Thursday, March 30, 2017

BONDING by Sharon Ervin

            On one overly warm Sunday afternoon, I phoned and invited two 18-year-old granddaughters––cousins to each other––to go "alley walking" with me. These girls are intense, good students, and keep to tight schedules even in the summer. Puzzled by my invitation, they agreed.

            No cell phones allowed, except mine, which was off.

            As we ambled along, talking and seeing all the interesting stuff one sees in back yards, Molly asked me to tell her "my plan for this walk." 

            "No plan,” I said. “We'll walk until we get tired, then we'll turn toward home." She scowled. “I mean, what’s our schedule?
            “No schedule. No structure. No plan,” I said. “We’re just going to walk and talk and see stuff.”

            Along the way, I pointed out the back of the large frame house where their great, great grandfather lived when he came to McAlester (Oklahoma) on horseback with one of his brothers.

            “The house was called ‘The Batch,’” I said. “He was 21 years old, just a few years older than you are now. It was a rooming house for young, single men. He took his meals there. His brother rode on, but your great, great granddaddy liked McAlester and decided to stay. With money his dad had given him, he invested in a wholesale grocery venture. He worked hard and did well. He married and had three children, two boys and a girl who became your great grandmother. He and his wife were instrumental in starting the Episcopal church here. He was a charter member of the Elks club and the country club and several other civic and social organizations.”

            The girls asked questions and drew mental pictures of their common ancestor and what his life was like, pictured him walking down this same alley behind this same house all those years ago.
            An hour later, after we had marveled at swimming pools and bunny cages, even a bobcat in a coop, my son, Molly’s dad, stopped his car at an intersection. He had been looking for us.

            “Anyone want a ride?” he asked, arching his eyebrows. 

            We were perspiring freely by then, yet none of the three of us responded. I was leaving it up to the girls. 

            "Actually, Dad,” Molly said finally, “I think I'll stay with Nana, if you don't mind." 

            “How about if we all go have ice cream?” A tempting offer, indeed.

            "Maybe later, Dad." 

            Obviously taken aback, he looked at me. I shrugged.

            “Dad, did you know about ‘The Batch’?” his daughter asked.

            He nodded and grinned, enlightened, then regarded me again. “You told them about their great, great grandfather, did you?”

            My turn to grin. “Yes.”

            He laughed remembering alley walking with his brother and sisters years before, and his dad (my husband] telling stories about generations of his family involved in the development of our hometown.

            “I could leave the car here and go with you,” he offered.

            Molly said sweetly, “No, thanks, Dad. We’ll catch up with you later.”

            The girls chatted freely with me and each other. We walked a while longer before we turned toward home, sweating, relaxed, and closer than before. That walk has become one of our favorite memories. 

            There were no electronics involved.

MEMORY, released on March 8 from The Wild Rose Press, is my twelfth published romantic suspense novel. 

Ten years after their high school graduation, David "Mac" McCann is giving classmate Laurel Dubois a ride home from the country club on a chill, rainy night when they see a woman striding along the shoulder of the highway bypass. Unsure about the woman's identity, but willing to help to anyone out in that weather, Mac pulls over to offer her a ride. The walker, Memory Smith, another high school classmate, is drenched, and has neither wrap nor purse. On closer scrutiny, her bottom lip appears to be swollen and cut. She apologizes for her filthy, wet condition, as she accepts the ride. Two hours later, Mac hears that Memory Smith has been run over on the highway, her mangled body unrecognizable, except for her name on a tag in the sweater on the body. But at that moment, Mac knows exactly where Memory Smith is, and it's not lying dead beside a highway!

MEMORY is available in print or electronic form at or

Author Sharon Ervin is a former newspaper reporter who has a degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. She is married and the mother of four grown children, lives in McAlester, Oklahoma, and works half-days in her husband and older son's law office. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


My name is Lea Wait, and I am a thief.  

I steal words.  

I’m a stealthy thief. I don’t steal more than one, or possibly two, at a time, so tracing their origins would be impossible, even for me. I steal them from friends and relatives and CNN commentators. I reach out and boldly take them from overheard conversations at grocery stores or farmers’ markets or coffee shops. But, worst of all, most of the words I’ve stolen have come from those in my own profession. I steal them from other writers.

I steal them for the same reason a jeweler might steal a jewel:  they are so beautiful I can’t resist taking them and making them my own.

I carry a notebook, as most writers do, and it is in that notebook that I capture those precious, fleeting words. Often they are sensory words. Images. Words I recognize, I admire, but that I don’t always use myself. Or that I suddenly see, or hear, in a different way. That remind me of smells or sights, or tastes that fit in scenes in the book I’m writing. They are treasures. I hoard them.

