Thursday, November 24, 2016


by Jackie King

Thanksgiving is the perfect time for reminiscing and for remembering family stories. These generational memories are often centered around cooking and good food, and these special tales of family history should be treasured and never forgotten.

Here is a yarn spun for the pleasure of all gathered at a festive Thanksgiving meal celebrating God’s abundance and goodness. Such true stories cry out to be told and retold.  
June Butts with Sofia her Great Granddaugter
June Butts with her grandson, Jamie Horn

Memories of Papa Peeling Pecans for the Grandkids

 “We called our grandfather, Papa,” June Butts, now a great grandmother herself, said. “Back in those days different generations of the family lived in the same house, and it was wonderful to grow up with an older person who had the time to tell stories and to teach us kids about the generations past. I think maybe that’s one reason why families were closer back then.”

 The comely woman smiled and the faraway look that came into her blue eyes told me she had transported herself back to South Texas and a simpler life sometime in the 1950’s.

 “We had a pecan tree and Papa peeled pecans for the kids. We’d sit in a circle at his feet, listen to his tales, and eat the perfectly shelled and halved nuts as he passed them around.”

 “Peeled pecans?” I asked, trying to imagine how such a feat might be possible. “How could he peel pecans?”

 It was Thanksgiving Day and I had been invited to join June’s family for a traditional dinner of turkey, dressing and all of the trimmings. We were sitting around the table drinking coffee and savoring that mellow sated satisfaction that fills a group of friends during happy times.

 “With his pocket knife,” June said.

 “His pocket knife?” I asked. “You’re kidding.”

 “I’m not!” June’s robust laugh was typical of a woman who was Texas born and bred. “He peeled those pecans just the same way you’d peel an orange. He’d slice off the top and the bottom, cut slits around the nuts and then just peel off the hulls. Those pecans came out in perfect halves and he’d hand them to us kids.”

 “That must have been one sharp knife,” I said, wondering how he kept from cutting off his fingers.

 “That it was,” June said. “And he could peel those nuts really fast. Sometimes he’d peel enough for Mama to make us some pies.” She sighed with remembered pleasure. “Mmm—mmm—mmm, those pies were good! We never had much money, but we had happy times, anyway. God was always good to my family.”

 “I’ll bet you learned to cook from your own mother,” I said.

 “Sure did. Mama and Daddy had eleven kids, and I was helping stir up dinner as soon as I could hold a spoon and stand on a stool to reach the table.”

 It happened that we were drinking Texas Pecan flavored coffee. I took a sip of the hot brew and savored the rich flavor. Pecans, family and holidays equal pure pleasure, I thought. Everyone sitting at the table owned their own cell phones and computers, but some things never change. The memory of “peeled pecans,” outranked any of the electronic pleasures available to the diners.

Only the delicious food that we shared stayed the same.


Loretta Carson’s Pecan Pie

1 Scant cup sugar

1 cup dark Karo Syrup

3 eggs

3 Tablespoons melted butter or margarine

Pinch salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup pecans

Beat eggs and sugar until blended. Add Karo syrup and mix well, then add melted butter, salt, vanilla and pecans. Mix well and pour into 9 inch unbaked pie crust. Bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. Turn heat down to 325 degrees and bake for 35 minutes. (Center will be set.)

Happy Thanksgiving to All

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Chasing the Blues by Writing

November 9, 2016

I have a bad case of the Blues today. Better than last night around midnight, but still feeling sad. In my struggle to avoid a gloomy day, I searched my memory for a happier time.
A conversation held at a Malice Domestic Conference sprang to mind. A guy who happened to be another cozy mystery writer said, “My whole day goes better if I write.”

“Really?” I said, “So does mine.” The other authors gathered with us agreed.

So today, in pursuit of a lighter heart, I sat my fine broad butt in the chair in front of my computer and continued working on my newest project. This cozy mystery has the working title of CORPSE IN THE SAGEBRUSH. It’s set in the Oklahoma Panhandle a little farther west than my just published suspense novel MURDER AT THE EDGE OF NOWHERE.
Sunset on the Plains
Photo by Rhonda Smith Hodges

These two books are very different, but my therapy will be the same: Telling a story from my heart.

Here’s wishing all my readers and fellow authors that their day be filled with joy.


