Monday, November 30, 2009






Today, Michael Angley is my guest. His books are fascinating--and so is he as you'll discover as you read his answers to my questions.

As a retired Air Force officer, what made you decide to write novels following your first career?

“I’ve always loved to write, but I postponed my long-term goals while I pursued my Air Force career. In hindsight, I think that was a good thing because it allowed me to focus on my writing with the precision it needed. I retired as a Colonel having spent 25 years as a Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, or OSI for short. The OSI is the Air Force version of NCIS, so I had plenty of rich experiences to inspire my writing, from running felony-level criminal investigations, as well as counterintelligence and counterterrorism operations around the world. In my last assignment, I was the Commander of OSI Region 8, at Air Force Space Command. I like to tell people, ‘If it entered or exited Earth’s atmosphere, then I had a dog in the fight!’”

What is the Child Finder Trilogy about?

“The trilogy is a mystery/suspense series with paranormal and religious edges. It features a protagonist, Air Force Special Agent Patrick S. O’Donnell, who is as tough as 24’s Jack Bauer, but with the endearing, family-values heart of 7th Heaven’s Eric Camden. He’s an early-thirties Air Force Major assigned to the Pentagon when the 9/11 terrorist attacks take place.

In the debut novel, Child Finder, Agent O’Donnell’s haunting dreams about missing children reveal a hidden psychic gift which the government eagerly exploits, drawing him into a Top Secret program to find missing kids. But to make matters complicated, Uncle Sam has other ideas in mind for his unique paranormal talents…after all, there is a War on Terror underway. One thing’s for sure—ever since joining this new, secret community, he is surrounded by murder, and the very real threat of harm to his own family!”

And the second book?

“Child Finder: Resurrection will launch in December 2009. It has been a year and a half since Agent O’Donnell left the secret child rescue program after it went horribly off-track, resulting in murder and endangering his own family. And just when he thinks he’s comfortably put this painful past behind him, he receives a call from his mentor. The murky, shadowy Top Secret community where he once was center-stage has been revised, revamped, resurrected!

The government needs his psychic skills more than ever. A sick, twisted, menacing child killer is on the loose, and no one but Pat can stop him. But Agent O’Donnell soon discovers this new nemesis is more than he bargained for. Nothing can prepare him for the psychotic genius he must fight…and the life and death cat-and-mouse game that entraps him! Once again, Pat must call upon his faith and strong spiritual connection with God to sustain and guide him, especially during his darkest hours as he battles…pure evil.”

When will the third and final story publish, and what happens in it?

“Child Finder: Revelation (to publish circa December 2010), is the grand finale, so to speak. Many people believe the saying, ‘The truth is out there.’ But as my website says, ‘The truth is in here, and it’s not what you think!’ Patrick O’Donnell is dispatched to Korea on a sensitive mission to crack the disturbing abduction of a high ranking U.S. official’s children. What he discovers about their sudden disappearance — especially where they have been taken — shocks the foundation of international relations. But more intriguing is what makes these particular children so special. What O’Donnell learns about them, and himself, involves sensitive government secrets he regrets ever knowing. These new revelations will rock his faith, his concept of life, and his understanding of his place in the universe. There’s Vatican intrigue, strange and secret agreements between the White House and the Holy See, non-stop action and adventure!”

How did you develop the character of your protagonist?

“I took a chance. I realized that most protagonists in this genre are rough and tough, and rarely show a soft side. I wanted both! Pat is a family man (has two small children), a deeply-faithful Christian, happily-married, and has an incredibly strong moral/ethical compass. At the same time, he is a ‘kick-ass’ investigator and counterterrorism operator. These contrasts come into play as he enters this Top Secret program – he finds himself pulled in many directions where he must make tough moral/ethical decisions (is everything he is asked to do actually legal?). He wants to save kids, but at what price? I also used his faith for contrast as well. He is a man who grew up with an unfulfilled sense of calling – is it the psychic gift and rescue of children? He’s not sure, so he grapples with what it all means.”

Please talk more about your military career.

“I retired from the U.S. Air Force in 2007 at the rank of Colonel. I was a career OSI Special Agent, and served on thirteen different assignments throughout the world. Among these were five tours as a Commander of different units, to include two squadrons and a wing.

I enjoyed an exciting and dangerous career, experiencing all things imaginable as a criminal investigator and a counterintelligence and counterterrorism operator. Following the 1996 Khobar Towers terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia, I was dispatched to command all OSI units throughout the Middle East, with responsibility for 23 countries. During my tenure my teams and I effectively neutralized numerous terrorist threats to U.S. forces in the region, to include an imminent threat to senior Department of Defense officials. In 2004, I commanded all OSI units in South Korea where we countered a classified target in Seoul. I was honored when the President of South Korea presented me with a Presidential Citation and medal, and the Korean National Police Agency (KNPA) Commissioner decorated me with the KNPA Medal of Cooperation.

"Earlier in my career, while commanding an OSI unit in northern Japan, I conducted an operation that effectively blocked a KGB agent’s efforts to steal critical U.S. technology, and thereby stymied Soviet military advances for years. In 1999, I was the Chief of Counterintelligence within the Directorate of Intelligence, U.S. Strategic Command. My office competed for the prestigious Killian Award, a White House level honor that annually recognizes the very best intelligence unit in the entire U.S. government. We came in as first runner-up for this significant honor!”

Did any of your experiences in law enforcement factor in to the Trilogy plot at all?

“Generically, yes. The main reason I decided on this concept for the series was because of the number of crimes against children I worked in the Air Force. Every one of them literally broke my heart, and as a dad myself, it made it even tougher on me. In some respects, Child Finder is a kind of catharsis, enabling me to save some kids even if fictional.”

Obviously Pat O’Donnell stars in all three books, but what about other characters? Will any of them migrate over to the other two books?

“Pat would be nowhere without his team! His career mentor, Colonel John Helmsley, accompanies him on his journeys, as well as the team psychiatrist, Dr. Woodrow ‘Woody’ Davis.”

When Child Finder debuted it received a glowing review from the Library Journal, and earned placement on its Summer Reads List. Were you nervous about the review process?

“VERY nervous! As a debut author, I had zero experience with reviews until then. While everyone involved in my writing projects has been supportive and positive, getting my first impartial review flooded my gut with butterflies.”

What about the award your debut novel received?

“I am thrilled that Child Finder won the Silver Medal for fiction in the 2009 Military Writers Society of America’s Annual Awards program. This was such a huge honor for me, and from what I have been told by the MWSA community, competition was tough this year with the largest number of fiction submissions in the society’s history.”

What do you want readers of your books to walk away with?

“Inspiration. Plain and simple, I want them to be inspired by my protagonist and his exceptional moral grounding. I want them inspired by his love of wife and children, his love of God, his dedication and devotion to his country. I want readers to believe again in the goodness of people. And with regard to Child Finder: Revelation, I want them to challenge everything they have come so comfortably to believe about life. Is there some strange truth out there that Uncle Sam wants to keep under wraps? Does this book finally unleash this revelation? Of course, it’s all fiction…right?”

Thank you, Mike, fascinating stuff and I can't wait to read your books.

(blog is contained within the main site) Mike suggests that not only you visit him but subscribe to his newsletter. If you do and leave a comment, you'll be eligible for a monthly free book drawing.

Mike's books are available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and his website has built in links. People can also order a signed copy from him via his website – link on every page.


Marilyn

Sunday, November 29, 2009

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas

Well, doesn't it? We haven't even eaten the last of the leftovers, but now it's time to decorate for Christmas.

I don't really do nearly as much decorating as I used to--even though everything is easier. The last time we put up our big tree, artificial, but it looks real, our cats had a great time taking off all the ornaments. I have three small trees that I put around, all decorated, one with lights.

Our favorite decoration is a stuffed moose that sings "Grandma was run over by a reindeer."

This year I put our three ceramic Nativity scenes on the mantel and didn't bother with some of our other Christmas knick-knacks. Another sign that I'm getting older. I'm just grateful I can enjoy another Christmas with my family.

Since I have managed to take care of most of my Christmas giving, I'm hoping next week I'll be free to really get going on my latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. I'm four chapters into it and amazingly my plot is taking off in a couple of directions I never even considered before I began writing.

I'm also in the middle of reading an excellent mystery. It was terribly slow--at least I thought so--in the beginning third, but now it's all beginning to come together. Despite it being on the best seller list, it did a lot of telling rather than showing for chapter after chapter--something that we're told as writers is a definite "no no".

The woman who used to always decorate the church for Christmas is out of town, makes me wonder if anyone is going to take her place. I'll be happy to worship with or without Christmas decorations.

Tomorrow I have a great interview of an author of a most intriguing sounding trilogy of books. I've already ordered the first one.

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Planning Ahead

I'm truly a planner. I like to know where I'm going and what I'll be doing. I have a calendar that I keep by my desk and one for my purse. Everyday, I check my calendar to make sure I'm not forgetting anything. Frankly, I couldn't get along without my calendar.

What do I put on it? Everything. Whatever I'm going to do that day goes on the calendar from working on my budget to a book signing event.

Coming up next week, I need to write a post for the Stiletto Gang on Tuesday, put up Christmas decorations sometime during the week, and my critique group will be meeting on Wednesday. Saturday I'm heading up to the Willow Bridge Bookstore in Oakhurst to talk about e-publishing at 2 p.m.

The main reason I keep an up-to-date calendar (and yes, I already have one going for 2010) is so I don't double book an event. But it does help me to plan my day. If hubby and I are going to a movie, I put that down too.

Oh, and I do make lists every day too. I love crossing items I've completed off the list.

I don't know what this says about me, but I've always operated this way. I have two daughter who follow in my footsteps, and a daughter who accomplishes a lot without much planning, and a son who never plans.

And, confession time, I do forget things sometimes--especially what I meant to take to a book event and never got around to sticking it in with everything else--but I guarantee it would be much, much for forgetting with out my calendar and my lists.

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Aftermath of Thanksgiving






I didn't even think about taking pictures during the meal--too busy getting it ready, serving it, and eating myself. We were already done, cleaned up, and playing Estimation when I remembered I'd charged my iPhone and brought it out for picture taking.

We ended up with only 15 people for dinner--some didn't come because they couldn't be torn away from the TV--however we had two that we didn't expect.

In the pictures are daughter-in-law Elaina and granddaughter Jessica. I couldn't have done the dinner with Elaina--she was so helpful making the mashed potatoes and her wonderful salsa, and just plain being my right hand lady before and after. Jessica made the green bean casserole and it turned out great.

The picture of Carolyn (great-granddaughter) next to daughter Lisa shows what we were doing after we ate and while we ate dessert. In another one it looks like hubby is peeking at grand-daughter Melissa's cards--don't think he was. Aaron (great-grandson) played half a game with us then retired to the couch to watch the football game.

Some of the picture I took were far too blurry, I'm not the best at picture taking, so didn't post them.

I was tickled that my two grown grandson, Nick and Nathan, came even though they had other dinners to attend. Nick brought his girlfriend and his daughter Kay'lee (6)who let me know she had 3 more dinners to attend. Sure glad I didn't, barely got through mine.

Haven't seen Nathan for awhile and learned he'd been sky-diving since our last visit. While here, he took his dad's (our son) new motorcycle for a spin. I was very glad when he got back.

Anyway, it was a great Thanksgiving and we have enough food to host another dinner. We'll ask, not sure anyone will come--except for son and his family who live next door.

