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Friday, October 25, 2019

One Page Horror: When the Earth Swallows the Good

A recent writers' gathering asked us to create a one page horror story. Horror means different things to different people. Ghouls and ghosts? Paranormal activity? Aliens? Sure, why not! For me, true horror was something completely different. Read on. -cjh


When the Earth Swallows the Good
by Connie Johnson Hambley

She gripped the hand of her five-year-old, hugged her swaddled baby to her chest, and hoped she didn’t drop her pack as the crowd shoved her forward.
“Mom! Are we there yet?”
“Almost, Sweet Cheeks. Almost.”
She saw her daughter’s lower lip quiver, trying to be brave. “You said that already.”
“I know, Honey, I know. Just a little bit more.”
They weren’t going back. Ever. There was nothing to go back to. The earth had swallowed the good and spit out the bad. The bad pushed them forward more than the teeming bodies.
“I’m tired.”
“Me too, but you’re being such a good girl helping mommy carry your bear and your pack!” She gave a silent prayer of thanks her voice was strong even as she wasn’t. She carried their food, blankets, water. All the heavy things needed for life. Her daughter carried her bear and all the light things needed for life.
The crowd surged. A mother called for her child.
She could see over their heads. The checkpoint, a line of shining wire separating them from an expanse of green that held promises for no one but hope for all, was only a little more. Just a little more. Families hugged each other and wept on the other side. Families clung to each other and wept on this side.
“Present papers! No exceptions!”
She raced through her mental checklist of their frantic packing this morning. It was dark, the bad was closer than before, people panicked and grabbed what they could. They left what they could.
Another wave of bodies almost trampled them, wrenching them apart. She rooted her feet to the ground and plunged her arm down. Searching.
Tiny fingers gripped her hand. The cold panic receded even as she saw the black uniforms and the huge rifles of the guards loom closer. White buses, belching black exhaust, idled on this side, waited for their cargo with open maws. The wind carried the stench of diesel and the cries of the passengers to her.
mexico border - A child’s backpack abandoned on a migrant trail in the Tumac├ícori Mountains suffers the decay of time.
Photo credit: Gabriela Soto
The drama unfolded again and again. Separation. She was lucky. They were going to be lucky. Everything was in order. She had checked and rechecked. They were going to be fine.
At last. “Papers?”
She reached into her pack, surprised to find one long yellow document. Her picture. Her baby’s certificate.
“Papers?” This time, to her daughter.
She watched the lower lip quiver. “Mommy. I lost my pack.”

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Windrush Gala Speech for Kathy

Last night I had the incredible honor of being the guest speaker at the Windrush Farm Gala. I've written and spoken about Kathy and my experience as a volunteer, but I never dreamed I'd be asked to speak in front of a crowd of hundreds. I was glad I could hide my shaking knees behind the podium. The standing ovation was a shock, but what really tugged at me was receiving one of Kathy's Special Olympics gold metals from her family afterward. -cjh


Many of us are here tonight because we’ve seen the transformation a loved one has enjoyed as a result of their Windrush Farm experience. We’ve heard stories of first words spoken, emotional wounds fading, and physical sufferings lifting. The Windrush experience is often the catalyst for remarkable growth–physically, socially and emotionally– in the client rider.

In ways big and small, Windrush makes an impact beyond its split rail fences and pastures.

I think of the Windrush experience as a pebble thrown into the middle of a pond. Its impact ripples outward and touches more than just the rider astride a horse. Of course, the first ripple of Windrush’s effect is felt by the families. They can see the changes in mood or movement in their loved one up close.
Kathy won this gold metal at the equestrian
Special Olympics. Her family gave it to me
after this speech. I will cherish it forever.

But, the ripples keep expanding.

I started volunteering at Windrush because I’m a horse lover without a horse. I had six horses growing up and missed the sweet tangy smell of a stable and the oily grit of horse under my nails. A friend told me about an incredible, positive place that welcomes volunteers.

Enter Windrush into my life. Or should I say, enter Kathy.

