Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Planning Inspiration

 By Lynn McPherson

Looking for inspiration these days can be tricky. Where do you go to find it? I am happy to report that I'm planning mine to come by way of my sister's upcoming birthday. Weird, right? Let me explain. My sister has a milestone coming up this fall and has organized a trip to celebrate. Not a big surprise since she loves to travel. It'll be her first time away for over two years, but she and her husband are finally ready to head out again to explore the world, one destination at a time. This time, her plans include me!

The destination is Paris. The trip will include my sister and her husband, my parents, and myself. I'd love to bring my husband, too, but that would mean bringing the kids. And that would be a different trip. 

Posing in front of Basilique de Sacre-Coeu
I love Paris. I haven't been in many years(!) and I am already counting down the days. I used to visit more often, having lived two years in London and having much easier access to the City of Lights. I've included a few photos from back then...

The first question my sister had for me is what I want to do. She shared her list and wanted to know mine. I had no answer. It had been so long since I planned a vacation without the kids, I didn't even know where to start. So, I decided I should start with a book (of course). I downloaded Paris, by Edward Rutherford on Audible, and picked up a copy of The Paris Apartment, by Lucy Foley.

I'm already thinking about the people and places I'll see, the fun I'll have, and the memories I'll keep. I'm also thinking about how I can bring Paris into a mystery.

I'm excited and inspired. And I'm not even there yet!

Where do you find inspiration?

Lynn McPherson has worked for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, ran a small business, and taught English across the globe. She has travelled the world solo where her daring spirit has led her to jump out of airplanes, dive with sharks, and learn she would never master a surfboard. She now channels her lifelong love of adventure and history into her writing, where she is free to go anywhere, anytime. Her cozy series has three books out: The Girls' Weekend Murder and The Girls Whispered Murder, and The Girls Dressed For Murder.  



























Monday, June 27, 2022

Weekend with Friends by Dru Ann Love

by Dru Ann Love

Every year me and two of my friends plan a weekend getaway. We’ve been to Boston, Denver, Savannah, and most recently Memphis and Tennessee. Whatever is our destination, I always look to see if I have any author friends in the area and plan a lunch. I like to introduce them to the authors and the books they write. In most cases, they do tend to make a purchase or two.

This past weekend, we did the touristy things, Graceland, the National Civil Rights Museum, and the Peabody Hotel to see the ducks march to the fountain in Memphis and Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Johnny Cash Museum, and the Musicians Hall of fame. But the most entertaining activity was meeting the authors and one of them was Lois Winston. We picked the Margaritaville restaurant for lunch, but who knew they had live music that just never stopped. It was hard hearing conversations if you weren’t nearby. It was great seeing Lois and my other friends.








When you travel, do you seek out friends to visit?


Friday, June 24, 2022

What Love Really Means

 


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.


The answer to what love is has defied the best efforts of philosophers and poets, yet we know it when we see it, as these keen observations from children prove. 

"Karl, age 5: ‘Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.’ 

Billy, who is 4, had to think about it, but decided, ‘When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.’

And Rebecca observed, ‘When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So, my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love.’”

And Teresa (TK) age. . . never mind . . . said, ‘Daddy is love--you can crawl onto his lap, and he will read the comics in the newspaper for you; you can crawl on his shoulders, and he will flip you over and over again! You can know you will always have a place to go if you need it; he will always be there.’


Thank you, Papa for everything and always. I love you . . . and that's the most important thing.

T.K.Thorne is a retired police captain who writes Books, which, like this blog, go wherever her curiosity and imagination take her.  More at TKThorne.com



Thursday, June 23, 2022

June 23, 2022 

mi Chicana Garden Southern Colorado 2022


Dear Reader,  

It is officially summer, and I spent the solstice riding on a quad runner with mi esposo in the Sangre de Cristos near the cell phone towers at 10,000 feet (about twice the elevation of Denver, Colorado). The air felt thin and caused me to get short of breath. But the oxygen was thick and smelled like wildflowers and mountain meadows and forests. Just what the doctor ordered. I am working on being a better human being and it begins with me and my happiness. A friend suggested I try MACA powder for my low energy and depression during the pandemic and damned if he was not right in his diagnosis and prescription. He is my friend of thirty-two years and my acupuncturist. He is a keeper. He goes ice fishing and hiking with mi esposo. They are like minded. Nature lovers and animal lovers.  


I am planning a birthday party for a few relatives and celebrating the fourth of July, Independence Day. Whose independence you ask? Some people are saying we are free, but I say until we are all different but equal, until we are undocumented not illegal human beings, until the LGBTQ community and people of color are no longer afraid to walk with pride down main street, I say we are not free. We are all slaves. Slaves of greed, power, sex, drugs, rock, and roll. Lol. 