Hope everyone had a great time yesterday. I was thinking back and wondering if my mom was still cooking Thanksgiving dinner when she was my age and the answer was no because she came to my house or my sister's for Thanksgiving.

Now it's time to get ready for the Christmas holidays.

Marilyn

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving One and All!

I'm writing this post the day before Thanksgiving because I know I'll be far too busy tomorrow. Yes, I'm the cook again this year. We'll be having 17 people for dinner--but I'm a piker, my sis is having 30. Years ago when she still lived in Springville, we used to do Thanksgiving together at my house. She always brought the pies and cookies (I don't do well with either) and made the gravy. My aunt always brought the green beans and the sweet potatoes. My mom made her famous green pineapple jello. Of course I did the big stuff, turkey, ham, etc. Others brought other side dishes.

Our families continued to grow over the years and when all my sister's kids moved to Las Vegas, she followed. Now she has them, their kids and their kids' kids joining her and her hubby at the Thanksgiving table.

When we moved to Springville, we left two grown daughters behind. For a long while they continued to come to Springville for Thanksgiving--but now their children have grown and some started their own families. Eldest daughter and hubby will be spending Thanksgiving with youngest daughter and family. Some of the kids will be home and some not. Youngest daughter has two sons who have moved far away--but may be coming for Thanksgiving. One of eldest daughter's kids and family will be coming for that Thanksgiving dinner.

Here at home we'll have our middle daughter, her hubby, a young man who lives with them, her eldest daughter and hubby with their three kids, our son, his wife, daughter and two sons. And who knows, we may have some guests we didn't expect.

I love Thanksgiving. The food is great, it's fun to be surrounded by loved ones, I'm sure the men will watch football and we'll have a raucous game of Estimation. And we'll have lots of leftovers so I won't have to cook for a few days. One more thing to be thankful for.

Here's wishing your Thanksgiving to be wonderful.

Marilyn

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Great-Grandma's Bragging



This is Peyton with her trophy and 2nd place ribbon she won in Denver this past weekend in the individual dancing competition for Irish dancing. It has a different name which I can neither pronounce or spell.

The dancing group she belongs to won 3rd in group competition.

Needless to say, we are all proud of her. She's only in second grade. She's the one that decided she wanted to learn how to do these dances. She's also learning the violin with the goal of being able to play the violin and dance at the same time.

She's quite a grown-up little girl.

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Life of a Writer--Mine

Many readers think of writers as having a life that is magical, much different from what every day folks experience. That might be true of the likes of John Grisham and Mary Higgins Clark but it isn't for an author like me.

Anyone who has read my blog for awhile knows that I'm published by two small, independent publishers and that I have a very large family by anyone's standards.

I usually rise a little before six, dress and greet the day with a cup of Chai tea. Though I ought to immediately start writing, I must confess, I always check my email first--and if I have a blog to promote, I'll post about it on Facebook and Twitter.
Sometime during the day, I have to write something for this blog and I'm also on the Stiletto Gang on Tuesdays and I blog for I Love A Mystery on the first and third Tuesdays.

A couple of times a week I do the laundry. I clean our bedroom and bath, my office and the hall--though I manage to con relatives into helping with the other cleaning.
Hubby often fixes breakfast, we do our thing for lunch and I'm the cook for dinner. We usually have our son and his wife and sometimes their daughter join us. I've never learned to cook for two and rather than having too many leftovers or throwing food out, I'd rather have company.

I teach Sunday School and attend church on the weekends that I'm home. When I'm promoting a book, I'm gone off and on.

I write a newsletter once a month for the residential care business which I was a part of for over twenty years and I still go to their board meetings to keep up with what is going on.

Hubby and I love movies and try to go once a week--though we don't always find something we want to see. We also watch movies on DVD.

Of course I read a lot--mysteries of course and I write review of those I like for DorothyL and Amazon.

We spend time with family--and guess who the cook is for Thanksgiving this year? Yep, that's right, me. I've made the menu, done the shopping, and I think there'll be about twenty of us. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone and playing Estimation with the kids.

So, though I am a writer, my life is very much like anyone else's.

Eventually I'll get back to my work in progress, another Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.

Marilyn

Monday, November 23, 2009

Epic Open Letter About Writers Association vs. Harlequin

EPIC Open Letter

The Writers Associations vs. Harlequin

The internet is abuzz with news of the backlash in the wake of Harlequin's new "Harlequin Horizons" (soon to be renamed)vanity line. Everyone has their two cents to add; EPIC (ElectronicallyPublished Internet Connection) is no different, though EPIC is in a unique position in this discussion.

Why is EPIC unique? Because we don't have a requirement that would preclude self/subsidy/vanity-published (s/s/v) authors or publishers from joining EPIC as full members. To be a member of EPIC, you must be a published author or industry professional…period. We don't require books or covers entered in our contests to be from conglomerates or even from royalty-paying press. Also, we are not a writers'association "of America" group. EPIC is a global organization that includes members from around the world from the US and Canada to the UK, Germany, Australia, India, and farther.

EPIC started in 1997 as a proposed chapter that split from RWA and formed its own organization. We acknowledged then that RWA was not in a position to accept the indie/e model and support its e-published members. In the twelve years since, EPIC and RWA have grown in different directions.

EPIC embraces all genres of fiction and non-fiction and welcomes industry members as full members, to include: publishers, cover artists, editors, agents, and others who work together toward common goals in the digital publishing age. WAs (Writers of America Associations) are largely author organizations for the traditionally published (or inRWA's case, pre-published authors, as well) and include a limited
range of genres under their umbrellas.

What is EPIC's "official position" on this matter? The official position is that Harlequin authors (and Harlequin as a publisher) were welcomed in EPIC before and continue to be welcomed,including those of the new Horizons line.

The bylaws of EPIC do not specify that a publisher must be a traditional, royalty-paying press, and in fact, they specify that s/s/v-published authors are welcome in EPIC. Our contest guidelines specify that a book must be released for sale in the English language, not that it must be from a traditional, royalty-paying press. Further, the publisher code of ethics instituted by the EPIC publisher coalition
in April of this year does not preclude s/s/v publishers from signingthe code. This code represents what EPIC feels is right and appropriate when dealing with authors.

If anything in the code would limit the Horizons venture, it would come down to a couple of key bullets, including:

* Complete disclosure of all terms prior to author signing a contract. The Horizons site makes claims about s/s/v that imply unrealistic expectations and ignore the pitfalls of s/s/v. As a large number of aspiring authors considering s/s/v will not know the pros and cons of this career choice, full and complete disclosure would include realistic information about what will likely happen when authors choose to use s/s/v.

* The publisher will aid authors in marketing their books. No mention is made of Horizons marketing for the authors, unless the authors pay for a marketing package.

Further, the code would limit the new Carina line, based on a single code item, as far as we are able to discern thus far: "contracting for only such rights to the works of our authors that the publisher reasonably expects to utilize during the term of the contract".
According to the Carina team, they will be signing all rights with no immediate intentions of doing print.

Not adhering to the code would not preclude Harlequin from joining EPIC or even from competing their books and covers in the EPIC contests, even those from Horizons and Carina, but it would preclude them from being listed as a code of ethics publisher.

EPIC does find it troubling that Harlequin chose to lend its name to "Harlequin Horizons," their new vanity publishing arm, but not to Carina, its indie/e-style, traditional royalty-paying press. By doing so, Harlequin suggests that vanity publishing is more acceptable with the Harlequin name attached than a traditional e-publisher associated with the same parent company. This is troubling to anyone with an interest in e-publishing, which would include EPIC members. At the very least, one would think both publishing arms would be equals in Harlequin's eyes. Harlequin further muddies the subject with its own statement, indicating their acceptance of the "changing environment" in publishing.

From a marketing standpoint, one would think Harlequin would, initially at least, want to distance itself from both lines, as departures from the norm they excel at, but in light of the existing Luna and Spice Briefs lines, one would think (of the two new ventures proposed by Harlequin this month), they would want to associate themselves with Carina, as a traditional e-publisher.

But what about the problem the industry faces, in general? To appreciate this situation requires looking at it from two points of view; that of the WAs and that of Harlequin.

The Harlequin Perspective - A new way forward?

Does Harlequin have the "right" to start up a vanity line? Of course, they do. Harlequin is a business independent of any and all WAs. No industry organization should have the power to dictate how Harlequin should run their multi-billion dollar company. They do not need permission or blessing from anybody on how they conduct business, EPIC or otherwise.

In its rebuttal to RWA, Harlequin stated: "It is disappointing that the RWA has not recognized that publishing models have and will continue to change. As a leading publisher of women's fiction in a rapidly changing environment, Harlequin's intention is to provide authors access to all publishing opportunities, traditional or otherwise."

On this point, EPIC concedes that Harlequin is correct. RWA has not kept up with the changing face of publishing. Their own members have begged RWA's Board of Directors to form committees and research the digital age of publishing—and they have been denied until this moment, when they have been forced to do so. RWA has frequently changed its guidelines to avoid accepting the changing face of royalty-paying press,
in all its forms.

This is one of the core problems with RWA, SFWA, and MWA. A professional organization must set standards, but changing those standards repeatedly shows a certain amount of duplicity, and ignoring the changing industry is worse. As industry organizations, at least staying abreast of new trends is vital, even if your guidelines remain somewhat stagnant after your debate on those changes.

The WA Perspective - The status quo?

Does RWA have the "right" to yank Harlequin's status for lending their name to a vanity publishing line? YES! RWA's current guidelines say that they must revoke Harlequin's status; therefore, doing so is the only correct course they can take.

RWA has won the respect of many for following its own guidelines despite the size, history, and market presence of the publisher, and EPIC applauds them for it. If Harlequin's true intent is to funnel aspiring authors that they reject over to "Harlequin Horizons," EPIC understands why RWA would deny Harlequin editors appointments at National.

EPIC sympathizes with authors affected by this. With Harlequin's status revoked, any Harlequin author who has not already submitted for PAN and authors who might sign contracts with Harlequin are not eligible for PAN. In future years, under the current guidelines, Harlequin books would not be eligible to compete in the RITA, no matter which line they come from.

Worse, SFWA and RWA have historically removed current paid members, who've formerly qualified as published authors with a later-revoked publisher, from membership or from membership perks they'd qualifiedfor, in previous industry dust-ups. Some of those authors never regained the status they were stripped of.

Nevertheless, Harlequin had to realize that putting the Harlequin name on a vanity line, then sending aspiring authors rejected by Harlequin not to Carina--which is still traditional though e--but to theHarlequin's new vanity line and posting RWA links on the vanity arm's webpage would antagonize RWA, whose views on vanity publishing were well known. In fact, the views of SFWA and MWA are well known.
These moves were not well considered. They made an immediate and decisive move by the WAs necessary.

Self- and Vanity Publishing...An Apologia

There's nothing inherently wrong with self/subsidy/vanity. Certain niche markets and projects lend to it. As long as the presentation (editing, cover, formatting, etc.) is sound, and the authors know going in what the pros and cons are, everything is good.

There are good, bad, and ugly examples of publishing everywhere, from the NY conglomerate's main lines to indie/e to s/s/v. If an author chooses to go the final route, it is on him/her to make sure the presentation and marketing plan are sound. EPIC encourages authors to make those decisions for themselves, without artificial interference from the organization about it. We're here to support our members,
not to make their choices for them in an effort to "protect" them.

