Tuesday, January 31, 2017

I Blame it All on My Dad by Marilyn Meredith

My dad bragged about me to everyone--told them that I could do anything. It wasn't true of course, but sure made me try. In later years, I know that thefaith he had in me, made me try all sorts of things that I might not have if I'd thought about it too long.

He thought I could water ski better than anyone. He made our skis--and the boat that pulled us--he was the one who could do anything--but I heard him tell people, "Marilyn can get up on those skis before I even start the boat."

Another time, after I was married and had kids, he told my nephew that I could swim better than anyone. My nephew was a teen and his family had a pool that he swam in all the time. I did swim in the ocean a lot, but not often in a pool. Dad told my nephew I could beat him in a race. Egads, I was horrified, but didn't want to let my dad down. The pool was half Olympic size. I swam like crazy never coming up for air--and won. 

This "Marilyn can do anything" thought carried me through many adventures:

Though I'd never done it before, I became the editor of the PTA newsletter--learned how to use the old fashioned duplicating machines and how to write the necessary news.

I served as almost every office of PTA including president of the grammar school for two years and two years as president at the junior high.

I became a Blue Bird leader, then Camp Fire Girls and on to Horizon Club. Worked with about 20 girls for nearly 10 years. Took them on all kinds of camping trips, even back packing, cooked great meals outdoors, including a turkey in a pit in the sand at the beach. Planned a 5 day trip to the Grand Canyon by Greyhound bus with my girls and another Horizon Club. We spent two years earning the money to go. (Turned out great.) 

I applied for a teaching job with developmentally disabled children even though I had no experience or a teaching credential--what I did have was lots of experience with and a love for kids.  I worked there for 10 years, and managed to get an AA degree in Early Childhood Education during that time.

Worked in daycares for disadvantaged kids (tough neighborhoods) and loved every minute of it. Tried all kinds of events and programs that no one had ever done before with those kids.

We moved and I got a license to be the owner-operator of a home for 6 developmentally disabled women--never having worked with this group before, but I loved every minute of it as well as the women who shared our home.

During this time I put together the training for others to become certified administrators and continuing education--not because I really knew how or had any experience--but because I knew I could do it. I did this for years.

I also helped raise some grandkids along the way. 

And in the meantime, I was writing--and getting published. I've also taught Sunday School from nursery aged kids to the group I do the best with 10 and 11 year olds, and I'm still doing it. 

For nearly 10 years I was the program chairperson for the Public Safety Writers Association--and no, I've never been a part of public safety, but helped this great organization get reorganized and I'm still working with them as the newsletter editor.

I guess I've proved my dad's point, I've been able to do most anything I set my mind too. 

Of course, it's not me--I believe the Lord gave me the abilities that I have, and he's guided me along the way.

At the age of 83, I don't expect I'll not have too many more exciting adventures--but I'm going to keep going until I no longer can.

Marilyn


Sunday, January 29, 2017


I'm delighted to be attending this event! Hope some of you in the area will stop by!




Friday, January 27, 2017

Building the World of The Penningtons Investigate by C.T. Collier



Launched in June 2016 with Planted, The Penningtons Investigate is a traditional mystery series focused on a troubled college in the Finger Lakes of Upstate New York. Co-sleuths Kyle and Lyssa Pennington are a brainy young couple who love to match wits with each other and, occasionally, with murderers. Both have PhD’s and both have roles at Tompkins College, she an economics professor, he a computer security consultant.

I started in 2012 to build the world of The Penningtons Investigate—Tompkins College, Tompkins Falls, and the founding families, the Cushmans and Tompkins—as I drove along one of the Finger Lakes on a frigid blue-sky day. That’s when I had an idea for a romance series.

Wait—what’s romance got to do with mystery? Simple. I wanted a soupcon of romance in the mysteries, but I needed to learn plotting, character development, suspense, publishing, marketing—so many things!—before I could craft a whodunit that engaged, sustained involvement, and surprised the reader.  So I took my cue from others, like mystery greats Tess Gerritsen and Earlene Fowler, who started as romance authors.

My world building began with Lakeside Porches, a cluster of white gingerbread-clad apartment homes, on a bluff overlooking fictional Chestnut Lake. To the south were the Cushman grounds, acres of lakefront with a bizarre Romanesque mansion that housed generations of Cushmans, the financiers of the once-flourishing textile industry in Tompkins Falls. In between, Overlook Park was gifted to the town by the sole heir of the Tompkins fortune, young Joel Tompkins Cushman, as a place of relaxation for families. Farther south, Joel himself was managing the Manse Inn and Spa, a reincarnation of the elegant Tompkins family home.

