Great news! You don't have to wait
until December 23rd for "Festivus for the rest of us", you
have plenty to celebrate right now. According to the website
www.timeanddate.com, there are tons of holidays in December. There are some fun
ones and I think we all could use some fun right about now. Here are some of my faves.
December 5 is The Day of the Ninja,
a day to honor and celebrate the masked warriors in black garb from ancient
Japan. This unofficial holiday was created
in 2003 to commemorate the release of Tom Cruise’s movie, The Last Samurai.
§Watch ninja movies or have a Teenage
Mutant Ninja marathon. §Have a ninja themed party.
§Go to work dressed as a ninja
Did You Know…
…that contrary to popular belief,
ninjas were not all men? Women ninjas were known as Kunoichi.
December 8 is Pretend To Be A Time Traveler Day
§Watch your favorite time traveling movies and shows (Dr. Who, anyone?) §Host a blast from the past party. Choose an era and base the
party around the clothing, food and language of that period. §Walk around dressed like someone from the past or the future.
People will think you're cool, I swear! December 12 is Gingerbread
House Day This
unofficial holiday celebrates the tradition of making houses and architectural
models out of gingerbread cookies. The tradition can be traced back to the
How to Celebrate?
§Make your own
gingerbread house. Maybe try and recreate a architectural landmark with
gingerbread. §Hold a gingerbread
Did You Know…
….that according the
Guinness Book of World Records, the World’s largest gingerbread house was made
in 2013 by the Traditions Club in Bryan, Texas.
The house was 60 ft long and 10.1 ft tall.
My kind of house!
December 17 is Wright Brothers Day and recognizes the
first time Orville and Wilbur Wright successfully flew their heavier-than-air,
mechanically propelled aircraft in 1903.The
day has been observed nationally since 1959 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower
signed a proclamation declaring December 17 as Wright Brothers Day.
§Read more about the
history of aviation §Visit your local
aviation museum §If you have always
wanted to learn how to fly, why not start lessons on this day? §Catch a plane home
for the holidays and marvel at the fact that you don't have to travel by steam
locomotive or covered wagon.
December 30 is Bicarbonate
of Soda Day. Used
in baking, cleaning, polishing silver and treating heartburn, bicarbonate of
soda was used by ancient Egyptians for painting. Its scientific name is sodium
hydrogen carbonate but it is known by many other names around the world. Some
of the common ones are baking soda, cooking soda and bread soda.
How to Celebrate?
§Learn about the history of the manufacturing and use of
baking soda. §Learn what other things you can use baking soda for.
I was out of the country for Halloween. No cute trick-or-treaters, scary movies, or leftover candy for me--I missed it all. For someone who used to throw the most awesome Halloween parties in the neighborhood, it was tough. Even worse, by the time I came home, everyone was in full Thanksgiving mode. I felt cheated. My annual trip down spooky lane, a pillowcase filled with sticky candy, was just a fleeting memory. You may not know this, but every Halloween, three witches gather around their cauldron and mix a strange brew: Adrenalin to make our hearts race and endorphins to put a smile on our face. It gets us through the year.
So here it is, a little late, a creepy video for Halloween: The Joker Journal.
If you're a cozy mystery lover, then have I
got a blog for you! Not only is this blog a feast for the eyes with its
gorgeous hues of purple and lilac, it is a cornucopia of cozy mystery reviews.
The thoughtful well-written reviews are also organized into helpful
Have you ever tried writing a story in just 200 words? It's not easy, since you have to introduce at least one
character, set the scene, and make something interesting happen. It's a great
exercise and better than a crossword puzzle for sharpening your mind!
Golden Doughnut" is a short story contest where each 200 word entry must
be based on the photograph provided. This year's contest was judged by Craig Johnson, the bestselling author of the Longmire
series and I'm excited to report that my story, "The Monster Within",
made it to the top 12. Hooray! All 12 stories are worth the read and, as I
said, they are very short.
