Thursday, October 24, 2013

Halloween Fun: MAKE ME HOWL

by Jackie King

Today I have an early Halloween treat for you! Susan Shay, one of my favorite people and also a darned good writer, discusses her latest book, a Fantasy titled MAKE ME HOWL. She starts with an example of how her main character, Jazzy, takes over her computer and her life.
Susan Shay
Jazzy Takes Control:


My name is Jazzy Cannis. I'm a successful wardrobe designer and personal shopper. Lucky me! I was born with a killer sense of style, biting sense of humor and an active Lycan gene. A very active Lycan gene.

I had life all figured out. I just had to stay in control all the time. I couldn't get too angry, too wild or too excited while making love or I'd wolf out. No prob.

Enter Chase Holliday, serious hunk. Mr. Always-In-Total-Control is an animal geneticist who's out to eradicate every werewolf on the planet. He thinks safety lies in making werewolves only the stuff of fairytales. To reach that goal, he works every spare moment isolating the Lycan gene.

Then he met me. The man in the iron will thought he could handle this wild woman. Snort!

I just made one little mistake—I forgot about the Blood Moon and, being in heat, I lost control and made love with Chase. That's when I learned that all wolves, even Lycans, mate for life.

Eternity with an emotionally crippled, uber restrained cold duck who barely registers a response when we make love? I don't think so. Even if it kills me, I'll find a way out. Or I'll Make him Howl.


Susan Regains Gains Control:
Susan here. Well, Jazzy got my laptop again. Sorry about that. J Not really. Jazzy's fun to hang with, so I don't really mind.

I don't know if non-writers hear voices in their heads, but writers definitely do. (My critique partners laugh because mine are so real to me.) While some of my inside-my-head characters are great to talk to when I need sleep, Jazzy isn't one.

Why? Well, she's always got some snarky remark, which keeps me on my toes. (Not a great position for sleep.) In order to gain a thimbleful of control, I wrote her book, MAKE ME HOWL, and I turned her loose.

Big! Mistake! LOL.

Releasing a werewolf on purpose is never a good thing. But it's—uh—interesting.

People ask where I got the idea for MAKE ME HOWL. The truth is, Marilyn Pappano. She send me a chapter of a light paranormal trilogy she considered writing and I loved it. It was fun and funny. Just the kind of thing I wanted to write. But I wanted mine to be different.

I started brainstorming story ideas. What iconic paranormal characters could I take over and give a twist to come up with a fun and funny story?

And so, Jazzy was born. Once she came into being, she took off. Below is an excerpt where Jazzy talks to her twin sister, Bella:


I took a moment to settle myself, to find my center. Arranging my hair so I was well covered, I got to my knees, then sat on my heels. “You know, last night, when you and Doc abandoned me, Norman became a huge pest. He kept at me, wanting me to dance with him.”

Bella’s “Um” irritated me. Annoyance tingled my exposed skin, running along my collarbone and down the insides of my arms.

 “He wouldn’t leave me alone. It was so gross.” I straightened as angry lightning strikes marched down my back.

 “Then he insisted I finish my drink because he wanted to buy me another. Bella, I thought I was going to have to decapitate him to get him to leave me alone. I decided to just take off and let you find another way home. But after I finished my drink—and I only had the one Doc bought me—I don’t remember anything. It’s as if I got lost in the night.”

I gathered my fury like a fiery orb in my chest. “You know I never have a memory lapse except during a blood moon phase or if I lose control. I wasn’t that angry.” A simple full moon hadn’t done that to me since I was three years old.

“That son of a cur must have slipped me a roofie. Why else would I have been out of control?” I allowed my rage to explode as I thought about the man putting a date rape drug in my drink.

My body stung as the bristles burst through my skin, but I exalted in the sensation as my face narrowed, then lengthened. I loved the feeling of my body shifting from human to wolf shape. There’s never anything better than the power surge as it filled my muscles.

It’s exhilarating.

Thanks to all of you readers and to Jackie King for having Jazzy and me here on your blog. I love it here in mystery world! It's a cozy, wonderful place to hang out.
I'm giving away a FREE BOOK! To get your name in the drawing all you have to do is leave a comment here or on my MAKE ME HOWL Facebook Page. Links below.

Make Me Howl is for sale for only $2.99 now on Kindle!

