Friday, September 18, 2020

Five Things You Might Not Know About Agatha Christie

 By superfan Shari Randall


September 15 marked the 130th anniversary of Agatha Christie’s birth and I've been celebrating all week. Please join me in raising a cup of tea in a toast to Dame Agatha, one of the most influential and successful novelists of all time. Her genre, the traditional mystery, has remained popular with readers since she published her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, in 1920.


Most are familiar with the biography of Agatha Christie. The mega-selling (over two billion copies) author’s work is rediscovered by every generation and celebrated with a splashy, star-studded movie (the latest, Kenneth Branagh’s Death on the Nile, is slated for October). Born to a wealthy family in Torquay, England, she was homeschooled and taught herself to read at age five. She had an ill-fated whirlwind marriage to Royal Flying Corps aviator Archie Christie and her disappearance when she discovered his affair caused a sensation. Her work in pharmacies during the war gave her a wonderfully deep and useful knowledge of poisons. Her happy second marriage to archaeologist Max Mallowan, and their travels, inspired some of her most popular books.


Her work continues to delight, inspire, and yes, confound 44 years after her death – from natural causes - in 1976 at age 85.

Here are a few lesser known facts about the Queen of Mystery:


Dame Agatha had a rose named after her: “Agatha Christie” is a “Beautiful rich, pink Hybrid Tea shaped blooms that are lightly fragrant. A strong growing disease-resistant climber with outstanding dark-green, glossy foliage. Repeat Bloom.”


She is the only female dramatist to have had three plays – Spider’s Web, Witness for the Prosecution, and The Mousetrap - running simultaneously in London’s West End.


She owned many dogs and her favorite breed was the terrier. Her first dog was named George Washington. Her favorite was a short-haired terrier called Peter that she wrote into Dumb Witness as “Bob.”


In 1922, Archie was asked to tour several areas of the British Empire to promote the British Empire Exhibition. He and Agatha stopped in Hawaii and the couple learned to surf, possibly becoming two of the first Europeans to master the sport.


Her daughter Rosalind, fiercely private like her mother, had one son, Matthew Prichard, with her first husband. Mathew received the sole rights to The Mousetrap for his ninth birthday.


There’s a misspelling on her gravestone. See if you can spot it.



What’s your favorite Agatha Christie book? Mine’s Murder on the Orient Express.

Shari Randall is the author of the Lobster Shack Mystery series. Her debut, CURSES, BOILED AGAIN, won the Agatha Award (yes, named for Agatha Christie) for best first novel. You can see what's new with her at or see her mermaid obsession on Instagram @sharirandallauthor.




Thursday, September 17, 2020

Smoke of a Distant Fire

 Smoke of a Distant Fire

By Cathy Perkins

Wildfires continue to devastate large swaths of California, Oregon and Washington, leaving death and destruction of lives, towns, and forests behind them.

I started to open this post with bullet points, such as:

  • Climate change is real
  • Science is real

But I generally leave the politics to my blog mate, Kay.

Here at The Stiletto Gang, we try to entertain and educate. Sometimes the posts are about books and sometimes about whatever subject inspired our latest story. But sometimes, the post is simply to inform.

Today, I want to tell you about smoke and the dangers of smoke inhalation. In a burning building, smoke inhalation overwhelms most victims, but with wildfires, smoke can be a widespread, more subtle danger. While the type and amount of particles and chemicals in smoke varies depending on what’s burning, how much oxygen is available, and the burn temperature, all smoke contains carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and particulate matter.

In very broad terms, these are the effects of those three components. Inhaling carbon monoxide decreases the body's oxygen supply. (It attaches more tightly to the red blood cell, preventing oxygen from reaching tissue in your body.) This can cause headaches, reduce alertness, and aggravate a heart condition known as angina. Fine particles can travel deeply into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs. Inhaling fine particles can cause a variety of health effects, including respiratory irritation and shortness of breath, and can worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. During increased physical exertion, cardiovascular effects can be worsened by exposure to carbon monoxide and particulate matter. Once exposure stops, symptoms from inhaling carbon monoxide or fine particles generally diminish, but may last for a couple of days.

The CDC has a one-page information sheet that you may find interesting or helpful.

On a personal level, I’m surrounded by three major wildfires. Cold Creek to the northeast, Evans Canyon to the southeast and smoke from the Oregon fires pushing in from the south and west. So, the air quality here has been in the “very unhealthy” zone for a week. It occasionally topples over into “hazardous” territory, which basically means don’t go outside if you can help it. We’ve kept the house closed up, but inevitably smoke comes in every time we do go outside, so it’s less of a sanctuary now.

The view looking out my door: 

Yeah, there's normally a forest and a mountain visible out there. 

Staying home, limiting the social bubble, was tough enough when we could get outside and hike or golf or just sit by the river. After a week inside the house, I have even more sympathy for my friends in Brooklyn and other large cities, where “getting outside” might mean sitting on the front steps of your building. I’m also battling burning eyes, swollen sinuses, a headache and a general feeling of, can I just curl up on the couch?

Pray for rain and offer thanks to the dedicated firefighters who are slowly containing the fires.

