Revealing Cherish Cover Today

Today is the big day — the big REVEAL! Cher­ish, a ghost mys­tery for young teens is show­ing its face. (Okay, just the eyes.)Cherish12-1-2013-Front-400

This is real­ly Kayla’s sto­ry. She’s the 15-year-old Sopho­more who is tired of see­ing things oth­ers don’t see. But when she faces the teenage ghost, it’s Kay­la who dis­ap­pears.

Where did she go? What’s with the year 1946? And why don’t her twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry friends miss her? Who is tak­ing her place? 

Cher­ish (A YA Ghost Mys­tery) will be pub­lished Sep­tem­ber 1, 2014. If you can’t wait until then, read the first two chap­ters here.

Be pre­pared for a spooky read. Remem­ber — Hal­loween is com­ing!

Cover Reveal — Coming

In Sep­tem­ber my YA ghost mys­tery, Cher­ish, will be pub­lished (before allCherish-Pre-reveal cover my grand­kids get too old to be inter­est­ed in Hal­loween sto­ries). I’m doing a cov­er reveal pro­gram on my Goodreads site. I’ll encour­ag­ing per­spec­tive read­ers (of all ages) to list Cher­ish as “want to read” by giv­ing away a two-chap­ter PDF.

Here’s the back-cov­er blurb.

Cher­ish can’t be my name. It doesn’t sound right. But who am I? I should have lis­tened bet­ter in that mini-psych class in mid­dle school. I’ve heard of bi-polar and mul­ti­ple per­son­al­i­ties. I think. Is this the way peo­ple go crazy?”

Kay­la shouldn’t have tak­en that strange girl’s hand, because that’s when Every­thing Changed.

And, wasn’t it the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry? What’s with the date, Octo­ber 1946? That can’t be right.”

But, if SHE is Cher­ish, how about the date on that tomb­stone? If she doesn’t find a way back to her own body, and her own time.., Kay­la will DIE in a few days.

Not on the cov­er, the ele­va­tor pitch for this mys­tery: How can Kay­la return to own cen­tu­ry after she finds her­self in 1946 with only her cell phone and a cou­ple of Twinkies?

Ghosts and Hal­loween — sound like a mys­tery you’d like to read?

I’ve heard of moth­er-daugh­ter reads. This is a grand­moth­er-grand­daugh­ter read. I know, as a grand­moth­er, I con­tin­ue to be amazed by every­thing peo­ple do with their cell phones. (And, believe me, I had a lot of younger gen­er­a­tion help while writ­ing about text-mes­sag­ing — a big part of the mys­tery in this book.) Teens will be just as amazed by last century’s antique social media — the hard-wired tele­phone that isn’t going any­where, or doing much of any­thing.




Under-the-Tree Good

Vin­nie Hansen, the very first guest I’ve had on this blog, is a retired high school Eng­lish teacher who lives in San­ta Cruz, Cal­i­for­nia. From the sto­ry she tells me, it sounds like she and her hus­band, artist Daniel S. Fried­man love to travel—and read.

In my fam­i­ly we have the expres­sion “under-the-tree good.” It refers to a

Vinnie-under treehot South Dako­ta after­noon when my broth­er Frank mixed up some orange Kool-Aid for us, his three younger sib­lings. He put ice cubes in it. We sat in a shady spot in the tree line behind the house and drank the bev­er­age from bright­ly col­ored alu­minum cups. The four of us agreed this was the best Kool-Aid ever. Thus orig­i­nat­ed the stan­dard of under-the-tree good.

How much dif­fer­ence real­ly could there be in one batch of Kool-Aid vs. anoth­er? In truth, a con­flu­ence of elements—heat, shade, kind­ness, ice-cubes—conspired to cre­ate the sen­sa­tion of under-the-tree good.

