If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.


WWK's May interviews will be: 5/2--indie author Bobbi Holmes, 5/9--TG Wolff (aka--Anita Devito), 5/16--Chocolate Bonbon author Dorothy St. James, 5/23--Lida Sideris, 5/30--Food Lovers' Village (and multiple Agatha winner) Leslie Budwitz. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.


Our May Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 5/5--John Carenen, 5/12--Judy Penz Sheluk, 5/19--Margaret S. Hamilton, 5/26--Kait Carson.


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Tina Whittle's sixth Tai Randolph mystery, Necessary Ends, debuts on April 3, 2018. Look for it here. Tina was nominated for a Derringer Award for her novelette, "Trouble Like A Freight Train Coming." We're all crossing our fingers for her.

James M. Jackson's Empty Promises, the next in the Seamus McCree mystery series (5th), will be available on April 3, 2018. Purchase links are here.


Dark Sister, a poetry collection, is Linda Rodriguez's tenth published book. It's available for sale here:


Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with the authors in this anthology on 4/14! Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.


Shari Randall's second Lobster Shack Mystery, Against the Claw, will be available in August, 2018.


In addition, our prolific KM has had the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," appears in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Fifth Course of Chaos.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

An Interview With Lida Sideris

by Grace Topping

A few years ago, Lida Sideris introduced her character, Corrie Locke, to readers in her book Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters, the first in her Southern California Mystery Series. In April, the second book in the series, Murder Gone Missing, came out, and not a day too soon for readers who have been anxious to read more about Corrie and her madcap adventures. 

I met Lida online when I interviewed her about her debut mystery, and I liked her a lot. Imagine my pleasure in getting to meet her in person at the recent Malice Domestic conference and discovering that she is just as sweet in person as she is online. It was a pleasure interviewing her again, this time about Murder Gone Missing.

Welcome back, Lida, to Writers Who Kill.    

Jacket Text for Murder Gone Missing
Book 2: Southern California Mystery Series
A girl, a guy, and a missing body. What could go wrong?
Newly minted lawyer Corrie Locke has taken a vow of abstinence. From PI work, that is. Until her best friend Michael finds his bully of a boss stabbed in the back after confronting him earlier that day. Michael panics, accidentally tampering with the crime scene…which could lead the cops to Michael instead of the real culprit. He turns to Corrie to track down the killer. She doesn’t need much coaxing. Her late great PI dad taught her the ropes…and left her his cache of illegal weaponry.

They return to the scene of the crime, but the body’s gone missing. Racing against time, Corrie dredges a prestigious Los Angeles college in pursuit of clues. All she finds are false leads.  Armed with attitude and romantic feelings toward Michael, Corrie dives into a school of suspects to find the slippery fugitive. Will she clear Michael’s name before he’s arrested for murder?                                                          
www.lidasideris.com

Congratulations on the publication of Murder Gone Missing.

Thank you very much, Grace. 

After you published Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters, did you find it easier or harder to write the second book in your series? 

Lida Sideris
I’d love to say it was easier, but it wasn’t. There was a lot of hand wringing and foot dragging. I got stuck on what backstory to include, how to work the regular characters in and so forth. So I studied the #2 series books of more seasoned authors, took notes, and carried on.

It was a pleasure catching up with Corrie Locke, Michael, James, and the other characters you created in Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters. Once you’ve given your characters personality and traits that your readers become familiar with, do you feel constrained to keep them the same or comfortable allowing them to evolve?

A little of both. I enjoy placing my characters in uncomfortable situations and watching how they grow, interact and react, but there’s also bit of comfort in knowing their capabilities and weaknesses. For instance, Corrie doesn’t do well around bodies of water…big or small, and she proves it again in Murder Gone Missing.

As an attorney in the entertainment industry and surrounded by some zany people, you had lots to draw on for your writing, especially adding lots of humor. Do you find the job you have and the people you work with influence the book you are writing?

Definitely. I listen and take notes all the time. Recently, my first short story (“The Nut Job”) was published in Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories. I’d met the inspiration for one of the characters during my day job. An elderly gentleman with big, black, space invader style sunglasses, hobbled in with a cane and a crew cut needing legal help. While we chatted, I was thinking he could be ex-CIA, now retired, and butting in where he shouldn’t. Little did he know… 

Corrie is a licensed attorney, yet she isn’t adverse to possessing some, ahem, illegal weaponry or gaining entry into places without a key. What accounts for this bit of rebellious streak on her part?