And now I have that song as an earworm…

You left me here...

Girl your eyes…

An award-winning author of financial mysteries, Cathy Perkins writes twisting dark suspense and light amateur sleuth stories.  When not writing, she battles with the beavers over the pond height or heads out on another travel adventure. She lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.  Visit her at or on Facebook 

Sign up for her new release announcement newsletter in either place.

She's hard at work on the sequel to The Body in the Beaver Pond, which was recently presented with the Claymore Award. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Two Truths and a Lie

by Saralyn Richard


When I was a high school administrator, one of my favorite ice-breakers for meetings was the game, Two Truths and a Lie. If you’ve never played it, each person at the table comes up with three facts about herself, one of which is not true. The others at the table have to guess which fact is the lie.

            This game is particularly fun for people who love mysteries. The participants have to put on their sleuth hats, use clues about what they already know about the speaker, and, once the lie is announced, praise or chastise themselves for their deductive wisdom.

            Since this is Back to School month, I thought I’d write a version of Two Truths and a Lie, and let you guess. Are you ready? Here goes…

            Fact #1: After decades of living in a totally different area of the country, I returned to my hometown, and I live in the house I grew up in.

            Fact #2: I started thinking of myself as an author when my sophomore English teacher told me that’s what I should do for a career.

            Fact #3: I’m married to a police detective, and that’s who my series protagonist, Oliver Parrott, is patterned after.


            Before we get to the solution, let me tell you a little about A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER, which is my latest release. Second in the Detective Parrott mystery series, the book takes you back to the beautiful, serene Brandywine Valley in Pennsylvania, where the landscape is lush, the mansions are huge, and the secrets are deep. Two valuable paintings, taken from the artist’s own studio, start Parrott on his next case. Soon theft turns into murder, and Parrott is thrust into a complicated case that becomes all-too-personal.

            Here’s what novelist, William Kent Krueger, author of THIS TENDER LAND, has to say about it:

“In the Brandywine Valley, a delicate balance exists between the very wealthy and those who serve them, but the murder of a famous artist threatens this tenuous equilibrium. In her second outing featuring Detective Parrott, author Saralyn Richard offers readers a compelling story of worlds in collision. A Palette For Love and Murder probes more than the mysteries of the art world and the motives for murder. Satisfied readers will discover that it also delicately plumbs the depths of love and the human heart. This is another winner for Richard.”

            A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER has been honored with the Silver Medal in the category of Mystery/Sleuth in the 2020 Readers Favorite contest and the finalist status in the 2020 International Book Fest contest’s mystery/suspense category. You can purchase the book at your indie bookstore or online at



Back to the ice-breaker—if you chose Fact #1, you didn’t guess that I might have returned “home” in 2005 to the house that I grew up in. That’s true, and I love being surrounded by wonderful memories of family and friends and good times.

If you chose Fact #2, you didn’t guess that my English teacher, Mari Allmond, inspired me to become a writer (and a teacher), and, she continues to inspire me all these years later. By the way, one of the main characters in A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER is named after Mari.

If you chose Fact #3, you solved the case with the best of them! Congratulations! I’m married to a wonderful guy, who is my alpha reader and adviser in many topics, but he has never been a police detective.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for playing along. I hope Back-to-School month brings you good health, lots of interesting activities, and much joy.





Friday, September 11, 2020

My World is Upside Down

My World is Upside Down by Debra H. Goldstein

I should be promoting my new book, Three Treats Too Many, the third book in the Sarah Blair mystery series that was released last week, but I’ve been busy. We moved.

Moving is not for sissies. Moving is not for anyone. It’s exhausting – especially if you sell the house you lived in for fifteen years in seven hours and need to move into temporary housing ten days later. This translates into moving everything you own into 3 storage bins. Six weeks later, everything came out of storage and was brought to the house.

The kitchen alone had just under 40 boxes to unpack, but we got them done.  Other than needing to go through some more books and get a stand for my printer and a record player, the boxes downstairs are gone.

Anyway, I’m going to cut myself some slack this week and ask you to consider doing three things:

1) Join me and other members of Booklovers Bench  (Maggie Toussaint, Nancy J. Cohen, Cheryl Hollon, and Anna Gerald/Diane A.S. Stuckart) for our Fall Cozy Mystery Party on September 14 

2)    Think about purchasing or having your library purchase Three Treats Too Many – or read it and pass it on to a friend. Remember, it is a standalone, but for one day, today, September 11, you can get a kindle or e-book copy of One Taste Too Many for only $1.99 -

3)    Grab a book, mine preferred, curl up somewhere and enjoy a few hours of respite.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

A Charleston Alley

- Today I share a short-short story while I'm finishing up my newest novel. I hope you have a fantastic September and all those in school have a lovely experience this year. My son's currently a high school senior and taking virtual high school and college courses. 

A Charleston Alley

I ducked into the alley and squared my shoulders. I didn't trip on the cobblestones, even though I wore three-inch stiletto heels that had hurt my ankles and made the balls of my feet sweat. I didn't watch my steps closely either, I never looked down. I gazed straight ahead, head held high, shoulders back and down away from my ears, not hunched over and tilted sideways due to the heft of my tote bag stuffed with notebooks, journals, novels, and dreams.

