Monday, December 29, 2014

A BOOK BY ANY OTHER NAME by Sally Carpenter

Hi, Marilyn, thanks for hosting me again. In a recent post, Marilyn discussed how she chose the titles for her many books. Today I’d like to explain how I created my titles as well.

I’m with a small press so I have considerable freedom in picking my book titles and arranging the cover art. Authors with the large New York presses have no input into their titles or covers. I know of one author who had her title changed by the publisher. However, this new title was the same name of another mystery book of a different ilk!

My cozy mysteries comprise the Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol series. I found this title often confuses people. Many think “teen idol” means the books are for young adults. No, the books are written for adults. My protagonist is a 38-year-old former teen idol. He’s too old for a YA hero and teens wouldn’t care about a book that is set in 1993 and has flashbacks to the 1970s.

But what else would I call my series? “Sandy Fairfax, Recovering Alcoholic” or “Sandy Fairfax, Washed-up Celebrity” would be accurate but not appealing monikers. “Sandy Fairfax, Former Teen Idol” just doesn’t have the right ring to it. And if I simply said “Sandy Fairfax,” people would assume the protag is female.

In the series, Sandy starred in a hit ‘70s TV show, Buddy Brave, Boy Sleuth. During the 1970s, real TV shows often had distinct titles. In The Man from UNCLE, all of the episodes were “The So-and-So Affair.” The Wild, Wild West episodes were “The Night of Such-and-Such.”

So for Buddy Brave, the episode titles had alliteration and ended in “caper.” Some examples are: “The Billowing Big Top Caper,” “The Gruesome Gang Caper” and “The Sizzling Salsa Caper.”

I like the word “caper” because it implies a lighthearted, fun mystery or adventure, a good description of my books.

The book titles likewise follow the Buddy Brave formula. In the series so far I have: The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper, The Sinister Sitcom Caper and The Cunning Cruse Ship Caper. The titles are nicely branded as one series. Also, the reader gets a good clue what the book is about and where it’s set.
BTW, the next book in the series is The Bloody Black Tie Benefit Caper. Can anyone guess what will happen in that story?

Bio: Sally Carpenter is native Hoosier now living in Moorpark, Calif.

She has a master’s degree in theater from Indiana State University. While in school her plays “Star Collector” and “Common Ground” were finalists in the American College Theater Festival One-Act Playwrighting Competition. “Common Ground” also earned a college creative writing award and “Star Collector” was produced in New York City.

Carpenter also has a master’s degree in theology and a black belt in tae kwon do.

She’s worked as an actress, college writing instructor, theater critic, jail chaplain, and tour guide/page for Paramount Pictures. She’s now employed at a community newspaper.

The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper was a 2012 Eureka! Award finalist for best first mystery novel.

The Sinister Sitcom Caper and The Cuning Cruise Ship Caper are published by Cozy Cat Press.

She has short stories in two anthologies: “Dark Nights at the Deluxe Drive-in” in Last Exit to Murder and “Faster Than a Speeding Bullet” in Plan B: Omnibus.

Her short story “The Pie-eyed Spy” appeared in the Nov. 23, 2013, issue of Kings River Life ezine.

She’s a member of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles. 

Contact her at Facebook or

 Thank you so much for visiting me today. I love the titles of your books!


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Wolf in Winter by John Connolly, a review

Wolf in Winter by John Connolly is called a A Charlie Parker Thriller by the publisher,

Charlie Parker refers to the name of the detective who is on the search for missing young woman. 
Yes, it is a thriller, but it certainly has the elements of a horror novel too.

As Parker follows the trail for the missing woman he comes to the odd town of Prosperous. The residents of the town are obviously hiding big secrets. The author lets the reader into some of these secrets though not all of them are revealed by the end of the book.

The story brings in characters from other Parker books--but I didn't feel I was missing anything by not having read the earlier ones in the series.

There are many who meet their end as the story plays out, some who deserve it and some who don't.

Parker himself is confronted with danger multiple times, and many things are not resolved by the end. 

This is definitely one of those books that you have to keep on reading to the last page. Connolly is a master at spinning words into a thrilling web of surprising twists.

Yes, I liked it and I'll be watching for the next one. After all, I want to find out what Charlie Parker chooses.


The book was sent to me by the publisher.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Letter by Marilyn Meredith

In the past I always wrote a Christmas letter to include with my Christmas cards.

With the advent of Facebook, those who are my friends pretty much know everything I've been doing--probably even more than they ever wanted to know. 

Probably the two most exciting things that happened this past year is the birth of two new grandbabies, Priscilla to granddaughter Jessica and her husband Jerry, and Madelyn (Maddy) to grandson Robert and his wife Alli.

