Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Boxing Day to All Readers!

When I was young you could buy a paperback book for 35 cents. Of course it was much harder to come up with 35 cents back in those days, but it was still a good price. At least for a bibliophile like me. And this love for books led to my becoming an anglophile. Let’s just say that I’m a lover of all good things.

Back in the mid-fifties we teenagers would hang out in the local drugstore. These were magical places for me, because those four walls contained all of the things I loved best. A soda fountain where they made everything from scratch, even Cokes; makeup including the latest fads in eye shadow (blue back then), lipstick and nail polish (the rage was Fire and Ice and was the reddest red you have ever seen); and most importantly: BOOKS! Racks and racks of paperback books.

There was always a sign posted that said, “THIS IS NOT A LIBRARY, BOOKS ARE FOR SALE ONLY.” Of course most of us ignored that. The owners didn’t run me out because I always bought something before I left.

It was there, when I was about 18, that I discovered my beloved Agatha Christie. The first book I happened on to was MURDER IN THE VICERAGE, and I was instantly addicted. I went on to read and reread every book that she had written. Something about her style relaxed me when I was anxious, comforted me when I was hurt and brought a good deal of pleasure to my life.

Through her books I learned of Boxing Day, a bank holiday in England. For a long time I thought it had something to do with pugilism, and I wondered why it came right after Christmas. Eventually I learned it referred to Christmas gifts and a day off for the hired help.

Historians don’t agree on how this holiday originated, although some say the tradition began in England in the Middle Ages. Servants, of course, had to work on Christmas Day, so on the day after left-overs from the huge feasts of the rich were boxed up and sent with the worker-bees as they visited their families. It seems that tradesmen also followed this tradition for their help.

The idea of an extra holiday in celebration of a Christmas Box, or gift, seems wonderful to me, and this Yankee is going to celebrate it. I invite all and sundry to join me…Yanks, Brits, and all readers.

Happy Boxing Day to all readers!



Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Jack Carston and Me

My last contribution featured a spoof interview in which a good friend, the highly talented and incisive journalist Sara Bain, asked questions of my detective, Jack Carston. It started me thinking about my own relationship with him. I’ve known him for about 20 years now and I think he’s getting ready to retire. He first came into my head in the early 90s and now, 5 books later, the compromises he’s had to make are beginning to get to him.

He started because the UK publisher, Piatkus, liked a stand alone thriller my agent had sent them but wanted a police procedural instead, so I set about writing Material Evidence. The ending/solution was based on an actual case I read about in a book on forensic medicine, but the interest came from Carston and the team I found around him. I say ‘I found’ and that seems to be how it was. They all emerged, with their tics, foibles, ways of speaking and relationships ready formed.

Carston himself is curious about things, a creative thinker; he’s interested in people but routines bore and frustrate him. His opinion of some of his superiors is relatively low but his wife, Kath, makes sure that his self-esteem doesn’t get so high as to make him obnoxious. In fact, the love and humour in their marriage is one of the strongest themes running through the books.

Why did he choose to join the police? Well, he’s always wondering what makes people (including himself) tick and likes solving puzzles. At first he joined because he was idealistic and wanted to be on the side of the good guys – but the job has made him more aware that ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are relative terms, especially when it comes to people’s motives for what they do. His high success rate derives from the fact that he’s not only fascinated by people, he cares about them, too. He’s not obviously ‘flawed’, has no particular rituals, doesn’t drive a flash car, and his only addiction is his wife. He has a temper, is sometimes childish, doesn’t tolerate fools, despises people who don’t respect the rights of others and is driven mainly by compassion.

I’ve followed him through five books so far and, without any conscious plan on my part, he’s definitely evolved – and in a specific direction. The job has taken him more deeply into the psyches of other people (and his own) and, if he had any moral certainties to start with, he certainly doesn’t now. When I first wrote about him, he solved the case by using the testimony of the various suspects to get into the mind of the victim. The picture he saw there was pretty bleak. But the way he did it – using the physical evidence, but building a picture of who the dead woman was – told me I was dealing with someone who trusted his insights into behaviours. In the next book, things were clearer because there was a definite ‘baddie’. Even then, though, the murders and the motives were surprising and not at all clear cut.

