The Un-Nesting Syndrome

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 remind us that nesting in our early years doesn’t hold up too well as we get considerably older and we end up with stuff that needs to be purged in one way or another.

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

I’ve been noticing a trend starting up among people my age (66). We wake up one morning, look around and feel suffocated by STUFF. It’s everywhere. It needs to be dusted. There’s no memory of where it came from, who gave it as a gift. It’s not a treasure. It becomes one with our environment. We start wondering if we’ve become hoarders.

When I left home, I owned my clothes and not much else. I rented a furnished studio apartment in the Los Angeles area for $80 a month. I remember putting inexpensive kitchen curtains on lay-away (they were probably all of $20) and used them to block the bar brawls across the street.

When I went into the service, I brought nothing with me as the Navy supplied everything I needed. When I was discharged, everything I owned fit into a trunk, two suitcases and a few boxes shipped home.

As a college student, I furnished my apartment like every other college student: cinder block bricks and boards for bookshelves, industrial wooden wire spool for a coffee table, a mattress on the floor served as a couch, plastic milk crates were converted to coffee tables.

Past that stage, when adulthood begins to set in and there’s a clearer picture of the future, nesting starts. I’m sure it’s primarily a female thing, making a nest for the future husband and children. Appliances and furniture first, then fluffy pillows, artwork on the walls, decorative vases. Children bring home their efforts from school and it clutters on the fridge.

Over the years the souvenirs lose meaning. Wedding, birthday and anniversary presents get dusty in the cupboard and never used. Nobody wants to inherit the family china. What were once treasures are now packed away and forgotten. Once in a junk drawer, in the garage, stuffed in a closet or a spare room, it’s never seen again.

I told my friends, many of them grandmothers now, that I was purging all this debris in my life. Nearly every one of them said they were at the same stage. They have things too good to throw away but never used. Clothes from a few decades back but no longer age appropriate or the right size. It’s hard to throw away things that are still serviceable. I hoard notebooks and paper, early writings are wilting in folders and boxes. Are they worth keeping? I don’t know anymore. Everything goes on the computer these days as we become a “paperless” society.

My game plan is to gift Goodwill much of my belongings. Someone will find good use of it all. Some cash-poor person will be able to choose a nice present for someone they love. My things will find a good home. I’m not a yard sale or swap meet person. I’ll donate my military uniforms to the local theatre group. With the rest, I will fill up my trash cans and wave goodbye as the garbage man hauls it off.

The nest has become too full. I want to go back to simpler times when I had next to nothing and was happy. This isn’t spring cleaning—it’s life cleaning.

Doomsday – 9,991 Years Ahead Of Forecast

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

By some estimates, seventy-five percent of the world’s vegetation has gone extinct in the last hundred years.  A decade ago, the Norwegian Government recognized the multiple threats to the earth’s food supply – global warming, rising seas, draughts and desertification, toxic pesticides, wars and terrorism, nuclear holocaust, hurtling asteroids.  There will soon be a billion more mouths to feed and in 2008, the conscientious Norwegians decided to take the lead in protecting the planet’s diversity of agricultural seeds.  They conceived the idea of a sort of Noah’s Ark for plant life.

They hollowed out a frozen mountain on the island of Spitzbergen, six hundred miles from the North Pole in the town of Longyearbyen.  It’s so cold in Longyearbyen that it’s against the law to die there.  Bodies don’t decompose in the permafrost and if a person feels sick enough to die, he is urged to fly south so that he can be buried in softer ground.  But what’s inconvenient for people is great for seeds.  Extreme cold slows the aging process and prolongs their ability to germinate.  Back in ’08, Longyearbyen offered the perfect repository for seed preservation.

Scientists invited contributions from every country and region on earth and predicted that the Svalbard Global Seed Vault would ensure the viability of those precious contributions for 10,000 years and beyond – until Doomsday.  The architects and builders boasted that if everyone who knew of the vault’s existence were wiped off the face of the planet, its shimmering mirrors and reflective prisms would attract the attention of survivors.  The seeds would be found and agriculture could continue.  The so-called “Doomsday Vault” was failsafe.

