What makes for a good villain?

hannibal-lecterA good villain is essential to my genre (mystery or crime fiction). In fact, a good enough villain can make a writer’s career—just ask Thomas Harris about Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. But as memorable as Hannibal was, to me the most effective villains are neither obvious nor completely irredeemable. Their evil takes on a far more subtle form. They look and act just like you or me, or they evoke feelings of sympathy—forcing us to look at the world in a more nuanced way than we are allowed to otherwise. Maybe that is why I prefer the villain in Harris’s second book, Red Dragon. He embodied one of the most intriguing kinds of villains: one that is absolutely and completely lethal, yet one you cannot help but feel sorry for.

Unfortunately, such villains are endangered species in our current cultural climate, whether fictional or real. We live in a very polarized world and people are defensive about their worldviews. So many people today cling to the notion that their values and norms are the only acceptable way to live a life. To accept the notion that evil can look, talk, think, and act just like they do is to reject the very point of their lives. They want to be able to blame someone who looks or sounds different as the root of their troubles, or even as the root of all evil. They want a villain that looks like their version of a villain. They do not want to look into a mirror.

Ironic, isn’t it, when you consider the fact that we almost always kill our own kind? Or that the most dangerous villains, those capable of infiltrating and destroying your entire world, are smart enough to know that first they must fit into it?

Sympathetic villains are equally hard to find, both in real life and in literature. They force us to look inside ourselves for why we feel connected to them—and very few people are willing to admit that, perhaps, we all have the seeds of darkness within us. Sympathetic villains also force us to acknowledge that we as a species may have a hand in creating our villains by the way we treat one another or allow others to be treated.

To acknowledge that a villain is not entirely unlike us, or that their evil may have been prevented, is to admit that we are neither invincible nor on the right track as a society. So it’s just a whole lot easier to attribute a villain’s behavior to being born bad, or being born insane, or being born to insanely bad parents. Meanwhile, the truth, like a great fictional villain, is far, far more complicated.

Good and evil. Black and white. Truth and fiction. The lines get blurred. And good writers make the most of that ambiguity.

I have my favorite fictional villains. What I’d like to know is: who are yours? I’d love to hear about some of your favorite villains from books and movies you’ve seen and why you find them so memorable. Let me know and, in the meantime: don’t look behind you. You never know who might be standing there.


Because It Ought to Be About the Writing

Recently, over a thousand crime fiction writers, readers, editors, publishers, and critics descended on Raleigh, North Carolina for the worldwide mystery genre convention known as Bouchercon. Every day, panels were held to discuss the writing and marketing processes behind the books you see in bookstores. Every day, writers gathered to talk shop, swap stories, compare themselves to others, tout their works on panels, and try to make new contacts that might further their careers. Guests of honor were celebrated and authors were available to sign their books for anyone kind enough to ask.

But as is the case in our industry itself, there was a missing piece to Bouchercon: where was the celebration of the writing itself? Because, you know, it really ought to be about the writing. Somewhere along the way, the writing itself has ended up in last place, an afterthought to marketing and sales. And what we do when we gather together reflects that.

Yes, publishers need to sell books. Yes, to write a bestseller you probably need to deliver certain elements that readers expect. But the crime genre encompasses a lot of different viewpoints and writing styles and it is impossible to pigeonhole every book into a neat slot. What I want to know is why we even try. Instead of rushing to label every book, why not honor the writing and the author voice that went into it first?


Group Photo
The Berkeley Cafe

Thalia Press tried to do just that that on Thursday evening, the second night of the convention. Thanks to the owners of The Berkeley Café in downtown Raleigh, we were able to secure a relaxed space and put the word out that a People’s Reading would be held. Any writer was welcome to come and read from his or her book; any reader was welcome to come and read from a favorite work. We had no idea if anyone would come. We knew that at least three members of the Thalia Press Authors Co-op would be there: me, Lisa McClendon, and Kate Flora. But beyond that, well — let’s just say it was a leap of faith that caused some of us to have a few beers before the event even began. Maybe everyone would be too busy comparing advances or swapping gossip to attend? Maybe they would consider it too boring to hear a bunch of authors read? Maybe the last thing authors wanted to do was hear other authors read? And it’s kind of sad that these were even possibilities because, well, because isn’t that what writing is supposed to be all about in the end: the voice, the book, the experience?