It was The Darkness that signalled the real change. He found himself sympathising with someone who was living a normal life helping others but who was also guilty of very serious crimes. It had quite an impact on him and when, in book four, Shadow Selves, his investigations brought him in contact with highly intelligent people in a university and hospital, the pettiness, self-importance and corrupt nature of some of the people there put another dent in his certainties.

And in the latest book, Unsafe Acts, at the same time as he’s trying to solve two murders and unravel a plot to sabotage an offshore platform, a vindictive superior officer decides he’s had enough of Carston’s unconventional approaches and he faces a charge of indiscipline. It makes him wonder whether he should actually leave the force.

I’m not yet sure of the answer to that, but I will be when I start book six, which might well be the last in the series.

Oh, and seeing that it’s Christmas Eve, compliments of the season from Scotland.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Spider Mountain Isn't Really a Mountain at All

My first audio book was just released, a novel for 9-12 year-olds. Mystery of Spider Mountain is a semi-autobiographical novel based on my childhood, growing up in the Hollywood Hills where, if you climbed high enough, you could see the Pacific Ocean.

Spider Mountain was home to all sorts of crawling creatures, including trapdoor spiders which my brothers and I watched spin hinged doors to hide their homes in the ground. There were also a few tarantulas that had escaped Central American banana boats that docked at southern California ports 

But Spider Mountain isn't a mountain at all, although it appeared so from the vantage points of my four younger  brothers and me. We lived at the foot of the large hill and wondered who lived in the mysterious house at our mountain's summit. It was surrounded by huge evergreen trees and we could hear dogs barking at night, imagining them the size and temperament of wolves or maybe a St.  Bernard. Some nights we'd sit around making up stories about the strange house's inhabitants. Perhaps they were aliens or bank robbers hiding from the police. Kids had vivid imaginations in the days before television and electronic devises.

One day, while our parents were at work, we climbed the hill to spy on the people who lived there. A narrow, winding road wound its way to the top but it was choked with weeds and debris, so how could anyone drive to the summit? A tall eucalyptus tree stood  halfway up the hill complete with a long looped rope that we kids used to swing on. We called it "Dead Man's Tree" because the rope resembled a hangman's noose.

All these things and more are incorporated into Mystery of Spider Mountain, the first novel in my Hamilton Kid's mystery series as well as how lost children can survive in the wilderness.

The three and a half hour recording is available in print and ebook editions, but I'm most excited about the audio book version, which was skillfully narrated by Chelsea Ward. Chelsea will also narrate book two in the series, Ghost of Crimson Dawn as well as A Village Shattered..

The book is available at (soon on iTunes) in time for Christmas. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Happy Holidays

Celebrate Solstice

 And have a Very Merry Yule! 


And as I won't be back till after New Year's, I'll wish everyone all the best for 2014, and to the world: Peace and Compassion

Monday, December 16, 2013

You Cannot Kill The Christmas Spirit

By Mark W. Danielson

Yankees Catcher Yogi Berra once quipped, “You can observe a lot by just watching.”  While this is true, you can also learn a lot from listening and reading.  By nature, authors are a curious sort who may be more inclined to watch, listen, and learn, but book worms are in a league all their own.  These are the people I am addressing today, for they yearn to glimpse into the other people’s lives to understand history.  Today I am sharing a treasured recollection from a dear friend who grew up in England at a time of world war when civilian casualties were the norm.  It was a time when no one knew if they would make it through the day, and yet somehow they managed to carry on in whatever sense of normalcy they could muster.  I salute all of the survivors of World War II, civilian and military.  This one’s for you.       

“. . . It goes back to an air raid shelter.  Sitting in there with my mother and sister, listening to the Luftwaffe paying us a welcome.  Watching the candles flicker.  Later would come the rockets. My sister, four years older, told me Eskimos ate candle wax.  ‘Oh, don't tell him that, Mary - he'll believe you!’  Mom said. And the bombing began. Down the street a house was obliterated.  The family in their Anderson shelter were too close to survive.  At our house, the piano blew from one wall to the other, and, as in tornadoes and their freak affects, the curtains in a microsecond blew out and the windows went back into position, and the curtains were hanging on the outside of the windows.