I met Kathy Blanton five years ago. She had been riding at Windrush for close to ten years and I was a new volunteer horse handler. I knew horses. I knew nothing about Kathy. We were paired with an independent-minded pony named Bearito. I knew what to expect with horses and I could handle Bearito’s moods. I didn’t know what to expect with Kathy. She greeted me that first day with a nod and a look that told me she was sizing me up. Kathy no longer needed sidewalkers and could balance in the saddle independently. We got to work. The hour lesson was just Kathy and me, each learning about the other.

I was surprised and pleased when, a few weeks later, Kathy asked to work with me exclusively each week. I didn’t know then that a magic spell had been cast. Something profound changed in both of our lives.

But mostly mine.

I had never worked with anyone who had special needs and didn’t know what to expect. I was there for the horse grit, right? Each lesson–when she’d walk into the arena and greet me with her arms outstretched and that huge thousand-watt smile–we would each learn a little more.

Kathy was a tease. She’d pull my ponytail or take my hat. We’d laugh at our successes and laugh even more at our failures. As a horse handler, my job was to make sure to keep the rider safe if the horse did anything unexpected, so I was never out of reach. Kathy loved to trot, but I think she loved making me sprint around the arena beside her even more, laughing as I caught my breath. Steering the horse to nudge me into a freshly deposited pile of poop was a special delight for her.

I developed a deep respect for Kathy and saw her through the prism of what she could do rather than what she could not. She wasn’t a diagnosis. She was a person.
She learned to feel like an equestrian, complete with knowing that the road is filled with failures, but it’s the failures that help us forward.

In that special alchemy that happens inside therapeutic riding, she gave each lesson the full extent of her abilities, pushing up to and beyond her limitations. How many of us approach our challenges this way? She learned to do a posting trot, unclipped, independent. Free and able.

She was capable of so much and we kept trying more. Early on, she began helping me by leading the horse back up to the barn, taking the bridle and saddle into the tack room, and brushing out saddle marks. Then she’d help me lead the horse into a paddock or stall. After, we would walk arm-in-arm back down the hill. Sometimes we’d have lunch together in the gazebo. Sometimes she’d show me something special in her life – pictures of swimming lessons or family gatherings. I suspected these brief moments were a ploy for us to spend more time together. I didn’t mind.

In the outer ripples of Kathy’s Windrush experience, I learned about the power of the human spirit and never to take for granted the gifts that each of us has when we allow ourselves to give. . . or to receive. In that gazebo, I received the first short stories Kathy had ever written and published them on my blog. She was thrilled when I told her I namedcharacters in my last novel after her—a horse handler named Kathy, a priest named Father Blanton. Windrush Farm and Mandy Hogan got a nod, too.

Kathy wanted to do more. She wanted to create and write more.

Her experience continues to wash over and through me.

It’s with some irony that Kathy’s challenges were a result of surviving Eastern Equine Encephalitis as a young child. That often fatal virus – in the news so much now – may have taken a physical and intellectual toll on Kathy, but it did not dim her spirit and she lived for more than fifty years as a vibrant, funny and loving woman. It is with profound grief that Triple E finally succeeded in claiming Kathy’s life by being a significant factor in an incomprehensible series of events this past winter.

Kathy changed me and we never would have known one another if it were not for Windrush Farm.

Her family is doing something remarkable in her memory and Kathy’s experience continues to ripple outward, impacting others in ways large and small.

Thank you, Blanton family and Windrush, for being the pebble and the pond, and for letting me be just a small part of this story.

Friday, September 6, 2019

BOOK LAUNCH: V.S. Kemanis #MeToo Short Stories

Women’s Voices: Me Too Short Stories  with V.S. Kemanis
by V.S. Kemanis

If you’re in the New York City area, come to the Me Too launch party at The Mysterious Bookshop, 58 Warren Street, NYC, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 24, 2019. Refreshments will be good, and readings will be brief!

It’s been almost two years since the #MeToo movement dawned in the aftermath of the story about movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s long history of harassing and abusing women. The phrase “Me Too” was actually coined years earlier by activist Tarana Burke. Since its dawning, the movement has only picked up speed, giving women the courage to come forward with their personal stories, to find strength in their shared experiences, to reflect, act, and heal.

What the movement hasn’t seen until now is an anthology of fiction on the theme of crimes against women, retribution and healing. Me Too ShortStories: An Anthology, released on September 3 by Level Best Books, is the unique, innovative brainchild of author/editor Elizabeth Zelvin.

