Tuesday, May 26, 2015


For Memorial Day:

                      Casualty Call

The doorbell rang while she was baking bread.
She glimpsed them through the window by her door,
And slid down weeping to the foyer floor;
Until she let them in he was not dead.
Her husband came to answer it instead.
"Are you okay?" He knew. He'd been to war.
"Mother, are you okay?" he asked once more.
"I'll never be okay again," she said.

Their son was buried two weeks to the day.
The rifles fired, a bugle sounded taps.
She was clear-eyed, her husband wept. Perhaps
He knew the price that they had yet to pay.
They grieved their son for years, then cancer came,
And as he died, he called the dead boy's name.

                                               - Robert A. Hall

There is a sweet sorrow to this kind of poetry.  If it moves you to tears, they’re  not the shameful or unhappy kind.  In fact, I think they’re a good kind and should happen to us all from time to time..

I’ve been going through the photographs Becky took on our trip to London.  It turns out I’m not a real photographer; that is, when I see something interesting, I more often than not fail to take a picture of it.  For example, I noted that those British soldiers in their red coats and enormous bearskin hats carry very modern weapons, but did I take his picture?  No, but Becky did..  She took lots of pictures, many of them with talent.  This man at the top of the page was photographed at the Tower of London, guarding the entrance to the building that housed the Crown Jewels.  (You are not, by the way, permitted to take pictures of the wonderful things inside.)

And here’s a really excellent photograph Becky took of the Beefeater at the Tower of London.

Intelligent and witty, he told some interesting stories about the various buildings in the Tower.  He also recited a rather silly rhyme that is an old British schoolboy mnemonic for the Kings and Queens of England from William the Conqueror to Victoria – and it’s one I memorized myself long years ago that helped me learn English history:
Willie, Willie, Harry, Stee,
Harry, Dick, John, Harry Three,
One, two three Neds, Richard Two,
Harries Four, Five, Six, then who?
Edwards four, five, Dick the Bad,
Harries twain, Ned the Lad,
Mary, Bessie, James the Vain,
Charlie, Charlie, James again,
Bill and Mary, Anna Gloria,
Four Georges, William, then Victoria.

Thank you very much, I’m here all week.  Try the veal

Friday, May 22, 2015

Evening at the Santa Clarita Library

Last week I talked about the upcoming Friends of the Santa Clarita dinner and mystery panel.
Now to talk about how it went. The library is beautiful and I was lucky enough to be on a panel with Sue Ann Jaffarian, Connie Archer (her real name is Connie Di Marco), and Diane Vallere. Anthony Breznican, a writer for Entertainment Weekly, and author of a young adult novel was our moderator. The evening was put together by Robin Hoklotubbe.

First the five of us had dinner together and got to know each other. Sue Ann talked about being a part time vegan, Connie told us stories about her acting career including playing a heart surgeon on ER. Diane admitted to not reading books like she writes because she was concerned she might inadvertently put something from whatever she was reading into one of her own books. I feel the same. We talked about book reviews and how they were one person’s opinion. And then it was time for our panel.

One of the interesting things about being on a panel is hearing other writer’s answers to the questions. One topic was writing habits. Sue Ann Jaffarian works full time as a paralegal and she gets up at 5 a.m. to write before work and writes during her lunch hour. She said she was lucky to be able to write fast. She must really write fast because she writes four series.

Diane Vallere keeps her numerous series going by writing a certain amount of words a day. Connie Archer goes by time and I think she said she writes for three hours each day.

Someone said they finished their book several months before it was due so they could give it to some beta readers for comments and then tweak it.

I wish I was that structured. I write until I run out of time or mental energy. I like to stop in the middle of something because it makes starting up again easier. Also when I get close to deadlines it amazing how much I can get done.

Sometimes I surprise myself about things I say. I don’t remember the exact question, but it had to do with how long we’d be writing. I have always done something, but it never occurred to me to talk about it before. All of a sudden I found myself explaining this habit I’ve had for as long as I can remember. I have always told myself stories. When I was around ten, I’d go for a walk on the sandy road near the cottage we had in Indiana, I’d imagine fairies living in the loaf shaped rural mailbox and picture them getting water in walnut shell pails from the tiny water fall in the irrigation ditch. On the other side of the road, there was a field of purple flowers that smelled like peanut butter.

I would tell myself bed time stories and sometimes I liked them so much, I couldn’t wait to go to bed to start telling myself the next chapter. No more fairies in these stories, I was the usually the main character having an exciting adventure. Between my college classes, I’d walk down Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago and tell myself more stories. Mostly there were the fun kind, but once as I was sewing a dress I told myself a story that was out of the twilight zone and was so scary, I had to make myself stop thinking about it.

When I got to the end of my little spiel, I was surprised when none of my fellow panelist were nodding in agreement. And for the first time, I realized it might not be common practice.