On the other hand, EPIC stands with several editors and authors who have tossed their rocks at Harlequin over the wording on the Horizons site. According to Dee Powers' yearly questionnaire of NY editors and agents, indie/e is considered a viable resume point for a writer; s/s/v, at this time, is not, unless you hit the sales jackpot, which is highly unlikely but admittedly possible. The Horizons site gives the impression that publication there will not only be respected but also that it will open the door to not only Harlequin but also other NY conglomerate
publishers and even Hollywood...if you pay enough and work hard enough. It goes against the grain of full disclosure in the pitfalls and problems with s/s/v. On that point, I agree with SFWA's response to Horizons.

Harlequin's newest tack is to remove their name from the Horizons vanity line. If that also includes not funneling rejections from Harlequin to that line and removing the ads for Horizons from the main HQ site, it may actually fly with the WAs. Or it may not. SFWA, at least, has made it clear that they want full disclosure of the pitfalls and problems of s/s/v included to reinstate Harlequin.

A Final Word from EPIC -

One of EPIC's missions is to educate authors on all the options available in publishing and to promote good practice and good business relations between author and publisher. It's a brave new world in publishing circles, and the growing pains are coming to the fore.

Brenna Lyons: EPIC President
Electronically Published Internet Connection

http://epicauthors.com

(Since everyone is talking about this and I'm a member of Epic I thought I'd like to share.)

Marilyn

Sunday, November 22, 2009

An Axe to Grind



This is the next book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series. Isn't this a great cover? I am so pleased.

I will be doing another blog tour in March so if anyone would like to host me for that, email me at mmeredith@ocsnet.net

Also you can read the first three chapters here: https://www.createspace.com/Preview/1061882


Please leave a comment.

Marilyn

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Blind Side and New Moon

Yesterday, hubby and I managed a double feature. We went to see "Blind Side" first which started at 10:45 a.m. and were glad we weren't planning to see "New Moon" then because there was a huge line already for people who had purchased tickets ahead of time. We bought tickets for the 2 p.m. showing of "New Moon". We had only 20 minutes between the two shows.

We both loved "Blind Side". Sandra Bullock plays a rich, Southern, Christian white socialite who befriends and gives a home to a big, black teenager. It's definitely a feel-good movie--and definitely entertaining. Sandra Bullock was definitely the right person to play the part of this fearless woman who does what she thinks is right no matter what her friends or anyone else may think. Fortunately, her husband and children go along with her.

New Moon played in the biggest auditorium (as well as another small one at different times) and though there were lots of people there, it wasn't full. I liked the movie--a romantic fantasy all the way. All the girls and women in the audience seemed to love it too from the oohs and aahs I heard. Of course it's not over--two more to come.

The young man (supposed to be 17 and I'm sure he isn't much older) who plays the vampire is quite sickly looking, like he has leukemia or some other horrid disease. The young man who plays the Werewolf isn't nearly as handsome in the face (though there are many who would argue this point) but he's got quite a physique which is displayed a lot in the movie.

My husband wasn't thrilled with it, but he didn't go to sleep. He goes to sleep a lot in movies and I have to poke him when he snores, but New Moon had enough action to keep him awake.

Anyway, I enjoyed the day. We had breakfast out before we began our movie marathon and ate dinner at our favorite Thai place afterward.

See the movies for yourself and let me know what you think.

Friday, November 20, 2009

What I'm Thankful For

With Thanksgiving approaching it's time to think about all that I have to be thankful for.

First and foremost, for my faith in God and my belief that He is in control no matter what happens.

Of course I'm thankful that I live in the United States and because of that, as a woman I can do so much more than I could if I'd been born in many countries around the world.

I'm thankful for my home and the fact that we always have enough food on the table for us and whoever else happens to be joining us at the table.

I'm thankful for my family, husband first and foremost for all that he's put up with over the years, for supporting me both physically and mentally, and for being my best friend, companion and sweetheart for all these many years. For my kids, grandkids and great grands who have given me great joy. I'm truly blessed. Not many get to see, know and love their kids' kids, and then the next generation too.

I'm also thankful for my sis and her husband--she's always there for me, no matter what. I just wish we lived closer to one another.

I'm thankful for my health and the fact that I can still do most of what I've always been able to do though a bit slower and more carefully these days.

I'm thankful for my church family and all the prayer warriors.

I'm thankful for my friends and especially my writing friends. How much fun we've had together over the years. And a special thanks to my critique group who help me make my first drafts much, much better.

I'm thankful for both my publishers, Mundania and Oak Tree Press. Both are so professional and willing to put my work into print and e-books.

I recognize the fact that I am truly blessed and I thank God for these blessings.

In case any of you reading this think I've never had any problems so that's why I'm so thankful, I can assure that my marriage has certainly had it's lows along with it's highs--but we hung in there. For many years, while hubby was in the Seabees and we had such a large family, we struggled to make ends meet. Kids got into trouble. I got fired from a job I loved. We moved away from grown kids and a house and city I'd grown fond of to a completely new area where we knew no one. We took on a job we really knew nothing about--it was hard and we struggled, but we kept at it and succeeded. We also love where we live now.

We lost or oldest son to cancer. Hard, hard, hard. I miss him terribly but know that I will one day see him again.

Watched both my dad and my mom decline and suffer until they too left this world to be made whole and rejoice with the Lord.

Despite the difficulties, I know that I am truly blessed and want everyone to know how thankful I am.

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why I Watch General Hospital

Years ago I watched General Hospital because it came on about the time my kids were coming in from school--and often it was the first time I had the opportunity to sit down.

I watched Luke and Laura and their improbably romance that began with a rape (no doubt the writers were surprised by the chemistry between the two of them and changed the story line). I watched when Elizabeth Taylor played the part of one of the evil Considines and I believe she came to the wedding. Ms. Taylor is the same age as I am and since she liked General Hospital enough to become a part of it for a short while, then it made my watching even more okay--at least in my mind.

When I had my care home, I watched GH when I folded clothes. When it was over it was time to get up and start dinner and greet the ladies as they came in from work.

Now, my hospital watches GH with me in the afternoon and sometimes we snooze through parts of it. We guess at what outlandish thing is going to happen next. We yell at the characters as they do stupid things. And laugh at things that would never be possible in real life. We are also amazed at some of the things you could never get away with when writing a book.

We've become fond of the actors and are amazed at how good some of them are. Our favorites are Jason, the enforcer, that guy can bring tears to his eyes when ever needed, and Spinelli, the computer geek with his own bizarre language.

We loved the Carlie before the one that's playing the part now--but we've gotten used to the new one.

If we miss a show, I play it on the computer so we can catch up. Are we addicted, or what?

And that's how my hubby and I waste one hour a day when we are home.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Downloading Turbo Tax Made Me Consider My Age

Yep, it did. 2010 is creeping up on us.

Frankly, when I was young I certainly didn't expect to see the year 2010. I've lost many of my high school friends--some passed away at far too young of an age. One of the girls I went all through school is gone, several have lost their husbands.

What do I attribute my longevity to? Good genes. My dad lived to be in his 80's and mom was three years shy of 100. But, when you come right down to it, it all comes down to what the Bible says, "There's a time to live and a time to die." Only God knows when that time will be.

What is different about now and when I was younger? As a young woman, no matter what hours I worked, when I came home I always had to have an evening. That meant at least an hour to do something I wanted to do just for me.

When we had a houseful of kids, we always had a bedtime for them, which got later as they got older, but there was always a time when they were in their bedrooms and we had our "evening" together, just the two of us.

When I was young I loved to give and go to parties. No more. Too much trouble to give one and I'd probably be in bed before the guests left anyway. When we go to one, hubby and I are usually the first to leave.

When I was young, I could work, work, work. I always kept my housework up, did all the usual things mom's do with kids, fixed breakfast, made lunches, sometimes had a job, made dinner. For a time I did all that, worked part-time and went to college at night and usually did my homework when I got home at ten or so.

When I was writing one of my books (back in the days of the typewriter) I babysat three grandkids, 5, 3 and 18 months.

When I had a full-time job, I wrote another book.

Hubby and I purchased and moved into a residential care home for 6 developmentally disabled women. I wrote several books while they were off to work. Of course I cleaned house, washed clothes every day and cooked for at least 8 people and did all the paperwork that came along with the job.

During that time I also wrote a newsletter for the residential care business (still doing that now) and for ten years I was in charge of the training for Administrators of Residential Care Homes and still managed to write, promote--and I had my evenings though I did go to bed about the same time as the women in my care because I was up at 4:45 every day.

I've really slowed down since we retired from the care business. For a time, I continued with the training, but soon decided that all the driving was something I no longer cared to do and retired from that too.

Hubby and I are still up sometimes before six or a little after no matter what day it is even though we have no place we have to go most of the time--except shopping or to the post office. There's always things we have to do around this big, old house. My hubby's biggest and most time-consuming job is feeding his cats--the three inside and who know how many outside. We took two of the outside females and had them spayed hoping to cut down on the population. Would like to do that with them all, but who can afford it? (Because we live in the country people drop cats off on the highway and they seem to know there's a soft heart living at our house, one who doesn't mind filling up bowls, and buying bags and bags of cat food.)

Of course I write and do a lot of promoting. Our big excitement is when we go on a trip, something we do quite a bit whether it's visiting kids or going somewhere to promote my books.

And do I still have an evening? Yes, but it's nowhere near as long as it used to be. Hubby and I watch Dancing with the Stars together and Ghost Whisperer and sometimes Medium (though if he falls asleep in his chair I sneak off to bed to watch.) However, he's not fond of The Amazing Race or Survivor, so I usually watch those in bed.

I do go out in the evenings to the Women's Bible Study on Monday nights and I seldom miss my writer's critique group on Wednesday nights.

So you can see through this rambling post I really have slowed down.

Marilyn

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Exciting Announcement!


Ever so often something really exciting shows up in my email box. This time it was an announcement from the Epic e-book contest committee that No Sanctuary is a finalist in the Mystery/Suspense category.

Wow! Of course I wanted it entered, but I've entered a book nearly every year since I joined Epic. I've even been a finalist three times.

I've also served as a judge every year though never in the category where I have books entered. Every year the caliber of the books has become better and better. Excellent writing, few mistakes.

The news about who actually wins won't happen until March of 2010 at the Epicon in New Orleans. I'll be there because I'm giving two presentations about writing mysteries, one for the adults and one for the kids.

I'm up against two authors that I know. Mike Orenduff who writes the Pot Thief mysteries--the first on is absolutely great, and Linda Faulkner whose book I haven't read yet but I've heard nothing but good things. There's one more, but can't remember the name, but I'm sure it's another excellent mystery.

Something else that's exciting, my publisher, Oak Tree Press, is also Mike's publisher, which means she published two of the four books that are finalists.

Being nominated is a thrill! Epic is the organization for e-published authors--and has been around since the time e-books began and I've belonged from nearly the beginning, and I've attended all the conferences but one.

Whether No Santuary wins or not, is an honor for it to be one of the finalists.

You can purchase it from all the usual places, but if you'd like an autographed copy, you can get it from my website

Just think what a great Christmas gift that would make for someone.

Marilyn

Monday, November 16, 2009

So What's Next?

Fortunately, I don't have many appearances before next year. I'll be heading up to Oakhurst on Saturday December 5th to give a talk about e-publishing at the wonderful Willowbridge Bookstore. On December 11th and 12th, I'll be spending all day, both days, from 10 to 5, at the Art Gallery on Main St, Porterville. Of course I'll have some of my books and I hope people will be interested in giving an autographed book as a Christmas gift.

