Today, I’m pleased to welcome my friend, Lala Corriere, to the blog. She jokes that she’s from Lala Land–I’ll let you be the judge… Let’s get started with you telling a little about yourself, when did you start writing, how long and what do you write?
I began my writing journey 12 years ago. I’ve never looked back. My sons were all off to university and, as an empty nester, I kept remembering my fourth grade teacher’s advice. You need to write. Of course I had a lot of catching up to do on the publishing industry, craft, and finding my own voice. My first manuscript, which I promise will never see the light of day, was a piece of women’s fiction with an ensemble cast. Quickly I deduced my interests and my voice are more geared toward suspense. And that’s cool. I have a lot of male readers I never anticipated.
We all have those manuscripts, don’t we? Mine is a hand written saga set in the South during the Civil War that I wrote in eleventh grade.
What can you tell us about CoverBoy that isn’t in the blurb or excerpt? Was it an easy write? How long did it take you to write it?
CoverBoy was an agented manuscript that I felt needed revision. It turned out to be a full rewrite and I must admit it wasn’t easy. It took me one full year. What’s not in any blurb? All is not as it appears. You don’t have it exactly figured out until the end! My favorite quote is from Robert Frost: ‘No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprises in the writer, no surprises in the reader’. I like that. I think I met his challenge because I had tears and I was certainly surprised!
I love when I’m surprised by my own stories…LOL. And dear God, do I know about rewrites! I’m working on one now for my first contemporary Western which included resurrecting a dead character and making him the villain. Good that you stuck with it and got it rewritten.
Are you a pantser or plotter? What can you tell us a little about your writing process
Can I be both? I’m very good at making up words. We all know what brunch is, right? Well, sometimes at my house we have brunner. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, of course! So let’s say I’m a plotanster. I’m going with that. Sometimes I can take a blank page, work all night, and wake up in the morning and review it think, Wow! This is good! Mostly, without some outlining, even rough, I find I start sagging in a bunch of middles.
Oh, I like that! Plotanster! That’s what I am, too. I don’t usually write my outlines down until I hit the last quarter of the book and need to make sure I don’t go over my projected word count, but I do have some sort of idea where the story is going all in my head. A pantser doesn’t.
If you could be any fictional character—including your own, who would you choose and why?
I had to think about this one! The off-the-cuff answer is that I love eccentricity and glamour and glitz. And lessons learned. My goal in writing is to have my readers identify with my characters. Usually I wait until I start dreaming about my characters until I’m ready to write them because only then do I feel confident I really know them. I write characters that are nefarious but have redeeming qualities. And I want the weak or naïve to grow strong and shrewd. I guess there’s a little bit of me in many of my characters. Mostly I like being me just fine.
Nothing wrong with being you…And you are a very interesting person!
What is your favorite TV show or movie?
For television, it’s going to be Criminal Minds and almost everything on the I.D. Channel. For movies, give me Jack Nicholson and Anthony Hopkins. That would be The Shining and the Hannibal series. I’ll toss into the mix Secret Window with Johnny Depp. I have a funny story about entertainment. I borrowed my husband’s Jeep and plugged in my CD. I forgot and left it in there. The next time he drove he was startled to learn I was listening to 100 Ways to Commit Murder.
LOL!!! I can imagine he was quite suspicious of you for a few days. Okay, one last question for fun…
Vampires or Cowboys?
I got my fill of vampires when I was a kid. I read every Barnabus Collins book and watched every Dark Shadows episode. Give me a cowboy with a good southern drawl. I melt, but I could still make them evil!
I never saw the original Dark Shadows, but I loved the remake back in the early 90s. Oh, I love a cowboy with a Southern drawl too… that’s why all my Westerns are set in Texas…. But you know, I do have a Texas cowboy vampire in A Hunter’s Blade…LOL
Loved having you here today, Lala…
He prays for prey. His prayers have just been answered.
Women and a Funeral
THEY SAY WOMEN DON’T KILL themselves with a single bullet to the head.
They’re dead wrong.
The entire funeral screamed of blasphemy. Payton Doukas’s father, of fierce Greek Orthodox persuasion, insisted that viewing the body was a necessary ritual in the institution of a proper burial. As self-proclaimed host of the event, he was none too thrilled that his daughter had decided to blow her brains out. In compromise, Payton’s casket commandeered a corner of the chapel veiled behind cranberry colored sheers. I kept trying to peer through the fabric while knowing I would avoid any sight of what might be left of my best friend.