Blame it on the PI gene she inherited from her late, great private investigator dad. Half of Corrie longs for a tamer, fairly normal life, okay, maybe a quarter of her is doing the longing, but she is, at heart, a thrill seeker. She thrives on catching bad guys, and she’s good at it. So far it’s been fun; she’s not been caught law-breaking. She’ll probably keep on pushing the boundaries, until she’s busted, which is bound to happen sooner or later.

In her bag of weapons, Corrie carries a six-pointed shuriken. What is a shuriken? Is it legal to possess one, and could you use one if the situation warranted it? 
It’s a Japanese, or ninja, throwing star, traditionally used to distract or misdirect an opponent. But before you run out and buy your own, Grace, I’d check with local law enforcement to determine if it’s legal in your state. It’s illegal in most states, including California, where I (and Corrie) live. So it’s not likely I could use one. That’s my story and my sticking to it.
Pacing is so important to a good book. You start Murder Gone Missing with a real bang and keep the pace moving throughout. No soggy middle in this book. What is the greatest challenge to keeping the pace moving?

Thank you so much for that. I work hard to eliminate sogginess. I like chapters crisp. I try to conjure up as many action scenes as I can, which can be a challenge. 

Writers are becoming aware of the importance of having diversity in their books. You started your series featuring diverse characters. Was that a given in that your series is set in southern California, or were you were aware of the importance earlier than some writers?

Yes, exactly, it was a given, thanks to my being a So Cal native. Diversity is what I’ve always known. I’ve been fortunate to be exposed to many cultures and a very diverse group of individuals, so it’s really writing what I know.

Veera, Corrie’s African-American friend and assistant (or should we say “accomplice”) is a fun character. When writing about characters of various backgrounds and ethnic groups, how do you protect against using stereotypes to describe them?

Friend and accomplice is more like it! Veera is smart, logical, loyal, and a hard-worker. She can also be quite creative and confidant. I think in terms of individual character traits, so that should steer me away from stereotyping.  

When reading your books and the situations you put Corrie in, I find myself shouting at her, “Don’t go there!” Corrie is one gutsy woman. Are you as brave or foolhardy, or is she your alter ego? 

Me too, Grace. I am so not brave or foolhardy. I’m the cautious, law abider. I wanted to create a heroine that is my polar opposite (except we both have a soft spot for a nice wardrobe and desserts). I’m hoping some of Corrie’s courage, though not necessarily her foolhardiness, may rub off on me! 

Corrie can’t remember a single hug or normal father-daughter time with her father, but his mysterious disappearance haunts her. Please explain their unusual relationship. 
Corrie thinks of what wasn’t (normal father-daughter relationship) and what might have unfolded if her dad had still been around. Perhaps they might have become close one day. Maybe he would have put his seal of approval on her solo PI work, unlike her mother. Also, a big reason why it haunts her is because it’s an unsolved crime, a mystery that eludes her.
In the series, Corrie deals with her inability to forgive James for his treatment of her when they were younger, which complicates their relationship. Why is that, especially when she admits that she can barely remember why? 

Some of us, especially the very stubborn among us, might hold onto a grudge out of habit, or because it’s easier than admitting the truth. In this case, the truth might be something Corrie doesn’t want to face. So even though she’s fearless when it comes to crime scenes and bad guys, she’s not so fearless when it comes to personal relationships.

With promotion now being primarily on the writer, what promotional activities do you enjoy the most, or least?

I really enjoy meeting readers, and inspiring other writers (or wannabe writers). I love visiting bookstores and libraries (book people are the absolute best)! I’m happy to admit I’ve not come across a promo activity that I’ve not enjoyed. I’m so grateful to have a novel or two to promote that I can’t help but enjoy it all.

Now that you officially have a series with book two out, what things have you learned that you wish you had known when you started out? 

Spend more time writing, and less time worrying about whether it’s any good. 

When you have time to read, what authors do you enjoy the most? 

Oh, Grace, there are so many authors I enjoy. Everyone from Donna Andrews to Tina Whittle. I also like reading the Stephanie Plum and the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. 

What’s next for Corrie Locke? I hope we’ll be seeing more of her. 

In book three, Corrie’s working at the movie studio when life imitates art and a fictional murder mystery turns real. 

Thank you, Lida. I look forward to book three.

To learn more about Lida and her books, visit her at www.lidasideris.com

Look for her books at your favorite independent bookstore or from the following:
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBook, or through links on her web page.


































Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Crescent City Magic


Few cities capture the writerly imagination like New Orleans, and all it takes is one visit to understand why—as settings go, it’s an embarrassment of riches.

Sultry and gorgeous and ripe with various temptations, New Orleans is a sensory overload, especially as spring warms into summer. The rising heat will set your blood on a slow simmer and make every horizon shimmer like a mirage. The air smells of river water, beignets, jasmine, and last night’s beer. The sound of a second line jazz parade competes with the laughter of Bourbon Street tourists and the clip-clop of carriage horses. It’s sex and death, brawl and languor, high passion and low company.

I thought of all this as I strolled through St. Louis Cemetery #1. Famous for being the final resting place of Marie Laveau—the celebrated voodoo queen—this cemetery is now off limits to anyone not a part of a tour group after someone vandalized her tomb with pink latex paint. The bill to repair the damage came to around ten thousand dollars, and to prevent further destruction, the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans, which oversees the cemetery, created new rules governing how and when tourists could visit.

Luckily for my family and me, one part of the prohibition was dropped while we were still in town—visitors could once again tour at dusk. We were the only group there that evening, and we got to see the cemetery in the warm, honey-colored glow of sunset. During the day, the white above-ground tombs reflect the light and heat with merciless ferocity. As the sun sinks, however, the graveyard takes on a different flavor. The dead feel even closer, friendly even, and the weathered beauty of the brick and wrought iron can be fully appreciated.

It feels timeless there, liminal, as if the veil between this world and the next has thinned. New Orleans is said to be the most haunted place in the US. One of its rumored supernatural residents is Pierre, who has a table set for him every night at Muriel’s restaurant. Pierre supposedly died by his own hand, distraught that his gambling debt meant that he would lose his beloved home. He committed suicide as a way to avoid eviction, and according to the legend, succeeded in staying put for over a century now.

I understand Pierre’s reasoning, I really do. For even though New Orleans is not my own, it is magnetic in its pull. I’m a Lowcountry girl, but I know I’ll be back to the Big Easy. It doesn’t feel as if I have a choice.

*     *     * 
Tina Whittle writes the Tai Randolph mysteries for Poisoned Pen Press. The sixth book in this Atlanta-based series—Necessary Ends—is available now. Tina is a proud member of Sisters in Crime and serves as both a chapter officer and national board member. Visit her website to follow her on social media, sign up for her newsletter, or read additional scenes and short stories: www.tinawhittle.com.




Monday, May 21, 2018

PEEPING AND EAVESDROPPING - WHAT A WRITER DOES


PEEPING AND EAVESDROPPING – WHAT A WRITER DOES by Debra H. Goldstein
Have you ever felt like someone is staring at you in a public place? Making your private conversation into a three-way party? If you’re a writer, you’ve probably been the peeping person or the eavesdropper.  I know I have.

As I write this, I’m sitting in Ronald Reagan airport after attending Malice Domestic. As posted in Gloria Alden’s blog, it was a wild weekend, but so is being in the airport.  In the main aisle to my left, a rather rotund man, the lines of his rugby shirt making his stomach seem even wider when contrasted to the tiny badge dangling against his midriff, is standing three steps up a five-step green ladder trying to reset one of those giant TVs that constantly blasts news and advertisements. Surprisingly, it appears that the reset button is like the one at home I push when my husband falls asleep on the remote and wonders why the power connection to his favorite television isn’t working right.

The reason I’m staring at this man and wondering what other high-level maintenance jobs he does at  the airport with his ladder and backpack, is that I don’t want to turn around. There is a coach, in a blue shirt with a National Science Bowl emblem on it, admonishing the three students whose seats back up to mine. I snuck a peek a few minutes ago, but don’t dare look back again. He wasn’t smiling as he bent near the boys, who wear the same shirt as him. Each student appears to represent a different nationality. All seem like typical teens – earbuds and either a telephone or some other handheld device. He’s telling them “I expect you to act appropriately. You represent the school and yourselves. We’ll talk about this more when we get back, but in the meantime ….”

I wait until he leaves them sitting there before I glance backwards again. He’s moved a few seats from them and still is glaring in their direction. One has popped his earbuds back in his ears and one is playing with his phone, but the third boy is sitting rigid, staring at an unseen object straight ahead. The side of his mouth that I can see is frowning. Is he being wrongfully accused of something? Being put in a position to take the fall for someone else? The guilty party? Mad at the coach? Guilty for what he did? I don’t know.