During this quiet period--is it ever quiet with Thanksgiving and Christmas going on--I hope to move along with my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. No name for it yet, but will probably have something to do with bears since they play an important part in it.

January of 2010 is fairly calm except for a talk to the Clovis Libary Book Club on the 17th. I do have a board meeting for PSWA one weekend--but that should be fun.

Sometime in January my next Rocky Bluff P.D., An Axe to Grind will make an appearance. That means planning promo for that too, and hopefully another blog tour will be part of that.

I have nothing scheduled for February as yet. I've been trying to obtain more library visits, have two schedule for 2010--but would like more.

Since I'll be writing about what is to come as it gets closer, I think that's enough at this point.

I always think how optimistic I'm being as I plan events for 2010. But why not?

Anyway, that's what's next, so far.

Marilyn

Sunday, November 15, 2009

My Bumpy Road to Publication Part III

During the time I was with Hard Shell, the publisher had one after another of the most horrendous family tragedies imaginable.

I sent the next Tempe book out to a larger small press with a great reputation. They were interested in the book but wanted me to make it 15,000 words longer. I knew I couldn't do it, so I had to find another publishing company.

By this time, I'd decided I didn't want to go with a house with only one person in-charge. While attending a couple of Epicons I met the publishers of Mundania Press. I had the opportunity to speak with Dan Rietz, one of the owners and publishers, and asked if he'd be interested in the Tempe series. I sent him Calling the Dead and he sent me a contract. Since then, Mundania has published Calling the Dead, Judgment Fire, Kindred Spirits, and Dispel the Mist. Invisible Path is next in line for fall of 2010.

While attending a Public Safety Writers Association's conference , I met the publisher of Oak Tree Press. Of course I told her about my Rocky Bluff P.D. series, I had two completed books in my computer. She invited me to be a speaker at her publishing house's writing conference and hubby and I went to Taylorville IL. Before the conference, she came to our motel room bearing a contract for No Sanctuary.

And as they say, "the rest is history."

So though not published by a major publisher, I am quite happy with the two small presses who are publishing my mysteries on a regular basis.

The bumpy road has smoothed out--but it was long and perilous.

I suppose the true message through all this is, if you really want to be a writer, never give up. Perseverance pays off.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Bumpy Road to Publication Part II

Besides mysteries, I also wrote Christian horror. The first one was really actually the first in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series though at the time I had no idea I would be writing a series. The title was The Choice. When I sent it out to mainstream publishers I got rejections that essential said the writing was great but the subject too Christian for their readers. Then I sent it out to Christian publishers, again the writing was great but the story far too scary for their readers.

I finally found a small press who also loved the story but wanted me to make it camera ready. Remember this was a long while ago. Yes, there were computers, but I only had Word Star and it needed to be in a more modern word processing program like Word Perfect. My friend who sold me my computer and had a computer store, let me come down to the store and work on his computer from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. when he came in to open the store. Of course he gave me lots of help along the way. When each page looked like it should for a book, I emailed the publisher. I received a phone call from his wife. He'd passed away and she had no plans to continue with his business.

Wow! I decided to publish the book myself and found a print-on-demand company to do it. In the meantime I'd realized that I could write more books with Tempe as a character so I changed all the names.

While all that was happening, I'd written another Tempe mystery called Guilt by Association. This time I realized that Tempe had become a completely different person, so once again I made name and location changes.

I found an e-publisher who published it as an e-book. That company was soon taken over by another publisher, Treble Heart Books, and was made into a trade paperbook. It won "Publishers Best Mystery" that year and is still available as a print and e-book.

I wrote five more books in the Tempe series without finding a publisher. However, I did have an agent for part of this time. For four years she was supposedly sending my books out--when I finally asked her to see my rejections she reluctantly gave me three.

When I met a wonderful woman who had a small press, Golden Eagle Press, that mostly published illustrated coffee table books about flying, I approached her about publishing my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. She agreed but wanted to begin with Deadly Omen, the second in the series. She went on to publish the next three.

In the meantime, I met Mary Wolf, publisher at Hard Shell Word Factory and told her about the first book in the series, Deadly Trail. She published it as an e-book and trade paperback, then published the other four as e-books since I'd kept my e-rights.

Something ghastly happened. The publisher of Golden Eagle Press had a stroke and died. This was devastation. She was much younger than I was, vibrant, and it certainly wasn't expected. After the funeral, her husband loaded all the books up in his truck and brought them to my house. I'm now the only one who has three of four of the books, Deadly Omen, Intervention and Wingbeat.

This meant I had to go through the whole looking for a publisher bit again.

In the meantime, I'd written another book, this time a psychological horror, called Wishing Makes It So, about a very bad little girl and the devastation she brings to her foster family. Hard Shell Word Factory published it and it won four literary prizes.

Next installment tomorrow on my bumpy road--and yes, there are more bumps.

Marilyn

Friday, November 13, 2009

My Bumpy Road to Publication Part I

The journey began many years ago. Though I've always loved writing my first efforts to see a novel published began with a YA mystery I wrote featuring a family that I knew. I sent it off, it was rejected, and I gave it to the family. Then I wrote a romance of sorts, sent it off, it was rejected and I threw it away. (Yes, I am very sorry for my actions.)

Frankly, I knew very little about writing at the time. I hadn't read much about the rules of writing or submitting a manuscript, I only knew about the books that I loved to read.

This was long before computers and the Internet, and I don't think I knew about Writer's Digest or writer's conferences--couldn't have afforded to go to one in any case.

My sister researched and wrote up our family's genealogy. On my mother's side, the girl of a set of twins disappeared at the age of 16. No one knew what happened to her. I decided to write a book and tell what happened. With my trusty typewriter and after much research into the places this family lived and the times they lived there, I wrote a 500 page historical family saga based on this family called Trail to Glory. I did not pick the title. I sent the manuscript numerous places. This was back when you sent the manuscript in a box with return postage on it and put that in another box to mail.

This time, though the rejections piled up, I ignored them and kept sending the book out. Finally in 1982 or thereabouts, it was accepted by Dorchester for publication. I was thrilled because I had written a second historical family saga based on the other side of the family and thought the editor who loved the first book would certainly love this one. She might have except she left the company and the editor who took her place rejected Two Ways West.

So, I returned to the chore of looking for publishers who might be interested. I finally found one. The book was published, looked great, but the publisher turned out to be a crook. Instead of passing on royalties, he took the money to Vegas and gambled it away. Yes, he spent some time in jail. I found a publisher I paid to have the book re-published in later years because it sells well in our area because it includes local history.

Meanwhile I'd been writing other books, of course. My first mystery, The Astral Gift was picked up by a Canadian company. My book launch was held in a large bookstore in Bakersfield who ordered 50 copies, nearly all 50 sold. That company turned out to be shady too, those 50 copies were all they printed, they closed shop and disappeared. In later years I found another e-publishing company to publish that book as an e-book and in trade paperback. Getting royalties out of that company was nearly impossible, so I pulled the book. I still have copies for sale--and it's available on Kindle.

I also wrote several police procedurals, my Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series. I had an agent representing them to no avail. Finally, I found an e-publisher who wanted to publish them. However, this was before e-readers and they never found a readership. The company I mentioned before who did the Astral Gift, also published a romance, Lingering Spirit as an e-book and took on two of the Rocky Bluff novels. Again, the royalty problem. Those books are now on Kindle too, thanks to Oak Tree Press.

I found another e-publisher who also did print books for the next two books in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series. Unfortunately, she didn't stay in business. Those books are now on Kindle too. I no longer have any print copies of Smell of Death, and I only have a few copies left of Fringe Benefits, but I still have copies of the first two in the series, Final Respects and Bad Tidings.

Tomorrow I'll post about the publication of my Christian horror novels and my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. None of this is really in order as I wrote books, had lots of rejections, but kept on writing, no matter what.

Marilyn

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wars and Rumors of Wars

That's what the Bible says we'll have plenty of--and it has certainly been right.

Since I've been alive, I've seen a lot of wars go on.

World War II was first. I remember hearing about it on the radio when President Franklin D. Roosevelt told everyone the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. My childhood and teen years were greatly influenced by that war--shortages, food stamps, war movies, news reels about the fighting and other things. The war ended when I was in the 9th grade.

Hubby served as a Seabee during peacetime and also did three tours in Vietnam. This was the first time we could actually see the horrors of war while it was happening, thanks to TV.

And of course there was the Cold War and the Korean War and lots of other fighting going in places with strange names most of us had never heard of before. Israel always has it's problems (also talked about in the Bible) and of course Afghanistan and Iraq.

Will it ever end? No. As much as most of us would like peace, men are greedy and want to take over what other people have (we're as guilty as anyone else) and the U.S. always feels obligated to jump in and take care of the down-trodden (though sometimes there are other motives that don't come out until later).

Do I have any answers? Absolutely not. Do I think we'll ever see peace? No, I believe the Bible, there will always be wars and rumors of wars, sad as that may be.

Tomorrow I promise to write something far more upbeat.

This was written on Veteran's Day and influenced my thinking.

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day Observance






Granddaughter Genie took hubby and me to the most awesome sight. This was in a park in Wildomar CA in a park between city hall and the library. The Rotary Club sold flags to people to honor fallen vets or those serving or who had served in the Armed Forces.

Genie and her husband purchased a flag in honor of her grandpa, my hubby, for his 20 years of service in the United State Navy Seabees.

This was a most impressive display. Flags in straight rows everywhere.

There are photos of hubby, and hubby and me with Genie and her kids, Peyton and Garrett. Of course Genie's husband, Mark was taking the photos.

This was an absolutely awesome display of patriotism.

Happy Veteran's Day everyone.

Marilyn

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

More on My Trip to Temecula





A big reason we love to go to Temecula for the Erle Stanly Gardner mystery weekend and the writer's conference is because we get to see our two grandkids who live in the area plus spend time with their families.

We spend the first night in Wildomar with Genie's family. She's always been a delight to us. She's a school speech therapist and her hubby a deputy. They have two children. Their pictures will be up on Wednesday, Veteran's Day.

We spend the second night in Temecula with Patrick's family. He's had a rough time lately because the job he thought he'd have until retirement disappeared. He has found another job but at the moment it's not paying the bills. His wife works full time and has a part time job. They have three kids. The youngest is in this one with his dad.

It takes a long time to get down to Temecula and we are not fond of driving on the freeways at all. Hubby likes to drive the speed limit--or 5 miles over--which does seem to upset the drivers in Southern California. No, we're not the slowest on the freeway and we do stay out of other people's way--but, when someone makes a nasty finger gesture you, know you're too pokey.

I once got a huge fine for speeding (and I was) in a deserted country road with absolutely no traffic on it but me and the CHP that got me, so I'm careful about going much over the speed limit too.

Despite all that we had a great time.

Marilyn

Monday, November 9, 2009

Report on My Trip to Temecula



We had a great time in Wildomar and Temecula. Stayed the first night with granddaughter, Genie, hubby, Mark and two kids, Garrett and Peyton.

In the a.m. we headed over to Old Towne Temecula where I gave a talk on Novel Writing--though in one hour I only could hit the highlights, but I had handouts like I usually do.

At the booksigning time, one of my Blue Birds from years ago came to buy Dispel the Mist for herself and her mother. Wow, did that bring back memories from long long ago.