Priscilla Rose

I think that brings the total of great-grands to 15.

And of course I had two new books make their appearance this year.

This is the latest Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery from Oak Tree Press that came out in March.

And the latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery from Mundania Press, out at the end of September.

As for traveling, I've cut down a lot.

In March I went to Left Coast Crime in Monterey, traveling and rooming with my good friend Madeline Gornell. We had a great time and I got to see lots of old friends--most notably Bobbye and Howard Johnson who I first met in Omaha, NE.

Of course hubby and I drove to Las Vegas for PSWA (and to visit my sis--always a good excuse to see her) and it was the first year I wasn't the program chair. So nice not to have that responsibility.

Hubby and I made several trips to the Central Coast where I participated with the CC Sisters in Crime in several library panels--and I also did a book event there. (One trip over I made with daughter Lisa.)
Love seeing all my friends there.

And I did several book events closer to home at the Porterville Library, two at the Porterville Art Gallery, and two at different venues in Visalia.

Hubby and I are still active in church and teaching a 3-5th grade Sunday School Class together.
He's still in charge of the Gran Prix for Awanas. I went to the Women's Bible Study and played Bunco with the church ladies--money goes to the church's youth. 

That pretty much covers it. 

Merry Christmas everyone!


Monday, December 22, 2014

Where is Rocky Bluff, California? by F. M. (Marilyn) Meredith

Rocky Bluff is not a real town, but rather a place straight out of my imagination.

Despite being a made-up place, I can see it in my mind as if it were real.

Located on the coast in Southern California, it is between Santa Barbara and Ventura, but closer to Ventura, still in Ventura county.

This is a shot from the 101 highway of some houses in Carpenteria--which is a real town fairly near to the location of Rocky Bluff, a town that is divided by the 101 like Rocky Bluff is too.

Carpenteria may have been similar to Rocky Bluff in days gone by, but now it is a much larger town.

The geography of Rocky Bluff is similar to Carpenteria in that it is situated near the ocean, with a wonderful beach for residents and visitors to enjoy. That's more or less where the resemblance ends.

My fictional town is butted on the north side by a bluff that rises upward--a place where the rich have built larger homes--and from where the town gets it's name. 

The main street, Valley Boulevard, divides the town from the beach  and the houses that have been built on the slope that rises toward the highway and a road going under the bridge. On the other side are small ranches and orange groves. The land continues to rise upward into the hills. 

On the ocean side of Rocky Bluff a series of beach cottages are in various stages of disrepair, as they've served as rentals for many years. The Rocky Bluff Chamber of Commerce, plans to raze the houses and build expensive beach condos, a plan most of the Rocky Bluff residents are unhappy about.

The members of the Rocky Bluff P.D. wish that the RBCC would consider financing new equipment and hiring more officers. The RBPD has been underfunded and understaffed for years.

And that's just a peek into what Rocky Bluff looks like.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Slivers of Glass by Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger

Summer 1955: The body of a woman thought to be killed three years earlier is found behind a theater in Hollywood.  Movie stuntman Skylar Drake, a former LAPD detective, is dragged into the investigation. He can make no sense of the crime until he discovers a dirty underworld and unearths deep-seated… greed.  

The hunt takes Drake to places he’d never expect.  He’s anxious to close this case and get back to his business in L.A., but he’s constantly haunted by the memory of his wife and young daughter, killed in a mysterious house fire.

With more than enough dirty cops, politicians and crime bosses to go around, Drake can trust no one including Martin Card, the cop assigned to work with him. 
Buy link: website:


There were a dozen other things I could’ve been doing besides standing in line at the drug store listening to Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock” piped in overhead.  Though, it was a treat to watch the cashier move behind the counter in her form-fitting white smock. I shook my head and plopped a tube of Pepsodent and a couple of toothbrushes on the pharmacy counter.

She looked up and said, “That will be seventy-five cents, Mr. Drake.”

I dug in my pocket and dropped three quarters in her hand, “Thank you, Miss Abernathy.” She placed my items in a small white paper bag and folded over the top. “Here you are, and quit calling me that.  My name is Emily. Anyway, this should keep you smiling brightly. I only wish I could see yours sometime.”

In all the times I’ve walked to this drug store, I couldn’t remember a day she didn’t smile at me. Too bad there was a ‘y’ at the end of Emily’s name. Women with names like Sandy, Cathy or Abby were bad luck. Those ‘y’  women were always trouble and it would be dangerous to get mixed up with another one now.

