Thanksgiving Wishes

I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving! May you kick off the holiday season with a delicious feast and laughter and fun with family and friends (just don’t talk politics).

I’m grateful to all of you who follow this blog and my Facebook page. Thank you to those who joined my patch of cyberspace this year!

To the readers of Murder, by George, a hearty thank you for going along with Veronica and friends on her latest sleuthing adventure. I hope you enjoyed the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

A blessed holiday to all!



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A Few More Reader Questions

Since my last post, the Chicago Cubs have won the World Series and the U.S. presidential race ended in astounding fashion. Holy cow! is all I have to say about both historical events.

Today I want to share a few more questions I fielded during my recent meetings with readers of the Veronica Walsh series.

What research do you do for a book? Thanks to Google, I’m able to quickly obtain answers to questions I have on subjects such as the Adirondack region, police procedure and terminology, and what exactly happens in the body when a person is struck in the head with a cast-iron skillet or stabbed in the neck with a cheese knife.

There is a character in Murder, by George who was arrested years before the time of the story. I was very set on what her misconduct was and did quite a bit of research looking for evidence that would support the presence of her fingerprints in the police database. I didn’t find the necessary backup, but that research led to another charge I filed against the character.

I’ve also spent time seeking information on issues I won’t disclose here because they figure prominently in my current writing project!

Do you ever have writer’s block? Oh, yes. Sometimes it’s more like writer’s indecision. Do I want this character to be the murderer, or that one? I can go back and forth on motive and means. When I hit a roadblock, a walk around the neighborhood often helps. Fresh air, sunshine, and the beauty of nature are wonderful aids in clearing and calming my mind. Other times, a break from writing for a day or two helps.

At times my problem is procrastination. I can’t explain why it’s hard for me to sit down and do something I love, but sometimes it is (I’ve heard this is a common problem for writers). I recently read a book, Get It Done: From Procrastination To Creative Genius In 15 Minutes A Day by Sam Bennett, that gave me terrific inspiration and helped me out of a rut. Ms. Bennett includes easy, fun exercises to help readers get going on their creative projects and see them through to completion. Bennett suggests giving ourselves fifteen minutes a day of daydreaming, doing a repetitive activity such as baking, folding laundry, or pitching pennies to stimulate the creative part of your brain. It works; I’ve talked my way through a few plot matters while spending my daydream minutes assembling a jigsaw puzzle.  I wholeheartedly recommend this book!

Do you read reviews? Yes. Not only professional reviews – Publishers WeeklyLibrary Journal and Kirkus Reviews – but also the critiques readers post on Amazon and Goodreads. I find readers’ opinions to be helpful, even the reviews that aren’t glowing. I like to know what parts of a story readers enjoy, what elements did and didn’t interest them, and their thoughts on the characters. I appreciate the time they give to reading my work and writing a review. When a criticism makes me yell “ouch!”, I remind myself that tastes differ and even classic novels and runaway bestsellers have received a share of one-star appraisals.

Do you have pets? The woman who asked the question pointed out that animals are popular characters in cozies. Dogs and cats have left their paw prints on the mystery scene, while amateur sleuths have also counted horses, birds, goats, and cows as members of their families and sometime detecting sidekicks.

My answer is no, I do not have a pet. Unless you count my imaginary dog, who doesn’t cost me one cent for food, Milk Bones, and pet insurance. And he’ll never die.

Though I don’t have a furry friend of my own, I do love animals, dogs in particular. I also enjoy the wild life that roams my backyard: squirrels, birds, chipmunks, stray cats, and deer. Yes, I feed them seed and stale bread, and last week I threw a sliced up jack o’lantern among the leaves for their munching delight. The squirrels feasted on the gourds. I bet some other creatures had their own chow down under the cover of darkness.