A little man in an old raincoat came a few days later.  He jotted our damage down in a little black book - who in officialdom in those days, didn't have a little black book?  We factored in our curtains, and chalked it up to the war effort.   ‘During the raid of August 13th, severe damage was done to Stanmore and Edgware, near  to Fighter Command  at Stanmore, Bentley Priory.’  The Jerries were always trying to knock out Fighter Command....twelve miles from our house, which cost our neighbors dearly.  After the war I would ride by Bentley Priory on my bike, and listen to birdsong....

‘How many in reserves?’ Churchill asked during one dicey fight with the Luftwaffe. 

‘None sir.

Cut to the end of the war in Europe.  Not the flags, although I helped my mother hoist the Union Jack from a bedroom window.  No more local concerns.  Do we remove the chamber pot from  the Anderson shelter?  Are we free to pee, you and me? No more getting up in the blackest night, under strobing searchlights, creeping downstairs, holding hands, heading for the air raid shelter.  Entering through the dank sacking opening, lit by two candles, settling onto our bunks after checking for river rats.  And the sirens, and the bombers - any English family could tell German and English and American engines or worse - the hard uncompromising drone of a V-1 rocket. 

Dad was home on leave one night.  He worked twenty hours a day repairing Handley Page Halifax bombers, sometime witnessing the hose washing out a tail gunner's boggy mushy remains, all goggled and gunner wings brevet mocking him.  Faithful gloved hands, or what remained of them, on his .303 quadruple Brownings.  So Dad came home.  One night, in the shelter, a V-1 cut out and spiraled down. Dad threw himself across us, my sister and I.  ‘Daddy!  Daddy! I can't breathe!  I can't breathe!’
His Home Guard winter coat uniform, complete with corporal stripes, weighted us down, suffocating, suffocating ... except the family down the street died.

Know what?  I like Mars Bars.  Candy was rationed, two ounces a week per child.  I gotta Mars Bar.  Later, in l953, we emigrated to Canada.  ‘Hey,’ I said, ‘They got Mars Bars.’  And I tried to figure my Canadian currency, which earlier had been spread on the kitchen table by my dad.  ‘Now, this is a quarter, and this is called a dime...’

This morning I watched an episode of World at War.  VE Day.  I remember it so well, helping my mother hoist the Union Jack at the bedroom window... A glorious sunny day.  People festive in Trafalger Square, about twelve miles away...  Sailors in soldiers' hats -- soldiers in sailor hats...
Dancing, dancing, kissing the girls . . .”

Much has changed since 1945, and the majority of those who experienced world war have passed from this Earth.  Yet the legacy they have left behind shall never be forgotten, so long as their recollections are shared.  Merry Christmas, everyone.  I wish you all a safe and joyous holiday season.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Reading Christmas Books

by June Shaw

It seems that lots of readers enjoy purchasing and reading books that deal with Christmas when it's that time of year. They look for Christmas in the titles. Often a decorated tree on a book's cover and a character wearing a Santa hat are all it takes for a buyer to pluck up a book.

Falling snow entices many to grab a book, although recent blizzards that have swept through the U.S. may have calmed that enducement for now.

Almost any book or story that mentions Christmas or the holidays in the title normally gets at least second glances.

So am I reading or writing a Christmas book?

I'm working on an inspiring nonfiction book called GROW OLDER LIKE THIS that I believe will instill a holiday spirit in most people reaching certain ages. Giving hope and inspiration, I believe, offers the same kind of attitude as a promising holiday season.

I just finished reading a romance and began reading a mystery. Neither has Christmas or the holiday season mentioned in its title, but both make me happy. That--I truly think--is what Christmas offers all of us.