That was my Independence Day rant. Every year I suffer through the holidays. Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, Winter Wonderland, St. Patrick's Day, Valentine's Day, etc. When is my holiday? I am going to celebrate this fourth of July as a sacred ceremony honoring my ancestors' who lived and died on this soil in Southern Colorado, New Mexico, the New Mexico Territory, Mexico, los genizaros. The indigenous slaves. My ancestors were not free they were herded into missionaries and pueblos and became indentured servants and laborers. The truth hurts because it is the truth. Deal with it. If you do not want to learn this country’s history, you will never know the people who live here and what they have endured just to survive in a world of colonialism. You heard me. Decolonize your diet. Beans, rice, green chile, tortillas. But what do I know. I know after sixty-five years and a life of hard knocks and abundant blessings, that dying is easy; it is the living that is hard.  


Lynette Aragon Patrick and Juliana Aragon Fatula at family home Southern Colorado



Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Anastasia is Back, and This Time the Crime is Real!

 

By Lois Winston

Most mystery writers and readers are fascinated by true crimes. Even if our reading doesn’t branch out beyond cozy mysteries, many of us watch everything from Murder, She Wrote reruns to each iteration of the Law & Order franchise. Some of us have even become hooked on true crime podcasts. 

 

Me? I’m a news junkie. All my books have been inspired in some way by actual events, or human-interest stories. Inspired is the key word, though. For instance, in A Stitch to Die for, the fifth book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, I wove in a thread about Munchausen by Proxy Disorder after reading about several high-profile cases.

 

However, I’ve never incorporated an actual crime into one of my plots—until now. For Guilty as Framed, the eleventh book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, I’ve centered the plot around a yet unsolved crime that took place in 1990. 

 

For years I’ve been fascinated with the burglary at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It’s still considered the largest art heist in history, and to this day, not only haven’t the perpetrators been caught, but none of the artworks have ever been recovered. Worst of all, many of the suspects have since died.

 

But how do you incorporate a true crime cold case into a cozy mystery, especially when that crime might one day be solved, no matter how the likelihood diminishes with each passing year? I certainly couldn’t have my sleuth find the paintings or unmask the actual perpetrators. I don’t write alternate-reality fiction. In addition, the crime was committed in Boston, and my amateur sleuth resides in New Jersey. Besides, Anastasia is in her mid-forties. She would have been an adolescent at the time of the theft.

 

This was the puzzle I set for myself. Like my sleuth, I can be extremely stubborn when I set my mind to something. I may fail at a task, but I rarely give up and walk away. It helps that I’m a pantser and not a plotter. So I started out by reading everything I could get my hands on about the theft, watched a few documentaries, then just started writing, allowing my brain free rein. After writing myself into a few corners, backtracking, and beginning again…and again…and again, I came up with a story that uses various events from the actual crime, making them plausible within the pages of my story. Of course, I had to take authorial liberties along the way, but hey, I’m writing fiction. I can do that. 

 

I invented several characters for the purpose of advancing my plot. I’ve also changed the names of suspects and their relatives, whether they’re still alive or not, to protect the innocent, the not-so-innocent, and yours truly. But in the end, I stayed true to the major events of the crime but found a way to involve my sleuth.

 

It’s just too bad that Anastasia couldn’t solve the mystery of what happened to all those missing artworks. There’s still a huge reward outstanding for any information leading to their recovery, and anyone who knows anything about Anastasia knows she could really use the money.

 

Guilty as Framed

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 11

 

When an elderly man shows up at the home of reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack, she’s drawn into the unsolved mystery of the greatest art heist in history. 

 

Boston mob boss Cormac Murphy has recently been released from prison. He doesn’t believe Anastasia’s assertion that the man he’s looking for doesn’t live at her address and attempts to muscle his way into her home. His efforts are thwarted by Anastasia’s fianc√© Zack Barnes. 

 

A week later, a stolen SUV containing a dead body appears in Anastasia’s driveway. Anastasia believes Murphy is sending her a message. It’s only the first in a series of alarming incidents, including a mugging, a break-in, another murder, and the discovery of a cache of jewelry and an etching from the largest museum burglary in history.

 

But will Anastasia solve the mystery behind these shocking events before she falls victim to a couple of desperate thugs who will stop at nothing to get what they want?

 

Guilty as Framed is currently available for pre-order and will be released September 6th. Find links here.

 

~*~

USA Today and Amazon bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Learn more about Lois and her books at her website www.loiswinston.com where you can also sign up for her newsletter and follow her on various social media sites.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

 


Scouting for Good Reads

by Saralyn Richard


 

One of my most memorable activities from childhood was being a part of the Girl Scouts. My Girl Scout troop was phenomenal. Our leaders, Mrs. Taylor and Mrs. Martin, made sure every meeting was a learning experience and a social experience worth our time and effort. We went on several trips, including one to the Alamo in San Antonio, the State Capitol in Austin, and to a dude ranch in New Braunfels. Many of the girls in our troop are still among my close friends today.

