Remembering Mom

Yes­ter­day I read about a woman who just turned 100. It was a love­ly arti­cle in my news­pa­per with a head­line of, “This healthy 100-year-old runs on cof­fee.” She sounds like a humdinger. She likes to sing at home and with the group Sweet Ade­lines. She helps her niece with cross­word puz­zles. She likes to keep busy. “I don’t sit and rock half the day, oh no,” she said.

The lady reminds me of my mom, who lived until May 31st of this year. She was 103. She, too, liked to keep busy. At eigh­teen, Mom was a city girl who mar­ried a rail­road man who turned into a farmer. She fol­lowed her man from Wash­ing­ton to Mis­souri and back to Wash­ing­ton. Dad want­ed home-made bread, so she baked bread. She cooked din­ner for hay­ing crews. And pies. Oh, the pies she baked. In lat­er years a trip to the doc­tor or den­tist was an occa­sion to bake as she always took a pie along.

I remem­ber Mom as the farm wife. One time some ani­mal was killing our free-range chick­ens. Mom sat in the field with a rifle, wait­ing. A fer­al dog arrived and she dropped him with a chick­en in its mouth that ran away. But Mom had an inde­pen­dent streak. One year she decid­ed that, just because Dad was a very active Grange mem­ber, she didn’t have to be. How­ev­er, she missed it and returned. She actu­al­ly lat­er end­ed up as Mas­ter (that’s club pres­i­dent). But that inde­pen­dent streak went one step far­ther. When Dad retired, she did too. No more home-baked bread!

Mom loved to read. I remem­ber when she had a copy of For­ev­er Amber hid­den in her room. (It was the scan­dalous nov­el of the time.) And she wrote. She was my inspi­ra­tion. But while I write mys­ter­ies, she wrote poet­ry. I remem­ber a long saga she could recite and some­times amend­ed. More often she wrote poems as gifts to friends on spe­cial occa­sions. She played the piano. Once she accom­pa­nied the soloist at a wed­ding. She often played piano at Grange meet­ings and when­ev­er any­one want­ed to sing at home.

Mom's 100th Birthday

Mom’s 100th Birth­day

There was a par­ty for Mom’s 100th birth­day where she lived. Since I lived across the con­ti­nent from her, I wasn’t there that day, but my sis­ter-in-law was. Mom received cards and ate cake (hers was sug­ar-free). Mom believed in walk­ing for health. At the farm she mea­sured with a tape mea­sure, then walked that route until her goal was reached. At her assist­ed liv­ing home she walked the length of the hall twice a day. I remem­ber Mom drink­ing cof­fee like the woman in the arti­cle, but her dai­ly reg­i­men includ­ed walk­ing and drink­ing milk. It served her well.

Good bye Mom. We loved you.

I like to include book rec­om­men­da­tions in each post. Two from my library are Miss­ing Mom by Joyce Car­ol Oates and there was an old woman by Hal­lie Ephron. Nei­ther one is a cozy mys­tery. The arti­cle ref­er­enced above can be seen here.

 

Wow! Chefs to World Leaders Eat Here?

Can you believe that chefs to world lead­ers dined in a barn, sit­ting on bench­es at long wood­en tables dec­o­rat­ed with flow­ers in can­ning jars? They ate, and even raved over sim­ple dish­es like sal­ad with red beet eggs, chick­en cro­quettes, pot roast, mashed pota­toes with brown but­ter, suc­co­tash, and fresh rasp­ber­ries. They will take ideas back to their own coun­tries to serve in palaces in Eng­land, Thai­land, Swe­den, and Mona­co. The back-to-nature foods pre­pared in Lan­cast­er Coun­try, Penn­syl­va­nia, and served by Amish women and chil­dren may appear on tables in the White House, and in the homes of world lead­ers from Ger­many, Gabon, Chi­na, France, and many oth­er nations.

It was a meet­ing of the Club des Chefs des Chefs, an exclu­sive group of chefs to world lead­ers. Each year they meet in a dif­fer­ent host coun­try. This year they came to Amer­i­ca and first dined in Wash­ing­ton, Mary­land, and New York before vis­it­ing the barn in East Lam­peter, Penn­syl­va­nia.