Bonereapers, the third book in my Dinah Pelerin international mystery series, takes Dinah to the remote hamlet of Longyearbyen, Norway where she gets a firsthand look at this perpetually frozen fortress built on solid permafrost.  The science sounds unimpeachable and the design appears flawless.  But Dinah is by nature a Doubting Thomas.  In her experience, disaster has a habit of striking out of the blue, against all odds.  Nothing is failsafe.  She has the thousand-year perspective of a cultural anthropologist.  Things that today are called myths were once widely held beliefs.  Odin, the Norse god of storm, rain and harvest, was very real to the Vikings.

Time has a way of upending certainties and a project as grandiose and bally-hooed as the Doomsday Vault throws Dinah’s suspicions into overdrive.  She doesn’t trust the agribusiness moguls and bioengineers hovering around the facility.  She questions the motives of the food industry giants who invest millions in the management of the facility.  The politicians who cozy up to the Norwegian administrators set her nerves on edge.  She fears that the noble purpose of the vault may be compromised by political skullduggery, that human greed and corruption will bring about disaster.  When an environmental journalist and gadfly who opposes the vault is stabbed to death, she and an indigenous Sami policeman join forces to unravel the tangled and complicated skein of motives and solve the murder.

I wrote the book in 2013.  At the end of the story, the murderer is sussed out and the seeds remain chilled and eternally viable at -0.4 degrees Farenheit.  If I were writing the book today, I’d be obliged to contemplate a different ending.  In 2016, the hottest year on record, soaring temperatures turned snow to rain and sent meltwater gushing through the vault’s spectacular entrance.  The unexpected breach of this “impregnable” fortress astounded scientists and sent the vault’s caretakers back to the drawing board.  The permafrost was dissolving under their feet and the permanence of the Doomsday Vault today is far less certain.

The job of a mystery writer is to imagine all the ways a perfect plan can go wrong.  What “i” didn’t get dotted?  What “t” wasn’t crossed?  Scientists and experts might improve their forecasts by consulting a fiction writer.  J.G. Ballard anticipated global warming in his 1962 novel, The Drowned World.  In George Turner’s 1987 The Sea and Summer, the waters of a climate-changed world lap higher and higher.  Dozens of novels have envisioned ecological apocalypse.  Bonereapers isn’t one of them.  It’s a lighthearted, icy jog through the controversial world of GMO politics and competing ideas of how to save the planet.  But there are ominous moments.  At one point, Dinah falls through crumbling snow into an abandoned coal-mining shaft and learns that fifty million years ago, the Arctic was a tropical jungle with an average temperature of 74 degrees.  Dinosaurs roamed the region and mosquitos the size of cantaloupes buzzed among the palm trees.

Prophets have always looked for signs and omens and made dire predictions.  It’s a relief when those Last Day prophecies prove false.  There was something comforting about the Svalbard scientists’ promise that their vault would endure for 10,000 years.  It’s worrisome when intimations of Doomsday occur after only nine.



You Can Go Home Again

Colleen Mooney was born and lived much of her live in New Orleans before a job moved her to other cities.  She writes a cozy mystery series she refers to as Murder Light that is set in New Orleans. It’s called The New Orleans Go Cup Chronicles and the third book, Drive Thru Murder, was released in early April.

Since January 2017 Colleen organized a Sisters In Crime chapter in New Orleans, has been elected President and has a planned a Mystery Writers’ Conference for June.  She is currently working on her 4th book in the Brandy Alexander series.  She is also the Director of a breed rescue group for almost fifteen years and placed over 300 unwanted or abandoned Schnauzers. In her free time, Colleen sails, goes to a lot of parades, festivals and lives with her husband and three schnauzers in New Orleans. 