I wish all of you a blessed holiday season--and lots of pleasing books.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Discovering the Joy of Reading, circa 1944

by Jackie King

People talk about the books that changed their lives, and many books have influenced me. But what changed my life, and at a very early age, was discovering books in general.

I remember the first time that I fell into the pages of a book all by myself. I can still recall the awe of it all. Between my hands I held the promise of a lifetime filled with adventure and pleasure and comfort. I was overcome by the wonder of it all, and, much like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, my world turned Technicolor.

My mother had read books to me before, and I had loved that rhelm. But hearing those stories was controlled by Mama having time available, and she was a busy woman. The ability to read my very own hardcover book was a thrill that I’ll never forget.

I was seven years old and riding home on a school bus filled with high school kids who were Mother’s English students. This automatically made me a stationary target. All of the contempt they felt for the task of being forced to write complete sentences without using double negatives found its way to me. The short ride to our small house in the country was an ordeal. But suddenly I had found a hiding place.

God smiled on me in the third grade when Miss Hinkle, an aging old maid whose life was her school children, put a book into my hands and taught me to read it.

My earlier history of books for children consisted of uninteresting facts about Dick, Jane and Spot. While I admired these siblings and their pet, I didn’t have one thing in common with them.

They never got into trouble. I esteemed these paragons of virtue, but found them dull and in no way could I identify with them. In the book I read that day on the bus, the girl telling the story got into all kinds of trouble, and suddenly, magically, I was that girl!

The terrors of the bus didn’t disappear, but I had found a hiding place. Each time after that when I opened the pages of a book I found a life filled with excitement. That was the year I read my first mystery, one about the Bobbsey Twins. In another year or two came Nancy Drew. And when I was eighteen I discovered Agatha Christie and I was a goner, although a live one.

If I’m able to give my readers even an ounce of the pleasure that I have received from other authors, then I will have made Miss Hinkle proud.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

An interview with Jack Carston

A while back, there was a passing fad for writers to ‘interview’ their own characters – presumably to increase the feeling of authenticity about them. On my own blog, I said that I thought my policeman, Jack Carston, would be unwilling to waste time being interviewed by me since he’s not convinced I always understand him or represent his actions and motives properly in the books. Then the journalist/writer/publisher Sara Bain suggested he might respond more positively to her. It was an interesting idea, and this was the result.

SB:       Good morning, Jack. Can I start by asking about why you became a policeman? Were there any events in your youth which might have influenced your decision to join the force?
JC:       Well, first, it wasn’t any sort of vocation. Just one of several options. I come from a family of trawlermen so I was ready to try just about anything to avoid doing that. But blaming things that happen to you as a kid – I don’t think that’s the way things work. Back then, for me cops were people you were afraid of. Yeah, maybe that’s it. Maybe I wanted people to be afraid of me. I don’t think so, though.
SB:       What kind of policeman are you, then?
JC:       Not very good if you ask my boss, Ridley. I can see why he thinks that way, though. I don’t think writing stuff on bits of paper with boxes to tick gets things done. Yeah, you have to have it, but we should be more hands on, leave all that to the clerks and backroom people. OK, I stick to procedures – if I didn’t, it could mess up a whole investigation, defence lawyers would jump all over me – but when you’re dealing with people and their reasons for doing things, it’s not easy to make it all neat. I think I’m mostly honest. Try to be anyway. And, despite what Ridley thinks, I do take the job seriously. It upsets me when low-lifes get away with things. But worse than that is when nice, ordinary, harmless people have to be punished for doing something bad, when it’s not really their fault, or when you can see exactly why they did it. That hurts.
SB:       So what do you think about the idea of justice then? Do you still believe in it?

JC:       Big, big question. If you mean what lawyers and judges do – no, not really. It’s the ultimate way of putting people into boxes. The question they ask is just ‘Did he do so-and-so?’ If the answer’s ‘yes’, he’s guilty. Nobody bothers much about why he did it or what the other guy did first. Look at all the rape cases, or domestic abuse, they don’t often give the benefit of the doubt to victims who’ve retaliated. It’s a nasty part of the job.

SB:       So are you saying that the British criminal law system doesn’t really deliver justice?