What I do know, is both the maintenance man and the boys and their coach have given me gems of ideas that may end up in stories. That’s the beauty of being a writer – we can take the things we see and hear and make up the most bizarre things about them. Sometimes, we even get paid for our embellishments. What more can we ask?

Excuse me if I don’t write more. Another plane just landed, and one is getting ready to take off. I’m not sure what stories those arriving or embarking passengers will spur, but I bet the lady holding a purple wallet who is dressed in flip flops, green skin tight Danskin pants, a multi-colored muumuu top, and a scrunchy holding a pony tail that reaches to her waist will end up being filed away in my brain for a future work.


  

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Free or Not to Free—THAT is the question


By James M. Jackson

Ant Farm (Seamus McCree #1) Cover
Whether to give a book away is not the ONLY question facing authors who have control over such decisions, but it is one with implications.

When Amazon first made electronic book self-publishing easy, one of the successful promotion strategies was to give away a book—particularly the first book in a series. Readers were just getting used to eBooks and eReaders and getting one of your books into a reader’s hands was a successful strategy for becoming known. In the early days a free promotion could generate tens of thousands, maybe even a hundred thousand downloads.

Fast forward to today and the situation is different. Few people are just now buying their first eReader, so succeeding by getting your book to be one of the first downloaded is like trying to hop on a train roaring down the track at fifty miles-per-hour. Even if they don’t have a dedicated eReader and want to try out eBooks, they can read them on their computer or smart phone.

Readers who want free books have dozens of newsletters to provide them links to free books in the genres they prefer to read. The only way for an author to stand out in a crowd is to pay for promoting his book.

Many voracious readers belong to Amazon Unlimited or other subscription services, where after paying their monthly subscription, it costs them nothing to read their next book—but unlike free promotions, reading those books provide authors compensation.

Lastly, I have an untested suspicion that we have fostered a large group of people who will only read free books (electronic or print from libraries) and will not pay for their pleasure reading. A subset includes people who download stolen books, upon whom I wish the worst of computer viruses. If my primary writing goal was to have people read my books, then free is fine, but I’d like compensation for my writing, which means I need to find readers willing to pay for their reading pleasure.

Before yesterday, I have focused on reduced-price promotions of my books. I have had limited success with half-price sales or $0.99 sales of electronic books. Whenever I have promoted a sale, my Kindle Unlimited pages read for all the books in the Seamus McCree series increases significantly. I’ve read anecdotal evidence that the same happens when authors give away a book in their series.

Yesterday I began an experiment: I reduced the Kindle eBook price of Ant Farm (Seamus McCree #1) to free for five days (the last day is May 23). I also dropped the price on the second book in the series, Bad Policy, from $3.99 to $2.99. The prices for the other three books in the series remain at $3.99.

I’ve taken out ads, will send out my newsletter, and have written this blog. We’ll see how this works. My hypothesis goes something like this: For every 1,000 downloads, say 10% read the book. Of those, say 10% become fans and read the entire series. At current pricing, it costs them $15 to buy the other four books. Under those assumptions, each 1,000 downloads will result in $150 of sales ($100 of royalties). Plus, I expect I’ll end up with more read Kindle Unlimited pages, and I hope the publicity will spur sales of other books in the series to people who have read and liked some but not been motivated to buy the next in the series.

Regardless of how it works out, one thing I know is that I will not set up free promotions for the later Seamus McCree novels. It’s one thing to give away the first in the series in hopes of attracting new fans; it is quite another thing to set up readers' expectation that if they just wait long enough, they can get all the books for free.

So, if you haven’t read Ant Farm, here is the link to get the Kindle version for free.

*****

James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree mystery series. Empty Promises, the fifth novel in the series—this one set in the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—is now available. You can sign up for his newsletter and find more information about Jim and his books at https://jamesmjackson.com.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Jeffery Deaver's Writing Commercial Fiction MWA Workshop




By Margaret S. Hamilton





The day after Murder and Mayhem in Chicago, I attended Jeffery Deaver’s Writing Commercial Fiction workshop, sponsored by the Midwest MWA chapter, and held at Concordia University in a nearby suburb. Deaver is giving his much-praised workshop to every MWA chapter nationwide. The experience was well-worth the trip to Chicago.

WWK blogger Paula Gail Benson wrote in detail about Deaver’s workshop in South Carolina last summer:







I’ll add my impressions of the three-hour workshop to Paula’s overview.