Feel free to email/contact at one of the following:


I worked in corporate America my entire career. I discovered how different we were to others when I was transferred a number of times to other cities.  I’m from New Orleans so when I was transferred, I immediately started working on getting transferred back to New Orleans. I did. Four times.

Going to other cities made me realize how different New Orleans really is.  In Alabama I ordered two po-boys, one dressed and the other with nothing on it.  The counter person responded, I have no idea what you’re talking about.  Translation:  I wanted two sandwiches on French bread, one with lettuce and tomato and one without lettuce and tomato.

In New Jersey, my friends were ready to leave a bar but I had half my drink left.  I looked around and not spotting any plastic cups I asked the bartender for a go cup.  He looked at me and said, “Lady, where are you from?”  I responded, “How do you know I’m not from here?” The bartender filled me in on the “open container law” I had never heard of.  It was the snowball effect from here. I stumbled and fumbled many times in many places expecting to say or do things I routinely did back home only to discover either no one ever heard of what I was talking about or they laughed hysterically at me.

I have the bartender in New Jersey, who was the first to enlighten me and not laugh, to thank for the idea of a mystery series in New Orleans. I decided to call it The New Orleans Go Cup Chronicles.

A few years ago New Orleans caught up with the rest of the country and we now have an open container law.  Have no fear, if there is a law here there is a way around it. The workaround is for the server at the Drive Thru Daiquiri shop (and yes, we still have a Drive Thru Daiquiri Shop), to hand us our order with a plastic lid on the daiquiri and a straw.  We are served in a closed container and have to put the straw through the “x” in the plastic top ourselves! The person with the daiquiri only has to remove the straw if pulled over.

Voila! Open container law, drive thru daiquiri shop and patron drinking the daiquiri in a vehicle (hopefully not driving) all in compliance.

I write about a lot of things we do in New Orleans that are unique and make us different. I hadn’t realized how different we were until I lived other places.  There’s always something to do here between weekend events, festivals, parties, and just friends wanting to get together to have fun.  The hardest thing to do here is deciding what to attend and which ones you just can’t squeeze into the weekend or the day or the night. Our biggest challenge here is deciding what to go to because there is always two or three things going on at any one time.  After I decide where to go and what to do, I need to decide what to write about.

A Few Random Thoughts on Creativity and Ideas

Before he became a mystery writer and reviewer, Carl Brookins was a counselor and faculty member at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Brookins and his wife are avid recreational sailors. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.
He writes the sailing adventure series featuring Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney. The third novel is Old Silver. His new private investigator series features Sean NMI Sean, a short P.I. The first is titled The Case of the Greedy Lawyers. Brookins received a liberal arts degree from the University of Minnesota and studied for a MA in Communications at Michigan State University.


Come and enjoy a time of conversation with author Carl Brookins as he talks about translating his sailing adventures to fiction and creating fictional characters that feel like old friends. Brookins is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.


One of the enduring questions that arises, has to do with the sources and occurrence of ideas. You know, “Hey, where do you get your ideas?” I may have mentioned that my short story published a few years ago for Echelon Press, the one titled “A Winter’s Tale,” was stolen from a Shakespeare play with a similar title, although the two have little or nothing else in common. But I always say, “if you are gonna steal, steal from the best.”

One of the most stirring speeches in all of Shakespeare’s writing occurs in “King Henry V,” in the scene before the battle of Agincourt.  “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers….that fought with us upon St. Crispin’s Day…”  If you haven’t seen the marvelous WWII series “Band of Brothers,” produced by Spielberg and Hanks, you should.

I watched screenwriter/producer Paul Haggis take a small silver watch he’d never seen before, examine it, smell it, caress it in his fingers, and in the space of ten minutes, create a story around and about that watch that was interesting, compelling, and quite moving.  It was an example of creativity of a high order.  Haggis is the man who created and produced the award-winning “Crash” and some other fine films, like “Million-Dollar Baby,” and “In The Valley of Elah,” which starred Tommy Lee Jones.  He also produced “EZ Streets,” a dark moody excellent television series which, unfortunately didn’t do well in the ratings, in spite of its good quality writing, acting and directing.