“Thanks,” I tipped my hat, "When I have something to smile about, I might just show you.” I knew Emily pretty well since this place was only a couple of blocks from my apartment, an apartment I lived in because a fire took my home along with my beautiful wife Claire and Ellen my little girl.

As I turned to leave, I winked at the two little old ladies behind me.  They stepped back and stared as if I’d just sneezed in their faces. I turned and waved goodbye to Emily only to see her pointing behind me in horror. I followed her gaze and saw a dark green car hurtling toward us - right through the huge windows at the front of the store! The gigantic crash at my back sent shelves, boxes and cans hurtling in our direction. 

I turned around as glass, smoke and debris seemed to explode in a cloud around us. At that moment my training from the Marine Corps took over. I instinctively swept up the two ladies and Emily and pushed them to the back of the store. 

The other customers ran screaming out the huge opening where the storefront windows used to be. I shielded the women against the back wall with my body all the while knowing that my weight could suffocate them, but what else could I do? The ceiling could come down on us at any moment. I held them against the wall while listening to my heart pound. 

Slowly the tinkle of glass subsided and I released them. Tiny slivers of glass and wood had embedded themselves in my sweater and trousers. 

“You’d better be careful,” One of the little old women chirped, “Your backside looks like a pin cushion.  Best not to sit down for a while.”


A very popular dessert in the 1950’s, served at the famous Coconut Grove in Los Angeles. The “Grove” was known for its great cuisine. The Coconut Grove is featured in one of the scenes in Slivers of Glass, a Noir murder mystery.


2 oranges or tangerines
2 bananas
shredded coconut, unsweetened


Peel the oranges or tangerines. Pull the pieces apart; cut the pieces across the middle. Peel the bananas and cut them into thin slices.
Cover the bottom of the bowl with orange pieces. Sprinkle 1-2 teaspoon sugar over oranges (depending on the sweetness of the oranges/tangerines). Put some banana slices on oranges, and then sprinkle a little coconut over bananas.

Do the same thing for the next layer, first the oranges, sugar, bananas and coconut. Make more layers, using all the fruit.

Sprinkle coconut on top. Cover with plastic wrap, refrigerator for 1 hour. Serves 3-4


JANET ELIZABETH LYNN was born in Queens, New York and raised in Long Island, until she was 12 years old. Her family escaped the freezing winters and hurricanes for the warmth and casual lifestyle of Southern California.
Janet has always wanted to write and made it a quest to write a novel. Ten years later, with much blood and sweat, her first murder mystery novel, South of the Pier, was published in 2011. She has since written seven more mysteries. Miss Lynn has traveled to the far reaches of the planet for work and for pleasure, collecting wonderful memories, new found friends and a large basket of shampoo and conditioner samples from hotels.
At one time Janet was an Entertainment Editor for a newspaper in Southern California.
Contact info:

WILL ZEILINGER  has been writing for over twelve years. During that time, he took novel writing classes and joined writer’s groups, but what has helped the most are published authors who mentor, encourage, critique  and listen to him while he continued to learn the craft.  At the time of this writing, Will has published three novels (Ebooks.) The Naked Groom,  Something’s Cooking at Dove Acres, and The Final Checkpoint (also in print). 
As a youth he lived overseas with his family. As an adult he traveled the world. Will lives in Southern California with his wife Janet Elizabeth Lynn, who is also an author. Will says that finding time to write while life happens is a challenge.

Contact info:
Twitter:  @Will_Zeilinger

Thursday, December 18, 2014



The easy answer is wherever it works best for the plot. In much detective fiction, the murder, or discovery of the body takes place at the beginning or very early on. But a lot of good stories take a while to develop, even when the motivation for the detective is the act itself.

If the story is focused on the characters more than on the action, or, is a balanced presentation, then a murder may not take place until well into the book. Nothing wrong with this, assuming the writer has mastered all the other tools of the trade. A bunch of people standing around endlessly trading bon mots or quips or cutting insults becomes exceedingly tedious, even if, as veteran readers of crime fiction, we know it’s all leading to murder, or worse.

On the other hand (isn’t there always?) a small clutch of really unusual interesting characters can carry a reader a long way into the story. Add other unusual or unsettling circumstances, such as weather or location and it’s possible to “compel” readers for many pages. Yet too many authors of crime fiction seem to offer a cast of similar characters. For example, I just finished a novel in which all three main characters have similar backgrounds: they moved back to town after a successful career and a failed marriage. Their careers were in large coastal cities and adjusting to a more bucolic life takes some getting used to (at least several pages). Now, analyzing the structure of the novel, I find the story line and it’s significant events take up about half the book. We have a good short story or novella but not a full length novel.

