Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Book Review: GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN, by Mary Marks.

What happens when quilter, turned amateur sleuth, Martha Rose discovered her best friend from high school lay dead on her mansion floor for ten months before someone found her body?

Not only that, the friend, a wealthy recluse, decreed Martha executor of the estate, including several items of staggering worth and incredible historical value. Martha takes to the task with her usual vigor and enthusiasm, but a myriad of puzzling problems crop up, calling for Martha and her ever-adventurous quilting partners and best friends Birdie and Lucy to solve them. Along with help from a police dog and Martha's boyfriend Crusher they tackle the crime, determined to get to the bottom of who killed Martha's friend--and why.

You don't have to be a quilter, or even sewn a stitch in your life to get a kick from this engaging mystery. This book is filled with strong and interesting characters—human and animal—and is sure to satisfy. Laughter, history, thrills and chills with delightful twists and turns and a bit of American History weaved throughout, make this book a fun read.

Mary Marks has really hit her stride and honed her craft with this book. I look forward to reading more. In fact, any fan of mysteries should be a fan of Mary Marks and her quilting series. The third book in the series, GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN is now available and highly recommended.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Expressing love. What are the rules? Are there rules?

Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but since my dad was diagnosed with leukemia last month, I find myself thinking about love much more than I did on the day given to us by the folks at Hallmark.

My father is a quiet man. He won’t say, “I love you,” unless I offer it first. Actually, what he says is, “I love you, too.” That’s okay. I know he loves me and I don’t have to hear it all the time. 

On the other hand, it doesn’t matter if it’s the fifth phone call of the day with my mother or my daughter—we don’t hang up without saying I love you. If one of us left it out, the other would likely think something was wrong. My sister is more like my dad. We don’t say the words that often, but I love her and I know she loves me.

My Hungarian friend (living in London) struggles with the Brits. She is very open and likes to hug whereas, according to her, the English not only live on an island, they’re a bunch of cold fish. She’s learned to adapt, but is she comfortable with their standoffishness? No. Are they comfortable with her displays of affection? Probably not…

All of this has me wondering:  Is how you convey love a gender thing? Will a man think himself weak if he professes his feelings too often? Is it generational? Geographical? East Coast stuffy vs. West Coast breezy? (No offense to those I love on the East Coast, LOL).

And what about a new relationship? Is there such a thing as telling the object of your affection you love them too early? What if it scares them off? Is it better to be honest and let it all hang out, or will you be diluting the meaning of love and its importance by not waiting until "the right time?" Is there such a thing? Is expressing love a gift to be saved for your special few, or is spreading the wealth in the best interest of humankind?

If you feel it, should you say it? Does it matter if you tell someone you love them and they don’t respond the way you want them to? I once read it's not love people are afraid of, it's rejection.

My current take is that life is short. Tell the people you love that you love and value them, and don't worry about how they respond. You never know what tomorrow will bring.

What are your thoughts?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour

My wonderful and inspiring writer friend, Betsy Ashton, author of Mad Max Unintended Consequenceshas tossed me the baton for the Writing Process Blog Tour, along with the following questions: 
1. What am I working on? 
My work-in-progress is a mystery set on a wolf sanctuary in the mountains of Colorado. Tension between wolves and the people who love and hate them is very high these days, making a perfect breeding ground for murder. Doing the research for this book was fascinating. I’d never been so close to a wolf before; we got to go in the pens and hang out with them for a while. I’m a total animal lover and usually have no fear around horses and dogs, but I have to admit—I was a little intimidated by the wolves. They are beautiful and majestic, but wild, nonetheless. We were told to keep our hands at our sides and that if a wolf took a camera out of our pockets or a baseball cap right off our heads, to stand still and let ‘em! Luckily, I just got sniffed. 
2. Why do I write what I write? 
I’ve always loved mysteries. All kinds. Thrillers, cozies, mainstream. My favorite authors are Dick Francis, Sue Grafton, Robert B. Parker and Lee Child. I hope some of their influence(s) have soaked into my brain.
3. How does my work differ from others in the genre? 
I would say my work differs from other mysteries in that many of the characters are so involved with their animals, either as pets or as a career, that they favor them over people. Given the choice as to whether to hang out with their contemporaries or their dog and/or horse, my characters will likely choose the latter. That being said, my favorite thing to write is dialogue between two humans. When they have a conversation in my head, and I am merely eavesdropping--that’s what really blows my skirt up.
4. What is my writing process? 
I get up as early as possible, feed my dogs (I have a husky who'll yowl at me if I dawdle), grab my coffee and hit my desk. My office has a western/horse/empowered theme so I try to keep my butt in the “saddle” and write for as long as I can. Afternoons are usually spent on marketing. If I need a change of scenery, I go up to my tree house. It’s got lights, carpet, a beanbag chair and big windows. Best of all, no Internet access! 
The baton for this blog tour is being passed to Judy Bernstein, author of They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky, David Putnam, author of The Disposables and, D.R. Shoultz, author of Melting Sand and Corrupt Connection.
I'm looking forward to seeing how each of these talented writers answers these questions. Big thanks to Betsy Ashton for inviting me on this tour.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Distractions…good or evil?