I ran my right palm across the centuries-old brick lining the alley instead of pounding my fist into it. I didn't turn my head when I heard steps gathering speed at my rear. My heart didn't clinch as the man's baritone rumble evoked a soft laugh from a woman's throat. My chest didn't seize, my pulse stayed steady, my palms might have become damp and caught slightly on the bricks, but I charged on.

I liked the swish of the fringe of my silk purse brushing my thigh as it swung on my left wrist. I did hold my hands up to admire the shell pink of my nails that I hadn't bitten to the quick in two weeks. Fourteen entire days!

As I closed in on my destination, I didn't think my ample bosom, as my mother described it when she'd zipped up my sheath dress, pressed too tightly against the seams. I could breathe and still had a gap between the cleavage, even though fifteen pounds had crept up on me and I'm not a college freshman.

I didn't try to open the door first when the gentleman in the laughing couple rushed to grab the handle. I smiled at him instead and thanked him, surprised that my voice didn't quiver or shake but sounded gentle and southern to my ears and inside my head.

I didn't stop at the host station to ask for a table for one, or dash into the ladies room to throw up or give myself a final pep talk. I continued my journey directly into the well-lit bar.

It didn't take long for me to spot him. Dark hair glistening, the back of his neck newly shaved and begging for a kiss. He ran his finger around his starched collar, and then straightened his tie. I could almost catch a whiff of his aftershave, a musky, manly scent that had lingered on my porch swing cushion for hours after he'd left the evening before.

He thanked the bartender, paid a generous tip, and glanced toward the door. His smile spread across his face, causing wrinkles around his eyes. I enjoyed the long, silent whistle, the nod of appreciation, the way his body leaned toward mine. I reached him in five steps. Watching him, watching me. I had control. I had hope. I took the chardonnay glass from his hand, a shock of electricity coursing through us so violently it made the laughing couple stop and stare.

I didn't care. After the ultimate ten year dating dry patch, I wasn't looking back.


Robin Hillyer-Miles is close to finishing her next novel, "Cathy's Corner" and she can't wait to share it with the world. She lives in the South Carolina Lowcountry with her husband, son, and three dogs. Robin works for the YWCA Greater Charleston with the mission to eliminate racism and empower women. She's currently published with a short story in an anthology that's soon no longer going to be available to purchase.

Robin's also a certified tour guide for the city of Charleston, has 300 hours of yoga instructor training, and is currently super tired of hearing/seeing political ads (and it's only September!). :D

Keep in touch with her via her Facebook page at

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Fall! Bombs Away!

 by Bethany Maines

Does anyone else feel like Fall just hit with a sledgehammer?  The weather shifted, everything started getting colder and book release dates started cropping up faster than weeds in my lawn. Our own Debra Sennefelder put out the fashion / Halloween themed mystery What Not to Wear to a Graveyard (see her post here) and we're celebrating the late summer releases of Debra Goldstein's latest Three Treats Too Many and our new author Gay Yellen with Body Business.

My next book releases in October, but that just means that all the marketing is happening now, now, now (use your used car salesman voice for the last part). Marketing for most authors, including me, is a somewhat painful process in which we attempt to interest the greatest number of people in our precious book baby. The Cinderella Secret is book 2 (of 4) in my Deveraux Legacy series. With a series, book 1 sets the tone and while marketing can be increased for subsequent books - if an author did a terrible job on book 1 then book 2 doesn't have much of a chance. This kind of high-stakes "hope you got it right" marketing pressure is what drives many authors to hate marketing.  We're already responsible for inventing these characters, putting them through hell, hopefully letting some of them make it out with a happy ending, and now we're responsible for making them a success in the world?  It's too much! My poor babies deserve more!  But of course, we saddle up and go out there and do our best for our imaginary book friends because we really do love them. Fortunately, it is a bit easier with assistance from friends, marketing professionals, and having some pretty sweet giveaways and incentives in my back pocket. 

Here's what's going on with The Cinderella Secret!

The Cinderella Secret:
Hot-shot lawyer Aiden Deveraux holds the key to unlocking the dark secrets of Ella Zhao’s past and Ella holds the key to Aiden’s heart. But a murderer wants to stop those secrets from ever seeing the light of day and Aiden and Ella may have to trust each other with their secrets if they want to make it out of this fight alive.

Release Date: 10.19.20

Pre-Order now from iBooks for ¢.99!  (Price goes up after release week!) Buy here →

Have a netgalley account and want to get an advance copy? Blogger/Reader Sign-Up →

Want to win an e-copy and a $40 Amazon giftcard? Enter to win →

Want to get the Deveraux Legacy prequel novella, The Lost Heir, for FREE? Learn how →


Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous short stories. When she's not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some serious butt with her black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also catch up with her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

I'm New Here. Is it Coincidence, or Fate?

by Gay Yellen

When two random and unrelated events combine to create something truly fun, it makes me wonder. How does this kind of luck happen? Is it just a coincidence? Or is it something more?