Fiction, as all art, engages the intellect and emotional core while it entertains and enlightens. We’ve heard it said, brilliantly, many ways: “Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures” (Jessamyn West). “There is no doubt fiction makes a better job of the truth” (Doris May Lessing). “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth” (Albert Camus). The fictional tales in Me Too Short Stories, far from being autobiographical, nevertheless tap the reality and truth that all women share. Besides the enjoyment that any good tale brings, each story in this collection is a launching point for reflection and discussion about personal experience.

From the blurb:

“What do women want? A voice. To be heard. Respect. To be believed. Justice. To be both safe and free. The women in these stories have daughters, sisters, friends. The minister worries about her parishioners. The banshee worries about the Hippocratic Oath. The microbiologist worries about her obligation to the dead. They will use any means to protect themselves and those they love: a childish jingle, a skillet full of cornbread, a candle, their own quick wits. We cannot ignore their voices.”

Author V.S. Kemanis
The anthology includes fifteen tales that fall within the many subgenres of crime fiction, from psychological suspense to classic mystery to cozy. I am proud to have a story in this wonderful collection. To give you an idea, here are no-spoiler teasers of the stories, in the order in which they appear in the anthology:

“No Outlet” by V.S. Kemanis

When a young single mother moves into the neighborhood, Arlene is called to action on her behalf by the rekindled memory of her secret source of guilt.

“Never Again” by Elizabeth Zelvin
Fourteen-year-old Valerie has been living in hell since she was four. Frances, hiding shame behind obesity, is trapped in an abusive marriage. Valerie and Frances will never meet, but they’re on a collision course.

“Pentecost” by Eve Fisher
Its hard to be the first female pastor in a small town, but even harder when you know the dark truth no one else wants to admit.

“The Call Is Yours” by Rona Bell
A young woman who wants to be noticed learns that admiration is fleeting, but shame will last until the world changes.

“The Final Recall” by Diana Catt
In the near future, science can retrieve memories from the brains of the dead. Sara finds her job a waste of her hard-earned doctorate—until she realizes that she and a nameless cadaver share a memory that could be fatal.

“A Measured Death” by Julia Pomeroy
Mary’s life has been eroded in service to the massive talent of her pianist husband. Will she ever find a way out?

“Miss Evelyn Nesbit Presents” by Ana Brazil
In 1914 New York City, real-life Evelyn Nesbit—celebrated beauty and well-publicized rape victim—makes a desperate bid to reframe her past and rewrite her future.

“Stepping on Snakes” by Madeline McEwen
Naive or precocious? One girl’s decision. Set in the vanished world of South Africa in the early 1960s.

“Women Who Love Dogs” by Dayle A. Dermatis
Merlin needs exercise, and overworked Vanessa and her wheelchair-bound sister need cash. Rent-A-Pup seems like the perfect solution. But how do you really know who’s walking your dog?

“Jewel's Hell” by Lynn Hesse
Jewels “normal” is teenage prostitution. But in a dysfunctional family, when one person does something different, everything starts to change.

“Banshee Scream” by Gin Gannon
Does the banshee scream to warn the victim or the killer?

“A Dog's Life” by Ann Rawson
Liverpool 1980. After moving off campus to escape a stalker, might Liz find herself in a more dangerous place?

“Subterfuge” by Julia Buckley
For young women in Sophia’s small town, all paths lead only to dead ends. Is there anything Sophia won’t do to get away?

“The Taste of Collards” by C.C. Guthrie
With single-minded focus to protect her children, Lizbeth follows the age-old adage, necessity is the mother of invention.

“Chrissie” by Carole Sojka
Chrissie is sure she is all grown up, but how wrong she is!

Me Too Short Stories is available now from Level BestBooks, and from Amazon in e-book and paperback editions.


V.S. Kemanis, attorney, dancer, choreographer, and mother, has squeezed fiction writing into her life for thirty-five years. Her stories are collected in five volumes and have appeared in many publications and anthologies, including most recently Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, The Best Laid Plans, and Me Too Short Stories. Her latest book, Your Pick: Selected Stories, won the 2019 Eric Hoffer Award for best story collection. Kemanis draws on her years of experience in criminal law for her legal suspense novels featuring prosecutor Dana Hargrove. The fifth Dana Hargrove novel, Seven Shadows, will be released in January 2020. She currently serves on the board of the New York chapter of Mystery Writers of America.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

A Decent Proposal and a New England Road Trip

If you know me a little bit, you know that I'm president of the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime. You also know that my stomping grounds encompasses six beautiful states, and a little bit of New York, too.