In my short story, “A Winter’s Tale” weather, circumstances and (I hope) mounting realization of inevitable conflict leading to horrific acts, drive the story and the reader forward, but actual murder, and thus the placement of body parts occurs as bookends to the tale. On the other hand, my latest novel, The Case of the Purloined Painting has a complicated back story requiring at least some understanding of modern history. But rather than inflict several pages of WWII on readers, I have spread salient facts related to the main motivator through the narrative. And bodies occur in several chapters. Readers will judge whether those unhappy events distract or push the plot along..

In conclusion, although old rules for crime fiction suggest readers require a body in the early going, I don’t believe that’s necessarily a requirement. At the same time, I think authors are well-advised to be cautious. If your protagonist runs a fast food joint in Southern Mississippi, you can’t start every book finding a body in the deep fryer.

Before he became a mystery writer and reviewer, Carl Brookins was a counselor and faculty member at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Brookins and his wife are avid recreational sailors.

He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.

He writes the sailing adventure series featuring Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney. The third novel is Old Silver. His new private investigator series features Sean NMI Sean, a short P.I. The first is titled The Case of the Greedy Lawyers. Brookins received a liberal arts degree from the University of Minnesota and studied for a MA in Communications at Michigan State University.


The Case of the Purloined Painting
By Carl Brookins

ISBN-10: 0878397086
ISBN-13: 978-0878397082
North Star Press
Trade paper, 176 pgs

Blurb: When an American Army unit arrived at the end of the war, some soldiers appropriated items in what appeared to be abandoned circumstances. A small painting by a mid-level Polish painter is used by an ex-GI to float a bank loan which results in the founding of a manufacturing firm in Minneapolis. 

Now the painting and the ledger become the center of murderous attempts by the descendants of the veteran to conceal the paintings journey. World-wide efforts at repatriation of stolen art from WWII is a major ongoing effort and the story links to that effort as international operatives descend on the Twin Cities. 

Enter private detective Sean Sean. He is a short but effective operative who, unlike many PIs of the modern era, doesn’t sleep around, doesn’t shoot people unnecessarily, and has many friends among various local law enforcement agencies.


Before he became a mystery writer and reviewer, Brookins was a counselor and faculty member at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Brookins and his wife are avid recreational sailors.

He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.

He writes the sailing adventure series featuring Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney. The third novel is Old Silver. His new private investigator series features Sean NMI Sean, a short P.I. The first is titled The Case of the Greedy Lawyers. Brookins received a liberal arts degree from the University of Minnesota and studied for a MA in Communications at Michigan State University.

P.S. I met Carl for the first time at the now defunct Mayhem in the Midlands mystery conference. I was fortunate to run into him and have several conversations at various other mystery conferences over the years. I miss having the opportunity to listen to his wisdom about mystery writing and other topics.  Marilyn

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Busy, Busy, Busy by Marilyn Meredith

Yes I am, but not so much with Christmas doings.

My house is as decorated as it's going to be. My Christmas checks are written--yes, that's what I do. If you had four adult kids, 18 grands, and 15 great-grands, you might resort to giving money too. Actually I give to the families these days, then they can do what they want with the cash.

I'm farming out the cookie baking to my granddaughter and daughter-in-law.

I've ordered the Honeybaked ham for Christmas Eve.

Tonight hubby and I are headed to my writer's group annual Christmas dinner. This will be the only Christmas party I'll attend. Missed the church's party last weekend because I was ill.

So what am I busy with?

It seems something comes up every day I have to tend too.

What caused the most work is the branch of the bank we've used for many, many years is closing. The nearest branch will be much too far away. So we've changed banks. It took two hours to open two accounts at the new bank. Now we're in the throes of making all the needed changes for our direct deposits. Won't close the old checking account until all the checks we've written clear. That may take awhile. (Just so it all is done by March 1.)

Now what's going to take my time for the next couple of days is going over the 2nd edits to my next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery. Need to get with it because it's way overdue.

And of course I wrote this because I saw I didn't have anything new until tomorrow.

Merry Christmas.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Another Christmas Memory

I was around 9 or 10 and oh, did I ever want a two-wheel bicycle.

The problem was, and I'd had this pointed out to me many times, no bicycles could be purchased because of the war. (WWII). The metal was needed for the war effort and bicycles were not being made.

What a surprise on Christmas morning when I came out to discover a shiny new, blue girl's bicycle standing up by the tree.

How could this possibly have happened when it was impossible to buy a new bicycle anywhere?

I didn't count on my dad's expertise at being able to make anything. Yes, that's exactly what happened, he built my bicycle from scratch. I have no idea how he managed to get all the parts, some of the bike was made of pipe (he was a plumber) but he did. Not only did he build my bicycle but he built another for my cousin Barbara who lived a block away.