I copy them into lists, and I read them over, cherishing the way they feel, before writing a certain scene, or before starting my work for the day. They evoke feelings. They are almost a meditation. Sometimes they form themselves into short phrases.

What are some of the words and phrases on my list now, as I plan a new book?

“Sea lavender, wishing stones, frayed, wafted, cobalt blue, gray skeletal pilings, the scent of lavender in an old pine bureau drawer, the front of the house painted white while the back was left wind-grayed, socked in, glowing, fingers grazing, skittered, slog, fragile, mud and mould and rotting fish, screams of fishers in the dark, creak of hardwood boards, shabby, clamoring.”

And many more. Some of those will no doubt end up finding homes in my new book. Some will not. But reading them over will remind me of why I love writing. Words are my tools.

Go ahead. Steal some of mine. Words are wonderful. Used by different authors, they tell different stories. And yet: standing alone, or in limited company, they contain their own messages. Sing their own songs.

USA Today best-selling author Lea Wait’s most recent book, TIGHTENING THE THREADS:  A Mainely Needlepoint Mystery, was published this week. Antique dealer Sarah Byrne has made a home for herself in Haven Harbor, Maine. But why did she come to Maine? Sarah’s story involves forced immigration, and her quest for family. But when she finds that family … she also finds that family dynamics can be delicate … and deadly.

Maine author Lea Wait writes the Mainely Needlepoint mystery series and the Shadows Antique Print mystery series, and historical novels set in 19th century Maine for ages 8 and up.  She invites you to friend her on Goodreads and Facebook, and to check her website,, for links to free prequels of her recent books. 


Monday, March 27, 2017

DANCER, A Novella by John M. Wills

Thank you for hosting me today, Meredith. I always enjoy visiting your blog. I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce your readers to something a bit different than my usual offerings. As some of your readers may know, I write novels with police themes that highlight moral dilemmas and tough ethical decisions. My stories feature strong protagonists who find themselves in untenable situations and who struggle to extricate themselves. Most do so, albeit with much difficulty, and the stories generally have satisfying endings.

Dancer, however, is a departure from my other works. First, Dancer is a novella rather than a novel. What’s a novella? Consider it a long version of a short story, but much shorter than a novel. The story features the same elements as a novel, only in a more concise form. A novella is a perfect beach read or for someone who can’t take the time to read an entire novel.

Dancer is the story of a college girl who is down on her luck. Sherry can’t keep up with her bills and is looking to change her life. Her classmate, Denise, seems to have it all—a nice car, beautiful clothes, and no worries about bills. Sherry soon learns Denise makes her money by dancing at an adult entertainment club, and Sherry is lured into “the life” very quickly. However, she soon learns that things aren’t as they seem. She’s about to discover a very dark side of the business, one that has deadly consequences.

I was inspired to write this story by some of my undercover work while I was an undercover FBI agent. The description of the club, as well as how the women operate, are based on reality. The reader should be forewarned that some of the story contains some rough spots in terms of language and descriptions of events, but that was necessary for making the story real.

The book is available on Amazon in print and Kindle: I hope your readers will take a chance on a different type of entertainment and take a look at Dancer.

John M. Wills has been writing professionally since 2004. His credits include more than 150 published articles regarding police officer training and safety; 10 books, both fiction and non-fiction; various poems and short stories; and one technical manual. John also writes video scripts for The William McLain Foundation in Atlanta, honoring first responders killed in the line of duty. An avid reader, John writes book reviews for the New York Journal of Books and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

From Marilyn:

John is a good friend from the Public Safety Writers Association, and one of my favorite writers. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017


