Monday, October 19, 2020

Luci H. Zahray, The Poison Lady

by Paula Gail Benson


On Saturday, the Palmetto Chapter of Sisters in Crime was delighted to welcome as its guest Luci H. Zahray, well known to Malice Domestic attendees as “the Poison Lady.” Luci, who has a Masters degree in Toxicology from Texas A&M, first came to Malice as a fan, but when she heard writers asking how they might dispatch victims with poisons, she offered answers and quickly became the source to be consulted. She has some interesting tales about traveling with her poison “toy box” through airport security.


This year, Luci has been able to spread her excellent information through virtual meetings. During her time with Palmetto Chapter, she focused on household toxins such as methanol, tobacco, hand sanitizer, and anti-freeze. The amazing part of her information was how little of a substance was needed to produce blindness, illness, or death. She calculated based on how the substance would affect a 170 pound man and referred to the amount as LD 50 (lethal dose 50%).

Here’s a link to where she visited The Stiletto Gang on September 11, 2009. Gloria Alden’s summary of a Malice Domestic meeting (found in Writers Who Kill) indicated that Luci’s topic that year had been lead. For another Writers Who Kill post, Edith Maxwell mentions hearing Luci talk about using liquid nicotine, rosary peas, Tylenol, and alcohol as poisons.

If you have an interest in poisons, you won't want to miss one of Luci's presentations.

 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Where to Live? A Guest Post by Lena Gregory

 


 

I’ve lived most of my life in a small town on the south shore of Eastern Long Island, along with four generations of my family. My grandfather owned a deli in town, where I started working stocking shelves and sweeping floors when I was twelve years old. When I was a little older, I started working the breakfast shift, the inspiration for the All-Day Breakfast Café Mystery series.

I’ve always loved the small-town feel, the way everyone knows everyone, especially the families who have lived here for generation after generation as mine has. When I married a man from the neighboring town, it seemed natural to settle down where we’d grown up and start our family.

Then my husband got a job offer in Florida, and he accepted. We moved down right after my daughter finished kindergarten. I had only ever been to Florida once, when my daughter was three and we spent three days in Disney World, so I had no clue what to expect. 

Just like Gia Morelli in Scone Cold Killer, I was in for a few surprises.



I was used to deer crossing signs, since Long Island is home to a large deer population, but the first time I drove my daughter to school and saw a bear crossing sign, I actually turned around and went back to see it again. I thought I was mistaken, but nope, it was a bear crossing sign. Until that moment, I had no clue there were bears in Florida. 

Then there were the love bugs, and they were everywhere. And lizards, which I’d never even seen in real life before I moved, and snakes, sometimes venomous ones. 

In the All-Day Breakfast Café Mystery series, Gia suffers more than one run-in with Florida wildlife. As the series progresses, she gets more used to some of the creatures native to her new home, but others continue to terrify her. 

Aside from the critters, Florida’s weather brought a few surprises for me as well. On the rare occasions Long Island gets tornadoes, they are small F-1s that do very little damage. One night, about six months after we moved to Florida, I had just gotten into bed and turned on the TV, and the weather report came on. A line of damaging storms was coming through. The reporter said if you live on my road, “take cover now,” and I freaked out, to put it mildly, woke my daughter and stuffed her and my dog into the tub, even tried to wrestle a mattress into the tiny bathroom. (That was so not happening.) 

When a line of damaging storms tears through Boggy Creek, Gia is forced to deal with yet another new downfall. Fortunately, she learns a few lessons about living in a small town and how the people pull together in times of need.

Gia moves from Manhattan to a rural area just south of Florida’s Ocala National Forest. The enormity of the forest frightens her at first, especially when she thinks about everything that’s probably living in there, and she has a terrible time trying to fall sleep in all the quiet. Eventually, she comes up with an inventive way that reminds her of home to help her sleep. 