Joel was also serving on the board of trustees at his legacy, Tompkins College, and slowly realizing the college was on the verge of collapse, riddled with corruption and abuses. If the college failed, the struggling town would lose its major employer, and he was determined that would not happen.

The four romances of the Lakeside Porches series were well received, and they gave me a fully formed world for murder—the town of Tompkins Falls, its power brokers, its economics, and its heart, Tompkins College. The town is really a blend of three Finger Lakes towns, beautiful Canandaigua, Geneva, and my hometown, Seneca Falls. Chestnut Lake and its marina resemble Canandaigua’s and feature a two-mile willow-lined path at the north end, borrowed from Geneva. The falls and the mills it once powered are lifted from Seneca Falls.

At the conclusion of the Lakeside Porches romances, Tompkins College was reinventing itself under uncle Justin Cushman’s leadership, with a few skeletons still tucked away. While the college is entirely fictional, it emerged from my twenty years in higher education and is representative of many small colleges in its financial and academic concerns. Tompkins College is no college and every college, with murder and intrigue on the schedule every semester. Drop in, meet the Penningtons!



 Author Bio:

C. T. Collier was born to solve logic puzzles, wear tweed, and drink Earl Grey tea. Her professional experience in cutthroat high tech and backstabbing higher education gave her endless opportunity to study intrigue. Add to that her longtime love of mysteries, and it’s no wonder she writes academic mysteries that draw inspiration from traditional whodunits. Her setting: fictional Tompkins College is no college and every college, and Tompkins Falls is a blend of several Finger Lakes towns, including her hometown, Seneca Falls, NY (AKA Bedford Falls from It’s a Wonderful Life).

Book Blurb:

Planted is book one of the new mystery series, The Penningtons Investigate, from award-winning author C. T. Collier. The Penningtons, Lyssa and Kyle, are both PhD’s, and when their clever minds start asking questions, clever killers can’t hide.
It’s Monday of spring break when Professor Lyssa Pennington’s backyard garden project unearths a loaded revolver. With no record of violence at their address and no related cold case, the Tompkins Falls police have no interest. But the Penningtons and a friend with the State Police believe there a body somewhere. Whose? Where? And who pulled the trigger?
The Penningtons’ canvass of their quiet neighborhood turns up disturbing secrets about the family who lived in their house for decades and another ill-fated family a few doors away. No one seems to know how to contact the only sons of either family. The few facts they have about them don't add up and, since the gun was buried about the time both young men disappeared from Tompkins Falls, the Penningtons feel compelled to find them and make sure all is well.
Lyssa follows the money story and finds twenty million dollars, a neighbor who’s not what he seems, and a long-buried rivalry. Kyle goes after homicide data in six states and finds a body. Their next surprise is a murderer who will go to any length to conceal the crime.

Buy Links:
Barnes & Noble:  http://tinyurl.com/zyxqs4m



Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Does a Cozy Sleuth Have to be an Amateur? Elaine L. Orr



Can a police procedural be a cozy? No. Well…maybe.

When ideas pop into my head and don’t leave after a few days, I pay attention. In fall of 2015, I heard a couple of stories about restaurants doing away with tips. My immediate thought, as a mystery writer, was “that could be worth killing for.”

The setting appeared spontaneously -- a small-town diner situated in a town similar to the central Illinois towns I drive through regularly. Within two days after the diner waltzed into my brain, I had some quirky town residents and a first chapter – and a dead guy.

Things slowed down. I had another book under contract, and I needed time to develop characters. Plus, I had not figured out who would investigate the murder. Usually I start with that!

I was also doing something very different than in my other books – chapter one would be from a narrator’s point-of-view and the rest of the book from a sleuth’s. And that sleuth? Nothing made sense except having her be the small town’s police chief.

But I don’t write graphic murders or use CSI-type evidence, which is often what goes hand-in-hand with police procedural novels. I debated the approach, not certain if my cozy readers would be willing to be involved with the police instead of an amateur sleuth.

Finally, Chief Elizabeth Friedman emerged. She came to the small Illinois town of Logland to get away from some of the more graphic murders she’d investigated in Chicago. She’s no wimp, but she likes the pace in Logland and has gotten to know local merchants and some of the town’s more colorful characters. Now some of them are suspects.

So, is Tip a Hat to Murder a cozy? Cozies mysteries feature violence that is off-screen (the sleuths discover the body, not witness a murder), love is an option but not sex scenes, and the setting is often a smaller community. Many of these novels employ humor, and the amateur sleuth’s profession often figures into the story.

Most aspects of the book fit the definition. Elizabeth is friends with the medical examiner, but she doesn’t stand over the autopsy table while he points to the bullet’s path through a shredded liver. She’s called to the crime scene rather than forcing herself into the investigation, but she initially doesn’t have a lot more clues than an amateur would.