That is the picture I posted, of Debbie Klinger Stiver and myself. I was a really young mom when I first became a Blue Bird leader--I continued on with Camp Fire Girls and had the group until they graduated from 12th grade.

From there we went to our grandson Patrick's house--he was born on our anniversary year ago--and we had a great visit with him, his wife, Lucy, and there three kids, Emily, Olivia and Ethan--and we spent the night before heading home.

We also made one more stop--to see where we went and what we saw be sure and read this blog on Veteran's Day, November 11th.

We arrived home safe and sound. Now it's catch-up time.

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

Saturday, November 7, 2009

And On a Lighter Note

Today I'm in Temecula--hopefully--speaking to the Erle Stanley Gardner Writers Conference.

But while I'm writing this I'm still home. Because what I wrote yesterday was heavy, decided to write something a bit lighter.

I love reality shows--at least some of them. I've been following Dancing with the Stars faithfully, and I must say I'm very impressed with Donnie Osmond who is the old guy this year. The Amazing Race has been excellent--and I also tune into Survivor--and am amazed at how easy some young people can be manipulated by an older guy. Last summer I watched Big Brother--oh my, that is quite a show.

By the time 8 p.m. rolls around, the time most of these shows come on, I'm through for the day. I've written, done errands, laundry, answered people's question via the phone or email, cooked dinner, cleaned up the kitchen and I'm ready to hang out and watch other people's lives.

And I have to confess, that if we're home, hubby and I watch General Hospital, the soap opera, at 3 every weekday afternoon. It's a good time to take a break and both of us often snooze through it.

Being a mystery writer, of course I like shows like NCIS, Medium, and I even get a kick out of Castle, though I seldom see the end of it, having fallen asleep about midway through.

Both hubby and I love to go to the movies. We try to go a couple of times a month. We're picky about what we see. We try to choose one that will be better viewing on a theater screen. Although we did recently see both Zombieland (which was hilarious) and Cirque du Freaks, the Vampires Assistant--which I enjoyed, hubby slept through first half and said it was confusing--well, duh.

We also watch a lot of Netflix DVDs and have enjoyed some foreign movies and small movies that we've never heard of. Some we don't watch past the first 10 or 15 minutes.

Anyway, for those of you who think all I do is work, see, I do have time for other things.

Marilyn

Friday, November 6, 2009

How to Deal With Living in a Scary World

Because of what happened at Fort Hood I decided to speak about something that is quite close to my heart.

We were military for 20 years--lived in base housing only twice. The majority of the time my husband was in the military and stationed at Port Hueneme Seabee Base, we owned our own home a couple of blocks from the main gate to the base. He served three times in Vietnam--so I really do know scary.

At this particular time we have a granddaughter with two children living on an Army base in Georgia.

But it really doesn't matter where one lives, bad things happen everywhere, there is no way to predict such horrors. Who knew something as horrific as 911 would ever happen in the United States?

The reality is there are crazy people everywhere. And unfortunately, many people who hate the United States--and quite a few of them are living among us. The men who flew into the trade center and the Pentagon had been living here a long while.

I met a man in Homeland Security and asked him how safe we were. His answer was, "Not safe at all. All the bad guys are already here. They are your neighbors, your kids' soccer coach, the friendly fellow who owns the corner store, and they've been here for years."

So knowing that, what does one do? For me, I trust in God. He is still in control no matter what is happening around us. I am a Christian and I do believe the Bible. When I read it, I am reassured that God will take care of me. Does that mean nothing bad will happen to me or mine? Of course not. But I am assured that when I die I will go to a far better place than this.

Having faith in God can make a whole lot of difference when all these bad things go on around us.

I'm not trying to preach to anyone here, just letting you know how I deal with living in a scary world.

God bless you all and keep you safe,

Marilyn

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What's Next on the Agenda

Though I'm starting a new Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery and in January a new Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel is coming, out I still have to plan my promotion for the end of the year and for next.

Coming up, I'm heading to Temecula for the Erle Stanley Gardner Festival on Saturday and I'll be speaking at 10 a.m. in the Sr. Center behind the museum. The following Tuesday I'll be the speaker for the Porterville Rotary Club. Also coming up is a book store event and two days in December at the Porterville Art Gallery.

I'd love to have some more library events as well as service and social club events and I'll be searching out more craft fairs--but none in the middle of summer.

Of course I'm already lined up for several conferences in 2010, Epicon in New Orleans, Mayhem in the Midlands in Omaha, and of course the Public Safety Writers Association's conference in Las Vegas and in the fall, Bouchercon in San Francisco.

As usual, I'm being optimistic and planning ahead.

Anyone know of some places that would like to have me come and speak?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Follow Up on My Blog Tour

For the entire month of October, excluding weekends, I visited other people's blogs and either answered interview questions, wrote information about my latest book, Dispel the Mist, answered questions for my heroine, Deputy Tempe Crabtree, or gave writing or promotion advice. On some blogs, the host read and reviewed the book.

Though it's a lot of fun, it takes time. Writing everything and trying to make it unique for each blog take some work. On the day the blog appears, I visited and left a comment. I checked out the blog a few more times in case someone asked a question that I needed to answer.

To make sure at least a few folks visited each blog, I promoted on Facebook, Twitter, and every list that I was on--that meant every day.

Two of the best things about the tour are how nice people are when you are visiting their blog and the great comments people made.

I also had a wonderful book trailer made for this tour http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmZhaJgHUx0

Now, it's time to get to work and write the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.

Marilyn

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Absolutely Fantastic Review for Dispel the Mist

There are some authors whom I really look forward to reading their newest books. Marilyn Meredith is one such author. Her Tempe Crabtree mystery series is as good as it gets. Truly she is an artist with prose. She can tell a most riveting story that weaves in the best of intrigue, murder. mystery, social issues, folk lore and relationship issues. In her latest book of that series "Dispel The Mist", she goes all out and leaves nothing wanting for the hungry fans of her books. It is top notch creative writing with great characters and an original and mystically inspired plot that entertains big time!

I have loved every one of her books in this series but this one is special and the emotional feelings in this new book seem deeper and more heart felt - as if the author has lived parts of this story herself. I got myself really into the book and found myself absorbed completely. It is the kind of book that you want to take along on your vacation so you can get some uninterrupted time to sit quietly and digest every word on every page of this book! This book is the highlight of a long series of great books from this author and is no doubt her best work today!

This book has been nominated for one of The American Author's Association's annual book awards for 2009. I would say that this is one of the 10 best mystery books I have read in the last two decades! It is a book worth your time reading! It is truly a FIVE STAR RATED BOOK!

W. H. McDonald Jr. "The American Author Association."

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Halloween Ball Mystery



This is the entire story the Stiletto Gang used for their Hallopalooza Scavenger Hunt. Read it and see if you can figure out who the villain is.

A Halloween Ball Mystery

Cast of Characters


Heroine - Milla Adams – private detective
Sidekick - Fletcher Jones – police detective

Victim - Carla Jordan – deceased, personal assistant to G. Winston Howard

Suspects -
G. Winston Howard – millionaire, host of Halloween Ball
Buffy St. James – librarian, current girlfriend of G. Winston Howard,
Walter Jester – aide to Carla Jordan
Alana Carter – groundskeeper
Liza Barrymore - hired by Diana Trent to do costume makeup for party
Amazing Harry – escape artist hired by G. Winston Howard for Halloween Ball
Mayor Juan Reyes and his wife Sonya – guests at the Halloween Ball
Steven McCall - owner of large construction company, friend of Howard family
Julius and Frieda Rosen - they run Rosen Catering, the company catering event.
Dr. & Mrs. Paul Trent – Diana is the first ex-wife of G. Winston Howard.

* * *
It was a full moon. The man in the mask waited just outside the door, the dim silver light glinting off the metal blade in his hand. He was patient, much more so than the detective chasing him.

The woman inside the house paused, her hand on the doorknob. Fear etched her features. It was obvious that she knew the odds were against her. She was chasing a serial killer. The blood from his last kill was still fresh on her mind … and her shoes.

Red stilettos.

Milla Adams woke up with a start. Her television was still on. The late night slasher movie was on its third or fourth airing in a row, some kind of a Halloween marathon. It wasn't the screams that had awakened her, or the mixing of reality with fiction in her dreams, it was her very loud telephone.

Time to go to work.

***
Milla checked her makeup in the lighted mirror on the visor of her red Porsche Boxster convertible. The car, the shoes, the perfect makeup - she had an image to protect, even when it was inconvenient – like when making a 3 a.m. call to one of her wealthier client's mansion.

Ducking under the yellow crime scene tape, she spied a familiar face. "Fletcher? How's Lydia?" With her trade mark red stilettos adding three inches to her tall frame, Milla was almost eye-level with her old friend. They had gone through the police academy together more than twenty years ago. He'd married another recruit and made a career of the police department. He was the lead detective on the murder investigation.

"Sleeping, which is what I was doing before the police chief called and told me I was catching this murder. Who called you?"

"G. Winston Howard, himself. He told me he was about to be arrested for the murder of his personal assistant." Milla had spent ten years working as a police detective before leaving to open her own private high-dollar detective and security business. By the time she'd turned forty last year, she'd established a reputation for discretion and quick results. She'd need both on this job.

"Seems like he'd have been better off calling his lawyers."

"Oh, he's done that too. But he thought if the real murderer could be discovered before Monday, he could avoid some of the adverse publicity. His friend the mayor thinks so too."

"Figures. The mayor was one of the guests at Howard's party. He fancies himself a cop because he played one on TV." Fletcher frowned. "I wish the police chief had mentioned he was being overruled by the mayor on this case. I could have stayed in bed and let you sort it out."

"Not party – ball. Halloween Ball. It’s an annual charity thing. And I'm not taking over. I'm just here to make some inquiries." She gestured towards the doorway. "Will you show me the crime scene? I'm on deadline, no pun intended."

***

She pulled out her voice recorder and spoke softly into the tiny gadget.

"3:30 a.m. Friday, October 30, 2009. Residence of G. Winston Howard, multi-millionaire, or depending on the time of day and the stock market – billionaire- adventurer, and well-known philanthropist. At approximately 2:10 a.m. Miss Carla Jordan, aged 35, was found dead in Mr. Howard's greenhouse by a groundkeeper … note to self—these are rich people so greenhouse might be called something else. Miss Jordan was Mr. Howard's personal assistant. Detective Fletcher Jones reported that approximately 30 people attended the annual Halloween ball as guests. In addition, the caterers brought a staff of ten to dole out the food and drinks. According to his preliminary report, Detective Jones has eliminated all but thirteen as suspects in the murder. Second note to self—make sure to cross-check their alibis against each other."

Milla leaned over the body for a better look. Clicking on her recorder she added, "The victim is in costume—dressed as a giant sunflower. Brown leotard, yellow petaled headdress. Not a particularly attractive look for her. Her hands are dirty – like she was potting some plants. Several of her fingernails are broken. Blood is pooled on the floor near her chest and right hand. The coroner has yet to determine time of death, but witnesses put her alive and well on the dance floor at 1:30 a.m. The cause of death appears to be the large knife sticking out of her chest."

***

"I was hoping to speak with Mr. Howard before conducting any other interviews." Milla frowned at the petite man wearing a court jester costume. He'd just informed her that G. Winston Howard was otherwise occupied.

She glanced at her notes. He was Walter Jester, possibly the victim's last dance partner. "How well did you know Miss Jordan?"

He shrugged, the tiny bells sewn on his costume tinkling. "Very well. I facilitated her work for Mr. Howard."