Thank you, Marilyn, for having me here today and letting me share news of my new anthology with your readers. Though I often write short stories and novellas with a mystery bent, I sometimes veer off the path and dabble in literary fiction and nonfiction. Today I’d like to tell your fans and followers a little about my new nonfiction anthology, Equality: What Do You Think About When You Think of Equality?
The project began with a pretty simple idea. I wanted to create a book around the central concept of equality and open a dialogue on a topic that seemed more important today than ever. I knew what equality meant to me. It meant after almost forty years I could marry my partner, Bob, and attain a measure of fairness that had eluded us for most of our lifetime together. But what did others think about when they thought of equality? Did they think of equality across a spectrum: racial, social, political, religious, marital, and gender? I wanted to find out the answer to that question.
The following contributors, many Central Coast residents and award-winning writers, tackled the topic and ran with it in surprising directions: Barbara Abercrombie, Anne R. Allen, Christopher Bram, ‘Nathan Burgoine, Rob Byrnes, David Congalton, Larry Duplechan, Eldonna Edwards, Jewelle Gomez, Lisa Horan, Catherine Ryan Hyde, Barbara Jacksha, Michael McMahon, Jeff Mann, Michael Nava, Dennis Palumbo, Anne Perry, Felice Picano, Mara Purl, Susan Reynolds, Jeffrey Ricker, Michael Rupured, Baxter Clare Trautman, and Victoria Zackheim.
As the essays appeared in my inbox, I wasn’t disappointed; each one was a unique and original exploration of the book’s topic. Each one was a gem. I was thrilled.
Let me share with you the opening of Susan Reynold’s compelling essay, “Give Us Our Birthright: Why the Equal Rights Amendment Needs to Be Revived—and Ratified.”
I was born into inequality, but, in truth, all women are—even American women in this 21st century. In my southern family, and that of all my relatives, boys ruled . . . often the difference was subtle, a nagging undercurrent that you were “less than.” It wasn’t until years later that I realized how often our father engaged my brothers in conversations about life, their future, their plans, while I couldn’t remember a single conversation with my father about my future—or anything of consequence.”
I guarantee once you dip into Equality, it won’t be long before you’ll be asking yourself the same question: “What do I think about when I think of equality?” It’s bound to happen. I guarantee it. J
Buy Links for Equality:


Barnes and Noble:

Book Trailer:

Paul Alan Fahey is the author of the 2016 Rainbow Award winning writing reference, The Short and Long of It: Expand, Adapt, and Publish Your Short Fiction, and the author of the Lovers and Liars WWII mystery romance series. For eight years Paul was editor-in-chief of Mindprints, A Literary Journal, an award-winning forum for writers and artists with disabilities. Visit him at
From Marilyn:
Paul is a friend from the Central Coast Sisters in Crime group where I am also a member. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mrs. Odboddy, Undercover Courier by Elaine Faber

 A review of Mrs. Odboddy, Undercover Courier by Elaine Faber

(Previous book was Mrs. Odboddy, Hometown Patriot.)

The story is set during World War II. Agnes Odboddy, the heroine, is an elderly widow with an overactive imagination. An invitation to accompany the president’s wife, Eleanor Roosevelt on a goodwill trip is forefront in her mind until Colonel Farthing worth of the nearby Army base brings her to his office in a most unorthodox manner. He sends Mrs. Odboddy on a mission to deliver a package to President Roosevelt, not an easy task.

Before she even begins the trip, the enemy tries to discover and steal the package. Accompanied by her niece, Katherine, the two women begin their trip by railroad—a trip filled with danger. Mrs. Odboddy realizes she is being shadowed by a man—a man whom she suspects of being a spy and a murderer.

She and Katherine encounter others on their trip who may or may not be a threat to both of them. Mrs. Odboddy takes a harrowing detour, and when she and Katherine finally reach Washington D.C. they find they are still in danger.

This is a delightful and at times funny tale, filled with the problems civilians faced during the war years, plus the unusual and dangerous venture faced by Mrs. Odboddy. Despite her age, she manages to thwart her enemies even when under physical attack.

If you enjoy an occasional laugh while reading a thrilling tale, you’ll love Mrs. Odboddy, Undercover Courier.

--Review by Marilyn Meredith

Monday, March 20, 2017

My New Rocky Bluff P.D. Mystery by F. M. Meredith

To be perfectly honest, I didn't think the latest Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery would be published. The publisher of Oak Tree Press had a serious illness and all production halted. I was in the middle of writing the next book so continued on, unsure if it would ever be seen.

I really thought the last one published might be the last book of the series.

Michael Orenduff, the author of the wonderful Pot Thief Mysteries, offered to publish those books by OTP authors who were ready to go through his publisher, Aakenbaaken & Kent. I know Michael so I contacted him. We actually have a bit of history--we were once both nominated for the Best Mystery Award at the Epic conference and sat beside each other at the ceremony. I didn't win, but I did get to touch his award. I also had the opportunity to see and visit with Mike and his wife at other conferences.

The title of the book is Unresolved. The mystery is solved--the murderer discovered and arrested, but there are still a loose ends that aren't quite finished. 

Two of my friends won a contest to characters named after them in my next Rocky Bluff P.D. and they both have prominent roles. 

I was given two covers to choose from by the artist. This is the one I chose.

Unresolved Blurb: 

Rocky Bluff P.D. is underpaid and understaffed and when two dead bodies turn up, the department is stretched to the limit. The mayor is the first body discovered, the second an older woman whose death is caused in a bizarre manner. Because no one liked the mayor, including his estranged wife and the members of the city council, the suspects are many, but each one has an alibi. Could the two murders be connected?