Neither the town residents or members of the agricultural college’s fraternity are helpful. Why would they be? One of them is a killer, and the others can’t believe anyone they know would be one.

Humor? I found a police chief’s experiences rife with better opportunities than my traditional cozies. An amateur sleuth would not be called to the frat house because goats chased a campus cop onto a table.

Unlike a traditional police procedural (pardon the oxymoron), the interviews are professional but less formal. Not a single cop swears like the guy in the tank top who gets arrested on reality TV shows, and town residents usually call Chief Friedman by her given name of Elizabeth. She varies how she introduces herself based on the situation.

I was so certain this would be a single mystery rather than a series that I wrote a blog post about how differently I approached the stand-alone story than my two series. Oops. Fell in love with the characters.

Writing the second book of what is now the Logland Mystery Series may be the tougher part of making a police chief the protagonist of a cozy mystery. The one thing that will be easier is finding a reason for her to pursue the murderer. I just have to figure out if the chief and the medical examiner can become more than friends without causing a local scandal…

Bio:

Elaine L. Orr authors the Jolie Gentil and the River’s Edge mystery series, and was pleased to find the Logland series taking place in her home state of Illinois. She writes, blogs, and teaches online classes in self-publishing.

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Neighborly Killing by Nancy Lynn Jarvis



Let’s get one thing straight right away: Regan and Tom, the protagonists in my Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries, are not me and my husband, Craig.

OK, I confess, originally Regan and Tom were named Nancy and Craig. Most of my characters start out with the name of someone I know, but they stopped being us the first time Nancy found a body and Craig (the real one) found me curled in a ball on the sofa in my office, shaking and crying. It was a matter of self preservation that they couldn’t be us.

An interesting thing happened once I changed Nancy and Craig’s names to Regan and Tom. The characters started behaving differently. I was so fascinated by the change in their personalities that I renamed almost all my characters. Suddenly they were willing to do things they would never have done as themselves. For example, Kaivan in “The Death Contingency,” like his real counterpart my friend Korosh, was still a clothes-horse, flirt, and a patriotic naturalized citizen, but he became a plausible potential villain, a role the real Korosh could never have played.

The changes were so much fun to watch that everyone except Dave, Regan and Tom’s semi-retired policeman buddy who lost an eye in a shootout, got renamed. He escaped a new identity only because he’s written very closely to his real persona and doesn’t have to be forced to do anything he wouldn’t readily do.

Freed from having to be in the books, my real Craig happily became my beta reader. I’d give him my perfectly written (HA!) mysteries for comments. We’d have heated arguments every time he read my words. “You may know what you mean, but it’s not on the page. Fix it.” I couldn’t send my books to the editor until all needed rewrites were finished. He also took over the job of taking the disparate elements I wanted for book covers and blending them until they looked just like I saw them in my head.  

So Tom was no longer Craig, but there was one aspect of Craig that remained in Tom completely unchanged, Tom’s devastatingly blue eyes, the eyes both Regan and I loved.

My real Craig died on July 26th in 2016. I want to write another Regan and Tom mystery because I have a great plot in mind, but so far I can’t bring myself to do it. Even though Craig wasn’t Tom, I find I can’t write Tom in Craig’s absence. It’s all about his eyes. I’m hoping I’ll soon be able to move forward and put pen to paper, or in our modern world, tap my computer keys, because I miss Tom just like I do Craig.

Waking up to gunshots and discovering the body of their neighbor just outside their bedroom door is bad enough, but when the Coroner rules the death a suicide, Realtors Regan McHenry and her husband Tom Kiley don’t believe it for a minute. Never mind what the physical evidence says; they heard their dead neighbor arguing with someone in the moments preceding his death.

Blurb :

What really happened has become more than just a mystery they’d like to solve because the circumstances of their dead neighbor’s past keep interfering with their present and putting them in danger.

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/ReganMcHenryRealEstateMysteries , and the best Amazon author page, https://www.amazon.com/Nancy-Lynn-Jarvis/e/B002CWX7IQ/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1484256853&sr=1-2-ent  because people can see all the books and read beginning pages.