One mission I gave myself this year is to meet as many members as I could in their native habitat. I wanted to see the countryside they call home and meet their extended writer tribe. 

When a Vermont member said, "C'mon up!," it struck a happy note. We decided on a local brewery in what I thought was in a forgotten corner of the state. But it's summer road tripping time, and surprising discoveries are what it's all about. Right?

The Harpoon Brewery in Windsor, Vermont is a hangout haven. Outside, lush plantings surround badminton and volley ball nets. A lawn filled with corn hole platforms and bean bags encourage plenty of friendly competition. Picnic tables and Adirondack chairs wait under shady trees for families and friends to sit and relax a spell. Live music adds to the laid back vibe. 

Once inside, you're greeted with a wall of beer proving this place is far from a forgotten cubby hole.

Our group was six writers strong and pulled from northern Vermont, New Hampshire and even a Canadian ex-pat. Our host traveled twenty minutes. Another traveled more than ninety. Over shandies, stouts, and IPAs, our conversation touched on all aspects of our writing life. 

And the lobster in hand cuffs? For folks in-the-know, the mascot of New England Crime Bake (a mystery and crime writers' conference for those of you out-of-the-know) is a recognizable friend. The day's host, Genie Parrish -- a member of Sisters in Crime New England and a past attendee of Crime Bake -- won a book basket raffle with a tiny version of our mascot duly perched on top. Genie helped set the tone by bringing it along, and it quickly became the star of the day. Our conversations continued and we became aware of another ripple of excitement.

The excitement wasn't about our mascot. At the next table, a young man in a blue-striped shirt got down on one knee in front of a very surprised young woman. He said something. She dabbed her eyes. He slipped a ring on her finger. She dabbed her eyes some more. Our road-tripping destination was their proposal location. The daughter of our host paid their tab as a gesture of love and support. 

I, being the ever-nosy author, wanted to hear their story.

Chris and Emily met online over five years ago. He wanted to meet in person. She said no. He said let's go for a walk. She said she wasn't ready for anything more. He said we can just be each other's friend. They've been inseparable ever since and were already planning to buy a house together, but Chris decided a rock on his sweetie's finger would make a house an even better home. 

So, the Crime Bake mascot added a bit more lore to its legend, and this writer got a road tripping story I won't soon to forget.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019


I’m so glad to have Ann Simas join me again on my blog! Ann is an accomplished and prolific author who knows how to spin a tale of out-of-this-world romance and intrigue. Read on!

The Grace Gabbiano Mysteries: How They Began and Where They Are Now

I was taking a Forensics class at the local community college a few years back when the idea for the Grace Gabbiano Mysteries hit me. The class was being taught by the director of the Oregon State Patrol Forensics Laboratory, located in nearby Springfield. I subsequently took a Criminal Investigation class, taught over the 12-week course by different law enforcement officials, one of whom was a former detective with the Lane County Sheriff’s Office, and (at that time) the police chief of Coburg Police Department.

Both Lt. Mike Hurley and Chief Denny Ross were kind enough to let me pick their brains outside of class. These two intelligent men had spent their lives in law enforcement and had a wealth of information to share with me. As it turned out, how I was going to create the series turned out differently than I had originally planned, but I retained part of the original premise and it crops up periodically in the series.

The Grace Books, as I call them, feature Sgt. Grace Gabbiano, Police Chief Aidan Cruz, Grace’s entire Italian family, and a full contingent of CPD staff, officers, and reservists. Other characters make appearances throughout the books, but each story also has a new “cast,” so to speak. In Dressed to Die, Grace is faced with two murders, both men who are dressed in formal evening wear, wigs, and high-heeled sandals. Not your conventional deaths. In Sliced to Die, Chief Cruz signs Grace up to go undercover as a prostitute to help track down a serial kidney thief. Buried to Die introduces the reader to the body farm located in the middle of a large hazelnut orchard in Coburg. Grace discovers more than research is going on there when her former teacher turns up amid the corpses being studied. In Quilted to Die, the first body found is rolled up in the fund-raising quilt at the annual quilt show (which actually does occur in Coburg). In that book, I introduced the crop circles.