Saturday, March 18, 2017


A scandal that began in the 1970s and lasted ten years inspired me to write Secrets Behind the Big Pencil. Investigators indicted more than one hundred employees of an international organization that resulted in about thirty-five convictions. As my ex-husband worked for the actual organization although he was not involved in anything illegal, I knew many of the players. I collected newspaper clippings and made notes as I interviewed several people. Back then, the Internet was merely a glimmer in some nerds’ eyes.
While I had written many articles and columns and edited newsletters books, and more, I had never written a novel. Originally, I wrote the book using the real entity, sticking to the facts like a journalist, including far too many characters. No one wanted to publish it. Over the years, it laid dormant as I honed the genre. I shipped my files when I decided to spend most of my time in Costa Rica.
Over the years, I painstakingly combined several actual people into one character to protect the guilty and make it simpler for the reader to follow the fictionalized story. I created an imagined back story. While in reality, several organizations serve the arm forces, I consolidated them into one.
If you could meet imposing Ralph Carter, my protagonist, you would not guess that sordid events from his youth including his brother’s unsolved murder haunted him. Marrying Cynthia, and having two daughters he adores, getting a long-delayed promotion to Assistant Buyer, and a transfer to Germany by his employer, the Military Support System (MSS), tricks him into believing for a while that he has overcome his past.
As the story unfolds, the reader realizes Ralph’s life changes dramatically when his wife shares an unexpected reason for wanting a divorce, and a scandal explodes in Europe involving buyers accepting kickbacks, gifts, and sexual favors from vendors. As he watches his associates indicted for these crimes, he vows never to give into such temptations. Like New Years’ resolutions, his good intentions fade when he becomes a buyer with a big pencil in the San Francisco region.
Dealing with an ogre for a boss, and sabotage by an alcoholic associate, learning to love again, and striving to become a team player in order to provide a good life for his family, he vacillates between moving to the MSS headquarters in Dallas, and finding another job. Before he can decide his future, a major world-wide scandal erupts.
In case you have never heard of a “big pencil,” that refers to the power a buyer has when he controls spending millions of dollars for merchandise for military stores throughout the world. Although the organization had rules, temptation caused many employees in certain positions to break them. Throughout the story, Ralph evolves and I believe in the end that readers root for him to overcome his .adversities.
Secrets Behind the Big Pencil, Inspired by an Actual Scandal, has been reviewed on Amazon as a very well written book by a non-psychiatrist author.” Although fictionalized, it features elements of reality. If you met imposing Ralph Carter, you would not realize that events from his youth including his brother’s unsolved murder haunt him and affect decisions in his career and personal life. He deals with an ogre of a boss and sabotage by an alcoholic associate. He strives to achieve a Big Pencil of at least twenty million dollars as a buyer for a military organization, and to learn to love again while raising two daughters alone. He finds himself sucked into a corrupt system of kickbacks and much more as a major scandal erupts. ISBN 9780692263846


Helen Dunn Frame, an accomplished businesswoman (formerly a commercial real estate broker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex specializing in retail and restaurants), developed professional writing skills. Plus, living in England, Germany, and Costa Rica; and her love of travel (in 50 countries where she gained an appreciation of the value of diverse cultures) have provided background for several books.
Helen wove many threads of her experiences into the fabric of GREEK GHOSTS followed by the second in the mystery series, WETUMPKA WIDOW. Living in Dallas during a major scandal resulted in SECRETS BEHIND THE BIG PENCIL. In a third edition this year, Helen advises Baby Boomers in her book about RETIRING IN COSTA RICA or Doctors, Dogs and Pura Vida. It features a new chapter, Retirement 101, which is also a booklet available on Kindle.

A graduate of Syracuse University (Journalism School), and New York University (Master’s Degree in Sociology/Anthropology), major newspapers and magazines as well as trade publications in the United States, Costa Rica, England, and Germany have published her writing. She has edited newsletters, a newspaper, and other author's books, created business proposals for clients, and spoken to groups. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017


Cabernet is the star in 50 Shades of Cabernet, an anthology of wine-themed mysteries created by 18 authors. The stories range from light-hearted puzzles to darker, heavier tales of deceit and murder.

My contribution to 50 Shades of Cabernet is “Wine, Women, and Wrong”:

Tommy Bradshaw has two items on his bucket list: to solve a murder mystery and to marry Camille Pettit. Fat chance of either happening. Then, when Camille attends a wine-tasting fundraiser and the wine merchant is found in the parking lot, impaled by a hunting knife, Tommy gets his chance to play one of the Hardy Boys. In the process of finding the stabber, Tommy is besieged by women: the glamorous and sexy oenophile who’s hell-bent on seducing him; and the cop who would love to woo him away from Camille. In addition, Tommy finds that detecting isn’t as easy as it is in books.