Exter­nals can also shape our expe­ri­ence with a book. I recent­ly read Cara Black’s Mur­der in the Latin Quar­ter while stay­ing in the Latin Quar­ter. The book became a blue print for a scav­enger hunt. My hus­band and I tracked down 61 rue Buf­fon, the scene of the crime.Vinnie-61 rue Buffon Across the street was the love­ly Jardin des Plantes. With­out the mys­tery, I may not have vis­it­ed, although this gar­den is every bit as beau­ti­ful and wor­thy as Jardin du Lux­em­bourg. But I had to go to the gar­den! Pro­tag­o­nist Aimée Leduc escaped through the grounds on her Ves­pa.Vinnie-Jardin des Plantes2

My hus­band and I walked up into the area where Hem­ing­way lived and Ver­laine wrote his poet­ry. At the Pan­theon where Vic­tor Hugo is interred, I looked about and thought, “This is where the sec­ond mur­der in the book takes place.”Vinnie-Aimée’s Vespa escape

Impor­tant scenes in the mys­tery involve inhab­i­tants of the cat­a­combs that run under Paris. My hus­band and I didn’t descend into these tun­nels. How­ev­er, on Pont de la Con­corde, two men, clear­ly not city work­ers, popped up out of a man­hole and crossed the bridge. I felt as though the book were com­ing alive in front of me! Even though Mur­der in the Latin Quar­ter is set in 1997, it is clear that peo­ple still haunt this under­ground world of Paris.

Even now as I fin­ish the book at home, I fol­low Aimée along the streets of Paris. When she turns onto Rue Cujas, I think, “We were there!”

All this makes read­ing the book an under-the-tree good expe­ri­ence.

My own Car­ol Sabala mys­tery series is set in what author Lau­ra Crum called a “faith­ful­ly ren­dered” San­ta Cruz. San­ta Cruz is a tourist-des­ti­na­tion beach town full of won­der­ful sights. Like Cara Black’s books, mine are set back in time, but many San­ta Cruz land­marks have not changed. I love the idea of a San­ta Cruz tourist pick­ing up one of my mys­ter­ies, new­ly re-released from mis­te­rio press.

While read­ing Mur­der, Hon­ey, maybe he or she will be inspired to eat a burger—meat or veggie—at Carpo’s. If the per­son is in town for our annu­al Open Stu­dios in Octo­ber, what fun to com­bine the trip with Art, Wine & Bul­lets set dur­ing the art event!

I would love to pro­vide an under-the-tree-good expe­ri­ence.

Vin­nie is in the process of updat­ing her Car­ol Sabala mys­tery series for re-release by mis­te­rio press, while also work­ing on the next install­ment in the series.

Art, Wine and Bul­lets by VINNIE HANSENVinnie cover-ArtWineBulletsEbook

A Car­ol Sabala Mur­der Mys­tery
The stran­gled body of a gallery own­er offers Car­ol an oppor­tu­ni­ty to cement her rep­u­ta­tion as a pri­vate eye. Instead, the inves­ti­ga­tion turns into a night­mare dur­ing which Car­ol unrav­els much more than a mur­der case.

Avail­able through Ama­zon, Barnes & Noble and her pub­lish­er mis­te­rio press.
Vinnie’s web site


More about Amish TV

I live in Lan­cast­er Coun­ty, Penn­syl­va­nia, where the words “Amish” and “TV” don’t belong togeth­er. Many, pos­si­bly most Amish don’t even use elec­tric­i­ty. We are befud­dled about all this “Amish Mafia” stuff. We, espe­cial­ly me, only know about it from our local news­pa­per. In fact, today’s poll shows 80.9 % say “Yes, enough is enough.” But that doesn’t leave near­ly twen­ty per­cent who want to watch it because 13.7 % say, “Hon­est­ly, I don’t watch this stuff and I don’t care either way.”

Okay, I’m get­ting the cart before the horse. What brought this sub­ject up again? A cou­ple of front-page arti­cles in yesterday’s news­pa­per. One tells about anoth­er “real­i­ty” TV show being filmed right now, “Amish Haunt­ing.” The oth­er is the sto­ry of a local film­mak­er who wants to com­bat those offen­sive Amish shows. (Fol­low the links to read their arti­cles.)

The film­mak­er, Mary Haver­stick, calls it Amish-sploita­tion. She won­ders what would hap­pen if some­one should pro­duce such films about anoth­er reli­gion, say, Chris­t­ian, Jew­ish, or Mus­lim. Nope, they wouldn’t do that. They pre­fer to attack a reli­gion that doesn’t believe in object­ing to any­thing, or tak­ing any­one to court.