I never considered giving Veronica a pet; an animal character didn’t cross my mind when I was planning All Things Murder. Ideas for a new series are drifting around my brain; when I finally get the story on paper, my new protagonist will definitely have a dog. And he’ll look a lot like my imaginary canine.

Have a great week, everyone. Enjoy the finale of the beautiful fall foliage and the busy days before we have our Thanksgiving feasts.

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A Very Cozy Halloween

One of the aspects I love about cozy series is the opportunity they give readers to go through the seasons with the characters. Take a tour of your library’s mystery section and you will find books filled with murder and mayhem during Valentine’s week, Saint Patrick’s Day parties, July Fourth fireworks, Thanksgiving feasts, and Christmas festivities. Halloween, of course, lends itself well to stories with a sinister character or two.

Here are a few cozy reads that will get you in the Halloween spirit, or at least help you fall into the autumnal state of mind (pun intended).

A Roux of Revenge from Connie Archer’s Soup Lover’s Mystery series.

Halloween Hijinks, A Zoe Donovan Mystery by Kathi Daley.

A Hannah Swensen Mystery from Joanne Fluke, Fudge Cupcake Murder.

Here are two from Mary Daheim’s Bed-and-Breakfast series (one of my favorite authors and series): Silver Scream and  the Oktoberfest-themed The Wurst is Yet to Come.

Leslie Meier’s long-running Lucy Stone series offers three Halloween installments: Trick or Treat Murder, Wicked Witch Murder,  and Candy Corn Murder.

Livia J. Washburn offers up Murder by the Slice and Trick or Deadly Treat in her Fresh Baked series.

There’s also my Murder, by George, which is set in October and includes a wild and wicked costume ball, where a few secrets are revealed.

Have a spooktacular Halloween!


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How Veronica and Barton Came Into Being

As I mentioned in my last post, during my library visits I was asked how I came to choose a soap opera actress as the protagonist of my cozy series and why I placed her hometown in the Adirondacks.

I grew up watching soaps All My Children and General Hospital. I got hooked on Days of Our Lives  in college and post-school drifted over to One Life to Live. I became a sporadic viewer, but kept an eye on the goings on in the soap industry (the soap magazines at the supermarket checkout were great sources of information). I liked to know the comings and goings of the actors I watched as a kid and what was going on with their characters.

The soap world underwent a great upheaval around the time I was developing what became All Things Murder. Ratings declined, causing the cancellation of several shows and the firing of actors from other soaps due to budget cuts. By 2011, only four soap operas remained on air. I wondered what all the actors who lost their roles (some had played their parts for decades) would do. There certainly wasn’t room for all of them on the surviving soaps and very few, like Susan Lucci, made the move to prime time television.

I realized it would be fun to write about a soap actress turned amateur sleuth, and I thought having this character return to her hometown after losing her longtime role would be an interesting introduction to my cozy series.

This is how Veronica Walsh came into being. Equally important to having an engaging protagonist is the setting in which she is placed. The cozy hometown needs to be a place readers will want to visit again and again, just as viewers love to return to the soap opera towns of Port Charles, Pine Valley, and Genoa City.

A real place of escape inspired the setting for Veronica’s hometown of Barton. Many of my childhood summer vacations were spent at Lake George in New York’s gorgeous Adirondack mountains. I have many wonderful memories of the time my family has spent in Lake George, so when it came to choosing a place for Veronica to live, it was a no-brainer to plunk her fictional, idyllic village of Barton in the Adirondack neighborhood. Veronica’s already paid a visit to the real Lake George; in Murder, by George she and her friend take a memorable evening drive past the lake.

When I visited the Investigating Mysteries group at the New City Library, I was asked if I considered basing the series in my hometown. I didn’t (sorry – perhaps in the future!), in part because I enjoyed creating a whole village out of my imagination. Also, for All Things Murder plot purposes, Barton needed to be a distance from where Veronica’s career is based (the Adirondacks are a three-hour drive from New York City). Barton is Veronica’s place of escape and respite, a place to consider her future and recover her spirit after her own soap world collapses.