That takes me to Taken to Die, a July 31 release. I’m an avid stargazer and I’ve seen things in the night skies that are inexplicable. I watch Ancient Aliens and numerous other programs about UFOs and alien sightings. I’ve read The Day After Roswell and watched the Project Blue Book series. I’m not sure why I put those crop circles in Quilted to Die, but I knew I’d have fun with them in Taken. And, boy, did I!

I love research, and there is no shortage of information to be had about UFOs, crop circles, alien abductions, animal mutilations, Areas 51 and 52…I could go on. Typically, with the Internet, I research as I go and I never use anything that can’t be verified from at least three different sources. However, this time I reversed order and read Roswell first. I was constantly astounded by the facts presented by Major Phillip Corso, who was actually involved in the 1947 incident and the subsequent events connected to it.

When I contacted MUFON (Mutual UFO Network), I was told that some of what Corso wrote has been challenged. Regardless, I’m keeping an open mind. Our government is known to have withheld information on UFOs, as is the military. Only recently have armed forces’ pilots, commercial pilots, astronauts, and law enforcement officers been vocal about what they’ve witnessed from a vantage point most of us will never have. In essence, since they’ve spoken up, many with actual video footage, it’s forced the government and the military to be more open about what’s going on, not only in space, but on (and around) Earth.

I know there are people who pooh-pooh the idea of UFOs and aliens, and that’s fine, but for me, they exist. I’ve included some of the unusual things I’ve seen in the night skies in Taken. I knew when I wrote the last word in the book that the story couldn’t end there. I grew up in Colorado at a time when animal mutilations were rampant. Neither those nor the crop circles have ever been resolved, and I maybe they never will be. But there’s more to Taken to Die than crop circles and mutilations, and since I’m not giving any spoilers, you’ll have to read it to find out more.

What do I learn when dig into all this research I love to do? Two things: (1) You’re never too old to learn and (2) you never know what you’re going to learn that’s going to amaze the heck out of you!

Here’s a short blurb:
Mysterious crop circles, unexplained bright lights in the sky, UFOs, animal mutilations—what in the galaxy is going on in Coburg? Grace Gabbiano is determined to find out. Is it an alien invasion, or something more sinister and closer to home?

Available worldwide on Amazon
Free read on Kindle Unlimited


Ann Simas Bio

Ann Simas lives in Eugene, Oregon, but she is a Colorado girl at heart, having grown up in the Rocky Mountains. An avid word-lover since childhood, she penned her first fiction “book” in high school. The author of 27 novels, one novella, and seven short stories, she particularly likes to write a mix of mystery/thriller/suspense, with a love story and paranormal or supernatural elements.

In addition to being a three-time Romance Writers of Amer­ica Golden Heart Finalist, Ann is also an award-winning watercolorist and budding photographer who enjoys needlework and gardening in her spare time. She is her family’s “genealogist” and has been blessed with the opportunity to conduct first-hand research in Italy for both her writing and her family tree. The genealogy research from century’s-old documents, written in Italian, has been a supreme but gratifying and exciting challenge for her.

Books by Ann Simas

Chloe’s SpiritH
Chloe’s Spirit Afterstories
First StarH
First Star Afterstories

Blessed Are the EaglesH
Loose Ends
Heaven Sent
Black Moon Rising
Here and Gone

Grace Gabbiano Mysteries
Dressed to Die
Sliced to Die
Buried to Die
Quilted to Die
Taken to Die
Praying to Die (coming July 2020)

Andi Comstock Supernatural Mysteries
Holy Smoke
Angel Babies
The Wrong Wicca (coming Fall 2020)

Christmas Valley Romances
Santa’s Helper
Candy Cane Lane
Let It Snow
Sleigh Bride
Angels on the Rooftop
Deck the Gnomes
Back-Door Santa
Jingle Bell Clock (coming November 2019)
Reindeer Blitz (coming November 2019)

Short Story Collection
All’s Well

RWA Golden Heart Finalists

Contact Info for Ann Simas: Writing books people love to read. Learn more!