"Facilitated?" Milla's pen hovered over the lined page. "You mean your job was to run her errands?"

"Yes." Walter blinked several times. "I didn't mind. It paid well."

She could tell from his tone he was lying; that he had minded. He'd minded very much. "What will you do now?"

He smiled. The bells tinkled again as he answered, "Her job."

***

"And you are?" Milla was conducting her second interview in the well-appointed kitchen of Millionaire G. Winston Howard. The young twenty-something woman sitting across from her was athletic and over six foot tall. Her long blonde hair hung in a braid down to the middle of her back. She was dressed like an old fashioned zookeeper; beige pit helmet, khaki shorts and vest, black knee socks.

"Alana Carter. I take care of the mansion grounds and the conservatory."

Conservatory! That was the word Milla had been searching for earlier. Carla Jordan had been killed in the Howard conservatory, not a plain old greenhouse.

"You found the body at what time?" Milla had the details in her notes but she wanted to hear about the discovery directly from the gardener.

"Just after 2:00 a.m."

"You make a habit of going into the conservatory at that time of night?"

"No. My date and I had wandered out by the pool. We saw a light. The conservatory was off limits to the guests. Mr. Howard owns some very expensive, fragile specimens. He'd blame me if someone got in there and damaged anything."

"What did you see when you entered the conservatory?"

The gardener looked towards the kitchen door, then lowered her voice. "I saw
Mr. Howard. He was talking with someone."

According to Fletcher's notes, this was information the gardener hadn't disclosed in her first interview with the police. "You saw him with Miss Jordan? The victim?"

"No. I only found Carla, uh Miss Jordan, after they left. When I saw that it was
Mr. Howard in the conservatory, I stepped back outside and waited. When they left, I went in to turn off the lights and lock the doors. That's when I saw the body."

"Who was this other person? The one talking to Mr. Howard?"

The gardener shook her head. "I don't know. He or, I guess it could have been a tall woman…he was wearing a long black, hooded cape with a witch's mask."

***

Buffy St. James was … Milla thought a moment. The girlfriend of G. Winston Howard was … unexpected. Not a model. Not a socialite. She was a middle-aged librarian at one of the city libraries. Her high cheekbones, copper hued skin, and dark hair more than hinted at her Native American heritage. Her beaded leather costume proudly claimed it. It also proclaimed she spent a lot of time around a smoker. Her clothes reeked of cigar smoke.

"Miss St. James, how long have you known Mr. Howard?"

Buffy St. James smiled. "Two years. He's on our Friends of the Library board. The board raised funds for our new building. Winston was very involved in overseeing the construction. He's a detail person; we have that in common. We've been dating about half that time."

"What did you think of his assistant, Carla Jordan?"

Milla watched the librarian as she fingered an expensive-looking silver cuff bracelet, while considering her answer.

"The old adage that you can't judge a book by its cover was never truer than with Carla. She was bright and sunny on the outside but inside…" Buffy St. James took a breath. "Let's just say, if you were smart, you never turned your back on Carla. It's ironic; she was the one who knew just where to stick the knife. Most of the people at the Halloween Ball had ample cause to want Carla gone. I know I did."

"Why's that? Milla didn't believe the librarian was about to confess to the murder, but perhaps she could help her narrow down the suspects.

"She collected information and sold it."

"Sold it? Sold it to whom?"

Buffy St. James sighed. "To anyone who might be hurt if the information became public."

"Did she have something on you?"

The librarian sighed. "Yes, she knew about my brother's stint in jail for bad checks. But since I'd already told Winston about it, Carla moved on – I'm sure she was tormenting some other poor soul."

Milla flipped open her notebooks and started writing. Little Miss Sunflower was a blackmailer.

***

Milla paused in the doorway to G. Winston Howard's study. Like the man himself, the study reeked of power, old money and cigars. She'd met him for the first time several months earlier at a political fundraiser. G. Winston Howard had served in the state senate for the last twelve years; a feat that required eating a lot of rubber chicken dinners and glad-handing potential supporters. Milla had heard his party was pushing him to run for Governor. Before the Halloween Ball his biggest liability had been a messy divorce. The murder of his assistant in his home might end his campaign before it ever began.

He motioned for her to enter and sit in the leather chair in front of his antique mahogany desk. "Miss Adams. Thank you for coming."

"Senator Howard." Two thoughts immediately crossed her mind. One, he wasn't wearing a costume, just a dark suit that cost more than her net worth. Two, it was going to be a problem getting paid if she proved he was the murderer. She sat down wondering if she should ask for a non-refundable retainer. "I wish we were meeting again under better circumstances."

"Can't be helped." He leaned back in his chair. "Call me Winston. Have you made any progress in finding out who killed Carla?"

"I'm still conducting interviews." She paused, then added, "You, Carla, and a third person were seen in the Conservatory just prior to the body being discovered. I need to know what you were doing there, who your companion was, and if your assistant was still alive when you left."

"One, I was making sure the misters were working properly. They weren't. Everything was soaked. Carla was with me and I told her to take care of it. Two, my companion was someone I met at the greenhouse door. He was dressed as a warlock and we didn't exchange names, just information. He'd had too much to drink and was using the greenhouse as a bathroom. I told him to call a cab and go home. He remarked on my mother." He shook his head. "And three, I didn't kill Carla. I just fired her."

***

"Milla!"

The private detective pivoted on her stiletto heels at the sound of her old friend's voice. "Fletcher, is that the crime scene inventory list in your hand?"

The police detective nodded. "Not sure how helpful it's going to be. A greenhouse isn't the cleanest environment. So far we haven't found any useable prints except for the gardener's, Carla's and Mr. Howard's."

"What about the cigar butt?" She pointed to the third item on the list. "Think we could get DNA off that?"

He shrugged. "Maybe – in about six months. I thought you were on a deadline."

She glanced down the list of items found on or within ten feet of the body.
1. The stiletto knife lodged in her heart.
2. A tiny decorative bell that was caught on one of her large sunflower petals.
3. A cigar butt tossed near her feet.
4. A St. Christopher’s Ride with Me Motorcycle Medal in one of her pockets.
5. A broken champagne glass.

There were also numerous grass clippings, sticks, pebbles, fertilizer pellets, and a garden trowel.

"What's this?" Milla pointed at a rough sketch one of the cops had done of the body position and immediate surroundings. It was similar to traffic accident sketches. "You promote someone recently from patrol to your detective squad?"

Fletcher blushed. "I drew that. Helps me remember when I end up in court years later."

"What's this blob near Carla's right hand?"
"Not a blob – it was two pieces of gravel and a small stick. I think she had them clutched in her fist at some point while she was dying. There was blood on them."

"And here?" Milla tapped a glossy red nail against the paper.

"Part of the broken glass. She had a cut on her hand. Might have been the glass or maybe a defensive wound from the knife."

Milla wondered if all the blood was Carla's.

***

"That's with a Z, and my last name is Barrymore, like Drew, who's a cousin of mine on my father's side."

Milla would have bet that it was Lisa with an "S." Liza Barrymore swore she was related to Drew, but judging from the accent, the only Barrymore this dame knew was Barry Moore from the old neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Milla guessed that Liza, or whatever she called herself, was about 55, but according to the police report, the woman copped only to 44. She had listed her job title as makeup artiste – although that might also mean she spritzed perfume on unsuspecting shoppers at Bloomingdales. She was wearing a black sweater over a red silk flapper costume.

Liza was hired for the party by Diana Trent, who was the host's ex-wife. "She wanted me to make her look like Cleopatra. Hell, I'd have made her look like the snake just to get in this joint."

"Diana Trent hired you just to do her makeup and provide touchups during the evening?"

"No. She had me do hers and then offered up my services to anyone else at the party who wanted a professional touch. I set up in a room near the ballroom. There were a lot of fancy costumes here tonight, but most people hadn't thought much about their makeup. Diana is very generous. I think she always hired someone for the Halloween Ball when she still lived here, and just continued the tradition. Mr. Howard seemed pleased.”

"Did you do Carla Jordan's makeup?"

"The Sunflower? Sure. I did hers. She didn't give me a tip. Lucky for me others appreciated my efforts. Those tips are going to pay next month's rent. You should have seen them. Not everyone likes masks, you know. I did some of my best work last night. Of course most people have changed out of their costumes now and my hard work's been washed down the drain."

Milla glanced at her watch. It was noon.



***

According to legend, it only took Harry Houdini 2 minutes and 27 seconds to escape a straightjacket while being suspended from a crane being used to build the New York City Subway. Mattie, Milla's brother, had tried to copy the renowned magician's feats when they were kids. He had Milla tie him up in their Dad's old bathrobe, but it still took Mattie more than 10 minutes to escape. He finally had just wriggled out of the contraption. But Mattie's fighting weight was 97 pounds and he had the hips of a snake. The Amazing Harry, topping 240 pounds and hired by G. Winston Howard to entertain his guests, couldn't have wriggled his way out of a paper bag.

In fact, the most amazing part of Harry was the size of the ketchup stain on his starched white shirt. Milla assumed it was ketchup because the Amazing Harry hadn't missed a bite during the entire interview, sloppily dipping handfuls of French Fries into the condiment bowl on the table.

"Is that what you wore to the party?" Milla still needed to find someone in a warlock costume – even if it was just to eliminate him/her as a suspect.

He nodded. "Black tux. My normal costume."

Milla noticed that the color of the ketchup and the color of the shirt stain weren't the same red, and she didn't think the difference was made by Heinz. She'd have to ask Fletcher to collect the shirt and have the stain analyzed. Whoever stabbed Carla Jordan probably got a splattering of the assistant's blood.

Milla looked at her barely-touched plate. The hamburger was going cold, the French Fries limp. G. Winston Howard was providing lunch for all of his guests that were still detained on the estate awaiting interviews. Even though it had been more than twelve hours since she'd had any food, she couldn't eat. Sitting at a table with Amazing Harry had killed her appetite.

***

The mayor and his wife were dressed as a Hispanic version of George and Martha Washington.

Juan Reyes still had the chiseled good looks of the television star he'd been fifteen years earlier. He smelled of musk, fine brandy, and Cuban cigars. Reyes had starred in a popular cop show that ran for four years that still played in reruns in the early morning hours. He prided himself on his realistic portrayal and still talked about the hours he’d spent riding along with LAPD cops, how he’d even been part of some high-profile busts. But when he hadn't made the leap to the big screen, Reyes and Sonya, his high school girlfriend, now wife, returned to their home town. Good looks and residuals helped build a hugely successful car dealership, and then Reyes was elected Mayor.

Local gossip was that he had set his sights higher, much higher. It wouldn't be the first time an actor had made the move to Washington, DC. His biggest drawback was his wife, Sonya. It was common knowledge that Mrs. Reyes had never been happy to leave sunny California, and had no interest in making the move even further east. Unlike her husband, Sonya looked tired and Milla was pretty sure that her bloodshot eyes and runny nose had nothing to do with allergies and everything to do with the white powder residue Milla had found in the large powder room off the ballroom. The same powder room that Liza – the makeup artiste – had set up shop in.

Milla made a note. Find out if Liza Barrymore had a cocaine sideline. If Liza was selling at the party, and Little Miss Sunflower found out … Wonder how much she thought that information was worth? Maybe more than someone was willing to pay?