My hope is that readers will fall in love with both character and setting and continue to come back for more adventures in the Veronica Walsh mystery series!

Have a terrific week!



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Wednesday Event Cancelled

This is a short post to let you know that Wednesday’s reading at the Sloatsburg Public Library has been cancelled. If a visit is scheduled in the future, I’ll be sure to let you know!

Have a great week!

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A Wednesday Reading Plus How It All Began

My very mini library tour ends on Wednesday with a stop at the Sloatsburg (NY) Public Library. I’ll be reading a passage from Murder, by George and will answer questions from the audience. I paid a call to Sloatsburg last year for All Things Murder and enjoyed the evening very much. I look forward to this return visit!

The readers I met at the South Windsor and New City libraries posed interesting, informed questions about the Veronica Walsh mystery series, the publishing process, and, well, me. Recognizing material for future blog posts when I see it, I made a list of the questions. Today I’ll answer the first I was asked by both groups:

How did you become a cozy writer?

Though I enjoyed writing stories when I was a kid and took a Fiction Writing class in college to satisfy a Fine Arts requirement, I didn’t dream of being a writer when I “grew up.”

In the early 1990’s, I was stuck in a boring, routine job when an idea for a story (about two friends who fall in love – not very original, and the result wasn’t terrific) came to me one day. Then another idea came, and another, and I kept writing. I couldn’t not write. Writing became a source of fulfillment and happiness and, over time, I developed a strong desire for an audience.

Fast forward to the late 2000’s and a story I wrote about the theft of a letter written by George Washington. In one rejection letter I received, an agent stated that the book was a cozy mystery. I liked the phrase, but I didn’t think of my murder-free story as a mystery. After Googling “cozy mystery” (or did I Yahoo it?), I paid a trip to my library, took a tour of the mystery section, and checked out Carrot Cake Murder, from Joanne Fluke’s bestselling Hannah Swensen series.

I ate it up, so to write.

I started catching up on Fluke’s series, while also discovering the work of Mary Daheim, Karen MacInerney, Ralph McInerny, and M.C. Beaton. Recalling the Bobbsey Twins books I read as a child, I realized I loved all things cozy. I enjoyed the mysteries, the characters, and the series aspect of the genre (though it was the work of non-mystery author Jan Karon that first sparked my desire to create a series).

Once I had found my writing niche, I focused on creating the characters, setting, and mystery that would become All Things Murder.

I’ll tell you more about that later – stay tuned!


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My Home Away From Home

Tomorrow evening I will meet with the Investigating Mysteries book group at the New City (New York) Free Library. If you’re in the area, please join us to talk about the first Veronica Walsh mystery, All Things Murder.

I’m particularly excited about this visit, for this is my lifelong home library. I have an early memory of sitting on the floor in the library’s children’s section, pulling picture books off the bottom shelf and contentedly thumbing through them. In my grammar school days, the library was located in a small, one-floor building across the street from the school. I recall many afternoons spent there, doing homework, research for a class paper, or simply wandering the aisles, looking at the books. Whether I was working on a science fair project, history paper, or geography report, the library always had what I needed to complete the assignment.

When I was in the eighth grade, the library relocated to its current home farther north on Main Street. On my first visit, I was awestruck by the size, more than triple in space than its former home, with thousands of books filling shelves across three floors. It was spectacular, though I have to admit I missed the cozy little library across from school. Whenever I pass the building, now a plastic surgery center, I remember my after-school visits and the place that helped me become the person I am today.

Thanks to a dedicated, talented staff, the New City library continues to serve our community very well. From stocking the latest bestsellers and new DVDs, providing free tax help to senior citizens, serving as a gallery for local artists, and offering programs on everything from genealogy to chair yoga, the library nurtures residents, both those who are just starting to read and those who have been doing it for decades.