Just in time for Halloween, here are the 12 creepy stories:
people have read "Al Franken, Giant of the Senate" but I bet I'm the
only one who read it in a dark shuttered house with a tiny flashlight as
Hurricane Irma raged on, pounding trees and battering utility poles until they
were just poles. Luckily, I had saved your book for a rainy day (the rainiest),
which was also the longest day of my life (excluding childbirth).
millions of Americans, I've suffered anxiety, anguish, and angst since Election
Day. Okay, I'm completely freaked out--and the bad news just keeps on coming.
I'm ashamed to admit that I hadn't thought about how government functioned
since passing civics class in junior high so I had a lot of catching up to do.
With the help of Wikipedia and other non-fake news, I got up to speed and then
prayed our checks and balances would protect us from the ignorant, pernicious
grifter whose favorite hobbies were bullying and sexual predation. And
to do something, anything, I joined an army of other middle-aged women who wanted
to fight back. (Our motto: "We're not paid protesters, we're your
mother.") After participating in the Women's March in Miami I joined the
League of Women Voters, the ACLU, and Indivisible and then sent money
everywhere--Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, Human Rights Campaign, Sierra Club,
NRDC, the ACLU again, and so on. I went to rallies, signed hundreds of
petitions, joined activist FB groups, sent e-mails, made phone calls, mailed
postcards, and registered people to vote. I spoke at a rally and even organized
a protest! My husband of 30 years didn't bargain for a 56-year-old hippie
activist with radical bumper stickers on her car, but for better or worse,
there's any silver lining to all of this, it's that people are waking up and fighting
back. Personally, I've gone out of my comfort zone so many times I couldn't
find it with GPS. Still, it's daunting, depressing, and so, so difficult. Your
book made me laugh and gave me hope. It inspired me to keep going. If you can
do it, I can do it! If nothing else, the fact that I've gained fifty new
Facebook friends since November tells me one thing. I'm Good Enough, I'm
Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!
first time, all in one place, the award-winning books, "A Trip to the
Hardware Store & Other Calamities," and "I'm Not Talking About
You, Of Course," PLUS seven bonus essays. What a collection! If this
doesn't make you smile, then you're not even trying.
"A Trip to the Hardware Store" These humorous essays explore such quirky topics
as: disastrous home repairs, ("A Trip to the Hardware Store"), an
unfortunate dinner party ("Dinner is Served"), the truth about lazy
people ("Lazy Bones"), the weird life of a debt collector ("Your
Account is Past Due") and obsessions with gadgets ("Gadget
Girl"). Other essays examine how surreal the aging process is ("Where
Did the Time Go?"), why you shouldn't judge a person by their job
("Beyond Belief"), and how to complicate simple transactions
"I'm Not Talking About You, Of Course" A collection of humorous insights into important
topics ranging from annoying pet people ("I'm Not Talking About You, Of
Course"), to analyzing your inner child ("Irrational Fears"), to
living like the Amish in the aftermath of a hurricane ("A Jolt of
Electricity"). Other essays examine just how much damage can be caused by
a sneeze ("It All Started with a Loud Sneeze"), why it is so
complicated to buy a tube of toothpaste ("Ask Me No Questions"), how
a parent's obsessive hobbies can become an inescapable vortex ("Crazy
Hobbies"), and why spending the night in a sleep clinic is like being
abducted by probing aliens ("Nightmare at the Sleep Clinic").
If you don't see yourself in each of these
entertaining essays, then I'm not talking about you, of course.
So, I found this cool blog called "Map Your Mystery"
that organizes cozy mysteries geographically and I thought "What a fun
Christine (because it's her blog, lol) and she graciously agreed to read and
review my Jamie Quinn box set. I'm happy to report that she liked it and wrote
a lovely review:
recommend her blog. Here's the description:
About the Blog
The setting of a mystery
book may not be as important as the clues surrounding the mystery, but in cozy
mysteries, it adds to the flavor. Speaking of flavor, there are many, many cozy
mysteries with all types of businesses as the central focus - bake shop,
knitters shops, libraries, charmed bakeries and so much more. The businesses as
well as their location make for a fun read.
