Wednesday, February 14, 2018


I hope you’re celebrating with someone you love today. If so, you don’t have time to read a blog, so I’ll simply wish you a Happy Heart Day!

I do love all my readers and online friends. Thank you for being here.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Some Research for People of the Wind

 My most research-intensive series is the People of the Wind mystery series. Those are the books featuring a Neanderthal tribe and set 30,000 years ago. I took the artistic license of putting the tribe in North America. Aside from that, I try to make everything about them and the surroundings as true to life as possible. We don’t know everything about them, of course, but we’re learning more all the time.

I had to research every single step of the way, beginning with the climate and the appearance of the land at that time. I learned that much of the present day Midwest was an open spruce parkland with balsam poplar and quaking aspen, also mires, lakes, and ponds. The landscape looked much as Minnesota, Wisconsin, northern Michigan and parts of Canada look today. The trees growing then are those that grow now in the Rocky Mountains.  The summers were cooler then and the winters a bit colder. I was astounded to learn that the Mississippi River didn’t exist yet! This was the time before the advance of the last glacier to cover much of the Midwest. The Mississippi was created on its retreat. (1)

The animals that were around were very different. What are called mega-fauna, very large animals, mostly became extinct on this continent at around 10,000 years ago. Some of these were giant sloths, mammoths, mastodons, muskox (which are not extinct), stag-moose, dire wolves, short-faced bears, giant beavers, peccaries, sabertooth and scimitar cats, American cave lion, tapirs, and camelops (ancestor to modern camels), eve an giant version of bison, just to name a few. There were also very tiny horses that migrated to Asia and disappeared here until modern horses were brought here by the Spaniards.  (2)

Then there was the task of creating the characters. I had to know what they might have looked like, what they ate, what they wore. I learned that they largely ate meat and only ate other things when it was unavailable. They would have had to have foot coverings and more than an animal skin draped across a shoulder to survive the climates they lived through. (They existed from 250,000 years ago to about 28,000 years ago—a long, long time.) It is likely they dried meat from one hunt until they got more. It takes more than a bit of ingenuity to bring down a mammoth when you’re about 5 1/2 feet tall.

I researched if they could speak or not and, from there, what their language might have sounded like. That involved studying how babies learn to speak, how people with impediments speak, what early languages were like, and great stuff like that.

That’s not the extent of my research, just a bit of it, to give you an idea. Hope you enjoyed the post!

(2) Ice Age Mammals of North America: A Guide to the Big, the Hairy, and the Bizarre Ian M. Lange
(3) Journal of Archeological Science 6/3/2009 “Energy Use by Eem Neanderthals” by Bent Sørensen.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Book by Any Other Name?

People sometimes ask me how I pick my book titles. (They never ask how I pick short story titles, but those are just as hard.) The answer, for the books, is that sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. For the short stories, I’m guilty in all cases. All those titles are mine.

For instance, EINE KLEINE MURDER started out life as SONG OF DEATH. After it was picked up by Barking Rain Press, the title was changed to suit the publishing house. If you look at their mystery/crime publications, you’ll see that there are no titles that contain the word “death.” Several do contain “murder,” so that was more acceptable to them. REQUIEM IN RED started out as REQUIEM FOR RED. I wanted the reader to have to guess which redhead would get murdered as they started into the book, but the publisher didn’t think it worked, so it was changed. I have picked out the third title, SWAN SONG, so we’ll see if that flied—after I finish the book.

My Imogene Duckworthy series has one word titles, CHOKE, SMOKE, and BROKE. I chose these titles myself and was working under the theory that long works should have short titles and short works should have long titles. This is also the reason I named my Agatha-nominated short story HANDBASKETS, DRAWERS, AND A KILLER COLD. I wish I could remember where I read that, about long and short titles, but I remember I liked the idea and try to use it, although I don’t always succeed. (Fourth one will be STROKE.)

My People of the Wind Neanderthal titles are also mine and were liked by Untreed Reads, the publisher: DEATH IN THE TIME OF ICE and DEATH ON THE TREK. (Third one will be DEATH IN THE NEW LAND.)