Divorced, Payton’s mother left a much different thumbprint on her daughter’s final service. She did this theme thing. The altar in front of me brimmed with potted plants, buckets of cut daisies, and an odd assortment of gardening tools, sunbonnets, gloves, and clunky looking black rubber shoes. I guess it could have been nice if Payton had lived to love the garden, but she couldn’t sustain the life of a Christmas cactus. I knew better. If Payton had a theme it was the little foil package of not-so-clunky black rubbers, also known as condoms, she kept tucked inside her fake crocodile purse.
I hadn’t spent much time in the desert. It must have been Payton’s final laugh to go and kill herself in Tucson in June. At 109 degrees, the historic church didn’t have air-conditioning. A few floor-stand fans blasted out hot air. The tired looking surroundings offered a splintered cross, suspended above the altar and impressive in size. It seemed to be the only adornment other than the temporary garish gardening exhibit and those wretched cranberry sheers.
Carly Posh sat next to me. A gifted Los Angeles interior designer, she preferred to dress as if she’d just returned from some combat boot camp. Always organized and in control of both body and mind, Carly was the fine stitching that kept our tapestry of friendships woven together.
To the left of Carly, Sterling Falls constantly adjusted the miniskirt that seemed to be sticking to the wooden pew. Late to arrive, she’d wedged her slim body toward Carly from the opposite side of the church. I didn’t see her face, but there was no mistaking who she was. Sterling’s trademark wardrobe was skimpy and bright, but not as shiny as her long lacquered fingernails adorned with even brighter gemstones. Her fingers looked like popsicles with giant chunks of lime and cherry ice swirls clinging to the sticks. When her dad became the legendary jeweler to the stars, Sterling was quick to partner up with him. Their sign on Rodeo Drive simply read, ‘Falls & Falls’. Falls of cascading diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, that is. Fair to say that Sterling was the shellacked gold threads embedded in the fabric of our friendship.
Payton’s father rose to the altar and conveyed his final goodbyes to his Petroula—Payton’s given name and one she loathed. The heavy Greek accent made his words difficult to understand. Instead his grieving eyes, red and swollen against an ashen face, communicated his story of deep loss.
I had been witness to this type of grief far too many times. I admit my mind was drifting from the service when Sterling shoved the latest issue of my magazine across Carly and into my lap.
The sound of her voice carried loud enough the family members in the pew ahead of us turned and shook their heads in disapproval. “What’s up with this, Lauren? Are you asking for death threats? These types of stories are going to get you killed.”
I shrugged my shoulders in an attempt to shun the conversation. Between the glossy images of male models, my articles solicited an abundant readership of both sexes. CoverBoy would become known, if not respected, for presenting in-your-face current world events based in fact not commonly known or believed, or even conceived. The stories pushed the edge and this time, maybe, I had gone too far. A death threat is pretty far.
Who knows why I loved Sterling. She fell into the obnoxious and self-centered and rich and drop dead gorgeous category. She was just pissed to be the last one to know I was moving my magazine to Los Angeles. And that meant I was moving, too.
We were four. We had become friends when we were only eleven years old. Now we were three, and I wanted to be alone. I wanted to be one. I wanted to sit in the back of the church away from everyone and out of earshot from the minister’s words and all the other people that had to stand up and drone on about something irrelevant regarding my friend behind the cranberry sheers. I’d feel safer in the back. Safer? Safer if you’re a bowling pin, maybe.
Who needed protection? Not me. But anyone and everyone who had ever loved me had died. My loved ones were not safe. This much I knew. And apparently I was not safe either, but I hadn’t mentioned this to my friends. I hadn’t mentioned it to my own self.
An Empty Pew
THE DARK AND HANDSOME man had a spy planted at the services. Just to make certain all the details were neat and tidy. A mere kid, but good at blending into any crowd of mourners. Dressed in black. Good boy.
FOLLOWING THE SERVICE we moved across the church grounds to a noon gathering of Greek food. The three tables offered grape leaves, moussaka, unidentifiable fish replete with metallic eyeballs, and flaky baklava dripping with golden syrupy butter.
Sterling, lanky and lithe ever since I met her in fifth grade, devoured her second chunk of baklava. Between gulps she asked me, “So, what gives? Why the tell-all story on one of the most famous ballplayers in the country?”
Why not, I thought, even though I felt the knot in my throat pulsing while knowing someone out there was ready to kill me over it. “I stand by my work,” I said. I had the facts. Steroids. Steroid sales. Steroid cancers. One could call it an old story, but I took a spin on it with the big money bribery.