Jackie King

Saturday, October 29, 2016


by June Shaw

I love to sell material I write. I really do. Getting to write and have something published was tremendously gratifying. It was when I first began.

Things have changed.

Yes, I'm still thrilled to learn that anyone would want to read something I create. It's especially pleasing when readers tell me or write that they enjoy my work and even ask for more. That is so exciting!

Exciting, too, is getting paid for words I write. The first essay I sold to a magazine many years ago brought me forty dollars. I was a widow with five young children, and receiving extra money, especially for words that I wrote, was unbelievable.

Over the years now I have written a number of books, had a great time doing it, and earned much more than in earlier times.

I've also enjoyed nonprofit writing. A number of years ago the president of our Chamber of Commerce asked if I would write a column on retiring in our area. There would be no pay, but I could advertise my books in my byline. It would not need to be any longer than five hundred words. "And you can write that in your sleep," she added.

She was right. I've penned "Retiring on the Bayou" for quite awhile now. I've interviewed people and told of their exciting pursuits since they left their nine-to-five jobs.

But now it's time for mine. I just finished a column for the paper and started it by saying it would be my last. They should easily find someone else to create a different column. I will have more time to write my novels--but I'll miss having so many people in town tell me how much they enjoy my columns.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Characters That Form Our Lives

and Later Come Alive in Our Stories

by Jackie King
One of my earliest memories is sitting in a circle with my brother, sister and various neighbor kids as my mother told us stories. Delia Hodges Sprague could spin a yarn about any character or characters we might name. Let’s say that I wanted a story about Cinderella, my sister Joan wanted the heroine to be Wonder Woman and my brother J.D., chose Tarzan of the Apes.
No problem to Mother. She’d create one tale using each of these characters. The story would be exciting and it would make sense. At least to kids.

Delia Hodges Sprague was a storyteller, an actress, a teacher and a sometimes writer. This redheaded dynamo was smart, fun and very temperamental. My childhood was sometimes difficult, sometimes frightening and always challenging. But life was never boring.

Mother taught me to read, and when there was nothing to read, to make up stories inside my head and entertain myself with imaginary friends and foes.

Delia Hodges Sprague is often found in my books. Sometimes she’s in the guise of a father, a mother or a best friend. In my latest mystery, MURDER AT THE EDGE OF NOWHERE set in the land of her childhood, the Oklahoma Panhandle, she’s walks and breathes in the character of Winnie Doolittle.
$3.99 at Amazon Kindle
Delia faced real danger with lionhearted courage: she rode boxcars from Oklahoma to New York state at the age of 20, challenged rattlesnakes in my grandparents pasture and tarantulas in the outhouse of a country school. But small things shattered her: imagined slights, walking into her bank to ask for a loan or having a conversation with her own father.

When I was a child she often awoke screaming bloody murder from recurrent nightmares; battled depression her entire life and fought breast cancer until her death. She was an extraordinary woman of courage. I loved her with all my heart. But she wasn’t an easy mother to have.

To see the best side of Delia Hodges Sprague, read MURDER AT THE EDGE OF NOWHERE, and observe Winnie Doolittle. To see the more complicated side of my mother, notice Emily Ashcroft.

Most everyone loved my mother—especially me. I hope you’ll enjoy her as Winnie Doolittle in MURDER ON THE EDGE OF NOWHERE

Below is a clipping from the end of chapter two after Liz O’Brien and Winnie Doolittle find cousin Christabel in Liz’s garage:

“Help!” Liz screamed. “Oh, my God. Someone. Anyone. Please help.” They stretched Christabel on the grass.

“Won’t do no good to yell.” Winnie’s voice was cold, toneless. “You know how to do that resuscitation thing?”

Liz forced herself to press her mouth against Christabel’s cold lips. Her gut twisted. Why didn’t someone drive by? She alternated the breathing routine with chest compression for what seemed forever, but she knew it was useless. Christabel was unresponsive. Liz felt for a pulse. Nothing.

“You might as well quit.” Winnie pulled at Liz’s shoulder. “She’s dead. We’ll have to call the police and tell them she killed herself.”

“But that’s crazy. Christabel would never commit suicide. Nothing could make me think that.”

“Oh, hell, Liz. Don’t be stupid. I’m not telling you what to think. I’m telling you what to say.”

