Sunday, November 28, 2010


"A thief believes everybody steals." - E.W. Howe (1853 - 1937) American novelist and newspaper editor.

This bit is insight into human nature is a wonderful inroad into characterization. Everything we see or do runs through our personal filters. It's a fascinating study to listen to the language people use and how it reveals their world view.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

There's an old Thanksgiving song that starts out, "Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go..."

When I was a child, my Dad would break into that song as we crossed the Pennsylvania border into West Virginia on our annual pilgrimage to celebrate the Holiday with his family. "The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh, through the white and drifting snow..."

The closer we got to his childhood home, the heavier his foot rested on the gas pedal as our Chevy station wagon climbed the hills on twisting roads and flew on the downside. His rich baritone voice belted the song, and in my imagination we were on that sleigh behind dapple grays in their rhythmic trot. I could hear the clump of their hooves and feel the blowing snow bite my cheeks as we were carried along.

It was magic, pure and simple. A magic that continued for the few days that we stayed in that 'otherworld.'

Today as those memories float pleasantly through my mind, I can almost smell the wonderful aromas of sage dressing, pumpkin pie, and mulled cider that permeated my grandmother's house. And I can hear the bustle of activity accompanied by short bursts of conversation among the women in the kitchen. The front bedroom is where the men gathered and brought out instruments. Their music became another soundtrack.

My brothers, sisters, and I would join other cousins in the back bedroom in between our numerous trips outside. Our biggest challenge was to see who could roll down the hill and retain the most amount of snow, turning ourselves into living snowpeople. The second biggest challenge was to see who would have the honor of receiving the drumsticks. They were dolled out on a 'merit' system based loosely on which of us waited the most patiently for the great announcement, "Dinner's Ready."

With memories like that, it was hard for me to face the formidable task of creating Thanksgiving Days that would live in glory for my children.

We were living in Texas, so mountains and snow were out of the question, and my signing never could quite match my father's. I didn't possess even a tenth of the culinary skills of my grandmother and my aunts, so the meal would probably be lacking. And we were more than a thousand miles away from cousins to help distract my children from their impatience.

But despite those limits, we managed to muddle through. I did manage a passable dinner and my husband actually raved about the German dressing. The pies were a major hit, all ten of them, and everyone was willing to eat the broccoli for the promise of a second piece of pie. And after cheering the Dallas Cowboys to another victory, most years, we would all tumble outside for a family game of touch-football.

In sifting through all these random memories I realize that the memory itself is not what is important. What is, is the fact that we have memories and they don't happen by accident. No matter what we do to 'mark' these important occasions, it is vital that we do 'mark' them. Even if our process doesn't live up to a Martha Stewart image or our own fond remembrances of childhood.

So here's to our memories, no matter how we create them.


Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends, from Maryann Miller who is so thankful for all the friends she has made this year on the Internet.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Why Do We Enjoy Reading and Writing Mysteries?

When I read the newspapers and see the Internet news telling about heinous crimes, I think how awful. Often my mind goes to the families of all who are affected--not just the families who are related to the dead, but also the families of the one who did the killing.

In the books sometimes there isn't much about the family, but if there is they are usually twisted too, much like the criminal himself.In fact, the cruel father or the sadistic mother is what created the monster. In real life, often the family is as shocked by the actions of the killer as the rest of the world.

I was thinking about this while enjoying a mystery about a serial killer, then later reading something on the Internet about a real serial killer and shuddering.

This made me stop and think. Though I don't write about serial killers, I do write about ordinary people (or those who appear ordinary) who do bad things to other people and I got to wondering about it. Why do I enjoy reading and writing about such things?

I think the answer has to be in the books the bad guy always is caught and received some kind of justice. In real life, sometimes the bad guy is never caught or if he is caught and put on trial, sometimes something happens and he is released because of a mistrial or a jury finds him not guilty.

Do your have another opinion? I'd love to hear it.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Why does TV get more leeway?

I know more than a dozen people in law enforcement.
That's not odd as I was on a first aid squad for 18 years.  We interact with the cops on a regular basis. When you call 911, depending on where you are, a police officer responds first.
Of those people in law enforcement half of them are or have been directly involved in investigating crimes.
In other words I have some great resources.
And none of them watch any crime shows on TV. They wish their jobs were that easy.
So I know from my research that crimes don't get solved in a half an hour and that crime scene techs wear, at the very least, booties on their feet. And that sometimes Emergency Medical Services has been there so the crime scene is not pristine.
But there are more than a dozen crime shows on TV.
If I wrote a book with that many inaccuracies, NO publisher would buy it.
Is the TV watching public not so smart? Being someone who watches TV, I'd like to think they aren't.
But publishers and I assume book buyers will not put up with such things wrong in my story.
Why does TV get so much leeway? Anyone have an answer?

Friday, November 12, 2010

What a Setting for a Murder!

Today hubby and were supposed to be driving down to Long Beach where we would spend the night and the next day be transported to the Splendor, one of the ships in the Carnival Cruise Line. Along with 40 others we planned to spend 7 days aboard and the days at sea be part of a mystery conference called "A Cruise to Die For."

If you've watched the news at all you know that the Splendor left port last Sunday on the same route we were supposed to go, but on Monday the engine caught fire. This meant the ship could no longer move under its own steam and all the electricity was knocked out.

For a few hours, the 400plus and crew had no flushing toilets. Finally, the toilets worked, but there was no electricity, no way to cook food or keep it cold. Of course the elevators didn't work, no one was allowed in the pools, and the casino was closed.

The US Navy came to the rescue with food: Spam, canned crab meat, canned fruit and Pop Tarts--of course there was no toaster to heat them up in.

Tug boats came to the rescue and slowly hauled the ship to San Diego. They arrived on Thursday and finally could disembark around noon.

What a perfect place for a murder. In fact, it's a wonder there wasn't one.

Only showers that could be taken were cold. Reading and game playing could only be done on deck and until it got dark. No air flow, so the lower decks smelled--and of course that's where people had to go to sleep.

For the first couple of days there was no phone service at all.

Though disappointed about the mystery cruise, I can't express how happy I am I was not on that boat the week before.

We've been promised our money back and a 25% discount on our next cruise. Those who planned the mystery cruise have promised to do it again, next November. Will I go? Sure, what are the chances of the same thing happening again?

Don't answer that.

Wonder if there were any authors aboard the Splendor this past week and if so if there imaginations are working overtime?


Friday, November 05, 2010

Execution by Elephant

This wood engraving was first published in Le Tour de Monde in 1868.
Capital punishment at its squishiest.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Magna cum Murder 2010

Magna, a small con in Muncie, Indiana that happened this past weekend, is always fun because it is smaller and more fan-friendly than some other cons. Here are my photos of some of it. Pictured: Luci Zahray, a.k.a The Poison Lady; Laura Alden, author, and P.J. Coldren, book reviewer. Charles Todd (a writing duo comprised of mother Caroline Todd and son Charles). Brenda Chapman, Tony Perona, and one unknown (sorry).
It was great fun!