Learning how to ride the bicycle took me forever. (My cousin was much quicker at it much to my humiliation since she was 11 months younger.)

My poor father held onto the seat and ran alongside me over and over until I finally got the  hang of balancing.

After that I rode that bike everywhere--not to school--probably afraid someone might steal it. I rode to my friend's houses. And in the summer, I packed up my basket with books, tablets, pens and pencils and rode around until I found a home with a big tree (Weeping Willow preferred) and parked myself on the lawn in the shade. Sometimes I even packed a lunch.We didn't have any parks close by.

Never did a home owner come out and ask what I was doing.

I was so fortunate to have a dad like mine. Another year he built me a three story doll house and my artist aunt made all the furniture and curtains for the windows.

He also built our first TV with a Heath Kit. We were the first ones in the neighborhood to own a television. We had lots of company to help us watch wrestling, roller derby, Beanie and Cecil, and whatever else was on which wasn't much.

Frankly, for a long time, radio was much more exciting.

Merry Christmas Everyone.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas Traditions Over the Years

When I was growing up, we had several traditions.

One was attending the Christmas program at our church. The program often was the children performing some version of Christ's birth.

Though most Christian churches today don't have anything to do with Santa Claus, back then, after the Christmas program ended, Santa Claus handed out small stockings with candy in them to every child.

My father worked for Paramount Studio which always had a wonderful Christmas program for the children of the employees, followed by expensive gifts for every child there. I remember some of the events being held way out in the country (now right in the middle of Studio City), and others at a theater in Los Angeles.

I don't remember doing anything special on Christmas Eve, but I do know we were anxious to get to bed then couldn't sleep. Along about 4 a.m. we begged to get up and go into the living room and see what awaited us. 

We always had to wait for our parents to dress and allow us to begin the Christmas unwrapping.

Dinner was always at our grandmother's house in South Pasadena. We always wore something we'd received for Christmas--usually a new sweater, even if it was a hot day.

This is where we received her presents and the ones from our Aunt. 

Years later, when I was married and had my own family, when possible, we drove down to Los Angeles to have Christmas there. 

One Christmas though, I expected my third child and everyone drove to our little rented house in Oxnard for Christmas. I suppose I cooked the dinner, though I don't remember. The baby didn't arrive until December 28th.

When I was working, we had Christmas at our own house--by this time we owned a home. One Christmas I worked a split shift and the kids opened their gifts while I was gone. I wasn't happy. And we ate our Christmas dinner in a restaurant. (The only time I can remember doing that.)

Many years later when we'd moved to Springville, and lived in and ran a care home, we always had a bit of a celebration dinner Christmas Eve--but presents for our ladies were always opened on Christmas Day after we had a great breakfast.  And later of course, the whole family came to be in on Christmas dinner.

Now that we've retired from the community care business, we have our big dinner on Christmas Eve--and that's when some of the family come and presents are opened.

The next day all the grown kids (who are now grandparents) have their own traditions. And we eat leftovers. We usually watch movies and relax.

What are your favorite Christmas traditions?


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fatal Attraction by Jennie Spallone

My most recent mystery FATAL REACTION shines a light on my former career as a special education teacher and tutor of students with emotional and learning disabilities. Spoil Alert: No one I taught wound up killing their father! They might have hurt and maimed -- just kidding!

In this book, I examine how a catastrophic family event causes a nurtured child to morph into a school bully. Yes, I worked with school bullies in real life. Their trust in adults has been destroyed. Their hearts are crusted with despair. And so they lash out for attention. Whether positive or negative, attention reflects that they are "visible" in the eyes of others.

These kids "act out" because they lack a responsive, responsible adult to guide them through their daily lives. Responsive because we all need love and gentle direction to steer us down the path. Responsible because limits must be set to inform the child what behavior will be tolerated and what behavior is off-limits. As a teacher, I found it difficult to offer consistent consequences for negative behavior. Dealing with manipulative teenagers is exhausting, especially in a classroom setting! It didn't help that my own parents divorced when I was a young child, and I was raised without boundaries. Yet I knew I was loved and cherished, which kept me on the straight and narrow.

Maybe our task is to reach out to these kids as a weekly mentor through OMNI YOUTH SERVICES or other Big Brother, Big Sister Programs in our local area. Give them one-on-one attention, whether it be to take them out for lunch, shoot some hoops, watch their favorite sports team on television, or engage in an activity that peaks their interest. No, not drugs!