Lise and I arrived at the reading at 6:00 PM to find a group of people already there, people willing to skip the opening ceremonies and the scramble for free food for the chance to hear books. Even more miraculous, many of them were readers, with writers scattered among them willing to read their books and let their voices be heard. It was a simple setup: a microphone in the corner, a spotlight on the reader, an invitation to read out loud while a bar full of people drank beer, sometimes talked above you, listened or didn’t listen, but nonetheless were there for one reason only: to hear the writing.

Dusty Rhoades
J.D. Rhoades

Kevin Burton Smith started the reading off with a wonderful example of how voice can define a story. He was soon followed by JD Rhodes, who damn near stole the show with his Elmore Leonard-meets-Jacqueline Susann novel entitled Ice Chest, coming out in February. Dusty’s southern accent floated out over the hubbub of the bar and the story he was telling captivated everyone lucky enough to be within hearing distance. As he was reading, lo and behold, still more readers and writers arrived. One-by-one, people took the stage to share their latest book: Michele Dorsey, Brian Thiem, Edith  Maxwell, Brenda Buchanan. If I have forgotten anyone, please identify yourself in the comments section and I will make sure you are added to this wonderful list. Cat Warren, author of the best-selling What the Dog Knows, read a section from her nonfiction work that elicited question after question from an audience curious to know about scent dogs. Eventually, Lise, Kate, and I all read from our group novel, Beat Slay Love. And a fan, Sandi Loper, stood up to read from a book by one of her favorite authors — Trey R. Barker — persuading Trey to take the microphone and tell us more about his desert noir series, books I am now thoroughly enjoying reading. In the end, while the jazz band up after us waited in the wings to take center stage, nearly three hour’s worth of readings flew by, spanning the range of subgenres in the crime fiction field. The authors who read came from all over as well – and all of them were listened to.

It wasn’t a fancy concept. All we needed was a clean, well lighted place, a bartender, and a microphone. All we needed were writers brave enough to take the stage and read from their work, and readers willing to sit still and listen. We got all that and more. We got a taste of the richness of our genre, a look at its diversity, and the chance to hear writers we had never met before and may never have heard of, if not for this gathering. For once, it was all about the writing and it was really, truly quite cool.

I am sorry that the business side of crime fiction has taken over so many hearts and minds in crime fiction. So many of us are authors who now write in hopes of catching the latest wave and snagging a big fat advance, regardless of the quality of our work or whether it contributes anything original to our genre. Virtually all editors today now base their decision on whether to buy or not solely on how many copies they think they can sell. And the agents? Well, the agents have always been about the sale. It’s just that, every now and then, I wish one of them would stand up and say, “It ought to be about the writing, at least a little.”

It was great to talk shop at Bouchercon. It was great to meet new friends. And it was beyond great to touch base with old ones. But in all the days that followed, and all the things that happened, it was the simple, unadorned act of listening to words that Thursday night that I will remember best. Because this is why I became a writer in the first place: the lure of the voice, the ability of words to transport me to some place new, the chance to walk in someone else’s shoes. In the end, it’s all about the writing – and, honestly, it ought to be about the writing all the damn time.

Lise McClendon
Lise McClendon
Michele Dorsey
Michele Dorsey
Trey Barker
Trey Barker
Kevin Burton Smith
Kevin Burton Smith
Cat Warren
Cat Warren
Brian Theims
Brian Theims



Gettin’ Our Group On

Adobe Photoshop PDFOn October 1st, a new novel by members of the Thalia Press Authors Co-op called Beat Slay Love will debut. It’s going to be a fun read because it combines the world of celebrity cooking with sex — and what could possibly be better than that? (Pre-order the eBook now. Online print orders will open soon.)


There are so many cooking metaphors I could use to talk about the process of writing this novel, a journey that involved five separate authors, all with their own long list of previously published books: me, Thalia co-founder Lise McClendon, Taffy Cannon, Kate Flora, and Gary Phillips. Instead, though, I see the creation of this novel as a metaphor for the overall authors co-op we have forged here at Thalia. When we first got together to write the book — a process that began and then lived in the virtual world since we are scattered across America — we were not quite sure what we wanted to do. It was much the same way with our co-op. We knew that we wanted to share ideas, support each other, and cheer each other on. But beyond that: we just had to dive in. We were creating something new and who knew where it would lead?