On November 15th, 2013, MAKE ME HOWL will be on sale in other formats (including real books!) I don't know the price, but it will be available on Amazon and at Wild Rose Press.
I'd love to meet you! You can find me occasionally on Twitter--@shaywriter

And more often on Facebook—

As well as the Make Me Howl Facebook page—

Or come by my website and say hi.
Special Note:
Thanks so much to Susan and her delightful character, Jazzy. And to all my readers, HAPPY HALLOWEEN
I know it's a week early, but if you love a holiday, then you need to celebrate!
Hugs to all,

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Scientific Interlude

by Bill Kirton

Away from the usual self-advertising and PR plugs for a change. Two items I read a while back – one on a website, the other in The Observer – set up some scientific musings. Science to me usually means fascinating things which I don’t understand, but it often leads to trains of thought I wouldn’t otherwise have.

The first item was about chromosomes. I know, of course, that they’re made of DNA and proteins and carry our genes. When I checked Wikipedia, there was stuff about regulatory elements, nucleotide sequences, eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells as well, but (as they keep saying in the film Airplane), that’s not important right now. What is important is that we (humans) have 46 of them. But – and this is the interesting bit – it’s also possible that we have 48. And why is that interesting? Well, we all know that chimpanzees also have 48, but – and this time it really is the interesting bit – so do potatoes.

In the evolutionary ladder, therefore, we are on a par with potatoes. (The temptation at this point is to digress into the class structure implicit in varieties such as King Edward, Belle de Fontenay, Duke of York and Saxon. I'll resist it.)

The second piece of science, however, offers hope that such parity will soon change because stem cell researchers in Edinburgh have succeeded in cultivating brain cells. Not by sucking out real brain cells and prodding them, or from the practice of using bits of embryos, which upsets so many people who think only God should do that, but by doing stuff with skin cells. (‘Prodding’ and ‘Doing stuff with’ are scientific terms.) Thus, we can look forward to a future in which our descendants are clothed not in skin but in brains, which will give us a clear edge over our potato cousins who, even if they did manage to follow our evolutionary lead, would still get peeled and thereby lose their ability to think.

To some of you, this may seem a frivolous misuse and indeed misappropriation of important scientific advances, but I take my lead from one of the greats of British comedy, Tommy Cooper, whose use of statistics was exemplary. He once revealed the following:

“Apparently, 1 in 5 people in the world are Chinese. There are five people in my family, so it must be one of them. It’s either my mum or my dad, my older brother Colin, or my younger brother Ho-Cha-Chu. (Pause.) I think it’s Colin.”

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hope for the Future

By Mark W. Danielson

You can find interesting people everywhere.  Airports, trains, walking on crowded streets.  All have unique stories to tell, but we’ll rarely hear them because of our busy lives.  Recently I had the privilege of hearing a heartwarming story from a perfect stranger, and thanks to her, I realized our upcoming generations are not as lost as we have been led to believe.

On a recent ride from the Memphis airport to my hotel, I found myself the lone passenger in the van.  My driver began by saying she normally doesn’t work more than three days a week, but recently they had been calling her in for overtime.  She was fine with that because her husband is going to trucking school and her sixteen year old daughter is very independent.  Pondering a typical sixteen-year-old’s behavior, I casually mentioned how some girls actually benefit from supervision at that age.  Thus began her story about her daughter’s love affair  -- with BOOKS!
The more she spoke of her daughter, the more impressed I became.  Imagine a teenager who must be told to put her book down and go to sleep!  Not surprisingly, she is a straight A student who wants to study journalism in New York and then wander the streets of Paris.  When I asked what kind of books she enjoyed, the driver said suspense and mystery.  Since that’s my genre, I couldn’t help mentioning that I wrote.

By my story isn’t important here.  What matters is there are plenty of ambitious, quiet teens who study hard, and these kids will become tomorrow’s leaders.  Forget about the drunken, pregnant and tattooed teens who gain attention in the social media, television and movies.  Hopefully, in time they will turn themselves around and be equally productive.  Thankfully, kids like my driver’s help break the mindless, self-absorbed stereotype and give us hope for the future.  

Coincidentally, the next day I had the same driver.  Shortly after climbing in, I told her about this blog that I was writing about her daughter.  She was so thrilled, I feared she would burst with pride.  At the end of my ride, I wished her daughter well, but honestly her work ethic and eagerness to learn will certainly make her successful. 