JC:       No, I think it tries. The lawyers and the rest are all doing their jobs. Some of them are bent but that’s just a small minority. But they’re all such clever buggers. They’ll use the law to shine the light on some things but keep other stuff in the dark. In the end, like everything else, it comes down to the fact that, if you can afford the best, you’re more likely to be not guilty.

SB:       I can see how that might be galling for a detective. How important is it for you to ‘get your man’?

JC:       Hmmm. My first reaction is that it’s everything. No point doing the job otherwise. But then, I think back over some of my recent cases and … well, I wish I hadn’t. Found out who did it, I mean. Trouble is, I like the challenges of untangling the mystery but I don’t always like what I find.

SB:       Well, my next question was going to be about plea bargaining, but I’m guessing it’s not something you favour.

JC:       You’re right, but it depends. For example, nobody ever gives perps the chance to bargain for a lesser sentence just because the person they topped deserved it.

SB:       Have you ever broken the law yourself?

JC:       Of course. I bet you have, too. Be honest, there might be a couple of nuns somewhere who are still stainless but everybody’s done something. Last thing I can remember was shoplifting a biro. I picked it up, forgot I had it, and left without paying for it. Didn’t go back and tell them.

SB:       OK, breaking the law’s quite a wide expression. So let me ask what you think the worst crimes are.

JC:       Well, there are the obvious ones – kids, babies even – the things people can do to them … you wouldn’t believe it. Half the injuries don’t get reported. They’re that extreme. But I feel sick as well whenever it’s a case of somebody much stronger beating up on someone who’s basically defenceless. Domestics. Huge guys slapping around stick thin partners. But you know, there’s a different sort of sickness I feel, too – the sort when the people involved are in such hopeless, desperate situations and circumstances that you just feel helpless. There’s just nothing you can do. It’s not how bad the crime is, it’s the emptiness of their lives, the absence of any chances to make things better. I hate the job then.

SB:       Does that mean you’re still haunted by some of the horrific things you must have seen?

(At this point, Carston was silent for a while, his face betraying the fact that he was perhaps revisiting past experiences.)

JC:       In the end, each one just reminds you of how much evil there is – or, rather, how much potential there is for it. I push the individual ones down, way down. I can’t forget them, but they’re submerged. The only person who knows they’re there is Kath, my wife. She doesn’t say anything about them, but she knows when one of them is trying to resurface. I never get used to it.

SB:       All of which suggests it must be hard for you to stay objective. Is it easy to keep personal prejudice out of your working life?

JC:       If I could be objective about the sort of things I’m talking about, I’d be a bigger monster than any of the ones I’ve come across.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Writing Lessons I've Learned

by Jean Henry Mead

When I wrote my first novels, I spent an inordinate amount of time rewriting first chapters before progressing to the second, only to rewite them again before I finished the book. I finally learned to write them once and forget them until the first draft was complete.

I’ve never been able to outline a novel because I give my characters free rein. They rarely submit to what I've planned because they seem to have minds of their own, and I don’t want them doing anything out of character. In my current mystery/suspense series, my feisty 60-year-old women amateur sleuths surprise me by doing things I hadn't considered before sitting down to write. Logan and Cafferty live with me 24/7 while I’m writing about them, and they have their own ideas about what should happen that day. 

In my new release, A Murder in Paradise  fifth in the series, my protagonists decide to vacation in a Texas RV resort with millionaires and other affluent travelers. Until the third quarter of the book, even I didn’t know who the killer was, and I had to return to earlier chapters to add clues  and flesh out some of the characters. 

In the second novel,  Diary of Murder,  my sleuths leave California, buy a motorhome, and are trapped in a Rocky Mountain blizzard. That had actually happened to me, so I could write convincingly about the life and death experience. The blizzard starts the novel off with suspense, but the characters face similar circumstances later in the plot, so I had to swap details between chapters so that it didn't appear the book was mired in snow. 
If I were not a writer, I'd probably be a meteorologist. I'm fascinated with weather patterns and weather plays a role in most of my books. Weather can also serve as an alternative villain in a woman against the elements plot.