Good fortune doesn't come every day. When it happens, it's definitely something to celebrate. And I am celebrating at this very moment. Here's why:

Several weeks ago, a message appeared in my inbox, seemingly out of the blue. It was an invitation to join the fine writers of the Stiletto Gang blog. Of course, I was honored and happy to accept. Yet the timing made me wonder. Did a magical alignment in the cosmos have something to do with it?

Weeks before that e-mail arrived, the new cover image for The Body Business, Book #1 in my Samantha Newman Mystery Series, was approved. Back then, only the designer, my publisher, and I knew what it looked like.

So, what were the chances that the book's cover featured a pair of red stilettos?

The book was released in July. This was the first shipment:


This kind of convergence always makes my ears tingle. Was a special alignment of heavenly bodies beaming down a message to me, whispering, Go for it?

Of course, the rational-thinking me knows that the planets don't care a fig about things like this. Yet my mind still wants to believe. Red stilettos. Has to be a sign, right?


Synchronicity, or serendipity? Who cares if it came on the tail of a comet or only by chance. I took the invitation as a good omen. 

Therefore, I hereby declare this day of my first Stiletto Gang post to be Happy Happenstance Day. And I'm kicking up my killer red heels (metaphorically speaking) to celebrate the writer/colleagues and readers I hope to meet here.


As a book lover, I’m buoyed by a community of readers who enjoy books as much as I do. As an author, I’m grateful for the generosity of fellow writers. To Kathryn Lane, Saralyn Richard, and Debra Goldstein, thanks for welcoming me into the Stiletto family. I look forward to meeting more Gang members and getting to know our readers.


Happy happenstances, whether meaningful or trivial, deserve our gratitude, especially in these difficult days. Let’s count them among our blessings. And let's always stay open to new possibilities, heaven-sent, or otherwise.


Has a pleasant coincidence or a lucky chance in your life seemed like a message from the universe? Say hello and tell us about it!

Gay Yellen is a former magazine editor who writes award-winning mysteries touched with humor and romance. You can find her Samantha Newman Mystery SeriesThe Body Business and The Body Next Door —on Amazon. Book #3 in the series is slated for early 2021. Gay loves connecting with readers via her website and Facebook page. She'd love to hear from you!

Monday, September 7, 2020

My Big Fat Release Month

 By Debra Sennefelder 

Welcome, September!
Here Connecticut, we welcomed the new month with cooler temps and low humidity. It's a great first impression as far as I am concerned. September also came with a busy schedule. Not only am I inspired to do a lot of baking, but I have book releases. Two book releases!

Release number one is actually happening tomorrow, Sept 8th. WHAT NOT TO WEAR TO A GRAVEYARD, a Resale Boutique novella makes its debut. I'm so excited about this book because it has all the things I love: autumn, Halloween, a spooky graveyard, a costume party, and a pup named Billy. Just a little tidbit about the dog, he's based on our Shih Tzu Billy, who passed away last September. I'd sent a photo of our little guy to my editor when I was asked about cover ideas. The team at Lyrical Press did a fantastic job featuring Billy. 


Now a little about the story. Leave it to Kelly Quinn to stumble into a dog-napping/murder plot when she finds a missing Shih Tuz while scouting for a photo location. She's pulled into the mystery of Constance Lane's death, which leads her to stake out a literary agent's home, to being accosted by a scary clown, and coming face-to-face with a vicious killer. 

Next up is THE CORPSE WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, book four in the Food Blogger Mystery series, and it releases on Sept 29th.  Food blogger Hope Early takes on a cold case that's heating up. Twenty years old wife and mother Joyce Markham disappeared. Her daughter, Devon, is determined to find out what happened through her podcast, Search for the Missing. When Devon returns home to Jefferson, she asks for Hope's help to find the truth. Hope is leery about getting involved. She's had one too many close calls with murderers, but when Devon's is murdered, Hope doesn't have a choice but to help find justice for both mother and daughter. Clearly, her friend was too close to the truth, and there's a cold-blooded killer still at large in Jefferson.


Aside from these two book releases, this month, I'm finishing the fifth book in the Food Blogger series and will begin writing the next full-length Resale Boutique book. In the moments when I feel like I have everything under control (those moments are rare, by the way), I realize how blessed I am to be able to do what I love and to be able to share it with you! 

Let's take a few minutes and chat. I'm curious, do you love Halloween? Do you decorate for it? Dress up? How about podcasts? Do you listen to them? What's your favorite?  

 Let me know below, and thank you for spending some time with me today.

Debra Sennefelder is the author of the Food Blogger Mystery series and the Resale Boutique Mystery series. She lives and writes in Connecticut. When she’s not writing, she enjoys baking, exercising and taking long walks with her Shih-Tzu, Connie. You can keep in touch with Debra through her website, on Facebook and Instagram.

Friday, September 4, 2020

A Change of Scenery

For the next few months, while Linda takes a short break, watch for guest posts featuring new books and authors. 

A Change of Scenery by Edith Maxwell

Thanks so much Linda for having me on as a Stiletto Gang guest!