Like Gia, whenever I got homesick, I spent a lot of time checking off the positives and negatives of living in Florida and New York. 

Because there were also amazing things about living in Florida. The natural springs, with their crystal-clear water, gorgeous blue skies—even in the winter when the skies in New York are permanently gray. And who could complain when everyone in New York was shoveling out from under a foot of snow, and I was lying by the pool?

In the end, my decision was made for me when my husband and I both got job opportunities in New York. We ended up moving back to New York and visiting Florida every year because we missed it so much. Until last year, when I retired from my day job and we returned to Florida, this time to a bit more rural area, and I absolutely love everything about it. 

Gia is still weighing her options and missing fall in New York. But when Savannah talks her into participating in the local Haunted Town Festival in A Waffle Lot of Murder, she can’t help but realize Boggy Creek is going to be her permanent home, and she wouldn’t change it for the world. 

What about you? Have you ever had a hard time deciding where you wanted to live? 

 

 

 

 



Wednesday, October 14, 2020

New Things

 by Bethany Maines

I once had a cousin/uncle/grandparent-ish person (he was my second cousin once-removed if you want to get technical here, but the point is that he was in his eighties and I was around ten, you get the idea) who once posed the question that I probably wasn't supposed to hear - what's the difference between naked and nekkid?  Naked is simply having no clothes on.  Nekkid is naked, but with intent.  In other words, the difference is subtle and mostly to do with what you intend to do about it.  Which is how I feel about old and vintage.  

My general preference, when given a choice, is for old things.  Which is to say I like old books, old furniture, old clothes and my grumpy old dog.  Although, usually I say vintage, which is the same as old, but with character.  I don't want new things (unless they're electronics and sometimes not even then).  I want the things I've become accustomed to and work for me.  Which is why sometimes, even when something gets actually too old to use, I still hang on to it.  Recently, my favorite skull-n-crossbones mug developed an unfortunate hairline crack that resulted in it weeping tea over everything.  It was unusable but I hung on to it for two weeks.  What was I planning on doing with this mug?  It wasn't fixable.  It wasn't art.  Did I think it would magically heal itself?  It wasn't until I had resigned myself to it's passing that I was able to let it depart into the recycling bin.

I don't think my preference for the old and familiar is particularly unusual.  I think most of us are little grumpy about being forced into new things.  We're uncomfortable with being uncomfortable.  On the other hand, studies seem to indicate that actively being in a place of uncertainty and learning keeps Alzheimer's at bay.  Being used to a little discomfort makes us appreciate what we have and have grace for those who also in discomfort. And I think that if a few more people were used to being told no and being a little more uncomfortable then they wouldn't lose their cool and have public temper-tantrums in the middle of Target (why is it always Target?).  Perhaps we need new things periodically just to remind us that sometimes we don't always get to keep our favorite mug.  And sometimes we need a new mug to tell us that everything will be OK.  As long as it looks vintage.

And Now.... Book News!

The Cinderella Secret is coming 10.19.20 and there are gifts, prizes, and sneak peeks for you to delve into! The Cinderella Secret is a romantic thriller that continues the Deveraux family saga, this time with Aiden Deveraux, the handsome lawyer going up against Ella Zhao who blames the Deveraux family for her father’s death. With family secrets and thrills at every turn, The Cinderella Secret delivers a one-two punch of passion and action that will keep readers turning the pages.

Pre-Order The Cinderella Secret on all ebook platforms: https://books2read.com/Cinderella-Secret

Bonus Gift  (but just for my friends)

The Lost Heir, a Deveraux Legacy prequel novella, will be released in December, but members of the Blue Zephyr Press / Bethany Maines newsletter will receive it on October 19 with the release of The Cinderella Secret! 
Join here: https://bethanymaines.com/the-deveraux-legacy/

Giveaway

Want a chance to win a free copy of The Cinderella Secret? One lucky winner will also get a copy of Book 1 - The Second Shot.  Giveaway ends 10.17, so snag your entry now!
Enter at: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54817893-the-cinderella-secret

Try Before You Buy

Read Chapter 1 of The Cinderella Secret! 
Read here: bethanymaines.com/cinderella-secret-chapter-1/

**

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, Facebook, Instagram, and BookBub.

