Monday, December 31, 2018


I hope we are all suitably grateful to the people who introduced us to a love for words. One of my earliest memories, and, I suspect, the source of the first two words I spoke, is a story about "Dit" and "Dat," a pair of shoes. Mom made up the story for me and had to repeat it in many versions endless times throughout my young childhood.

My mother did not finish high school and never read just for pleasure. She probably thought she had no time for it. She did read her Bible, plus (aloud) the children's books my paternal grandmother, a committed reader, gave me--stories about Delicia, a rag doll, and Clementina, a flying pig, plus a fat book titled "Nursery Tales Children Love."  I still have these books.

Mom owned a copy of "Gone with the Wind," but never read it.  "Gone with the Wind," however, was the first adult book I read. It was my job to dust display shelves in our living room each Saturday and that book sat proudly on the bottom shelf between elaborate bronze bookends--gifts from my reading grandma.  I read a few pages of that book each Saturday. It wasn't long before I realized my mother would not consider this a story appropriate for a pre-teen, so I made sure she never knew what I was doing. If she did come my way I just closed the book and dusted it. It took me a long time to finish "Gone with the Wind" but it was worth the effort. I loved the magic and suspense in the story. (I'm sure the experience was enhanced by the necessary secrecy.)

I have often wondered if Mom was impressed by the thoroughness of my dusting, judging by the time it took me each Saturday.

Then there was Mrs. Maud L. McMullin, my sixth-grade teacher, who had us keep notebooks full of words. She wrote other people's words--poetry, witty and wise sayings, bits of essays--on the blackboard every day, and we copied them into our notebooks. Generally she didn't ask us to memorize them, but oh, what an impact they had.

Though I did write for publication a few times during my earlier years--essays and newspaper articles, plus editing a college newspaper--I didn't begin my real writing career until 1986, when an essay, "Where Hummingbirds Matter," was published internationally on the Home Forum Page of The Christian Science Monitor. After that acceptance I let the writing urge sweep me away. I wrote every spare moment and continued selling essays, poetry, and magazine articles. Many of these, arranged in story form, became part of my first book, the non-fiction "DEAR EARTH, A Love Letter from Spring Hollow," published by Brett Books, Inc. in New York in 1995. Introducing that book and traveling to publicize it was educational, and fun.

But, for some time I'd thought writing my favorite type fiction, the cozy mystery novel would be even more fun. Researching my first published mystery, "A Valley to Die For," was scary, particularly crawling through "Carrie's Cave." If I hadn't been accompanied by two female cave explorers who appeared to be fearless, I'd never have made it. Carrie's Cave is very real, but it is not located where I put it in the novel, though most locations in all of my eight novels are exactly as they appear when you visit them in Arkansas.  Real words. Real places. What fun!

(My novels and DEAR EARTH are available at on line sellers, many bookstores, and from

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas One and All from Marilyn Meredith

Yes, today is Christmas.

We did things a bit differently this year. We always have out family celebration on Christmas Eve. But this time we had our dinner at 1 in the afternoon, and opened present afterward. This was to accommodate granddaughter's hubby who need to take his family to another town to celebrate with family from Mexico who came to visit. Worked out well as some other family members had other places to go too. As far as hubby and I were concerned, no problem.

Early this a.m. we watched our great-grandchildren open their gifts always fun. And for dinner we had homemade tamales--one of the many pluses of having granddaughter's husband around. Plus s grandson who couldn't come yesterday arrived with his son.

Though things were different, we've had a wonderful Christmas celebration. Tell us about yours, or if you celebrated a different holiday, share that.


Friday, December 21, 2018

Christmas in a Few Days? No Way! Thought We Just Celebrated the Holidays

by Linda Thorne

Yeah, right, we did celebrate the holidays, but I need to look at a calendar to remind myself it’s been a full year.

Does it seem like Christmas comes sooner each year? As a child, I remember feeling like it took forever for Christmas time. As an adult, the holidays started coming sooner; now they seem to arrive every time I turn around.

The older I get the more time flies. Why?

I’ve heard that the more time and experience behind us, the faster new time will pass. If you browse the internet, you’ll come up with all sorts of explanations, but they seem to come down to one basic truth.