My plan with this blog
is to take you on a tour of the United States (at first) and plot out where
your favorite mysteries are set. Maybe you will find a mystery you have not
read or a business you might want to own yourself.
If you have a favorite
book or a location you would like to recommend, please email me at
firstname.lastname@example.org. If the book is one of a series, make sure you send
the title of the first in the series. I'm like that - need to read from the
beginning of the series.
may know, I have a fondness for wombats--even if they are the reason my poor
protagonist Jamie Quinn can't be with her boyfriend, Kip. Check out this short
video of the cutest baby wombat ever, you'll see why. :-)
The stranger stared into my eyes so deeply it felt like he was looking into my
soul. The staring went on for so long that I was starting to feel uncomfortable. He finally spoke.
"You have presbyopia."
"Oh my God," I said,
"Is that serious? It sounds like a tropical disease."
The ophthalmologist laughed. "No,
it means you have old eyes. You also have a touch of astigmatism."
I rubbed my blurry, traitorous eyes.
"What's the cure, doc?"
He shrugged. "Longer arms so
you can read a menu. Glasses, of course."
"Can't I just use a selfie
stick to hold my papers? What if I enlarge the font on my computer? Isn't there
a warehouse somewhere with spare parts for when mine wear out?"
The doctor laughed again. "If
you find it, let me know."
After spending an hour picking out the
least unflattering glasses and grumbling the whole time, I hightailed it over
to the dentist for my next appointment, Siri helpfully mapping out my route.
"Hmm," the dentist said, peering
into my mouth. "That's interesting."
"Uck-eww-argh?" I asked, which
translated to what do you mean by interesting?
"Yup," she said, after poking
my tooth with a sharp object, "you need a crown."
"Why?" I asked with my
eyes since my mouth had fingers prying it open.
"This filling is old, not much tooth
left. You need a root canal and a crown. Make the first appointment on your way
"First appointment?" I said, but she was already gone.
Next stop on my day of doctor
appointments was a bone density test. I was out of there in no time, but no
sooner had I reached my car than my phone rang, it was my primary doctor
calling with the results. The bone density test showed I had Osteopenia, a decrease
in bone density. She said I should start taking calcium supplements and do weight-bearing
exercises. That seemed manageable--definitely more pleasant than getting a root canal.
My final stop was the ENT's office
for a follow-up about my sinus issues.
"I think you have sleep
apnea," she said.
"Is there a pill for that?"
I asked hopefully. "Maybe a spray?"
She shook her head. "Afraid not.
You have to go do a sleep study."
"People are going to watch me
sleep?" I croaked.
She nodded. "Yup, you will be
wired to monitors and an EEG machine, with sensors all over your head and body.
They'll measure your oxygen intake, your REM sleep, your heart rate, and
whether you have restless legs."
"What happens if I do have
sleep apnea?" I whispered.
"You'll have to wear a CPAP
mask that blows air up your nose and forces your airway open."
"I HAVE TO GO HOME NOW," I
After all that, I needed another full
day just to recover, a mental health day. I had only one more question for Siri--which
way to the beach?
a giveaway of 2 paperbacks of "Engaged in Danger", my 4th Jamie Quinn
Cozy Mystery, (1st place winner in the "Chanticleer Murder & Mayhem
Novel Writing Competition", Amateur Detective category, AND "Book of
the Day" for www.bookoftheday.org).
where you can enter: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/243168-engaged-in-danger
My fourth Jamie Quinn cozy
mystery, "Engaged in Danger", is free today through 6/27, so grab
yourself a copy and tell all your friends!
