After I sent out my last newsletter with preorder information on Mourning Express, I got a few questions in return. Mostly, what is a shared world and how does it work as a series? I hope this short Q&A helps!
Q - Your book says number three in the series and I usually start from book 1, but you say we can read this series in any order. How is this series different?
A - Most cozy mystery series are written by one author and feature one main sleuth. In a shared world, each book in the series is written by a different author with a different sleuth.
Q - How are they connected if they are all different?
A - The shared world has a few fixed connections. Like with The Funeral Fakers, each sleuth works for a company called Exit Stage Left out of Asheville, NC. Also, each sleuth is a former or failed actress who chooses to use their talents to professionally mourn. They each receive an assignment from their boss, Ruthie Colburn, and from there stumble into a mystery.
Q - So, I don't have to start with book 1?
A - Nope. You can start with book 6 and work backwards. But I definitely recommend starting with book 1, Mourning Routine, since it debuts November 2nd. Unless you've preordered the entire bundle from Sweet Promise Press, you'll have to wait for each book to release on a Friday throughout November and December.
Q - Why should I buy the preorder bundle instead of preording them separately on Amazon?
A - Once the first book debuts this coming Friday, The Funeral Fakers series will only be available from Amazon and in the Kindle Unlimited program. Buying directly from Sweet Promise Press means you can get all the books on November 2nd in a bundle in the format of your choosing. Also, there's a discount to buying direct from Sweet Promise Press. You'll save $10 off of the total purchase price of all six books. That's like getting two books free!! [click here to preorder the bundle today!]
Still not sure if The Funeral Fakers series is right for you? Here's a sample first chapter of Mourning Express that I hope will help make your reading decision easier.
Happy Reading! ~K.M. Waller
Gabriel Medina, special effects makeup artist extraordinaire and my best friend, dabbed goo on my cheek that looked like a mixture between snot and pus. A frown formed between his eyes—one I’d seen at least a hundred times. He regarded the work on my face with a professional eye squint, brushing something oozy near my nose. “Let’s run your lines again.”
A drop of the sludge landed on my bottom lip, and I prayed it wouldn’t work its way into my mouth or I’d be on the way to gag-city. “It’s ‘arrggh’ and ‘ugggh.’ I think I can handle it, Gabe.”
“No sarcasm, Rosie. And don’t forget to drag your left leg. The left, got it? The director is a little high-strung and very particular about zombie limp.” He glanced around the makeup trailer where the other zombie extras were getting final checks for their hair. He lowered his voice to a whisper. “And try to change your voice just a little.”
“There’s no way anyone will recognize me in all this zombie goop.” I glanced in the mirror. The makeup looked as if half my face had been eaten away. It reminded me of the quick and messy decay of my acting career. If only Grammy could see me now. I’d also colored my blonde locks a deep golden brown, gained twenty pounds, and used my legal last name again instead of the stage one my former agent insisted upon. The only people who recognized me now had known me as both the freckle-faced gangly teen from Asheville, North Carolina and the actress I’d become in my mid-to-late twenties.
Gabe wiped his makeup brushes down with a cleaning solution and placed them in his tool kit. Still making a name for himself since he’d won season five of the reality show, Monster Makeup Challenge, being associated with someone the press had coined Disaster Diva Rosalind Devoe could put a stain on his career.
All my other friends from L.A. deserted me at the first sign of scandal. But not Gabe. Best friends since our moms had met on a cheesy soap opera in the late 90s, he was the type of friend who called me on my birthday and the anniversary of Mom’s death. Plus every few days in between.
I grabbed his forearm, careful not to smear the fake blood applied to my hand. “I appreciate you pulling some strings and getting me on the set. Especially since I can’t be more than a few hours’ drive from Grammy. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without you.”
A smile worked away the worry on his face, but sympathy filled his brown eyes. “Have the police found any leads on your brother yet?”
A hard sigh escaped my lips making the goo travel from my lip to my chin. How often did a twin turn out to be evil? There had to be a statistical study on this somewhere. And if that study paid a premium price I’d volunteer for it in a heartbeat. “I’m sure Victor’s in some non-extradition country. But I don’t want to think about him right now. I want to work. It feels good to be back.”