I write wearing several hats, although never in stilettos. My late-1800s Quaker Midwife Mysteries are usually set in Amesbury, Massachusetts, with midwife Rose Carroll catching babies, hearing secrets, and helping the police catch murderers.  It happens to be where I live, and I’ve done lots of research about the town’s history.

But I – as Maddie Day - also write a contemporary series set on Cape Cod. I often rent a Quaker retreat cottage during the off season and spend a week alone furiously typing away at the work in progress. The cottage is in West Falmouth, and over the years I have learned that the town was a veritable hotbed of Friends during Rose Carroll’s era.

So I pretty much had to take her down there for one of the books. We who set mysteries in small towns always want to try to avoid Cabot Cove syndrome, where after a while the village gets a reputation for being a dangerous place to visit because of all the murders.

My most recently released book is Nacho Average Murder, the 7th Country Store Mystery (also written as Maddie Day). I took Robbie Jordan out of southern Indiana for that story, having her return to her native Santa Barbara for

a high school reunion. Regular readers don’t seem to mind, as long as the author promises to return to the village for the next book.

Here’s the burb for Taken Too Soon, the 6th in the Quaker Midwife series (releasing September 8).

Quaker midwife Rose Carroll's maiden aunt calls Rose to Cape Cod with her new husband when Tillie's teenage ward is found dead. Rose and David's modest honeymoon turns into a murder investigation. A Native midwife and her family are among the suspects, as are David's own brother and a wealthy local Friend. With the help of the local detective, Rose digs in the shifting sands of the case until the murderer is revealed.

I love that I can research two series at once! I wander around the beaches and the back roads. I smell the air, watch the ospreys and egrets, see what’s growing and blooming at a certain time of year, and of course sample locally caught seafood. Who knows, maybe Mac Almeida from the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries will have to get out of town and venture up to Amesbury one of these books

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Agatha Award winning author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife historical mysteries, the Local Foods Mysteries, the Lauren Rousseau Mysteries, and award-winning short crime fiction. As Maddie Day she pens the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Maxwell lives with her beau and their Energizer kitten in Amesbury, where she writes, gardens, cooks, and wastes time on Facebook. Find her at and on social media.


Thursday, September 3, 2020

10 Things We Love About Fall

 by Sparkle Abbey

It’s hard to believe it’s already September and one of the top ten words of 2020 is “quarantine.” Like many of our fellow Stiletto Gang authors, we’re also on Zoom overload, longing to meet friends at our favorite restaurants, and mourning the end of summer vacations—mostly because we didn’t have a vacation. 

As unpredictable as 2020 has been, we’re going-with-the-flow and preparing ourselves for an anything-can-happen type of Fall.

Here in Iowa, most days are still warm days, but there was a short preview of the cooler days to come. We can’t image an Iowa Autumn without lawns blanketed with crisp, colored leaves, long-sleeved flannel shirts, and all things pumpkin spice. And our yearly flu shots.

So instead of thinking about our lost summer vacations, we thought we share 10 Things We Love About Fall.

  • Writer’s retreats (We have faith they will happen again!)
  • Crisp weather
  • Cozy oversized sweaters
  • Homemade apple desserts
  • Colorful scarves
  • Candy corn
  • Carving pumpkins
  • Thanksgiving
  • Pumpkin spice EVERYTHING
  • The best-scented candles. Apple spice, pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice, and Cinnamon Chai

What about you? What are some favorite things you like about Fall?

Sparkle Abbey is actually two people, Mary Lee Ashford and Anita Carter, who write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series. They are friends as well as neighbors so they often get together and plot ways to commit murder. (But don't tell the other neighbors.) 

They love to hear from readers and can be found on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest, their favorite social media sites. Also, if you want to make sure you get updates, sign up for their newsletter via the website

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

On the Road to Santa Fe

 By Kathryn Lane

Just beyond the Santa Fe Opera, on the road to Los Alamos National Laboratories, is Camel Rock Monument. I traveled that route as a young CPA on my way to perform financial audits at the Labs. Camel Rock sits, almost Sphinx-like, guarding the southern fringe of the Española Badlands in New Mexico. Back then, the geologic formation seemed to speak to me every time I drove past. In the Land of Enchantment, the idea of spirits in the desert inhabiting an eroded rock and speaking to travelers seemed perfectly normal.

Then I left New Mexico. My new corporate job gave me the international travel I had dreamed of doing.  My life took such an interesting turn that I completely forgot about Camel Rock. After two decades of traveling the world in my corporate job, I resigned and moved to Texas to follow my dream of writing mysteries.

For the past two years, my husband, Bob, and I have spent the summers in northern New Mexico – my writing retreat. Being here has brought me face-to-face with Camel Rock again. Every time we drive past it on the road to Santa Fe, it seems to whisper, “welcome home.”

At the Bell Tower
For the past couple of months, I’d been working so hard on the Spanish translation of my novel, Waking Up in Medellin, that Bob suggested I take a break and we spend a couple of days in Santa Fe. Maybe even catch a sunset from the Bell Tower, the rooftop bar, at the historic La Fonda hotel. With hardly any tourists in Santa Fe, we had the Bell Tower almost to ourselves.