In A Village Shattered, the opaque San Joaquin Valley fog hides a serial killer, but I didn’t even think about tule fog until I was writing chapter three. Having lived in the valley for a dozen years, I know the horror of regularly driving in dense ground hugging clouds, so I switched seasons and returned to chapter one to add fog to the plot. In doing so, it tied all aspects of the story together. 

A problem most authors eventually face is writer's block. Fortunately, I began my writing career as a news reporter and there's no such malady in the news room. Fiction, however, is a different story. There are no facts to guide a writer unless s/he has done a tremendous amount of research. I solved the problem by rereading the previous chapter(s). The momentum then carries me into the current one.

How about you? How have you solve a writing problem?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Heirs of the Body--out this week

by Carola

The 21st book in my Daisy Dalrymple series comes out in a few days (UK 6th December, US 10th December) just in time for the holidays.

Set in 1927: Daisy's cousin, the present Lord Dalrymple, was not brought up to the job, and he's just realised, approaching his fiftieth birthday, he has no idea who is his heir. Advertising in newspapers worldwide brings a slew of candidates from all over the Empire and all walks of life. His lawyer, with Daisy's assistance, winnows the possible heirs down to four.

But none can provide adequate proof of legitimate descent in the male line. In fact, one of them is missing--whether temporarily or permanently, his wife (or widow) isn't sure.

While awaiting clarification, Lord Dalrymple invites them to Fairacres to celebrate his birthday. Also present are his known family in England, including Daisy and her husband, DCI Fletcher of Scotland Yard, and their children.

When a string of mysterious accidents is followed by the death of one of the would-be heirs, it begins to look as if someone is out to nobble the competition...

Fairacres, Daisy's childhood home, is in Worcestershire, on the banks of the beautiful River Severn.

Read an excerpt at

Heirs of the Body can be ordered from 

Or better still, support independent mystery booksellers  (I'll be signing December 14th at noon) (San Diego signing January 9th at 7 pm) (Huntington Beach, signing Jan. 11 noon) (S. Pasadena, signing Jan. 11 at 3 pm)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

It Looks a Lot Like Christmas

By Chester Campbell

Even the weather has cooperated lately. Our spring-like temperatures gave way to downright wintry conditions last week. The mercury dropped well below the freezing mark and the wind made it feel much. Crowds are pouring into the mall and shopping bags are proliferating. Of course, none of this has to do with the real spirit of Christmas.

To me, the real spirit of Christmas is embodied in things like Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men and Joy to the World. I think it's all embodied in one word—Love.

That's the theme of  the Hallmark channel's Countdown to Christmas, a series of mostly original movies that run day and night, each one repeated at least a couple of times. My wife is a longtime Hallmark channel watcher. A couple of weeks ago, she started recording a lot of the Countdown to Christmas movies. Each one is two hours long, including seemingly limitless commercials, but we can view one in an hour and a half using the fast-forward button. We must have recorded at least two dozen so far and have watched half that many.

We turn them on mostly at night, though occasionally we'll see one in daylight. If you're looking for a way to get into the Christmas spirit, this should do it. They have titles such as Pete's Christmas, Snow Bride, A Very Merry Mix-Up, The Christmas Ornament and Catch a Christmas Star. We just scrolled through the channel schedule picking one here and there to record. We got blindsided by one titled Love's Christmas Journey. It was listed twice in the schedule, which I took to mean it was being repeated right after showing the first time. But when we got to the end of the recording, it said "To Be Continued."

Bummer. When I looked up the movie at the Hallmark website, it showed Part II followed Part I. Fortunately, both segments were repeated this morning from 2 to 4 and 4 to 6. So we now have the second half to watch.

I've seen more movies in the past few days than I have in the last ten years. It hasn't done much for my current writing project, but it's a great way to get into the Christmas spirit.

Visit me at Mystery Mania

Monday, December 2, 2013


By Mark W. Danielson

Classic.  A great word suggesting timeless quality.  It used to describe boats, airplanes, cars, art, music, even dance moves and golf swings may fall into this category.  Why?  Because masterpieces in every form appreciatively draw us in.  Of course, exactly who determines what is considered “classic” remains to be seen. 