The Fat Cat books were titled by the publisher. I suggested many titles for the first one, all of which were rejected in favor of FAT CAT AT LARGE. I had a title I loved for the second one, but they had to have a shorter one because of the fat, puffy font they’d gone with. For book two, I liked FAT CAT GETS HIS LICKS, but it is now FAT CAT SPREADS OUT. The title of the third book FAT CAT TAKES THE CAKE (changed from FAT CAT IN A PINCH), gave me pause. The cover was given to me and there was cake on it! However, there was no cake in the novel. I asked them if that was a problem and they didn’t think so. I did, though, so I stuck in some cake and (spoiler alert) managed to make it part of a vital clue.

One thing that I try very hard to do for a series is to have titles that go together, ones that reader can tell are part of the series. One series has titles that rhyme (--OKE). In another, they all begin with the word DEATH; another, they all start out FAT CAT; the classical music series titles all invoke music. None of mine are as clever and Sue Grafton’s alphabet books or Janet Evanovitch’s number titles. But they’re mine and I like them all!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Argh! Is Piracy a Problem for Novelists?

This discussion comes up periodically on different online discussion sites and it rose up again recently on one I belong to. Everyone can cite one or two instances where an author decided to aggressively go after someone who had, they perceived, stolen their work.

Personally, I wouldn’t judge the author’s reaction as an indication that it’s a problem. What you should do it figure out what the effect on the author is. The bottom line is income, right? Does a pirated book hurt their sales?

(This is assuming that the book IS pirated. Usually, when you see a copy of your book for sale somewhere that you didn’t authorize, especially if it’s offered free or for a very low price, the site doesn’t have your book. They’ve merely copied the cover and anyone who tries to download it will be infected with a computer virus. You don’t have to worry about those sites one little bit.)

How does the rare actual pirated copy hurt you? If it does. Think about it. People who download from the sites that are giving your book away, just want free books. They’re not going to buy your book anyway. So you haven’t lost a sale. The sites that are selling your book deeply discounted may be taking away a sale, but you are gaining a reader.

What’s the biggest challenge for a published writer? Selling your books, right? In order to sell them, you have to attempt to tell people about them. If no one knows you or your books, has never heard of you, no one will buy your stuff.

As many (including Joanna Penn below) will point out, you should be more concerned about obscurity than piracy. The more people that read your works, the more chances you have of creating fans, some of whom will spread the word. And spreading the word is what you want.

Read what Joanna Penn says about Cory Doctorow’s experiences.

This site gives the same advice, let it go. But it goes on to detail steps to take if you’re determined to get justice for your title.

This article also has a link to creating a strong, effective copyright page.
Having a proper copyright page is enough to take legal action, should you decide to pursue that.

However, if you’re taking legal action, this site has details on registering your copyright with the US Copyright Office.
This site also has useful information on using quotes, lyrics, real people, etc.

The final step, getting the book offer off the online site, is the hardest. You can hire a service for this if you’re serious about not having copies of your book in random places.  Details at the end of this site, mentioned above:

I do not choose to spend my time and money going after pirates. Rather, I consider it flattery when someone else thinks they can make tons of money stealing my books. Good luck to them! It doesn’t work all that well for me, as you well know if you’re also a writer who hasn’t made it to the New York Times bestseller list yet.

pirate flag from
pirate from

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Writing on a Snowy Day

1 17 2018 

Robins at the frozen birdbath 1/15/18

OK, I know I don’t live in the real north, where I have lived for many years, and I know I don’t have to commute anymore, which I also did for many years. But even then I loved snow. I love it even more now.

I have a reverse case of SADD. I get all depressed with the hot, sunshiny days approach. I don’t like heat and I don’t like to be in the sun. I like winter! It energizes me.

Today is a great day. Gentle snow is falling silently straight down. The poem I’ve known since I was a child popped into my head today.

The north wind doth blow
And we shall have snow.
And what will poor Robin do then, poor thing?
He’ll hide in the barn
To keep himself warm
And hide his head under his wing, poor thing.

So I am contently concentrating on my writing today. Content except for my chapped lips. That’s a hazard of being a writer. How so, you say?

Here’s the thing. One of my characters has a habit of chewing her lower lip when she thinks or is upset. So, as I’m writing her, I’m doing that, too. I stopped last night to try to figure out the horse/cart situation here. Were my lips chapped and so I gave them to her? Or did they get chapped because she started it? I have no way of knowing. But I do know I will have to get her some lip balm. (I took a picture of my chapped lips, but it’s too gross to post here.)

Yes, this is firmly in the Writers Are Strange Department.

I hope you are warm and cozy today and don’t have to struggle with weather. If you DO have to, I hope you are victorious and come home safe.

