In Memory of Ollie @kdkoppang

Kathleen Delaney, author of Murder Half-Baked and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. She’s here today to reminisce about a well-loved furry friend, Ollie the cat..

Purebred Dead, the first in the new Mary McGill series, was released in August 2015 and Curtains for Miss Plym was released in April 2016. Blood Red, White and Blue was released in July 2017 and was a finalist for best canine book of the year in the Dog Writers of America annual writing contest. Kathleen’s newest book in the series, Dressed to Kill, was released in the UK on August 1, 2019 and in the US on November 1, 2019.

http://www.kathleendelaney.net/

Yesterday, Ollie, a domestic short haired cat of 19 years, left us to cross over the Rainbow Bridge. I hadn’t planned to write about her today, I had planned to write about a Little Free Library I am trying to establish in my community, but I seem to be filled with memories and decided I’d feel better if I shared them.

Ollie was a mature cat when she came to live in our family. She was my grandchildren’s first cat and she took to apartment life immediately. Due to circumstances certainly beyond her control, she had been living outside and getting the stuffing beat out of her by a group of feral cats. I was living in South Carolina and the children were little and spent a lot of time with me, much of it on my wrap around front porch. One day the cat joined them and was there every day after, as long as they visited. They became attached to her and she finally joined them in Georgia. When two kittens also joined their family, Ollie moved in with me. Ollie was a cat who had definite ideas about how life should be structured and sharing it with kittens didn’t fit her agenda. It didn’t take her long to explain to my two little dogs, and me,  how a cat should be treated; with great respect and no thought of being chased, where her bed would be, on the bottom shelf of one of the bookcases, and where her litter box and food dishes would be located. She loved the back yard, it has a high fence and no other cats, and the dog door let her come and go as she pleased.  Ollie was a natural born dictator, but a benevolent one. She spent a lot of time in my lap, sometimes sleeping, sometimes seemingly proofreading what I had just written. She loved company, both new people and her family, all of whom she greeted with loud purrs and offers to grace them with her presence in their laps.

But her time had finally come. Her organs were shutting down and she had quit eating. All the blood work said there was no chance of recovery.  There was no choice. So, with great sadness, we buried her in my- her- back yard, under the statue of St Francis, whose lap supplies the birds with water and his head their perch. I think she will like it there.

I have had animals in every book I have written. Some have taken over the story, some have played a more minor role, but they are always there. Probably because I cannot remember a time when I have not had a canine or feline friend living with me, along with a whole lot of other kinds of animals, brought into my life by my 5 children.

Ollie is not the first 4 legged friend I have had to bury, and I dare say she won’t be the last, either. But it never gets any easier, to make the decision or to deal with the hole they leave in your lives when they are gone. But I cherish the memory of the years she lived with us and am so glad for them. RIP, my friend.

Coincidences Do Exist! @JeannetteDeB

Jeannette de Beauvoir didn’t set out to murder anyone—some things are just meant to be! Her mother introduced her to the Golden Age of mystery fiction when she was far too young to be reading it, and she’s kept reading those authors and many like them ever since.

She wrote historical and literary fiction and poetry for years before someone asked her what *she* read—and she realized mystery was where her heart was. Now working on the Sydney Riley Provincetown mystery series, she bumps off a resident or visitor to her hometown on a regular basis.

Jeannette is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the Author’s Guild, and the National Writers Union. Find out more (and read her blog or sign up for her newsletter) at her website. You can also find her on Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, Patreon, and Goodreads.

In nearly every crime drama, at some point, the detective will look at a clue and say, “I don’t believe in coincidence,” and everyone present, especially rookies and civilians, nods knowingly and applauds their sagacity. And it makes sense: the “no coincidence” rule is what enables TV detectives to wrap up their mysteries in an hour, with time out for commercials.

It is, of course, nonsense. As my own current fictional protagonist, Sydney Riley, is wont to say, “There wouldn’t be a word for it if it didn’t exist.” Besides that, though (since there are in fact a whole lot of not-very-useful words in any language), the truth is that the world is a wild and unruly place, and randomness does occur, and does so with some frequency.

