Friday, November 27, 2020


“Here’s our exit,” Lizzie said. Her husband, Nick, turned off the interstate and merged on a state route in the middle of Ohio cornfields. Glancing at the map on her phone, Lizzie noticed she had lost her cell signal. “Two miles on this road until we reach Glenda’s driveway.”


Their teens, Claire and Phillip, pulled off their earphones and stared at the barren corn stubble landscape. “Not even a gas station or convenience store,” Claire said. “Tell me again why we’re celebrating Thanksgiving in the middle of nowhere.”


“Glenda’s mother is critically ill, and Glenda knows this is Granny’s last Thanksgiving at the family farm,” Lizzie said. “People handle grief differently. If she wants to invite her daughter’s soccer team for Thanksgiving dinner, I’ll accommodate her request, including making pumpkin pies from Granny’s sugar pumpkins.”


“It’s not like Caitlyn’s on the team,” Claire said. “She’s second-string goalie for the tournament this weekend.”


“Please be kind,” Lizzie said. “I’ve put my time in during practice listening to Glenda, who told me Caitlyn was thrilled to be a guest player. Your team is desperate for a backup goalie, so the team mothers were especially welcoming. Several families will attend today’s gathering.”


“Mom, we read the email Glenda sent. Have you ever eaten deep-fried turkey?” Claire asked.


“Life is full of culinary adventures, except for my pies.” Lizzie positioned her feet next to the baskets containing her apple and pumpkin pies.


“Glenda’s menu included frog eye salad,” Phillip said. “Something witches eat?”


“Jell-O salad with maraschino cherries and whipped topping, a fifties staple at every Thanksgiving table,” Lizzie said. “I had to Google it.”

A loud boom rocked the van, followed by a big orange ball hurtling through the air. Nick acceleratedwhile the kids watched a pumpkin burst to smithereens when it landed in the road behind them.


“Flying pumpkins?” Claire asked. “It almost hit us.”


“Punkin chunkin,” Lizzie said. “Shooting pumpkins with catapults or pneumatic cannons. Glenda gave me an earful one evening. It’s a popular activity at this time of year.”


“Think they’re shooting at us?” Phillip asked. Another boom rattled the windows as Lizzie’s phone app announced their destination.


Nick swerved on the rutted gravel driveway and approached a ramshackle nineteenth-century farmhouse. Set next to a windbreak of spruce trees, the house had broken windows, shutters hanging by a nail, and a sagging roof. Lizzie wondered whether Granny or the house would die first.


 After Nick parked near the barn, Lizzie climbed out of the van with her pie baskets. Glenda, clad in her usual flannel shirt and jeans, placed the lids on her turkey fryers before she checked Lizzie’s pies. Opening the baskets, she carefully inspected the baked goods. “Your apple pies look fine. I like the egg wash and sugar sprinkled on the top crust.” Glenda sniffed one of the pumpkin pies. “Did you use Granny’s sugar pumpkins and recipe?”


“Yes, I did.” Lizzie hid a smile. “I added a surprise ingredient to the pumpkin filling. I’m sure you’ll recognize it.”


After Lizzie’s pies had passed muster with Glenda, she put them on a long table in the barn and offered to assist with the turkey frying.


 “Turns out I don’t need or want your help,” Glenda said. “Caitlyn’s shooting pumpkins down the road. She should be home soon.”


Lizzie asked if they could pay their respects to Granny before the other soccer families arrived.

Glenda grunted a response. “Suit yourself. She’s in the bedroom at the front of the house.”


Lizzie joined Nick and the kids. “We’ve got some time to kill. Let’s say hello to Granny before we explore the farm.”


They climbed the rotting wooden steps to the back door, and entered a kitchen last updated in the sixties with copper-toned appliances and butterscotch plaid linoleum. While Lizzie led her family down the hall toward the front door, another boom rattled the windows. “Still at it chucking pumpkins,” Lizzie said. “Poor Granny. I’m sure she doesn’t appreciate the noise.”


Lizzie gingerly tested each step on the staircase, clinging to a wall of peeling wallpaper to avoid the sagging bannisters. The floor above them creaked, and a shadow flitted across the hall.


“Mom, what’s that?” Claire asked, clutching Lizzie’s jacket.


“Probably a bird flew through one of the broken windows.” Lizzie could see her breath as she exhaled, the second floor noticeably colder than the first. After she stepped into the upstairs hall, she pulled on her gloves and zipped up her jacket. “This way.” She pointed down the hall.


Lizzie pushed open the bedroom door at the front of the house. The double-sash windows hung wide open, the dingy tieback curtains flapping in the breeze. Granny, propped on pillows in the four-poster bed, wore a ragged bed jacket trimmed with pink ribbons, her teeth in a plastic cup next to her eyeglasses on the nightstand.