Where the idea of a group novel led to ultimately was an experience that proved more fun than I ever thought possible and, eventually, a damn good book. I am proud of what we have written and very proud to be associated with so many fine writers.

We begin Beat Slay Love by throwing ideas on the table and poking at them with five different sticks (or forks, if you prefer). Somewhere early on, the idea of a riff on the title Eat Pray Love was born. Out of that, food emerged as a predominant theme (no surprise to those of you who know us). When it turned out that several of us authors were Food Channel enthusiasts, the idea of someone killing celebrity chefs was a natural winner. Like so many of the moments we had writing this book, I no longer remember who had that actual idea, or who moved the ball down the field at which point (other than the fact that Lisa McClendon acted as den mother, chief scheduler, and marketing strategist supreme). But I do know that we quickly agreed on a central concept, sketched out the central character and motives together,  and that I had the honor of kicking things off by turning in the first round of pages to the others.

For me, the assignment could not have come at a better time. I was looking at three half-finished books of my own, and trying unsuccessfully to decide which one to finish. I was not feeling the drive to do much of anything, however, and might well have ended up sitting on my ass for the entire year had I not felt a sense of obligation to the other authors on this project that motivated me to get said ass in gear. To my surprise, knowing it was a group project and that others would soon see my words, there was absolutely no pressure on me when it came to writing. It was just plain fun. I could let my scenes unfold and, if faced with whether a plot twist was too much, could let it ride and keep going. After all, four very smart writers were coming in after me to clean up. I had a blast with my turn. I almost hated to let go — but not quite. There was something reckless and irresistible about releasing your precious pages to others and surrendering your words to their will. Now I could sit back and relax, yet what I had written would lead to more.

In the months that followed, I lost track of who wrote when. I do know that the order of writing fell into a natural progression and that, somehow, it all worked out. People wrote when they could and let go when someone else was ready. No one kept track of page count and, so far as I was concerned, had no idea of what was happening in the story until it was their turn again. After about eight months of round robin writing, I got the book back at the very end and was given the task of wrapping things up. And that’s when the real magic happened.

The collective unconscious at work?

My first thought upon reading the two hundred or so pages that four other authors had helped write was pretty simple: “Have we lost our damn minds?!” The story had gone in so many unexpected directions that would never have occurred to me. It had stretched across America, invited in a cast of entirely new and unexpected characters, and then there was the sex. Yes, some of us wrote about the food we love… some of us wrote about the shopping we love… some of us had fun alluding to real food celebrities… and one of us, I choose not to know which one of us, liked to write about sex. Lots of sex. Fairly graphic sex. At every chance they got, it seemed. What was I going to do with that?

And then it hit me: sex, love, food, death. These are the impulses that drive us. These are the forces of life. It was entirely appropriate for sex to play a dominant role in this book. This book was all about impulse control — or the lack thereof.

With that revelation, it was as if every writer contributing to this project had somehow sensed an invisible path leading us forward toward an inevitable conclusion. Every single one of us had sensed the connection between those drives, consciously or not, and it showed in our writing choices. We had actually built the bones of a book that made perfect sense, without knowing where we were going or exactly why. It was crystal clear how it needed to end.

I like to think this happened because we are all good authors and we have all built many a book before. Somehow, we all understood that food itself is a metaphor for sex, love, and even death. So, in the end, our book became very much about that. And we got there, together, by trusting each other to deliver both good and meaningful writing, even when it was funny or clearly ridiculous on the surface.

The process was not seamless. I sensed unspoken tussles at times when it came to shaping specific characters. Was the character good? Was the character bad? Was the character important? More than any other element of the book, there may have been disagreement among us on individual characters. And, yet, in the end I believe that every single character became the person they needed to be for this book. Probably because we are all experienced enough as authors to understand that, when characters want to take off, you should let them. There’s usually a good reason for it. That’s why, when it came time to wrap the book up and find a conclusion, I found myself turning to characters I had not even created. They had been imagined and fleshed out by my writing partners. And what wonderful characters they had given me. It all came together in the end.

