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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lucky in My Choice of Parents

Don't you hate it when a blog title leads you on? Right now, you're probably thinking I adopted some passing couple and followed them home. The choice was God's, and I am lucky.

They drove in from Arizona last week, which is really nice of them. No airport pickup to deal with. They drive everywhere, including to Illinois, because they love our country and like to discover little out of the way places and people. They also stay at a hotel when they are in town because our condo's not that large. Actually, I think they need their space. Not that they don't like me, but isn't it nice to take your time getting ready for bed and not worry that someone else needs to brush her teeth? Spouses don't count. Spouses have routines.

Every time they visit, I'm reminded what incredible people raised me. There's no such thing as a disposable society to them, only people who waste things. My parents waste nothing, and that includes time and talent.

Dad always insists on fixing something, no matter how small. This time, he replaced a toilet. Last time, a toilet and bathroom counter. He comes from a generation of people who know how to use their hands, and it's a shame that more young people aren't shown how. My hubby has the same mentality, but after working 12-14 hour days, it's nice to have a father-in-law who can help out. I've got some knowledge, but the female lack of upper body strength is something scientists have not overcome. I know how to change a tire, but I'll be darned if I can turn the screws, especially after a machine has had a shot at them.

Mom brings her abundant talent for creating things. She can take a simple ball of yarn and weave it, bead it, sew it, knit it, or crochet it into something beautiful. Creating is a gift, especially when that something is serviceable and lovely to look at. She also loves books, especially mysteries, and we browse the book stores and exchange authors and revel in the genius of those who can give us a good yarn and make us laugh as a bonus.

Mostly, it's their attitude that both overwhelms me and inspires me. Problems are not something to complain about, they are challenges. Action is appropriate. Whining is useless. This positive attitude is what led them to success, and it's what allows them to enjoy what they have. It allows them to be generous, whether they are writing a check to St. Jude's or collecting donations for a poor school in New Mexico--and driving the donations there personally. They are positive people by choice, and that's a rare thing today.

When they leave, there' a gap. It's not only that I miss having family around, though I do. It's this incredible energy that they carry with them, the attitude that nothing is the end of the world. "Why don't you just do X?" is a common refrain, and when they say it, I give myself a mental forehead slap and wonder why I wasted so much time being fearful or distressed, when all I had to do was X.

I try to keep the inspiration going, try to remember the security they bring. It's difficult without their example, but it's why I have such a great long distance calling plan. I'm grateful for everything I have, and I'm especially grateful for the couple who brought me into this world and gave me so much love. I'm lucky.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Chat with Author Alice Zogg

I have a warm spot for mystery author Alice Zogg, not only because her books are thoroughly enjoyable, but because Alice is the first person I met at Sisters in Crime. A nervous novice, I went to a monthly meeting to check them out. As I tentatively looked for somewhere to sit, Alice invited me to take the chair next to her. I've been a fan ever since.

Alice writes the R.A. Huber mysteries, and between the varied, interesting settings and the vivid personalities--including Huber's assistant Andi-- these books are must reads for anyone who likes traditional mysteries.

Welcome, Alice!

What led you from mystery fan to mystery author?

Eight years ago I went to the bookstore in search of new reading material. Having read all the mystery novels ever written by my favorite authors, I was planning to purchase works of more contemporary writers, but found nothing that appealed to me. I must have browsed the wrong shelves that day because I certainly have discovered many great books written by present day authors since then. When I returned from the store empty-handed hours later, my husband asked, “Where are the books you bought?” After I explained my dilemma, he teased, “Why don’t you write your own stories since you’re so picky?” I paid no attention to his remark at the time, but about a month later thought, well, why not? So I gave it a try and have not stopped writing since.

R.A. Huber is unusual in that she is an older lady with experience as opposed to a young ingenue fumbling around. Did you have this type of heroine in mind when you started the series?