I meant that. Even if this particular job meant dragging my left leg through pine needles and North Georgia tick-country as a zombie extra on a low-budget Sci-Fi flick. I loved acting and giving myself over to being another character. I loved being an actress and all the fun that came along with it. Well, used to come along with it. But I could get there again. After my chaotic life settled, I’d get back to L.A. and start over.
A sound check guy came in and twisted wires through my bra and clamped a mic pack around my waist. He lingered a little too long with his hands beneath my tattered shirt, and I lowered my voice and added a bit more southern twang than usual. “You about done there, fella?”
The guy mumbled something unintelligible from beneath a thick, unruly mustache and backed away.
Gabe took a long sip out of a Styrofoam cup and winked at an extra getting her hair teased at the other end of the trailer.
“You’re such a flirt.”
“What can I say? The girls love my interesting choice of career.” He waited until the sound check guy moved on to the next zombie before he started with more questions. His breath smelled of vanilla flavored coffee. “So, we can’t talk about your brother?”
I tugged my shirt back into place. “Nope.”
I shuddered. “Uh uh.”
“Your living situation?”
I tilted my head from side to side weighing my words carefully. “It’s bearable. You’d be surprised how easy it is to avoid someone who works shifts. I’d prefer you for a full-time roomie, though.”
A P.A. leaned inside the trailer. “We’re doing a rehearsal and the director wants all the zombies on set.”
I winked at Gabe and curtseyed. “Extend to me the most affectionate of well wishes, my good sir.”
He wrinkled his nose. “Don’t screw it up.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Nice.”
I followed three other zombie extras through a maze of trailers to the marked filming location. The sun had yet to come up fully and a chorus of crickets and other nightly insects buzzed near the spotlights that cast a glow on a clearing between tall pine trees. The zombie next to me swatted a mosquito on his arm and the smack against the liquid latex made a squishy sucking sound.
The anxiety of being on set again and the grossness of the costumes had my stomach tied into a knot. I closed my eyes and quietly began my vocal warm-ups to calm my nerves. “Mmmmmmmm Ah. Mmmmmmmm Ah. Mmmmmmmmm Ah.”
The extra beside me nudged me with her elbow. “What are you doing?”
I tried to smile through the latex. “Vocal warm-ups.”
“Should I be doing those too?” Worry clouded her young eyes. She wore a scalp cap with shots of black hair sticking out in messy clumps, making her hair look like it’d been ripped out in chunks.
“Not all actors use them. I like to because it helps keep me calm.”
“Oh, okay. I’m so nervous. This is my first acting job and I don’t want to screw it up.” She fluttered her hands and took an exceedingly large breath. “Who knew that only this morning I’d been bagging down at the Piggly Wiggly, and now I’m in a real movie.”
She began a litany of off-key hums but I interrupted her. “Bagging? You mean groceries?” I took a step back to get a good look at my new zombie friend. “You’re not a working actress?”
Walk-on extras usually didn’t get the full special effects makeup application. And I should know. I’d spent my first entire year in Hollywood with walk on roles.
The guy on the other side of me leaned in. His right arm had been tucked into his shirt to make him appear as if it had been eaten off. “None of us are. Some casting guy drove around town this morning and picked a few people he thought would make good zombies. Where they’d find you?”
A question I did not want to answer. “Hmm.”
The assistant director’s voice boomed over a loud speaker. “Rehearsal’s up.”
“Rehearsal’s up.” The P.A. repeated the announcement and approached us. “Zombies on set. Line up, please.”
The other extras and I lined up in a staggered position at the far end of the clearing. The August humidity surrounded us, and a natural fog layered the ground. Along with the tattered shirt I wore a skirt I’d pulled as far down as possible to cover the back of my thighs. A few drops of sweat formed on my upper lip and I hoped it wouldn’t dislodge the perfectly placed zombie makeup.
I twisted my foot and locked my knee to give it a good drag-like quality. The director, last name Stephenson, who I’d been careful not to cross paths with since arriving, made a semi-circle around us. I’d never met him before, but I didn’t want to take the chance he’d read a few tabloids about Disaster Diva Rosalind.
He backed away slowly, putting several feet between us. “Action,” he yelled.
