OAKHURST – Picture yourself in a splendid book store on a Sunday afternoon, enjoying a delicious treat and drinking tea as you admire the penmanship of your new favorite author on the book she’s signed for you.
If any of that sounds good, be sure to stop by Branches Books & Gifts on Sunday, Dec. 7, when our local bookseller welcomes author Jennifer Moss for a signing of her newly published book, Taking the Rap.
Moss will be present from 2 – 4 p.m. at the special event sponsored by Oakhurst Women in Business. The new book is the third in a series of “metaphysical mysteries” featuring Chicago Detective Ryan Doherty.
When rapper Terrico James claimed to be “mightier than Jesus,” nobody took him seriously…until someone did. Terrico’s dead body ends up nailed to a cross and Chicago Detective Ryan Doherty is on the case. Was it a fringe religious sect making a statement? Or Terrico’s protégé, Mandy Ross, a petulant pop star who sheds hearts like glitter in her path? With the help of his partner, Matt Di Santo, and the spirit of his dead partner, Jon, Ryan fights his way through cultural divides to find the murderer. — written about Taking the Rap by Jennifer Moss, Black Opal Press
Detective Ryan Doherty is the creation of Illinois native Jennifer Moss, born and raised in Evanston, who now operates out of an office in Oakhurst. On her fairly tidy desk are a few momentos including small framed pictures of internet celebrities Grumpy Cat and Li’l Bub. Next to her phone and calendar are miniature models of the 1957 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser and a Chicago Police car, as a nod to the books she’s written set in the windy city.
“My hero, Ryan, has a lot in common with me on a basic level,” says Moss. “But he curses more. Sometimes when I’m writing, I’ll bring out Catharine–a doll I found online who looks exactly like the heroine in my series. She’s my muse.”
Some of the fun and fascination of Moss’ trio of tomes are the interactive elements you can play with to follow up on the characters and envision the stories. Her real-life website contains links to the fictional advertising agency the first book is named after: Town Red.
There’s also a link to the website of the fictional character Catharine Lulling, who appears as a psychic empath, or “sensitive,” one who can feel the emotions and physical feelings of others. Moss writes that Catharine uses her abilities to tune into her pain, whether it is emotional or physical, and alleviate that pain through energy work.
Catharine Lulling’s website is so convincing you may find yourself forgetting she’s not really available for consultations, because she does the sort of work which could really come in handy. “If you are a believer in spirit guides some may call angels, Catharine will try to connect with them for an overall protective strategy for your life moving forward.”
Who can’t use the protective life strategy of angels?
Back in real life, Illinois some years ago, Moss grew up in a family of girls, where she caught the writing bug early on.
“I was always a writer,” she reflects. “I started writing stories and poetry in elementary school. I had a wonderful first grade teacher, Ms. Baumann, who supported me and encouraged me to write more.”
Much later, Moss graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in music theory/composition. Drawn to computers, she entered the technology field, eventually launching one of the first parenting websites, BabyNames.com. Her professional writing career began as a freelancer for articles about the internet industry. Moss published her first book in 2008 as a companion to her website, and soon developed a plan to write fiction.
“Mysteries and detective stories are my favorite to read and watch on television, so I chose that genre. I didn’t really have any clue about the male psyche, but luckily I belong to a writing group consisting of all guys except me. They give me a lot insight into how a man thinks and expresses himself.” The Ryan Doherty series began with Town Red, followed by Way to Go and Taking the Rap.
All are published by independent Black Opal Books, based in Oregon. So how did Moss wind up living in Oakhurst? For one thing, the peace and quiet helps with both the writing and her job as a programmer.
“I had always wanted to live in a mountain community and Yosemite was one of my favorite places to visit,” Moss says happily. “When my daughter went away to college I was free to live wherever I wanted, and I chose Oakhurst. I love living here and the community has been incredibly supportive.”
With certain days set aside for web work, and others for creative writing, the author’s characters are never far from her thoughts. Moss explains the difference between two kinds of writing: “soft” and “hard.”
“Hard writing is when you’re actually at the computer typing the words. Soft writing is when you are thinking about the story, constructing it, or trying out dialogue. That all happens in your thoughts and can take place anywhere — driving, taking a walk, in the shower. Both types of writing are equally as important.”
Also important to Moss are four-legged companions, featured both in her life and in her work. Don’t look for the prolific foothill resident to write another Ryan/Catharine book just yet. These days, Moss has her eyes on a character famous for his ear, or lack thereof.
“Now that I’ve published three in the Ryan Doherty series, I’ve decided to take a break from that world and write a historical novel based on Van Gogh. Then I’ll go back to the series, because I already have the plot for #4 in my head!”
On Sunday, Dec. 7, the busy author hopes you’ll plan to come by her book signing in Oakhurst for a taste of good old Chicago murder, mayhem, mystery and metaphysics.
“Branches has a great selection of books, Oakhurst memorabilia, toys and other gifts. Sweets, drinks, and a kickoff to the holiday season!”