The scout program encouraged each girl to select an area to “specialize” in, with the goal of earning a badge in that field. I earned many badges in my time, but my favorite was—no surprise here—the reading badge. The reading badge didn’t require me to go out into scorching hot, mosquito-infested campgrounds. I didn’t have to prove proficiency at knot-tying (although I recall doing something like that anyway), sharp-tool-wielding, or fire-starting. All I had to do was chill with a book in the comfort of my house, which was my favorite activity anyway.

The reading badge turned out not to be that easily obtained, however. If memory serves me correctly, I had to read a hundred books, most of them required. Lots of these books were Newbery Award winners. Many of them were classics. Most were long. Some of the titles I remember were Hittie:  Her First Hundred Years, Desiree, King of the Wind, Johnny Tremain, Adam of the Road, Caddie Woodlawn, Little Women, Black Beauty, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Pippi Longstocking, Robinson Crusoe. I remember sitting in the elementary school library, reading every chance I could.



Even though I was an avid reading before I decided to work on the badge, I benefitted in numerous ways from reading so many excellent books. My vocabulary increased, as did my understanding of diverse cultures and themes. Most of all, my love of reading grew exponentially. The more I read, the more I craved clever story lines, exquisite descriptions, fascinating characters.

I’m sure the reading badge contributed to my choosing to major in English and to teach high school English. More than likely, it inspired me to try my hand at writing, too.

I decided to see what the requirements are for the reading badge today, and here’s what I found out. Girl Scouts has modernized its “curriculum.” The options for badges, awards, and pins include more practical topics, like saving the environment, becoming financially literate, becoming a space science researcher, and leading in the digital world. See here for a complete list. A scout can earn a reading diva patch (see here), but so little is required that one could earn that in a week’s time.

At the risk of sounding like an anachronism, I’m sad that the opportunities afforded by the rigorous reading badge no longer exist for young girls. At the same time, I’m extremely grateful that I earned mine when I could.

Were you a big reader when you were younger? What were some of your most memorable books read?

 


Saralyn Richard’s award-winning humor- and romance-tinged mysteries and children's book pull back the curtain on people in settings as diverse as elite country manor houses and disadvantaged urban high schools. Saralyn’s most recent release is Bad Blood Sisters. A member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative writing and literature at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and continues to write mysteries. Her favorite thing about being an author is interacting with readers like you. Visit Saralyn here, on her Amazon page here, or on Facebook here.

 

 

Monday, June 20, 2022

Celebrating the Third Virtual Mystery in the Midlands with a Matching Game

by Paula Gail Benson

Longing to attend a writing conference? Here’s one that costs only $8!

On Saturday, July 16, from 10:30 am to 3:15 pm ET, the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and the Palmetto Chapter of Sisters in Crime, are proud to present their third virtual Mystery in the Midlands.

Our wonderful participants include keynote David Heska Wanbli Weiden, who will be interviewed by Hank Phillippi Ryan. In addition, three panels will be moderated by Dana Kaye. The panelists are Alan Orloff, Shawn Reilly Simmons, and Joseph S. Walker, talking about short stories; Daryl Wood Gerber, Raquel V. Reyes, and Abby L. Vandiver, talking about cozies; and Hallie Ephron, John Hart, and Hank Phillippi Ryan, talking about settings and suspense.

We would love for you to join us. You can register through this link.

If you can't attend the broadcast, by registering, you can watch the recording.

At $8, it's a bargain!

Following is a little game to match our participants with fun facts about them. See how much you know about our distinguished authors and check your results with the answers at the end.

Hope to see you on Saturday, July 16! Don't forget to register:

https://www.crowdcast.io/e/mystery-in-the-midlands-3/register

AUTHORS

1. Hallie Ephron

2. Daryl Wood Gerber

3. John Hart

4. Alan Orloff

5. Raquel V. Reyes

6. Hank Phillippi Ryan


7. Shawn Reilly Simmons

 8. Abby L. Vandiver

 9. Joseph S. Walker

 10. David Heska Wanbli Weiden

 

FUN FACTS

A. Has been to baseball games in 21 different major league parks

B. Edited Midnight Hour anthology

C. Cheese-phobic

D. Considered being a professional violinist

E. Has 2 rescue Bichon Frise dogs

F. Grew up among writers, but only reluctantly became one after age 40

G. In addition to a writing passion, loves riding a tractor

H. Successfully sued the CIA for information on a sunken Russian submarine

I. Worked as a parrot wrangler at a pet store

J. Has made over 30 fairy gardens



ANSWERS

1. F

2. J

3. G

4. C

5. I

6. H

7. D

8. B

9. A

10. E

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Getting Stronger

By Barbara J. Eikmeier

I lift weights. Twice a week my husband and I go to the gym. The nutritionist at the army health clinic told me about the weight training room. She said as we age it is important to do weight bearing exercises to keep our bones strong and joints limber. “Just go twice a week. Go in the middle of the day – there’s no one there at that time.”