Our brain ciphers new experiences into memory, but not so much the familiar ones, so the repetitive events and experiences zoom by. As an example, I have lived in the same home for over ten years and every Tuesday night I've put out the garbage for pick up the next morning. This has become so routine, it’s like I’m not even alive when I do it, and “garbage night” seems to be here the next day rather than the full week it takes in actual time.

Now, if there’s a new experience connected with “garbage night,” then it seems to lodge itself in my past for a more realistic time frame. Like the time I got skunked while taking out the garbage. Time slowed and the period between that Tuesday evening and the next felt like the full calendar week it is rather than the day or two it seems like. The same thing happened when I dropped my house and car keys into the trashcan along with the garbage, only realizing what I'd done after garbage pick-up the next morning. 

The older we get, the more routine life becomes with less unfamiliar moments. Even our thoughts, daydreams, feelings of sadness and happiness, are experiences we’ve already been through.

When I started writing my debut novel, I thought I’d be done in a year or two. It was not completely polished until eight years later, and then not published until after ten, yet the whole process seemed like such a short period of my life.  

So, here we are again with Christmas in a matter of days, which feels to me like hours, and then New Years and then all of 2019.

So, my wish for all of you is a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We'll never again be as young as we are now, so let's make the most of every minute we have, be happy, and for heaven sake enjoy these holidays because they'll be here again before we know it.

What about you? Do you ever feel you’re chasing after time? Do you have big plans for 2019?

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Mary Sue and You - How Much of Ourselves Do We Put in Our Novels?

by Janis Patterson

One of the more peculiar kinds of book is known somewhat disparagingly as the Mary Sue. Although it can occur in any genre, it seems most prevalent in romance and marginally less so in mystery and usually but not always is the offering of a beginning or very amateurish writer. The generally accepted definition of a Mary Sue book is that the protagonist is always just too perfect – too beautiful/handsome, too smart, too brave, too kind, too loveable, too adored by everyone they meet, too… everything. Obviously most of the time this is just a bit of wish fulfillment and self-projection by an unskilled author. Yes, there are professional authors who indulge in this fantasy trip, but thankfully they are rare.

On the other hand, some don’t believe a writer can create a believable character without putting a little of themselves into the mix. It is this touch of humanity that makes the character live. So when we are creating our characters, how much of yourself do you put into your people? I’ve asked this of a lot of writers and have gotten answers ranging from ‘nothing at all’ to ‘a passion for ripe olives’ to ‘she’s my Aunt Clarissa.’

I know that writers are all different, but I do believe that most writers tend to make their protagonist the same sex as themselves. While there are some who do write the opposite sex both beautifully and believably, doesn’t the basic denominator of sex itself color our writing? A well-crafted male character will have a different view of and reaction to the world than an equally well-crafted female character, no matter by which sex they are written. 

While I am neither, I have written 20 year old protagonists and 80 year old protagonists, but at the base of their character is the fact that they are women and that basic fact of femaleness does a great deal to shape them.

I’m not going to go into sex stereotypes, which is its own minefield, but say again that what and who we are has to influence the characters we create. As an experiment, we should take the skeletal description of a character – for example, a 35 year old widowed single mother of three who is a welder, who used to want to be a nun and who is allergic to peanuts – and then ask five or ten authors to flesh the character out by writing a couple of scenes. Other than those skeleton points, I wonder how much any of the characters created would resemble each other.

To offer up my own work, my main protagonists are human (as I am), are female (as I am), are Caucasian (as I am), are politically and socially conservative (as I am), are generally tall (as I am not but wish I were) and reasonably intelligent (as I hope I am). Other than that they run the gamut from demure 19th century librarian to arrogant and opinionated old lady to wildly courageous contemporary spy and, should they ever meet, would probably have nothing of substance to say to each other.

I’m not saying that every writer should have something of herself in her characters. Neither am I saying that no writer should ever put anything of herself in her characters. I am instead offering for thought that a part of ourselves does live in our characters, that it cannot help but do so. Our job as writers, though, is to keep Mary Sue at a distance and let our characters shine as themselves.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Heading Toward the New Year: 2019

It doesn't seem possible, does it? 2018 is coming to an end. My writing year was filled with hurdles to jump and decisions to make.