I started forward, my mouth hanging slack. “Argh, ugh.” Then I switched it up. “Ugh, argh.”
The Piggly Wiggly bagger stayed frozen in place. I wanted to nudge her, but one of the many rules of acting dictated I do my job no matter what until the director yelled “cut.”
It didn’t take long.
“Cut!” Stephenson stormed past me to the frozen extra. “What is wrong with you?”
His condescending tone bit through my anxiety and raised my hackles a bit. I glanced across the camera staging area and caught of a glimpse of Gabe. He slowly shook his head as if to say keep your head down and don’t get involved.
Right. Think of Grammy. Think of the back due rent. Think of the paycheck at the end of the day.
The girl squeaked out an apology. She held her arms out in front of her and woodenly took a few steps forward.
“This isn’t Bride of Frankenstein nitwit. If you can’t walk in a straight line for five lousy minutes, then maybe you should head back to the trailer park where we found you.” The director’s voice echoed in the trees and someone behind me let out an uncomfortable cough.
I glanced around again. No one was going to intervene on her behalf?
I edged my way closer to the girl’s side. She sniffed and held her trembling lips together tightly. I could not abide bullies who made people cry. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Gabe waving his arms, but I chose to ignore him. An attempt to reason with the director couldn’t hurt. “Why don’t you give her another chance? She’s pretty new at this.”
He cut his gaze at me but refocused on his target. “So now you’re crying, too.” He threw his arms wide. “I didn’t ask for crybaby zombies.”
“Maybe if you’d hired professionals instead of cheaping out with the locals…” As soon as the words left my mouth, I knew I’d fluffed it up. Men like him hyped up the stereotypes that gave anyone associated with Hollywood a bad name. But actresses who argued with directors got the worst rap of them all. I should know this by now.
Stephenson snapped his fingers at the assistant director. My gaze travelled over to Gabe who lifted one shoulder in a half-shrug of defeat. We’d been around the business long enough to know what happened next. Extras who mouthed off got fired. Without pay.
“Replace these two,” he said, pointing at me and the Piggly Wiggly bagger. “Now!”
He turned his back to us, ending any further discussion. Good. I didn’t want to work for a jerk anyway. I wrapped an arm around Piggly Wiggly and guided her toward the makeup trailer. “Let’s get this junk off of us and go grab a few days’ worth of the food from the catering truck.”
We plodded by Gabe and when he opened his mouth, I held up a hand. “Not a word.”
Back at the trailer, I grabbed my phone while I waited in line for the makeup removal process. Gabe would stay on set to oversee the non-fired actors’ zombie goo.
He’d sent me a text. Need gas money to get home?
The three-and-a-half-hour drive had taken a chunk out of my limited funds put aside for job searching. I had needed this quick paycheck to help make rent this month. But I had a few dollars left in my pocket and I’d stretch them to the limit before I’d let Gabe loan me gas money.
I’m good call me later, I texted back.
Before I could put the cell phone in my pocket, it trilled with the ringtone I’d picked out for Grammy’s assisted living facility. They only called this early in the morning for one reason. I stepped out of the trailer to answer the call.
“Hello, Miss Rosie?” The nurse called everyone by their first name and Miss, Mrs., or Mr. It didn’t matter that she was thirty years my senior and I should be the one addressing her that way.
“Hi, Pearl. How are you this morning?”
The sweet nurse appreciated pleasantries before getting down to assisted living facility business.
“I am quite well, and I do appreciate you asking.” A short pause followed. “However, your sweet Grammy is refusing to have breakfast without a show. And you know how important it is to keep her blood sugar regulated.”
I dipped my head in defeat. “Did she eat last night?”
Another long pause. “One of our nursing assistants thinks dinner ended up in Burt Lancaster Jr.’s dog food bowl.”
“I’m across the line in Georgia, but I’ll be there before y’all serve lunch. Thanks for calling.”
So much for loading up on the free food before hitting the road. I changed out of the costume but didn’t wait for the zombie makeup removal. It would brighten my mood slightly if I could cause slight panic on the highway from unsuspecting motorists who happened to look over.
I glanced at my reflection in the rearview mirror. There had to be a better way to make some fast cash.
Mark it TO READ on Goodreads!!