life is good for reluctant family law attorney, Jamie Quinn--her father may get
his visa soon, her boyfriend is the bomb, and her law practice is growing like
crazy--but when she agrees to take on a high-profile divorce case, everything
falls apart. What looked like an opportunity to work with her friend Grace and
make some serious bucks has turned into a deadly game, one that could destroy
their friendship and tear their town apart. Why couldn't Jamie just leave well
Of all the hobbies I've attempted the one I excelled at the least
was cake-decorating. I had taken a class with my friend Cindy who, of course,
turned out to be a natural--brilliant with buttercream, a Michelangelo of
fondant flowers. Although I tried and tried to pay attention in class, my roses
flopped over, my crumb layer was uneven and my frosting palette looked like
a psychedelic album cover from the 60's. By the end of class I had more
frosting in my hair than on the cake, in vivid streaks of neon green and
screaming purple. Twenty years before people dyed their hair like that on
purpose I was a trend-setter. I forgot to mention the homework, LOTS of
homework, namely, baking a cake hours in advance so it would be cool enough to
frost in class.
By all measurable standards I was a failure, although there is
one person who wouldn't agree. Not my teacher, he knew I was hopeless. No, it
was my wonderful husband, who forced himself to stay awake until I came home
from class so he could "help" me into the house with my Frankenstein
cake. He praised each of my creations as if it were a Monet instead of Picasso
in his Cubist phase before shyly asking if he could have a piece. He LOVED my
I've since given away all the tools I bought for that class keeping only the cake container I used to transport the cakes back and forth. I
remembered the teacher telling us about elaborate wedding cakes he'd created
and how he prayed on the way to deliver them that they wouldn't fall over.
Likewise, when I had a cake perched on the back seat, I drove like a little old
lady on her way to church, barely hitting the gas, stopping carefully at each
red light, nervously checking my precious cargo through the
rear-view mirror. As a result I've become a more understanding driver,
inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt instead of laying on the horn.
Now, when I'm stuck behind a slow driver, I just smile to myself and think they
must have a cake in the backseat. And maybe if I'm extra nice they'll give me a
One of my favorite blogs, "Escape With Dollycas Into A Good
Book", has just published a fabulous review of my latest Jamie Quinn
Mystery, "Jeopardy in July". Oh, happy day! And along with this gem
of a review is a chance to win one of three copies of my book. Hurry, the
contest ends May 25th. Thanks, Lori!
Of all the mysteries in my life, the one I
someday hope to solve is the mystery of my extra key. Like most people, I have a ring of keys, the keys to my own little kingdom. There's a key to my house, shiny and silver; a key to my sister's house, a bronze colored key that always sticks in the lock and takes all my strength to turn; two keys to my office, a square one for the door, another for the front gate, and my extra key. For the life of me, I don't know what it's for but I'm afraid to throw it out in case it's critically important, the one key I need for an emergency yet to be imagined.
I've wracked my brain trying to figure this out. Is it a key to my neighbor's house? No. Is it a key to my former neighbor's house? No. (Apparently I'm the go-to girl for spare keys to your house.) Is it a key to a suitcase, a safe deposit box, a jewelry box, a bicycle lock? A treasure chest, a magic closet, Pandora's Box? What is it for and why is it here? I don't remember putting it on the ring, let alone why it's there. Am I losing my memory, or even my mind? Is this how Alzheimer's starts?
I wonder how I can figure this out. Maybe a Facebook post to my circle of friends asking if anyone needs their key back? A lost & found ad on Craigslist? Maybe I could reverse-engineer the problem, try the key in every lock I find in all my usual haunts. I could undergo hypnosis and return to the time I acquired the key, maybe resolve some phobias along the way. Or I could do the unthinkable--take it off the ring and stick it in a drawer. (You thought I was going to say throw it out, didn't you?) No, I won't do that. I'm going to keep it on my key ring and imagine it's the key to my happy place, my refuge from the world, my cozy corner. There's a rocking chair there with a soft tattered quilt, a purring cat, and my favorite book, its pages dog-eared. It's always raining outside in a steady downpour that taps on the window as I stay snug and dry. Nobody has a key to this secret room except for me. And every time I see my extra key, I'll smile a secret smile and think about my secret room and what I'll do the next time I go there.