By the way, as an almost unrelated aside, I am about to publish Grand Lac, a stand-alone mystery novel based on a real incident in a western state. It takes place near a large lake and involves a bull-dozer, murder and civic chicanery.

Good reading to you all.

Buy Links:

Barnes & Noble // Amazon

The Inside Passage:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon

The Case of the Yellow Diamond:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon

The Case of the Stolen Case:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon

A Lake Superior Mystery:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon

Learning the Hard Way

Christina Hoag is a former journalist for the Miami Herald and Associated Press who’s been threatened by a murderer, had her laptop searched by Colombian guerrillas and phone tapped in Venezuela, hidden under a car to evade Guatemalan soldiers, posed as a nun to get inside a Caracas jail, interviewed gang members, bank robbers, thieves and thugs in prisons, shantytowns and slums, not to forget billionaires and presidents, some of whom fall into the previous categories. Kirkus Reviews praised Christina as a “talented writer” with a “well crafted debut” in Skin of Tattoos (Martin Brown Publishing, 2016), a gangland thriller. Her YA thriller Girl on the Brink (Fire and Ice, 2016) was named to Suspense Magazine’s Best of 2016 YA list. She also writes nonfiction, co-authoring Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence (Turner Publishing, 2014), a groundbreaking book on violence intervention used in several universities. Christina makes her home in Los Angeles and lives on the web at

Christina’s Bookshelf

Connect with her on:

I often wonder that if I’d known all that I know now about the publishing business, would I still have flung myself headlong into writing novels?

The answer is probably yes. Writing novels has been my dream since I was a small girl. Still, I wish I’d known a few practicalities beforehand.

A key one is how much more I could have done to build my author’s platform before I was even published. In fact, this may have helped me get published as agents and editors are all looking at an author’s platform as much as their manuscript these days.

As a journalist, I should have had a website up and running with my nonfiction book that I co-authored, and I should have started other social media sites such as Instagram, GoodReads and a Facebook author page. (I’m glad to say I did do something right—I built my Twitter following to 20.4K over the course of steady daily tweeting.)

Christina at the Grand Canyon

I should have started joining writers’ organizations that are open to unpublished authors, like Sisters in Crime, which would have allowed me to network and make more connections that could have helped me gain marketing and promotion expertise. Ditto with writers’ conferences. I could have saved myself so much time and energy in cold-querying agents by pitching them directly at conferences, and again doing that crucial networking.

I should have thought more about branding myself and developing one genre instead of, as my former literary agent told me, writing “all over the place.”

So why didn’t I do all this stuff? In short, I didn’t believe in myself. I didn’t have the confidence in myself and my writing that I should have. I was intimidated by conferences and organizations because they were just for published authors, or so I thought. According to me, I was just another one in the mass of aspiring novelists begging for a contract. I was afraid I wouldn’t be taken seriously until I was published.

Christina at the Home Where Jane Austen Died

So I got published and then ventured out into the woolly world of trying to get my books discovered. Then began another series of lessons.

I had no idea developing a genre or writing a series of books was essential to building a publishing career. To me, writing the same stuff over and over again seems boring, but I seem to be the only person who thinks this way. I also had no idea just how competitive publishing is and how writing a good book just isn’t enough to catapult you above the heads of everyone else. I didn’t realize getting readers to write reviews was a Promethean struggle.

I didn’t realize I was way ahead of the game in being a newspaper reporter and foreign correspondent for many years, which gave me a far more interesting bio than many as well as more expertise in the subject matter of crime, as I’ve covered real life crime and cops, done ridealongs and so on. I should have emphasized this from the getgo.

I also didn’t realize that agents were basically sales people and weren’t going to invest a lot in an author they hadn’t sold, such as in advising them that they should build a platform or social media, or give editorial advice on early-stage manuscripts.