Some­thing I learned—all those shows are cre­at­ed and filmed by a pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny called Hot Snakes Media. Besides “Amish Mafia” and the Haunt­ing men­tioned above, they have pro­duced “Break­ing Amish” and “Return to Amish.” Might sound like they spe­cial­ize in Amish pro­duc­tions, but they also have oth­ers, among them “Elder Skel­ter” and “Naked Sci­ence.” One has to won­der about the bril­liance of the TV audi­ence.

Fly-in Pancake Breakfast

A love­ly June morn­ing, clear and com­fort­ably warm. Sat­ur­day was a per­fect day for our planned out­ing. My hus­band and I drove to Smoke­town Air­port in Penn­syl­va­nia for break­fast. Why? We do it every year when they have the Fly-in, Cruise-in Pan­cake Break­fast. We eat break­fast then stroll around to see the antique auto­mo­biles and air­planes. We vis­it with our friends Jack and Shirley who have helped orga­nize and run the event for years, and any of their chil­dren or grand­chil­dren who might be there. (Three gen­er­a­tions of fly­ers in that bunch.)

This year we didn’t have any of our grand­chil­dren along to take a Young Eagles air­plane ride. That’s part of the event—a free air­plane ride and a Young Eagles cer­tifi­cate for all chil­dren ages eight through sev­en­teen. A band plays while peo­ple wan­der and watch a para­chuter jump from 3,000 feet. (Our friend Jack pilot­ed the plane.)

All the air­planes and antique autos are spiffed up and gleam­ing. We saw a bright yel­low street rod and anoth­er car from 1927. The air­planes includ­ed a cou­ple of ultra-lights, a home-built ir two, and a 1929 Fairchild 71. It’s one of only sev­en still fly­ing, and it sparkled. It has a long body for extra stor­age and wick­er seats for four or five.

Since we saw the news­pa­per pho­tog­ra­ph­er tak­ing pic­tures, I wait­ed until Sun­day to write this up so I could include a link to the air­port fly-in arti­cle.

I know this blog is my mys­tery, his­to­ry, and spook writ­ings, and this is only his­to­ry with a real stretch. But maybe it’s inspi­ra­tion. Hmm. Do I want to write a mys­tery about a dar­ing Nan­cy Drew type with her vin­tage auto solv­ing crimes?

One thing I do want to add is the link to the inter­view I men­tioned in my last blog post. (It’s now bro­ken.) Now, here’s where to find my Cof­fee Chat with Ally Shields.

A Coffee Chat

I’m vis­it­ing Ally Shields for cof­fee and a chat. She asks me ques­tions while we sip. She wants to know all about my next mystery—a YA ghost sto­ry. And, of course, she wants a new fact added to my bio.

Vis­it Ally Shields blog to read about more than just me. She likes to inter­view writ­ers on the para­nor­mal side. Most inter­est­ing.

Radium Girls

Radi­um girls?” What does that mean, you ask. Think “glow in the dark.” Now cast your mind back to the 1920s. Okay, my mind doesn’t go back that far, and I imag­ine, nei­ther does yours.

Let’s start from the begin­ning. I live in Lan­cast­er Coun­ty, Penn­syl­va­nia, home of Hamil­ton Watch and in the past, anoth­er watch com­pa­ny. A local news­pa­per colum­nist, Jack Brubak­er, has been fol­low­ing radi­um girls. He found sev­er­al, one is 102 year-old Cora Bod­key. When she was four­teen, she worked for Hamil­ton Watch paint­ing radi­um num­bers on watch­es. They used pens instead of brush­es and were warned not to put the pens in their mouths. Even then, in 1926, they knew that many women liked to point their brush­es by mouth and some were get­ting sick. Oth­er than that, they had no clue about radi­um, only that it glowed in the dark.

Even­tu­al­ly, watch com­pa­nies switched to using tri­tium and the gov­ern­ment began to strict­ly reg­u­late its use, although it was less radioac­tive. One woman, who used a brush, remem­bers they test­ed her urine every week, and, although it was always high, noth­ing was ever done about it. Few local­ly knew about any­one being sick, but one remem­bered a woman who died of tongue can­cer.