For those of us with gray hair, it helps to know there are kids like this one shadowing the background, studying, learning, determined to make something of their lives.  So ignore what you see on TV and embrace our youth.  Thanks to them our future is bright.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Wildlife Photographer in a Wheelchair

By Jean Henry Mead

Judy Peterson is a talented photographer who captures beautiful outdoor scenes, despite the fact that she's confined to a wheelchair.

Judy, when did you develop an interest in photography?

My parents gave me my first camera when I was 10 years old. I'll never forget. It was a Kodak Instamatic and had a green button on it. The flash bulbs clicked on top of the camera. What fun I had with this camera! The fun hasn't stopped!
Why do you prefer to photograph birds and outdoor scenes?  

My first love is taking photos of those precious to me. Always will be. I have been the family historian ever since I can remember. Taking photos of the family and friends has been my first passion. Looking back at the photos of when our son was born and other important moments, brings a smile to my face. I'm glad I have all of the photos.

As far as taking photos of birds and outdoor scenes, it calms me. Each time I go outside, I see something new. We live in a beautiful world. The birds that inhabit our part of the world, sing and add a new dimension. Going out with my camera and enjoying the glorious world we live in has taught me patience. Can you sit or stand and watch a bird or butterfly for minutes on end so that, when it moves, you see how it moves? Does it return to where it was? This is animal behavior. I have learned a lot of animal behavior. It's been a moving experience. A calming experience.


How are you able to photograph wildlife when you're confined to a wheelchair?

I sit and take photos whenever possible. Sometimes, my husband helps me stand and move. If I see a bird coming or in a location that is impossible to see in my chair, my husband supports me while I shoot. Being able to take photos has helped me stay relaxed in a body that's filled with physical pain.


If you were teaching photography to youngsters, what would you tell them are most important aspects of the art form?

Photography is what you make it. It's what you see when you look around you. Your camera is a tool. No matter what camera you have, you can take beautiful photos. Knowing your camera is all it takes. All cameras have limitations. Work within those limitations to take photos.


How do people get in touch with you to order your prints? Do you have a website?

 I do not have a website. If you would like to order prints or blank note cards made with my prints, simply email me (


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Personal Research of the Wrong Kind

By Chester Campbell

Some of my colleagues have been discussing the problems of aging lately, so I might as well join the club. Actually, my situation is not so much age related except as it applies to the slowness of recovery. When my wife and I booked a week at a resort on Tampa Bay for the end of September, I looked forward to some relaxing days with a bit of writing when the spirit moved me. We planned to drive halfway from Nashville the first day, then finish up on the day of check-in.

Travel to Dothan, Alabama proved uneventful, except for a Cracker Barrel stop. We had some free nights thanks to my Choice Hotels credit card and checked into our suite at a Clarion Inn. It was handicapped equipped, which meant a large shower as an extension of the tile bathroom floor. We went out for dinner, watched the evening news and went to bed. I awoke early in the morning, feeling a tad queasy. I went to the bathroom and stood in front of the toilet.

My next recollection is looking up from a bed in the Emergency Room at some medical type who was asking my birth date and where I lived. My wife had heard me fall and found me on the tile floor, my scalp split open in back. She thinks I hit the edge of the shower drain. She called 911 and the rest is history. I wound up with seven staples closing an upside-down Y-shaped cut. Because of the concussion, they did a brain scan but found nothing out of order. So I have no excuse for being like I am.

My step-daughter came down and drove us back home. I sat around the first couple of days, then got on the computer and set up my next free ebook promotion on BookBub. By the first of the following week, my doctor tried to extract my staples but ran into a problem. I won't go into the gory details, but I now know a bit about how the early settlers felt when the Indians started scalping them. If I ever decide to write a Western, maybe it'll come in handy.

I also learned from the experience what the after affects are of a solid blow to the back of the head. Take it from me, your protagonist won't jump up and start doing battle. Were I considerably younger, I likely would have bounced back quicker. I was lucky I didn't have a bad headache, but my head felt a bit strange for a few days and I felt rather rocky at first.

Last week I started back on my daily walk at the mall and increased it to two miles by Saturday. This week I'm back to about two miles in thirty minutes. I've also returned to work on my sixth Greg McKenzie mystery. I got the opening idea from a news story that took place near my home. A senior citizen type in a power chair was hit and killed while driving on the street at night. In my story, it was a hit-and-run.

Incidentally, I've decided it isn't the best idea to indulge in head wound research as a do-it-yourself project.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

When You're in Pain

By June Shaw
I had planned to write a nice long blog today about writing. Because I wound up in major pain, I won’t write much. The creative well has dried.