My words can’t tell you all there is to this sto­ry. I’ve attached a link of a video and a slide show of the meal in progress, plus the news­pa­per write-up. (It’s here.)

Does this sto­ry that includes the chef to our pres­i­dent make you think of mys­tery books? It does me—but then prac­ti­cal­ly every­thing makes me think of a good mys­tery read. In fact, this arti­cle makes me think of two series, and I just hap­pen to have a few of those books in my library.

You have to know that one series is the White House Chef Mys­ter­ies by Julie Hyzy. When Buf­fa­lo West Wing  was pub­lished in 2011, Olivia Paras is billed was the first female head White House chef. Of course the plot involved a sup­ply of the pres­i­den­tial children’s favorite—spicy Buf­fa­lo wings. And Olivia gets in Dutch because she won’t let the kids touch the wings.

Speak­ing of Dutch, the Amish peo­ple men­tioned in the arti­cle reminds me of more mys­ter­ies. They are the books includ­ed in the Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch series by Tamar Myers. One of her titles is The Crepes of Wrath. Mag­dale­na Yoder dis­cov­ers that a bad batch of crepes can lead to mur­der. There are sev­er­al crepes recipes includ­ed, not one of them is fatal. Mag­dale­na is not Amish, but of anoth­er plain sect. (“Plain” is the term some use, and to the “Eng­lish” as the Amish call oth­ers, “plain” can refer to Amish, Men­non­ite, and oth­ers.)

I page through recipes in mys­tery books and get ideas (I’m often an inno­v­a­tive cook). Both series include recipes. My own mys­ter­ies include peo­ple who love food, love to talk about it, love to pre­pare and eat it, but I haven’t added recipes in the pages of my books. I’ve tried anoth­er approach. I place recipes and pic­tures on my web­site along with an excerpt from the scene that pre­sent­ed the dish. (Those recipes are here.)

Do you like mys­ter­ies that include recipes? I’d love to see your com­ments about food in mys­ter­ies, or your favorite series. (I love to find series new to me!)

The Irish Cop Connection

I like to make con­nec­tions. Some­times the con­nec­tion is between a news­pa­per arti­cle and a sto­ry I’ve read. Some­times it’s between a whis­pered con­fi­dence and a past event. Some­times, such as this time, the con­nec­tion is between two mys­tery series by two dif­fer­ent authors.

Besides the Irish cop con­nec­tion, these series are cozy, his­toric, and by authors I’ve actu­al­ly met! Both series are set in New York at the turn of the century—that’s the ear­ly 1900s, Both have a young woman who helps an Irish cop solve mur­ders. Both include a good bit of accu­rate his­toric detail.

I met Vic­to­ria Thomp­son a few years ago at a con­fer­ence where I bought one of her Gaslight Mys­tery books. I’ve been buy­ing, and read­ing them ever since. How­ev­er, I began read­ing the Mol­ly Mur­phy Mys­ter­ies before I met Rhys Bowen. Okay, I must admit, it was a brief encounter. We rode the same ele­va­tor at the Mal­ice Domes­tic Con­fer­ence this May. I did tell her how much I enjoyed her mys­ter­ies.

Now that I’ve men­tioned the sim­i­lar­i­ties between the two series, let me tell you the dif­fer­ences.

Sarah Brandt, star of the Gaslight Mys­ter­ies, was born to wealth then turned against that lifestyle by becom­ing a mid­wife. She mar­ried and was a young wid­ow when the series begins. Among the real his­toric issues involved in the mys­ter­ies are med­ical prob­lems, includ­ing those of the Irish cop’s deaf son as well as social issues and the pover­ty of so many of New York’s cit­i­zens of the time. One among the con­tin­u­ing char­ac­ters is Sarah’s neigh­bor, an extreme­ly super­sti­tions woman who sees signs of dan­ger if a crow flies by, or almost any­thing else. Sarah has the advan­tage of know­ing the wealthy peo­ple, old friends from her for­mer life, and espe­cial­ly her moth­er to help in learn­ing things that might be clues. The Irish cop, Frank Mal­loy, wel­comes any help Sarah can pro­vide. The two are attract­ed to each oth­er, but so far, have too many oth­er things going on to do much about it.