Thursday, October 13, 2016


by Jackie King

Yesterday I received galley proofs of my latest mystery, MURDER AT THE EDGE OF NOWHERE. The odd thing in up-to-date publishing trends, at least with my small regional publisher, is that the ebook came out a few weeks ago. I’ve been reading this version and have been appalled at some of the errors. Did I do that? I ask myself, or was it the publisher’s editor, the publisher himself?

It doesn’t really matter. It’s my book, and I accept all responsibility for any mistakes. Which is what Galley Proofs are all about. The last ditch chance to catch and correct mistakes. 
For those who don’t know, Galley Proofs are pages of the novel sent to me online. I print them out on paper, or do a final $3.99 at Amazonedit on a copy online. My choice. 

The good news is that this means the paper version will soon be available.

Jackie at Work on Galley Proofs

And that’s what I’m doing just now—or it will be as soon as I finish this post. And according to both my calendar and my watch, I’d better get at it. Now!



Thursday, September 22, 2016

My Latest Mystery--Suspense, Not Cozy

MURDER AT THE EDGE OF NOWHERE, is now available on Amazon Kindle!

Embezzlement, Blackmail and Murder
On the Oklahoma Panhandle!
When Liz O’Brien returns home to make peace with her ailing mother, she expects boredom and monotony. Instead, she finds a morass of secrets that land her in the crosshairs of a killer. Who would have thought that Tumbleweed, an Oklahoma panhandle town so tiny it could disappear as a mirage, would be rift with embezzlement, blackmail and murder?

Plus: The romantic designs of handsome cowboy from her past, really throw Liz for a loop.

Here’s how the story begins:



“Everyone has something they want to hide, but you have more than most.” Christabel Steele flipped her hair backwards, a movement that she knew accentuated her beauty. She pictured her sleek, golden hair fanning in practiced perfection over her right shoulder. The gesture usually mesmerized men and annoyed women. But today her quarry’s eyes glazed with fear. Christabel licked her lips, savoring the moment. Like an antelope caught in underbrush. But instead of blood, I’ll taste money.

Emotional pain radiated from her dupe, and Christabel drew strength from the suffering. Her earliest memory was watching her father suck marrow from a steak bone while he skillfully tormented her pliable mother. Without so much as raising his voice, the man could cause his beautiful, gentle wife to turn pale as moonlight and cry like a baby. Christabel had watched and learned. Daddy had been dead five years now, but she still worshipped him. He had taught her well.

“I still have trouble understanding how you found out.”

“You mention that each time you come, and my answer never changes.” Christabel laughed. “Your tawdry little secret was clear to me from the beginning. I saw and recorded every detail in my journals.” Christabel swirled the half-filled champagne glass, never moving her gaze from her prey. “I’ve kept notes on what I’ve seen for a very long time. I started back in the second grade when I got in trouble for tellin     g people’s secrets.”

“You’ve been a monster since a child! A bad seed.”

“Oh, please.” Christabel licked her lips again, savoring her victim’s pain, which was stronger than she had expected.

“And you think people will continue paying forever?” The prey’s voice tightened and Christabel’s lips curved higher.

“Well you have, haven’t you?” Christabel moved her body sensuously against the sofa. “And not just in cash.” Her enjoyment intensified as the person’s misery grew. “I never tell my victims everything I know about their little indiscretions. A pinch of uncertainty adds excitement to the hunt. Then, the slightest hint of knowledge and you all get the same stricken look on your faces—like an antelope just before a mountain lion pounces. I watched that once on TV.”

The victim flinched and Christabel laughed.

“Growing up, I watched my parents carefully. I inherited Mother’s beauty, and Daddy’s brain. I learned how to get what I wanted by mirroring him.” Christabel smiled. “Knowing is power and power is even better than sex.”

“You’d do this even if cash wasn’t involved, wouldn’t you?”

Christabel arched an eyebrow. This one was smarter than she’d thought. “Perhaps. My family has run Tumbleweed since the late 1800s. We’ve always called the shots here—my father before me and his father before him. I like making people dance to my tune. And I like the money.”

Her life was perfect.

Then she remembered Liz. Why the hell hadn’t her cousin stayed in Tulsa where she belonged? Everyone claimed the bitch had been a huge success. Crashed through the glass ceiling and became VP of some company. Now she’d returned and wanted her house to herself.