***

Judging by their collective girth, G. Winston Howard's caterers were as likely to eat a party spread, as they were to prepare one. Julius Rosen's face, dwarfed by his pudgy chins, pinked up when Milla pulled her eyes away from his paunch. A button was missing there, he knew, but he plowed ahead anyway, summarizing how he and his wife had landed the catering contract for Howard's high dollar ball.

"Frieda had no idea it was his sister." He laid a meaty hand, with fingers like sausages, on his wife's stooped shoulder. Milla noticed that the free end of his watch band was held down with a blue rubber band. "Damn lucky Frieda was having a good day." He chuckled. "My little woman's not always so charitable, even for a good cause. Offered to cut our regular prices in half. Anyway, she must've made a favorable impression 'cause next day we got the call. Old Howard gave us the job."

Frieda's sour look told Milla that either she was having another generally uncharitable day or that Julius' account of how they came to work for Howard wasn't altogether true.

Milla wondered how the Rosens really got on G. Winston Howard's radar and the identity of the woman who negotiated the deal. G. Winston Howard was an only child.

***

"I told you it was stupid to come to this party, but you wouldn't listen."

Milla stopped outside the library. Standing in the shadows, she could see Dr. Paul Trent towering over his wife, Diana, who was seated in a deep red leather wing chair. The couple was waiting to be interviewed by police detective Fletcher Jones. The Cleopatra makeup was gone, along with their costumes. She hoped Fletcher Jones was collecting all the party clothes for trace evidence analysis.

"You know I've got to be in the operating room in less than three hours." The doctor whined, then began to pace, checking his watch repeatedly. "I'm going to have to postpone Althea Grant's tummy tuck. The woman will find someone else. And with the way you spend money, I need every penny."

"It's not my fault that Carla died." Diana Trent, of seamless face and perky breasts, had clearly been one of her husband's most loyal patients. "You were having a pretty good time up until the body was discovered. I saw you chatting up that St. James woman earlier in the evening. Wouldn't have thought she was your type. Of course I wouldn't have thought she was Winston's type either."

"I don't chat people up. Buffy St. James and I were having a perfectly civilized conversation about the new library. The fund-raising campaign is running short and she was hoping we’d make a generous contribution. She wasn't aware we have our own money problems." Dr. Trent whirled around. "Tell me something! Why did you insist that we come to a party given by your ex-husband?"

"You know why. I did it for you. We need to keep up appearances. Plus, Winston said he might help with the malpractice case. If only Carla hadn't…" Diana stopped short.

"If only Carla hadn't what?" her husband asked.

"Nothing, nothing. It's just that Carla never did like me." Diana stood up. "I think I'll go and see if I can get some coffee."

Dr. Trent grabbed his wife's arm. "Diana, you gave that woman too much credit. She only thought she ran your ex's business."

Milla decided she'd better announce her presence.

***

Milla had never met Steven McCall, but she drove past Calla Village on her way to work every day. It was still in development, but five of the proposed fifteen McMansions had already been built by McCall's construction company, Sticks & Stones Inc. Milla wasn't sure who had the money in their town to support such lavish homes, but McCall and his old friend G. Winston Howard seemed to believe that "if you build it, they will come."

"Mr. McCall," Milla sat down at the dining room table with the fifty-something McCall. "I'd like to ask you a few questions."

He was wearing a dark suit. His white dress shirt was minus his tie, his collar open.

"No costume?"

"No." McCall looked up from his BlackBerry. "Who are you?"

"I'm Milla Adams. Mr. Howard asked me to make a few inquiries into this matter."

"You're not a cop?"

"Private investigator."

McCall nodded. "Then you don't have to waste your time with me. I'm glad that Carla Jordan is dead, but I didn't kill her. I'm too busy to kill anyone, much less someone like Carla."

"Why would you want her dead?"

"She pushed her nose into matters that weren't her concern. Things she wasn't smart enough to understand."

Milla noticed that he had a habit of clenching and unclenching one hand when he talked. His right hand had a small Band-Aid around the tip of one finger. As much as the guy used his Blackberry, it might be a tiny keyboard-related injury.

"I warned Winston that the girl was trouble, but he wouldn't listen. He wasn't thinking with his brain, but with other body parts, if you get my drift."

Milla made a few notes. "When did you last see Ms. Jordan?"

"Tonight, when I went to Winston's office to fax a sales contract. I found Carla riffling through a file drawer."

"What was she looking for?"

"Probably the project file I had in my briefcase. Winston had given it to me earlier for safekeeping. Someone had been playing fast and loose with some city inspection reports. Winston suspected someone who was working for him was trying to sabotage the project."

"He suspected Carla Jordan?"

"That was my impression when he said he was going to stick a fork in her – she was done."

Milla thought back to the crime scene. She didn't remember any forks. Just one large knife.

***

It was past seven p.m. by the time she returned to the condo she called home. A recently updated loft unit downtown, the location was usually a plus. But today, it just meant a long, inconvenient drive. She was going to eat, shower, grab a few hours sleep, and then meet Fletcher down at the police station before dawn to share information and bounce around some ideas.

She kicked off her red stilettos; her sore feet had her ruing the day she had decided the uncomfortable shoes would be her trademark.

The light on her answering machine was blinking; the red flashing an annoying reminder that running your own business left you no time to call your own.

She had three messages.

"Miss Adams, this is Sonya Reyes. I'd like to speak with you privately. Please call my cell phone at …"

Milla jotted down the phone number, wondering if Carla Jordan had been blackmailing the mayor's wife or the mayor himself.

The second message and third messages were both from Walter Jester, Carla's facilitator. The man had to have known what Carla was doing. The frightened tone of his voice indicated he'd figured out that if Carla was killed for something she knew, he might be next on someone's list. He wanted to meet with Milla right away. He was waiting at a bar two blocks from her condo.

She pushed her feet back into her shoes. She'd meet with the Jester. The mayor's wife could wait until tomorrow.

***

Milla almost didn't recognize Walter Jester out of his court jester costume. The small man was ensconced in a booth, several empty beer bottles making wet rings on the table.

"Mr. Jester?"

He nodded. "I needed to talk to you away from the mansion."

Milla sat down across from him. She was tired and in no mood to drag information out of him. "I’m here. Talk."

He motioned to the waitress to bring him another round. "Carla wasn't what she seemed."

"She wasn't a greedy, disloyal, blackmailing shrew who used everyone she met to get what she wanted?"

He blinked. "Okay, you're good. Most people don't get that about her right away."

The waitress set two beers on the table and scooped up the empties.

The last thing she wanted was a beer. Pushing the bottle towards Jester, Milla asked, "Do you know who killed her?"

"No, but I’m afraid that whoever killed Carla thinks that I do." He took a sip. "Carla had expensive tastes and managed to find ways to fund them. She played on people’s weaknesses.”

"Carla was a busy woman." Milla stared at the little man as he finished off one of the beers. "And now you have her job. Do you also have any proof of her off-the-record jobs?"

"I saw her take a folder from Steven McCall's briefcase." He slowly lifted his eyes to meet her gaze. "I followed her to the conservatory, saw her put the file in a trash bag and bury it. I went back to the party, and then about ten minutes later all hell broke loose. Alana found the body. I didn't tell the police about the folder. I thought I might need it as insurance later. But …"

"But what?"

"I think maybe someone saw me coming back from the conservatory. Someone dressed as a witch. Was that the killer?"

Pathetic fool. She slid out of the booth and stood. "Insurance? The premiums on that insurance were way too high for Carla. You think you're going to fare better?"

***

It was after midnight before Milla returned to the Howard estate. She saw one patrol car parked near the conservatory – the police's budget cutting policies leaving only one officer to protect the active crime scene.

After her conversation with Walter Jester in the bar, she'd taken the time to return home, shower, and change into black slacks, black leather jacket, and black boots – her standard "sneaking around in the dark" clothes. The red stiletto heels, along with a business suit, were on stand by in the trunk of her convertible.

She wasn't hiding from the police; in fact she'd left a message on Fletcher's cell phone about what she was doing. She'd told him about the file that Jester had seen Carla steal and bury. If he got the message in time, she was sure he'd notify the patrolman she was going to be poking around in the conservatory.

But she didn't want G. Winston Howard or any of the other suspects that might be hanging around to know she was there until she found out if Jester was telling the truth or not. She wanted to find the folder that Walter Jester said was wrapped in plastic and buried near a Bangkok Blue orchid. Jester had described the plant and its general location.

The first time she'd been in the greenhouse the overhead lights had been turned on. Tonight she was stuck with the moonlight filtering through the glass roof and her small flashlight.

She opened the glass door and stepped inside. G. Winston Howard had a lot of plants. And a lot of them had blue flowers.

As she swept the interior with the narrow beam, the odor of cigar smoke drifted towards her.




***

The conservatory was supposed to be empty, but Milla knew she wasn't alone. Experience, training, or maybe just her "spidy-sense" urged her to take care.

She was glad that she had taken the time to slip her shoulder holster on under her leather jacket. She carried the same Glock 19 she'd used as a police detective. She clicked her flashlight off. Drawing her weapon, she moved away from the door and crouched down.

She sensed movement in the far right corner of the glass enclosure – the corner where Walter Jester had reportedly buried his "insurance." Waiting, she let her eyes adjust to the darkness.

A shuffling sound came from the same corner.

Moving slowly, she made her way down the path between the rows of leafy plants and exotic blooms. If she remembered correctly, the greenhouse was set out in a rectangular grid pattern – like city blocks. Someone was about two blocks south and a block east.

She was quiet, but not quiet enough. Something soft, plastic, dropped over her head, shoulders, and upper arms. Not only did the plastic blind her, but it also trapped her arms against her body.

She still clutched her gun, not that she'd be able to hit whoever was behind her. Of course they wouldn't necessarily know that. "Stop. Or I'll shoot."

There was a sharp pain in her side and all the muscles in her body contracted at once.

Damn. The next to last thought she had as she lay on the wet concrete floor was she was going soft with her cushy private eye job. Twenty years ago as a beat cop no one would have been able to get the drop on her. Her last thought was that she shouldn't have mentioned the gun.

***

Being shot with a stun gun wasn't much fun. During her time at the police force Milla had volunteered to be shot with one, so she'd know what it felt like. It hurt. A lot. She'd never carried one, but a lot of her fellow officers had. Now even members of the public had them.

She knew it was a stun gun that her attacker had used on her before tying her up and leaving her wedged under a potting bench. The plastic bag the attacker had put over her head and upper body had torn on the wooden structure. She could see the legs of the bench and the bags of potting soil stacked next to her.

Her hands were tied behind her. She started moving her hands, pulling against the light rope that was holding them together. It was only a matter of time until she'd be able to free her hands. She only hoped it happened before anyone found her. Being trussed up like this was not good for business.

As she worked, she heard the sounds of people talking. She couldn't tell if they were in the conservatory or just outside, but she could make out most of the words. There were two voices.

"You owe me money. I'm not running a charity, you know."

"He closed my account. I have to sell some jewelry to pay you."

"Then do it. Meanwhile, I'm cutting you off."

"You can't do that. I need it or I can't function. And you need me to keep quiet."

"Be careful. Carla played that game, look what happened to her."

The voices drifted away.

Milla worked the knots in the ropes around her wrists loose.

***

Detective Fletcher Jones looked at her like she was some swamp creature who had crawled in the passenger side of his car and squatted on his upholstery.

"Rough night? Got to hand it to you, when you say you're going to do a little digging, you really mean digging."