I sat at my desk two days ago and reached over on the floor for a piece of paper holding into I wanted to use. That’s when it happened. The pull. The ache starting from my back and running down through my thigh and shin to my foot. Sciatica.

I’d pulled my sciatic nerve once when I was pregnant, and the doctor told me to lie on my opposite side for half an hour to get the baby’s weight off the nerve. That worked well.

No, though, I have no baby to shift away and need to improve a bulging disk. It hurts. All the way down my leg. The doctor told me not to sit anymore while it gets better. Right.

So I’m sitting in front of my computer (gave my laptop away years ago—didn’t like it) to write something here, and my leg has started to ache again. I need to lie down with a heating pad.

I’ll catch you later with lots of brilliant words : )

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Getting Out of Bed Is the Hardest Part

by Jackie King

Once upon a time I could jump out of bed, slip into jeans and a T-shirt and be ready to go. I could even skip makeup if I wanted. But times have changed. Getting dressed in the morning has become a complicated thing. First of all I have to sit on the side of the bed and stare into space for a few minutes. I call this ruminating.

This ruminating, or pondering or musing or reflecting, can get out of hand, especially for a writer. Every fleeting thought about the past has a way of morphing into some sort of a story; and there’s so little time available to anyone at any age that careful selections have to be made.

Which idea would be most interesting to readers? Who should I choose for my protagonist (aka hero/heroine), I ask myself. And how could I bump off those folk who annoyed me most? Hummm?

For a young male protagonist I think of a boy I met one winter when my mother was teaching in Telluride, Colorado. That was back in the fifties (and yes, I am that old!). In an emotional moment my mother, who was a gifted teacher but had little patience with fools, had resigned her current position in a small railroad town in Oklahoma. This was where I had survived my junior high years and its stereotypical mean girls and boys. I was so ready to leave. So we traveled by bus to Colorado.


No one could help falling in love with Telluride. It was nestled at the foot of the Rocky Mountains and you had to leave town on the same road you entered. I also fell in love with the people who lived there: miners mostly. My best friend’s dad was a chemist with a drinking problem. Once he came home at night and peed on their black, cast iron stove. It sat in the living room and heated most of the downstairs.

But I digress.

The boy was named Robert, and I thought he would make a great hero in my story. He was sort of a tall Harry Potter type, glasses and all, and I had a huge crush on him. Unhappily for me, he already had a girlfriend. His parents had more money than most and he got the first contacts I had ever heard about. That was back before the technology was perfected, and these were glass, cumbersome, and I was told, uncomfortable. The kids called him “Bubbles,” so he got embarrassed and ditched the expensive gadgets. I’ve always wanted to use him in a story.

I’d have a bit of trouble with the villain, though. I can’t think of anyone in Telluride in 1953 that I wanted to murder. Guess I’d have to transplant one of the mean boys from the railroad town we had left. I know just who it would be. An odious boy who raced past me in seventh grade, pausing a second to make a grab at my groin area. One of the most humiliating moments of my young life. Oh yes, he’d make a perfect antagonist. (i.e. bad guy). Or maybe I could even murder him on paper?

All of these thoughts passed through my mind before I slipped into my fuzzy slippers and trundled off to start my morning toilette. And people think us oldies live dull lives.

Little do they know.

This is the first time I’ve told anyone this tale. Not even my mother or my sister. Too embarrassed, I suppose. Sad isn’t it? That naughty boy was the one who should have been mortified.


Think back through your own growing up and tell me the secret humiliation that you’ve never shared with anyone. My readers and I will never tell.



Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Shadow Selves

by Bill Kirton

This is another of those answers to ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ Many years ago, an anaesthetist friend said that if I ever wanted to do some research on surgical procedures and operations generally, he could arrange for me to visit an operating theatre and see how it all worked. My first thought was that I’d probably faint, be a nuisance and get in the way, but it was a great chance to do some real observing, so I said ‘yes please’. Just a few days later, I got the call and found myself in the theatre wearing all the stuff you see on hospital TV shows and being so fascinated by all that was going on that it never occurred to me to faint. In fact, the operation scene in my book Shadow Selves is a direct description of the experience and of the astonishing business of being prepared to dig around in someone’s thorax amongst all the lungs, heart and other stuff that’s packed and folded away there.