I'm afraid I have some bad news, Big Brother really is watching
you. It took a while for George Orwell's dystopian world of "Nineteen
Eighty-Four" to come to pass, but here we are. Your computer is watching
your every move, your phone tracks you--heck, even Uber knows where
you are after you've deleted the app. And no, you're not paranoid if you think
your toaster is judging you or your fit-bit is giving away all your secrets,
it's true. Welcome to the "Internet of Things"! Here's some more bad
news, I've been watching you too. I never meant for it to happen, I swear, but the
temptation was too great. If Big Brother is watching you, Little Sister is
right behind him.
It started innocently enough. I wrote a few books and
self-published them to Kindle. I eagerly agreed to be part of the Kindle
Unlimited library in order to gain exposure for my books. Then KU switched from
paying authors by the download to paying them by the pages actually read. You
probably don't know this, but Kindle is watching you read every page--and so am
I. I have an up-to-the-minute website telling me which of my books is being read,
how many pages, and what country you're in! It's astounding, it's fantastic,
and it's terribly addicting. Like watching the clock in Times Square tick down
the seconds to the new year, I can't stop watching you read. It's lonely for me,
I wish we could talk. I have so many questions for you. "Did you like that
part? Were you surprised by the ending? Did my corny joke make you laugh?"
You're so close, yet so far away...
Anyway, I didn't mean to freak you out. Please keep reading and
don't mind me as I look over your shoulder. I'll be cheering you on!
As some of you may recall, I used to be Gadget Girl, a person
so enamored of the latest kitchen gadgets that I had to have them all.
Unfortunately, I had conveniently forgotten the second law of physics--that two
objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. When I couldn't open
my kitchen drawers because they were stuffed to capacity I had to part with my
dear ones and simplify my life.
But the siren's call of new gadgets soon lured
me in again. First, I convinced myself that I had to have a battery-operated hands-free
can opener because of my sore thumb. Then I had to
have a Spiralizer because it was fun and it made zucchini so much more appealing. One thing led to another and soon I couldn't open my drawers again. Maybe I can start hanging gadgets on the wall, like the tools in the garage. I'll get started on that right away, but first, I'm going to need a new drill! :-)
Check out the original Gadget Girl essay below. For more (cheap) laughs, check out my book: Quirky
Essays for Quirky People: The Complete Collection, available on Amazon as an e-book and audio-book, narrated by the wonderful Carrie Lee Martz.
If the opposite of “hoarder” is a person who despises
clutter, knick-knacks, gewgaws and tchotchkes, then I am that person, with one
notable exception. Although I worship Minimalism as a philosophy, and also as a
house-cleaning technique, I admit I have a weakness: I love
gadgets–specifically, kitchen gadgets. I can’t help it. While I can easily ignore
the siren call of an infomercial (Seal in flavor! Juice it! Grill away fat!)
and I’ve never purchased a Ginsu knife (who wants to cut their sneakers in
half?), I just can’t resist a cool gadget. Maybe it’s the way they solve
problems I didn’t know I had, but my online dictionary got it right, a gadget
really is an “ingenious device.”
Let’s start low-tech with the apple slicer. Now, tell me this: who
wouldn’t enjoy eating a crisp Fuji, Gala or Granny Smith apple cut into eight
perfectly symmetrical slices? Nobody, that’s who. When Eve took a bite of her
first apple, she had to be wondering, “Isn’t there an easier way to eat this
thing?” She would have appreciated the apple slicer.
Of course, if you want to bake
your apple, you should put away the slicer and take out your apple corer. Once that pesky core is
gone, you can fill your apple with yummy deliciousness like honey, raisins
& cinnamon, and then top it off with vanilla ice cream when it's baked. See
what you’ve been missing? Luckily, both of these gadgets are inexpensive and
fit neatly in your kitchen drawer.
