Wednesday, September 17, 2014

SinC Up For Bloggers

            I'm delighted to say that I was invited to participate in the September Sisters in Crime SinC Up for Bloggers, in which I was asked to respond to some or all of a bunch of questions that appear on the bloghop website. 

            Some of those questions, and my answers, are below. 

If someone said "Nothing against women writers, but all of my favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men," how would you respond?

            I'd say, "Hey, nothing against men writers but have you read any of my stories?"

            Okay, seriously?  Sex definitely matters in some things, but not so much in who's doing the writing.  There are excellent authors of both sexes in all genres and subgenres.  Backgrounds can matter, but these days there are both women and men in all aspects of law enforcement.  And all of us can do research!

            Sure, there are more female authors of cozy mysteries because cozies tend to have recurring themes that more women than men relate to, such as cooking and sewing--but there are some darned good male cozy writers, too, just as there are excellent female thriller authors.

            Everyone's entitled to his/her opinion, but mine is that if anyone actually said what's quoted above, they were attempting to generate controversy and probably would have succeeded! 

What's the best part of the writing process for you? What's the most challenging?

            The best part of the writing process for me is letting my mind go wild and create new ideas and characters and scenes.  My subconscious mind is one of my best friends!  It's always at work, and when I need to figure out what comes next in a story, for example, I relax and let it get busy, then take notes about what it tells me.  Often that happens at off-beat times, like in the bathtub at night, or waking me in the middle of the night, or slipping into my head while I'm driving.  (No, I don't take notes while driving but I concentrate so I can jot down what I need to when I'm able to.)  Sometimes, when I'm not certain about what comes next, I play games with my subconscious--literally.  I'll do an on-line crossword puzzle, and voila!  When I'm not forcing it to work, my mind comes through and I then know what to write.

            Most challenging is when that same mind gets distracted.  My dogs like to keep me busy figuring out how to deal with that situation.  A lot.  But somehow, we manage to work it out.

Do you listen to music while writing? What's on your playlist?

            Nope, the quieter it is, the easier it is for my mind to scheme and plot and write.  On the other hand, I'm very obedient when my dogs bark for attention or to go outside.

What books are on your nightstand right now?

            I've got quite a few books on superstitions sitting on my nightstand and elsewhere in my house.  Why?  My new Superstition Mystery Series starts in October with LOST UNDER A LADDER, and I'm working on the second book in the series.  I know quite a few superstitions and they're generally good to me (my fingers are crossed as I write this, which makes typing a bit difficult) but love researching more so I can mention them in my stories. 


If you were to mentor a new writer, what would you tell her about the writing business? 

                  The writing business is really different from when I started out a long time ago.  I did my homework then and started getting published by traditional publishers, and I still am, although I've been doing a little self-publishing, too.  The best advice I can offer is to do your homework.  Learn how people are getting published, both traditionally and self-publishing.  Join organizations that feature the genres you're most interested in and connect with people so you can learn not only how to write well but also what publishing avenue is likely to work best for you, including how to find the best agent for you.  And of course one of the best organizations I belong to is Sisters in Crime!



                  As part of the blog-hop, I'm also asked to tag someone else to respond, so I've asked Killer Hobbies' own Tracy Weber to respond to some or all of the questions as well.  Thanks, Tracy!

              By the way, you can find out more about Sisters in Crime at  


                  Meantime, blog reader, are you a member of SinC?  What's your opinion of blog-hops, especially this one? 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Save the Bunny!

On curves ahead
Remember, Sonny,
That rabbit’s foot
Didn’t save the bunny.
Burma Shave

These are the best of times, these are the worst of times.

Best: I’m becoming more convinced that this project of making a movie of Knight Fall (its title in paperback; the hardcover is Murder At the War) is going to happen.  I brought a script writer into the mix, and he and the producer hit it off famously.  Both appear wonderfully competent.  They have decided it might be worth the effort to film at least part of the movie at The Great Pennsic War in 2016, but will go there in 2015 to “scout” it – look at what it is, what it will offer, take the temperature of the event to see if it’s even possible.  I have rejoined the Society for Creative Anachronism to smooth the connections between Third Hemisphere and the SCA.  This all is tremendously exciting and wonderful – and not a little scary.

Worst: China is stealthily taking over the seas around it and making ugly faces at Hong Kong and Japan; Russia’s Putin is stealtily invading Ukraine; ISIS is growing daily more powerful and terrifying.  And our government doesn’t seem to have a clue.  Somebody needs to read this to them:  FYI, Copybook Headings were little sayings at the tops of pages in British school notebooks.

Meanwhile, I’m still making plans to travel to England next March to watch the Anglican church do its magnificent best to give King Richard III his long-delayed burial.  The Archbishop of Canterbury will officiate.  Maybe I’m crazy; maybe we’re all crazy.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Las Vegas Weekend

Last Friday we went to Las Vegas. We’re usually going there for some business thing and go during the week. This was a first time we were going for a weekend. Las Vegas is a weekend getaway spot for a lot of people from Southern California, so it was all about beating the traffic.

Of course, we didn’t leave as early as we’d hoped and when we got to our regular stop at Barstow expecting to eat at Chipotle, we had a big surprise. The line for food was out the door and we figured it would be a half an hour wait for sure. We wanted to get back on the road quickly before all the weekenders clogged it up. We’d heard that what generally took us between four and five hours could be up to eight with traffic.

The good news was Starbucks had breakfast sandwiches left and we got there when the line was short. Then it was eat fast and get back on the highway.