When I created my protagonist, R. A. Huber, in the first book, I had no idea that she would become the heroine of a series. I became comfortable with her, so I kept her. Like me, R. A. Huber was born in Switzerland and came to the United States as a young woman, and then made her home here. Longing for excitement after she retires, Huber decides to start a second career and opens her own business as a private investigator. Soon the gutsy private eye’s cases take her on journeys from Pasadena to the Catalina Island, up to Lake Tahoe, the Central Mexico region, all the way to Davos, Switzerland, then back to the Big Bear Lake area, and to the balloon festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The lady certainly cannot complain of boredom any longer -- the thrill of the job, particularly when her own life is at risk, can be almost too much at times.

Some readers might be intimidated by a series with eight books, fearing they will have too much catching up to do. Will a reader have to begin at the start of your series to understand what is going on with the characters?
Although the R. A. Huber mysteries are considered a series with the same protagonist, each book can easily be read on its own. Setting my stories in different locations gives me a reason to travel to each spot for research purposes while at the same time enjoying a bit of vacationing there. Huber is also athletic, which gives me the opportunity to describe some of my favorite sports activities. In my last three mystery novels, I gave Huber a dynamic young assistant named Andi. I am having a lot of fun with this character. Andi is a redhead originally from New Orleans and rides a Harley-Davidson.

Tell us about your latest novel. (By the way, I love the cover!)

My latest yarn, Revamp Camp, featuring R. A. Huber and Andi, is set near the idyllic town of Solvang in Central California. After Mr. Hawk enrolls his daughter Emily at a rehab facility for juvenile delinquents, he is unable to get in touch with her, and his concern prompts him to hire R. A. Huber to investigate. Huber sends Andi to pose as a troubled youth in need of treatment. Before long, the young woman is thrown into an atmosphere of mayhem, eventually resulting in murder. When Huber fails to get news from Andi, she becomes alarmed and figures out a way to access the camp for herself. Together, the two uncover the deep-rooted secrets that lurk beneath the surface of Revamp Camp and entrap the killer, placing Andi’s life in danger.

You went the self publishing route, something more and more authors are doing now. Why?

While I was plotting my first book, I bought several how-to manuals on publishing the traditional way. The more I learned about what was involved, the more I felt that it was not worth the headache, and I decided to self-publish. At one point -- I believe it was when writing my third mystery -- an author I know got me all fired up about trying to get published in the traditional manner. Then I did some soul-searching and came to the conclusion that there was no reason why I should put myself under the stress this would involve. I found this creative outlet called writing late in life and it gives me joy and fulfillment, but I am a retired grandma and want to avoid that kind of pressure.

Thank you, Alice, and good luck with your new release!
You can visit Alice at her website, and don't forget to check out her books:
Reaching Checkmate 2003
Turn the Joker Around 2004
Tracking Backward 2005
The Lonesome Autocrat 2006
The Fall of Optimum House 2007
Final Stop Albuquerque 2009

And the latest,

Revamp Camp 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Marilyn Meredith

I'm so pleased to present guest-blogger Marilyn Meredith today. I've long admired Marilyn, both for her great writing and for her ability to accomplish so much and lead a balanced life--something I believe many of us are striving for today.

Marilyn Meredith is the author of nearly thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Invisible Path from Mundania Press. Under the name of F. M. Meredith she writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, An Axe to Grind is the latest from Oak Tree Press.

She is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Internet chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and she's on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at her website  or her blog .

And now, heeeeere's Marilyn!

When I asked Jackie if she had anything in particular she wanted me to write about for her blog she gave me a couple of suggestions. I’m going to respond to two of them.

She asked, “I'm always fascinated by how you manage to fit so many obligations into your life. How do you keep the balance? Do you think that after a certain age a person just stops fretting about everything? Or priorities change?”

I’ve always been one who liked to accomplish things and earlier in my life I was far busier than I am now. I raised five kids and didn’t have a dryer until my last child was born and my grandfather felt sorry for me and gave me the money to buy one. Before that time I washed every day and hung clothes out on the line. Back then, hubby was in the Navy and money was scarce. Despite that, I had a Camp Fire Girl group, edited the PTA newsletter for years, and served as PTA President for four years in a row. When my youngest started kindergarten, I went to work part time as a pre-school teacher and started college. Believe it or not, I also wrote during this time period.

