The End

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 important the end of a mystery is as well as the clues the reader may or not see.

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, will be released in the UK on August 1, 2019 and in the US on November 1, 2019.

http://www.kathleendelaney.net/

I have turned in the final edits for the 4th book in the Mary McGill canine mystery series, Dressed to Kill, and am taking a vacation from writing and am reading. My TBR pile is stacked so high it might hurt someone if it fell over, so I feel an obligation to reduce it. As usual, I’m learning a lot about a lot of things, not the least of which is about writing. Authors have different ways of structuring their books but no matter how it’s put together, eventually it must come to the end. I think the end is especially important when writing mysteries as the whole book is leading up to solving the puzzle or exposing the murderer.

I don’t remember the first mystery I ever read but it was at a fairly young age and I was hooked. I remember wondering how the author thought up all those twists and turns that threw me, the reader, off track while trying to solve that puzzle.

Sometimes the author slipped in thinly disguised clues that I overlooked. Then I would slap myself in the head and utter, “Of course it was Lord Hammersmith. He had to kill his uncle before the new will was signed.” Why didn’t I see that the clues had been there but cleverly disguised and I hadn’t recognized them?

However, in some books, even by the most skilled and most highly regarded authors, the clues could never be obvious to the reader and I sometimes had a hard time figuring out how the protagonist figured them out as well. Where were the little clues that told us that Ernestine Willingham wasn’t really Ernestine at all but her 2nd cousin once removed and hid that little detail for forty years of marriage until one day she felt threatened  by someone whose name only appears once so she murdered her husband so he wouldn’t divorce her. Or the books where the murderer only appears as a walk-on or where the story drags on until in a rush it’s all solved and we are left feeling a little breathless and confused as to how it all happened.

These might be exaggerated descriptions of endings I don’t like or think fair, but I think you get the picture. Laying clues throughout the book that, if you can recognize them, lead to a logical ending isn’t easy. Neither is disguising them enough that you fool the reader who then slaps herself upside the head at the end and says, “Of course it was Mr Peabody in the library with the hammer!”

But I’ve found inserting them is as much fun as reading them. I’m not always successful, I know many readers solve my puzzles before the grand finale but I sure have fun trying to keep you in the dark until the very end. So, gentle reader, read on.

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Step Away from the Cliff

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

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

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

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Visit Lauren’s websites and blog at:

E-Mail: writerlaurencarr@gmail.net
Website: http://mysterylady.net/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lauren.carr.984991
Gnarly’s Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/GnarlyofMacFaradayMysteries
Lovers in Crime Facebook Page:
http://www.facebook.com/LoversInCrimeMysteries?ref=ts&fref=ts
Acorn Book Services Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/AcornBookServices?ref=hl
Twitter: @TheMysteryLadie

Warning: This post is a vent. Writers who can’t seem to stop
cliffhanging and Readers who love hanging from them, be forewarned!

It happened again.

Over several days, I listened to an audiobook, a mystery-suspense selected by our book club. It was intriguing. Interesting characters who I cared about. Plenty of suspense. By the last quarter of the book, I was glued to my cell phone, listening for how the story ended.

Finally, we reached it. There was the solution. The bad guys were captured. The hero got the girl.

But wait! There was still the epilogue. The main characters got married for their happily ever after. Ah!

But wait again. There was still more as the main character sat down to go over the case only to discover that the case really was not solved! There was still a dirty rotten scoundrel who had gotten away undetected and escaped justice.

The mystery was STILL afoot!

THE END.

NO! I screamed so loud that Sterling ran from the room with his tail between his legs.

I had spent almost eight hours of my life listening to that book that didn’t have an ending. Rather, it had an end, as members of my book club argued. It just, after the ending, started the next book, which I have since learned hasn’t even been written! There isn’t going to be a sequel! The culprit will never get caught! There will never be justice!

I’d spent eight hours of my life on a book with a dangling plotline (the technical term is “open ending”) that I will never get back.

As a publisher, I have worked on books from two different authors who did the same thing. The first book I considered excellent—except for the cliffhanger. The young first-time writer insisted that it was a trilogy—the first book had to end in a cliffhanger.

Against my better judgement, I agreed to release the book, but told the writer that the second book had to be ready to go upon the release of the first one. He assured me that it would be. The first book was published in 2014. There’s no sign of the second book in his trilogy. Last time I checked his status on social media, he was hanging out with his buds watching Game of Thrones.

The second author was working on what he considered to be a series. The first book ended in a cliffhanger with the characters in a life and death struggle against evil. Last I heard, he gave up writing completely.

I can’t believe that I am the only reader in the world who hates to be left hanging at the end of a book. However, based on how many books our book club has recommended in recent months that have such endings, television shows that insist on having seasonal/series arches that don’t allow you to just watch one hour and then go to bed satisfied, and movies where you have to wait a year to get the solution (Star Wars: The Last Jedi/Avengers: Infinity War), I’m beginning to think that I may have to take up another hobby to feel complete and satisfied—like taste-tester at the Cheesecake Factory.

I confess. I am that one person in the whole world who has yet to see Avengers: Infinity War. My family was furious because I refused to see it until Avengers: End Game came out so that I could binge watch them both on the same day. I told them they could go without me, but they refused. It just wasn’t going to be as good without Dear Old Mom cursing the whole way home after being pushed over a cliff from which to hang.

Tell me that I am not the only reader who hurls a book across the room when the book ends with “Tune in next time to find out if the serial killer who crawled out of the woodwork on the last page is going to dismember the protagonist and his family.”

Look at it from my point of view: Life is short. You never know when the Angel of Death is going to jump out of nowhere to punch your ticket and take you to your final destination, which most likely will not have a library.

The last thing I want to do is spend over two hours of what I have left here on earth in a theater watching a movie that isn’t going to end until a year later, or spend eight hours listening to a book that ends in a life and death struggle that is never resolved because the writer decides to retire his laptop or I got hit by a train before its release.

As I have said, I have been assailed by these non-ending books through selections at my book club. After this last fiasco, I announced that from now on I will read the last chapter/epilogue first. As soon as I see a cliff on the horizon, I’m bailing.

I didn’t used to be that way. I used to think it was sacrilege to read the ending of a book before turning to page one. Equally, I thought it was a killjoy to go to the internet to checkout a synopsis of a movie or television series ahead of time to find out how it ended. But I’ve been burned so many times, that I’ll admit it’s now common practice.

Or is the author going to shove the reader hanging by a tree root off the edge of a cliff while waiting for the next installment, which may or may not come? Will there be justice in the end? Will all the good guys survive? Is this book the complete package—with every storyline tied up with a nice bow?

My declaration about reading the ending first caused quite a discussion between the cliffhanging enthusiasts and those who want their books to be the complete package.

“That’s life,” one fellow reader insisted. “Life is full of open endings. Doesn’t each day end with a cliffhanger? I mean, it isn’t like you go to bed at night with no dangling plotlines.”

I guess there in lies the crux of the situation.

I have been surprised to learn that different people read for different reasons. Some want an artistic representation of life. These are the people who prefer the paintings in the art gallery to look much like life—warts and all. Life does not offer us the complete package, so why should we expect authors to put it in their books? As I read in one blog post, when the boy gets the girl at the end, there are going to be fights, issues, adjustments. There is no such thing as a “happily ever after.”

These readers state that it is unrealistic for books to end without dangling plotlines or cliffhangers.

Yet, there is a whole reading audience, like me, who read to escape the reality of life. From the time I learned how to read, I read books to escape what I considered to be a boring life to go on an adventure into another world that was full of excitement, mystery, and suspense.

The author is my tour guide. I trust the writer to take me on a complete adventure that will bring me into the station called “The End” feeling completely satisfied that I haven’t missed anything – no dirty rotten scoundrels got away.

Nothing makes me cross a writer off my “To Be Read” list faster than for him or her to slow the train down as we approach “The End” station only to speed up again right before we come to the stop. Then to demand that we buy another ticket in order to complete the adventure.

If this ride is the first of many available, the author may suggest that I come along on the next—in the form of a synopsis after I leave the station. At that point, if the writer has earned my trust, odds of my buying their next book will be high.

Nothing breaks my trust in an author faster than ending the book by opening a can of worms and forcing me to buy the next book to get the solution. Odds are, I will scream, spend several days cursing, and not buy the next book.

I don’t consider dangling plotlines and cliffhangers to be intriguing literary tools. I consider them to be a cheap exercise in manipulation.

So there you have it. I warned you that this was a vent. I’d like to hear from you down below in the comments. As a reader, do you like cliffhangers or dangling plotlines which force you to buy the next book? As a writer, do you use cliffhangers or dangling plotlines? If so, feel free to voice your views in defense of them.

There’s nothing like a good debate.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To enter the drawing for an ebook copy
of
The Root of Murder by Lauren Carr,
just leave a comment telling us what you
think about cliffhangers/dangling
plotlines. The winning name will be
drawn on
Monday evening, May 6th.

Surviving Life

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 a young girl’s take on survival.

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

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

“There are as many ways to survive as there are survivors.”  Amanda Robb, journalist.

Charles Darwin promoted Survival of the Fittest for evolution.

I should know all about it, seeing as how I’ve made it to nearly 68 years. But, I’m not the fittest, not the brightest, and if left in a jungle or put on the show “Survivor”, I would last maybe two days. Evolution ends here.

So, how is it that tweenager Lilian Chen knows more about survival than I do? Her mother let me read her school paper, which is at college level. She broke down the process into 5 traits of survivors and opened my mind in a thousand ways.

She began by stating that every survivor is saved by a unique set of circumstances that depends on personal characteristics and factors. To my relief, she says it’s not always the strongest, smartest, or those who can manage change (I still can’t work a cell phone), but rather those who are positive, can turn fear into focus, and are just plain lucky. That I can do.

Miss Chen explains that being able to adapt to situations is the key. If people give way to confusion or fear and freeze in their tracks, they’re a goner. Better to have a plan. Mark those exit doors.

I’m ridiculously optimistic. That’s not helpful if wolves are chasing me, but apparently it increases willpower and effort. The opposite of optimism is not pessimism, but apathy. When we go psychologically downhill, we’re pretty much dead. Self-pity, despair and making no effort to live guarantees a visit from the Grim Reaper. A positive mind means a desire to resist death and maybe live another day.

Fear goes either way. It can keep a person alive or immobilize them. For some, it helps them focus on getting away from harm; for others, it puts them in a trance. The trick is overcoming terror and taking some sort of action. Either waste it or exploit it.

And (drumroll please) the number one factor in survival is luck. It’s also the one thing you can’t control. It’s either your savior or executioner. But, you can change your luck by making smart choices that increase your chances. Also, keep a four-leaf clover in your pocket.

Versatility is not #1 on the list. However, it’s needed to make all the other traits work. Staying alive doesn’t mean using one element in your survival kit, but a combination of all to put the odds in your favor.

Here again are the key traits:

ADAPTATION

OPTIMISM

FEAR

LUCK

VERSATILITY

I want to give a big shout-out to Lilian Chen for breaking it down for us. She’s a true survivor!

It Pays to Increase Your Word Power

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

Every time I visit Great Britain, I come home with an expanded vocabulary.  Reading the morning newspapers is a humbling experience.  Journalists don’t dumb down their prose or tone down their political observations.  One editorialist described the House of Lords as a “worm farm of claret-gargling, bien pensant quangocrats.”  I was pretty confident about the meaning of worm farm and claret, but had to slink off to Wiktionary to learn that a bien pensant quangocrat was a more or less orthodox member of a quasi-governmental organization.  Live and learn.

The insertion of the French phrase sounds a tad pretentious and pedantic, but the astounding thing to me was that the writer expected the average British newspaper reader to know what he meant.  On that sceptered isle, it’s not just the writers who wield a formidable vocabulary.  The British public seems to have and make use of a more diverse mix of words in their everyday speech than Americans.  Anyone who has listened to their comments and complaints about Britain’s messy exit from the European Union has to agree they have a flair for expression.

“Now is the time to stiffen the sinews and summon up the blood.”

“So mental a political tap-dance, that it makes riding a porcupine bareback over a cliff seem the sane thing to do.”

They don’t sugarcoat their book reviews either.  “A Pooterishly embarrassing piece…A fire-lighter of vanity, self-pity and logorrhoeic dullness” sniped one critic.  I had to look up both Pooterish and logorrhoeic.  Pooterish alludes to a fictional character in a comic English novel and means self-important and narrow-minded.  Logorrhoeic means a pathologically excessive and sometimes incoherent tendency to wordiness.  Using too many words to make one’s point can be annoying, but having precisely the right words at one’s disposal eliminates the need for added description and explanation.  The larger the vocabulary, the more concise the writing.

A writer’s vocabulary is her toolbox and a reader’s vocabulary is his key to reading comprehension.  A word comes into existence when it is used by one person and understood by another.  If you can’t give a name to something, you can’t think it.  The English language has between one and two million words, more than any other language, and a new word is coined every 98 minutes.  Only savants, lexicographers, and championship Scrabble players know more than 100,000 or so.  Professor David Crystal, a language researcher, suggests that a person can estimate the size of his vocabulary by taking a sample twenty pages from a basic dictionary, counting the words he knows, dividing by the number of sample pages, then multiplying by the number of pages in the dictionary.  A reasonably educated person will know approximately 75,000 words, of which only about two-thirds find their way into his normal conversation.

Nothing builds vocabulary like reading and the mystery genre is blessed with a number of clever wordsmiths.  One of my favorites is the late (but thank heavens, prolific) Reginald Hill.  In his Dialogues with the Dead, the murderer was a “paronomaniac” – defined by a forensic psychologist as “someone obsessed with language, not just on a linguistic level, but at a philosophical level, maybe even a magical level.”  If that sounds logorrhoeic, Inspector Andy Dalziel sums it up more succinctly.  “So we’re looking for a nut who likes doing riddles and crosswords.”

Kate Atkinson differentiates her characters by the words they choose to express themselves.  Here’s a quote from One Good Turn:  “Julia’s vocabulary was chock-full of strangely archaic words – ‘spiffing,’ ‘crumbs,’ ‘jeepers’ – that seemed to have originated in some prewar girls’ annual rather than in Julia’s own life.  For Jackson [Atkinson’s series detective], words were functional, they helped you get to places and explain things.  For Julia, they were freighted with inexplicable emotion.”

From 1945 to 1965, Wilfred J. Funk (of Funk & Wagnalls Dictionary fame) contributed a column to Reader’s Digest called “It Pays to Increase Your Word Power.”  It was one of the most popular features in the magazine, continued after Wilfred’s death by his son Peter.  “Whenever we learn a new word,” said Peter, “it is not just dumped into our ‘mental dictionary.’  Our brain creates neural connections between the new word and others relevant to our interests.  It develops new perceptions and concepts.”  And Americans did in fact believe that a well-stocked vocabulary paid.  It enhanced their chances for advancement in their careers.  It enhanced their ability to move hearts and change minds.  A skilled user of words might even become President of the United States.

Word power is no longer necessary to achieve high office. Today, the patois of a Pooterish fourth-grader is all it takes.  Sad.  But words still matter.  The best reason to cultivate a rich vocabulary is not to gain professional success or impress other people.  Words are, in the humble opinion of Albus Dumbledore, “our most inexhaustible source of magic.”

Animals in Literature

Kathleen Delaney, author of Murder Half-Baked and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. She’s here today to share her love animals and how they came to be in her books.

Murder by Syllabub, fifth in the Ellen McKenzie series, is available in bookstores now. 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.

http://www.kathleendelaney.net/

The other day I overheard two women talking about books. I don’t eavesdrop, well, not usually, but books are a topic I find hard to ignore. One woman said she couldn’t resist a book if it had a dog in it. I almost walked over to tell her about the Mary McGill canine mysteries and how she’d just love Millie, Mary McGill’s cocker, but I refrained. After all, it is rude to eavesdrop, even if it is very tempting. But it did get me to thinking. I also have a hard time resisting a book with a dog in it. Or a cat, or a horse, or an elephant or…

It started, of course, when I was a child. People give children books about animals, sometimes not realizing how profoundly they can influence a child’s life. I can’t remember which of the many animal books came first and I guess it doesn’t matter. What does is how hard it is to forget them and how they colored my view of things. Remember Smokey by Will James? Or Black Beauty? Or Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion? That one started my love affair with Arabian horses. I also had multiple books about famous race horses, Justin Morgan had a Horse (Morgan’s are great little horses) Man of War and his sons, and a lot of others. We lived in an apartment during those years and it was as close as I got to a horse. I corrected that in later years.

My brother and I wanted a dog. I’d read Big Red, Lassie, Beautiful Joe, The Bar Sinister, and a huge pile of other dog books, but had decided when the wonderful day came, we were going to get an Irish Setter. Luckily, my brother agreed. Finally, my folks bought a house and we got a dog. Penny. An Irish Setter. Our first rescue dog. And, boy, did she need to be rescued. She was so starved that the first thing she did when we brought her home (after giving her a bath so my mother would allow her in the house) was jump on the dining room table and eat the fruit out of the center piece.

There have been many more dogs in my life, many of them rescues, but the lessons I learned about dogs, about all animals and the way to treat them, and the way not to, have never left me. Those books, all of them, taught me, among other things the virtue of kindness and to abhor cruelty, to animals and to humans.

Those books and the hours I spent with them are probably one of the reasons so many animals are in my own mysteries. Only one, Give First Place to Murder, is about horses, but dogs and cats are liberally sprinkled throughout the pages of the other 8 right along with the dead bodies and they figure in helping solve the puzzles. Not on purpose, of course, but by pointing the way and by protecting the people they love.

The Mary McGill canine mystery series centers around the dogs, and each has a ‘visiting dog’ who helps Millie push the story forward. Purebred Dead, 1st in the series, describes how Mary and Millie got together. Not the usual way someone adopts a dog. In Curtains for Miss Plym, 2nd in the series, Morgan, a three legged hound dog, appears. He is suspiciously like a rescue we acquired a couple of years ago named Lefty, a descriptive but uninspired name but he doesn’t seem to care. If you haven’t read Blood Red White and Blue, 3rd in the series, and like German Shepards, give it a try. It was a finalist in 2017’s Dog Writers of America best canine novel of the year. Ranger reminds me a lot of my beloved Shea, who is I am sure waiting for me across the Rainbow Bridge. Dressed to Kill will be released in the US Nov 1 of this year. Millie makes friends with Zoe, a black lab service dog who is patterned after Believe, a puppy my granddaughter raised to be a service dog. Mary gets to learn a little about how these dogs work while catching a murderer.

I couldn’t have written all these dogs if I hadn’t read so many books about dogs, and cats and horses, and if my life hadn’t been graced living with so many of them. My current crew, Millie, Maggie and Ollie the Cat make my life richer by far, even if they do take up more than their half of the bed.

Tales About Characters with Tails

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

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

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.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Visit Lauren’s websites and blog at:

E-Mail: writerlaurencarr@gmail.net
Website: http://mysterylady.net/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lauren.carr.984991
Gnarly’s Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/GnarlyofMacFaradayMysteries
Lovers in Crime Facebook Page:
http://www.facebook.com/LoversInCrimeMysteries?ref=ts&fref=ts
Acorn Book Services Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/AcornBookServices?ref=hl
Twitter: @TheMysteryLadie

“Charley was my favorite character in this book.”
“I love the antics of Gnarly.”
“Irving is a hoot.”
“Sterling, the retired German Shepherd police dog turned card shark, is a new favorite.”
“Twists, turns, and a tarantula named Monique.”

These are actual comments made by both readers and reviewers about characters in my murder mystery series. Surprisingly, these characters all have one thing in common.

They all have tails. Well, maybe not the tarantula. Do tarantulas have tails? I need to check on that.

As the writer of four mystery series, I feel like a proud mother when readers and reviewers fall in love with my characters. Yes, they do love the human characters, too, but there is a special fondness for the fur-covered ones, too. Yes, tarantulas do have fur. That I do know.

From the very beginning, all of my books have had animals. However, in my first two books, the pets were only in the background—little more than window dressing.

For several drafts of It’s Murder, My Son, the first Mac Faraday Mystery, Gnarly was much the same. He didn’t spring into the canine kleptomaniac that he is now until one of the final drafts of the book.

How did that happen? Gnarly is based on my Australian shepherd Ziggy, who came into our lives while I was writing It’s Murder, My Son. Like the Gnarly in the book, Ziggy was precocious and totally loveable in his badness. So much so, that I had to include him in my book. In order to make him a dishonorably discharged army canine I made him a German shepherd and changed his name to Gnarly, which means “extreme.”

Don’t think I make their antics up! Readers are always telling me stories, because I am a writer. And, since I love animals and often have animals in my books, many readers and fans love to pass on their animal stories. In the Mac Faraday mysteries, Gnarly sleeps under Mac’s bed, which is where Ziggy slept. One reader told me that she thought only her dog did that until she read It’s Murder, My Son.

I guess it was only a matter of time before I set a mystery on a farm filled with wacky critters.

Much of the mystery in my new release, The Root of Murder is set at Russell Ridge Farm and Orchards, which is based on a number of farms located in and around the Ohio Valley. Like Joshua Thornton, I come from a long line of farmers and grew up on a farm. So much of that lifestyle is based on my own life. Since this Lovers in Crime Mystery includes a farm setting, I had a license to include a pack of furry characters!

Charley the Rooster comes from one of my readers! Yep, his name is really Charley. He was given to the reader’s niece as a chick at Easter and grew so big that they couldn’t keep him at their suburban home, so they sent him to live with relatives who lived in a small town in southern West Virginia. I’m sure you heard of the neighborhood dog who chases everyone and who everyone is afraid of. Well, that became Charley the Rooster. One day a store keeper decided he’d had it with Charley and went after him with a broom. The fight between the store owner and Charley spilled out into the middle of the street in this small town where the editor of the local newspaper snapped a picture of it. The next day, Charley and the store owner ended up on the front page of the newspaper.

When I heard that, there was no way I couldn’t put Charley in my book.

Then there is Ollie, the orphaned lamb who thinks he’s a dog. I was inspired for the little character by an Internet story of a baby lamb adopted by someone who lived in an apartment in New York City. As with any pup, she took the lamb for walks and housebroke him, not unlike a dog. Eventually, the lamb became too big for the apartment, so she had to rehome him at a farm.

As a writer, I started thinking and twisting the story around. I introduced Ollie as a baby in Murder by Perfection, where J.J. and Poppy adopted the newborn lamb after his mother dies in childbirth. While they do live on a farm, they don’t raise sheep. Therefore, Ollie is only exposed to the dogs living at the farm. By The Root of Murder, Ollie believes he is a dog, right down to going in and out of the house via a doggie door.

He has also become Charley’s partner in crime when it comes to creating havoc at the farm!

Poppy’s Appaloosa, Gulliver, is based on a horse who I saw in a YouTube video who would let himself out of his stall and then let all the other horses loose, except for one—a mare who happened to be his mother! Seeing this video, I cracked up and called a friend of mine who has a horse farm to ask about it. She said Houdini horses are really not that uncommon but suggested that this one must have some mommy issues since he doesn’t free his mother.

Do you have a “critter story?” Feel free to visit my website (https://mysterylady.net/) and fill out the contact form. Who knows? Your critter could make it into a Lauren Carr mystery.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Homicide Detective Cameron Gates learned long ago that there is no such thing as a typical murder case. Each mystery is special in its own right—especially for the family of the victim.

The homicide of a successful executive, husband, and father seems open and shut when the murder weapon is found in his estranged son-in-law’s possession. The circumstantial evidence is so damning that when J.J. Thornton agrees to act as the defendant’s public defender, he assumes his first murder case will be a loss. Only the report of a missing husband proves that this case is not as open and shut as it seems.

Strap on your seat belts for a wild ride in this mystery rooted in decades of deception that sprouts into murder.

Purchase at https://amzn.to/2CBwR8r

Lost in Transition

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 talk about remembering the past.

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

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

I was having Chinese food with a group of young friends the other day. As my arm shot across the table for the soy sauce, I said “Excuse my boarder house reach.”

None of them knew what I meant. They probably didn’t know what a boarding house was.

When I was in high school there was a commercial on TV for Granny Goose potato chips. A man who looked like Charlton Heston, dressed in Western garb and holding a bag is confronted by banditos. “What’s in the bag, Goose?” they ask. He rips the potato chip bag open with his teeth. It became a catch phrase in my area of California.

When I was in the Navy and stationed in Rhode Island, a coworker was walking down the hall with a brown sack. “What’s in the bag, Goose?” It just automatically came out. All of those New Englander eyes quizzically focused on me. That’s when I realized commercials were not the same nationwide.

A lot of my language lingers in the ‘60’s. I have trouble recognizing they are more than half a century old. Plus, I remember references the older generation used. “In for a penny, in for a pound;” “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth;” Making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear;” “A day late and a dollar short.”

The Viet Nam war brought home slang like “Boo-coo,” a bastardization of the French “Boucoup” (many). As in “I have boo-coo bills and I’m broke.”

There are things this generation has missed out on: the fun of owning mood rings and pet rocks, the introduction of pantyhose, neighborhood games of Kick-the-Can and croquet. We put on shows in the garage just like Andy Hardy and adult neighbors would pay admission. We collected glass soda bottles and turned them into the stores for penny candy money. Penny candy actually cost one cent, movies were a quarter and a McDonald’s hamburger was 15 cents.

I remember a time when we trusted store-bought goods until someone put poison in Tylenol bottles. Suddenly we feared packaged food and meds. They were so sealed tight it took power tools to open them.

Later generations missed out on Carnaby Street and the fab fashions. Twiggy thin was in, implants and big backsides were out. We wore mini skirts and Beatle hats, white boots and bell bottoms. Boys wore paisley shirts with white collars and cuffs. The madras prints were meant to bleed when you washed them. We did tie-die at home, cultured our own yogurt and created sand candles.

   

There were also the drugs, cults, communes, student riots and burning bras and draft cards. Free love created unwanted babies, hippies created backlash by conservatives. Peace signs and Flower Power did not Make Love, Not War as we hoped.

I wasn’t part of that. In fact, I joined the Navy to get away from what my generation was doing. Imagine my surprise when I discovered rampant drug use in the military. Drug testing was never done back then.

There are many things I’m grateful for these days. I love my computer, thank heavens they’ve replaced manual typewriters and Wite-Out. While I detest cellphones, I understand the advantages. Microwaves are indispensable. We thought Polaroid cameras with instant photos were the best until digital cameras came out.

I do appreciate all the developments surrounding me today and I treasure the wonderful things we’ve left in the wake. If the adage “everything old is new again: and “history repeats itself,” let’s hope it’s only the fun that re-emerges.