Bio: 

Nancy Lynn Jarvis finally acknowledged she was having too much fun writing to ever sell another house, so she let her license lapse in May of 2013, after her twenty-fifth anniversary in real estate.
After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare/Santa Cruz at UCSC.
Nancy’s philosophy is that you should try something radically different every few years. Writing was her latest adventure until she recently started playing Airbnb hostess. She hopes to begin hosting writer retreats soon, especially retreats for her fellow cozy mystery writers.
Nancy invites you to take a peek into the real estate world through the stories that form the backdrop of her Regan McHenry mysteries. The murders are made up, but the real estate details and ideas come from her own experiences.
She’s also playing with a new series called Geezers With Tools (double entendre intended) about two retired men who start a handyman business, one because he is recently widowed and needs a way to fill his time, and the other because he’s a player who thinks it will be a good way to meet women.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Devil's Cold Dish by Eleanor Kuhns



A Devil’s Cold Dish is as much a story about being an outsider as it is about malice and revenge.  I am always fascinated by the consequences of being different – or at least being perceived as different. And there are so many ways to be different: mental and physical defects, sexual orientation, even living outside the sexual mores of the local village (I explored this in Cradle to Grave ) to mention a few.  Even now, in this modern age when we encourage tolerance and speak of inclusiveness,  being perceived as Other can cause suffering. How much worse must it have been two hundred years ago?

In A Simple Murder, my first book, Mouse (Hannah Moore) was born with cleft palate. The superstition of the times claimed that if a pregnant woman saw a hare, her child would be born with this deformity. Now the defect is easily correctible with surgery. But then, in the late 1700s?

What would happen to a girl with this defect when marriage was almost the only path open to a woman? Especially a girl like Mouse without wealth or position so even the option of using a good dowry to attract a mate would be closed to her. I gave Mouse a future by putting her into the Shakers. In that celibate community, she would have had a job, a family, and a purpose.

In A Devil’s Cold Dish I explore the consequences of being the ‘Other” on my two main characters. Will Rees grew up in a small Maine town as an angry little boy, a fighter. No one will let him forget his past either, even though Rees has grown up and become a different person. Besides that, as a former soldier in the Continental Army and now a traveling weaver, he has seen a lot more of the world than this little town. He has become more cosmopolitan and the hidebound opinions of Dugard, Maine are no longer his. He has gained a certain perspective. Resentment of Rees’s ‘town bronze’ in his home town means that the allegation he committed a murder is believed.

His wife Lydia is even more at risk,  An outspoken woman and a Shaker besides she is viewed with suspicion. The Shakers were suspect because of their religious beliefs.  They were celibate and pacifists – a fact that meant both British and Americans persecuted them during the War for Independence. In a time when a woman could not inherit her husband’s estate unless he specifically named her in his will, the Sisters enjoyed equal status with the Brothers.  They welcomed black people, including escaped slaves, since they believed everyone was a child of God. It is surely no surprise to learn the Shakers were abolitionists. 

Being different could get you killed. Women especially were at risk.  Even though the Salem witch trials were one hundred years in the past, the belief in witches was still current and widely accepted.  (The last witchcraft trial in New York took place in 1816.) An accusation of witchcraft was usually a death sentence.

A malicious accusation directed at Lydia would be believed. All of the family would be in danger.  With powerful enemies ranged against them, Rees protects his family by sending them away. And he investigates the murders while a fugitive, running for his own life.



Eleanor Kuhns is the 2011 winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel. A lifelong librarian, she received her Masters from Columbia University and is currently the Assistant Director of the Goshen Public Library in Orange County New York.

Website URL: www.eleanor-kuhns.com
Blog URL: www.eleanor-kuhns.com/blog
Facebook URL: www.facebook.com/Eleanor-Kuhns
Twitter: #EleanorKuhns
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/eleanor-kuhns-36759623


 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Medicinal Alcohol by Sarah E. Glenn



            From ancient times, alcohol’s potency has been revered and yet feared. It is the wine of Dionysus, the sacred barley-drink of the Eleusinian Mysteries, and the reason John Barleycorn had to die. Even so, the classical Greeks warned against drinking unwatered wine, and the Bible advises its readers to only drink in moderation.

Alcohol’s use in medicine is equally ancient. Wine enhanced the potency of herbal medicines and extended their shelf life. The invention of distillation improved this even further. Certain essences from plants are more easily extracted by alcohol than water, and tinctures formed an important part of the pharmacopeia before modern chemistry took over. Many nostrums sold in the nineteenth century counted alcohol as a major ingredient, their effect sometime heightened with narcotics. Homemade cold remedies like hot toddies and buttered rum were popular.

During the 1830s, however, the Temperance movement swelled in the United States and public pressure to ban alcohol sales mounted. Alcohol was seen as the source of many evils, no matter the method or reason for its administration, and even medical authority seemed to bend under the political winds. In 1917, shortly before Prohibition began, the American Medical Association proclaimed that alcohol was ‘detrimental to the human economy’ and had ‘no scientific value.’ The organization passed a resolution that it was opposed to the use of alcohol as a beverage or ‘as a therapeutic agent.’