Things start to get tricky if
you’re a garlic-lover, and honestly, who isn’t? The first gadget you’ll need is
a garlic keeper so your garlic stays
fresh as a daisy, er, just fresh. Next up, you’ll want to buy a garlic roaster because-- what’s the
point of eating fresh-baked, crusty bread if there’s no roasted garlic to
spread on it? You’ll need only a few more gadgets to complete your set: a garlic peeler, a garlic press, a garlic slicer,
a garlic dicer and a magic soap bar made of stainless steel
to take away the garlic smell. Personally, I enjoy the smell of garlic. I’d
like to create a garlic perfume called “Delicioso.” A light spritz would make
you smell like a world-class chef and, in the event of a culinary crisis, you
could also spray it on your food. All of these gadgets are essential, but don’t
worry, they won’t take up much space, only half of a kitchen drawer.
Since you still have some room
in the drawer, you should consider adding these beauties: a tomato stem remover, a corn stripper, a lemon zester, a grapefruit segmenter, an herb snipper with a stem
stripper, an avocado slicer, a strawberry huller, a cherry pitter, an olive
stuffer, a ravioli stamper, a calzone mold, and my absolute favorite, an egg-cuber, so you can make square
hard-boiled eggs that won’t roll off your plate. Genius!
Now that your drawer is full,
let’s talk about the fun stuff. You can’t live without a Popsicle maker if you have kids--that’s a fact–and you just can’t
beat the smell of fresh bread wafting from your automatic bread maker. If you pour the ingredients in at night and
set the timer, you’ll be dreaming you live in a bakery as you bake fresh bread
in your sleep. If you’re health-conscious, then an electric yogurt-maker is perfect for you, and you can always beat
the summer heat with your electric
ice-cream maker. Think of the exotic flavors you could invent, like bourbon
with cornflakes, or candied bacon--you can’t find those in the store! And how
about those fancy Paninis you can make with your Panini Press?
But we aren’t done yet! Just think how much you’ll enjoy
the gentle gurgle of seltzer water flowing from your Sodastream and the Belgian waffles you made in your waffle iron, not to mention the fries
you fried in your Fry Daddy, the
coffee you ground with your coffee
grinder, the noodles spiraling out of your pasta maker and the perfectly prepped lettuce leaves shooting out
of your salad spinner. When you’re
done with all that, you can bathe in your chocolate
fountain. Isn't life good?
You may be wondering where to
put all of these amazing gadgets. It’s simple really, just get rid of your
knick-knacks, gewgaws and tchotchkes, and any other useless clutter, like
dishes, pots & pans, and all the food in your pantry, and you’ll have
plenty of room for all this neat stuff. Enjoy!
I used to be so careful.
After all, every how-to book on the art of writing provides the same
advice--don't base your fictional characters on real people. While it's okay to
borrow a trait or a habit or a quirk, you should never borrow the entire
personality or persona--at least according to the experts. It only leads to
trouble and who wants trouble? Thus were born my composite people; I was Dr.
Frankenstein and they were my creations, cobbled together from spare parts,
leftover remarks, and funny anecdotes from long ago. My technique had three
steps. I would start with a picture from a magazine of what I imagined my
character looked like, usually it was an advertisement. Next, I would choose a
name, working hard to ensure that it wasn't already taken, that it wasn't the
name of someone famous or notorious (Google to the rescue), and, finally, I
would invent a backstory for my character hoping it was original enough to pass
muster. Not only did I want to avoid basing my characters on real people, I also
wanted to avoid basing them on fictional characters. Considering that I've read
thousands of books in my life I could have easily lifted a character
unintentionally, believing it came to me in a dream.
That's the challenge--to
take traits from real people, incorporate those traits into fictional
characters and make them seem like real people. Don't think about it too hard
or you'll give yourself a headache--I know I do. It's all about capturing an
essence, like lightning in a bottle. Unlike some authors, I focus on dialogue
more than physical description because characters can reveal so much of
themselves by what they say, what they leave unsaid and by their body language.