Do you have a new book coming out? Contact me via the form on my website ( to be featured on this blog!

Monday, July 8, 2019

The Perfect Victim

As an author of crime novels and mysteries will tell you, constructing the perfect crime is terrific fun. Creating a conniving villain even better. The more innocent the victim, the more anger we feel at the crime.

When the victim is the perfect victim, our anger spikes to the next level.

What is the perfect victim? For the criminal, a perfect victim is someone who:
  • refuses to admit a crime has been committed. This can stem from a spectrum of reasons from fear of reprisal from the criminal, to embarrassment that they are a victim, to loyalty or a sense of responsibility to the criminal.
  • is confused and doesn't know a crime has been committed 
  • will not bear witness against the criminal regardless of the evidence 
  • forgives the criminal...even after repeated crimes
  • feels helpless and dependent upon the criminal
  • is easily intimidated into silence.
and most importantly...
  • has something that the criminal desperately wants, needs, and feels entitled, a home, art...any number of things...up to and including something as hard to define as a family legacy.
Right about now, readers should be scratching their heads. How could a person be so weak as to let bad things happen to him or her and remain silent?

Right about now, you might be thinking I'm not talking about fiction. You'd be right. Real crimes happen to real people in real life. I'm hurting and I'm mad.

The sad answer is that the perfect victims are the elderly.

And the criminal? Again, sadly, in 60% of the cases, the criminal is a family member.

The perfect crime? Financial abuse.

No family is immune. Fame and wealth are often the bait for the criminal rather than an inoculation against it as the families of Peter Max and Stan Lee discovered. For our aging population, awareness of the crime should decrease it, but Forbes calls financial abuse of the elderly a hidden epidemic.

Financial abuse doesn't get the attention it deserves. The first reason is denial. We would never be the target nor permit a loved one to become a target. Right? Our aging parents would never dream they would fall victim to a phony charity, fake bill, or other solicitation. But when a family member places a stack of documents in front of them for their signature, any number of reasons contribute to that fate-filled signature. Misplaced trust is the most common. We deny the reality that a trusted family member could be a self-serving, self-centered ass who feels entitled to whatever they can take.

The second reason is that it's so darned personal. Families don't like to see a crime. Instead, they see siblings who don't get along or parents who had "favorites." Maybe "Poor Johnny" received a loan he never repaid. I know plenty of families where the details of the First Bank of Mom and Dad are quietly forgotten long after the debt grew cold. Forget about a paper trail or documents. Trust has a funny way of working against the people we most want to protect.

It's the victims that make my heart bleed. Their love for the criminal blinds them, and many parents place their needs below the needs of their children. The victims are the ones who worked hard and grew a tidy nest egg. They are the ones who instilled in their kids the values of honesty, generosity, and humility only to be repaid by lies, selfishness, and arrogance. 

There is much written about elder abuse and I urge you to learn and talk about it. Learn the signs. Ask questions. Get help. The criminal wins when their crimes go undiscovered, or worse...unreported.

And maybe...just maybe...a small victory would be making one victim a little less perfect.

Friday, July 5, 2019

From Two to Five Stars

Getting a less than stellar rating on a book is not an author's favorite thing. Neither a book nor an author can be all things to all people. If a rating is accompanied by a well-written and insightful review, we can learn from it and move on. If that "meh" feedback is on the first book of a series, chances are pretty good that the rating giver won't move on to the rest of the series.

Well, live and learn.

The Charity has received its share of five star reviews, so when a two star rating on Goodreads popped up without a corresponding review, I chalked it up to experience and didn't dwell on it. That is, I didn't give it much thought until after I compared books with the rating giver. I determined that my book wasn't her thing, and moved on.  

That was three years ago. Last month, the second book in the series, The Troubles, received a four star rating from that same person! 

And last week, the final book in the series, The Wake, received a five star rating from you-know-who.

So, thank you, Goodreads Reviewer, whoever you are. If you read this, I would love to hear why you came back to the series and why it grew on you! But you could be the shy type and don't want to talk too much. No worries. I understand.

Overall, I just want to thank you for clicking that little star button and giving me the feedback you did. So many readers don't bother to do even that!