Radi­um girls were at work in oth­er places before World War I. One always thinks of the world becom­ing more dan­ger­ous. But now, in 2014, we think of a per­son of four­teen as a child, and radi­um as def­i­nite­ly noth­ing to han­dle. Come to think of it, every time I read of the dan­gers of mer­cury poi­son­ing, I remem­ber the time, maybe I was four­teen, when one of us broke a ther­mome­ter. We had a lot of fun rolling those lit­tle gray dots around the floor in semi-liq­uid balls, push­ing them with our fin­gers. Yep, mer­cury.

April Showers-And April Memories

The last day of April, and the rain is pour­ing down. I’m try­ing to remem­ber to sing the words to a song that was pop­u­lar years ago — April Show­ers. I’m try­ing to remem­ber that, accord­ing to the song, show­ers bring May flow­ers, but this isn’t show­ers. It’s a pound-through-the-umbrel­la down­pour.

Okay, instead or look­ing for­ward to those flow­ers, I’m look­ing back to Aprils of past years.

Twen­ty-five years ago the Penn­syl­va­nia Super 7 lot­tery was at a then-record high $115,500,000 jack­pot. Even­tu­al­ly, four­teen win­ners each received $317,524 per year for twen­ty-six years. They have one year more to go. (I don’t remem­ber this sto­ry. I wasn’t into bet­ting on the lot­tery.) I do remem­ber the then-pop­u­lar TV shows: “Alf” “Cheers,” McGyver,” and “Gold­en Girls.”

Fifty years ago the Ford Mus­tang made its debut local­ly, priced at $2,368. After six­ty years in busi­ness, when the 91 year old own­er retired, the Smith­son­ian accept­ed the fix­tures of his phar­ma­cy to cre­ate a “Gay ‘90s Apothe­cary” at the muse­um. Movies show­ing local­ly were: “The Hor­ror at Par­ty Beach,” The Curse of the Liv­ing Corpse,” Cleopa­tra,” and “Mus­cle Beach Par­ty,” (at the dri­ve-in with Annette Funi­cel­lo and Frankie Aval­on). I prob­a­bly didn’t see any of those movies. I was busy with a very young fam­i­ly of small chil­dren, and my hus­band was work­ing three jobs.

Sev­en­ty-five years ago the local library got its very first book­mo­bile. Most of the coun­ty adopt­ed Day­light Sav­ing Time-but one town held out for reg­u­lar time, how­ev­er their banks and busi­ness opened an hour ear­li­er to accom­mo­date their cus­tomers. Pop­u­lar radio shows were “Lum and Abn­er,” “Jack Arm­strong” (the all-Amer­i­can boy-I do remem­ber that one), “The Lone Ranger,” and “The Green Hor­net.” These were all before I was mar­ried, so this was not my coun­ty. I def­i­nite­ly remem­ber our book­mo­bile com­ing from Belling­ham, Wash­ing­ton, and stop­ping at the bot­tom of the hill, after a thir­ty-mile trip.

Now, I have no per­son­al mem­o­ry of one hun­dred years ago. I’m old, but not that old. How­ev­er, local­ly in mid-April it was Cleanup Week. Thou­sands of peo­ple includ­ing chil­dren paint­ed, scrubbed, white-washed, and swept while wan­der­ing judges toured and award­ed prizes. Anoth­er week some two hun­dred peo­ple attend­ed an after­noon social hon­or­ing Nation­al Ral­ly Day of the Suf­fragettes. The event began with singing “The Bat­tle Hymn of the Repub­lic.” Also dur­ing April, “The Last Days of Pom­peii,” a silent mov­ing pic­ture was being shown — admis­sion price ten cents.


Revisiting My Popcorn Tree

Is spring ever com­ing?

Four years ago I was invit­ed to post on the Work­ing Stiffs blog on the last day of March. All month oth­er writ­ers had post­ing writ­ing hints. What could I write? I looked my win­dow and thought—inspiration!