Mol­ly Mur­phy, the hero­ine of the Mol­ly Mur­phy Mys­ter­ies, arrived in New York from Ire­land, one step ahead of the law that would arrest her for pro­tect­ing her­self. She takes a job at a detec­tive agency. When the detec­tive is killed, she takes over the role of detec­tive. Through­out the series, Mol­ly meets his­toric peo­ple such as Har­ry Hou­di­ni and Nel­lie Bly. Her neigh­bors are two flam­boy­ant women who intro­duce Mol­ly to their well-known friends, so many his­toric events con­tribute to the mys­ter­ies. Daniel Sul­li­van, the Irish cop, does not wel­come help from Mol­ly on his cas­es, nor does he want to hear about her detec­tive work that may be con­nect­ed to his. How­ev­er, their per­son­al rela­tion­ship advances from romance, to dis­tance, to rejec­tion, then back, and to mar­riage.

Do you like to make con­nec­tions such as this? Do you know of any oth­er mys­ter­ies that could be con­nect­ed in some ten­u­ous fash­ion? Let me know below in the com­ments. And, before I leave you, I’d like to give you a cou­ple of links for these two authors and their sites.

Vic­to­ria Thompson’s Ama­zon author page is here. A recent Face­book entry is here. 

Rhys Bowen’s Ama­zon author page is here. Her Twit­ter account is here.

Put-In-Bay Memories

Put-In-Bay, where’s that? It’s in Ohio, on the shore of Lake Erie. And, on Sep­tem­ber 2, 2013, I hope it will be in the news.

At Put-In-Bay

At Put-In-Bay

The news won’t be that my hus­band and I spent a cou­ple of days there in 2006. That his­to­ry is much too recent. True, we docked our boat at Miller Mari­na. We vis­it­ed the muse­um and Per­ry Memo­r­i­al where we watched a reen­act­ment of an 1813 battle.(Unfortunately, I didn’t have my cam­era with me.) We went to DeRivera Park, ate ice cream, bought post cards and mailed them, and rent­ed a golf cart to tour the area. We even cel­e­brat­ed Christ­mas in July!

But the his­to­ry for this post goes back a lot far­ther, back to 1813 with the Bat­tle of Lake Erie. I’ve col­lect­ed a few links to tell you the sto­ry. The first is a link to The Bat­tle of Lake Erie Bicen­ten­ni­al cel­e­bra­tion. It is being held at Put-In-Bay now, with events through Sep­tem­ber. The reen­act­ment of the his­toric bat­tle will take place on Sep­tem­ber 2, 2013, dur­ing the after­noon. It will fea­ture tall ships on Lake Erie, and a lot of enthu­si­as­tic reen­ac­tors. See the bicen­ten­ni­al site here

There are many YouTube pre­sen­ta­tions cel­e­brat­ing The Bat­tle of Lake Erie. I’ve select­ed three to rec­om­mend. For a two and a half minute video with song and reen­act­ment photos–including tall ships, see this link For a five-minute musi­cal pre­sen­ta­tion with his­toric images, see this link And final­ly, for the full his­to­ry told and illus­trat­ed with a vari­ety of images, this sev­en­teen-minute pre­sen­ta­tion will relate the com­plete his­to­ry of that bat­tle as well as events before and after. See it at this link

This is the his sto­ry of our coun­try two hun­dred years ago–when it was young. On Lake Erie, they remem­ber this his­to­ry. Most oth­er parts of the coun­try have no local his­to­ry to com­mem­o­rate. The War of 1812 is almost The For­got­ten War. It is remem­bered around Chesa­peake Bay, for 1813 is the year the White House was burned and our Nation­al Anthem was writ­ten. I want to remem­ber it too, with the mys­tery book I’m com­plet­ing. It is set at a reen­act­ment of The War of 1812 on Chesa­peake Bay. In 1813, dur­ing that war, the British under Admi­ral Cock­burn raid­ed, burned, and some­times even paid for the pro­duce and ani­mals they took to feed their troops. But when the war end­ed, our coun­try and Great Britain became friends and have remained so to this day. In fact, as the long YouTube link ref­er­enced above says, the bor­der between the Unit­ed States and Cana­da remains the longest, peace­ful bound­ary between nations any­where in the world.