So, if you're one of those readers who don't rate or review books, please know that authors really appreciate them.

It's summer reading time. Make an author happy with a little click! Thank you!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Living in the Digital Wild West

No sooner do I think I know what I'm doing living a virtual life in social media, than I learn a tough lesson.

You see that little badge on the right side of my blog? I'm thrilled and flattered to be listed in FeedSpots Top 50 Mystery Blogs. I share the rankings with Strand Mystery MagazineDru's Book Musings and Mystery Writers of America's blog

I guess that means I've done a lot of things right when it comes to writing and being a member of the writing community. These tools at our fingertips are incredible at amplifying our message. We reach out on various platforms, we connect, and we share. 

I'll share with you that I've also done a lot of things wrong. 

At the beginning of my blogging life, I set up this blog with a URL that referred to my first book. A rookie mistake, for sure. When I named the blog "Out of the Fog," that name and other variations were taken, so I kept the first address. Silly me. I blogged, connected, and built an audience. Hooray! Now I'm writing and querying a second series unrelated to the first, and decided to clean up my digital footprint. 

I found it was incredibly simple to rename my blog to what you see today: It was so easy, I wondered why I had waited so long! I knew I'd hit a few bumps and reached out and updated as many links as I could.


In the shadows of the Internet, evil forces were at work.

My old address was quickly usurped. (I naively thought old addresses go into some kind of stasis until the world changes enough for them to be a virtual cooling off period. I know. Dumb.) You know how followers of a blog get updates each time a new post goes up? Imagine the surprise of followers of the old address when they were notified of a new post. This time, it wasn't news on a new book or a guest post from a mystery author. This time, OH! 

This time my followers got a dose of good ole steamy porn. And badly written, too.

For all of you impacted...please accept my apologies.

As for my FeedSpot ranking, I've notified the Powers That Be and informed them of the address change. I'm hopeful they will make the change quickly. For you? Please follow me at this new address by clicking the button in the lower right column and like my Facebook page, too.

In the meantime, I may look at this obstacle as an opportunity. You know the adage, "Crime Doesn't Pay"? I've heard that readers of erotica are voracious.

Maybe I'll just change genres. I already have a jumpstart on an audience.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Promptly Late Again

Five minutes. One writing prompt. Five different responses. 

What would you write? I find I usually pull a thread of something I had heard or experienced in the week leading up to the group meeting. This week, the news was filled with Jon Stewart shaming lawmakers to take action on the 911 First Responders bill. You'll see his influence in my response.

What did we write to?

"Where did everyone go?" I shouted...


From Maggie:

"Where did everyone go?" I shouted...but they were all there...kind of.

Grace sat in the back of Doug's pick up truck, parked in the usual spot between the trees in the cherry orchard.

Hot boxing was new to her and seemed weirdly intimate.  Inhale deep from the joint, then cup your hand and blow directly into your partner's mouth.  Getting high wasn't unique at these parties, but this went to a whole new level.  The effect was akin to hallucination but fairly short lived...thankfully.  

Grace peered out of the flatbed and saw her crew swirling around.  She fell back and drifted off.


From Donna:

“Where did everyone go?” I shouted. But they all promised they would stay to the bitter end! “I can’t do this alone it is too scary!”

As I stood there wondering what to do next the front door creaked open and a hand came out, wrinkled and deeply veined, it wrapped itself finger by finger around the outside knob of the door. I gasped, sweat streaming down my back, “Give me my cat back! You mean old witch! She didn’t do any harm to your stupid cockatoo! Your bird attacked my sweet little kitten. Your bird is the killer!”

The hand moved opening the door wider, now I can see a skinny arm and a bush of long straggly grey hair. Whoosh, out flew a cockatoo heading …

All is good!


From Cyd:

"Where'd everyone go?" I shouted, but

no one answered. Why did they leave so suddenly?

I jumped off Mariana to let her get a drink and that's when I saw it. A huge water lizard in the sand. Hissing with its wide jaws as it moved toward us.

My big beautiful doe began snorting. She grunted, jumped, spit, and made other sounds I'd never heard before. Seeing her step between me and the monster made me angry. 