I hope that you will read Beat Slay Love and enjoy the unfolding of the story as much as I did. And if you are a fan of our work — with five authors, surely you follow one of us? — Perhaps you will join us in announcing the publication of our new book by signing up at Thunderclap to have a notice automatically posted on your Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr page come October 1. All you have to do is visit our book on Thunderclap and click the button for the social media outlet of your choice. If you like, you can write a short post to introduce the notice on our book and then you’re done. Thunderclap will post it automatically when the time comes. Everyone who shares in this Thunderclap campaign will receive a PDF cookbook from Thalia Press, called “Thalia Filbert’s Killer Cocktail Party,” full of deliciously sinful drinks and appetizers, some featured in the novel. Trust me, these recipes are good!

Thanks for your support, for your help, and for your interest in our book. Let’s hear it for authors who trust, support, and cheer each other on!

Pre-order Beat Slay Love via eBook now. Online print orders will be accepted soon: 

Character Counts Most of All

Jane Austen ADHDI went through a reading crisis this year. Every time I sat down to lose myself in a book, I found my attention wandering after just a few pages. I would check my iPhone for messages, stop by Facebook, and then force myself to sit back down and try again. It drove me nuts. Losing myself in a good book has always been my way of taking a needed break from the world. I attributed my problem to a shrinking attention span brought about by cursed social media. I decided anything more than four paragraphs was beyond my interest, thanks to new media, and bemoaned the loss of my ability to enter the pages of other worlds. Needless to say, this did not enhance my participation in my book club or endear me to friends with new books coming out. “Yes, I bought it and can’t wait to read it.” [“God, please don’t ask me how I liked it three months from now.”]

Thus I sealed my fate and kissed reading a full-length book good-bye. And then I picked up “Death Comes to Pemberley” by PD James. I had no choice, really, as it was my book club’s December selection and I had pretty much disgraced myself with my inability to get into any of the books we’d chosen thus far in 2014. Now, since the Grand Master herself died the day I finished her book, perhaps I feel more comfortable saying what anyone who reads this book realizes by the end: this is a terrible mystery. The plot is tepid at best and the true killer revealed in groanable fashion. And yet, I loved every word of it and could not put the book down. Why? Because PD James did a stellar job of bringing Jane Austen’s characters back to life and giving us a peek at what happened to them after their tales had been told. PD James was impeccably loyal to their essential character, as envisioned by their original creator. Lizzie, Mr. Darcy, Jane, Bingley, even, alas, Lydia and Wickham, never uttered a word out of character or took an action that Austen herself might not have decreed. And while James built her tale around Pemberley and its grounds, she also brought in characters from many of Austen’s other books in peripheral ways. It was pure joy to discover that Walter Elliott and his snobbish eldest daughter were behaving, as ever, in utterly supercilious ways. It rang true that Emma was still telling poor Harriet Smith what to do. The characters were as real to me as ever. Even my outrage at how James handled the character of Colonel Fitzwilliams was assuaged at the end of “Death Comes to Pemberley,” when the motive for his somewhat out-of-character behavior was revealed.

In other words, it took characters created over 200 years ago for me to lose myself in a book again.

I could talk about how astonishing Jane Austin was at creating characters you felt as if you knew, and how skilled she was at revealing their dreams, or the unique ways they interacted with one another. But many people have praised her for these abilities before me and many have pointed out how universal her depictions of relationships remain. Instead, I would like to suggest that feeling connected to the characters in the books we read is at the heart of what keeps us turning the pages and returning to read more. It is especially what keeps us buying books in mystery series that are centered around the same protagonist and supporting cast. The best books in our genre, and those that sell millions of copies even when their plots may lack originality, are all built around characters we care about, identify with, and feel as if we know. Their ability to come to life is what draws us into a book. Caring about what happens to them is what inspires us to keep reading about them.

The lack of depth in character is also what makes us put books aside. With the confidence of a new writer and the cruelty of a closet cynic, I once publicly lampooned Patricia Cornwell for what she had done to Kay Scarpetta by turning her into everything from an expert helicopter pilot to irresistible sexpot to secret agent to deep sea diver and god knows what else. Gone was the soul-searching professional woman seeking respect and the truth. Here was a cartoon character who could leap tall mortuaries with a single bound and hypnotized men of all ages with her steely demeanor.

Plenty of books in the mystery genre make the same mistake of disconnecting their characters from what draws readers to them. Their authors concentrate on what the character can do, or how the world might label them, without ever looking at who they are within. They make their characters unbelievable or, worse, invincible.