I believe we are all instruments of G-d, each with our own view of the Divine. As an instrument of the Divine, "being there" for a kid just might keep them from shooting up a school cafeteria or cutting their wrists.,,, 

Book Blurb:

Lake Forest bank executive Joseph Barge is dead and everybody he’s tormented is celebrating, all except Ellie, his 13 year-old daughter. Left to the cold glare of her father who drowned his sorrows in rage and alcohol, Ellie resorted to bullying to get his attention. Years ago, she lost her mother. Now her father,too!

In shock at her father’s death, Ellie plunges into a deep depression, unable to communicate with the outside world. Distressed by her student’s suffering, special education teacher Mitzi Maven teams up with CPD Detective Maggie O’Connor and hottie North Shore Detective Eric Whelan to solve the case. 

It doesn’t take long for Mitzy, a former investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune, to discover a slew of suspects who wanted Barge gone. A disgruntled co-worker. The sexually-harassed nanny. The sister-in-law who fought for custody. Half the White Oaks Middle School teaching staff.


Suspense author Jennie Spallone wrote over one hundred profiles and feature stories for local and national publications, as well as the award-winning mystery novel Deadly Choices and Window of Guilt, before putting pen to Fatal Reaction.

Jennie, an active member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, has spoken at local bookstores, schools, and libraries, in addition to Mystery Conferences throughout the country, including Scene of the Crime, Bouchercon, Printer’s Row, Sleuthfest, Malice Domestic, Magna Cum Murder, Midwest Literary Fest, Love is Murder, Public Safety Writers of America, Romantic Times Writers’ Conference, and the University of Wisconsin Writer’s Institute.

Please send your comments, questions and speaking engagement queries to

Monday, December 8, 2014

And the Winner Is (Are)---

Or course I'm talking about the winner of my recent blog tour for River Spirits, the latest mystery in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series.

As the tour continued, I had an good idea who really wanted to win the prize and be a character in my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.

When I'd responded to the last one to comment on the very last blog of my tour, it was very clear who would have a character using her name:: Linda Thorne.

She left a comment on at least 20 blog posts--sometimes two.

Congratulations, Linda.

There were others who commented on many of the blog posts, but the close follow-up was Nancy Li Petri. I'll give her the opportunity to choose one of the earlier books in the series as a reward for her efforts.

Over 80 people left comments on posts. Some commented on several, just one or two.

I recognized about 60% of the names, others were new to me.

Doing a blog tour is a lot of work--but it's also fun or I wouldn't bother.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

The First Christmas I Remember by Marilyn Meredith

It was at my Great Grandmother, Minnie Smith's house in Bakersfield.

A widow, she supported her self by renting out rooms boarding house style. As I remember, her big, living room dining room was in the middle of  her house with all the bedrooms and kitchen leading off all around. (This could be totally wrong since I have no one to check with, but that's how I remember it.)

I also remember a Christmas tree off in one corner.

Since I was really young, I have no idea where my parents and I slept, but my guess is probably in one of the bedrooms that wasn't rented out.

I'm sure my grandparents were there too.

Sometime in the night I heard bells and I knew that was Santa Claus coming. The next morning I told everyone I'd heard Santa on the roof.

I remember nothing about presents or anything else much, except for a vague picture of a long table with a Christmas feast and many people enjoying it.

My Great Grandmother died when I was 12.

I know a lot about her younger years because of a book I wrote based on my family genealogy.
Minnie's name once was Desdemona Diane. But her adoptive parents changed her name to Minnie.

She was a true pioneer woman and supported herself most of her life. If you'd like to know more about her, you can read, Indian Paintbrush on your Kindle.

What is the earliest Christmas you can remember?


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Art Lessons Granny Taught Me by Joan Hall Hovey

This essay, in large part was my first published story.  It was published more than 30 years ago in Home Life Magazine.  This updated version was published in Mystery Readers Journal.  I hope you enjoy it. 

The illustration is by Padgett.
                She was 71 and lived alone in the cluttered attic of an old, two-story frame building with her easel, her paints, her brushes and sometimes, me. Her name was Lillian May (Watts) Hall.  

                When neighbors spoke of my grandmother, they said, “A nice woman.” Then frowning and in whispers, the added, “but kinda funny.”  And in the early fifties, to the people who lived in our small, unsophisticated town, there was indeed something ‘kinda funny’ about an old lady who sat alone in her attic room and painted pictures.  At first glance, she was not unlike a million other grandmothers of her time - the same iron-gray hair drawn back in a bun, wire-rimmed glasses, a dark, high-buttoned dress with long sleeves and detachable lace collar, and a cameo brooch clasped modestly at her throat -  but there the similarity ended.  Granny, a tall, angular-boned parcel of nervous energy, was not the average storybook grandmother. 

