Thanksgiving

cornucopia-full

It’s the time of year again for adding a leaf to the dining room table, advising any wild turkeys you might see on the road to go into hiding, and compiling a list of appropriate conversation topics to have with your relatives (Note to my family: I’d rather not discuss Notre Dame’s win-loss record. Thanks in advance).

It is also the time (though every day is a good day) for counting our blessings and giving thanks. Here are just a few of the things for which I am thankful.

I am thankful for my family and friends, good health, and job.

I am thankful for the men and women of the United States military who defend our country every day.

I am thankful to Five Star Publishing for their support of All Things Murder, and to the artists who designed its beautiful cover and book jacket. I look forward to working with the team again on Murder, By George.

I am thankful to Dru Ann, Lori, Kathy, and Yvonne. These ladies each gave me an opportunity to introduce myself and the book to their blogs’ readers. Thank you!

I am thankful to all who read All Things Murder. And my gratitude to the readers who emailed me to share their enthusiasm for the story. The gesture is very much appreciated!

I am thankful to have two terrific bosses (Hi Charles and Melissa!). Not only do they back me in my job every day, but they also have been great supporters of my book.

I am thankful for my wonderful co-workers. This has been a difficult year for us; our company has been re-structuring itself, a process that has led to layoffs. Several colleagues have left our department this year, some by choice and others because of decisions the company made. Saying goodbye to them has been a sad part of 2014. It will also be a part of 2015, as more layoffs are coming early next year. I wish all my buddies at the office the very best.

I am thankful to Patti, Eileen, Charles, and Laura for reading early drafts of Murder, By George and sharing their thoughts on Veronica’s next adventure.

Finally, I am thankful for you! I am grateful for your visits to All Things Cozy, and give thanks to everyone who follows the blog. If you don’t, why not click on the “Follow” button on the right side of the page?

I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the time with your family and friends, the meal you will share with them, the parades, football games, and whatever kind of fun you make for yourselves.

 

 

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The Green Light

I have great news!

On Friday I received an email from my editor at Five Star, Tiffany Schofield, with an offer to publish the second Veronica Walsh Mystery, Murder, By George. I accepted immediately.

I’m thankful and excited that Five Star gave the green light for another Veronica adventure in Barton. I love writing the series, and deeply appreciate the readers who have told me they enjoyed All Things Murder and are looking forward to the next book. I can now officially say, “It’s coming!”

I’m eager to go through the publishing process again, and glad to know this time around what that process is. The first edit should come in a few weeks, with the second round due in early spring. I should get my first look at the cover around the time the class of 2015 receives their diplomas, and the advance copies sometime during the summer.

So, what is Murder, By George all about? The story begins a few months after All Things Murder ends, at Barton’s annual flea market. A young architect buys a vintage letter box and soon discovers a painting and love letter hidden in a locked drawer. The painting, a 1920’s view of Barton’s Orchard Street, was created by a renowned local artist and given to Eloise Griffin (mother to Ella and Madeline, Veronica’s canasta buddies) the night before her wedding. An argument ensues, with the Griffins, the man who sold the box, and the artist’s family all claiming rightful ownership of the valuable painting. Veronica is a witness to the debate, and soon plays amateur sleuth again when the architect is murdered.

I want to end by wishing a happy Veterans Day to all who have served our country, and would like to remember one particular veteran, Tom Brennan. Tom and I met in the dining hall during our freshman year at Notre Dame and he became one of the best friends I will ever have. Tom was a proud member of the Navy R.O.T.C. program and went on to serve with distinction in the U.S. Navy after our graduation. He spent nine months in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean region during the first Gulf War. After he was diagnosed with cancer, Tom was assigned land duty in Washington D.C. He fought the disease with great courage before passing on November 9, 1994. Tom is, and always will be, a warm and welcome presence in the hearts of all who loved him.

Have a great week, everyone.

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A Message To My Friends, The Feds

I’ve been doing research on the Internet for my next cozy mystery, reading up on deadly poisons, vehicular homicide, and strangulation as I work out who is the victim and who the murderer. I’ve paused more than once, imagining how I would explain my online searches if law enforcement and/or government officials (because you know they’re watching!) come a-calling. So I’ve composed the following letter of explanation.