You’ll find coincidences in the oddest places. Lately I’ve been thinking about names. In a novel I worked on a few years back, I named a character Tessa Malmaison. I was rather proud of “Malmaison,” which felt unusual for a primarily American audience. (The Empress Joséphine lived in a chateau outside of Paris called Malmaison, but short of people reading a mystery novel with Wikipedia open by their side, I thought I was safe.) Readers would remember that name, I thought; it was fresh and different. And not long thereafter I was in Oxford and happened to pick up a brochure and found there to be in the UK a whole chain of upscale, boutique hotels called—you guessed it—Malmaison. (Which, if you think about it isn’t really the world’s best marketing play, as “Malmaison” translates loosely as “bad house.”)

It was good timing, as I was still working on the novel, and I managed to weave the hotel chain into the plot. But still it felt a little—strange. Like I should be looking over my shoulder. Like there should somehow be some deeper meaning.

Here’s another example. One of the things I sometimes do in my novels is scatter a couple of what I like to think of as the literary equivalent to software developers’ “Easter eggs”: in the same way developers leave a secret message or joke buried in an application, I hide names. I’m currently writing the seventh book in my Provincetown mystery series that features wedding planner Sydney Riley. So far, only a couple of people have found the egg: Sidney Reilly (note the different spelling) was a rather infamous spy thought to be the model for Ian Fleming’s James Bond character.

(All right, so it doesn’t take much to amuse me.)

I decided to play the name game again with the current novel and thought about a character I was creating, a man whose family had owned a plantation in the antebellum South. I found one I liked, Howard Carter; the egg is that Howard Carter was an archaeologist and Egyptologist world-famous for discovering the intact tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. Cool! So I named my character and then proceeded with some research into Virginia plantations and found that the oldest one in Virginia is now owned by the seventh generation of the family—whose name is Carter.

(Cue Twilight Zone theme music.)

I have a friend who would listen to that and say, “see, Jeannette, it was Meant To Be!” (You can hear the capitalizations in her voice.) And I know some people think that everything happens for a reason, that there are no coincidences, that destiny won’t be denied. Once fate has you in its sights, it’s all over.

I think it’s simpler than that. Millions and millions and millions of pieces of data pass through our brains and our experiences and our thoughts every day. Which ones do we notice? The ones that fit with something we’re already thinking or experiencing. I found the plantation that belonged to the Carter family—but in assigning significance to that discovery, I was discounting the pages and pages of other plantations and other family names I read about at the same time. Our brains look for patterns and see them even where they don’t exist.

I actually like coincidences. Whether you believe they install some sort of order in the world or whether you look at them as gratuitous bits of fluff our brains fling out from time to time, they do give everything we do and think and feel a feeling (even if it’s just an illusion!) of interconnectedness.

And that isn’t coincidental at all.

THE MATINEE MURDERS: It’s time for the Provincetown International Film Festival, and wedding planner Sydney Riley has scored a coup: her inn is hosting the wedding of the year. Movie star Brett Falcone is to marry screenwriter Justin Braden, and even Sydney’s eternally critical mother is excited. The town is overflowing with filmmakers, film reviewers, film buffs, and it’s all the inn can do to keep up with the influx of glamorous celebrities and host their star-studded events.

But when Sydney opens a forbidden door in the mysterious Whaler’s Wharf, she discovers the body of a producer—and a legion of unanswered questions. Who strangled the innocuous Caroline Cooper? What dark force followed Brett and Justin from LA? Why is her boss Mike tense and double-checking every room at the inn? And is Mirela really leaving P’town forever? Sydney and her boyfriend Ali need to find the answers fast before another victim takes a final bow.

2020 Hindsight

Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today to share her thoughts on this awful year of 2020—and it’s not over yet.

The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.

sunny69@comcast.net   //  http://www.sunnyfrazier.com

Sunday was my 69th birthday and I stayed home, by choice. Despite the fact that restaurants are opening, no matter that some of my friends choose to venture out, even though a handful believe this is all a government hoax, I have no urge to use my body as a barometer to see if it’s safe.

We’re all a little shell-shocked as one calamity after another happens. Being home has given us a chance for introspection.

First, we worried about nature. Climate change, melting icebergs, fires in the Amazon. We were used to that sort of news. Weather headlined the nightly news with a hurricane demolishing Puerto Rico. Throwing paper towels at the problem wasn’t going to solve it.