Life changed. Most of my kids grew up and married and we moved to the foothill town where we live now. We bought and took over a residential facility for developmentally disabled women. That meant more washing and cooking, plus a lot of paper work, but I wrote every weekday morning the ladies were off at their day programs. As time went on, I organized and taught mandated continuing education classes for other administrators of licensed facilities. After twenty-three years, hubby and I assisted the women in finding new homes (I wanted them to be in good places) and we retired.

Right now, I have the most time for writing and promoting I’ve ever had in my life. I try to write in the mornings, my brain works best then, though I must admit I’m compelled to read my e-mail first. Because I blog every day (love the fact that I can post ahead of time) I try to post on Facebook first thing and I often use Ping.fm to get the word out to Twitter and other places. My son and his wife (who live next door) help with housework and sometimes one or the other will take a turn at cooking.

Jackie also asked, “Your Facebook posts often include what you're having for dinner. To show us another side to Marilyn, do you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share after teasing us with so many delicious sounding meals? I'll admit that I'm a recipe junkie, and I always go to the mystery sites that have recipes!”

I really like to cook. I’ve always cooked for so many people that I have no idea how to cook for only two—so I don’t. My son and his wife almost always eat over here as does the grown grandson who is living with us now.

One of my favorite recipes is Beef Stroganoff which I learned how to do from a Russian who was serving in the U.S. Air Force. His daughter was in my Camp Fire Group and he had our whole family over for dinner one evening and I watched him cook. I have to warn you, I don’t use amounts.

When we were really poor, I used the cheapest cut of round steak I could afford and sliced it thin and cooked it slowly for a long while. Now I can buy a better cut of beef, but again, I slice it in thin strips and brown it along with chopped onions. I add a dollop of Worcestershire sauce and a can of tomato soup and ½ can of water. (When I’m cooking for a large group, I add a second can of tomato soup and a whole can of water.) Cook long enough for the meat to be tender. This is when I add sliced fresh mushrooms. I love mushrooms so I put in a lot. This is when I add the sour cream, a pint if you’ve used only one can of tomato soup, more if two. Stir it all together and serve over cooked noodles. You can serve over rice too, but I prefer the noodles.

I have gotten a bit tired of being the one to cook Thanksgiving dinner though, and this year we’re going to my youngest daughter’s for the holiday. She’s a great cook.

Thank you, Marilyn. Beef Stroganoff is one of my favorites, so I'm really pleased with your sample recipe!


While Tempe’s son, Blair is home from Christmas break, he and his roommate from college do a bit of snooping to find out about the para-military group who’ve been seen driving through town. When a young popular Indian is found dead near the recovery center on the reservation, Tempe is called in to help with the investigation. Another Native American but a newcomer to the rez, Jesus Running Bear, is the only suspect. A hidden pregnancy, a quest to find the Hairy Man, and a visit to the pseudo soldiers’ compound put Jesus and Tempe in jeopardy.


Invisible Path can be purchased as a trade paperback or e-book from http://www.mundania.com or any of the usual online bookstores. And here is a synopsis just to wet your apetite!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Invisible Path by Marilyn Meredith

Marilyn Meredith brings readers another Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery with “Invisible Path”. Set in the approaching Christmas season, Crabtree is ready to enjoy a visit from her son, Blair, and his friend, Chad, who are both studying Fire Science. But when the body of Danny Tofoya is discovered, her efforts must go into solving the murder.


Everyone is ready to blame recovering alcoholic Jesus Running Bear, though they are surprised that Danny is the one found murdered and not Jesus. Danny--a known bully--had an inappropriate crush on his cousin, Jolie, who is expecting Jesus’ baby. It doesn’t take long to discover other victims of Danny’s temper.

Besides keeping vigilantes away from Jesus, Crabtree has another pressing worry. A citizen militia is meeting on private property in the woods near Bear Creek, and though they say they are preparing to protect people in the instance of a terrorist-driven Armageddon, Crabtree wonders if they don’t have more nefarious purposes in mind.

Meredith blends police procedural with a traditional mystery that includes subtle examples of prejudice--both against Native Americans and within their own community. Her characters are likeable, and her incorporation of Indian beliefs and superstitions help to immerse the reader in the world of Bear Creek. “Invisible Path” will make a nice holiday gift for any mystery reader.