But here’s the thing. I’m glad I didn’t know all this stuff. If I had, maybe I wouldn’t have even attempted this foolhardy game of being a novelist at all. Maybe I would have put too much focus on business instead of just working on my craft. And let’s face it, writing the best book you can write is still the heart of this business.

So now I’m building my author platform, slowly but steadily. It’s been a steep learning curve, that’s for sure, but now I know.


I Thought I Recognized That Voice

Rabbi Ilene Schneider, Ed.D., one of the first women rabbis ordained in the U.S., has decided what she wants to be when she grows up: a full-time writer. She is the author of the Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mysteries: the critically acclaimed Chanukah Guilt; the award-winning Unleavened Dead; and the latest, Yom Killer. She also wrote the best-selling nonfiction Talk Dirty Yiddish, soon to be released in a new edition; developed a website of Q&As about Chanukah (; and edited a cookbook Recipes by the Book: Oak Tree Authors Write. She lives in Marlton, NJ, with her husband Rabbi Gary Gans.




When I first began to write my latest Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mystery, Yom Killer, I had a lot of difficulty. Generally, once I get that first paragraph down, the rest begins to flow. But not only did it not flow, it was deleted. I didn’t even save what I had written in a new file to be used in the future. Nothing I wrote was worth saving. I could not find my voice to write about the collapse and hospitalization of Aviva’s mother. My own mother was several years younger than Aviva’s, but she had suffered from lymphoma, both Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s, for many years. As she became progressively more frail, the real life situation was too close for me to use my usual sarcasm and snarky humor and light touch and word play. After many false starts, I did manage to find the balance I needed. I’m not sure how. The creative process remains a mystery to me.

I had already decided to write about the importance of voice in novels, when my friend writer Shalanna Collins (aka Denise Weeks) posted the following on Facebook: “Voice. That’s what I need in a novel or story. I need to be charmed into spending my reading time with this book. Many people don’t care or find it necessary, I know. . . . They just put things simply. But what is lacking is charm. I need a character with personality whose voice and way of seeing the world charms me.”

Shalanna’s comment and my own ruminations made me realize I’ve no idea how to define “voice.” So I turned to the Great and Powerful Wizard of Google, and found, as so often happens, the results were contradictory. Is it a writer’s style or something more elusive?

In her article “What Is Voice in Fiction Writing,” Ginny Wiehardt wrote: “The term ‘voice’ in fiction writing actually has two very different meanings: Voice is the author’s style, the quality that makes his or her writing unique, and which conveys the author’s attitude, personality, and character; or voice is the characteristic speech and thought patterns of the narrator of a work of fiction.” (

Julie Wildhabe in “Understanding Voice and Tone in Writing” defines voice as “the distinct personality, style, or point of view of a piece of writing or any other creative work.” (

In “Literary Voice: Developing It…And Defining It,” Kat Zhang admits: “A story’s ‘voice’ is sometimes hard to define or talk about.” She then quoted from Wikipedia (no attribution or link provided):  “The writer’s voice is the individual writing style of an author, a combination of idiotypical usage of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works).” (

I was about to conclude that a writer’s voice is a fancy way of saying “an author’s style” when I read a piece by Cris Freese, “Voice in Writing: Developing a Unique Writing Voice,” in which he separates voice and style: “What the heck is ‘voice’? By this, do editors mean ‘style’? I do not think so. By voice, I think they mean not only a unique way of putting words together, but a unique sensibility, a distinctive way of looking at the world, an outlook that enriches an author’s oeuvre. They want to read an author who is like no other. An original. A standout. A voice. (

In other words, a writer’s voice is what makes a work immediately recognizable. Short sentences? Hemingway. Run-on stream of consciousness sentences? James Joyce. Turning language on its head by using it literally? Douglas Adams. Or maybe Gracie Allen.

My conclusion: To paraphrase Justice Stewart Potter, I cannot define voice, but I know it when I read it.