The AMA may have echoed the public sentiments of the time, but a medical loophole was created in the Volstead Act for the therapeutic prescribing of alcohol. As a result, medicinal alcohol, also known as Spiritus frumenti, was prescribed throughout American Prohibition.

Under the provisions of this loophole, only a physician with a proper permit could write a prescription for medicinal liquor. Furthermore, the dose of this medical dispensation was limited to one pint every ten days, or ten to sixteen shots depending on the generosity of the patient’s pouring hand. The government issued books of specially designed forms for this purpose. The designs were changed often to outstrip counterfeiters.

Economist Clark Warburton stated that the consumption of medicinal alcohol increased by 400 percent during the 1920s. By 1929, there were 116,756 physicians in the twenty-six states that permitted the use of medicinal alcohol. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, about half of those physicians were prescribing it for patients.

            Kentucky was a major source for medicinal alcohol. One of the more famous locations to take your prescription for S. frumenti was Krause’s Drug Store in Covington, Kentucky. Its unofficial name was the ‘Bootleg Drug Store’, due to its no-questions-asked prescription policy and the still that Old Man Krause kept in the basement. Other area pharmacists, particularly ones in Cincinnati, often refused to refill prescriptions for alcohol and sent those customers to Krause’s establishment. Mr. Krause, always the obliging health provider, kept his store open during Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day so no customer would suffer without his medication during the holidays.

Only a small number of distilleries received permits to produce liquor for medicinal purposes, several (once again) in Kentucky. The Stizel Distillery and Brown-Forman were located in Louisville; another, Glenmore Distilleries, was located in Owensboro. The longest-lived, the George T. Stagg Distillery, operated along the Kentucky River in Frankfort. In 1925, it bottled 1 million pints of ‘medicinal whiskey’. Today known as Buffalo Trace, it is one of the few American distilleries that can claim to have been in continuous operation since the 1700’s, due to its medical connections.


Sources:




Gwen Mayo is passionate about blending her loves of history and mystery fiction. She currently lives and writes in Safety Harbor, Florida, but grew up in a large Irish family in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. She is the author of the Nessa Donnelly Mysteries and co-author of the Old Crows stories with Sarah Glenn.

Her stories have appeared in A Whodunit Halloween, Decades of Dirt, Halloween Frights (Volume I), and several flash fiction collections. She belongs to Sisters in Crime, SinC Guppies, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, the Historical Novel Society, and the Florida Authors and Publishers Association.

Gwen has a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Kentucky. Her most interesting job, though, was as a brakeman and railroad engineer from 1983 - 1987. She was one of the last engineers to be certified on steam locomotives.

Website URL:             http://www.gwenmayo.com
Blog URL:      http://gwenmayo.blogspot.com/
Facebook URL:                      https://www.facebook.com/Gwen-Mayo-119029591509479/
Twitter:           @gwenmayo
LinkedIn:        https://www.linkedin.com/in/gwen-mayo-41175726
Skype:             gwen.mayo
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4108648.Gwen_Mayo

Sarah E. Glenn has a B.S. in Journalism, which is a great degree for the dilettante she is. Later on, she did a stint as a graduate student in classical languages. She didn’t get the degree, but she’s great with crosswords. Her most interesting job was working the reports desk for the police department in Lexington, Kentucky, where she learned that criminals really are dumb.

Her great-great aunt served as a nurse in WWI, and was injured by poison gas during the fighting. A hundred years later, this would inspire Sarah to write stories Aunt Dess would probably not approve of.

Website URL:             http://www.sarahglenn.com
Blog URL:                  http://saraheglenn.blogspot.com/
Facebook URL:                      https://www.facebook.com/Sarah-E-Glenn-177315008966709/
Twitter:                       @SarahEGlenn and @MAHLLC
LinkedIn:                    https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-glenn-216765b
Skype:                         sarah.glenn63
Goodreads:    https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4710143.Sarah_E_Glenn
Amazon Author:       http://www.amazon.com/Sarah-E.-Glenn/e/B004P3MI2Q



Tuesday, January 17, 2017

And A Better Time

In the 60s, we were living in Oxnard--and despite the racial turmoil going on everywhere else, in our small part of the world, things were going fairly well.

We were definitely lower middle-class, and to be honest quite poor. Hubby was in the Seabees and poorly paid.We barely made it from month to month. We lived in a neighborhood with other poorly paid people--firemen and police officers. We were all buying our homes because in this particular tract, the down payment was only $100.

Our neighborhood was nicely racially mixed, using the terms of the time: white, black, Mexican, Filipino, and a smattering of others. Most of the schools were as racially mixed as was the PTA, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Camp Fire Girls.