“Wine, Women, and Wrong” took me out of my writing comfort zone (assuming I’m ever in one!) While I normally write in first person from the point of view of a female main character, here I used third person with a male main character.

But that’s a major perk of writing a short story: trying something new. Much as a chef can be more adventurous with appetizers than with entrees, authors are freer to experiment with writing techniques in short stories than in novels. 

Joining me in 50 Shades of Cabernet’s are these 17 talented authors:

Betsy Ashton
Lyn Brittan
Barb Goffman
Debbiann Holmes
Maria Hudgins
Teresa Inge
Jim Jackson
Kristin Kisska
Douglas Lutz
Nancy Naigle
Alan Orloff
Jayne Ormerod
Rosemary Shomaker
Jenny Sparks
Heather Weidner
Tina Whittle
Ken Wingate

50 Shades of Cabernet is available today. Enjoy! And we love reviews.

Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including Murder at the Book Group and Murder at the Moonshine Inn. She has contributed stories to the Virginia is for Mysteries anthologies and to the 50 Shades of Cabernet anthology.

Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime, James River Writers, and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


 I’m often asked when I began writing. I have always been a writer, beginning with my parodies of nursery rhymes when I was about 8. My first nationally published work was a eulogy of John F. Kennedy accepted by IngĂ©nue Magazine when I was 15. I was a publication major in college, concentrating on journalism, and my goal was to be the first woman editor of the New York Times. Despite a bit of a detour, I continued writing, but most pieces were academic or newspaper columns or reports or other forms of nonfiction (although some people consider grant applications to be a form of fiction). Then, during a lull in my paid employment history, I turned my hand to fiction. I’ve been a voracious reader most of my life, and I discovered how much I enjoyed writing as well as reading fiction.

I now have 3 fiction books in print, all in the Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mystery series: CHANUKAH GUILT, UNLEAVENED DEAD, and YOM KILLER. I was fortunate enough to find traditional (i.e., royalty-paying) small presses to publish the books, and they have all received positive reviews.

Another frequent question is what I would tips I would give to aspiring writers. I have four bits of advice. They’re not original with me, but have stood me in good stead.

  1. Don’t give up. If you can’t find an agent – and remember, it takes only one who believes in you and your book – or if the agent can’t find a publisher, try querying small and mid-sized publishers that do not require agent submissions and are willing to take a chance on an unknown. And if you still are not successful and are sure your book is publishing-worthy – and has been ruthlessly edited, preferably by strangers, and formatted by a professional, and read by people who recognize and appreciate good writing – then self-publish.
  2. Grow a thick skin; but don’t get overly confident. There will be critics who will hate your book for the same reasons others love it. Accept all of it – the good and the bad – with equanimity.
  3. Don’t expect to get rich. The reason there are news articles about writers whose blogs are optioned for Hollywood or writers who sign seven-figure multi-book contracts is because those occurrences are so rare.
  4. Get out there and push yourself. The days of the reclusive writer slaving away in an attic garret – or, more likely these days, parents’ basement – are over. As are the days of publisher-financed book tours and advertising blitzes, unless you’re a bestselling author who doesn’t need the extra hype. If you don’t have an internet presence, if you don’t spend part of your writing time on social media, if you don’t participate in Listservs, if you don’t attend writer and fan conferences at which you participate on panels, your book, no matter how good, will remain unknown and unread.

And finally, why do I write? It’s so I can answer the question “What do you do?” by answering, “I kill people.”

But, of course, there is a much more important and serious answer: the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when people tell me how much they enjoy reading what I write, the chance to entertain others. When UNLEAVENED DEAD was published, a woman who serves with me on the board of our local library bought the book. She was a big fan of CHANUKAH GUILT, and had been waiting patiently for book #2. Her husband of many years had died just a few months before, and she was still mourning the loss. When she came to my book launch party a few weeks after she had bought the book, I asked her if she had read it and enjoyed it. She said, “Enjoyed it? I got home and began reading it in bed. I went to sleep with a smile on my face for the next three nights.” That to me is not just satisfying, but a symbol of success. It was the best praise I could have received.

BLURB FOR YOM KILLER: No time is ever good for a family emergency, but for a rabbi the period   just before Yom Kippur is especially difficult. Yet despite the approach of the Holy Day, Rabbi Aviva Cohen rushes off to Boston to be at the bedside of her mother, who was found unconscious in her apartment at an assisted living facility. The big question is: was it an accident or an attack? The search for the truth uncovers everything from old grudges to family secrets to fraud - and possibly murder.