                Every day Granny would lose a prized possession.  It might be a valued brush, a particular tube of paint or a piece of canvas.  And while I stood on the sidelines, she would tear through her private disaster area, sending papers, books, talcum-coated hairpins, an unmated stocking, and her pink garters helter-skelter – all the while looking remarkably like an enraged bird.

                Almost always she would find what she was looking for, but occasionally I would be the one to spy the object of her frenzied search.  “Here it is, Granny,” I’d say, proud of my Sherlock Holmes tendencies.  She would smile sheepishly, relief flooding her face.  

                “Now, wasn’t that foolish of me to get so upset,” she would apologize.  “I’m just a silly old woman, dear.  Don’t pay me any mind.”  Then, calm and serene once more, she would begin the gentle strokes of her brush on the canvas.

                I often stood at the small, rickety table beside her, a piece of Bristol board and a brush in front of me.  I was even permitted to use the valued paints (which she could barely afford for her own work) so that I could play artist.

                After hours of painstaking work, Granny would set her brush to rest, stand back with a critical eye, and appraise the completed painting.  When it had dried sufficiently, and she was satisfied that it was of some worth, she would don her coat and hat and with the painting under one arm, off the two of us would go, door to door, in an effort to sell it.

                She walked with a brisk, sure step, and many times I found myself breaking into a run to keep up with her.  But we never had to walk far before making a sale.  Although neighbors found her way of life strange, they liked and bought what she painted.  It was hard times, and the return for her efforts was meager, yet sufficient to pay the rent on the attic, buy a few groceries at the corner store, and keep the coal bucket filled during the long winter months.

                I had a friend whose grandmother spun for her many fascinating tales of her girlhood.  But even there, Granny fell short.  In fact our roles were quite reversed.  It was I who spun the tales for her.  One story still causes me to cringe when I remember it.  It was during summer vacation and I had just returned from a day at the beach.  

                “Granny! Granny!” I shouted excitedly as I flung open the door.  “A man fell off the diving board at the lake today and I jumped into save him.  He almost pulled me under with him, but I punched him on  the jaw and knocked him out, and then I swam back to shore with him under one arm.  Everybody on the beach cheered,” I finished breathlessly. 

                “Oh, my dear child,” Granny said with concern.  “You certainly did have a busy day, didn’t you?”  Then abruptly the concerned expression changed to amusement and she broke into a gale of laughter.  Rocking back and forth in her wicker chair, she laughed and laughed, absolutely delighted, but not for a moment fooled.  Every few seconds she would remove her glasses and wipe the tears from her eyes. By this time I was writhing inwardly and trying in vain to twist my story into something more plausible, but it was no use.  I was caught in the web of my lie. (Lesson 1. If you want your reader to suspend disbelief, you must make sense.)  I suspected she knew even then that I had the makings of a storyteller.  And I’m absolutely certain she knows now.

                Granny has not been with me for a good many years, and indeed I am a grandma now myself.  In fact, a great-grandma.  The year I turned fifteen, I was working as a housemaid when the telephone call came telling me that Granny had been rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.

                The hallway was in flames, making escape impossible.  Granny had climbed out of the dormer window and crouched on the ledge below it.  A passerby heard her cries for help and called up to her to stay there until he returned with a ladder.  Then the man fled to put in a call to the fire department.  Whether the heat from the flames became unbearable or whether Granny simply panicked, I’ll never know.  But she didn’t wait for the man to return with the ladder.  Instead, she jumped from the ledge  and fell in a crumpled heap to the ground below.  Her back was broken.  In two months she was gone.  I stumbled around, lost, for a long time.  I felt betrayed by God.  And then I grew up.  After a fashion.  But the child in us never goes far.
                In my third suspense novel (I have written five, the last The Abduction of Mary Rose) Chill Waters, my heroine deals with loss and betrayal on several levels.  Following the breakup of her marriage, after learning of her husband’s infidelity, Rachael Warren retreats to the old beach house in Jenny’s Cove, where as a young girl she lived with her grandmother.  It is the one place where she had always felt safe and loved.  But she is about to learn that ‘a safe place’ is mostly an illusion.  And that evil can find us no matter where we go.

                Jenny’s Cove is located in St. Clair, a fictional St. Andrews, a small town in New Brunswick, Canada.  St. Andrews lies on the Passamoquoddy Bay, and is close to the American border.  A place of charm and beauty, St. Andrews/St. Clair is a magnet for tourists and artists alike.  The beach house in Jenny’s Cove, however, is isolated.  Waves crashing against the rocks, and the sudden summer storms that visit Jenny’s Cove add to that sense of isolation. As a child, Rachael had found the violence of the storms and the sound of the sea comforting.  As a woman stalked and terrorized, that will change.