Deaver made a compelling and persuasive argument for extreme plotting. First, he fills a wall with sticky notes for every character and scene. He shifts the notes around, mulling over plot problems (in humid North Carolina summers, they often fall off the wall). Deaver spends eight months writing a seventy-five-page outline, with bullet points for each scene and point of view. During this time, he conducts all the necessary research for his book. He inserts into his outline the location in his research notebook of necessary facts and figures for quick reference (unlike less organized souls fumbling through a messy stack of print-outs).

Deaver's outlines are detailed enough to include dialogue and description. He gave us an example of how he rewrites a scene from his outline:

A character bandages another character. He rewrote the scene to include the specifics of “pressing gauze” against the wound secured with “criss-crossed adhesive tape” that reminded the patient of childhood tic-tac-toe games.

Deaver noted that Lee Child, Harlan Coben, and George R.R. Martin do not outline.

Deaver rejects the idea of writer’s block, terming it instead an “idea block.” If you don’t know what to write, it might not be the right time to try. Move on to something else.

Deaver writes his books to be emotionally enjoyed by his readers. There is a core story, embellished with “soap opera” family and relationship subplots as well as geopolitical situations or themes. Subplots must have a twist and a surprise ending. He maintains and heightens suspense in his novels.

Of the four components of a novel, plot and character are more important than setting and dialogue. Creating active characters is crucial. Deaver reminded us that villains should be likeable too—they are the heroes of their own story.

Deaver likened the pacing of his books to a symphony, with varied intensity of movements rising to a vast crescendo at the climax. He matches his writing style to individual scenes, more languid, with longer sentences, for description, and staccato for fast-paced action scenes. In recent years, he’s shortened sentences and paragraphs to match the faster, succinct pace of social media. He prefers a close third person point of view, showing the story unfold through the character’s perceptions and actions.

It will take me weeks to sort through all that I learned during the two-day workshop. Perhaps I’ll try sticky notes stuck to a table top as a plotting method. My dogs would rip them off a wall.

Writers, have you attended Deaver’s workshop? Readers, have you read Deaver’s books?









































Friday, May 18, 2018

Are they crazy or just stupid? : A plea for understanding by Warren Bull

Are they crazy or just stupid? :  A plea for understanding by Warren Bull







  
Image from Pixabay

On June 16, 1858, at the Illinois Republican convention in Springfield, Illinois, Abraham Lincoln kicked off his bid for the U.S. Senate with a speech that included the Biblical phrase, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Lincoln was talking about slavery then. Today our house, America, is more divided, about many issues, than it has been since that speech was given. We have retreated into separate groups where we ask people who share our beliefs and values questions like the one that started this article. 

Throughout history people have always interacted with others they feel comfortable with. We’ve always formed political, ethnic and family tribes.  Tribes stick together and get irritated with other tribes that don’t share their vision of how things are and should be. That’s not the problem. Healthy airing of differences and complaints leads to better cooperation and understanding. 

It’s much more of a problem that we don’t air our differences in a way that makes cooperation possible. Within our tribe we find justification for our particular view of the world, which is less than totally accurate. And darn it, the same thing is going in the other tribe where they have a different view that falls as short from perfection as ours does. We used to bump into members of other tribes daily so we had to manage to get along even though we thought their myopic vision was obviously inferior to our myopia. No group has a monopoly on the absolute truth.
Now, with the Internet and splintered parochial sources of news, physical space is less important. Online and through media we don’t have to leave our cozy, safe and unchallenged niche at all. In Congress and on television when our “leaders” confront their “politicians” they shout out our perceptions as if they were absolute flawless, spend time between rants planning what want to say next rather than listening to the “other” and perform strictly for “us.” The more insulated we become, the less we know about what we do notknow. The less we know about “others” the easier it is to assume they are dangerous people plotting to impose their beliefs on us.

We are like people walking through an unfamiliar neighborhood during a dark and deafening thunderstorm, we need less noise and more light. Our beliefs are just as emotional and irrational as theirs. Regardless of tribe, most of us are in favor of greater gay rights, healing the sick and seeking justice. We are mutually concerned about diminishing privacy due to greater government surveillance. We all want a stronger America. However, looking at questions in the “we” versus “them” way makes finding an answer nearly impossible. For example, does immigration make coexisting more complicated and less orderlyor doesit add to the diversity of experiences and strategies we can use as a nation to solve problems? The real answer is “both.” If we would acknowledge “their” valid points, we could work out a solution together. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

I can't believe I'm Doing This




I couldn’t believe I had let my sister, Elaine, talk me into this. Here I was almost sixty years old and staggering out of a parking lot at Fisher’s Gap Overlook for a backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park. I’m only five foot one inch tall and sort of pleasingly plump and though I like to walk and garden, my physical activities certainly hadn’t prepared me for carrying a pack that must weigh close to thirty pounds at least or maybe more. Elaine’s son, Caleb, had to put it on my back, not only that time, but for the next few days before I was able to swing it up on my back on my own. On that first trip three of Elaine’s teenagers went with us Caleb and two of his sisters.
I lent the Bill Bryson book to someone.


