through windows to get some work time.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The One Who Got Away

(Posting some blogs from the Fatal Affair blog tour in case you missed them!)

We all have one, don’t we? That person (or two) from the past who might’ve been “the one” if circumstances had been different. Do you ever think about what might’ve been different with him or her? What your life would be like? Who your friends would be? What your children might be like? Where you’d live? Would you still be in love all these years later? Or is it probably for the best that he or she “got away”?

I’ll confess to occasionally pondering these questions, but certainly not out of any sense of displeasure with my current life. As a writer, I’m all about scenarios and what ifs. How can I run those scenarios for my characters and not for myself? After all, life is made up of a series of choices that lead to a destination. At some point in our lives, we all find ourselves at that fork in the road Robert Frost so ably describes in his poem, “The Road Less Traveled.” It’s interesting (at least to me) to imagine what might’ve been had I taken a different road. One thing I know for sure: I wouldn’t want any other husband or children. They are the right ones for me, the family I was meant to have.

In my new book, Fatal Affair, released June 21 from Carina Press, I got the opportunity to explore the “one who got away” theme. Six years before the book opens, Nick Cappuano had a memorable one-night stand with Sam Holland. They never saw each other again until the day Sam walks into Nick’s boss’s apartment—after Nick finds his boss, U.S. Senator John O’Connor, murdered in his bed. Later, when Sam and Nick have the chance to delve more deeply into their earlier liaison, they learn that someone deliberately conspired to keep them apart. Now they not only have to contend with a high-profile murder case, but their romantic past comes roaring back to taunt them with what might’ve been—and what can’t be—at least not when they are both mired in the investigation.

It was great fun to write about this couple and how they connected on every possible level years earlier only to be denied a chance at love. When they meet again under the worst possible circumstances, it quickly becomes clear that the connection they shared so long ago is still very much alive.

Do you ever think about the one who got away? Would you welcome the opportunity to see him or her again? Do you indulge in thoughts of what might’ve been or do you prefer to leave well enough alone?