                I like the blending of light and dark in a novel.  Using shadowing to enhance dramatic effect, as in a painting. 

                I also enjoy writing about women who struggle against great odds and triumph, as did my grandmother.  But, as in life, it’s never easy.  In books, it must be even harder, damn near impossible.  And in the suspense novel, there are always unseen dangers.

                My own life provides fodder for my imagination.  But it is my grandmother who taught me the art of concentration.  When she was painting, the house could have fallen down around her and she would have paid it little attention.  You knew not to talk to her then.  Only the brushes, canvas and the work at hand held any reality for her.  All else faded into the background.  Her focus was that of a child’s in the midst of intense ‘play.’  (If you have ever watched a child at play, and we all have, you know there is no one quite so serious.)  and she never stopped learning.  It was not about fame or fortune for her, as it is not for her granddaughter – but about the work, and the pursuit of excellence.  In her seventies, she was still taking art lessons when she could afford the few coins, from a Mrs. Holt on Elliott Row, a respected art teacher in Saint John, New Brunswick.   Sometimes she took me with her and I’d wait in the foyer.  There were always books to read.

                As Mrs. Holt’s lessons were important to my grandmother, my grandmother’s were crucial to me. 
                To quote author Willa Cather, “Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.”     
                I believe that’s true. 


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Historic Driskill Hotel by Kathleen Kaska

            Welcome to day eight of Kathleen Kaska’s blog tour “Travels to Austin: A Trip Back in Time.” She’s celebrating the upcoming release of her fourth Sydney Lockhart mystery, Murder at the Driskill (Austin, Texas) by writing about famous, infamous, and legendary locales in Texas’ state capital whose promo campaign is “Keep Austin Weird.” At the end of the tour, she’ll give away a signed copy of the book. To be eligible, leave a comment here and on each of the precious seven blogs. The links are below.
            Today’s blog features the Driskill Hotel.
            Murder at the Driskill showcases the glorious Driskill Hotel in the heart of downtown Austin. Protagonist Sydney Lockhart and her detective boyfriend, Ralph Dixon, often meet at the hotel’s bar after a long day of investigating. During one of these casual evenings, a future gubernatorial candidate is murdered in one of the hotel’s suites.
            It was easy to describe the hotel scenes because the Driskill’s bar was one of my local hangouts when I lived in Austin. Living the Capital City, I never had a need to stay at the hotel, but while researching the story, I took a couple of private tours. Not only did I see several gorgeous suites, I also learned about ghosts who make the hotel their permanent home; the famous people who have stayed there; and a lot of the hotel’s history in general.
            If you ever find yourself in Austin, I recommend checking into the Driskill Hotel for a night or two of luxury. Sydney’s cousin, Ruth Echland, would also highly recommend it despite discovering some extremely odd visitors in her suite on more than one occasion.
            In previous blogs, I’ve offered excerpts. But this time you’ll have to read the book to find out who Ruth encounters.

Visit these blog links for the entire blog tour:
11/24/ Condo Douglas kicked off my blog tour at:

11/25 Next you’ll find me at Lois Winston’s blog: 

11/26 Look for me at Cyndi Pauwel’s blog, CP at Large:

11/28 Visit me at Helena Fairfax’s blog at:

11/29 Visit me at Lynn Cahoon’s place at:

11/30 Visit me at Sheila Webster Boneham’s blog, Sheila Writes at:

12/01 Visit at Jenny Milchman’s blog, Made it Moments:

Now here’s a taste of Murder at the Driskill:

            You’d think that newspaper reporter Sydney Lockhart, comfortable at home in Austin, Texas, could stay away from hotels and murders therein. But when she and her detective boyfriend, Ralph Dixon, hang out a shingle for their new detective agency, they immediately land a high-profile case, which sends them to the swanky Driskill Hotel. Businessman Stringer Maynard has invited them to a party to meet his partner/brother-in-law, Leland Tatum, who’s about to announce his candidacy for governor. Maynard needs their help because Tatum is hanging out with the wrong crowd and jeopardizing his chances for winning the election. Before Sydney can finish her first martini, a gunshot sounds and Leland Tatum is found murdered in a suite down the hall.


Kathleen Kaska writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mysteries. Her first two books Murder at the Arlington and Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queens Book Group, the largest book group in the country. Kaska also writes the Classic Triviography Mystery Series. Her Alfred Hitchcock and the Sherlock Holmes trivia books were finalists for the 2013 EPIC award in nonfiction. Her nonfiction book, The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story (University Press of Florida) was published in 2012.
Here's the buy link: