Unsung Heroines

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 some of the women we should celebrate during Women’s History Month and beyond.

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

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

I recently learned that March is Women’s History Month. The declaration came about when an Education Task Force in Sonoma County, California, felt women’s accomplishments were overlooked. Jimmy Carter presented it to congress and in 1975 it was embraced. I’m excited because I’ve wanted to share fiction books I’ve recently read about real women buried by history.

The movie Hidden Figures brought Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and Christine Barden to the forefront of the space race. These mathematicians worked with NASA but they had two strikes against them: they worked in a field dominated by men and they were African-American.


Another Black woman hidden in the shadows is Belle da Costa Green, the subject of The Personal Librarian. She passed for white to work for J.P. Morgan, who was very racist. She became instrumental in amassing priceless books (Gutenberg Bible anyone?) and became one of the most powerful women in NYC.

Helen Frick was the daughter of Henry Clay Frick. He was the chairman of Carnegie Steel and partially responsible for the infamous Johnstown Flood in Pennsylvania which killed over 2,000 people. Helen, who remained a spinster, inherited her father’s collection of art and artifacts and turned the family mansion into a New York City museum.


We all know Marie Curie, but how many have heard of Rosalind Franklin, the British scientist who discovered DNA. She’s off our radar because male colleagues stole her work and received the Nobel Prize after she died of radiation poisoning. Her contributions were buried with her.


The bestseller The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek spotlights librarians who rode on horseback to deliver books to people in the Ozarks. The book also focuses on the Blue People of Troublesome Creek, Kentucky. It was a genetic anomaly which isolated them from white society.


There are many groups of women who made an impact during the World Wars.

People may have heard of the female pearl divers on a Korean Island, but author Lisa See shows us how they deep-dived in ice cold water without any breathing equipment and in thin clothes. They didn’t dive for pearls, but delicacies they could sell, like octopus and abalone.

There are many more women whose historical influences are overlooked, such as the women freedom fighters in Ukraine, not to mention all the refugee women who are trying to save their families and I’m on a hunt to discover them. Let’s not keep them hidden anymore.

The Art of Not Seeing Morocco @JMmystery

Jeanne Matthews happily announced the arrival of a new historical mystery, Devil by the Tail, released in July 2021.  Jeanne has a yen for travel and a passion for mythology, which she works into her novels whenever she can.  Originally from Georgia, Jeanne lives in Washington State with her husband, a law professor, and a Norwich terrier named Jack Reacher.  Information about her books, including the Dinah Pelerin international series, can be found on her website. http://www.jeannematthews.com 

After my Road’s Scholar travel adventure to Morocco was canceled for the third time because of COVID, I applied my transferrable deposit to an online program entitled “The Art of the English Murder Mystery.”  Over the course of five days in February – when it’s 70 degrees in Marrakesh – I sat in front of my computer screen in a thick sweater and wool socks and contemplated murder in the country that made writing about it an art.  The climate, both real and fictional, was less balmy than Morocco, but the company was brilliant.  Award-winning author Martin Edwards and theater expert Giles Ramsay led a small group of Anglophile mystery addicts through a veritable souk of British crime fiction.

Critic, historian, and consultant for the British Library’s Classic Crime Series, Martin Edwards knows more about the origins and evolution of crime writing than just about anybody.  In 1964, eight-year-old Martin saw the movie premier of “Murder Most Foul” starring Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple and was inspired by Agatha Christie’s genius for creating an intricate but solvable puzzle.  Since then, Edwards has read every significant book in the genre and written more than a few, himself.

His analysis of the Victorian and Edwardian detectives, combined with little known details about the authors’ lives, was fascinating.  In some cases, we heard directly from the horse’s mouth.  Mr. Ramsay presented a 1927 filmed interview with Arthur Conan Doyle about Sherlock Holmes, that “monstrous growth” as Doyle described him.  But his Frankenstein had captured the public imagination and Doyle felt forced by public demand to continue writing about him.  I loved his coy comments about “little dodges” he inserted into the Sherlock stories. (https://youtu.be/28FDo_KYDtg).

Edwards devoted considerable discussion to the Golden Age, that time between the World Wars when people craved entertainment – cryptic crosswords and clever murder mysteries.  Christie’s innovative plots were seminal and Dorothy Sayers began to explore the development of character with the introduction of Miss Harriet Vane.  I thought I’d read all of the classics of the period, but Edwards introduced me to a few authors I’d missed, including H.D. Bailey and Phillip MacDonald.

As conversation moved into the modern era, it became obvious that Edwards knows or has known most of the English crime writers of the last forty years in a very personal way.  He is the current president of the Detection Club, a 90-year-old society founded in 1930 by the leading lights of British detective fiction.  To this day, members must swear an oath: “Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow upon them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo-Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God?

The members have collaborated at various times to produce books and broadcasts.  In 1931, fourteen authors constructed a whodunit called The Floating Admiral, each contributing one chapter.  In 2020, Edwards edited a collection of essays from ninety present and former members titled Howdunit: A Masterclass in Crime Writing.

Detective Inspector Ken Wharfe gave the class an insider’s view of the British police.  Asked how real-life procedures compare with fictional portrayals, he said Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse got things mostly right.  During one phase of his career, Wharfe investigated police corruption and recommended a critically acclaimed 2012 BBC police procedural called “Line of Duty,” now streaming on Britbox and Amazon Prime.  I’ve watched the first three seasons and find it absolutely gripping, one of the best crime dramas I’ve ever seen.  Wharfe also served as bodyguard for the late Princess Diana and has written several books about his experiences.

Nigel West, a former member of Parliament who writes fiction and non-fiction books about espionage, spoke to the class about spy novels.  He noted Ian Fleming’s role in designing the Allies’ “deception campaign” during WWII, but didn’t hold Fleming in high regard as a writer.  He pointed out that author Phyllis Bottome invented the dashing British spy with a taste for fine wine and beautiful women that Ian Fleming stole in almost exact detail and renamed James Bond.  As for the evil organization Fleming called Smersh, the word was coined by Joseph Stalin.  West admires the work of John Le Carre, but believes Somerset Maugham came closest to creating the perfect spy with his Ashenden short stories.  I recently read Maugham’s “The Traitor.”  It gave proof that a tale about spy craft, like many tales about murder, can rise to the level of literature in the right hands.

By the end of the course, I had acquired a long list of writers new to me, if not to the annals of British crime fiction.  Lonely Magdalen by Henry Wade, Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert, The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux – my bedside table groans under the weight.  I confess, however, that every now and then, I pull out my Traveler’s Guide to Morocco and get a little misty.   

Sterling and Me: Tail of a Mystery Author and Her Dog #8—and a Giveaway! @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 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

How Michelangelo Became a White Supremacist

The year: 1508

Setting: Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo enters the Sistine Chapel with his paints and scaffolding. He has a great image in his mind. This will be his masterpiece that will define him as an artist. The creation that he puts on this ceiling is going to put his name in the history books to immortalize him as a great master painter.

As Michelangelo is setting up, someone comes in. Spying one of the cans of paint, he asks, “Is that red paint you have there?”

Michelangelo says it is. The red will be needed for much of the painting. For example, in the creation of Man.

“Can’t you use another color?”

“No,” Michelangelo says. “Red is one of the primary colors.”

“But it is so offensive. Red is the color of evil,” the visitor says. “Evil is offensive. Therefore, red is offensive.”

“It is the color of blood which gives us life,” Michelangelo says.

“According to you. A significant percentage of people don’t like the color red. Using it will offend them, which will make you―and us―look bad. People will think we’re endorsing evil. We’ll lose business.”

Michelangelo relents and takes the bucket of red paint out of the chapel. He is thinking about how he is going to adjust his painting when he returns to find someone else standing over the bucket of yellow paint.

“Is this yellow paint?” the new visitor asks with a glare in his eyes.

“Yes,” Michelangelo manages to say before the gentleman launches into his tirade.

“Are you saying that we’re cowards? Yellow is the color of cowards used in terms like yellow-belly and—”

“No!” Michelangelo throws up his hands. “I just need to use yellow because it’s the base color in brown—”

But before Michelangelo can finish the second visitor runs from the chapel declaring Michelangelo a racist. Michelangelo is still trying to comprehend how painting a picture on the ceiling of a building could cause such a scandal when a third person comes in to spy yet another bucket of paint.

“Is that green?”

“‘I need it for the Garden of Eden,” Michelangelo says in a firm tone.

“Why green? Aren’t you discriminating against the color blue? Blue has just as much right to be used for the Garden of Eden as green. Besides, were you there? How do you know the Garden of Eden wasn’t blue instead of green?”

A month later, Michelangelo finishes the Sistine Chapel. When the great ceiling is revealed to the public, they stare up in awe at the great white ceiling high above. After Michelangelo had eliminated every color that offended anyone, all he had left was white.

“Why did you go with white instead of black?” someone asked.

That was when Michelangelo went down in history as a white supremacist.

Portrait of Michelangelo Buonarroti, Early 17th cen. Found in the Collection of Galleria Enrico Lumina, Bergamo. (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

* * * * *

This week, an author friend of mine called to vent.

Writers love to vent. It’s a great exercise in putting heightened emotions into words and broadening our vocabulary.

My friend received a review for her new release. The reader loved everything about the book but deducted one star from the otherwise five-star review because she had used the word “faggot” twice.

A historical fiction, the novel was set in the 1960s and the word in question was used in dialogue between two characters. The reader goes on to note that the character who uses the word transforms by the end of the book and even apologizes for using said word. However, the reader says, she was offended by the author using the word in her book and for that reason, she was deducting the star in her rating.

“So I’m not allow to use the word ‘faggot’ in my books,” my friend said, “even when vernacular calls for it.”

“Nope,” I said. “You are also not allowed to use manhole because that is not gender neutral. And don’t even think of setting your next book in Washington DC during the 1980s and mentioning their football team.”

The sad thing is that this is not the first time that I’ve had such conversations with some of my writer friends. I’ve had three such conversations in the last month! Political correctness and cancel culture have muzzled novelists—even those who are not writing about culture or politics—but they feel compelled to seek historical accuracy.

One author’s upcoming cozy mystery is also set in the 1960s. She is terrified and seriously thinking about not promoting it! Not promoting it! How can an author put in the trouble of writing a book and then not promote it because they are terrified of some snowflakes having a meltdown?

Her feel-good mystery contains an African-American character. Since the book is set in the 1960s, this character would be referred to as “black.” Realistically, that was the term used at the time. The author went so far as to research when “African-American” started being used. That was the 1990s.

She is so nervous that she has gone out of her way to insert narrative stating that nowadays, this character would be called African-American in hopes of soothing potentially sensitive readers, but she knows that some won’t accept this apology.

I believe my author friends contact me for understanding because I have been unintentionally offending readers since the beginning!

Several years ago, I received a review for a Mac Faraday Mystery, in which the reader opened with “Thankfully, this book in the series contained no insulting-to-fat-people characters.”

I did a lot of head scratching trying to figure out what she was talking about. When did I insult fat people? Apparently, one of my fans had the same question because she went onto the site to ask. The reader claimed that in one of my previous books I had presented a fat character in a derogatory manner. The fan came back to say that if it was the book she was thinking of, it was the character, not fat people who were presented in a derogatory manner.

The fact remains, this reader was so offended by my use of an obese character in It’s Murder, My Son that she felt compelled to carry out her grudge by posting a negative comment several books later.

In It’s Murder, My Son, Betsy is a victim. She is sloppy and, yes, obese. Her low self-esteem puts her in the perfect situation to be manipulated by the killer—who is slender and attractive, by the way.

Rightfully, it should be the skinny people posting negative reviews about me making them out to be homicidal. In It’s Murder, My Son, I killed five slender people.  Only one victim was overweight. I mean, if I’m prejudiced against overweight people because I killed one—I must really have it out for slender people!

A psychologist could claim that I have deepseated jealousy against people who can successfully control their weight. Maybe we should do a survey of the murder victims in all of my books to compare how many were average weight and how many were overweight.

Fiction writers should not walk on eggshells!

Those who want to excel at their craft should not allow a few to force them to measure every single word or portion of a plotline for fear of offending a small group of readers with a political or cultural agenda.

Unfortunately, our culture has driven many writers to do so. Which explains the phone calls, emails, and zoom calls with writers asking, “Do you think this is going to offend someone?”

My answer: Yes.

No matter how hard we try to please everyone, someone will take offense. It’s like my mother and many mothers out there used to say: You can’t please everyone!

Today, “faggot” is on the list of Banned Words. No matter what the setting or the characters, you cannot use this word at all for any reason.

However, fifteen years ago, that word was not on the Banned Word list. What are authors of those books where that word was used supposed to do? Are they responsible for going through their backlist, deleting those words, and then re-releasing their books?

What if the author is dead, like Mark Twain, who wrote Huckleberry Finn. Famously, this American Classic was written at a time when the N-word was not on the Banned Word list. In the case of this book, the N-word was commonly used as it still is today in rapper music. This classic features an African-American as a protagonist—a positive character and portrays the friendship of a Caucasian boy and the African-American.

However, because the author used this word at a time and place in American history when it was not on the Banned Words list, many libraries and schools have banned the entire book—denying young readers of the historical and literary benefits of the story of Huckleberry Finn. Likewise, with To Kill a Mockingbird.

Who’s compiling this list of offensive words? How are writers supposed to get it so that they can be informed in real time about what words not to use? It seems only right that we receive regular updates when words are added to the list so that we don’t unintentionally offend someone. Are words ever taken off the list—making them okay to use?

Does anyone out there have a name or email address of this contact person? Raise your hand if you have it. … I didn’t think so.

This post is not directed toward those sensitive readers who throw hissy fits in the form of negative reviews because their feelings were unintentionally hurt in the name of art. Nothing I, or any author, say can change their perception.

This post is directed to writers paralyzed in front of their laptops. They are terrified that the next word they type may be on that list—or will end up on the list in the future—ideally during the publishing process.

Writers who attempt to bend over backwards to please those who find offense in a word used by a fictional character in a work of fiction might as well throw away their laptops and take up dogwalking.

It’s an unrealistic feat for novelists to keep track of words banned by others. When you start measuring your writing vocabulary based on what others deem correct, you cease to write for yourself. You are now writing for a group of readers who are impossible to please.

Do they really care about your books? Or are they more concerned about controlling what you write? Censoring the words you use in your books? Muzzling your right to free speech? Is that their endgame?

Yesterday, they didn’t like you using the word “black.” Today, it is the word “faggot.” What will it be tomorrow? What words will they add next month?

As writers bend to their demands, they add more words to their list—until like Michelangelo, all you have is a blank white laptop screen.

Then, they will call you a white supremacist because your screen is not black.


Coming in March!

Mac Faraday and Gnarly Are Back in SHADOW OF MURDER

True crime blogger, Erica Hart starts a new chapter in her life with a bang when a dark shadow darts into the mountain road to send her SUV off a cliff and to the bottom of Deep Creek Lake. Spencer’s newest addition to the police force, Dusty O’Meara assumes it was a bear. Erica is not so sure.

Soon afterward, contractors discover Konnor Langston’s body at the bottom of an abandoned swimming pool at the new summer home of Mac Faraday’s son.

With Police Chief David O’Callaghan on paternity leave, Deputy Chief Dusty O’Meara must lead the investigation in his first murder case since moving to Spencer. Not only does Dusty have to work under the shadow of the legendary Mac Faraday, but he also has to match wits with Erica, who is determined to find justice for Konnor, her childhood friend.

The police chief and Mac aren’t so difficult. Even Gnarly, the town’s canine mayor, is manageable if his authority is well-respected and he is kept entertained.

Erica Hart, Dusty finds, is more of a challenge. It wouldn’t be so difficult if she wasn’t so irresistible.



Win audible download codes for both
It’s Murder, My Son and Old Loves Die Hard,
the first and second Mac Faraday novels.
Leave a comment to tell what American Classic
that you loved has been banned from school
libraries and why? The winning name will be
drawn on the evening of Friday, February 11th.



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 the origins of some of today’s popular slang.

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

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

I don’t often read Stephen King (I’m more of a Dean Koontz fan) but his latest, Billy Summers, caught my attention for two reasons. First, the protagonist is ex-military. Second, he’s a hitman posing as a writer. He kills time while waiting to kill the target and decides to try actually writing. But what really caught my attention was the vast amount of slang Billy uses. Much of it is military slang.

As a “Navy Brat,” some slang was second nature to me growing up. We went to the “gedunk” for sodas and ice cream. The word comes from the sound a coin makes when you put it in a candy machine. My father came home with “scuttlebutt,” rumors heard around a scuttlebut, or water fountain. Dad went to sea on the aircraft carrier Bonhomme Richard, better known as the “Bonny Dick.”

When I enlisted in the early 70’s, slang came from the Vietnam War. “Beaucoup” meant a lot (or a shitload), “Back to the World” meant going home to America, “Boonies” meant the middle of nowhere and “Hootch” was a tent men lived in. As a female, I lived in the “WAVE Cage.” The ribbon everybody got for joining during a war was referred to as a “gedunk medal” because they were often lost and extras were at the end of the counter in the “ship’s store.”


Another great source of lingo is law enforcement. Convenience stores were “Stop-n-Robs,” criminals took “leg-bail” to avoid being arrested and a flasher was a “weenie-wagger.” I worked with a narcotics unit, call sign 2-Adam. Deputies berated us by calling us “2-Adam too good.” I wish I’d written down some of the colorful language while I worked there.


Some modern words go far back. “Spill” meaning to give information originated in the 14th century. “Cool” emerged in 1728 and meant you had lots of money. “Psyched” came from the late 1800’s interest in psychology. Shakespeare gave us “Puke.” We call a dollar a “buck” because traders used animal skins for currency.

I don’t think I’ll ever keep up. I understood “LOL,” but when “OG” showed up on my rusted radar, I asked a young woman the definition. She looked at me like I’d just crawled out of a hole. “It means Original Gangster. But nobody uses it anymore.” Later, in a sentence, she said, “Oh, that girl’s just click-bait.” I think I got the reference but I could hear my inner voice saying “Okay, Boomer, let it go.”

When You’re Smiling 😄😄@JMmystery

Jeanne Matthews happily announced the arrival of a new historical mystery, Devil by the Tail, released in July 2021.  Jeanne has a yen for travel and a passion for mythology, which she works into her novels whenever she can.  Originally from Georgia, Jeanne lives in Washington State with her husband, a law professor, and a Norwich terrier named Jack Reacher.  Information about her books, including the Dinah Pelerin international series, can be found on her website. http://www.jeannematthews.com 

When I was in my twenties, I dated a guy whose best friend was a dentist – Joel.  If you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail and if you’re a dentist, every wisdom tooth looks like trouble.  Joel convinced me I’d have problems unless I got those impacted molars out pronto.  He promised an easy fix and offered me the “family” discount.  I agreed and scheduled the appointment.  The day arrived and, after a few reassuring words, Joel administered the painkiller and set to work.  It was a long procedure.  Way longer than I’d expected.  My jaws felt stretched wider than a crocodile’s and my bottom felt bonded to the chair.  Time dragged on.  How deep did those roots go?  How worried should I be?  I was numb and drooling when Joel leaned over me and said, “Encountered a bit of difficulty with a nerve.”


“Ith it therious?”

“The thing is, Jeanne…you may not be able to smile again.”

Researchers estimate that there are as many as fifty different types of smiles, but only six convey happiness.  Other smiles can express pain, shock, embarrassment, disbelief, fear, horror, misery, and the pleasure of revenge.  Whatever my face said following Joel’s announcement, I’m guessing it communicated a mix of all of the above.

“A smile is the chosen vehicle for all ambiguities,” said Herman Melville.  Writers have a thousand ways of describing the reactions and emotions of our characters, but the nuances of the smile are almost infinite.  The ideal smile, that lovely pas de deux between the zygomatic major and the orbicularis oculi is called the Duchenne smile.  In the 19th Century, Guillaume Duchenne de Boulogne, the son of a French pirate, got interested in facial expressions, which he believed to be the gateway to the soul.  In his zeal to decode the meaning of various smiles, he inserted electric probes into his subjects’ faces to stimulate the muscles.  It hurt.  In fact, it was so excruciating that nobody volunteered to participate in his neurological studies.  He was forced to experiment on the freshly severed heads of executed prisoners until, as luck would have it, he chanced upon a mental health patient who had no feeling in his face.  Duchenne’s electric jolts yanked the man’s cheeks up, jerked his eyes down, and stretched and twisted his features like a rubber mask.  Duchenne photographed the results.  He identified thirteen primary emotions and the muscles and muscle groups that controlled them.  It seems that crow’s feet, those pesky wrinkles branching out from the corners of the eyes, are the sole proof of genuine, profound happiness.

Alas, we live in a post-truth age and, wouldn’t you just know it?  The “genuine” Duchenne smile can be faked.  All you have to do is turn up your mouth, hoist your cheeks, squinch your eyes, and voilà!  The selfie will show you beaming on top of whatever dangerous monument you happen to be posing.  Who’s to know that perfect smile hides a fervent wish to be elsewhere?  Neuroscientists now say that Mona Lisa’s mysterious smile was forced – the right side at odds with the left.  Leonardo, who hung out in the morgue peeling the skin off cadavers and studying the facial muscles and nerves, made a tiny anatomical error…or perhaps he kept his model motionless for too long and her mystery is tinged with annoyance.

Photography has had a significant effect on how we smile.  In the camera’s early days, slow exposure times required people to remain stone still, no twitching of the lips.  But there were other reasons for those stern faces in old photographs.  Wide smiles were considered uncouth, more indicative of madness or drunkenness than happiness.  To make their subjects’ mouths appear small and genteel, photographers instructed them to say “prunes.”  But then the dental profession started to improve, teeth became straighter, notions of propriety changed, and photographers told their subjects to say “cheese.”   The word produced a smile guaranteed to make you look pleasant regardless what you were thinking.

Interpreting the true meaning of a facial expression can be challenging in real-life, in art, and in law enforcement.  Analysts noticed a telltale tug of the zygomaticus major in certain individuals filmed pleading for the return of a missing family member.  Detectives investigated and found they had killed their relatives, themselves.  Anyone planning a murder would do well to practice flexing the orbicularis oculi – the sincere muscle.

When facial mobility is lost, through disease or nerve damage, it’s no laughing matter.  All the yellow smiley faces and emojis in the world can’t compensate for loss of the ability to smile.  Fortunately, in my case the problem was temporary, as evidenced by my author photo.  I don’t recall what the photographer said to elicit such a grin.  But one sure way to bring a Duchenne smile to any author’s face is to say, “I’ll read your book and I’ll write a review.”


Sterling and Me: Tail of a Mystery Author and Her Dog #7—and a Giveaway! @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 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

Why Grammar Nazis Need to Get a Grip

Is your New Year’s resolution that you are going to finish that book you’ve always wanted to write and get it published? Read on!

A common topic of conversation among writers is editors, editing, and reviews criticizing our books’ editing. Recently, I had an energetic email exchange with a writer who received her first review in which the reader complained about the editing. I am glad to say that she went away saying that she felt better.

Since Shadow of Murder (my 29th mystery!) is currently with the proofreader who is scouring it for errors, I thought now would be a good time to freshen up this lengthy (and venting) guest post that I had written a few years ago on my thoughts about what I call Grammar Nazis.

Grab a glass of champagne and read on:


The Internet has made it much easier for anyone yearning to voice their opinion about anything and everything to do so. Among those striving to be heard are readers anxious to release their inner book critics to heap praise or criticism upon the authors of those books they love or hate. Nowadays, any reader with a kindle simply has to hit a button at the end of the book to leave their ratings.

Thus, Grammar Nazis can now easily warn perspective readers of any book that does not meet their lofty standards by posting reviews citing the read as poorly written and badly edited.

This is not necessarily a good thing because nasty reviews from Grammar Nazis can potentially deter unwitting readers from purchasing and reading books that are actually very well written and finely edited.

What is a Grammar Nazi?

According to the Internet, a Grammar Nazi is someone who believes it’s their duty to attempt to correct any grammar and/or spelling mistakes they observe—usually found hanging around book reading chat rooms,

⇒  or posting one-star reviews declaring books poorly edited (or not edited at all) on Amazon, Goodreads, and every other book website they can find,

⇒  or sending emails with multi-paged lists of spelling and grammatical errors to authors of said books and declaring their editors and proofreaders incompetent.

I am very familiar with Grammar Nazis. My late mother was one. Luckily for authors, she was unplugged and had more important things to do than compose detailed lists of what she considered to be grammatical mistakes in books—unless it was one of mine.

What type of books have fallen victim to one or more negative reviews from Grammar Nazis? Well, here’s a sampling of reviews that I have found on Amazon, the biggest book seller in the world.

One reader, who identifies him/herself as a literature teacher, begins a long-winded one-star review by stating that he/she only uses To Kill a Mockingbird in his/her class “when forced to” because it is so poorly written. This reader goes on to say, “The descriptive passages were rather crude, and at times the language became practically unintelligible.”

Not even Ernest Hemingway is immune from Nazi attacks. Another reader posted a one-star review for For Whom the Bell Tolls. This reader writes:

I will not presume to say that I am right & that millions who love this book are wrong, but I really do not understand why this book is considered a classic. The dialogue is so choppy & forced-formal that it seems like the characters are all talking past each other.

Another reader had trouble understanding how Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October became a best-seller:

Clancy could have edited 40% of the text out and had a much better story. This novel is bogged down with irrelevant character descriptions, military acronyms, tedious sub-plots, and background stories that have nothing to contribute to the novel’s overall focus. I found myself constantly frustrated with the monotonous length it took to cover simple plot points. Clancy obviously has a huge audience; however, he needs an effective editor. This novel is a very slow read.

As you can see, Grammar Nazis really don’t care who you are or how experienced your publisher or editor is. When they see a mistake, they’re going to let readers know. Like in this Nazi’s review for Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight, published by Little, Brown Books for YA:

…the editing—or lack thereof—is appalling …; the grammar and syntax are unforgivably bad; the plot is onion-skin thin; and the characters are uniformly dull and uninspiring.

The purpose of this post is not to rip apart Grammar Nazis. After all, I was closely related to one. My mother used to proofread my books before they were released to catch errors missed by my team of multiple editors and proofreaders. (More about that later.)

Nor is the purpose of this post to convince Grammar Nazis that they’re wrong. Believe me, there is no convincing a Grammar Nazi they are mistaken about errors they have noted. They are right. They got “A’s” in English in school. They have worked for a hundred years as an editor for a daily newspaper and never once during that whole century—publishing two editions seven days a week—not once was there so much as one typo in any of those newspapers—not a single one!

As an author and a publisher, I would like to put this issue into a proper perspective for both readers and those authors whose books will fall victim to a reader or two who has too much time on his or her hands. As a rule, I do not engage or argue with the rare Grammar Nazi who posts a nasty review on Amazon, Goodreads, or any other sites about grammatical errors they may have found in my books. As a matter of fact, I give no credibility to Grammar Nazis at all and I will explain why in this post.

However, I do believe that the average reader who sees reviews posted by Grammar Nazis and new authors who will (not if) receive such reviews should be aware of a few things before they accept the Grammar Nazi’s claims of bad writing and poor editing as fact.

Poorly Edited According to Who (or is it Whom?)

A couple of years ago, an author friend of mine independently published a book. During the publication process, her book went through two rounds of editing (by two different editors) and was proofread by another editor, plus a friend of hers, who happened to be an English school teacher. Thus, her book was looked at by four different pairs of eyes before publication.

Nine months after the book was released and received several glowing reviews, she received one poor review declaring that it was poorly edited and had numerous grammatical errors. So, she hired yet another editor to proofread the book again for grammatical mistakes and misspellings. This editor, who used a different style manual than the other editors, ripped that book apart with changes on every page. So many in fact, that it took the formatter over a month to make every change in order to re-release the book.

Over a year later, a traditional publisher acquired this same book, signing my friend to a multi-book deal. As part of the re-release of this book under the new publisher, the book was edited yet again! It went through two separate editors—one of whom contacted my friend to tell her that it was very well written and was pretty clean to begin with. Not only that, but after the book was formatted, it was proofread by yet another editor.

First review my friend received from a reader stated:

This is the first novel I’ve read by this author, and while it was a good read, with a good plot, interesting primary and secondary characters, and was very suspenseful, the sheer number of grammatical errors, misused words, and spelling errors certainly detracted from my enjoyment of this book. While I’d like to read the next novels in this series, I can only hope that they are better edited and proofread than this one.

Excuse me! This book was looked at by—count them!—seven different editors plus an English teacher. Not all of them were ill-educated, poorly trained, or incompetent!

The answer to how this happens lies in this one simple question:

Grammatical errors, misused words, and spelling mistakes according to whose rules?

Over the years, I had assembled a team of editors and proofreaders to work on my own books based on each one’s strengths. It is a given, where one editor has strengths, he or she has weaknesses in another area.

Let me explain. A few years ago, I sent one of my books to a new editor to be proofread before its release. Because she was unproven to me, I sent the same book to yet another editor as a backup. Neither proofreader knew the book was being worked on by someone else. Therefore, they thought it was completely up to them to catch every mistake.

When the book came back from these two proofreaders, they had both identified completely different errors. Only in one instance did they both identify the same error! They concentrated completely on different areas in proofreading the book. One proofreader was more concerned with the punctuation while the other focused on the spelling.

Also, different editors/proofreaders work under a different set of rules.

One editor I worked with followed the new comma rules—whatever those are. From what I have seen, the comma is rarely used. I have read many books in recent years, whose editors seem to be following these rules. According to the new comma rules, the line from Gone with the Wind: “Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn,” has no commas.

Another one of my editors loves the Oxford comma. Thus, the line would be written, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Based on what she learned when she was in school, my late mother swore it was, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Who is right? Under interrogation, each one could cite a source and reasoning to back up their argument of where the commas go and why.

Another area of disagreement is the ellipse. That is the “…”. One of my editors believes there should be no space before or after the ellipse. Another editor firmly believes there should be a space before and after the ellipse.

Even highly regarded style manuals used by editors disagree. Some argue that the ellipse should be treated like a word, which means it should have a space both before and after. Others (mostly journalistic style manuals) say it should be treated like an em-dash (—) so there should be no space. This is because the space before and after can create havoc with formatting.

Therefore, I quite literally split the difference. During formatting I use a half-space before and after the ellipse.

Supreme Court Decides on the Apostrophe “s”

To better illustrate this issue, I love to tell writers, new editors, and readers about a book I edited for another author several years ago.

This book contained a character whose name ended in an “s.” Well, throughout the book, there were many instances in which his name was used in possessive.

Now, every editor has a thing or two or three or dozen, in which they will not trust their knowledge. To be safe, they will look it up in their style manual every single time. For me, the question of a proper name ending in “s” and used in possessive was one of those things. At that time, the Chicago Style Manual called for this possessive to be “s’” not “s’s.”

Well, the author said I was wrong and that it is supposed to be “s’s.”

So, I looked it up again, not just in the Chicago Style Manual, but several sites on the Internet. Not only did I discover that the answer varies in the Chicago Style Manual depending on which edition you use, but I also found a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States had gotten involved in this very argument while writing a decision on a case. Even the justices disagreed! Clarence Thomas (who should know since his name ends in an “s”) declared that it is “s.’”

I let the author have the last word. He requested that I change all of the possessive references for this character to “s’s.”

Then, upon proofing the book, the author brought in his daughter, a technical writer who goes by a totally different style manual. She stated that it should be “s’” without the extra “s.”

So I had to change it back.

Grammar and Punctuation Is Not Carved in Stone

Many people who are not in the business of writing, editing, or publishing fiction fail to realize that many of the grammar and punctuation rules that we were taught as being carved in stone really are not—especially when it comes to fiction.

Most fiction authors’ literary style and narrative voice don’t follow all of the rules taught in simple fourth grade grammar. Keeping in tune with the casual manner in which people communicate today, writers focus more on creating a conversational tone and flow to the narrative than using the correct pronoun.

When I sent my third book to the editor, I could practically hear her laughing between the lines in her notes when she rewrote a sentence in my narrative. “When was the last time you heard someone use the word ‘whom?’” she asked.

While my sentence was grammatically correct, she noted that it had such a formal stilted sound to it that it broke the easy going pace of my writing. As a result, the reader would be pulled out of the story. Yes, the sentence, rewritten by the editor, was grammatically incorrect. However, the narrative flowed much more naturally.

Grammar Nazis, particularly those who have spent the bulk of their education or professional lives in the world of non-fiction writing and editing (working in journalism or teaching grade school English), fail to realize this when reading fiction. Being a Nazi, they are incapable of becoming immersed in the plot and the story because they have spent their lives searching for mistakes. When they encounter what they perceive to be an error, they are so offended that all enjoyment of the other 99.9% of the book becomes an impossibility—all they can see and think about is that imperfection.

Feeling righteous about what they know is right, they feel compelled to note said error and to warn readers via bad reviews and/or notify the writer of what a sloppy job his editor did and wonder how any author who considers herself a professional could allow such mistakes to reach their readers.

“Your readers deserve better!” I have been chastised by one Grammar Nazi (not my mother.)

Here’s how this can and does happen:

Prolific writers (those who write more than one book a year) make mistakes. A prolific writer cares more about writing a thrilling book with fully developed characters and an intriguing plot than determining if every single word (Is it lay or lie?) is right and ensuring that every punctuation mark is correct (To use the comma or not to use the comma?).

Such minute details have the power to tie a Grammar Nazi’s panties into a knot.