Dear Uncle Sam,

You may have noticed my recent Internet searches lean toward the deadly. I want to assure you my interest in arsenic, cyanide, and strychnine is strictly professional. I want to know how to obtain these killer poisons solely in order to know how a person with sinister motives could get their hands on them. I have no interest in growing hemlock, mistletoe, or nightshade, but I do need to know how ingestion of these plants causes death, and how quickly.

Please don’t give a second’s thought to my online research on using a letter opener as a murder weapon. Or how much damage a car would sustain after hitting a pedestrian. And if you’re still checking library records, pay no attention to that book of poisons I borrowed yesterday. Again, all for research purposes.

You see, dear Uncle, my queries are for fictional purposes only. I have no desire to try them out in a non-fiction setting. I’m a mystery writer. I make stuff up and write it down until there are enough words to call it a book. If you need proof, my debut cozy, All Things Murder, is available in hardcover, paperback large print, and e-book. You’d like the story; it will take your mind off your problems for a while.

If you need further proof of my harmlessness, there are plenty of people who will attest to the fact that I am a good Catholic girl, a wimp, honest to a fault, a diligent payer of taxes, a tea drinker, and a slow driver.

Thank you for your understanding, Uncle. You are truly the best.

Your favorite niece,

Jeanne

P.S. I hope you don’t think I’m a jinx because I picked an all-bird World Series, Cardinals vs. Orioles. I was wrong. Go Royals. And Giants.

Have a great week, everyone. And a fun, spooky Halloween!

 

 

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All Things Stats

Numbers have always been attracted to me. My work in my professional life has always tended more toward numeric than alpha. Sales figures, advertising expenditures, the cost of printing a book. Who sold the most? Who charges the least? I have compiled many lists of top spenders, lowest cost suppliers, top five sellers.

So it’s natural for me to look for meaning in this blog’s statistics. I noticed the other day that residents of seventeen countries have visited the site. I know that some have stumbled across the blog while doing a Google search on “hyphens,” “freshman,” and “EKG.” But still, seventeen! Much more than I expected when I wrote my first post in July, 2013. Back then, I expected my only readers would be family and friends. The vast majority (+1500) of visitors are from the United States. Canada follows with just over forty. Being of Irish descent, I’m always pleased to see someone from Ireland has checked out All Things Cozy. Thirty-four residents from the “Old Sod” have stopped by for a look, as well as fifteen from the United Kingdom. Australians round out the top five, visiting nine times.

The blog’s home page has been looked over more than eight hundred times. I am delighted that the most-viewed single post is the piece I wrote in memory of my aunt, Marguerite, a few days after her passing. Thirty-four people have read about her inspiring, impressive life. More than twenty have taken a look at the guest post by author Liesa Malik (her second Daisy Arthur mystery will be out next year!), my thoughts on hyphens (I guess other people are afraid of them, too), the interview I did with author Lisa Haselton, and my Father’s Day post celebrating my dad and a few fictional fathers.

For those who have found All Things Cozy via search engines, Google and Yahoo were of course the top referrers. That’s appropriate, since I have googled and yahooed hundreds of times. My Facebook page for All Things Murder directed readers here eighty-eight times. I am grateful for that, despite my ambivalence toward, and slight fear of, Facebook. I love viewing the photos my family and friends post on their pages and reading the latest goings on in their lives. But I’m not one for posting about my own doings, and except for a couple of photos of my mother (faraway cousins want to see their beloved aunt), I only post photographs of trees, birds, and deer. I’m a listener, not a talker. I hope you understand, my Facebook friends.

Finally, search terms! I discovered this list in my WordPress stat section today. The top search terms involve my name, of course. There are a few that made me giggle.

Is ‘all things good’ hyphenated. I don’t think so. Neither is All Things Murder.

Words from Cardinal Dolan to a woman immodestly dressed. It wasn’t me.

Preposition song that the nuns taught us. I learned that preposition song in my Catholic grammar school, but a lay teacher taught my class. To the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy. About above across after…

Spooky freshman reading. What does that mean? Is there nothing scary about sophomore, junior, and senior reading? Is that freshman reading for high school or college?