For the next few days Elaine kept smiling and saying “Isn’t this fun?” She is seven years younger than I am, and both of us are teachers unused to carrying much more than book bags with papers to grade.

It all started with both of us reading A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, and then other books on backpacking, and figured if Katz in Bryson’s book could do it, so could we. After all we had all camped from the times we were young. Our youngest sister, Cathi and her husband Bill entered into the spirit of the adventure and sent us volumes 1 and II Hiking the Appalachian Trail. This was our first introduction to Grandma Gatewood long before her book came out a few years ago. If she could hike the AT three times in her late sixties in Tennis shoes with a plastic curtain, a few clothes, a rain cape, a denim bag some nuts and raisins and little else why should we have any problem?



In preparation, we had bought a few things like backpacks, a backpacking stove and a water filter, and I bought a light weight sleeping bag. Our youngest brother, Phil, who had backpacked before with his Scout troop helped us with our selections so this became a real family endeavor. My children and another brother and sister thought we were crazy.  For the rest of our equipment we made do with what we already had or borrowed like sleeping mats, small tents, and a cooking kit. And, of course, we carried flashlights, ponchos, compasses, maps, whistles, books, playing cards, and I carried a small notebook and pens to write in. Certainly it was all more than Grandma Gatewood carried.






And there was the food, of course. Elaine loves cooking and wanted to make sure all five of us were well fed so she brought lots of canned food, meat, vegetables, peanut butter and jelly and packaged food like macaroni and cheese, and also bagels, crackers, carrots, apples, oranges, trail mix. As we ate the food our packs became much lighter and I was able to easily swing the pack onto my back. Elaine’s daughter, Emily, carried the tent Elaine and I shared so that helped us with weight.

My nephew and nieces looking at Shenandoah Valley.


I usually lagged behind all of them checking out flowers or stopping to look out over the Shenandoah Valley at overlooks. Elaine’s kids were always far ahead of us and would end up on a rock playing cards waiting for us.








They didn't bother us we saw at least one bear on every trip.

That first night our sleep was disturbed by large animals moving around our tent throughout the night. Elaine thought they might be bears because when we registered for our backpacking permit, we had discovered that Shenandoah National Park has an extremely large population of black bears, approximately six hundred in all. We had put all our food and toiletries into a bear bag which hung high overhead and not close to the trunk of a tree for a bear to get.





The trip when our brother, Cathi and her husband joined us.

As we went on the trip got easier and we so enjoyed looking at the incredibly beautiful views, the mountain laurel bloomed everywhere, and the birds, wildflowers, the rocks, the lichen, mosses, ferns and even the creaking pack on my back reminding me of the sounds of a saddle when I used to ride only now my role was reversed.  I love the experience of having everything I needed in the pack on my back, the freedom from the modern world and no concerns beyond reaching the evening’s campsite. It was nice to be totally unaware of what was going on in the world outside of our little world. On the first day, I doubted that I 
would ever do this again. By the sixth day I couldn’t wait to go again.
My sister and I continued backpacking for ten more years and each year her son, Caleb went with us and the second year my sister Cathi, with a newly broken shoulder, flew in from Seattle with her son Michael to join us, and our brother Phil with his two sons joined us, too. Cathi wore a fanny pack but everything else she came with was divided by the four teenage boys. The following year her husband Bill came with her and joined us, too.

I'm on the left and Elaine is on the right.

Elaine and I also backpacked on different trails in Pennsylvania. We continued until she had a heart attack one November. She’s okay now, but because cell phone service isn’t reliable in the mountains, we only took shorter trails in Pennsylvania and eventually stopped then and stuck to camping in campgrounds on our yearly trips to various areas around the eastern states.





A year when  we also took a trail with a ranger leading us.


 Do I wish I could go back packing again? Yes, but I’ll be eighty in a few months and although I think I could still do it, I don’t have anyone to go with me, and being with younger people would never work out. I couldn’t keep up with them. I still have all my stuff though.






Have you ever gone backpacking?
Would you like to try it?