Several years ago, I received an email from a woman informing me that I was a shoddy writer and how dare I consider myself worthy of editing other authors’ books. (I don’t edit other authors books anymore because I am too busy writing my own books.) Her complaint: In The Murders at Astaire Castle, which was released in the top 10 of mysteries on Amazon in July 2013, contained this sentence:

“On the way into the police station, David stopped at the donut shop to buy a box of donuts.”

The Nazi wrote, “No, sh!t.” She used the actual word. My error was using “donut” twice. That is repetition, which is a no-no. This, she declared was sloppy and shoddy writing. She went on to post a one-star review on Amazon and Goodreads.

Since she told me in her email that she was a writer, and obviously much better than I am since she would never have written that sentence, I looked up her profile in the social media sites and found that she had never released a book. Based on her reaction to the news that David had stopped at a donut shop to buy donuts, I think she is probably too busy sweating over every page, paragraph, sentence, comma, period, and word to allow her book to be released to the public.

By virtue of being a Grammar Nazi, her book must be perfect. Anything less is unacceptable.

That’s pretty sad in my opinion.

Prolific Writers and Editors Are Human Beings

Prolific writers know that there comes a time in every book’s life where we need to just let it go and move on to the next book. We accept the fact that there could very well—No, we know and accept the fact that there will be one, two, three, or twenty grammatical errors in the book that our team has not caught.

However, from a professional stand-point, it is not good business to hold up the release of a book to invest in yet another editor to scour a whole book in search of those few errors that will cause hissy fits for one or two Grammar Nazis—even if they do use the power of the Internet to proclaim the book as poorly edited.

At what point can a book—not a five-hundred word article or a student’s ten-page research paper—but a 60,000 to 110,000 word book—be declared error free, especially if editors, proofreaders, and Grammar Nazis can’t agree on what the rules are?

Unfortunately, not only are my editors and proofreaders professionals—but also, every single one is a human being. Therefore, they suffer from the condition that every human suffers—Yes, even the Grammar Nazis suffer from this dreaded incurable condition.

Human beings aren’t perfect. As intolerable as it may be, we all make mistakes.

I have worked with numerous editors in the thirty plus years that I have been writing and I have yet to meet an editor who is perfect, which is why I use more than one on every project.

Think about it. The Murders at Astaire Castle has 66,000 words. This Nazi was having a hissy fit over one sentence, consisting of nineteen words, in the middle of a 286-page book. Frankly, I thought one bad sentence out of the thousands of sentences in that book was doing pretty good.

I wouldn’t call that sloppy, shoddy, incompetent, or poor. Would you?



Win an ebook or audible download code for
IT’S MURDER, MY SON (winner’s choice).
Leave a comment to tell about the worst
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the evening of Monday, January 3rd.

Mercury Rising

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 mercury and its perilous history.

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

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

On April 18, 1906, San Francisco experienced an earthquake so intense that the city fell to its knees. A fire consumed what was left. A magnitude of 7.9, it was felt from Oregon to Los Angeles and all the way to Nevada. It destroyed 296 miles and 3,000 people were killed.


Recently I read two novels which involve the tragedy. The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner is about a mail-order Irish bride who comes to the city and marries a man who is not all he seems to be. The truth is uncovered just before everything around them crashes down. Sins are covered with debris. The rest is about the rebuilding of lives and a city.


The Lost and Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs is set in modern San Francisco. Natalie Harper inherits her mother’s bookshop and care of her grandfather whose health is in jeopardy. The story continues, yada-yada-yada, but that’s not what I want to talk about.

Without spoiling the plot, I want to talk about mercury. Not only is it the silver stuff in thermometers, it was also used in radiators to warm up homes. It created warmth by heating up the water in the radiator. It also expelled a vapor of neurotoxins. Brain and nerve damage resulted. Popular in the 1900’s, these radiators were still being installed in homes built in the 40’s and 50’s. The practice went on until 1967.

Fast forward to 1972 when I enlisted in the Navy. Without much choice I was trained to be a dental tech. In dental school they taught us how to make amalgam, the stuff the dentist fills your teeth with. Amalgam consists of silver, tin, copper, zinc, and you guessed it—mercury.

Dental school neglected to tell us the stuff was poisonous. The strange, shiny drops were fun to play with. It was a liquid but rolled around in a ball. If separated, it pulled back together. We rolled it back and forth in our palms.

While stationed in Puerto Rico, I was sent to the island of Antigua along with a dentist and another tech. It was a secret base (I believed it was an underwater nuclear facility) and we were there to bring every sailor’s teeth up to par. A barber’s chair was used and negatives were processed in a blacked-out bathroom.

While unpacking supplies, the only bottle of mercury we brought fell and shattered. Scrambling on our hands and knees, we desperately tried to scoop up the quicksilver. It was tricky. Our next problem was finding more of the stuff to accomplish our mission. We wound up going into a rural town and bartering with the only dentist for a bottle. I’m sure he jacked up the price considering the U.S. military was paying for it.


I got out of the Navy and left dentistry behind in 1976. The base in Antigua closed in 1987. As far as I know we all survived mercury poisoning.