My small Blue Bird group became Camp Fire Girls, and in Junior High swelled to 20 girls from all ethnic backgrounds and stayed together through high school. We had a wonderful time--we had many camp outs including back packing into the mountains, we visited Hollywood and went to free TV shows, on the bus to San Diego to a huge conference for high school age Camp Fire (Horizon Club), we put on musicals to make money, we had all sorts of parties, and our big and final adventure was a bus trip with our first stop at the Gene Pumping Station where the Colorado River water comes into California, we spent 3 days at the Grand Canyon and then we went to Las Vegas.

One of the exciting things about all this was most of the girls had never been out of California, a handful never out of Ventura County. We worked hard to make enough money to pay for our own Greyhound bus and for where we stayed in the Grand Canyon--plus our food along the way. 

Looking back, it was a great time. Most of those girls are grandmothers
now. I'm still in touch with many of them. And one has had a great singing career and is a back-up singer for Barry Manilow.

How I loved my Camp Fire Girls--and I learned as much or more by being their leader.





The little boy was my Makr--oh, how he wanted to be in Camp Fire.
We had a reunion, middle row, me and two moms that always helped.

And another reunion, with just a few--a couple of the moms and me.
Of course many of the girls had moved faraway--the reunion was in Oxnard at my daughter's house--and now she's moved too. Two of the women who helped me, have now passed away.

Marilyn

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Doggedly Determined by Nancy Cole Silverman




After a year of being pet-less, my husband and I agreed it was time to adopt a new dog.  Last year, at Christmas time, we lost both our standard poodles to different cancers.  It was a devastating blow. But, we figured we had been lucky with them for as long as we had – nearly fifteen years – and we did our best to respect their memory and move forward.  However, as the holidays approached, I was determined to bring a little joy back into our lives. Something in the form of a wet nose, padded paws, and furry tail.  And, because I do believe fate interceded, we found a breeder with pups available post-holiday.

Yea!

The pups were born November 5th , ten in all, and like I said, available for adoption between Christmas and New Years. However, there were problems. While the pups were fine, Ali, their mom, a three-year-old standard poodle show dog, was not.  The breeder was faced with some tough choices.  Ali couldn’t be bred again and would have to be re-homed. Did I want her?
Absolutely!  I didn't have to think twice about it. 

So, on December 30th  rather than return from the breeders with an eight-week-old puppy, puppy pads and a stack of manuals on How to Train Your Puppy, we brought Ali home. And she is....well, you decide.  That’s her picture above, and if it looks like she’s posing for the camera, she probably is.  After all, she was a show dog and the equivalent of Miss California when it comes to that type of thing.  But to me, she’s Ali, my new best friend.

If I sound a bit preoccupied, it’s because I am.  Not that I’ve time to be.  I’ve got a new book coming out later this year – WITHOUT A DOUBT, the fourth in the Carol Childs Mysteries and my final edits will keep me busy right up until mid-April. And then of course, because I am obsessive, I’m working on a fifth book in the series and a couple of short stories I hope to submit to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.  But I’m taking a dog leg – you know, an alternate route – and going to allow myself a little play time.


One of my pet projects has long been working and writing about therapeutic riding programs for disabled children.  For years I had horses and worked with and reported on some of the fabulous things horses could do for a child who was crippled and unable to do anything more than sit in a wheelchair.  Through one of the therapeutic riding programs I worked with, I watched as some of their small deformed bodies were mounted on the back of a horse and held securely in place as trainers worked with the horse and child.  When I say it was heartwarming, I mean I could feel the blood rush to my heart and that I had tears in my eyes when I saw the smiles on their faces and their parents. For the first time, some of those sitting on the back of a horse were able to look down on their caretakers or see them eye to eye. 

I’ve never forgotten that experience, and after adopting Ali, it got me thinking about using her as a therapy dog. She’s calm, well-trained and I think it’s no accident we’ve found each other. If all works out, I hope to have her visiting children's hospitals and old folks’ homes before the end of the year.
How about that? Without even realizing it, I’ve just given Ali her first New Year’s Resolution. 
So, it’s going to be a busy year.  Between my crazy writing schedule and working with Ali, it’s an exciting time, but if you’ll excuse the pun, I’m doggedly determined.

Stay tuned.  Room for Doubt, the fourth of the Carol Childs Mysteries with Henery Press, drops July 18th.




Friday, January 13, 2017

Hidden Figures, the movie and memories it brought to mind




We loved "Hidden Figures". Besides a wonderful true story, it was a big reminder of the horror of segregation and how the press totally ignored these three African American women who actually made it possible for the US to go into space.

Watching it brought back memories of my feeble and totally unsuccessful attempt at pointing out how stupid segregation was back in the early 50s. Yes, I was a big ahead of everyone.