I have seen and owned plenty of beautiful things over the years, but not everything should be considered classic.  Back in 1971, the blue 1965 Corvette I owned with two tops and a 396 engine was nothing more than a gas guzzling hot rod.  Even then I found it interesting that Road and Track magazine could not find a single original owner of a ’65 396 Vette.  Sadly, I found out why when the car died the day I brought it home.  Yes, folks, when it came to reliability, the 396 Corvette was among the worst.  A few months later I sold it on a prayer for $1,300.00, unaware that this same car would later be worth over $120,000.00 because it’s now a classic.  (I’d write a story about missed opportunities except we’ve all been there before.)

As a military pilot from 1975-95, I spent a lot of time flying F-4 Phantoms and A-4 Skyhawks.  Now these workhorses-turned-classic fighters sit aboard museums such as the USS Lexington – the ship I carrier qualified on – awaiting visitors so they can relive their glory days.  Suddenly, I feel old.   

One of present my cars is a 1987 that some consider classic.  That’s just not right!  After all, 1987 is like yesterday!  And then a visit to an antique store turned up far too many items that came from my childhood.  For whatever reason, these toasters, toys, posters, are now in high demand.  Mom, why did you give away my Tonka trucks and train set?  I could be rich, had I been able to warehouse all of these things. 

What’s particularly disturbing is how classy people will never be considered classic.  Instead, as their faces fall and waistlines expand, they simply get OLD.  Think about those labels -- classic versus old.  No wonder elderly folks get grumpy!  The mirror makes them old.  Inside they are knowledgeable teens!

Clearly, aging is the price of being mortal, but nothing says we can’t leave classic work behind.  Consider taking that approach in your writing, and remember there is no age or term limit for authors.  Carefully crafted words may lead to masterpieces, but remember to enjoy life along the way.   

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving and Writing

Signing with Peggy Fielding and Warren Bull

by Jackie King

Most people love Thanksgiving. You don’t have to buy anyone a gift and sometimes one gets invited a fabulous dinner with family and friends. Grandchildren and football are an added bonus. And those of us who live in a free country have much to be thankful for.

These are only a few reasons why, back in 2009 when asked to pick a holiday for the anthology TWO FOXY HOLIDAY HENS AND ONE BIG ROOSTER, that I chose Thanksgiving. The other writer’s choices: Dusty Richards, winner of two Spur Awards, picked Independence Day; and Peggy Fielding decided on Christmas.

My novella, THANKSGIVING WITH A MYSTERIOUS STRANGER, is set in 1889 Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory, and features an evil Rooster named Henry, a mean-spirited mail-order husband who is gunned down in the first chapter, and, of course, a handsome stranger named Josh Savage.

After killing her husband, the villain tries to rape Hannah Smith, and while fighting him off she vows two things: if she lives, she will prove up her land and she will never marry.

Advice from Nancy Picard

While working on this story I attended a mystery conference in Manhattan, Kansas, where the above picture was taken. The keynote speaker, Nancy Picard, said that she liked to start books with food. Being a person who loves food and drink (especially coffee) I decided to take her advice. This is the way I began THANKSGIVING WITH A MYSTERIOUS STRANGER:

All Hannah Smith ever wanted was a house with yellow curtains, a small garden and a good cup of coffee. Right now she’d settle for the coffee, but she had only enough grounds for one final pot and she was saving that treat for Thanksgiving Day.

Hannah is ruminating her dilemma while sitting on a breezy seat in the outhouse of the claim that she and her mail-order husband George (he punishes her by not buying coffee) have filed. She’s holding a broom to fight off Henry the rooster, when someone rides onto the property and shoots George.

And her problems have only just started.

If you want a good Thanksgiving read you can download this anthology from Amazon for $2.99. There is also a hard copy for sale.

Halloween-GMMC 2008 where Nancy Picard spoke, and yes, I'm the witch!
Here’s wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving Holiday.