We impeached a president. That seemed earthshaking at the time. We all learned a little Latin when Quid Pro Quo was being bantered about. Nothing seemed to come of it than a slap on the president’s hand.

Lurking in the background was a virus in China. We saw it, we watched as the city of Wuhan shut its gates to the world. But, that wasn’t our problem. Until it was. The idea that the United States wasn’t at risk quickly came to an end. Despite our advanced technology and “superior” health care, the Dragon made it to our shores. Suddenly we were all donning masks until they were in short supply. Hand sanitizer and toilet paper disappeared from the shelves. Rest homes were vulnerable and loved ones were kept out as the elderly died. Doctors and nurses were fed and applauded. It brought out the best in our country.

And the worst. After staying at home for two months, some people were willing to test the waters by going to the beach. The idea of six feet apart was laughed at. The young, invincible as always, partied in large groups. Maybe they were celebrating their dystopian fantasies coming true.

For a mega-second we were distracted by Murder Hornets. But then the most unbelievable believable thing happened. An African American man was murdered in broad daylight by a policeman who found it necessary to rest his knee and full body weight on George Floyd’s neck. There was an audience and cameras but none of this deterred the action. There were plenty of other incidents, but this one came at a time when the country was at its breaking point. This time the reaction was world-wide. Racism wasn’t safely covered over and protected by law. The question was, who protects us from the protectors?

Removing Confederate statues and flags won’t end the legacy of the Civil War. Taking guns away from Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam is cartoonish. Forbid the showing of “Gone With the Wind”? That’s a tragedy because it’s a landmark in movie making.

It only took six months and 155 years to get to this point. 2020 will be a year remembered in the worst way. We missed out on St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s Day. We missed out on funerals too. There will be other years, but in 2020 we missed out on so much. It’s a census year and there’s over 100,000 people can no longer count. We still have an election to deal with. On top of that, the Corona Virus is predicted to make a comeback.

No one can argue that the world is changing. Whether for the better or worse, we won’t know until we look back in hindsight.

The Telltale Bookshelf @JMmystery

Jeanne Matthews is the author of the Dinah Pelerin international mysteries published by Poisoned Pen Press. Like her amateur sleuth, Jeanne was born with a serious wanderlust. Originally from Georgia, she enjoys traveling the world and learning about other cultures and customs, which she incorporates into her novels. She currently lives in Renton, Washington with her husband who is a law professor. Where the Bones Are Buried, the fifth book in the series, is in bookstores now . You can learn more about Jeanne’s books at http://www.jeannematthews.com

Books are a symbol of erudition and authority.  During this COVID-19 quarantine, with reporters and pundits forced to deliver news and opinion from their homes, a well-stocked bookshelf has become the essential prop.  The reputation of experts rests upon our belief that they know what they’re talking about, that they’re well read and up on the latest culturally relevant books.  What better way to demonstrate one’s breadth of knowledge than to pose in front of a carefully curated library?  It doesn’t have to match the Great Library of Alexandria, but it doesn’t pay to skimp.  The Portuguese recently demanded the resignation of their Minister of Education on the grounds that he conducted a video conference with no books in the background.

The bookshelves of famous people have become the subject of considerable scrutiny and, let’s face it, a bit of voyeuristic pleasure.  I’m no “room rater,” but I’ve moved closer to the TV, turning my head this way and that, squinting at titles and marveling at the attractive way the books have been displayed.  Some shelves exhibit a perfect symmetry of vertical spines and horizontal stacks, some are color coordinated, all are interspersed with photographs and objets d’art.  But it’s the titles that tell the tale.  What do they say about a person?

It’s titillating to think the bookshelf affords a peek into its owner’s soul.  “You are what you read,” said Oscar Wilde.  And there, laid bare for all to see and judge, are the books that reveal these talking heads’ tastes and passions and cultural frame of reference.  Which authors hold pride of place?  What range of subjects is represented?  I strain my eyes for clues, but legibility is a problem.  I can pick out only a few titles, most of them dead serious.  Economics, politics, history, biography.  With everyone’s mind on plague and pestilence, it’s not surprising that Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror appears in several collections and a couple of times I’ve spotted the French economist Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century.  The gravitas of these tomes creates an impression of extreme braininess, assuming of course they’ve actually been read.