Popcorn TreeWhat did I see? A pop­corn tree. Well, it didn’t look like a pop­corn tree just then, but it had ear­li­er. I’d had to take a pic­ture. You know it wasn’t ACTUALLY a pop­corn tree. It was a tree with branch­es com­plete­ly devoid of leaves, but snow had gath­ered in so many heavy clumps it remind­ed me of lit­tle pop­corn balls. That day, I decid­ed there had to be a sto­ry there some­where! So, how could I use a pop­corn tree? This is what I wrote…

I’ll go to my inspi­ra­tion col­lec­tion, writer­ly quotes I’ve col­lect­ed over the years. My very favorite is one I’ve print­ed up and taped right over my com­put­er. I glance at it every day, and try to do my best:

That was the moment I changed from an ama­teur to a pro­fes­sion­al. I assumed the bur­den of the pro­fes­sion­al which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you are writ­ing, and aren’t writ­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly well.” Agatha Christie

But today, I need more advice, some­thing that gath­ers my notes and gives me direc­tion. Per­haps this one:

Keep a note­book, hon­ey, and some­day it will keep you.” Mae West

Sor­ry, not that one. (I could only wish!) Aha! How about the next quote?

The secret of being a bore is to tell every­thing.” Voltaire

Oops, that does SO not go with Mae’s quote. But I have more quotes.

Nev­er con­fuse a sin­gle defeat with a final defeat.” F. Scott Fitzger­ald

VERY use­ful when one is busy sub­mit­ting that love­ly man­u­script to a mul­ti­tude of agents, but does it help me today? I must dig deep­er.

Always remem­ber, per­se­ver­ance is as impor­tant as tal­ent.” Dean Koontz

The pro­fes­sion­al writer is the ama­teur who didn’t quit.” Richard Back

Yes, I am inspired. I can do it. Let me think a bit. How about a children’s sto­ry. Maybe a pic­ture book man­u­script. Except I’m a mys­tery writer. But are there pic­ture book mys­ter­ies? Could be the first of a col­lec­tion of “what-is-it?” pic­tures, you know, the close-up that doesn’t pro­vide enough exter­nal clues to.… How about an adult mys­tery. It could make a good title: Dead Under The Pop­corn Tree, or Mur­der By Pop­corn. No, no, that’s real­ly bad! How about.… Is that anoth­er quote I hear bang­ing on my door?

Don’t think! Think­ing is the ene­my of cre­ativ­i­ty. It’s self-con­scious, and any­thing self-con­scious is lousy. You can’t try to do things; you sim­ply must do them.” Ray Brad­bury

There you go! And guess what? That’s the quote I’ll use. Just plunk a pop­corn tree down on the web­site, and ram­ble (with quote col­lec­tion in hand).

Have you ever seen a pop­corn tree? How about some oth­er strange and won­der­ful sight that inspired you? Did you find advice that real­ly helped? I must admit, the first one I quot­ed here has helped me through many a ses­sion of writ­ing that was not going par­tic­u­lar­ly well. Do you have a favorite quote?

Yes, that was it. But the web­site, Work­ing Stiffs is no longer active. But they have kept all the old posts active. There are a lot of good posts. Find mine here at Work­ing Stiffs, then look for oth­ers.

Amish Mafia—What’s That?

The Smash­words Read an E-Book week is over, and what a great suc­cess. I won­der how many books were “sold” at free or half-price. Many copies of my two mys­ter­ies found new homes. I do hope every­one likes their new reads. (Per­haps you will post a review on Smash­words and else­where of the books you read—not just mine, but from any author. To me, that’s half the fun. Well, maybe a quar­ter of the fun.)

My new sub­ject is the Amish Mafia. Is there such a thing as shown on a cur­rent­ly pop­u­lar TV show? Well, I live in Lan­cast­er Coun­ty, Penn­syl­va­nia, where the show is set. From time to time our local news­pa­per fol­lows up on that ques­tion. (Um, I’m think­ing arrest records of the stars, com­ments by the Amish com­mu­ni­ty, and a few oth­er things.) I’ve got to tell you, the con­clu­sion is the only thing “true” about the show is that it IS filmed in Lan­cast­er Coun­ty.

What do peo­ple in oth­er parts of the world think about this? Fol­low this link to the Amish Mafia arti­cle, then tell me what you think. (I par­tic­u­lar­ly like some of the com­ments made at the end of the arti­cle. I also remem­ber see­ing the pre­vi­ous arti­cles that one can click to.)