Second robin picture from morguefile

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

New Beginnings

1 9 2018 

It’s a new year, obviously. For me, this year is new in several significant ways.

First of all, I found a new way to celebrate the Christmas and New Year holidays. I needed a break from the usual way, which was with my husband and family. At my husband’s memorial service in October, our oldest son suggested I come with them to Spain for the holidays. Okay, he didn’t exactly suggest—he told me I was going to do that. I agreed it would be a good idea! It would have been dismal sitting at home by myself, missing the things we’ve been doing together for so many years: putting lights on the house, decorating the tree, doing the cards and Christmas letter, eating cookies and other traditional foods.

So I made a break. The other two kids were with the other sides of their families, and I went with our oldest, my daughter-in-law, granddaughter and her boyfriend, and a couple of our son and DIL’s friends to Spain, where their other daughter and her husband have been living for a few years now. Since I was tied down taking care of Hubby, I hadn’t gotten a chance to visit her there.

It was quite a break! The foods were all unfamiliar, I didn’t put up any lights or even a tree (only a wreath on the door before I left), and I didn’t mail out the Christmas letter until a couple of days ago. I was sick while there, but even so had a wonderful time and the trip was a total distraction. I didn’t have a chance to miss Hubby nearly as much as I would have if I had stayed home.

I don’t think Christmas in Spain will become my new tradition, but it gave me a break and I’ll have all year to figure out what to do next year.

This year marks another new beginning. My new series with Lyrical Press! I’m nearly done with the first novel in the series and am trying to turn it in by the end of this month. It needs some beefing up and polishing, which I started in on today. My hope is that my Fat Cat fans will follow me to this new set of characters and will like these Vintage Sweets books and characters as well as they liked Chase and Quincy and the gang in Dinkeytown.

The other obvious new beginning is my life as a widow. That will take the most work and will be the hardest. I’ve gotten tremendous support from friends, family, even strangers and those I know only here, online. I belong to one Grief Share group and am exploring another one in a couple of weeks. I’ve started back to the Pilates class I used to go to last year, and will resume walking as soon as weather permits (freezing rain today!). I’ve gotten out of shape caring for Hubby and need to recover my stamina and strength.

So, onward into 2018 I go. My motto this year: YOU CAN DO IT!

1st and 3rd pix from Morguefile. The second one is mine from Spain.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


My travels have taken a long detour since my last post, which was in August. That was the month my eclipse anthology, DAY OF THE DARK, came out. Also the actual eclipse, which happened in my own back yard. All our kids came here to see it, which was a wonderful thing, considering what happened next.

I’d been looking for a place for my husband to stay for quite a few months. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 4 years ago and Parkinson’s 3 years ago. It was especially cruel for him to have diseases that attacked both his brain and his body. However, he handled everything with incredible bravery and grace. His attitude was, it is what it is and we’ll deal with it. He was never angry. I was angry enough for both of us. Through everything he struggled to do everything he possibly could and never gave up on anything.

By July or so, his care had gotten to be too much for me, even with home health aides a few hours a day. The middle of August, he moved into a nice, small, residential facility. They took very good care of him there, but he continued to decline, more rapidly than before. After only a month in the home, he passed away, on September 21st, a day that will be etched in my mind forever.

I had a September deadline for my next novel, the first in the Vintage Sweets series. I contacted my agent in July or so and told her I knew I wouldn’t be able to meet that deadline. In fact, I stopped being able to write at all in August. August, September, and October, I was consumed by his dying and then by the aftermath.

I know many other women, and men, too, have gone through losing a long-time spouse. We were married for 50 years in June. I draw hope from the strength of the people I know who have been through this, and bless every single one of them who have contacted and supported me. I hope to pass this on in the future, as they have done.

My husband’s niece sent me this anonymous poem that spoke to me, almost out loud. I’ve posted it here in case it can give anyone else comfort and some measure of making sense of everything.

Also, I have been able, this month, to start writing again and hope to finish my first draft by the end of the year. It’ll be tight, but I’m working hard, so I may not post every week here. But I’ll get back to my blog eventually on a regular basis.

One or the other must leave,
One or the other must stay.
One or the other must grieve,
That is forever the way.
That is the vow that was sworn,
Faithful 'til death do us part.
Braving what had to be borne,
Hiding the ache in the heart.
One, howsoever adored,
First must be summoned away.
That is the will of the Lord
One or the other must stay.    ~Anonymous

photos from photobucket