An emotion can be conveyed by simply raising one perfect eyebrow or by walking
away. It's difficult to portray realism in an artificial setting like a novel
because most of what real people discuss is not novel-worthy--nobody wants to
read about the weather or your Aunt Sally's gallstones. The rule to remember is:
Less is more. Every word of dialogue should pack a punch by furthering the plot
or developing the character. Ideally, it would do both.
I must confess that one
of my best characters I've created is Grace Anderson, BFF to my protagonist
Jamie Quinn. To bring Grace to life, I demonstrate her sense of humor and her
concern for Jamie through examples. The two women have been friends since law
school and in a flashback Jamie remembers some of the practical jokes Grace
pulled back then. When Jamie's disabled cousin gets into trouble in the
present, I show how Grace swoops in to help in concrete ways through her
actions. Grace combines many of the qualities of my closest friends. As a
result, my friends all see themselves in her. Grace is funny and smart, loyal
and intuitive, she's a blast to be around--who wouldn't want to be Grace? But,
although my girlfriends are all Grace, none of them is Grace
Now my husband is a
different story, he is fair game and he knows it. If Jamie's tree-hugging,
romantic, smart-aleck boyfriend Kip resembles my husband, then my husband
shouldn't have been such a tree-hugging, romantic, smart-aleck. Whenever my
husband says something funny, I write it down. I used to be sly about it, now I
don't bother. To be fair, I write it down whenever anyone says something funny,
ironic, or crazy, but he is just a good source of material. Here's an example:
ever since our kids moved out, I barely cook; Suzy Homemaker has left the
building (if she ever in fact lived here). One night, after I brought home
take-out for dinner, my husband thanked me for doing that. To which I said,
Of course! It was the least I could do. To which he replied I'm pretty
sure you could've done less…
For those of you
familiar with my body of work (and I love you, whoever you are), you may recall
that my children were the protagonists of my first book, "The Fight for
Magicallus". That book started out as a joke, a motherly tool, you might
say and came about because my boys wouldn't stop playing video games. So I did
what any mother would do, I wrote a story in which they were sucked into their
video game and had to figure out how to escape. Ultimately, their only way out
was to read a book. Not sure if they learned the lesson, but they did enjoy
starring in their own adventure and I know for a fact that they read at least
And so, family members
notwithstanding, I have been conscientious about not pilfering people's
personalities for my books--until one day when tragedy struck. My cousin's
daughter died suddenly of heart disease at the age of twenty-seven. I flew to
the northeast to be with them a few weeks after the funeral and it was then
that my cousin's husband asked me if I would do him a favor. I couldn't imagine
what it might be. When he asked if I could make Jessie a character in one of my
books I was honored but also nervous about getting it right. I spent time with
him poring over pictures and videos, learning more about my young cousin. I
wanted to portray her accurately; she was such a free spirit despite her
life-long battle with heart disease. Incorporating her love of dogs and
preference for music from the sixties, I created a girl with purple hair who
favored tie-dyed shirts and owned a rock-and-roll-themed dog rescue. Since her
first appearance in "Engaged in Danger" Jessie has become one of my
favorite characters and she makes me feel closer to the cousin I wish I'd known
opened a door I didn't know existed. Suddenly, friends and relatives were shyly
coming forward to ask if they, too, could become characters in one of my books.
I said, sure, if you write your own back story, pick your own name, and
provide your physical description. You can be whoever you want to be, I'll make
it work. And that's how my sister Jodi, a high-ranking executive at a cable
network, became a master gardener at an assisted living facility happily
tending to her plants in my current book, "Jeopardy in July". What
Jodi doesn't know is how she will help Jamie Quinn solve the murders happening
around her. All I can say is if Jodi wants to find out, she'll just have to
read the book.