The older and wiser among you reading this post will understand me when I say that flaws and foibles are what make other people interesting and most lovable. The same goes for characters in books. For them to be real, we need to know their lost hopes and dreams — we all have them — along with what they fear and how well they maintain their sense of self when interacting with uncooperative others. It is not enough to paint the exterior view. Readers must be able to know what is in their hearts to feel connected to characters. Everything else is just window dressing.

I think to be a truly brilliant writer you have to be connected to the world in exactly 7.2 billion ways: that’s the number of people currently sharing our planet. In other words, you must be utterly fascinated by other people and what drives them. You must care about them all, even the ones you do not know. You must be unable to turn away from the parade of life. You must be driven to be a part of it.

This is why writers who let fame isolate them so often lose what made them special in the first place. To be a good writer of characters, you must be in love with the entire world. You must be willing to be among those you cannot stand and unafraid to lose yourself in those you love. Out of that ether comes the stuff of imagination, the thousands of details and desires that will help you create characters that readers will care about.

Winning Even When You Lose

I love the World Cup.  It is the only event that seems to bring the world together and remind Americans that we are but one out of many nations. I have watched this year’s World Cup in bars, at work, with friends and listened to it on the radio as I drive (that own goal by Ghana in their game against Portugal almost sent me off the road). All of which is why, in honor of the World Cup, I am going to tell you about the single greatest game in my own brief soccer career — a moment in time that taught me a lesson I have never forgotten. The lesson that one game taught me? It’s a lesson that most writers would do well to remember: glory can come in unexpected moments and you have to grab it while you can. It’s not always about winning it all.

You have to remember that I played soccer back in the Dark Ages, before Title IX changed the world of women’s sports and before the UNC and Olympic teams made women’s soccer a household reality. After I graduated from college and moved to New York, I continued to play soccer in a women’s league that would face off each Saturday along the East River or, if we were lucky, in Central Park. Although I sometimes played midfield, eventually I ended up as the goalie because no one else wanted to do it and that’s always an irresistible temptation for me. I had my work cut out for me. Everyone was in shape and more than a few were exorcising their New York City angst on the soccer field. I took a beating and spent a lot of Saturday afternoons icing sprained ankles and massaging pulled hamstrings. I was young then and thought it was proof that I was invincible. I was having the time of my life.

Out of all the teams in that NYC league, the Super F’s were the best. They were from Queens and almost all Haitian women who had learned to kick a soccer ball as soon as they could walk. When I say they could run rings around the rest of us, I mean that quite literally. These were formidable women. I remember the captain of the team was a woman named Jocelyn who had six children. Yes, six children – and yet she was one of their leading scorers. It was not uncommon to go down in defeat to the Super F’s by double digits or more. Still, it was almost an honor to be defeated by them. They were skilled, they were relentless and, although they treated us with suspicion off the field sometimes, they were great competitors and good sports. If they knocked you down, they’d extend a hand and haul you back up. And some of them were my friends. I had gone to a tournament in Alabama with a few of them and spent a great weekend eating take-out joint barbecue ribs on the hoods of our rental cars with their unbelievably talented striker, a jolly young girl named Evelyn who worked as a maid at a hotel when she wasn’t playing soccer.

One day, my team — whose name I cannot remember, and probably for a good reason – was scheduled to play the Super F’s as the opening game in a popular men’s soccer tournament in Queens. When we arrived at the field, it turned out to be a stadium. Over 5,000 Haitians were already assembled in the stands, ready to spend a Saturday viewing soccer. Now, I had a very white team. I was the brownest person on it and that was only because I tanned easily in the sun. There was not a single white face in the crowd and I started to imagine what it was going to be like when the bloodbath began. We were definitely not playing for the home team.

The moment the game began, it was clear that we were way out of our league. Not only were the Super F’s at the top of their game that day, my team was sluggish, irritable and distracted. Within minutes, our strikers and midfielders were arguing with one another and the halfbacks had let player after player get so close to me that I quickly decided I had absolutely nothing to lose. I became a crazy person. The goalie can get away with a lot in soccer when they’re getting pummeled–the referees will look the other way out of pity. I began diving at the opposition’s feet, wrapping my arms around their legs so they could not wiggle away and get at the ball again. I threw myself sideways, first to the left and then to the light right, again and again, to keep that ball out of the net, determined that if my team was going to be useless at least one of us, by god, would play their hearts out. I shoved my way through my own players to stop the ball the moment it entered the goalie’s box and I was bouncing off the goalposts so often it was a wonder I didn’t detach a retina.