BIO: Rabbi Ilene Schneider is the author of the award-winning Rabbi Aviva Cohen mysteries: Chanukah Guilt, Unleavened Dead, and the recently-released Yom Killer. She also writes non-fiction. The best-selling Talk Dirty Yiddish will be re-released in a new version soon. She edited Recipes by the Book: Oak Tree Authors Cook, and created a website of questions and answers about Chanukah.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

On Being Empowered

Frankly, I've never really thought what that meant for me until this past week when women were encouraged not to go to work or do what they usually do for one day, and parade down the street.

I can't even imagine. I've always done what needed to be done, every day it needed to happen,  When something came up and no one else was doing it, I figured out how and did it. 

I tried all sorts of things I didn't have a background or education for and succeeded--that's being empowered. 

One thing led to another. Being PTA president taught me how to run a meeting, Robert's Rules, and speaking in front of others.

When I became a Camp Fire Leader I learned how to cook all sorts of things outdoors, including a turkey under ground, how to backpack and camp in the wilderness, plan all sorts of trips, and help my girls earn enough money to rent a Greyhound bus and take a five day trip to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. 

Because I thought I could, I interviewed for a job as a teacher for developmentally disabled pre-schoolers and got it. Taught for 10 years there and a few more in day care centers for disadvantaged kids. Managed to get my AA in Child Development while working, taking care of my home and kids.

Because others didn't back me up when I went against crooked authority, I vowed to stand up for others in the same predicament, and have many times.

Hubby and I bought a pre-existing residential care home for 6 women with developmental disabilities and I got a license and became vendorized as an administrator because I knew I could learn all the rules and regulations and do a good job even though I didn't have any prior experience. Did this for 20 plus years. 

Started an organization for administrators of residential care homes because we needed to be represented--and I began a newsletter that I still write. Because we knew we were going to have to be certified and have ongoing classes, with the association started authorized CEU classes, 

And I raised five kids of my own, helped raise some grandkids, wrote and published nearly 40 books, taught writing to various groups, was the program director for the Public Safety Writers Association's annual conference for 9 years, and edit their newsletter.

Yes, I'm empowered and I don't need anyone to make me feel that way. I know that my abilities and talents come from the Lord and I thank Him for all He's done for me.

Remember, you never know if you can do something unless you try. 


Friday, March 10, 2017

AN AUTHOR'S DAY OFF by Margaret Mendel


My second novel PUSHING WATER, a tale that takes place in Vietnam in 1939, had just been published earlier in the week. The PR end of publishing a novel was next on my agenda. But before I got involved with what that entailed; the blog guest posts, interviews and talking up the new novel with strangers on the street (just kidding), it was time for a needed break.

It was a perfect winter day. So I decided to go to the Orchid Show at the NY Botanical Garden. The sky was brilliant. Not a cloud anywhere. The wind had died down and patches of snow dotted the landscape making it a lovely day to stroll through the gardens. 

This year marked the 15th instillation of the annual orchid show. The exhibition, always a beautiful spectacle, displays hundreds and hundreds of specimens from all over the world.

I had every intentions of taking a day off from writing, but authors never stop writing, not really. Even when they are not at the computer or sitting with pen and paper in front of them, the writer is seeking characters, developing plots and hunting new story ideas.

As I read the tags placed in front of the orchids that told of the exotic countries where the flowers originated, I found myself thinking about locations for a new novel. Perhaps my next story could take place in a jungle. Or maybe it could be set in a little known misty plateau above a Tibetan monastery.

It’s hard to stop writing once a project is finished. The editing and revisions seem to go on forever. As I stood in the midst of these beautiful flowers I couldn't shut off the internal author. I played with a science fiction story when I read that one orchid resembled a bee, a clever decoy to entice pollinators. The orchid show was rife with fascinating possibilities for the SciFi author, with plants that smelled of rotten meat in order to lure pollinators. There were even orchids that trapped insects inside their blooms.

Orchids are an ancient plant. Recently archeologists discovered a beetle encased in amber, dating back 20 to 45 million years. It wasn’t the beetle that was the major discovery, but that an entire eco system was so well preserved that the scientists could visually identify that the pollen on the beetles planting organ was that of an orchid.

Though the orchid has been around for many millions of years it wasn't until the 1800s that Orchid-mania, historically referred to as orchidelirium, took hold of the world. Queen Victoria enamored by the beauty of these exotic plants set in motion an era of flower madness. It all began in 1818, when the English explorer William John Swainson used a raggedy form of moss and debris to pack a crate of flora in a ship headed for England. When the crate was unpacked, the debris had grown into a fantastic bloom.
This discovery gave birth to the professional orchid hunter. From that point and for a hundred years, the intrepid, the fumbling and the wily fortune hunter traveled the world seeking the illusive, valuable orchid.      