Carly looked on and attempted to hide the concern that seized her eyes. She tried to blink away the tension.
Oblivious to Carly, Sterling changed the subject. “What do you say we ditch this place? Go back to the resort and splash around in the pool. Hang time. Payton would have wanted that.”
Sterling was right. But it didn’t feel right.
“You guys go ahead. I’m going to stick around here for a bit. Maybe take a walk,” I said.
Sterling tossed her long blond hair to the side, “Yeah, right. 109 degrees and Lauren wants to take a walk.”
I grabbed a bottle of cold water from a nearby barrel. “I’ll catch up with you soon.”
I walked, all right. Right back into the already emptied church. Where had all the mourners gone? And Payton’s casket? The flowers, the tacky garden crap, even the cranberry sheers were gone. I took my preferred seat at the back of the church.
And I made the mistake of turning my phone back on and checking messages. Three of them were from the identified person in my article accepting bribes. One was from the identified briber. All were irate. Screaming they were going to get me. Shit.
I’m twenty-nine and I’ve lost too much, too soon. My mother died of a heart attack when I was away at university. My father and my fiancé perished together in the family jet that was bringing them to me the day before my wedding.
And now, Payton. She’s one of my best friends. Why didn’t I see this coming? Suicide? Could it be I had no idea that Payton was suicidal?
Distance separates no one in today’s world of instant communication. Sure, Payton and I talked. Phone, emails, texts, even webcam chats, but over the years I admit the contact became less frequent. We sold out to careers and endless promising futures.
Yeah, right. Futures. Mine was just as secure as any futures market. Nothing but speculations and hedging bets. Who would start up a glossy magazine when they were folding like origami and sinking like forgotten treasure chests in reckless seas? My future and my past seemed to die and I couldn’t let go of the bullet. Perhaps that’s why I still held on to my own box of the dead—the first thing I had packed to make the move from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Tucked inside the box, I’d wedged the envelope in between a copy of The Prophet and a box of tattered and fading family photographs. The gold ribbon on my own wedding invitation stuck out, curling around the top of the box like golden angel hair growing out of a hastily covered grave. The very good and the very bad. My own personal dichotomy of life.
I grew aware of the stale air in the church and took a deep breath. Almost historic and in need of restoration, I thought. Aging wood bled of life from the rays of sunlight streaming in from the clerestory windows, I watched dust particles sway and settle in the unseen movement of space.
Remorse and regret overwhelmed any grief. An old familiar guilt consumed me. Payton Doukas died because I loved her too much. The Lauren Visconti Curse. But there was a different feeling this time. A certain angst that went beyond the shock of an unexpected death.
They found Payton at her home and slumped over her computer soon after she hadn’t shown up for work. Her method of choice, the .357 Magnum, had fallen to the tile floor. The pooled blood had been tracked through every room of Payton’s house by the tiny paw prints of her cat, Teddy.
I wasn’t the last person to see Payton alive, but I was the last one she had emailed. She was my best friend, and yet her typed words made no sense to me.
Saguaro National Forest. CAC. 3 Skeletons. Import
DEATH IS ABRUPT. ALWAYS. It is impossible to digest. Even though it may lie in propinquity to your heart because of some terminal illness—a death expected, even then after any attempt to prepare for it—there is still no reconciliation of lost time. It is always stolen from us.
As for the unexpected, is it worse?
Two days after Payton’s funeral my phone rang again. The caller had identified himself as a detective. I was stupefied.
“Is this Lauren Visconti?” he asked.
“I’m from the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.”
“Pima County?” I asked.
“Southern Arizona,” he said. “Tucson.”
My palms grew moist. “This is about Payton?”
The detective told me he was just wrapping things up. He wanted to know what Payton’s final email to me might mean. I told him I had no idea and asked him why.
“Just routine when someone so young dies. We never found a suicide note. Would you know anything about that?”
I had never thought about that.
“Nothing to worry about, I’m sure,” he continued. “It happens more often than you think. Some people get so wrapped up in their final intent they actually forget. Sometimes they just have nothing left to say. It’s when we get a case of a female with no suicide note, and—,” he cleared his throat, “—well, her means of death.”
“You mean a gun?”
“Yes, ma’am. Firearms aren’t usually used in a female suicide. There’s no need for alarm. We did the background work and everything is as it appears.”
“You mean the suicide?”