Then two men arrived and sat at the next table, social distancing observed. When one of the new arrivals discovered I was originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, he asked if I’d ever been to the border town of Palomas. I told him that was the port of entry we used for traveling between my hometown in Mexico and the US when I was a kid. He immediately asked if I’d ever heard of Tillie.


“The famous Tillie from Palomas, Chihuahua?” I asked. “One of my high school friends married her son Pedro.”

In the sheltering and social distancing world of COVID-19, I was amazed at meeting a man from Amarillo, Texas, who knew a woman from the tiny border town of Palomas, a short distance from where I grew up.


A case of six degrees of separation. Except here, I was connected by one step, not six.

Bob and I enjoyed our visit to Santa Fe. The entire trip brought back memories from the years I’d lived in New Mexico. And the Camel is right. I’ve come home!      __________________

Ever had an amazing or personally touching six-degrees of separation event? I’d love for you to share it!

Photos: By Kathryn Lane or from the public domain: Camel Rock Monument; Bell Tower Poster, and the adobe style façade of La Fonda Hotel.

Kathryn’s books – The Nikki Garcia Mystery Series and her short story collection – Backyard Volcano and Other Mysteries of the Heart. All available on Amazon.


Kathryn Lane started out as a starving artist. To earn a living, she became a certified public accountant and embarked on a career in international finance with a major multinational corporation. After two decades, she left the corporate world to plunge into writing mystery and suspense thrillers. In her stories, Kathryn draws deeply from her Mexican background as well as her travels in over ninety countries.                      

Friday, August 28, 2020

Susan's Story --by T.K. Thorne



Writer, humanist,
          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,
       Lover of solitude
          and the company of good friends,
        New places, new ideas
           and old wisdom.




Susan had never told her family about her experiences. In fact, before Louisa Weinrib called her in 1990 for an interview, she she had never talked about what happened to anyone other than those who had gone through it with her. Hers is a true story of amazing strength, resourcefulness, and friendship.


Susan Eisenberg’s childhood was full of promise. An only child, she was born in 1924 into a family that proudly traced their Hungarian lineage back a hundred years. She grew up in the small town of Miskolc, where her father had a successful business buying and exporting livestock and grains for a farming cooperative. 


Susan was aware of anti-Semitic sentiment, but it didn’t touch her early life. The Jewish community was well integrated into Hungarian society, and she had many Christian friends. She spoke Hungarian and German, loved to ice-skate and ski, and wanted to go to college, but by the time she was of college age, Jews could not attend.


Her loving and close-knit family gathered after synagogue at her home, where they also celebrated the Seder. On weekends, they offered a tradition of high tea for family and neighbors. 


Trouble began in 1938 with a small Hungarian Nazi party that grew in strength, paralleling the party’s growth in Germany. After Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939, Polish refugees fled into Hungary, bringing what seemed unbelievable stories of what was happening in Poland. Without a birth certificate validating birth in Hungary, officials shipped the fleeing civilians back to Poland. An army friend confided to Susan that, in reality, the Poles were taken across the border and shot. Even when people began wearing brown shirts with swastika armbands and spouting slogans, Susan recalled, the Jewish community just ignored it. 


In 1940 Hungary became an Axis power. Hitler, who invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, demanded that Hungary join that war. Susan’s uncle died when he was forced to walk with others into a field between the German and Russian armies to test for the presence of land mines. Her father was taken to a work camp. Released the following year, he was ill and depressed and died soon after at 44. After his death, Susan and her mother moved to the city of Budapest to live with relatives.


Although the Jews in Hungary suffered under tightening restrictions, Hungary’s regent protected them for a time from Hitler’s “final solution”—extermination—until Hitler discovered the regent was secretly negotiating an armistice with the US and the UK. On Easter Sunday in March 1944, Susan was having coffee with a friend on a cafe terrace and saw German panzer tanks rolling over the bridges into Budapest. The Germans occupied and quickly seized control of the country.


The Nazis rounded up her family members who were still living in the countryside. The relatives sent postcards—which Susan and her mother later learned the Nazis forced them to write—advising they were well and going to Thersienstadt (a concentration camp/ghetto in Terezin). All of them perished in that camp.


In Budapest, Allied forces regularly bombed the city. Everyone carried bags of food at all times, never knowing when they might have to run into the air-raid shelters. Jews were required to wear a yellow star patch on their clothing and live in designated housing. Restrictions dictated when they could leave the house and forbid them to go to public parks or even walk on the sidewalks. They could work only in manual labor positions. Jewish professionals, doctors and dentists, could only practice on Jewish patients.


Susan was 19, with light blonde hair and blue eyes. She pulled off the yellow star from her clothes and snuck out into the country to get food. Once, on her return, Germans soldiers in a vehicle, not realizing she was a Jew, picked her up. They asked for a date. Heart pounding, she agreed, lying about where she lived, and promised to meet them later. Safely home, she looked down at her clothes and realized that a closer inspection would have revealed the stitch holes from the star she’d removed. 