Maybe it’s my eyes, but none of them look particularly well thumbed.  And if you watch the same show from week to week, you can’t help but notice that the books never move. They’re always in the same location – almost as if they were…well, wallpaper.  But even if some of these magnum opuses were placed on the shelf for effect, even if some have never been opened – heck, everybody has a pile of aspirational books we mean to delve into one of these days.  Literary behemoths on the order of Moby Dick and Ulysses stare back at us, waiting for a blue moon, or a pandemic that keeps us socially isolated for months on end.

Most of us also have a smattering of pulpier reads tucked in amidst the profundity.  There’s bound to be at least one lowbrow title over that TV anchor’s shoulder.  I scan the shelves for a glimpse of a smutty romance – maybe Fifty Shades of Grey or something in the self-help line, I Heart Me or You Are A Badass.  So far I’ve spied nary a bodice ripper, but as I’ve said, the titles are blurry.  I guess any infra dig novels the camera might catch are culled prior to going live.

It’s encouraging for us crime writers to see that not all genre fiction is hidden from view.  Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, isn’t embarrassed to let it be known she enjoys a good murder, provided the author is Scottish.  She evidently owns every book Ian Rankin and Val McDermid have ever written.  Although Prince Charles’s shelves don’t contain any recent whodunnits, he reads Dick Francis, who incidentally was jockey to his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.  Given the homage paid to Inspector Morse in the city of Oxford, it would probably be considered unpatriotic of the heir to the British throne not to keep a collection of Colin Dexters somewhere about the castle.  And Tom Clancy’s espionage thriller The Bear and the Dragon stands at attention between histories of the Civil War and WWII in American General Carter Ham’s bookcase.

It’s been a very long lockdown.  We’ve all done a lot of reading.  Perhaps some of us have enjoyed a little too much coziness and gone to the noir side…”felt the edge of the carving knife and studied our husband’s neck.”  By now anything might have turned up behind that multi-volume set of Harvard Classics.  Better not sit in front of the bookshelf during your next Zoom happy hour.

What’s Up with the Dog? @TheMysteryLadie

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, Chris Matheson Cold Case, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty-five titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Killer Deadline marks Lauren’s first venture into mystery’s purely cozy sub-genre with a female protagonist. 

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

A popular speaker, Lauren is also the owner of Acorn Book Service, the umbrella under which falls iRead Book Tours. She lives with her husband and two spoiled rotten German Shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author: Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram ~ Pinterest

I’ll admit it. When I started out my writing career, I envisioned writing humor or thought-provoking pieces about life. Maybe, if I was really lucky, I could write murder mysteries with cutting-edge detectives.

Well, as I am now promoting my twenty-eighth book, never did I dream that I would be writing jazzy murder mysteries featuring a loveable boxer dog with OCD (obsessive-compulsive-disorder).

Anyone who reads Lauren Carr mysteries knows that somewhere among the cast of characters, they are going to find a furry, loveable mammal with four legs. It’s a given. Just like it was a given when I started writing that my protagonists would own a pet. Cat? Dog? Didn’t matter. There had to be a pet somewhere in their household.

As I have traveled through life, I have observed that people who don’t own or love animals are different from people who don’t. Granted, some people don’t own a pet because their circumstances don’t allow it. For example, if they have a job where they need to be on the road all the time. Generally, people who love animals possess a sense of compassion that non-animal lovers lack. That is the quality that I sought to reveal to my readers.

I didn’t expect the pets to become such a part of the stories. Now, as I reflect on this development, how could I not expect the furry characters to become such an important part of the cast? According to the American Pet Products Association, in 2018, Americans spent $72 billion on their pets. That’s BILLIONS with a “B!” Browse YouTube and you will find that animals play a very important part of our lives and our families. I can’t tell you how many times a day I get sucked into Youtube to watch a husky charming a treat from a street vendor, a cat giving a massage to rottweiler, or a hedgehog enjoying a tasty snack. It’s not just me. These videos chock up millions of views. No! It is not me watching these videos over and over and over again!

Our pets had become sown into the fabric of our lives long before I introduced Admiral, the Great Dane/Irish Wolfhound mix, in A Small Case of Murder. From an oversized couch potato sneaking onto the sofa, my furry characters have grown and transformed until I introduced Newman, the Basset Hound-mix in the Thorny Rose mysteries, a devoted couch potato who is quite possessive of the television remote.

