Friday, August 26, 2016

To Be Back at the Keyboard Again

The last two weeks went by in a blur. I didn’t even have time to unpack my suitcase from my Writers Police Academy trip until I’d been home almost a week. What with WPA and then a busy too weeks of seminars and finishing our corporate taxes, my writing got put on hold. I think I was feeling writing deprived and started seeing stories wherever I went.

Yesterday we stopped for lunch on the way to our seminar.

It was at the end of lunch, but before happy hour and the place was mostly empty. The waitress was working as bartender as well. The manager delivered the food. There were two people at the bar with a lot of space between them. The white haired man was nursing a glass of white wine and was talking about New York to someone. All I could see of the woman, who sat several stools away, was her dark hair and her rather prim looking knitted caplet. She had an amber colored drink. Eventually the white haired man said something about shipping containers being used to make housing for homeless people and apparently it interested her because she began to talk to him

Then he asked if she minded if he moved closer so he wouldn’t have to yell, but with a bunch of disclaimers about it meaning anything else. I guess she agreed because then he was sitting next to her. As their conversation continued, I wondered if he’d really meant what he said about not trying to pick her up. She ordered another drink. But he drained is wine glass and then with a wave, headed for the door. So I guess he was just a guy looking for someone to talk to.

At a table nearby a man in scrubs was sitting on the edge of his seat leaning forward as he talked to a blond woman. She was making enough gestures with her hair to count as flirting. She also was leaning toward him. I watched them with interest until they got up and left through a side door. What was their story? Did she work for him? Was he hoping for dessert? It sure looked like something was going on.

There was a lot of action going on behind the bar. An espresso machine was being installed. The salesman/installer was demonstrating it to the employees. He had the nonchalance of someone who could probably work the machine in his sleep. However, the employees appeared to be tense about learning all the ins and outs of the complicated machine.

It reminded me of when I got the operator job at the phone company a long, long time ago. I worked at an old fashioned switchboard and wore an equally old fashioned headset that pinched your ear by the end of the day. There were so many things to learn. We handled coin phone calls, so I’d have to tell someone when their three minutes were up (remember that?) And at the end of the call, tell them how much to put into the phone. I had to tell the coins by the sound. There were different colored clips to put on the cords. There was no 911 yet, so I had to learn how to handle emergency calls. And be speedy about all of it. I remembered feeling like I’d never be able to manage it. But then one day, there I was clipping those cords, collecting coins, getting the fire department places and dealing with person to person and collect calls as if it was all nothing special.

We left while they were still figuring out the espresso machine. I hoped they’re experience would be like mine. And now it’s back to work on A Tangled Yarn. What a relief to be writing again.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Skeletons in the Attic by Judy Penz Sheluk

Please join me in welcoming Judy Penz Sheluk back to Killer Hobbies today.  My protagonist, Kate, is a yoga instructor, and she often uses yoga to clear her mind when sleuthing.  Judy has two series.  The protagonists in each are runners.  Judy, how does running feature in your mysteries?

It was almost a year ago to the day when I made my first appearance on Killer Hobbies. At the time, I was promoting my debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, the first in my Glass Dolphin Mystery series. I wrote about my protagonist, Emily Garland, and her passion for running.

Running also plays a part in my latest mystery, Skeletons in the Attic, the first in my Marketville Mystery series. Once again, my protagonist, Calamity (Callie) Barnstable, is a runner. Here’s one example from the book where Callie’s running comes into play:

I could have done a lot of productive, potentially case-solving things on Saturday; ‘could have’ being the operative words. Instead, I gave myself permission to take the day off from sleuthing and carpet removal to explore the twelve-mile paved trail system that ran through the center of Marketville. According to the Town’s website, the trail followed the Dutch River and passed through parks and green spaces, past wetlands and historic cultural sites, and had links to trails in two surrounding towns. It sounded like a runner’s paradise.

The great thing about running—besides the fact that it allows you to eat more than kale and cabbage soup—is that it clears the clutter from your mind. By the time I arrived home, I had made the decision to show the photographs I’d found to Royce.

Who is Royce and what photographs, you might ask. Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out…but I will tell you that the trail system through my fictional town of Marketville is very loosely based on the Nokiidaa Trail system, which links three communities (Aurora, Newmarket and East Gwillimbury, Ontario, Canada), following the East Holland River. I’ve had the pleasure of running and walking on those trails many times. And yes, Marketville is loosely based on Newmarket (and I do mean, loosely).

I’ve been asked if all my protagonists will be runners, and that’s not the plan at the moment, but to quote my mother, “Never throw never far away, or you’ll be picking never up one day.”

Bio: Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published in August 2016.

Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri.

Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

Find Judy on her website/blog at, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.

Here is a link to the Nokiidaa Trail System:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Work After a Busy Weekend

I've been busily at work on my next paranormal romance for Harlequin Nocturne about Alpha Force, my covert military unit of shapeshifters.  My deadline is September 1 and I think I'll make it!   I wasn't sure since a medical issue took some time, but I kept going as best I could and it all worked out.  At the moment I'm going over some notes a helpful friend made on my draft manuscript and hope to be able to send a polished version off before the deadline.
Life issues other kinds of delays, too.  I've posted here about my research about K9s for another miniseries I hope to write, and I had to fit that in despite not always having a lot to say about timing.

And I mentioned last week that I'd be on a panel with other writers at Book Carnival last Saturday as well as signing my new Harlequin Romantic Suspense novel, COVERT ALLIANCE.  Then, on Sunday, was the Los Angeles Romance Authors meeting.  These days the chapter meets in my neighborhood and I attempt to attend as often as possible to get together with other writers and learn anything new that I can.  Therefore, I had stuff going on during last weekend that also took time. 

But now my calendar is relatively clear till the end of the month.  As far as I'm aware now, I can keep on editing and hopefully get my manuscript in on time. 

And, as always, that feels good!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Be the Help

We had a very successful signing at Kate Birkel’s The Mystery Bookstore in Omaha this past Saturday.  Kate had set out chairs for her customers, who all came at once, so I had to give a talk, and it got rather rambling since I hadn’t come prepared.  But we sold a lot of books, including a set of my first series, written as Mary Monica Pulver, featuring Det. Sgt. Peter Brichter and his horse-breeder wife, Kori.  Kate is going to close her store, probably late this year, which is sad.  But, like me, she’s getting older and the work doesn’t get any easier.

A very strange thing happened to Ellen and me on our drive home Saturday from Omaha.  We were on I-35 somewhere near the Iowa - Minnesota border (I don't know on which side) when we saw this broad cloud formation ahead.  The sun had long set, but the sky was still blue and this formation was dead black.  It was miles across and piled high with cumulus clouds, like black mashed potatoes.  There was no lightning inside it, but we thought there was rain along the bottom in places.  We drove and drove, and never seemed to get any closer to this formation, and began to realize it was really big.  We drove and drove some more, and I noticed there was light coming out of the bottom, as if there were houses with lights on under it - it at first seemed to be right down on the ground, but then it was seen to be only close to it.  Closer and closer we came and yet not coming up on it, it was strange, beyond strange, like an optical illusion.  Scary.  And HUGE.  "The Gates of Mordor," remarked Ellen.  Towering high and higher, it seemed to mark the border between the clear weather on our side of it and horrible storms on the other.  But why the glowing light?  It got to be ridiculous, how we came closer and closer yet couldn't get right up to it.  It may have been moving north though it didn't seem to be moving, nor were the piles of cloud changing shape.  Then I noticed it was changing.  It wasn't as far from side to side, and the dead black of it was softening to a very dark gray.  We finally - finally! - got up to it and saw that it was indeed low to the ground, perhaps a couple hundred feet up if that, and thinning fast.  And it was narrow, very narrow, the light showing under it was from the sky on the other side of it. Under it at last, I looked up and saw it was a thinning dark gray.  As we emerged, I saw the sky was dark off to the east and it suddenly began to rain, but not hard and not for long.  The rest of the sky to the north and west was the same dimming blue as on the south side. 

I have never seen anything like it.  It wasn't a wall cloud, we encountered one of those on our way to Bismarck a couple of years ago and that didn't look anything like this and it led to unbelievable downpours.  This?  Meh.

So what was it?  Was it a metaphor?  An omen?  A lesson of some sort?  Maybe the lesson was, "Fear knocked on the door; I opened it and no one was there."  This thing was eerie, even scary, but ultimately harmless.

Some good news and another lesson:  A collection of boat-owning volunteers in southern Louisiana called the ”Cajun Navy” has been rescuing people and transporting supplies in the flooded areas, using Facebook to coordinate their efforts. As one said, "In South Louisiana, we don’t wait for help, we are the help.”  Well, God bless them and may we act the same if we find ourselves in a similar fix!

I have signed up to be an election judge this November.  I’ve done it before, and it’s interesting, important work, though it makes for a very, very long day, all done by volunteers.  This will be, I think, an historic election with a big turnout, and your precinct may need extra volunteers.  Please consider it.