It was almost dawn. She'd been unconscious longer than she'd thought. After she'd freed herself, she'd looked for the Bangkok Blue orchid. She'd found it and a large hole. The file was gone. Either she'd led the killer to it or he/she had taken it after killing Carla. The police had checked the greenhouse for clues, but holes in a flowerbed didn't make the cut for unusual items.

Milla glanced down at her wet, muddy clothes. The floor of a greenhouse, no matter how expensive, was filthy. Her nails were broken and dirty from scratching around on the floor and in the flowerbed. Her clothes were ruined. Good thing she was staining Fletcher's car seats instead of her own.

"Fletcher, I want to re-interview Liza Barrymore and Sonya Reyes. And I'd like to do it at the police station, if you don't mind." She'd had her fill of playing nice with G. Winston Howard's guests.

"Liza Barrymore, the makeup artiste, no problem. The mayor's wife, well that could be messy." He chuckled, opening his glove box and handing her a package of wet-wipes. "Sure, I'm game. The union will protect me from his Honor's wrath. But you're going to need to hose off first. We just got new furniture in the interrogation rooms."

"Swell." Milla grabbed her extra clothes from the trunk of her car and motioned for Fletcher to open up the trunk on his patrol car. She dropped her bag inside, noting the evidence sacks containing the costumes from the party. The killer's clothes were probably in there. "Let's go."

She glanced at Fletcher as they drove off the property. She still needed to mention to him that her attacker had taken her gun. He wasn't going to be happy.

***

"So you admit you were providing more than make-up at G. Winston Howard's Halloween Ball?" Milla was feeling a little better. She'd cleaned up in the women's locker room (it paid to have connections) and changed into her power suit and red stilettos. Unfortunately she could have used some of Liza Barrymore's legal wares to cover up the bruises and scratches on her legs and wrists.

"I told you before; I don't know what you're talking about. I don't do drugs. I don't sell drugs. Drugs give you wrinkles."

"I think that's smoking," Milla responded. "Moving beyond beauty care, I found traces of cocaine in the powder room where you pitched your costume make-up tent in. How do you explain that?"

"You might be right about the smoking thing. But are you sure it was cocaine you found? I use a finishing powder that gives an airbrushed effect on your pores. You should let me try some on you. You could use a makeover. I gave one to Buffy St. James, really covered up her wrinkles."

No, she really wasn't sure it was cocaine. The tests were inconclusive, too much contamination and too small a sample. Plus there might have been upwards of three dozen people passing through that restroom during the event.

"I do manicures, too. Your nails are in rough shape."

The banal chatter from Liza was giving her a headache. Milla wondered if she'd have better luck with Sonya Reyes. Maybe. After all, the woman had certainly wanted to talk to her last night.

"Did you know you have some blue petals stuck to the back of your jacket?"

Great. The greenhouse was following her everywhere. Maybe the killer was wearing petals too? No, she wasn't that lucky. Still …she glanced down at her broken nails and scratched hands. She considered their similarity to Carla's hands. The greenhouse had left its mark on both of them.

Maybe it did the same to whoever dug up that file! She needed to be looking at hands.

***

"I had thought we might do lunch today," Sonya Reyes said, looking around the small room with the mirrored wall. "But I had in mind asking you to join me at my club, not someplace like this."
Milla stared at the woman in the tailored suit, pearls, and designer shoes. She certainly didn't look like a crazed drug addict wandering around greenhouses in the middle of the night putting detectives in garbage bags. She also had perfectly manicured fingernails.

"What did you want to talk about?"

"Carla Jordan, of course. I needed to talk with you privately about something Carla told me."

"You didn't want to tell me about your cocaine habit?" Milla dropped her little bomb and waited to see Sonya Reyes' reaction.

The woman didn't deny it, Milla had to give her that. She calmly described several failed trips to rehab and how concerned she was that her little habit was going to be the reason her husband would never reach higher office. She also admitted that cocaine was an expensive habit to support.

"Who were you buying drugs from?" Milla was laying odds it was either the "dead Sunflower" Carla or the "it'll give you wrinkles" Liza.

"Frieda Rosen."

"The caterer? Did Carla know?" Milla supposed that made sense. She hadn't heard any raves about the food, yet the couple was invited to work an "A-list" party?

"I don't think so," Sonya answered. "She was kind of miffed that G. Winston Howard didn't use some caterers she'd picked out."

Milla stood and walked around the room. She knew Fletcher was videoing their conversation. She also knew he'd advised Sonya Reyes of her legal rights.

"What did you want to tell me when you called last night?"

The mayor's wife sighed. "I wanted you to know that Carla had been blackmailing my husband."

"Over your drug use?"

"No." Sonya's eyes met hers. "Over some missing building funds. She thought Juan was padding building contracts and taking kickbacks from Steven McCall."

"Was he?"

The woman shook her head vehemently. "No, no. Juan would never do that. He has too much respect for law."

Milla wondered how much old cop show residuals really paid.

***

"So who killed Carla?" Milla leaned back in her bubble bath and closed her eyes. She only had a few more hours to solve the mystery or she wasn't going to get paid. G. Winston Howard had hired her to discover the killer before the weekend was over.

She reached out her hand and fumbled for the box of chocolates, sitting on the tiled area bordering her jetted tub. Placing one delicate morsel in her mouth, she let the sweetness flow over her tongue.

Why does anyone commit murder?

She ticked off the reasons: love, money, power, rage …

What else? Despite Steven McCall's hint of an affair between G. Winston Howard and Carla Jordan, she hadn't found any evidence of it. The only emotion that seemed to be associated with Carla was anger. She hadn't found anyone who liked the woman. So love probably wasn't the motive.

Milla picked up another chocolate, holding it as she considered the options. It had to be the old stand bys – money and power. Rage was probably just a bonus – nobody was mourning the late Carla Jordan. Who needed money? Who wanted power? Who did Carla threaten to expose?

The chocolate melted on her fingers. She tossed the gooey candy back in the box just as her cell phone rang. Startled she grabbed the side of the tub, her fingers leaving marks. Ignoring the phone she looked at her hand, her scratched fingers, like Carla's, leaving a message.

***

"You're going to be charged for the drugs we found at your house. And for obstruction of a police investigation. The reason I'm talking to you now is to determine if I'm going to charge you for the murder of Carla Jordan. One last time, who hired you?"

Milla glanced down at her watch. It was almost 3 p.m. She was watching Fletcher Jones interrogate Frieda Rosen. He'd already eliminated the woman's husband as a suspect in the murder. Another guest had come forward and verified a shaky alibi. Apparently the guest had cornered the chef about a veal recipe. The guest verified Mr. Rosen’s whereabouts at the time of Carla Jordan's death. He also offered up the opinion that although serving up bad veal wasn't a crime, it should be.

Frieda Rosen began talking about the woman who had come into their shop – the sister.

Fletcher interrupted her. "G. Winston Howard doesn't have a sister. You lied to us in your first statement. Don't lie to me again. Who really got you the catering job at the Halloween Ball?"

'Okay, fine. She didn't pay us nearly enough for the job anyway. Diana Trent recommended me. She didn't want anyone to know she was still involved in her ex-husband's business. Part of the deal was for me to keep my mouth shut about her. Like the drugs, my husband didn't know about that either. Idiot. Even after all these years, he still thinks he's a great cook. If it weren't for me, we'd have been homeless. A woman's got to do, what a woman's got to do."

Fletcher glanced over his shoulder at the mirror.

Milla knew what she had to do next.

***

"Dr. Trent, thank you for seeing me." Milla had arranged to meet the doctor at a small café near the clinic where he had offices. "I didn't think doctors worked on Sundays."

"Normally I don't, but my schedule was turned upside down with the murder investigation."

"How long have you and your wife been married?"

"Three years – almost."

"And what's your relationship with G. Winston Howard?" She'd asked him this question before at the mansion, but she suspected he'd been holding back.

"He's my wife's ex-husband."

Okay, she'd push a little harder. Time was running out. "I asked what your relationship was with him, not your wife's."

He sighed. "You know about the loan he gave me?"

Milla hadn't, but she nodded anyway. She'd suspected the two men had done business together, but she'd been thinking the doctor was an investor in one of G. Winston Howard's failed property development companies.

"I settled a malpractice case; my insurance didn't cover all of it. Winston loaned me the balance – only condition was I couldn't tell Diana where the money came from."

"Your wife really doesn't know?"

"No. She'd approached Winston through Carla about the matter several weeks ago. Carla passed on his negative response several days before the ball."

"Yet he eventually gave you the loan? Why?"

"I'm not sure. Saturday morning he just walked up and offered."
"Saturday morning? This Saturday?"

He nodded and Milla was left to wonder if that was what G. Winston Howard was doing when she first arrived at the crime scene. Had he called the police, called her, then broke out his checkbook? Why? Maybe Carla had lied to Diana just to yank her chain. Maybe G. Winston Howard had always intended to help his ex-wife.

'One more question – describe your costume – what did you wear to the Halloween Ball?"

"Green hospital scrubs." He blushed. "Not very original, I know."

No. not very original, Milla agreed. But the information was helpful. His scrubs were nothing like a black cape and witches' mask.

***

It was time. As per her request the group was gathered on the lighted patio area near the pool. In her interview with Alana Carter, the groundskeeper, she'd discovered that the outdoor living area was Diana Trent's personal design. The final touches, the outdoor fireplace and bar, were completed after the divorce. The mansion and grounds were very much Diana's dream. Watching her directing the bartender, Milla understood that the woman still hadn't been able to let go. Maybe she wasn't in love with G. Winston Howard anymore, but she loved that house.

Julius Rosen was sitting at a table off to the side. He seemed to be enjoying the novelty of being waited on. His wife was absent. Her bail hearing wasn't until tomorrow. He was no longer a suspect, but Milla didn't want the others to know that. She needed the killer to feel safe just a little longer.

Milla wasn't sure she believed that Diana Trent had recommended the Rosens to her ex, but if she had, it was probably more to do with thwarting Carla Jordan than anything else.

Walter Jester was in hiding somewhere. After she'd failed to find the all important file folder, he'd left her a message he was sure the murderer would be coming after him next.

Liza Barrymore, the make-up artiste was at a table with Alana Carter. They were sipping wine and watching the Amazing Harry eat his way through a tray of canapés. The sight of Amazing Harry scattering crumbs down his shirt reminded her of the test results Fletcher had emailed her. The stains on the shirt and jacket Harry was wearing the night of the murder were ketchup, not blood. Her identification mistake was due to the ketchup stains being of varying age. Apparently the man liked ketchup. Fletcher was still complaining that his patrol car reeked of it, just from his transporting the clothes to the lab.

The mayor was sipping brandy from a crystal glass. His wife was absent, off to rehab.

Steven McCall was pacing the flagstones on the opposite side of the pool, his cell phone stuck to his ear. His wheeling and dealing never seemed to stop.
Dr. Trent was standing next to G. Winston Howard at the fireplace. Buffy St. James, the librarian and current girlfriend of Winston was standing near the French door leading into the house. Fletcher was next to her waiting for Milla to signal him.

Milla didn't really need to ask any more questions. She knew who attacked her in the greenhouse. The same person had killed Carla. All the clues were there. The killer had been seen. She'd just had to sort the extraneous from the important. And the best part was that her paycheck was going to clear the bank.

It was time for the reveal.

***

Dear Reader –

Put on Milla's stiletto shoes and solve the mystery. You have all the clues necessary to reveal the killer.

(If you want to make sure you're right, email me for the answer at mmeredith@ocsnet.net)

Marilyn