As a life-long pet owner, I don’t believe that it is purely wishful thinking that has motivated humans to project human characteristics onto our four-footed family members. Animals do have individual personalities. Take two German shepherds: My Gnarly, who passed away of cancer in 2016, was scary smart. One day, while I was cleaning the kitchen, Gnarly opened the door and trotted out to play. He went around the house and opened the back door and trotted inside. He ran upstairs, got a drink of water and then turned around and opened the front door that I had shut to run back outside ― not unlike a child. He did that the entire afternoon. Eventually, my husband had to replace the doorknobs in our home because Gnarly could open the doors and walk in and out at will. Shortly before he died, he had figured out how to open doors with round doorknobs. Gnarly’s personality was protective of his family. He had a serious nature like his fictional counterpart by the same name in the Mac Faraday Mysteries.

Sterling–Prisoner #227

Not all furry characters are the same. Gnarly’s real-life nephew can open doors. Sterling has done it. But he is content to have doors opened for him. Single-handedly, Sterling is ruining the reputation that Gnarly had developed in our neighborhood for having a no-tolerance-for-bad-guys policy.

Recently, some workmen came to clean our gutters. Strangers are naturally cautious around homes with two German shepherds. I like it that way. When one of the workers asked if the dogs would attack, I replied that it was best they kept their distance. Inside the house, Sterling went from window to door to window—keeping a close eye on where the visitors were at all times. After clearing the dead leaves from the gutters, one worker asked for a broom to clean off the back deck. When I opened the door to hand it to him, Sterling slipped out, ran up to the worker, planted his front paws on the man’s shoulders, and gave him a big kiss. The worker returned the hug. It turned into a hug-fest. “Oh, I know you’re a good dog,” the worker said between hugs and
kisses.

My lie was exposed.

Last week, Sterling was sitting in the yard watching the deer and squirrels go by. A blond-haired woman drove by in a red car. The window was down. As she passed, the driver slowed and actually blew a kiss to Sterling! He responded by wagging his tail.   Where did he meet her? How does she know Sterling well enough to blow kisses at him? Word has gotten around. The big bad German shepherd is a nothing more than a hundred pounds of love in a fur-sack!

Anyone who has had pets knows that animals are capable and worthy of becoming full-fledge characters in books—each one with their own personalities and issues. I’ve had dozens of pets throughout the years and no two were the same.

In my first Nikki Bryant Cozy Mystery, Killer Deadline, Elmo is a combination of two boxers I had as a child. A social media influencer thanks to Nikki Bryant, Elmo is a loveable loyal dog who assumes everyone should love him. Elmo is also the first pet I have introduced who is a rescue dog. As Nikki Bryant explains in the beginning of Killer Deadline, Elmo had been adopted as a puppy by an elderly woman. Using YouTube training videos, she taught Elmo tasks to help her—not unlike a service dog only without formal training. Apparently, some of the tasks she taught him was to clean the house.

When Elmo’s elderly owner was murdered, he landed in a shelter because no one in her family could take him. He slipped into a depression and sat sadly in his cage. When journalist Nikki Bryant decided to investigate the case, she went to the shelter to adopt Elmo, who helped her to identify the killer. When news of Elmo’s assistance in solving the murder hit social media, the boxer from the shelter became a social media influencer. Nikki Bryant and Elmo have been together ever since—just as it should be.

Could I have written this first installment in the Nikki Bryant Cozy Mysteries without a dog? No. I couldn’t do that any more than I could make it through the day without a hug from Sterling. I’m sure all of those Americans spending $72 billion a year on pet supplies would agree.

************

“Lauren Carr’s books are never boring, that’s for sure. They entertain,
give us a good mystery to dig into, keep the reader guessing, give us a
few good laughs and make us eager for the next book. Warning: Lauren Carr’s
series are addictive, so be ready to read more than just one
book!” – Laura Fabiani, Library of Clean Reads

************

Book Details:

Book Title:  Killer Deadline (A Nikki Bryant Cozy Mystery) by Lauren Carr
Category:  Adult Fiction (18 +),  232 pages
Genre:  Mystery/Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Acorn Book Services
Release date:   April 23, 2020
Content Rating: G. This is a true cozy mystery. No sex. No on-stage violence. No swearing. Just good clean fun!