I was so busy concentrating on the game I did not realize that the stadium had continued to fill with spectators and that the noise level had risen to a roar. I just kept defending that goal with every fiber of my being. My efforts helped but, of course, they could not stop the onslaught of Super F players drilling soccer balls at the goal. By halftime we were down 11-0 and completely demoralized. My teammates looked at me oddly during the halftime huddle, but I dismissed their glances. If they weren’t going to do their jobs and defend me, I would have to do it all myself.

Haitian Soccer Fans_2I took the field for the start of the second half with dozens of saves already under my belt. But almost immediately, a Super F broke free and came straight at me with the ball. I looked at her, she looked at me, and she knew that I was going to run right at her and dive at her feet. So she did what any good soccer player would have done: she kicked the ball as hard as she possibly could, straight at me, hoping to loop it over me and into the goal. I had my hands outstretched, getting ready to grab her legs, when I saw that ball coming straight at my face. I jerked my head up in horror and, somehow, the ball deflected off the top of my head just enough to clear the goal as if I had planned it. A massive roar went up from the crowd as I fell straight back onto the field, arms still outstretched in a Christ-like pose. The crowd went nuts, cheering and stomping and whistling as a referee ran over to make sure I was okay. I staggered to my feet, dazed, and wandered in circles while the referee checked me out. Through a haze, I heard the crowd and realized that they had taken up a chant: “Goalie! Goalie! Goalie!” The crowd wasn’t cheering against me, they were cheering for me. They had been cheering for me all along, I just hadn’t known it. That stadium was packed with probably 10,000 Haitians by then, and every one of them had all decided to cheer for the underdog — and that underdog was me.

That did it. For the rest of the game, I played like I was possessed. I played like I had never played goalie before. I was a madwoman. I dove, I rolled, I kicked, I screamed, I did everything but dribble the ball down to the other end of the field to score myself. (I actually did make it the half field at one point, but knew enough to get my ass back into the box.) Having that crowd behind me was an amazing experience. It kept me going. It gave me strength. It pushed my adrenaline rush to new heights. I felt like I was on the shoulders of 10,000 people, being raised up to the top of the world. It was glorious. But the point I want to make is this: we lost that game 19 to 0. I may have had god knows how many saves by the end of it, but we still lost 19 to 0. That is a thrashing by anyone’s standards. It is humiliating and surely nothing to be proud of. But by the time the game was over, the crowd was chanting “Goalie!” once again and did not stop until I took the field and did a victory lap, waving at each cheering section as I passed by. It’s not something you ever forget. In the midst of truly ignominious defeat, I had found glory.

I try to remember what I learned that day when it comes to my career as a writer. Like most people, I do not make the New York Times bestseller list (although there are days when I feel like I must be the only one) and I have yet to score a huge advance from a major publisher. On the other hand, I am proud of every book I write and I pour my heart into each and every one of them. I have devoted readers who pay attention to what I write and who get it. They understand and appreciate what I am trying to say. They cheer me on and they let me know that what I do matters to them. They want me to take risks and when I do, they reward me for it. And do you know what that is like for me? It is the game changer. It makes writing fun. It makes me feel like I am on the top of the world, being raised up by thousands. So don’t ever let anyone tell you that being at the very top is the only thing that matters. Sometimes your greatest glory comes from doing your best and having others realize the effort that takes.

What’s Your Story?

My grandmother on her 105th birthday -- she never forgot whose life she was living.
My grandmother on her 105th birthday — she never forgot whose life she was living.

My grandmother died this week at the ripe old age of 105. Up until the very end, she remained vivacious and ever present. As is the case with anyone who has lived through so many years, there are many things people could probably say about her. But I don’t think anyone would argue with this: my grandmother was always right there, at every event, no matter how big or small, savoring every moment and making the most of her presence. Every day was a party, and if you were there with her then, by god, you better be paying attention. Perhaps it was a reaction to a solitary childhood lived at the base of a remote lighthouse on Lake Superior. Maybe it was just the way she was built. But whatever the cause, few people could get as much out of life as my grandmother. Continue reading “What’s Your Story?”