If that ugly beast draws a drop of blood from my tall-leg's white coat, I will kill it. Kill it with my small hands. I was afraid before but now I would lose my life protecting hers.

I will be like my spirit animal. The tall-leg. 


From Bette:

“Where did everyone go?” I shouted but… There was no one there to answer. What the heck? “Hello!” I( had been to the loo for a quick pee, and – Where did they go?

Smoke! I smell smoke. The house is on fire. I ran to the nearest slider, and tugged, but it wouldn’t open. I tugged, saw the board set there to keep out an intruder and knew to go to a different door. The front door was open and I went through it. “Hey! Where is everybody?”

Nothing. What the heck? “Hello!” I heard laughter. Where? Down by the barn. But it was dark, and there were brambles. I tripped along, slipped on a rock and fell on my butt. Guys! Where are you?

Peels of laughter. “Ah! Don’t touch it!”


From Connie:

"Where did everyone go?" I shouted, but ...

no sound came out. I moved, but my fingers didn't twitch nor legs flayed. I filled my lungs to scream, but my chest didn't rise.

That's when a fear crept inside me. 

I had been at my company's fancy breakfast. The city laid out before me on an amazingly clear day. I thought I had been in the buffet line, reaching for the eggs Benedict.

I was.

I had been.

Then nothing.

"Where did everyone go?"

But I was falling. Then nothing. 


I wasn't moving. I had become nothing. I had become one.

Everything had become me and I had become them.

Not them.


I was one.

Memories blended in a timeless way I had never known.

But I remembered one standing Twin Tower as I fell.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Inspirations or Triggers?

This image made me smile before it made me cry.

I spent a rainy afternoon haunting antique stores near my coastal Massachusetts home. Yard sales and forsythia dotted the roads. Young folks were loading up on the stuff old folks were getting rid of. I mused about the generational transfer of wealth and mentally listed the items in my garage waiting for my kids to hurry up and furnish their apartments already.

I was already in a nostalgic frame of mind when I spied this picture. It's simple enough. Just a black ink print on now yellowed paper. In the corner, it's signed, "Townsend 71," and I took that to mean some gent named Townsend created this image in 1971.

I lived for ski weeks at Stratton Mountain
and Otis Ridge.
Memories of weekends at my family's ski chalet in Vermont came flooding back. The chalet already had a life filled with memories before my family purchased it. Skiing in Vermont in the 60's and 70's had a certain vibe to it. Kinda cool. Kinda kitsch. Kinda insider-y. Kinda counter-cultural. The chalet came furnished with all sorts of keen and groovy stuff that was just keen and groovy enough that our family did little more to it than bring fresh sheets and towels. 

My mom and dad were never happier than when we gathered there. The little girl in that painting was me, gripping ski poles that were too long and hand-me-downs, leather already cracked and stressed, but usable. I learned to ski on our weekends in Vermont and know I looked exactly like that picture -- coat flapping, ponytail askew -- as I concentrated on my stem chrisities. When we grew up and lives took root elsewhere, the little brown house became the site of family gatherings and reunions. 

I didn't realize that those memories were like clay in a kiln, being baked into unyielding shapes. I was one kiln. My siblings others. Somewhere inside, a fissure happened, invisible to the naked eye, but lurking in the baked clay so that when the memories were pinged, the vibration was not resonant and pure, but marred by a tinny sound. 

I was at the chalet when I learned my father died. His passing exposed the fractures in my family's fabric. Once the site of family joy, the Vermont house is now the locus of strife. My mom and dad had wishes that all the generations would gather there for years to come.

The picture brought me back to a time when that could have a time of shared dreams and goals, and love. 

My smile dissolved and vision became blurry. I thought I was holding up pretty well and adapting to a new dynamic. People grow and change. Sometimes we grow together. Other times apart. It's just a part of life.

The little girl skiing with such concentration was met at the end of the day with a hot cocoa loaded with marshmallows. She thought of her day as every kid thinks of their day -- that it would be like that forever. 

Life changed. I almost bought that picture. It would have looked great at the chalet, hanging above the long, too-cool black pleather couch that we all loved to hate and was so much like the one in the shop. The couch is long gone and my garage is already full of things waiting for a future. 

I wondered about the artifacts that were inspirations to some, triggers to others.

So, I left it there. 

And moved on.