I’d like to end on a completely unrelated note. The Nobel committee got it right with their awarding of the Peace Prize to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai. Congratulations, Mr. Satyarthi and Miss Yousafzai. You inspire us all.

Have a great week, everyone!

 

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It’s Good To Be #2

As in Derek Jeter, the New York Yankee shortstop who has worn the number two on his pinstriped uniform for the last twenty years. The baseball superstar retires today after a spectacular career.

The baseball and sports universe has celebrated Jeter throughout this season, with opposing teams presenting him with cool gifts, fans giving him standing ovations, and reporters lauding him in print articles and television specials. Earlier this month, the Yankees held a ceremony at Yankee Stadium before a Sunday afternoon game; several of Jeter’s former teammates and his longtime manager Joe Torre were there to honor him, along with Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. and basketball legend Michael Jordan.

The praise has been universal and well deserved. Jeter’s calm demeanor in high-pressure situations, steely mental strength, impeccable behavior, sportsmanship, unfaltering leadership, and generosity have been the character traits mentioned repeatedly. The work of the charity he founded, Turn 2 Foundation, which has helped many youngsters achieve their goals and lead healthy lives, has also received worthy attention for its tremendous accomplishments.

These qualities are the reason Jeter is an excellent role model for kids, but they also have made him an inspiration to adults. He has spurred us to strive for excellence: in our work, our charity, as parents, and as friends. In a time of less-than-admirable behavior from athletes and celebrities, it is remarkable that Derek Jeter never once in his long career did anything to embarrass himself, his family, his teammates, his employer, or his profession.

A great amount of the credit goes to his parents, Charles and Dorothy. Fans know that when Jeter was a kid, his parents made him and his sister sign a yearly contract outlining appropriate and inappropriate behavior. To play baseball, Jeter had to maintain certain academic grades and avoid drugs and alcohol. His mother did not allow him to use the word “can’t.” Dr. and Mrs. Jeter kept their son’s focus on his goal, to be the Yankees’ shortstop, guiding him with their wisdom and love.

Yankee fans will miss Derek Jeter, the baseball player, very much. We’ll miss his clutch hitting (he’s number six on the all-time hits list) and trademark fielding as shortstop. But we will miss Derek Jeter, the person, so much more. We need him to remind us of what we can be when we choose to be kind, to persevere in times of challenge, to put the team before the self.

Thank you, Derek.

I’ll end with a World Series prediction. Since the Yankees are out of the race, I’m going with an all-bird final (what can I say, I love birds): the Saint Louis Cardinals vs. the Baltimore Orioles. What do you think?
Have a great week, everyone!

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In The News

It’s been a quiet week. I have one bit of news: All Things Murder will be released in a large print format on October 22, with Amazon fulfilling orders starting November 12. We all know someone whose eyesight isn’t terrific. Large print material, as well as audio books, are blessings to readers who can no longer enjoy a good book due to poor vision.
Here is some more news from the past week that caught my interest…

I’ve never seen the face of Jesus on my toast, but this morning I swear I saw a dog’s face, complete with floppy ears and lolling tongue, in my blueberry muffin.

Derek Jeter has a lot of thank you notes to write.

I’m going to suggest this at work tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Yet more proof that reading is a great habit. Something to do on the aforementioned seventeen-minute work break.

Yay! A new season of The Good Wife starts tonight. I love this show and am looking forward to watching one of my favorite actors, David Hyde Pierce, who will appear in a recurring role.

To all unemployed dogs looking for work, there’s a job opening in College Station. You just have to impress a 12-member selection committee. Happy retirement, Reveille.

 

Enjoy the last day of Summer and have a great week!

 

 

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Goodreads, Literary Matchmaker

Do you know Goodreads? The site’s home page poses a terrific invitation: “Meet your next favorite book.” Goodreads, perhaps the world’s largest book club, is a wonderful place for readers to meet, discover authors and books, and discuss their love of literature.

Want to know what others thought of a book before you decide to read it? Goodreads stores reviews of thousands of books. Would you like to discuss the latest cozy mysteries, science fiction novels, or women’s fiction? Goodreads has a group for you to do just that! Interested in reading a novel by your favorite author before it’s released? At any given moment, advance copies of books are offered for giveaway on Goodreads.