A friend urged me to re-edit all my old books that needed to be self-published. I did so, and she did all the work formatting both for print and e-books, and her husband redid the covers. Of course this took a long time, but was well worth it.

The publisher of my Rocky Bluff P.D. series passed away, the already faltering publishing company closed. For a while I wasn't sure what to do. Aakenbaaken & Kent offered to pick up the series--I was overjoyed. I was asked to re-edit the first four books in the series, which I did. The were repubbed on Amazon with new covers--and the latest in the series, Tangled Webs, was published in November.

Mundania published my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series and they decided the first four book in the series should be re-edited and have new covers.  Any all of you writers know how much time it takes to edit any book--and I was faced with doing four more. Of course this meant, the latest in the series was put on hold.

The publisher had a problem with a computer crash, so everything has slowed down. I suspect I'm going to be quite busy in 2019 promoting the first four books in the Tempe Crabtree series, and hopefully the latest which is done but not edited as yet.

So what does this mean for me as 2018 winds down? More time to write, and even better, more time to enjoy the holidays with my family.

What about you? Any big plans for the holidays ahead? And if you're a writer, what are you looking forward to in 2019?

Marilyn, who also writes as F. M. Meredith.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Krista Lyn, author of Nora Pigeon

Make Mine Mystery 
December 5, 2018

by L Lee Kane

I’d like to introduce you to my friend,  fellow author, and artist as my guest this month, Krista Lynn. I'm excited to share her new book, The Nora Pigeon Mysteries with quirky characters that are reminiscent of Agatha Christie novels. The three short stories have strong appeal, exciting plot lines, beautiful scenes, and interesting dialog. If you’re looking for a cozy read this winter, in front of a fireplace, glass of wine in hand, this is the book for you.

Tell us about The Nora Pigeon Mysteries:
From helping her best friend sort out a deadly family drama to exonerating a woman charged with killing her husband with a dousing switch, to solving the theft of precious ancient runes, Nora Pigeon never fails to find the truth. Using her “ancient forms of inquiry,” and a crew of human and canine friends, Nora stays one step ahead of law enforcement and forever in the way of her beloved and often exasperated nephew - Sheriff’s Detective, Thomas J. Pigeon. 

Who did you write your book for?
The original story, Blue Moon Blues was written to enter a mystery contest. It won for best new author, I’m happy to say. So, the intended audience from the start were people who like whodunits. As the character and stories continued to come to me, I knew they were perfect for the Cozy Mystery genre. If one likes Agatha Christies’ Miss Marple, and enjoys humor and dogs and clever plots, then Nora Pigeon is a good bet for an engaging read.

Is there a central message in your book?
Friendship. Believing in the good of people and sometimes looking beyond the surface to find that goodness. And for fun, Nora uses what her detective nephew, Thomas, calls those “ancient forms of inquiry.”

If you had to choose, what would you say is the single most important idea you're sharing in your book that is
really going to add value to a reader’s life?
This series showcases characters in several occupations that are interesting. One story, Blue Moon Blues, highlights an author who writes urban fantasy and almost falls prey to relatives who want to take advantage of her success in publishing. The next story, The Doused Witch, revolves around ‘Water Witching,’ which is the practice of finding water with a forked branch from a tree. That story relates how water ownership is often the source of conflict that can cause violence. And the last tale, The Rune of Her, is about the importance of ancient artifacts being kept in the country where they are found.
Each story is a ‘Cozy’ with quirky characters, and rascally dogs!