A Teenager in 1946?

What would today’s teenag­er find dif­fer­ent in 1946? How would she react if she sud­den­ly found her­self in that alien land? That’s the ques­tion I had to answer when I wrote Cher­ish, a mys­tery for young adults. (It’s now under con­sid­er­a­tion by a pub­lish­er so don’t look for it yet.)

One of the first things a teen might notice is—no seat belts in cars. None, not one. No car seats, no safe­ty air bags, and nobody was in the least con­cerned about it. They were too excit­ed about any new car, since there had been none dur­ing World War II, from the end of 1941 to mid-1945. And some of those new 1946 cars might look sus­pi­cious­ly like those pre-war mod­els. Names of cars one might see were Ford, Chevro­let, Dodge, Lin­coln, Mer­cury, Cadil­lac, Buick, and Chrysler, but the styles would be dif­fer­ent. Then there were oth­er autos no longer being built today. Among them are: DeS­o­to, Ply­mouth, Pon­ti­ac, and Hud­son.

Of course, a teenag­er would notice the cloth­ing styles right away. No one wore jeans to school. Girls wore skirts or dress­es, except pos­si­bly on a spe­cial­ly des­ig­nat­ed casu­al Fri­day. Then she could wear nice­ly tai­lored wool slacks. Shoes were often sad­dle shoes or pen­ny loafers. Sweaters were a giv­en. In a large city school, the teen would want a dif­fer­ent cash­mere sweater for every day of the week. In a small coun­try school, one cot­ton or plain wool sweater to wear with a skirt, and trade off with a blouse and skirt ensem­ble or a dress was ade­quate. Peas­ant blous­es and dress­es were quite the rage. And every girl wore bob­by sox. For dress-up she wore the new­ly avail­able nylons and pumps with Cuban heels with her dress. She did wear jeans after school and on week­ends. Her jeans had slim legs that she rolled up to just under the knee. There were some­times region­al dif­fer­ences in cloth­ing fads. One was bell-bot­tom jeans. They mim­ic­ked the sailor’s bell-bot­tom trousers. That craze trav­eled around the coun­try, often pop­u­lar in one area and com­plete­ly out in anoth­er.

These are a cou­ple of dif­fer­ences a teen would notice. There would cer­tain­ly be oth­ers. What do you think a teen from 1946 would first notice about the year 2013?

Henry Clay and The War of 1812

The War of 1812? Yeah, Amer­i­ca was at war two hun­dred years ago. It’s rather a for­got­ten war in our past. Seems the British and the French were hav­ing a war, and both of them decid­ed that if the Unit­ed States was trad­ing with the oth­er, those ships ply­ing the Atlantic Ocean were fair game to stop and loot. Not only that, but the British were fond of stop­ping Amer­i­can ships and impress­ing our sailors, that is, declar­ing them British desert­ers and tak­ing them. Some want­ed to declare war on Britain, or even both Britain and France, despite not hav­ing much of an Army or Navy. Or, mon­ey, for that mat­ter. Pres­i­dent Madi­son wasn’t in favor of declar­ing war. And, a lot of American’s who had noth­ing to do with ship­ping or sail­ing, weren’t eager to go to war.

Enter Hen­ry Clay. In 1810-11, at the age of thir­ty-four, he’d already served two terms in the Sen­ate, but he ran for a seat in the House and won. He was imme­di­ate­ly elect­ed to the posi­tion of Speak­er of the House. He wasn’t the only new face in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Almost half of the incum­bents, many old men, lost their seats to young men. Clay rep­re­sent­ed a west­ern state (Ken­tucky), and was a Demo­c­ra­t­ic-Repub­li­can (a par­ty that lat­er split into you-know-who). Like most elect­ed offi­cials, he lived in a board­ing house. (The new city of Wash­ing­ton, D.C. had few suit­able accom­mo­da­tions.) Clay took a lead­er­ship role, not only in the after-hours meet­ings, but in his office as Speak­er. Before 1811, Speak­er was more of a cler­i­cal role, but Clay took it to the promi­nent posi­tion it now occu­pies. He and those young men who had replaced the old guard want­ed to go to war. They were the orig­i­nal, the War Hawks of 1812. And Clay filled his com­mit­tees with those of like mind.