Libraries, Then and Now

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 libraries have made a comeback and become more relevant than ever.

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 will be out in July 2017.

When I was growing up the Glendale, Ca. public library was my favorite place to be. It was even better than the movie theater on a Saturday afternoon when you could see 3 cartoons, two ‘cliff hangers’ and two movies for I believe about a quarter. Yes, that was a long time ago.

But the library, ah, that was bliss. For absolutely nothing you could browse the stacks, pick up books and thumb threw them, tuck one under your arm, then another, knowing you were going to go home, curl up either on the couch, your bed or the covered swing under the elm tree and read.  The alley was full of kids playing ball or riding bikes but I ignored them. The worlds I entered held much more excitement then anything the alley had to offer. That excitement wasn’t without restrictions, however. The librarians not only checked out the books but they checked them over. One in particular. More than once she removed a book from my pile because she thought it was ‘too old’ for me. I got good at avoiding her when I snuck books out from the adult section.

Back then, books were what the library offered. Magazines maybe, but mainly books. Reference books, text books, fiction, lots of fiction, but books.

Then things started to change. Television came along and people said reading was dead. Libraries would soon become a thing of the past. They didn’t.

The internet appeared. People said this time the libraries were obsolete. Who needed them when you could look up anything you wanted on the internet? Only, people still went to libraries and they still looked up stuff in books.

The I phone came into being. There was nothing you couldn’t do with it. Well, maybe the dishes, but for all practical purposes you could do anything else. Your banking, shopping, texting, you could even read books because the EBook had arrived! The last nail in the libraries coffin, people said. And this time that seemed to be true. Fewer people were visiting their local libraries. Some closed. Others cut back hours, city and state boards cut funding, pundits everywhere were ordering flowers for the funeral.

But the libraries started to fight back. Dedicated librarians everywhere knew people needed them. They needed the books on their shelves, the knowledge their text books contained, the hours of pleasure the novels they shelved offered. Children needed to grow up with a book in their hands, loving the pictures, the story. The world couldn’t properly exist without libraries. But, times had changed and so must they. So they did.

Check out the web site for your local library. You’ll find a button called “Collection”. It will list every book they have in that library. Want to reserve one? You can do so on line. Looking for a class on art history? Check out the events button on the web site. Chances are your library has one, but it not they’ll offer a class, or lecture, or book club on another subject. Maybe on a subject you had no idea you were interested in, but one that sounds fascinating. Have small children? Try the mommy and me reading groups, or the story time for slightly older children. What a way to introduce toddlers to the delights books can bring. Are you a Kindle devotee? If you commute on a train or bus, chances are it’s what you use daily. Your library has a huge selection of ebooks. Kids having trouble with a class? Check out the web site of your library. Lots of them offer on line or in library homework help. Planning a trip? Go to the library. They have more interesting facts about the places you’re planning to visit than Triple A and they also have maps. And…they still have interesting books. Lots of them. Fiction, with just about every genre represented, cook books, how to do anything books, biographies of fascinating people and fascinating times. You won’t find the interesting tidbits of gossip about our founding fathers or the sobering facts that caused them to make the decisions they did in a one paragraph blurb on the internet.

So, put away the hammer, my friends, we don’t need the coffin just yet. The libraries of this country are far from dead. In fact, they are alive and well. So are the libraries in the UK and other countries. The BBC said so. More people between the ages of 21 and 50 are going to the library than have in years. Retired people still check out books on a regular basis. Children flock to the story sessions and insist on bringing home books so their mothers and fathers can read them aloud at bedtime, a generation tested event that persists to this day.

This doesn’t mean libraries have ignored computers, on the contrary. Libraries have learned to embrace them. They offer computers for your use and will even help you figure out how to use one, show you how to find the book you want, and maybe turn you on to some you never knew existed. Libraries have learned how to integrate the best of both worlds into a harmonious one and I am grateful.

Brave new world? You betcha.