I grew up in Los Angeles CA and I never heard my folks talk bad about any race. No, I didn't grow up in an integrated neighborhood and the only neighbors of a different race were the Italians who lived across the street and had been there far longer than any of the rest of us.

When I first got married I moved to Maryland, and had my first exposure to racism. Believe me, it was a horrible shock. I won't go into all the things I heard and saw. However, I thought I could change things in a small way by doing the following:

I rode on the back of the bus.
I drank out of "colored" drinking fountains.
I sat in the balcony at the movies (it was where the "coloreds" were supposed to sit.
I tried to make friends, not successfully, with every black person I met.

Did it do any good? No. I quickly learned this is what the black people said about me.

"That's that crazy girl from California." Didn't stop me though. I was 18 and truly though I could make a change. I was a few years too early.

On a later visit back to the same area, by this time I had three kids, things hadn't improved much. I had to do some laundry so took my dirty clothes to the closest laundromat. I had never been in one before so asked for help from those around me. The women seemed reluctant to help me, but finally did. We chatted and I was asked where I was from. When I said California, glances were exchanged, and I was asked who I was visiting.

When I returned to my in-laws, I was asked where I'd done my laundry. When gave them the name of the business, I was told that wasn't proper, I 'd gone to the laundry for black people. 

My response, "My clothes got clean and everyone was nice to me." 

If you get the opportunity, be sure and see Hidden Figures.

Marilyn


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Lots of Rain in California, and the Rivers are Raging


We've had a big drought in California for too many years--and now we're getting lots of rain. The Tule River runs through Springville, my little town in the foothills. In fact the Tule flows/or rages, depending upon the time of year, behind our house. We are high enough, that we don't have to worry, but many homes are built right along the river, and for them, at times, it's scary.


There is a history of the Tule flooding and I heard many stories about it which inspired a story about flooding and mud slides which came out in 2012, Raging Water.

Raging Water Blurb:

A rash of burglaries and the murder of two women shock the mountain community of Bear Creek. Add a fast-moving thunderstorm that brings torrential rains and Tempe Crabtree, the resident deputy can forget about her days off.

Who would murder two harmless women? Did a drug addict simply want their medications or did they share a secret someone was willing to kill for?

When a massive mud slide blocks the road into town, temporary shelters are set-up, residents high above the river open their homes to friends and neighbors, tensions rise and tempers flare. 


The village of Bear Creek in many ways has a strong resemblance to my town of Springville though the fictional place is higher in the mountains. 

This is what the Tule River looks like now:



If you haven't read this book in the series yet, it's available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Marilyn

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Dishonored and Forgotten - The Birth of a Book




               We became writers late in life.  I’ve authored several novels and a book of short-stories.  My wife, Carolyn, writes professional self-help books about parenting and communication skills, especially for children.  We often spend time pursuing separate writing interests, sequestered in our separate offices.   Often, collaboration involved nothing more than providing the first edit of each other's work. 

                One day we decided to take a break.  It was off to Galveston (a short twenty-minute drive) for lunch at a favorite restaurant, watching the ships plow through the channel to load and unload their cargo, including the human variety from cruise ships.  Tiring of that entertainment, we strolled Galveston's historic Strand district, browsing through novelty and antique shops. 

                In one shop, filled with posters, clothes, and items Carolyn calls antiques, but I classify as junk, we found a book of short true crime stories.  It described events that occurred in Texas years ago.  Shuffling through the pages, Carolyn pointed out a story about a 1953 Houston narcotics scandal in which police officers confiscated illegal drugs, then sold them back to the drug dealers.  She was returning the book to the shelf when I realized I’d heard anecdotal accounts of this event while a young police officer in Houston.  I'd never asked questions, but witnessed older cops tell the story (with a wink and a nod) of an officer committing suicide at the police station; the implication clear to me that it was more likely a murder, possibly committed by his fellow officers.

                Fascinated, we bought the book and embarked upon an extensive journalistic research project.  There were visits to public libraries to request and copy pertinent newspaper and magazine articles from the time, requests to Stanford University for copies of a federal agent's papers (donated to the library after his death), and internet searches to discover everything possible about the case and its participants.

We developed family connections for some of the characters who were involved in the case.  My blogs about the events prompted calls from some of those family members and other interested readers.  These contacts led to interviews with the daughter-in-law of a police chief, the son of a police officer who had known those involved, the nephew of the officer (who either committed suicide or was murdered at the police station), and a great-granddaughter of the pimp and drug-dealer who testified against corrupt police.

                One day Carolyn interrupted my writing as I prepared yet another blog about the scandal to declare that was time to write a book about the case.  She suggested that, for the first time, we collaborate on the telling of the story.  Even with all our research, we soon realized there were gaping holes in the lives of the characters and in the story itself.  It would be difficult to write a true crime account of the events.  