Cozy mysteries are the
perfect vehicle for me because I enjoy writing about funny, smart, quirky
characters who sometimes make snarky remarks but who always look out for each
other. Their situations may not be realistic, but their relationships are and
their realistic and snappy dialogue is the reason.
People debate the usefulness of
the Oxford comma and fret over the use of any comma, but one little comma can
a charming example from a t-shirt I saw:
love barbecuing my friends and my family." Underneath it said "Don't
be a cannibal, use a comma!" lol!
week, on Jeopardy, the Oxford comma was one of the answers. The question was:
"I greatly admire my parents, Superman and Wonder Woman."
Unless you're a superhero (and maybe you are), you need an Oxford comma after
the word Superman.
says grammar can't be fun? For more grammar tips, check out my book
"Teatime with Mrs. Grammar Person," which is free on Kindle through
April 16. :-)
I'm having such a fun month! My new Jamie
Quinn book, "Jeopardy in July", is out and garnering great reviews,
my fourth Jamie Quinn book won a prestigious award, and now I'm a nominee for "The
Authors Show 2017 Top Female Authors". Somebody pinch me! Ow, not so hard,
MYSTERY & MAYHEM Awards – First Place Category Winners
The Mystery & Mayhem Awards writing competition
recognizes emerging new talent and outstanding works in the genre of Cozy
Mysteries and Not-So-Cozy Mysteries. The Mystery & Mayhem Awards is a
division of the Chanticleer Awards International Writing
honored to announce the 2016 M&M Awards Official First Place Category
Amateur Sleuth: Engaged
in Danger: A Jamie Quinn Mystery by Barbara
I had the pleasure of watching To Walk Invisible The Brontë Sisters the other night on PBS and I loved it. Three remarkable, brilliant sisters, two of whom died (spoiler alert!) very young at 29 and 30 of tuberculosis, all of whom wrote lasting works of literature and poetry. Think how much richer our world would be had they lived longer! As women, they had such limited options that they had to write under men's names to be published and to be taken seriously. I'd like to think we have come so far, but when I consider that Joanne Rowling was highly encouraged to write under the name J.K. Rowling for the same reason, I feel a bit discouraged. Ultimately, Charlotte reveals herself to be Currer Bell and enjoys popularity and fame during her lifetime. I highly recommend this beautiful period drama.
Written and directed by Sally Wainwright (Happy Valley, Last
Tango in Halifax), To Walk Invisible depicts
the evolution of secluded, dutiful clergyman’s daughters into authors of the
most controversial fiction of the 1840s. The drama stars Finn Atkins (Eden Lake) as Charlotte, who shocked society
with her edgy epic, Jane Eyre; Chloe
Pirrie (War and Peace) as Emily, author of
the darkly gothic and disturbing Wuthering
Heights; and Charlie Murphy (Happy Valley)
as Anne, whose penned the true-to-life love story The
Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
Also starring are Jonathan Pryce (Wolf Hall) as their distracted father, Reverend
Patrick Brontë; and Adam Nagaitis as the sisters’ only brother, Branwell, whose
wild and dissipated life contributed to vivid characters in each of their
Based largely on Charlotte’s letters, the
film follows the Brontë sisters in the eventful three-year period that saw them
rise from ordinary, unmarried women, taking care of the household and their
widowed father, to the secret authors of the world’s most sensational literature.
A kindred spirit named Markus
from Belgium with a wonderful blog called "Meat Doesn't Grow in My
and most important a somehow grumpy cat, has written a lovely review
of my Jamie Quinn Box Set. Check it out here:
Barbara Venkataraman, Jamie Quinn mysteries, cozy mysteries, meat
doesn't grow in my garden blog
Check out this great review of "Peril in the Park", my third Jamie Quinn cozy mystery and enter a giveaway for the box set of Books 1-3. Also, be sure to check out all of the other great reviews on this wonderful blog, Literary Flits. Thanks, Stephanie Jane!