Book Description:

Folks in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, claim that where Nikki Bryant goes, trouble is not far behind. Her refusal to back down from a challenge has made Nikki Bryant a top investigative journalist.

When an online friend nudges her to join him in a pact to reconnect with their first loves, Nikki and her boxer dog Elmo leave the bright lights of Las Vegas for the charming town of Pine Grove. There, she must face the biggest challenges in her career and life—the first love she had left behind and her father’s unsolved murder.

But before she has time to unpack her car, Nikki stumbles upon the dead body of local news anchor, Ashleigh Addison, her childhood rival. Could Ashleigh’s death be connected to an explosive news story that she had teased about airing live? Did that explosive story have anything to do with the murder of Nikki’s father?

With the clues in her father’s cold case hot again, Nikki intends to chase down the story of her life until she catches his killer—no matter what it takes.

Order Your Copy Today!
Amazon.com ~ Amazon.com (paperback)
Add to Goodreads

************

“Here we go! Carr is a master storyteller who always offers a plot full
of twists and turns, a bit of humor to offset the dark, and a unique cast
of characters. In Killer Deadline that cast includes – handsome Ryan, her
first love (who is now her step-brother); a mysterious social media
friend
called Nerdy Guy; Elmo, a super smart dog, a boxer, she
rescued who
has become a social media star and has a penchant for
cleaning; a TV 
station full of suspicious employees; and more.

”This book is a wonderful  read to pick up at the end of a long day. It truly
is a “cozy murder mystery.”  
I promise, it’ll draw you in right from page one
and keep you turning the 
pages until you reach the very last page. I can’t wait
for the second 
book in this series.” – Marilyn R. Wilson, Olio by Marilyn

************

Giveaway

$50 Amazon Gift Card courtesy
of Lauren Carr, author of
KILLER DEADLINE

Enter here.

A Writer’s Pandemic Survival Guide @kdkoppang

Kathleen Delaney, author of Murder Half-Baked and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. She’s here today to talk about how she’s been coping with the pandemic and staying at home.

Purebred Dead, the first in the new Mary McGill series, was released in August 2015 and Curtains for Miss Plym was released in April 2016. Blood Red, White and Blue was released in July 2017 and was a finalist for best canine book of the year in the Dog Writers of America annual writing contest. Kathleen’s newest book in the series, Dressed to Kill, was released in the UK on August 1, 2019 and in the US on November 1, 2019.

http://www.kathleendelaney.net/

We writers spend a lot of time by themselves, well, if you don’t count our imaginary friends, we do. Writers spend a lot of time in a world only we can see, talking with people only we can hear. You might run across one of us, apparently staring into space. We are not. We’re trying to figure out why that nice Miss Benson did what she did last night, and what she’s likely to do next.

I believe most writers have overdeveloped imaginations. Probably something in childhood we’ve never outgrown. If the second grade was just too hard, or seventh grade math class boring, we solved the problem by retreating into a world of our own making, I think that’s why we are, as a group, coming through this pandemic sane. Sort of. We are used to living by ourselves, within ourselves, so the isolation of our ‘sheltering at home’ doesn’t affect us as deeply as those who are used to working outside their homes..

That doesn’t mean our lives consist of nothing else but plot, write, and edit. We go to lunch with friends, to church, to soccer practice, and, of course to book related events at libraries, festivals, conferences, at least we used to. Now, going to the grocery store is a hazardous adventure and church is only available on line, and, out of necessity, soccer balls are forbidden in the house. So, what do we do to fill those extra non-working hours? As with the rest of the non-writing world, that depends.

I have a dear friend who scrapbooks. She is making one for each of her nieces for Christmas. I think that is a wonderful idea. Those children have their lives at their finger tips for, well, forever. I could do that, except all of the pictures of all my children and grandchildren over the years haven’t ended up in albums but in those big plastic tubs you buy at WalMart. Over the years and the many moves I’ve made, it seemed a safer way to keep them until I could get them into order. I doubt that is going to happen any time soon.