Have a great week, everyone, and remember, if you live near the New City library, come investigate a mystery with us tomorrow night!



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Setting The Skype Scene

Tomorrow night I’m meeting, via Skype, with the South Windsor(Connecticut) Public Library’s Murder and Mayhem mystery group. If you’re in the area, drop by at 7:30 for what promises to be a fun evening of book talk.

Since this is a video conference, I don’t have to worry about the drive time to the library (internet traffic shouldn’t be so bad). I also don’t have to shine my shoes, since my feet will not be visible. My preparation is different for this from-home visit to the library.

I’ve done a couple of practice runs with the library’s Mary, Carol, and Jason to make sure our audio and video connections are in proper working order. A tip to all Skype novices like myself: make sure your web browser is closed when you use Skype. You want your internet firing on all cylinders when you make your video call.

When I received the invitation from library director Mary Etter to meet with the mystery group, I immediately started wondering where I would sit for the event. “Where’s the best light?” I wondered. “What should be in the background?” I asked myself. My original plan was to use the guest bedroom where I could sit in front of a window and bookcase. Appropriate for a chat with book lovers, right? So I set up a table and my laptop and moved a chair into place. I sat, opened the computer’s camera, and saw a shadowy figure in the middle of the screen. My attempts to brighten the corner without causing a glare failed and I realized the setting wasn’t conducive to a good Skype session.

I considered other locations in the house. There is excellent light in the kitchen, but an oven and sink don’t make for a cozy background. The dining room felt too formal. I headed down to the wood-paneled family room and opened the laptop on the coffee table. Settling against the comfortable couch cushions, I liked the view presented on camera. All I had to do was move a big throw pillow away from the table lamp and voila, the lighting was perfect. With the arrangement of a few family photos on the shelf behind the couch and the “Welcome” sign hanging on the wall, I have a warm setting for my date with the South Bristol readers.

I’m eager to meet  the Murder and Mayhemers tomorrow night. I look forward to seeing you on my computer screen!

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May I Quote You On That?

Good Sunday, everyone!

I apologize for my absence over the last few weeks. My siblings and I have been directing all our energy and love to my mother, who broke her leg last month.

I recently read Susan Branch’s delightful memoir, Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams, the second of a trilogy. The book started off a bit slow through my own fault; Branch refers to events that she detailed in the first in the series, The Fairy Tale Girl, which I haven’t read. Once I was square with who was who, I found the story of Branch’s move from California to Martha’s Vineyard and her new life on the island enjoyable and encouraging. By the last page I felt as if I had made a new friend and taken a wonderful New England vacation.

One element of the book that I love are the wise and inspiring quotes Branch includes on every page, from such luminaries as Charles Dickens, Louisa May Alcott, and Thomas Edison. Branch refers to her copy of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations several times in her memoir; like her, I have a few books of quotes myself. I also have a book of blank pages into which I’ve copied my favorite  sayings and thought I’d share a few with you.

I’ll start with one from the pages of Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams and Branch’s own words:

“It’s not think big, like everyone tells you, it’s think little, the same way you cross the beach in the sand, slogging along, one little step at a time, until you’ve made it.”

Branch made this realization while writing her first cookbook. If she thought of only one page at a time, not thinking about the book as a whole, she wasn’t daunted by the project. I can relate. It can be overwhelming to think about the 69,000 words I have to write for a Veronica Walsh mystery. I sometimes despair and think, “How will I ever do it?” One chapter, one scene, one paragraph at a time. That’s how!

“Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she had laid an asteroid.” 

The inimitable Mark Twain wrote this, one of my all-time favorite quotes. Oh, how I’ve wanted to shout it at chatty Cathys and verbose Victors. Those folks who go on and on and on, who will never re-gift the gift of gab, should take a bit of advice from Calvin Coolidge, the thirtieth president of the United States, who said,

“I have noticed that nothing I never said ever did me any harm.”