Here's an example of how I get distracted by the Internet when I’m trying to write: I look up the spelling of the name Aguero, or some other character/place I’ve just invented, to make sure I've got it right. Then somehow, from there the Web takes me to a photo of a beautiful clear-blue swimming hole in Spain. Now that's a mystery. I have to stop and locate where on planet Earth this gorgeous place is, because—who knows? If I sell enough books maybe I can go there someday. As my mother is fond of saying, "One can dream…"

There are programs, like Freedom ( oxymoron if there ever was one--which will cut off Internet access for as long as you specify. I tried to use it once and ended up ignoring it. Who wants to be told what they can't do? I've also utilized tricks like using a timer, or setting up rewards (chocolate, champagne, etc.) if I don't deviate from my Word screen for certain periods of time. Backfires. Every time.

Returning to the beautiful swimming hole, I find myself looking at (aka lurking) a complete stranger's vacation photos. A family frolics at the water's edge. The wife is a lot younger than the husband, but the kids are somewhere in the middle. That gives me pause. Are the children his from a former marriage? A combo? I squint at the screen. Can't tell by the color of their hair...

If she's not his second wife, she started giving birth at age twelve. Are they rich or poor? How do they get along? And why is there a bottle of wine on the rock in broad daylight? Are the kids drinking? Well, it is Europe after all. Are the man and the woman planning to sneak away? What if somebody slips, hits their head and drowns during a romantic interlude? 

And that's how my brain works. I guess it's not all bad. A wandering mind can be a good thing if a story comes out of it, so I try not to fight it. I try to be kind to myself and that brings a freedom of its own. Sometimes giving in is the best answer. 

What distracts you? What do you do about it? Do you have the attention span of a flea, or can you focus on one thing for hours on end? 

Let me know! I'm curious…

Friday, January 17, 2014

Special thanks to my friend and fellow author, Michael Murphy (Goodbye Emily-, for including me and Rode to Death in his Goodreads blog below:

This time of year I'm reminded of the joy of being a writer. One of these joys is getting to know so many talented writers. I can't acknowledge everyone who's made my life richer, but I want to thank five in particular.

Toby Heathcotte. Thanks for being a friend, mentor and writing inspiration. You're a skilled novelist and now screenwriter who deserves the success I know is coming your way.

Marsha Roberts. You're a talented writer as evidenced by Confessions of an Instinctively Mutinous Baby Boomer I enjoyed so much.

Claude Nougat. I also enjoyed your baby boomer novel, A Hook in the Sky , but special thanks for making so many people aware of books by, about and for baby boomers; Boomer Lit.

Susan Union. Thanks for letting me read your upcoming novel, Rode to Death, Koehler Books, February 2014. A terrific read. Hope you and the novel achieve the success it deserves.

Betsy Ashton. Loved your terrific new novel, Mad Max: Unintended Consequences. Your tenacious marketing and promotion was an inspiration to me throughout the year. 

Best of success to all Goodreads writers in the coming year.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Thoughts on air travel. What kind of flier are you?

My third book in the Randi Sterling Mystery Series, titled WOLF, opens with a scene in an airplane. As I was writing, I got to thinking about flying. I've always loved airports and find it fascinating to watch the planes take off and land. I could spend an entire day with my nose plastered to the window. I wonder where all the people have come from and where they are going. What adventures await them?

Unfortunately, I can't be standing at the terminal window unless I'm holding a boarding pass, photo ID and have been through security. To add insult to injury, if there's not a full-body scanner I get flagged for secondary and a full-body pat down because I have more metal on in me than my plumber's tool belt.

I miss the days pre-9/11 when you could come out of the airbridge straight into the arms of your loved one. Now, when you de-board the plane you come face-to-face with a sea of heads who can't wait for you to get off so they can get on. It's not the same having to wait to fall into the embrace of a family member or long-lost friend down at baggage claim. Feels like something's missing.

When my sister and I were little and flew from California to South Carolina to visit our grandparents, it was a HUGE deal. My mother put us in our finest dresses with patent leather shoes and we were to be on our best behavior or else

Going on an airplane was a rare and special, not to mention expensive, treat. According to Patrick Smith in his book, "Cockpit Confidential:  Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel:  Questions, Answers, and Reflections," in 1970 it cost the equivalent of $2,700 to fly from New York to Hawaii. He also says today you can buy a first class or business ticket for less than it cost FIFTY years ago. Where else are you going to find that kind of deal?

But back then flying was a luxury. Remember meals on planes complete with trays and choices? Blankets? Pillows? Slippers? Headphones?

Now we all get to smell some guy's stinky feet because he's wearing flip-flops. We're lucky if the flight attendants throw us some peanuts.

In my twenties I was a fearless flier, then when my daughter was a baby I was convinced that every time I got on a plane it was going to plummet to the ground, leaving her to grow up without her mother. Now that the kids are grown, my view has transitioned to one of cautious optimism. What's the statistic? 30,000 or so people in the air at all times? Much safer than driving to the airport, I know. Still, each time those wheels touch down I breathe a sigh of relief.

How do you feel when you walk on board the flying can? Do you have to pop a Xanax? Are you like my friend who starts his flights with vodka and Ambien? (True story.) Or do you resemble my Uncle Randy, who naturally falls asleep before take off and wakes when the plane is taxiing to the gate?

Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know what kind of flier you are. Do you long for the good ol' days of air travel or do you think less is more? I'm curious and I'd love to hear from you!

P.S. My favorite airline. Peanuts AND Cheese Nips. And bags fly free :-)