Goodreads is also a wonderful site for authors. It has provided me with a platform to introduce All Things Murder and promote the book in the months’ since its release. Two months before the book’s debut, I ran a giveaway of four advance copies. More than 1,300 readers entered the contest, and several hundred added the book to their To Read bookshelf.

Goodreads helps authors reach readers through advertising. Authors can choose their own budget for an ad and direct the ad to readers of specific genres or the fans of specific authors. An ad I placed has been viewed thousands of times and has prompted more than one hundred readers to mark the book for reading.

Goodreads introduced a new feature recently: Ask the Author. Readers can post questions for participating authors to answers. It is yet another way for authors and readers to interact. I’ve answered a few of the “starter” questions Goodreads provided.

I’ve been a Goodreads member for a year now and am very happy to be a part of the site. I have discovered a few authors and their terrific books and have met very nice people in the cozy groups I have joined. Why not pay a visit to Goodreads yourself and check out all it has to offer?

Have a great week, everyone!

 

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Summer Reading Book Report

A few weeks ago I posted a list of a few of the books on my summer reading list. I have not yet read two of the five-The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin and Peter Mayle’s The Corsican Caper-but summer isn’t officially over until the twenty-third, right?

I highly recommend the three books that completed my list. If you are looking for a thought-provoking story, try The Arsonist by Sue Miller. Miller is known for setting a contemplative mood. In The Arsonist, the theme she examines is Belonging. Many of the characters, both main and minor, struggle, or have struggled, with a search for that place where they can make their home: physically, emotionally, and professionally. Home also includes family, whether formed by blood or shared experience. The search is not always easy, in real life or Miller’s fiction.

Tracy Weber’s Murder Strikes A Pose is a terrific start to the new Downward Dog Mystery series. Seattle yoga instructor and studio owner Kate befriends George, a homeless man, and his German shepherd, Bella. When George is murdered, Kate becomes Bella’s “foster-mother.” Weber cleverly combines Kate’s quest to find Bella a new home with her search for George’s killer. Murder Strikes A Pose has great charm and humor, and takes the reader on a visit to the beautiful city of Seattle. A bonus: in one scene, Kate directs students to imagine they are lying on a beach, soaking up the sun. I tried that one night at bedtime and had a wonderful dream that I was on a beach in Hawaii. Give it a try!

Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty by Diane Keaton was also an enjoyable read. I expected this short book to be a discussion on physical looks and aging and how they are treated in Hollywood. Keaton does touch on the pair, but also ruminates on other forms of beauty-architecture, the Southern California landscape, and the inner beauty of family and friends. I appreciated Keaton’s insight and the many glimpses she gave of her life with her children. There is a bit of rambling in Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty, but that’s one of the things we love about Keaton, isn’t it? It’s quite evident this book was not ghostwritten; I could hear Keaton’s voice speaking every word I read. It’s worth your time to read the musings of one of our best actresses.

Have a great week, everyone!

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Freshman Year Again And Again

The release of All Things Murder has brought me back in contact with friends with whom I had lost touch. I recently heard from Maureen, a college friend. We caught up on each other’s lives and those of our mutual friends. Our emails, and the thirtieth anniversary this week of our arrival at the University of Notre Dame for our freshman year, has had me thinking of what happens when dreams meet reality.

Some of my ND classmates are exactly what they planned to be when we began our studies back in August 1984; they are doctors, lawyers, engineers, and teachers. Many classmates have the families they had hoped for when we were eighteen, and some have seen their children pursue their own dreams at Notre Dame.

Then there are those of us who discovered our choice of major would not lead us to our heart’s content, so we switched to academic departments that didn’t always cause our parents to jump for joy. I changed my major from Accounting to Sociology and English after Economics 101 didn’t inspire me to anything more than hair pulling. I don’t know how many times I had to answer the question “What are you going to do with a Sociology degree?” over the course of my college years.

I know I am not the only member of the class of 1988 who has switched professions, and I am not the only alum who found her bliss after years of searching for it. I also know the families some of my classmates have formed are not as they expected, but are just as rewarding.

With these nostalgic thoughts in my head, it struck me how the plot and characters in my stories don’t always end up on the page in the manner they had started in my brain. As with my classmates, some storylines and characters came into being just as I had planned, while others developed as I went along.