She’d hated her cousin forever! It was Liz’s fault she’d gotten pregnant and had that embarrassing baby with his brown skin.

Christabel flicked her tongue across her scarlet lips remembering the night a heartbroken Liz had eloped on the rebound to marry that worthless Danny O’Brien. I thought she was gone forever. Oh, the hell with her.

Christabel took another swallow of the expensive wine. Her victim always brought the finest. She frowned and sniffed the glass. She had left the room for only a moment in order to carry that wretched cat upstairs and lock the beast in Liz’s room. Could there be something in the champagne? Christabel smiled. Impossible. Too much fear. “You brought the money?” She held out a small aristocratic hand. “All of it?”

“Yes.” Her victim sat quietly, and the quietness annoyed Christabel. She sipped the champagne again. Of course, it tasted the same; it was her fourth glass. She drained the flute, then smiled. She’d finish the whole bottle and offer none to her prey. Daddy had taught her how to hold her liquor and how to keep victims in their place.

“You promise not to tell?”

“If you pay, I never tell.” Christabel let contempt curl her lips upward, then enjoyed the resentment mirrored on the victim’s face. Christabel laughed. “At least, I haven’t yet.”

The room grew suddenly warm. The fragile stemmed glass weighed heavily in her hand and her head spun. What was happening to her?

A black pistol appeared from a pocket as if by magic, grasped by the visitor’s white-knuckled fingers. “Sit still.” The voice was hard and angry and not a bit frightened.

“What the hell...?” Christabel asked. It took her a minute to regroup. She narrowed her eyes. “Don’t be an idiot. You shoot me and your sins become public. My cousin Liz will give my journals to the police. You won’t be able to pay her to stay silent. Miss Perfect wouldn’t take a bribe to save her own life.”

“I’m here now, and I’ll find the books before she comes home.”

“Books? I quit writing on paper years ago.” Christabel’s words started to slur. “Even if you find my old journals and smash my iPad, there are tiny things called thumb drives you’ll never find.”

“I’ll take the chance.” Her visitor reached into the same pocket and pulled out a plastic bag, passing it to Christabel. “Put that over your head.”

“You think I’m crazy?” Christabel felt even dizzier. Her eyelids were heavy. If only she could close them for a minute, she’d be all right…back in control.

“If you don’t do what I say, I’m going to shoot off one side of your face.”

Not her face, her beautiful face! This couldn’t be happening. She was the hunter. She had never been prey.

“I won’t kill you. I’ll just take off one cheekbone. I’ll even call 911 before I leave. Only, no man will ever look at you again. Your outside will be as ugly as your inside. That’d be worth going to jail for.”

The image so terrified Christabel that she slipped the bag over her head, leaving the bottom open to breathe through. She’d stall. Keep talking. She’d think of a way to get the edge. She always did, just as Daddy always had.

Her visitor walked behind her and put the barrel of the pistol against her face. Christabel sat still, not daring to move. She felt fingers reach forward and tighten the bag around her neck. The gun seemed like ice against her skin.

Christabel drew in a sharp breath, and then the plastic shrink-wrapped her mouth. She couldn’t raise her hand, and she couldn’t breathe! She might really die! For the first time, she knew what fear meant, then blind terror.

The last sound Christabel heard was glass shattering when the champagne flute slipped from her fingers.
Print copies will be available soon!

Saturday, September 10, 2016


by June Shaw

I'm breathing. Just breathing. And actually moving my fingers over the keyboard right now to pen this blog. The reason I'm allowing myself time to just breathe--actually, relax and do whatever I want to, even if it's nothing--is because I just finished writing my newest book.

I finished writing it!

Okay, not really. What I've done is complete my second book in the upcoming series, and then I rewrote and revised and edited three times. Day before yesterday I sent it to an excellent beta reader, so it's in her hands now. I need to get it to my editor at Kensington by October 1. Soon after that I'll have to start on the third book in the twin-sisters series they want.

Once book number two, called DEAD ON THE BAYOU comes back to me from my sweet beta reader I'll need to revise it again before the 1st. 

And of course once my editor gets the book at the publishing house, I'll need to do bits of revising again.

In the meantime, I'm going to just breathe. Maybe take a nap.

What do you do once you finish a book?