If you could compare this book with any book we might already be familiar with, which book would it
be and why?
There aren’t too many characters like Nora Pigeon! But I like the “A Tourist Trap” novellas series by Lynn Cahoon. A Deadly Brew is a good story in that series.
Tell us about the central characters in the book?
Nora Pigeon is my version of the mature mystery-solver—a well-known psychic and healer who uses various ‘mediums’ to ferret out the truth when a crime is committed. Nora, and her partner, Francine Bayley, co-own Pigeon and Bayley’s Arcane Treasures Shoppe where one can purchase items of magic and the occult. While Nora is famous as a psychic and healer with an aura of calm composure, Francine, just shy of four feet in height, with wild curly hair and scattered focus, is known for her knowledge of ancient runes and Nordic culture. Together, Nora and “Frannie” re-opened the shop and imbue it with the spell of friendship and magic.
Nora’s best friend and cohort in many of her ‘cases’ is the famous urban fantasy author, Cassandra Cartwright, who is always up for one of Nora’s ‘investigative’ jaunts. And to round out Nora’s human cohorts, we have Nora’s oft-frustrated nephew, Thomas Pigeon, who is a Sheriff’s detective. He loves his aunt dearly, but wishes she would just let him solve a case by himself.
Then, there are the dogs – two Great Danes, Odin and Thor, and one mischievous Yorkie who lives to leave his mark on the shoes of selected victims. His nickname is Kipper the Pee-Shooter. In each case, Nora’s canine assistants are integral in crime solving.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since publishing your work?
Two great experiences come to mind right away. 1, receiving good reviews from my efforts! It is so rewarding when someone leaves a good comment, or tells you in person that they liked your book. And 2, getting to know other writers, enjoying their friendship and working together to make the most out of our writing endeavors.

If someone wrote a book about your life, what would the title be?
Krista Lynn: One very lucky person

How would you describe your writing style?
I’m not sure how one answers this question. I write how I do, and the ‘style’ is just how I write, LOL. Some say I write ‘lyrically,’ which I take to mean - with a poetic bent in description. I do think that is true of my Haunted Canyon series. To put the reader into the world of the Sonoran Desert where the story takes place, I would be remiss if I didn’t describe the desert as something wildly beautiful. J
In the Nora series, I dive right into dialog and character development. I adore the characters and it is really true, as other authors have told me that characters write themselves – they are the muses that keep the author’s fingers on the keyboard. I’m so looking forward to writing a Nora novella. I’m sure she and Thomas will enjoy telling me what to write!

Who influenced your writing the most?
M.M. Kaye, Tony Hillerman, Bronte sisters, Daphne Du Maurier, Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane – all authors that I admire. Linda Howard’s Death Angel inspired to write my first story based on a character in that book. Death Angel and Cry No More by Linda Howard influenced me a lot.
Are your characters pure fiction, or did you draw from people you know?
The characters in the Canyon Series were inspired by people I knew in my youth. Those in Nora Pigeon series are probably fashioned after many people I’ve known over time. That’s the way it is for a writer, I think. Every character, setting, and circumstance is borrowed to some degree from real-life experiences.

Are you more of a character artist or a plot-driven writer?
I don’t think you can have one without the other. I write for the characters, but if they don’t have a reason, a challenge, a mystery to be going on with – then why do they exist? So, I try to make my stories have interesting characters in the middle of interesting plots.
For instance, The Nora Pigeon Mysteries. The characters resonate with readers, but reviews of the stories always mention the mystery, the plot, as well. In each of the short stories in this anthology, the plot involves psychic elements. Nora uses her ancient Ouija Board or Tarot Cards, or Runes.
At the start of the series, I knew very little about Tarot Cards or runes and did quite a bit of research so I could show Nora’s expertise. As a child, we used the Ouija Board to try and find the gold purportedly hidden in the hills of Arizona after a 1902 stagecoach robbery (true story!) Of course, we found no gold, but had a lot of fun with the Ouija. By the way, did you know that Ouija is a combination of the word yes? French ‘oui’, and German ‘ja’?
For research, I dusted off a deck of Tarot cards that I bought in Paris years ago and started to study them. Now, at least once a week, I do a quick study of one or two of the cards. Did you know that our standard deck of playing cards is related to the Tarot?
The runes are probably the most interesting to me because in addition to their relationship to nature and human emotions, they also relate to letters in our alphabet. For over a thousand years, runes have been used to tell the future, to see the truth of a situation, and to leave written ‘inscriptions’ on their homes, gravestones and other surfaces such as bone and wood.
It’s been so much fun researching and using these three implements in Nora’s stories. They are all intricate parts of each plot.
Who should buy this book?
Lovers of cozy mysteries will enjoy Nora Pigeon. Those who love Miss Marple and Poirot will ‘get’ these humorous mysteries.