There were polit­i­cal and legal maneu­vers from both sides of the war debate. France was cap­tur­ing our ships, burn­ing them, and impris­on­ing the Amer­i­cans in French jails. Eng­land was tak­ing up to one thou­sand of our men each year from our ships. Final­ly Pres­i­dent Madi­son issued a ten­ta­tive call to war against Eng­land (every­one agreed that mak­ing war against all of Europe was impos­si­ble) list­ing five points of con­tention. 1. Impress­ment of our sailors. 2. British ships hov­er­ing near our ports to harass our ships. 3. Block­ades of our ports. 4. Orders-in-Coun­cil, which was the British assump­tion that they ruled the entire Atlantic Ocean. 5. The renew­al of Indi­an war­fare in the west-assumed to be stirred up by Eng­land and Cana­da.

The House passed the bill, the Sen­ate then passed the bill, and the Pres­i­dent signed the bill that began the War of 1812. There were oth­er rea­sons and advo­cates besides Clay, but he was a leader who stood out.

I found most of this mate­r­i­al in a book, The War of 1812 by Har­ry L. Coles, part of the Chica­go His­to­ry of Amer­i­can Civ­i­liza­tion. Some­how, I learned very lit­tle about the War of 1812 in school. The old­er I get, the more I real­ize that his­to­ry is much more inter­est­ing that I thought it was—at least in school.

Did you learn a new fact today? Can you tell me some­thing new as well? Love to hear it!

 

Gettysburg — 100 Years Ago

It was 150 years ago this week when the Civ­il War bat­tle took place in Get­tys­burg. Our nation was divid­ed and broth­er fought broth­er to the death. This week reen­ac­tors are reliv­ing that bat­tle for tourists and his­to­ry buffs. But what hap­pened 100 years ago on that bat­tle­field?

One hun­dred years ago, my local news­pa­per cov­ered the full four days of the 50th anniver­sary of the Bat­tle of Get­tys­burg. Thou­sands of Civ­il War vet­er­ans arrived in trains filled to capac­i­ty. With tem­per­a­tures over 100 degrees, 15,000 old and fee­ble vets sat in the stands on the first day of the semi-cen­ten­ni­al cel­e­bra­tion. An esti­mat­ed 55,000 arrived all togeth­er. As the tent city and avail­able hous­ing filled to over­flow­ing, many had nowhere to go. They slept on the ground with only their cloth­ing to pro­tect them.

One of the sched­uled events was the charge of the sur­vivors of Pickett’s divi­sion. The old men in grey, bear­ing their guns, charged up the hill where the ene­my, the remain­ing men of the Philadel­phia Brigade in blue, met them with weapons ready. Those in grey went over the wall, and they all shook hands.

One unad­ver­tised reunion took place when a fife and drum corps of men in blue tramped up and down the Con­fed­er­ate part of the tent city, stopped in front tents and played a fan­fare which brought out the men in grey. They all shook hands or threw their arms around the ‘ene­my’ shoul­ders.

On the last day Pres­i­dent Wil­son spoke briefly. At noon the Stars and Stripes that flew from every flag­pole were low­ered for ‘Five Min­utes for Mem­o­ries’ while the vet­er­ans in blue and gray stood, along with cur­rent reg­u­lars of the army, all with bend­ed heads and hats to their hearts.

Thus were the wounds of war offi­cial­ly put to rest. I’m sure that many had not wait­ed for fifty years to reach that peace and under­stand­ing. Wouldn’t it be won­der­ful if all nations and all fac­tions could reach the plateau observed by those men?

News From The Past

Does your news­pa­per pub­lish week­ly reminders of our past? Mine does. One week they tell us what hap­pened 25 and 75 years ago. The next week they give us the lat­est from 50 and 100 years ago. (They’ve been in busi­ness a looong time!) It’s always enter­tain­ing, and often eye-open­ing.

Here’s a stun­ner for you. Only twen­ty-five years ago one of our local hos­pi­tals phased in a total smok­ing ban for all vis­i­tors, employ­ees, physi­cians, and patients. Up until then, smok­ing had been allowed in the cof­fee shop, in employ­ee and physi­cians lounges, and in patient rooms (by the patient). And, this was the first hos­pi­tal in our coun­ty to issue such a ban. Wow! Now the smok­ing ban is almost uni­ver­sal.