      So what would the book be?  How does one describe a novel loosely based on actual events, but that has considerable fiction interspersed to fill in those gaps?  Eventually it was decided.  We would refer to the book as a fictionalized account of the true story of Houston's first police drug scandal.  The gestation period for our new project had begun. 

                I would complete a few chapters, after which Carolyn would more fully develop the characters and the setting.  After two preliminary edits, we recruited beta readers to review the manuscript and make suggestions. 

Finally, just this month, on January 1, 2017, OUR BOOK WAS BORN.  A New Year's baby!  We titled it Dishonored and Forgotten, in honor of the police officer who may very well have given his life for having reported the illegal activities of his fellow narcotics officers.  We hope you share our joy in the new addition to our work.



Larry and Carolyn Ferrell Watts

Larry and Carolyn are Texas authors who have teamed up as authors for the first time to write Dishonored and Forgotten.  Larry has a BA in Labor Studies and is a graduate of the renowned Harvard University Trade Union Program whose mission is to help union leaders develop problem solving skills as well as discover ways to deepen public understanding of the value and importance of labor.

Larry’s career in law enforcement began in Houston, Texas, as a police officer. He became active in police labor issues and served on the board of directors of the Houston Police Officers’ Association and the National Association of Police Associations.  He retired after 21 years and began working for a state-wide association representing law enforcement officers throughout Texas, eventually becoming the chief of staff. After 20 years, he again retired, and began his first fiction novel, The Missing Piece about an Austin police officer involved in shooting a black citizen. Within a year, Watts was asked to assist the City of Austin develop a labor relations department.  Publication of that novel was postponed for two years while he fulfilled the interesting challenge.  He has now published five works of fiction and a book of short-stories.     His experiences are fodder for and add depth to his writing.

Carolyn worked for Continental Airlines for 16 years.  She was a flight attendant scheduler early in that career and worked in Continental's Public Relations Department before returning to school to attain a BS in Psychology and an MS in School Psychology. Her professional career has spanned positions in education, a non-profit counseling center and shelter for victims of domestic violence, and a private practice that enabled her to fulfill her desire to work with couples and their children. 

Carolyn has advocated for children, parents and families for over 20 years as a counselor and specialist in school psychology.  She is certified in marriage and family relationship therapies and in advanced therapies for treating trauma, loss and PTSD.   Her training in working with trauma was valuable in 2011 when she volunteered to counsel victims and first responders during devastating wildfires in Texas.

Dishonored and Forgotten is Carolyn's first venture into historical fiction writing.  She has previously written six read-play-learn-together books for therapists and parents to use while working with children.  She presents workshops to mental health providers and parents.

Larry and Carolyn live on the Texas Gulf Coast where they spend their time writing, enjoying family and attempting to capture all that life has to offer.
                

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia



I haven't had a whole lot of time to read--that's what happens when there's big holidays and I'm trying to finish writing a book of my own.

When I received a copy in the mail of Everything You Want Me to Be from the publisher, Simon and Schuster, I knew it would take me a while to read it. At first I read it in spurts, but as I got near the end and knew that it wasn't going to turn out the way it was headed, I couldn't stop until I finished.

The story comes from the three main characters: Hattie, a senior in highschool; the sheriff, Del Goodman, and the new  and not so happily married English teacher, Peter.

As the book progresses we learn about Hattie's obsession toward her teacher, his feelings toward her, about her family and her school friends, including her convenient boy friend, Tommy.

The author does an excellent job of getting inside the Hattie's head and her emotions, and her ability to manipulate everyone around her

As the story progresses, though it looks like everything is going to revolve one way, it takes a jolting twist--and then another. 

Though someone compared it to the bestseller Gone Girl  I think it was far better. The narrators were reliable in this tale--but the outcome was surprising, though believable.

Marilyn

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year! 2017



On this day, January 1, 2017, we are continuing our New Year's Day tradition--for those in our family who love seafood, we are enjoying my special seafood gumbo. 

It begins with the turkey carcass from Thanksgiving which constitutes the beginnings of the broth with chunks of turkey.The bones are thrown out--celery and onions are added and cooked, along with a couple of cans of tomato chunks. I add a carton of chicken broth, and a big package of frozen okra. I season with a couple of shakes of Tabasco and salt. 

When it's near time to eat, I'll add shrimp and crab legs (I like the smaller ones best for this) to the boiling broth, but it doesn't really need to cook, I pull out the crab legs so people can take a couple.
It's served over rice.

Easy and really good!

After we're full we play a rousing game of Estimation.

As for resolutions, I don't do them. My hope and prayer is for a good year for family and friends. And of course I would hope for my books too.

Marilyn