The reason for the trip was a wedding. Michael and my son met when Michael was just learning how to walk and Max was in my arms. They spent their first Halloween together. Max was a ghost – a costume I created out of a crib sheet. Michael had a leopard costume from one of his cousins. Neither of them had a clue what was going on, so we had to place them at the door and ring the bell. They were so cute every one wanted to give them lots of candy.

They went to Gymboree together, played T-ball, spent more Halloweens, birthdays, Easter egg hunts in our front yard, Disneyland trips together. You get the idea. And since both were only children, they were kind of like brothers.

So, Michael’s wedding was a big deal to us. And Max was the best man.

I have to admit I wasn’t so sure about a Las Vegas wedding and had images of someone in a plastic Elvis wig doing the ceremony. It turned out to be nothing like that. It was n outdoor ceremony under the shade of almond trees. Yes, it was hot, but they provided fans. Michael’s cousin (not in an Elvis outfit) married them. Then it was inside to a cute little building for the reception. I thought it might feel impersonal, since to the workers this was just another wedding, but they were very friendly.

And then it was back into the shuttle buses and back to our hotel.

Sunday it rained. Yes, rained in the desert. This year there have been a lot of pacific hurricanes that sent moisture up into Arizona and Nevada. The rain came from Norbert. Mostly it was no big deal as we drove around town. But when we went to check out this new attraction that is sort of like a ferris wheel, as we left, torrents of water from a flash flood were pouring through the parking lot of a hotel and into some kind of channel. I saw a shoe float by. It always makes you wonder how it got there.

Later, we saw a rainbow. There was no way to capture the whole arc, but it was amazing to see.

Sunday’s traffic was supposed to be even worse than Friday’s as everyone headed back to SoCal. We’d heard it was best to leave after 8 o’clock at night. To make it more of a concern, there was a flash flood watch in effect.

As we were getting ready to have dinner before we left, Max got a call from his business partner who had left Vegas earlier. There was an accident and the traffic on the 15 was at a standstill. He had actually pulled onto the side of the road and gotten out of his car. We’ve seen what happens when there’s an accident before. They stop all the traffic until a helicopter can get there and take any injured people away and then they have to get the damaged cars off the road. Since the road is in the middle of the desert, there isn’t a way to detour around it so everyone has to stop and wait.

But thanks to modern technology, we could check the traffic on our assorted phone and see when the it started to move again.

There was no more rain, the moon was full and extra big and lit the desert so much that I could look out the window and actually see something. The downside was I couldn’t see the stars. The traffic slowed briefly at the agriculture check point and then it was clear sailing. Starbucks in Barstow was long closed and we had to settle for coffee from In ‘N Out. We reached out driveway around 2 a.m., unpacked the car and fell into bed.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Forgiveness: The Road to Happiness—or at Least Peace

I look forward to answering your questions in this blog. Please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail your questions to


A  student asks: I’m in the middle of an ongoing conflict with a member of my family, and although I don’t usually feel angry, I don’t feel happy, either. Do you have any suggestions?

I need to make a confession: this question has challenged me.  The yoga teachings talk about happiness, but not in the way that we might hope.  In fact, the teachings warn against seeking happiness, because within happiness lies suffering.  Instead they advise us to seek peace.

I'll admit that I struggle with that, even though I get the point.  Happiness leads to attachment; attachment leads to suffering.  Peace, on the other hand, leads to acceptance, and acceptance reduces suffering.

So honestly, I don’t have any great yoga tools for creating happiness. But yoga has helped me find it, nonetheless.  When I practice yoga, I find peace. When I’m more peaceful, I’m happier. So perhaps a more meaningful goal is to turn anger into forgiveness, so that you too can find peace.

The Buddhist meditation below can help jump start that process.  In it, you offer healing to yourself, someone you love, someone with whom you are in conflict, and finally the world.

If sending healing to your family member is too challenging right now, start with someone less charged, like a rude grocery store clerk or someone who cuts you off on the freeway. Over time, as you forgive and find inner tranquility, happiness may sneak its way back in.

Loving Kindness Meditation:
  1. Come to a comfortable seated or lying position.
  2. Allow your eyes to close, and notice your breath—without intentionally trying to change it.  Bring your attention to the warmth and coolness of the breath at the tip of your nostrils.
  3. When you are ready, bring your own self to mind, complete with all of your strengths, weaknesses, successes, and struggles.  Silently and continuously repeat the following intentions for yourself:
    • May I be at peace. May my heart be open.
    • May I be healed, and may I be a source of healing for all beings.
  4. When you are ready, bring to mind the image of a loved one—someone you care about.  Silently and continuously repeat the following blessings for that person:
    • May you be at peace. May your heart be open.
    • May you be healed, and may you be a source of healing for all beings.
  5. When you are ready, bring to mind the image someone with whom you are in conflict, or someone who “pushes your buttons” in some away.  Perhaps someone who’s injured you in the past whom you’ve not forgiven.  Silently and continuously repeat the following blessings for that person:
    • May you be at peace. May your heart be open.
    • May you be healed, and may you be a source of healing for all beings.
  6. When you are ready, bring to mind an image of the entire planet. Visualize or sense the continents, the oceans, and the shape of the earth as it moves around the sun.  Silently and continuously repeat the following blessings for the earth:
    • May the earth be at peace. May the hearts of the earth be open.
    • May the earth be healed, and may the earth be a source of healing for all beings.
  7. If your attention wanders (and it will!) just notice it, and invite your attention back to the sensation of the breath at the tip of your nose.  Then continue with the loving kindness meditation from wherever you left off.  The “blessings” above can be modified to anything that has meaning for you.
I hope that helps, and thank you for the question!