I don’t plan every detail before I start a book. Though I do know the identity of the victim and how he or she is killed, the reason for their murder sometimes changes as “something better comes along” during the writing process. With All Things Murder, the killer’s motive in the final version is much different from the motive I had first conceived. What worked well in my head didn’t make as much sense on paper (or my computer screen).

In the second Veronica Walsh mystery (currently under review by the publisher), one character had an entire personality change between the first draft and the last. The murder weapon changed hands; that is to say, the person I originally chose as the murderer now no longer commits the deed. That does not necessarily mean the character is innocent. And a few names, of both the guilty and the innocent, were changed.

This is how writing brings me joy and fulfillment. It’s like freshman year with every new story. Lots of possibilities, room to change paths, the opportunity to make a choice and then reverse course and go in an entirely different direction.

I wish all the students heading off to college for their freshman year (my niece Shannon is one of them!) good luck in their studies. Work hard and have fun! And appreciate the friendships you will form. I certainly cherish the friends I met thirty years ago.

Have a great week, everyone.

 

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An Interview with Veronica Walsh

Writers will ask themselves questions when drawing memorable, well-developed characters. A few sample questions: What does the character look like? How old? Religion? Age? Family? Friends?

I thought this week I’d again turn the blog over to Veronica Walsh from All Things Murder to answer some of the questions I posed when creating Veronica and her cozy world. It’s part Marcel Proust questionnaire, part James Lipton/Inside the Actor’s Studio interview, and part yours truly having fun.

Where do you live?

I recently moved back to my hometown of Barton, New York, a small village in the Adirondacks.

What is your occupation?

I am a soap opera actress. Unemployed, I hate to say, since my show was canceled.

How old are you?

Fifty-three.

What is your astrological sign?

Virgo.

What do you look like?

I’m brunette, about 5’7″, have more-or-less a slender frame.

Do you have siblings?

No.

What was your childhood like?

I had a wonderful childhood growing up in Barton. My parents opened a bookstore, Orchard Street Books, in the early 1960’s. I’d go there every day after school. In the beginning, I’d clean up the children’s section after I had taken a good number of books off the shelves to read them. As I got older, my dad made me responsible for the Mystery and Travel sections as well. I’d also help customers and my mother and I would alternate hosting Story Time for the kids.

I attended Catholic school for sixteen years. The acting bug bit me in the second grade, when I got to play the Virgin Mary in the school’s Christmas pageant. I participated in the drama club, performing in shows such as The Sound of Music, West Side Story, and South Pacific.

What are your closest relationships?

I have a wonderful bond with my mother, Nancy. Though we like to tease each other, we never had the antagonistic relationship many mothers and daughters have. Not even when I was a teenager. She and my father always told me I could do whatever I wanted if I worked hard for it. They supported my dream to be an actress, though they insisted I take a second major in college, Business, just in case acting didn’t work out.

Carol Emerson has been my best friend since our first day of kindergarten. She owns a fabulous flower shop that I often visit for some girl talk and floral therapy. She always gives me great advice and is a calming presence when I get a bit freaked out.

Mark Burke is another friend I’ve had since my school days at Saint Augustine elementary school. He’s now a history professor at nearby Arden College. Mark is an intelligent, sweet, solid man who is always there for his friends.

And then there’s Alex Shelby. He was my leading man on Days and Nights. Our characters were married three times! Alex is a good guy, though he’s a bit distracted by himself, in a charming sort of way. Like me, Alex is having a bit of trouble letting go of the soap.

What is your current state of mind?

Worried. Not only am I unemployed, but I live next door to a murder scene. I won’t rest easy until the killer is behind bars. And I get a job.

What is something no one knows about you?

Carol, Mark, and Alex know this, but I’m trying to keep it hush-hush that I’m investigating my neighbor’s murder. I don’t want to paint a target on my back.

What profession would you not like to do?

Pathologist. I found my neighbor’s body. That was as close to a corpse as I ever want to get.

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

I have recently developed a deep appreciation of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. I could use her crime-solving expertise.

What is your favorite curse word?

*@#%

 

Have a great week, everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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