A Czech gardener, Benedict Roezel, the most famous of these orchid hunters, a one armed man standing 6'2" tall, became a trailblazer in this endeavor. What a great character her would make. He traveled the world collecting orchids. In the early 1800’s this was no easy feat. The job of an orchid hunter was to scour the world's jungles, forests, and mountaintops to collect these exotic flowers, and then ship the new specimens back to Europe. It was a highly competitive endeavor. Often the orchid hunters would strip areas bare of entire populations of orchids to prevent them from falling into a competitor’s hand. 

Orchids sold like jewels, the more exotic the bloom, the higher the price. A plant that may be the only one of it's kind could bring untold amounts of money. But it wasn’t the orchid hunters who became wealthy from these exotic plants, but the dealers who arranged the exploratory endeavors. They were the ones who exacted the high prices and dangled in front of the breathless collectors the prospect that their expeditions would bring back unimaginable beauties from exotic locations. That was what kept the market poised and ready to spend a fortune on one plant.

The orchids in some strange way exacted their revenge. The exotic flower hunters rarely made enough money to live comfortably. They often met with grim deaths. Wild animals ate some orchid hunters. An unknown number of hunters fell to their death slipping off rocky cliffs. And then there were orchid hunters who were murdered by indigenous people in the jungles.

Roezel, the king of all hunters, never carried a gun and lived to be an old man.

I left the orchid show, my head swimming in possibilities for stories. A character, perhaps Roezel-like, I wondered, might fit quite nicely into the novel in progress that sits in a file on my desktop. The trip to the orchid show wasn’t exactly a day away from writing, but then I don’t think I ever do get far from my writing life.

VIETNAM, 1939. Sarah, an expat, working as an Archivist for the French Colonial Government in Hanoi, is devastated when she finds a Vietnamese co-worker murdered.


As Sarah seeks the murderer, she becomes more entangled in the Vietnamese people’s struggle for independence.

When the Japanese using Vietnam as a base to assist in their invasion of China demand the French Archives hand over important documentation, Sarah realizes she can no longer remain on the sidelines.  

Sarah’s life is further complicated by the arrival of an old friend, Julia, who reminds Sarah of a past she would rather forget.

When a close friend of Sarah’s is arrested and executed for revolutionary activities Sarah and Julia are heartsick. They decide to return to the States, but their plans are thwarted as the world is heading towards the unimaginable horrors of World War Two.

Margaret Mendel lives and writes in New York City. She is an award-winning author with short stories and articles appearing online and in print publications. Her debut novel, "Fish Kicker" was published in 2014. Margaret’s latest novel “Pushing Water” was published in February 2017.

She is a staff writer and photographer with the online magazine Kings River Life. Many of her photos have appeared in websites, online travel journals and book covers. Several of her photos have been exhibited in Soho Photography Gallery in New York City. Check out her photos at

You can read more about Margaret and her writing at:
PUSHING WATER is available here:   Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Scribd | Inktera | 24 Symbols

FISH KICKER is available here:   ~ Amazon ~ Barnes&Noble ~ Kobo ~ Apple iTunes ~ Omnilit ~ Bookstrand ~ Coffeetime Romance ~ Smashwords ~

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Moving Right Along

My next Rocky Bluff P.D. is going to be a reality!

Wondered for awhile, but I've chosen the cover so that's a big step in the publishing process.

It's a bit different than some of the Rocky Bluff P.D. offerings but I always think that.

I've also been busy doing other things--normal for me and I'm sure every other author.

Attended the latest San Joaquin Sisters in Crime meeting--it was all about necrophilia. Yucky subject, and probably not one I'll ever use in a story, but it was interesting to learn it's far more prevalent than you might think--it's seldom mentioned in the newspapers except as a sex crime. One thing about the speaker, Dr. Eric Hickey, he can talk about the grossest subjects and still make his audience laugh.

Have done the planning for other events that I'm going to go to, next Saturday March 11, I'll be participating with 40 other authors at a big Literary Fair at the Sierra Vista Mall in Cloves from 10 to 8.

The following weekend, March 18, at 10 a.m., I'm going to be giving Writing Tips to Tulare-Kings Writers in the Blue Room at the big Visalia Library on Oak St.

Monday, March 6, 2017

THE STORM by John M. Wills

The Storm
is a bit different than other books I've read by John M. Wills. It's a story of betrayal and the difficulty of forgiveness. 

The heroine, Anna, is out for a run in a secluded area and is struck by lightning during a sudden storm. She isn't discovered right away, and when she awakens in a hospital, she has no idea who she is. 

Her husband, Mark, who has been unfaithful, regrets his actions. The woman he's been seeing isn't ready to let him go and causes major problems as he tries to help Anna recover from her injuries and to regain her memory.

As with all of John's books, there is a spiritual element.