Where can readers find you and your book?

 Nora Pigeon uses her psychic gifts to help law enforcement.
Whether they want it or not!
One woman scientist  +  One mysterious deputy sheriff  One haunted canyon  = 
   More puzzling clues than science can unravel.


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Where to Write - An Experiment

by Janis Patterson

I’m lucky. I have an office. Well, that’s a bit grandiose. I have a tiny desk against one wall in our very small guest room. There’s also a very good sort-of ergonomic chair with good back support, a printer stand, a ceiling fan and a radio/CD player. Of course, there’s also a double bed, dresser, chest of drawers and all the other regular guest room paraphernalia. Yes, it’s crowded, but it is mine, and there are two doors I can close against the intrusions of the outside world. It’s also a great big step up from my days of using the dining room table.
Lately, though, I’ve been hearing a lot about going ‘someplace else’ to write. Some swear by trendy coffee shops, others cafes, others parks… just about anyplace that isn’t their home or office. I can see this, if your home or office is noisy, interruptive, non-existent or in some other way unconducive to the business of writing. Being of an experimentive nature, though, I decided to test it – several times, in fact, with a good friend who also writes.
Hmmm. It wasn’t altogether a success. Out in the world, a world full of distractions, I wasn’t able to concentrate as well and found myself missing points I had intended to use in the scenes I wrote. Neither was it pleasant working on what I call my purse computer, a small netbook purchased mainly for travel or for inescapable waiting times such as at the garage or doctor’s office.
I also felt something like a zoo exhibit. One of the places we went to write – a favorite restaurant owned by a long-time friend – was very gracious about having us there. There was a nice-sized corner table, an attentive staff who kept refilling our iced tea, and nice air-conditioning. There was also constant music, much louder than I prefer and not to my working taste. (This was salsa, which normally I like, but I prefer to write to classical, if to any music at all.) Our host had teased about putting out a sign saying ‘Please Do Not Feed The Writers’ but he didn’t, probably since I had threatened him with his life if he did.
Still, I feel something had leaked out, for many patrons took the long way around to the rest room, all passing close to our table and staring as they did so. The recurring movement and attention was most distracting. 
On a more concrete level, a table meant for eating is a different height from a desk, giving your arms and wrists a different and ultimately very tiring angle. I learned that lesson in the years I had to use the dining room table, and it was one of the reasons I bought a real desk. And a separate ergonomic keyboard, as the tiny straight keyboard on my writing laptop (to say nothing of the netbook!) are much too small for comfort.
The true deal-breaker, though, was the chair. Restaurant and coffee shop chairs are not made for real comfort in the long term. My back, injured long ago and held together pretty much with spit and baling wire, loves being pampered by my ergonomic chair with the adjustable back support. It does not like hours spent working in a commercial dining chair and was very definite in letting me know its displeasure. Or maybe I’m just a wuss, but no place I went to write was very comfortable – all of which showed in my work, I’m sure. 
I don’t know how my friend’s output was, save that she was satisfied with it, but I wasn’t impressed by mine at all. I produced less than half of what I would have in the same time in my office, and the chapters I wrote while away needed much more revision than any produced at home.
Was it a waste of time? No, not completely. I enjoyed lunching with my friend, as I always do, and the afternoons spent writing ‘away’ were pleasurable, but if anything they proved that – for me, at least – they are ‘hobby’ and not professional sessions. In the future if I want to meet a friend for lunch, I will, and I will eat and drink and enjoy it. If I want to work, I will go in to my office and work. A social occasion is a social occasion and work is work.
I realize that my situation is optimum – a home office, however cramped, with all the tools I need to follow my profession. Not everyone has these luxuries, and I applaud those who strive on and write whatever situation they face. When one does have an office, though, it seems counterproductive to go write ‘away.’ Again, I speak only for myself. Everyone has to find their own path for writing. Mine is in my office with my back-pampering chair and my ergonomic keyboard, both doors closed and soft classical music playing. The most important thing for every writer, however, is producing the words. However, wherever – whatever works best.