It’s so easy to for­get the time-line of our more recent his­to­ry. Have we always had zip codes in our address­es? Nope, that began fifty years ago. Our coun­ty, along with the nation, began using the Zon­ing Improve­ment Plan (ZIP, or course) in 1963.

Sev­en­ty-five years ago state police were hap­py with their crack-down on speed­ers. They were so hap­py, they began think­ing of doing the same for the slow-pokes who bot­tled up traf­fic. There was no law set­ting a min­i­mum speed, but they thought thir­ty miles an hour on main roads would be about right. They exper­i­ment­ed with loud-speak­ers to install in the six hun­dred patrol cars. They hoped to devel­op a speak­er that could be heard sev­er­al miles down the road “to break up those traf­fic jams caused by bee­tle dri­vers by bark­ing to them to speed up or get off the high­way.” Don’t think that ever hap­pened!

One hun­dred years ago, the cir­cus came to town. In 1913 the Hager­beck-Wal­lace Cir­cus was the sec­ond largest in Amer­i­ca (the Rin­gling Broth­ers and Bar­num and Bai­ley Cir­cus was num­ber one). There was a large crowd in town brought by trol­ley cars filled with peo­ple. Many oth­ers came by steam roads (what­ev­er that is-a mis­print maybe?) and drove in. The streets were lined with peo­ple. Ele­phants and camels walked. Hors­es pulled bright­ly-col­ored wag­ons. There were a dozen cages filled with wild ani­mals. Six (count them) beau­ti­ful women rode pranc­ing steeds. There were four bands, and (let’s men­tion this again), a large num­ber of ladies. Per­form­ers on horse­back, fun­ny clowns, and a steam cal­liope round­ed out the parade that took sev­er­al hours to pass through the city streets. Way before my time. I’d have been right there sit­ting on the curb, dream­ing of join­ing the cir­cus. What a glo­ri­ous life! (Yeah, as a kid I did dream of the cir­cus. Can’t remem­ber actu­al­ly see­ing one, but I prac­ticed my skill for months. I’d be a cham­pi­on ball-bounc­er. Hey, I was a kid, a young kid.)

How about you? Did any of these news items from the past spark a mem­o­ry, a desire, a gig­gle?

Meet and Greet at Malice Domestic

If you are a mys­tery writer, maybe even if you are a ded­i­cat­ed mys­tery read­er, you know what Mal­ice Domes­tic is. Or, maybe you don’t. It’s a fan­tas­tic con­ven­tion filled with mys­tery authors and even more mys­tery read­ers. It’s a grand week­end to put the two togeth­er. There are pan­el dis­cus­sions, shared meals, auto­graph ses­sions, and award pre­sen­ta­tions. And I attend­ed my first one the first week­end of May at Bethes­da, Mary­land.

An in-per­son con­fer­ence intro­duces you to a lot of peo­ple. New faces. New names. But, since I’ve been a mem­ber of the writ­ing com­mu­ni­ty, espe­cial­ly the mys­tery writ­ing com­mu­ni­ty, for quite some time as a read­er AND a writer, I know many names. I’ve seen many faces look­ing back from web­sites and blogs on my com­put­er. And, won­der of won­der, some of those names and faces know who I am from see­ing my posts on those web­sites and blogs. I have even met a few of the writ­ers in per­son.

A gath­er­ing of 500 or 600 peo­ple can be over­whelm­ing. The thing is, you can’t be shy. (Bit of a prob­lem with that, as I’m sort of a nat­u­ral­ly shy per­son, but I over­come it quite well, I think) I met peo­ple I’d nev­er heard of before, and peo­ple who I already thought of as friends, even though I’d nev­er met them before.

I belong to the Gup­py chap­ter of Sis­ters in Crime, so I knew they were plan­ning to lunch togeth­er on Fri­day. Meet by the hotel front door, I’d read. So, I grabbed my cam­era, met, and lunched with the Gup­pies. We were spread out over sev­er­al tables. Here’s a few pic­tures of that event.