Coolidge, nicknamed Silent Cal, knew of what he spoke.

Our twenty-sixth president, Theodore Roosevelt, was quite a character and more loquacious than Coolidge. Roosevelt advised:

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”

If only more people did what Roosevelt said and held themselves accountable, this world would be a much better place.

If your end-of-the-summer vacation will be taking place in your backyard, remember this line from the late Mason Cooley:

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”

If you’re on a stay-cation, why not transport yourself to the Adirondacks via the pages of Murder, by George?

“You’re what the French call les incompetents.”

I’m not one to intentionally hurl insults, but this line from the classic Christmas movie  Home Alone, uttered by Angela Goethals as the character of Linnie, is delicious. You can paraphrase it to your heart’s content, saying, “You’re what the Germans call die inkompetent,” “You’re what the Welsh call yr anghymwys,” or “You’re what the Chinese call 无能.”

What’s your favorite quote? Are you inspired by a line from Emily Dickinson, Leo Tolstoy, or Benjamin Franklin? Please share! I have plenty of blank pages to fill in my quotes book.

I’ll wish you a good day and week and end with the following advice from the beloved and much-missed Yogi Berra:

When you get to a fork in the road, take it.”

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Lazy, Hazy Days of August

Happy Sunday, everyone! My apologies for my month-long absence; July was a bit of a whirlwind.

Can you believe August starts tomorrow? Where has the year gone? Christmas is in five months (anyone shopping yet?), the U.S. Presidential Election takes place in ninety-nine days, I turn fifty in x number of days (no, I’m not in denial about it), and parents and kids are already buying their back to school supplies.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. There is much to celebrate during the sweltering heat of August. The Olympics, for a start! It’s Admit You’re Happy Month (you can do it), National Picnic Month (a.k.a. Invite Your Backyard Ants to Lunch), and National Eye Exam Month (no jokes about this one-just get one). Simplify Your Life Week begins on the first. When you’ve done that, you can celebrate during National Smile Week, commencing August 8.

August 2 is National Ice Cream Sandwich Day. If you can’t get to the supermarket to buy a box, grab a couple of chocolate chip cookies (homemade, if possible), put a scoop or two of your favorite ice cream between them, and stick the treat in the freezer for an hour or two. Yummy.

August 3 is Grab Some Nuts Day. I don’t think that’s a euphemism.

Left Hander’s Day is celebrated on the thirteenth. I’ll think of my dad on that day. A natural lefty, he became a righty in the first grade when he watched his teacher, Sister Ratched (I made that up), slap a classmate for writing with his left hand. Dad moved his pencil to his right hand before he suffered a similar punishment. My father was a very smart man.

Remember to flex your phalanges on August 6, Wiggle Your Toes Day. You can do it in the sand, the swimming pool, or while your watching television.

August 7 is International Forgiveness Day and if we don’t take advantage of it, we get a second chance on the twenty-seventh and Global Forgiveness Day. Imagine if we made the effort…

August 9 is Book Lovers Day!

We have two sanctioned days for taking it easy: Lazy Day (8/10) and Relaxation Day (8/15).

August 11 is Presidential Joke Day. George Washington, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Calvin Coolidge walk into a bar…

There’s one official dog day of August, the twenty-sixth. That’s National Dog Day, when we honor man’s best friend, particularly those wonderful canines who guide the blind, assist the disabled, and excel at search and rescue. It’s also a day to consider giving a homeless dog a home.

You may not want to go to the dentist on August 22. That’s National Tooth Fairy Day. You don’t want your dental caretaker giving the fairy a reason to stop by your house that night.

The tenth is designated National S’mores Day, while National Marshmallow Toasting Day comes on August 30. Shouldn’t that be the other way around?

I bet you have some special days coming up this month, too. A wedding? Birthday? Family reunion? Or maybe you don’t have anything planned now, but something wonderful will happen that will make August 2016 a time you will always remember.


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