👈 The new mug

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Gay Yellen: The Fortuneteller's Prophesy

Ever had and unexplainable, eerily paranormal experience? In honor of Halloween and El Dia de Los Muertos, I offer my spooky, true story.


It began in the other-worldly parlor of a New Orleans psychic, the summer after college. I was making a movie there. As we finished the day's shoot, the cinematographer invited me and another friend to join him and his wife, Donna, for an unusual get-together.

His mother-in-law had recently died. Deeply grieved, Donna had found a spiritual psychic who promised to put her in contact with her Mom beyond the grave. My friend and I were to provide emotional support during the session.

That evening, we parked in front of an old brick two-story in a poorly lit neighborhood near the French Quarter. We rang the bell. Madame, the psychic, opened the door. Round and elderly, with unnaturally black curls framing her pudgy, wrinkled face and a huge antique cameo at her bosom, she wobbled ahead, leading us into a stuffy parlor.

Blood red walls flickered with candlelight from dozens of votives scattered around the room. An altar-sized crucifix of Jesus, eyes rolled back in ecstasy, hung above the mantel. Statuettes of saints populated almost every flat surface.

The cinematographer and his wife sat on a fraying black satin sofa, holding hands. Heavy burgundy curtains blocked the windows behind them. Madame pointed us to two side chairs and settled herself into a gold brocade wing-back.

She asked Donna if she'd made contact with her mother since their last session. Donna shook her head, teary-eyed. Madame said not to worry, because she had indeed reached Mom, and all was well. Donna simply needed more practice.

Madame instructed us to shut our eyes and concentrate on Donna's goal. I tried my best to conjure her mother, sitting beside her, whispering in her ear. But after a minute or so, Madame stopped the exercise. Mom hadn't shown. We all had failed.

Then Madame turned to me. "I am seeing a very strong image over you. Might we pursue it?" Since the woman knew nothing about me, it felt safe to play along. I nodded.

"Are you a writer?" she asked. Was this about Donna, or me? I hesitated. Barely twenty-one, I was focused on an acting career. 
The actress, that summer.

The only things I'd written back then were class assignments, my honors thesis, and a little poetry. I shook my head.

"Hmm," she muttered. "The image is remarkably clear. Someone is writing, always writing—a story perhaps, or a book. Are you sure you don't relate to that?"

I shrugged.

Madame shut her eyes. "The image is too strong. Perhaps someone close to you is a writer?"

"No one."

Madame seemed baffled. She went quiet for a moment. "I also see a dog, a little white dog, running up to you. A beloved pet. The image is very clear."
The white pup.
Totally wrong. I'd never had a white dog. Besides, if I ever got one, white would be my last choice. I shook my head again.

Madame was a fake, for sure. I never gave the incident a second thought. Until...

A decade later, I was playing with the puppy that had unexpectedly entered my life. Out of the blue—as my very white, very beloved pooch ran toward me to return the ball I'd tossed in our regular game of fetch—Madame's vision popped into my brain, like a crazy mind-meld across the years. Goosebumps. Was this the little dog she'd "seen" years before?

Spookier yet, we fast-forward to today. I don't know if Donna ever made contact with her mother, but as I write this post, and I work to complete my third book, I can't escape the memory of that strange night at Madame's. Because now, I am writing, always writing.

Madame was right. I am a writer.

Have you experienced a spooky event like this?

Gay Yellen is a former magazine editor and the award-winning author of the Samantha Newman Mystery Series, including The Body Business and The Body Next Door (Amazon.) Book #3 in the series is slated for 2021. She'd love to hear from you, here, on Facebook or her website.