Late that Fri­day after­noon, I chat­ted with a few peo­ple. When I met Chloe. she had din­ner plans, but asked me to come along. So I end­ed up hav­ing a love­ly din­ner with five ladies from Neva­da. Besides Chloe, they were Mar­i­an, Martha, Susan, and Judy. They wel­comed me into their group, and, of course, I took a pic­ture.

the ladies from Nevada

the ladies from Neva­da

I attend­ed the Sis­ters in Crime break­fast on Sat­ur­day morn­ing. As I came in I glanced around at tables fill­ing up and saw a lot of unfa­mil­iar faces. I was gra­cious­ly accept­ed at the clos­est table, and as oth­ers joined us, I dis­cov­ered I was seat­ed with two of the hon­ored atten­dees, Lau­rie R. King and Lau­ra Lipp­man. (I didn’t have my cam­era with me. Sor­ry about that.)

Sat­ur­day night was the big blast–the awards ban­quet. As I milled among the

Susan Boyer-Agatha winner

Susan Boy­er-Agatha win­ner

mul­ti­tude at the pre-din­ner cock­tail par­ty, meet­ing quite a few writ­ers that I knew in per­son or elec­tron­i­cal­ly, I heard my name. There were my five Neva­da friends. They’d scored a table for six, and had a chair with my name on it.

I’d signed up to sit at one of the Hen­ery Press tables, so I met more peo­ple. And, I had my cam­era when one of their authors won the Agatha teapot for Best First Mys­tery.

Sun­day after­noon as I sat in the lob­by wait­ing for my hus­band to pick me up, I chat­ted with authors I’d met ear­li­er dur­ing the con­ven­tion. Of course, I went home with a ton of new books, for, as a mys­tery author, I’m def­i­nite­ly a mys­tery read­er. I tru­ly enjoyed attend­ing pan­el dis­cus­sions and lis­ten­ing to authors tell about things their books had in com­mon. One was cooking–with sam­ples. One was the invis­i­ble woman sleuth. There were so many, I couldn’t pos­si­bly attend all of them. How­ev­er, it was great to meet and greet new authors and new readers–probably my favorite part of this con­ven­tion.

How about you? As a read­er, or pos­si­bly as a writer, do you go to con­ven­tions and con­fer­ences? What is your favorite part? The class­es? The pan­els? The dis­cus­sions? Or, like me, meet­ing oth­ers who share your pas­sion.

It’s a Mystery

I love to read mys­ter­ies. I love to be amazed, astound­ed, and com­plete­ly mys­ti­fied by the events as they hap­pen. How did that ama­teur sleuth think that, or solve this prob­lem? I love twists and turns. The more the bet­ter. And unex­pect­ed events? Oh, my!

But, since I’m a writer, I’m think­ing all the time—how did the author come up with that? She’s good. (Or he.)

Okay, since I’m a writer, I’m also thinking—how the heck am I going to come up with all those twists and turns for my work in progress? Gee, I’ve done it before. Can I do it again? There’s always the advice, that when you come to a spot where you don’t know what to do—shoot some­body. Oh, dear, that sounds dread­ful. I have already killed off two peo­ple, but so far, no guns. And, I think, two bod­ies is quite enough (for now, any­way). So, how do I keep that inter­est lev­el up?

Day before yes­ter­day, I want­ed to put Jo, my ama­teur sleuth, some­place dif­fer­ent. Let’s see, she’s been—oh, heck. She’s got a day off. Put her on a tour boat. Fine, I put her on a tour boat, but the whole thing wasn’t going any­where, so yes­ter­day, the tour boat was stopped by the Coast Guard. Okay, now what? Before I turned off the com­put­er last night, when the Coast Guard heard Jo’s name, they informed her she was com­ing with them and bod­i­ly lift­ed her off the tour boat and into the Coast Guard cut­ter.

So, today I’m wondering—why did they do that? At the moment, I have no clue. So, either I fig­ure out an answer, or I for­get about the Coast Guard cut­ter, and maybe even the tour boat. I’ll keep think­ing though. FYI — some­times these for­ays into the unknown dis­ap­pear, but some­times they turn into an incred­i­ble plot point.

So, the mys­tery is—which will it be?