This month Sisters in Crime/Hawai'i begins our spotlight series, introducing our members to the world of mystery and to Sisters in Crime members around the world!
Our first spotlighted member is Lizbeth Hartz, author of the true crime novel, ANGEL HERO.
Welcome, Lizbeth, and thank you for sharing with us your thoughts and ideas on writing, and details about your book.
SISTERS IN CRIME, RAY BRADBURY, AND ME
Knowing I would be one of four mystery authors to participate in a panel discussion at a Sisters in Crime meeting at Makiki Library in September, 2015, I’d done my research. In a small hot area enclosed by bookcases, twenty or so of us Sisters (and Misters) of Crime pulled our chairs close to round tables. I sweated, fanned myself with a red round fan courtesy of the library, and glanced at my notes about two questions I’d agreed to answer. Which author, living or dead, would I choose to do lunch with and why? What height of accomplishment did I reach when my book Angel Hero was published last year?
My immediate choice of authors was Ray Bradbury, famous fantasy writer. As a wide-eyed child nurtured by fairy tales and magic, the no-nonsense diet doled out by my just-the-facts-ma’am dad left me starving. Ravenously, I devoured Bradbury’s enchanting short stories and novels, shouted “Yes!” to battling witches’ sinister spells, felt my thumbs prickle when Mr. Electro sizzled and embryos in bottles haunted dark carnivals, rode a rocket to the murmuring canals of Mars where gray-eyed Martians seeped into my bones, got sloppy drunk on Dandelion Wine and thirsted for more.
In his book Zen and the Art of Writing, Releasing the Creative Genius Within You, Bradbury recommends writers write about what they love and what they hate. “What do you want more than anything else in the world?” he asks. “Find a character like yourself who will want something or not want something with all his heart.”
In my book I, like Bradbury, wrote about a character who wanted something with all her heart. One big difference between this fiction master and me is that, while his characters are a little like him, they are also a whole lot different. In my book, however, the main character is essentially me, and the other characters are essentially them. And my story is true except for names, dates, and locations, whereas Bradbury’s are as fictional as fiction gets.
What did I want more than anything else in the world? To love a Prince Charming who also loved me. What did I have to armor up against, and go to battle with, in order to find love? My squelched voice, which became even more stifled when a killer searched for me and fear wrapped its tendrils around me. Fear, strangling me, terrifying me out of telling the truth. That devil fear whispered, “Telling the truth could cost you your life. And what good would it do anyway? You can’t bring a dead man back to life.”
I had to tell the truth and shame the devil before I was given to understand that devils are liars. Writers can bring dead mean back, because they get to live life twice when writers preserve them on paper. “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect,” wrote author Anais Nin.
Bradbury said, “Give your character his running orders. Shoot him off. Then follow as fast as you can go. The character, in his great love or hate will rush you through to the end of the story.”
Unlike Bradbury, I relied on experience rather than my imagination to give me my running orders in Angel Hero. “Want to know love?” Life asked. “Learn to speak up for yourself. Take risks. Say no to ogres who try to shut you up, or victimize you. Say yes to fearless heroes.” Vic told me the same thing in different words: “Grow some guts, girl. Pussyfooting around ain’t no good way to live.”
I must have learned from Vic because I didn’t pussyfoot around when the moderator asked me what height of accomplishment I’d reached when Angel Hero was published. I rattled on for so long I ran out of time to answer the second question about Bradbury.
“One accomplishment was great personal satisfaction that I kept my 29-year-old promises to Vic,” I told the group. “I vowed to continue honing my skills until I could write the most compelling book possible, and get his story published or die trying.
“Another accomplishment is finding a way to let my voice be heard. Although in my day-to-day life I sometimes still have difficulty speaking up, within the pages of Angel Hero I let my words flow, telling the truth about what happened so long ago.
“The events described in Angel Hero really happened. When Mighty Quill Press published the book in April, 2014, I disguised it as an inspired-by-a-true story novel. Next month, in October, I am giving my book a facelift with a new cover and an updated About the Book section, and removing the façade of fiction I constructed around the book. Angel Hero’s actual genre is that of fictionalized memoir or spiritual mystery. My book describes the crime I survived and the love that still takes my breath away today.”
Before settling on the title Angel Hero, two titles I came up with were God Solves the Case, and Detective God. I didn’t choose either one because both sounded like a trivialization to me, sort of like taking The Creator’s name in vain, even though both titles were apropos of my experience. God did solve the mystery for me even before I prayed for an answer. Seven months before, in fact. Which demonstrated the truth of Matthew 6:8 for me: “For your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask Him.”
I had to feel the fear all the way through and tell my truth anyway before the truth of what the argument was about was revealed to me. And it set me free, as was promised in John 8:32: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” The truth killed my fear of the gunman, and intensified my determination to get Vic’s story in print or die trying.
In his review of Angel Hero, Steve Morrill, author and director of writerscollege.com, wrote: “… In this gripping page-turner (I read it at one sitting) Lizbeth has honored Vic as she promised to do so very long ago.”
As I told my audience, “Keeping my promise to Vic is the accomplishment of which I am most proud. More than any man I’ve ever known, he deserves to have his story told.”
Thinking about it later, I realized I also wanted to leave my readers with a lantern in case they ever needed it during their darkest night. As author Jane Roberts wrote, “You are a portion of All That Is; therefore, the universe leans in your directionYou are a portion of All That Is; therefore the universe leans in your directionYou are a portion of All That Is; therefore the universe leans in your direction.” As Detective Jet told me, “God is good.” As it states in Matthew 7:7: “…Seek, and ye shall find. Knock, and the door will be opened.” I am still awestruck recalling that, even before I knocked, The Creator knew I would and opened the door.
In Elton John’s lyrics to the song “Candle in the Wind,” written in memory of Marilyn Monroe after her death by drug overdose, this line struck me as especially poignant: “And it seems to me you lived your life like a candle in the wind, never knowing who to cling to when the rain set in.” My wish is that all people, especially those who, like me, are forced to face something truly terrifying, find comfort in knowing they never need to be afraid, not even when the rain sets in.
The link to Lizbeth Hartz’ facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004366997121
The website for Lizbeth’s website/blog is http://mightyquillpress.com
Lizbeth's twitter account is Lizbeth Hartz@LizbethHartz or https://twitter.com/LizbethHartz
The link to Lizbeth’s Amazon Author Page is https://amazon.com/author/angelhero2ndedition