“Ms. Doukas had no enemies and not too many friends, either. She worked for some national lecturer. She worked out of the elderly man’s home with his wife of almost fifty years. Not exactly any love triangles going on. Doesn’t seem she dated much. Besides a nine-to-five job in a quiet home she lived almost like a recluse. Does this seem about right to you?”
Sadly, it did.
“And there was no evidence of a forced entry to her home. We want things nice and tidy before we close the case.”
I didn’t know there was a case. And now it looked like it was closed.
Why didn’t Payton sign the email to me? She always did. A joke of the day, usually. And then her trademark way of signing off. BFF, I love you. Payton.
It was a bad case of nerves, I told myself. The rash extended down my inner arms and the back of my legs. What did I expect, for crisakes? I had just returned from a funeral.
HARLAN COAL WAS ANYTHING but satisfied. He was so close. He could smell it. He could reach out for it. He could grind his molars on it and taste the juice, but the meat and cartilage remained just outside of his clenched jaw.
Coal studied his image in the mirror while adjusting his Brioni tie, appreciating the fact his looks opened doors for him. He was those three little words. Tall. Dark. Handsome. At six-foot three he towered over most people. His frame was slim but athletic. He used his physique to his full advantage, not unlike most Hollywood types on the big screen or not. He had perfect white teeth. Coal’s imposing smoky eyes hosted deep crevasses at each side making it appear as if he had a friendly wink and a perpetual smile. His hands were gentle, but with a firm handshake he’d practiced over and over again before he was even twelve years old. That was after his mother’s boyfriend du jour told him he had the grip of a limp pussy.
Beyond his good looks, Harlan Coal knew his mind would keep those doors open just as long as he didn’t make any more mistakes. He’d earned his way. A Rhodes Scholar, he was so much more. Coal had a rigid plan that would launch him into fame and fortune. He was well on his way to becoming the leader of a revolutionary frontier in psychotherapies.
He thought himself to be a patient man who simply used his resources to his advantage. Resilience was his next-of-kin. When things didn’t work out in New York he was quick to relocate to Tucson. The incident there wasn’t really his fault. Perhaps he let his desires put him in harm’s way when it came to getting caught. He would not let that happen again.
Coal was smart enough to pick-up and move, again, to Los Angeles where the pulse of the city was hard and fast and no one ever really knew what was beating.
Now a little about Lala…
Lala’s mother first taught her the love of books by demonstration, finding daily time devoted to reading. Lala was no doubt a premiere and loyal monthly subscriber to Dr. Seuss’s children’s books, and years later, one of the first teenage girls to hide Erica Jong’s ‘Fear of Flying’ deep under the folds of her mattress
Since early childhood, Lala has been passionate about all the arts. She is a painter and a former stage performer. Early work careers blended high-end real estate sales and President of an interior design firm.
Her fifth grade teacher, Miss Macy, was the first mentor to suggest she consider a career in writing. That extension of the arts, the written word, turned into a full time passion in 2001.
- Published in regional magazines, newspapers, writer’s guides and journals.
- Award winning poetry.
- Endorsement and long-term mentorship by the late Sidney Sheldon
- Endorsements from Andrew Neiderman [author of the Devil’s Advocate], Paris Afton Bonds, and many others remarkable authors.
- Her new novel, Widow’s Row, was released in November, 2010
- Her second book, Coverboy, has a release date of January, 2012.
Lala writes suspense with romantic elements. While she enjoys vivid descriptions of the most nefarious of characters, she also insists on including a redeeming social message in her work, bringing readers to experience human conditions in ways that many may not be familiar. ‘With a deeper awareness,’ Corriere says, ‘comes acceptance, small or lifechanging.’
Readers and reviewers applaud her hallmark original plots, her in-depth character portrayals, rich scene settings, and authentic dialogue, all delivered with a fresh new voice.
Lala is a desert rat. She nestles there with her husband of over 20 years, Chuck, and the kid-cats, Bibelot, Sidney and Charlotte. She has three sons: Jason, University of Colorado. Cameron, Vanderbilt University. And Tyler, University of Puget Sound.
She’s a full-time writer. Interests include her professional critique partnerships and active memberships, art, gardening, entertaining, bridge, and enjoying the abundant wildlife that have found a sanctuary on her grounds.
She fears the gun hidden in her father’s staircase is the same weapon that killed her mother. In search of truth, she’s thrust into a world her father’s only true legacy … lies.
Warnings become death threats.
She can trust no one.