Another year passed before I went. The catalyst was my annual cholesterol check. I begged for 6 months of diet and lifestyle changes before going on medication. Thus, the gym - and less wine and more veggies.

But there is another reason I started lifting weights. I had become weak. When I travel to give quilt presentations, I bring multiple suitcases stuffed with quilts, pushing the airlines 50-pound weight limit with those big bags. The check-in agent, eyeing my bags, would say, “put that up here” motioning with their chin to the scale. I’d laugh and say, “It’s not over 50 pounds because I can’t lift 50 pounds.” Each spring, when my travel season began it was true, I couldn’t lift 50 pounds, but as the trips added up, I could feel myself getting stronger. Yes, that may have been me holding up the line while pulling items from an overweight suitcase and stuffing them in my carry-on. Just by handling those heavy bags I became stronger. Strong enough to lift more than 50 pounds by the end of the season.

Then came Covid-19 and my work became a series of Zoom presentations. And I grew weak.

When my travels resumed, I lifted my bag onto the scale that first trip and it was heavy! I was visualizing what I could move to my carry-on bag just as the scale settled on 43 pounds. Only 43 pounds? I quickly moved shoes and jeans from my carry-on to the checked bag. That’s because I have another problem once I board the plane – getting my carry-on in the overhead bin. My rule is, if I can’t lift it myself, I must check it. But I’m 5’3” and it’s not a matter of strength as much as a matter of height. (At least that’s what I always tell the nice tall man in the aisle seat who jumps up to help me!)

The army gym is not a flashy place. It’s old, and kind of run down. I wish someone would sweep the floor. It’s often only the two of us there. It’s quiet, almost meditative. But when soldiers come in the atmosphere changes. They are young, and strong, and physically fit. They sweat and grunt and the weights come clanging down as they finish their routines. There’s a demand for the best machines and a polite toe taping or pacing when they must wait. Among the most popular machines is the leg press – it's for the quads and glutes. I like it. And the sit up machine. I like it too. And there is the Graviton machine. It’s meant to condition your arms to do pull ups. I can’t do a pull up. I’m not sure this machine can even help me get there. But I do it. Every time.

There is a less popular machine called the Overhead Press. My husband skips it. He explained, “I don’t think there is much benefit in that machine.” I said, “I hate this machine.” He asked, “Then why do you do it?” I said, “Watch my arms.” I lifted the weights over my head. He watched. I lowered the weights and said, “It’s the muscles used to put my carry-on in the overhead bin.”


The gym, even on the slowest days, is a good place to shop for character traits. There’s another older couple who come in wearing street clothes, and each do a few machines, talking the entire time. Their workout takes 10 minutes. Should that even count as a workout? Who am I to judge?

And there is a young woman who runs on the treadmill in the cardio room before lifting weights. Her dark hair is pulled back in a bouncy ponytail. I like following her on the weight circuit because she is my height, so our settings are the same.  I don’t know anything about her but in my writer’s mind she is an Army lawyer. She runs fast and lifts fast and is very focused.  

And there is a group of firefighters from the post fire station. They move from machine to machine keeping their hand radios within reach. Their big red firetruck is just outside the gym parked along the curb, ready to go at a moment's notice. One of them wears a bandanna around his head, Karate Kid style. Another harasses his buddy to speed it up on the Biceps machine. His buddy's response is to go slower.

And my favorite, the retired marine whose shaved head glistens with sweat when he works out. He looks intimidating – all muscle and sinew. He only does three machines but with many reps and huge stacks of weights. One day I asked him, “Do you alternate upper body and lower body workouts?” He smiled. Maybe you’ve heard the term ‘resting bitch face’? This guy has resting ‘fierce face’. He looks scary. But when the marine smiles his face will melt your heart a little. He shows his bright white teeth, his double dimples dimple and the deep creases in his forehead relax. And over that one question we became friends. He took me to the free weight room down the hall and taught me how to use a standing machine for an intense abs’ workout. He said, “You are a little short, but you are doing it perfectly.” He told me it’s easy to talk yourself into skipping the gym, like 90% of the people he knows. With that gorgeous grin he added, “Now if only I had a refrigerator that automatically locked at 6 pm, I’d be in good shape!”

I lift weights. I’m getting stronger and my character file is growing. What's your favorite place to shop for characters?

Barbara J. Eikmeier is a quilter, writer, student of quilt history, and lover of small-town America. Raised on a dairy farm in California, she enjoys placing her characters in rural communities.