When the Russian army was approaching Budapest, the Hungarian Nazis ordered Susan to report for labor with her age group and sent them to dig foxholes. Their Hungarian Nazi guards were 14 or 15-year-olds. When a young girl working at Susan’s side sat down and cried for her mother, those guards immediately shot her.

For two days and nights in the cold and rain, with no food, the guards ran them back to Budapest to work in a brick factory where she met two girls her age, Ferry (Ferike Csato) and Katherine (Katherine Goldstein Prevost). Susan pretended to be crippled and part of a group of sick and injured destined for Budapest and death. She escaped and made it to her aunt and uncle’s house, but the following day Hungarian gendarmes (police) rounded her up with others. The gendarmes forced even mothers from their babies to join with those in the streets.


Their Hungarian guards told them they were taking them to Germany to die. “The one who dies on the road is lucky,” they said. Over a ten-day period in October, they walked in rain, ice, and cold from Budapest to the German border (125 miles) to Hegyeshalomover. Thousands were shot for lagging behind or collapsing. A few country people along the way gave them a piece of bread. Others stripped them of their clothes. Guards kicked them. They slept in flea-invested hay. 


Anyone who had anything of value traded it to the peasants for food. They fought for a share of rare carrot or bean soup.


One night, the guards packed them onto a barge on the Danube River. Overwhelmed by the press of dying people, Susan escaped by swimming to the bank in the freezing river. She begged a man she encountered to help her or just get her something dry to wear. He agreed but instead returned with police who escorted her back to the prisoners.


At the German border, they marched another ten miles to trains. Jammed into cattle cars, they traveled for days but couldn’t see out because black slats covered the cars. She was only aware of repetitive stopping and starting. 


Finally, in October 1944, the trains arrived at Dachau concentration camp in Germany, their destination. The smell of the crematorium camp would stay in her nostrils for the rest of her life, as would the shock of her first sight of the skeletal prisoners who mobbed them, begging for bread. Guards beat the prisoners back.


The newly arrived assembled in a large open field, waiting to go in. But even with bodies being constantly cremated, there was no room for them in Dachau. Susan and her two friends, Ferry and Katherine, went with other girls to Camp Two and then Camp Eleven (nearby work camps). They slept in bunkers below ground on a wooden floor and a pallet of straw. Camp Two, they quickly learned, was the “sick camp.” The next stop for Camp Two occupants would be the crematorium in Dachau.


At the satellite camps, they were given striped uniforms. About 500 people lived in each barrack with a block leader in charge. Food came once a day in a big wooden barrel with hot water and big hunks of sugar beets. At night they received a piece of bread that “oozed sawdust and a piece of artificial marmalade.” At first, she couldn’t swallow it. The older inmates encouraged her to “eat it, no matter what.” 


Each day, the prisoners were called out to stand, sometimes for hours, in the cold for a count and work assignments (Appell). “If you fell out, you were beaten or shot. If a friend was dying, you made sure that she stood up, no matter what, and wasn’t left in the barracks.” 


In the first Appell, Susan was picked to work in a kitchen where she peeled beets. Germans brought in prisoners for punishment, hanging them from rafters and beating them. She and the kitchen workers constantly cleaned the blood from the floors. She hid beets inside her baggy shirt and shared it with her camp mates and the Muselmann—the starving, skin-and-bones prisoners resigned to their impending death.


Susan was transferred to different camps for work assignment. At one, German engineers of the Wehrmacht (Armed Forces), instead of SS troops, ran the camp. More humane, their military task masters distributed pieces of food to the workers, food that kept Susan alive. Barehanded and dressed only in the thin striped uniforms and sockless wooden clogs, Susan and her fellow prisoners pulled wagons of wood in the Bavarian winter mountains. Sometimes she was taken from the camp to wash clothes for German housewives. She also worked in the Sonderkommando (work groups at crematoriums) to remove teeth from the corpses of the murdered for the gold fillings.


Her health was deteriorating. She had lost weight and suffered from reoccurring high fevers. Typhoid broke out in the camp. There was no medication. To isolate the prisoners, the guards stopped letting them leave, throwing beets and bread over the fence. 


In early March 1945, after the epidemics, a female guard beat her for speaking defiantly to a camp commander. People all around her were giving in to despair, but she refused to do so, vowing she would survive. 


At another work camp, Susan joined women prisoners building an underground airplane hangar. They were forced to carry 100-pound bags of cement across a catwalk several stories high. The Muselmann went down instantly under the burden, falling to their deaths. “There was,” Susan said, “as much blood and flesh in that hanger as cement.”


An inmate orchestra played as she and other workers left the camp and on their return. Guards made the orchestra watch and play during beatings and hangings and while starved prisoners--who had tried to grab potatoes from a wagon—were strung up between the electrical barbed wire, potatoes stuck in their mouths.


Once, the Germans spruced up a barracks, putting in furniture and stocking it with people they found “not in terrible shape” for the Swiss Red Cross, who had come to inspect the treatment of prisoners. As soon as they were gone, the Germans took the untouched piles of canned foods, condensed milk, and chocolate the Red Cross had left for the prisoners.