We had a wonderful audience including the mayor of Santa Clarita. It was great to see my friend Hillary who along with her sister Bobbin have been fans of both my series. When we were done talking, we all signed a lot of books. All in all it was a great evening

Thursday, May 21, 2015

What Does This Have To Do With Dogs?

Please join me in welcoming guest author Terry Shames to Killer Hobbies today.  In answer to her title question...Doesn't EVERYTHING have to do with dogs?  Read on about dogs, mysteries, and book signings.  Take it away, Terry!

When I was a fresh new author, I was invited to participate in the Tucson Festival of Books. Turns out that each year they include a couple of new authors in their roster and I won the brass ring. The festival was grand. There were great panels and I got to mingle with some of my writing idols.

When it came time to do a signing, I was actually nervous. I’m never nervous when I have to speak to people—the more the merrier. But signing books? In a place where I knew no one? Suppose no one bought my books. Suppose everyone ignored me?

I’m here to tell you that that’s exactly what happened. I felt like I had on a covering that rendered me invisible. I sat there, mute and humiliated.

The man next to me wrote books about a crime-solving dog, and people couldn’t get enough of them. The proverbial hotcake sales comes to mind. So I started thinking that I might want to consider starting a second series about a crime-solving dog.

It turned out I didn’t have to do that. Someone who had a bit more experience in hawking her books showed me what to do. Pretty soon I was, on her advice, calling out to passerby—“Do you like mysteries? Yes? Then let me tell you about mine.” I’m not saying I racked up the sales, but at least I got to talk to a few people and sold a few books—and I relaxed.

So what does this have to do with dogs? I never forgot the man with the dog books and my thought about a crime-solving dog. So suddenly, in book four of my Samuel Craddock series, A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge, a dog appeared. It was a shivering, frightened terrier mix named Frazier that belonged to a potential love interest for my chief of police.  I didn’t know where the dog came from in my treasure trove of imaginary beings, but there it was, and there it stayed.

In the middle of writing book 5 for the last few months, I found myself including Frazier the dog again. He wormed his way into the book and set up shop. I’m not saying I’m ever going to have a crime-solving dog, and Samuel Craddock has a perfectly good cat that he likes—but when he was dog-sitting for Frazier, he liked having the dog hop in his truck and ride with him. So maybe Samuel has a dog in his future—if not of the crime-solving kind, at least a sidekick.
Terry Shames writes the best-selling Samuel Craddock series, published by Seventh Street Books. A Killing at Cotton Hill won the Macavity Award for Best First Mystery of 2013 and was a finalist for Left Coast Crime’s Best Mystery of 2013 and Strand Magazine’s Critic’s Award for Best First Mystery. Library Journal named The Last Death of Jack Harbin one of the top five mysteries of 2014. Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek debuted October 2014. The fourth in the series, A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge, was released April 7, 2015. For more about Terry, see www.terryshames.com.
Samuel Craddock has accepted that his neighbor and friend Jenny Sandstone’s personal life is off-limits. But when her dying mother tells Craddock that Jenny is in danger, he confronts a dilemma. He wants to respect Jenny’s privacy, but he is haunted by the urgency in the dying woman’s voice. Then strange events begin to take place.

After Jenny is the victim of a near-fatal car accident, Craddock demands that she tell him what he needs to know to protect her. Forced to confront the past, Jenny starts drinking heavily and plunges into a downward spiral of rage and despair. Craddock must tread lightly as he tries to find out who is behind the threats to her. But only by getting to the bottom of the secrets buried in Jenny’s past can he hope to save her both from herself and from whoever is out to harm her.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


When I started writing years ago, I believed that writers just wrote, got their stuff published, and could just keep on writing with nothing more. 

I've learned better.  We need to tell people about what we've written! 

As I mentioned last week, I'm still involved with my delightful blog tour, a Great Escapes Virtual Tour.

I also held a Facebook launch party for my new May release BITE THE BISCUIT, the first Barkery & Biscuits Mystery.  It was fun--and I also gave away books as prizes.  But not only books.  I wanted to give away a little bit of swag--not a lot, but something fun.   

I've been doing that with my other new mystery series as well, the Superstition Mysteries.  It's not hard to figure out things to give away with those stories:  things that are lucky!  Four-leaf clover charms and heads-up pennies and ladybug charms and other things representing good luck are available all over. 

For the Barkery books I decided to give away some small charms that are about dogs, as well as a few doggy treats.  I didn't bake them myself but bought most of them from special gourmet displays in pet stores.  I didn't have time to bake anything, for one thing, and I also need to do some experimentation one of these days so I can act a bit more like Carrie Kennersly, my Barkery protagonist, who's an excellent creator and baker of dog treats.

That's a fun thing about cozy mysteries.  Many of them have themes, like cooking and handcrafts--and, of course, pets.  It's not always easy to decide what items represent them best, but it's definitely fun to think about it! 

Any further ideas for me?