I have other friends who knit, embroider, tat ( whatever that is), water color, or can repaint their bedroom while getting most of the paint on the walls. I don’t fall into that category, either.

New recipes. That is something I love to do, cook. Old favorites and new untried ones, what fun. Only, its just me, the kids can’t come because of the virus, and I do not need a whole chocolate cake, so… I read. I have read I think 16 books in the last couple of weeks and my ‘have read’ pile is looking pretty impressive. My TBR pile still looks about as high, as when this whole thing started but that may be because I’ve purchased more books. I’m working on lowering it and having a great time in the process..

I’ve found some authors new to me that I have really enjoyed and gotten reacquainted with some of my old favorites. In no particular order, here are just a few I’ve recently read and enjoyed. .

1. Vicki Delany’s Elementary She Read.  You can always count on Vicki for a great read and this one is no exception. Had me guessing right up to the end.

2. Hunting Hour by Margaret Mizushima, her books are new to me and I will read more. Good characters and a plot that plays fair with the reader besides holding you fast until the last page. Love her K-9 partner, Robo

3. Pauline Rowson’s Lethal Waves. An intriguing plot and well drawn characters. I will look for more of her books

4. Elizabeth Peters. When ever I need to escape I can count on Amelia Peabody to take me into another world. Suspension of disbelief at its finest. I’ve re-read two this week and am sure will pull a couple more off the bookshelf before this is all over

5. Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce books. There are 12 over all, I believe, and I have read 6 of them, 3 in the last couple of weeks. I am pretty sure I will have read them all in the not too distant future.

6. Kate Atkinson’s One Good Time. I found this book on of my bookshelves while I was looking for something else and realized I hadn’t read it. Where I got it and why I haven’t read it until now, I don’t know, but I had to get very stern with myself to put it down to write this blog. Lots of characters and an intricate plot, but she writes so well I am following them with ease and watching this plot unroll slowly and deliberately is intoxicating. I am only half way through, but have no fears this one will fall apart. An excellent book.

That’s a few. There are many more I’ve loved, a few I thought had some fatal flaws, but to have read this many in only a couple of weeks has been such fun. I didn’t even feel guilty doing it. After all, we are all under lock down, and I have learned something from each and every one of these books. So, even if this goes on another few weeks, I think I’ll get through it, sanity intact. I’m making no guarantees about months.

Stay safe, everyone, and read on.

Adios, Cinco de Mayo

Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here to bemoan the current inability to properly celebrate Cinco de Mayo today.

The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.

sunny69@comcast.net   //  http://www.sunnyfrazier.com

This year we’ve all had to forgo celebrations because of a worldwide pandemic. St. Patrick’s Day we went without green beer, Easter we saw empty churches. Today is May 5 and we can’t celebrate with a crowd toasted on tequila. All because of a virus named after a favorite Mexican beer. Oh, the irony!

Most people think Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Independence of Mexico. If you want to do that, get ready for September 16. No, today is honoring the Battle of Puebla. In 1862, Mexico was in a war with France. That’s right, Napoleon III sent an army over to get the locals in line and pay the back dues from trade. Would it be racist to call it a “Mexican Stand-off?” Because that’s what the 5 year altercation was. And this was the 2nd time the two countries were at war.

(Just think, if the French had won we’d be drinking champagne instead of Corona and eating crepes instead of carne asada. If a fence was built it would be to keep Americans out.)

Speaking of Corona, there are ignorant people who refuse to drink the brand because of the connection with the virus. THERE IS NO CONNECTION. There is, however, a connection between wearing masks and the virus. And if you’re wearing a mask you can’t drink anyway.

I found stats that say Americans spend $750 million on beer during the week of Cinco de Mayo. We drink more tequila than any other nation. We eat 80 million avocados a year, much of it in guacamole. In 2005, Cinco de Mayo officially became a U.S. holiday. They also celebrate the day in Australia, Malta and the Cayman Islands. Surprisingly enough, Mexico considers it a minor holiday and wonder what the fuss is about.

But, this year is different. If you want tacos and tequila or beer and burritos, better call Chub Hub or Uber Eats. Listen to music on a Spanish station and dance the salsa. Or eat the salsa. Let your hair down and your prejudices. Have a Zoom fiesta with friends.

Pray that next year will be different. Vaya con dios, mi amigos.