One barrack’s occupants were expectant mothers. They were allowed to give birth to their babies and tend them. Then one day, without warning, all the infants were taken away and the women sent to the work groups. 


To use the open trenches to relieve themselves, Susan had to walk through knee-deep mud at night, sometimes stepping on top of the bodies of those who had fallen there and died in the mud. Survival, she knew, depended on not allowing yourself to feel and thinking only of the moment.


Her last assignment was in a dynamite factory. By this time, the air raids were almost continuous. Landsberg, a nearby town, was under siege by the Americans. In April 1945, guards took her and her friends to the main camp in Dachau. They spent a night in the showers at Dachau, believing they would next be taken to the crematoriums, which were still “going strong.” But the next day, with thousands of young people, they were marched out of the camp. As they left, they could see the trains that continued to bring prisoners from other camps [to keep the Allies from discovering them], many already sick and emancipated. When the doors opened, dead bodies fell out. Inmates stacked them like mountains in front of the crematoriums to be burned. But the Germans had run out of time. The American guns were days away. 


They marched from Dachau, walking at night and hiding in the woods during the day. Allowed to dig in the fields they passed for roots and potatoes, they ate them raw. All understood the guards’ orders were to march them into the mountains and kill them in the forests where the Allies would not discover their bodies. Guards shot in the head anyone who lagged or fell. Susan was sick and feverish. She could not walk on her own, but three friends, Katherine, Ferry, and another supported her, keeping her from collapsing.


As they struggled through the mountains and meadows of Bavaria, guards began deserting in the cover of night. American planes flew low enough Susan could read the insignia on the wings. The pilots, who surely saw the striped uniforms, refrained from dropping bombs.


Five days later, what remained of their group arrived at a work camp for Russian prisoners in the small German town of Wolfratshausen. The first task of their remaining Nazi guards was to take the Russian prisoners of war and shoot them. Knowing they were next, Susan lay on the roadside, too sick and exhausted to react. Then she heard a roar—the first American jeep of the Third Army coming down the road—liberators.


The German guards fled, but the liberators were combat troops, unable to care medically for the freed prisoners. The Americans moved on, and the liberated were left to fend for themselves.


Typhoid once again thinned their ranks. Her friends held out tin cans for food the passing American soldiers threw to them. Survivors that were able, brought supplies from the town and cooked soups. Reports that Americans fed and clothed German prisoners, playing baseball and basketball with them in the prison camps, ignited bitterness and anger. Many Jews took abandoned weapons and hunted the German SS who had tortured them and killed their friends and families.The sound of gunfire in the surrounding forests peppered the nights.


They spent the summer in the woods, slowly regaining their strength, then Susan, Katherine and Ferry trekked to a displaced persons camp. Although her friends wished to immigrate to Israel, Susan wanted to go home to Hungary. And they chose to go with her. 


They walked to Prague, a journey of 145 miles, where a Russian troop train allowed them to ride. Arriving finally at their destination of Budapest, they found it devastated. Susan couldn’t find her house in the rubble . . . or her mother. They tried to find work. Inflation made money worthless. A friend of her uncle finally gave her a job in the ministry [government] which paid the workers in potatoes and bread. They lived in a room open to the elements; bombs had destroyed the windows and doors.


Ferry convinced Susan to go with her, Katherine, and two Sabra (Israeli) agents who were attempting to get fifty Polish Jewish children to Israel. The children had survived by hiding in Christian homes. Susan and her friends rode with them by train to the Hungarian border where they had to walk about 200 miles.


The friends, with the two Sabra agents and three other men, accompanied the children through heavy snow in the fields and woods. Twice, they paid off Russians who stopped them, but the third time, at the German border, they had to make a run for it. They abandoned all their belongings in their dash for freedom. Older children carried the younger ones. Russian bullets followed them. Once safely across, the children continued through Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Cyprus and then into Israel. But Susan still did not want to go to Israel. 


Later, Susan said she regretted that decision and felt pride in what Israel stood for. “You know, even if you have to die, if you die on your feet fighting, it’s a heck of a lot different than to be shoved into a gas chamber [to] die like mice or cockroaches, or whatever.”


Susan lived in Germany for three years, then married a GI and came to America in 1948, becoming a U.S. citizen. She had two children, Diane and Leslie, and lived on Long Island, NY. Struggled with multiple health issues, she worked in various factories to pay her medical bills before getting a clerical job on Mitchel Air Force Base, which turned into a civil service career of 30 years. 


She divorced and eventually married another serviceman. With his transfer to Maxwell Air Force Base, they moved to Montgomery, Alabama.


Ferry and Katherine joined relatives in America, and the three friends kept in touch for the rest of their lives. Finally locating her mother, who had returned to Budapest, Susan brought her to Montgomery in 1956. 


Susan Petrov Eisenberg died in Montgomery, Alabama, in 2008.



Note: I had the privilege of compiling Susan's story. She was one of the survivors who made Alabama their home after WWII. Others’ stories and a wealth of educational material about survivors and the Holocaust is available at the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center website—




T.K. is a retired police captain who writes books, which, like this blog, go wherever her interest and imagination take her.