But back then, I wasn’t planning a book involving surgical things or anaesthetics, so the notes sat in the computer. For ages, though, I’d been toying with the idea of setting one of my books in a university context. I used to be a university lecturer and I’ve done writing fellowships at three others, so I knew something about the settings and what goes on there. The problem, however, came from something I’ve mentioned before – a lot of my thoughts of academia involved actual colleagues and students and fiction doesn’t work (for me, at least), if your head’s full of real people. If you find yourself thinking ‘Oh, this character’s like so-and-so’, the character can’t develop in his or her own right. The real person gets in the way.

So I had to work hard to take myself and my ex-colleagues out of my thinking and start from relationships rather than let the characters decide the relationships beforehand. In the end, they grabbed their independence and, since I didn’t know them and they weren’t based on any memories or specific realities, they had room to surprise me.

The reality which I didn’t change, and it’s one which has worsened rather than improved, is the significant transformation that took place in many institutes of higher education, beginning in the 80s, with Thatcher’s insistence on ‘leaner, fitter’ establishments. I know I’m generalising but, before then, education combined the close study of your chosen subjects and topics with the freedom to investigate beyond them, to develop a broader cultural awareness. It provoked and encouraged you to be intellectually curious about everything. Post Thatcher, it became a student-processing, goals-orientated, vocational experience with too many boxes to tick to spend time on thinking, reflection, broader investigations.

I’ve said it before, but academic life was marvellous – it involved sitting around with young, intelligent, interested people talking about books, and getting paid for it. And yet, beneath the urbane, learned surfaces of professors and lecturers, the most bizarre thinking sometimes went on and apparent intellectual giants behaved like schoolkids. My title, Shadow Selves, relates to this phenomenon. It’s from Carl Jung, who wrote ‘Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is’. So here, the lecturers, surgeons, anaesthetists, nurses – and, yes, the police too – all have these shadows, but it’s not necessarily the blacker ones that cause all the damage.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Out of Respect

By Mark W. Danielson

No doubt, the 9-11 attack on our World Trade Center permanently etched our brains.  While this unimaginable event left our nation in shock, years before another day shall forever live in infamy.  I cannot imagine the horror our Pearl Harbor survivors’ experienced as they watched World Trade Center fall.

I don’t fly to Hawaii as often as I used to, but during every Honolulu visit, I've made it a point to climb Diamond Head so I could peer into the distance and imagine the Japanese bombs pounding our ships and airfield.  Those who were stationed on Diamond Head helplessly watched, its guns meant to ward off a sea invasion, not an air attack.  But had it been better equipped, Diamond Head was still too far away from the attacking planes to have had any effect.  The guilt those observing the fight from Diamond Head must have been horrendous.  They probably re-lived that nightmare countless times during their lifetime. 

Oahu's Diamond Head may have had mystical qualities to the locals, but its strategic significance had the United States military transforming the crater into a military installation in 1905.  At the time, the United States was occupying foreign lands with gunboat diplomacy.  Military installations were set up in the Philippines, Guam and Hawaii to defend the nation during the Spanish American War.  Inside Diamond Head, trails were carved, tunnels dug, mortars and cannons capable of launching fifteen-inch diameter projectiles were placed.  Well before World War I, Oahu stood ready to defend itself, but no amount of guns could stop its post-war economic development.  In recent years, pineapple and sugar cane fields have succumbed to condos and resorts, cars pack its roads, buildings steadily rise, and yet this steady influx of tourists is what fuels Hawaii’s economy.  Thankfully, even on Oahu it is easy to escape the bustle of the city by driving a few miles.  Of all the places I've visited around the world, I still consider Hawaii paradise. 

While many criticize Hawaii’s development claiming the Untied States raped the island, it is worth noting that had the United States not militarized these islands, history may have been re-written.  Had the Japanese pursued their December 7th attack as an invasion rather than continuing their course for Australia, and had our carriers not set out to sea before the attack, the outcome of the War in the Pacific could have been different.  

For those visiting Oahu, I strongly recommend visiting the battleships Arizona and Missouri, then Punch Bowl Cemetery to study the Pacific battles depicted on its grand memorial walls.  Spend time reflecting on the endless rows of white crosses to remember our soldiers' ultimate sacrifice.  Finally, climb Diamond Head to observe Pearl Harbor in the distance so you can imagine what happened that fateful December seventh day in1941.  (You can now avoid the steep stairs by using the south wall bypass.) 

To all who have served and defended this country, particularly WWII veterans, I salute you.  In your honor, I shall climb Diamond Head on every visit so long as I’m able.