When it doesn't seem like things will be resolved in a happy ending. there is a shocking twist.

I did enjoy The Storm, and recommend it to others.


Saturday, March 4, 2017

I Should Have Been a Chef by Judy Alter

Mysteries, historical fiction—I’m proud of all the books I’ve published but somewhere along the line I missed my true calling. I should have been a chef. When I was in my late fifties, I had this epiphany that I wanted to go to a culinary school. A little research convinced me I was too old and decrepit for the tough physical demands of the cooking life. My feet and hips were already falling apart, and who knew how long my knees would hold out? Reluctantly I gave up that dream.
I learned to cook almost literally at my mom’s knee. At a young age, I was making peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies. Once when a girlfriend and I were cooking something—who knows what?—a childless friend of Mom’s came by. The kitchen was a mess; I hadn’t learned yet the art of cleaning up as I go, which is now almost a religious practice with me. The friend asked Mom quietly, “How can you let them make such a mess?” And Mom said, “If I don’t, they’ll never learn to cook.”
Another time I made a chocolate cake and proudly served it to my parents, assuring them that I had carefully followed the recipe. It tasted awful, sort of like Alka Seltzer. “Judy, how much baking soda did you put in?” Mom asked.
“Nine teaspoons,” I replied.
“Nine teaspoons!” She looked at the recipe, and there was an error in it. I had indeed followed it carefully—I just wasn’t yet smart enough about cooking to know the disastrous effect that nine teaspoons of baking soda would have. We threw the cake out.
My cooking skills improved, and as an adult I had an undeserved reputation as a gourmet cook. But I loved to entertain, and I wasn’t afraid to tackle such dishes as Coquilles St. Jacques or a roulade of rolled beef, chicken, prosciutto with a marvelous herb/anchovy sauce. Guests raved, and I basked in their words.
I also had an appalling recipe collection, because I was unable to look at an intriguing recipe without clipping it. I even had folders for “Entrees Tried” and “Entrees Never Tried.” Bored with my usual menus? I’d spend hours poring over that collection.
It finally occurred to me that I could combine the two passions of my life (not counting my four children) and write a cookbook. The result was Cooking My Way through Life with Kids and Books, a cookbook/memoir. The first chapter, “A Meat and Potatoes Household,” chronicles my childhood growing up in the meat-centric city of Chicago (and occasionally smelling the famous stockyards) and in a household where the menu catered to my father’s Anglophile preference for meat and potatoes.
Next I moved on to “Marriage and Two New World of Food”—I married a Jewish man and moved to Texas, two cuisines far afield from my childhood experiences. I have been known to joke that the only good things to come out of my failed marriage were my four children and my love for Jewish food. And Texas? I still don’t eat spicy but I love good chili, a brisket, even Tex-Mex.
“The Casserole Years” follows, recalling the foods I fixed as a single parent. Finally, there is “Living Alone and Liking It—Well, Most of the Time.” As an empty-nester, I entertained often, always experimenting with new recipes, cooking for company at least once a week. That chapter even has some hints for cooking for one.

Cooking My Way Through Life is still available ( The cover is an adorable picture of one of my grandchildren, dressed in toque and white chef’s coat, holding a wooden spoon. His pre-school had dressed him that way, and he appears to take the role of chef seriously. I would have too.
My now-strong Texas roots (I’ve lived here slightly over 50 years) resulted in Texas is Chili Country, an informal history of chili (no, it did not originate in Mexico) with lots of recipes, including my own “Judy’s Mild and Tentative Chili.” ( 
The road not taken—that life as a chef—led to two books, and sometimes I wish I was a food writer. I settle for recording my cooking success and failures in my blog, “Judy’s Stew.”

Folks can find my books on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and other venues; my web page is and my blog is

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Next Rocky Bluff P.D. Mystery

The next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery is slow in coming because the publisher has had health issues. Fortunately, another publisher has stepped in and offered to publish my next book in the series.

I've had it edited and sent it off. I've been contacted by the cover artist--so it shouldn't be too long now.

I was a bit concerned that this one might not get published at all. This made me sad because two friends had won the privilege (?) to have characters named for them. Both wanted to be villains--and they are.

The title is Unresolved because some things are left hanging--though of course the culprits are discovered, but I don't go into trials or how they they turn out.

Recently, I learned that the latest RBPD mystery out, A Crushing Death has some glaring typos. I'm disappointed, and there isn't anything I can do about it now with the publisher's problem. The only thing I can think of is that when I sent back the corrections, they didn't all get made.

Life goes on, no matter what happens. So, if you haven't read it yet--it has the best villains in it--A Crushing Death is available in paper and as an ebook, and maybe you can overlook the typos.