Nick pulled the windows closed as Lizzie approached the bed. “Hello, Granny, happy Thanksgiving.”


Granny lay still, her eyes half-open and her toothless mouth agape. Nick covered his hand with a tissue before he took Granny’s carotid pulse and checked her pupils. Pulling Lizzie away from the bed, he said, “She’s gone, maybe no more than an hour. Petechiae in her eyes indicates asphyxia.”


Lizzie swallowed a sob. “Not on Thanksgiving Day. Poor Glenda.”


Nick pulled back the covers tucked tightly around Granny’s body and discovered the ring finger on her left hand missing. He clicked on his cell phone flashlight and checked the blood-free stump, tendons and bones visible. “Severed post-mortem. I have a bad feeling about Granny’s demise.”


Dizzy and short of breath, Lizzie stepped back and considered the situation, wondering why Granny’s digit had been removed. Probably not to open a fingerprint-activated computer or cell phone. The obvious answer was a ring, perhaps her engagement ring. She checked her cell phone. No bars.


She motioned Nick into the hallway, where the kids waited. Lizzie put her arms around them and murmured, “Granny’s dead, maybe in the last hour. We need to tell Glenda and find a place with cell reception to call for help.”


Claire and Phillip nodded, wide-eyed. “Poor Caitlyn,” Claire said. “It’s tough to lose a grandma.”


Nick tapped Lizzie’s shoulder. “Can we leave you here with Granny? I’ll tell Glenda, who might want a few minutes with her mother.”


“Or not, if Glenda smothered Granny and cut off her finger,” Lizzie said. “Anybody seen Caitlyn?”


As another boom rocked the house, plaster dust cascaded from the hall ceiling. “On second thought, I’ll wait downstairs.” Lizzie ushered her family ahead of her, stopping at the head of the stairs. Floorboards creaked nearby. “Hold up, everybody. I’m going to check the other rooms.”


Lizzie stepped into each bedroom, kneeling to look under the beds before she investigated the built-in wardrobes. Holding her breath, she yanked the bathroom shower curtain aside. She exhaled down to her toes, the rust-stained tub empty.


Nick joined her when she opened the door to the attic. “Think someone’s up here?”


Lizzie nodded and mounted the attic stairs, testing each tread before she put her weight on it. Sensing someone lying in wait for her at the top, she crooked her arm over her face, holding her cell phone flashlight high. Nick’s hand on her shoulder and steady breathing gave her a sense of security. They reached the attic, filled with broken windows, empty bird nests, and a large paper wasp nest. “Ugh, don’t bang into the wasp nest,” Lizzie said.


Caitlyn sat in an antique rocking chair with a cane seat and back, her team jacket zipped to her chin. She embraced a large sugar pumpkin and set the chair in motion.


Lizzie approached her. “Hello, Caitlyn. I’m sorry about Granny. Did you find her?”


Caitlyn chewed on the end of her braid and nodded, humming to herself.


“Does Glenda know?”


Caitlyn shook her head.


Lizzie held out her hand. “Please come with me. We should tell Glenda.”


Ignoring her, Caitlyn cradled the pumpkin and continued to rock.


Lizzie, exasperated, snapped at her. “Caitlyn, now. We need to phone the county sheriff and EMS.” She picked up the pumpkin and handed it to Nick, then pulled Caitlyn out of the chair. “Do you have a landline?”


Caitlyn shook her head.


“Does Glenda have a sat phone?”


“What’s that?” Caitlyn gazed at her, alert, with bright eyes.


“Never mind. Let’s find Glenda and give her the sad news.”


Lizzie put her hand under Caitlyn’s arm and escorted her outside to find Glenda, still huddled over the turkey fryers in front of the barn.


Caitlyn took her pumpkin from Nick and wandered away.


“Glenda, we have sad news,” Lizzie said. “Granny passed not long ago. Could I help with the turkeys while you say good-bye?”


“No need. It’s a relief Granny’s gone.” Glenda pulled out a cell phone. “I’ll call the funeral home for a pickup.”


“Does your cell phone work out here?” Lizzie asked.


“I use the only service that gets reception.”


“Granny’s death is suspicious,” Nick said. “We’ll need to call the county sheriff.”


“Forget it. I don’t need the sheriff poking around my house.”


“Glenda, it’s the law,” Nick said.


“Says who?” Glenda stood, hands on broad hips. “I don’t care for your tone.”


“I’m a physician. I suspect Granny’s death was not due to natural causes.”


“Get off my property. You had no right to touch Granny. You must have killed her yourself.”


“Glenda, I did no such thing,” Nick said. “Granny’s death was probably due to asphyxiation, after she was smothered with something like a pillow and before someone severed her left ring finger.”


“What?” Glenda’s face flushed crimson. “The ring’s gone?” She dropped her cooking fork. “Where’s Caitlyn?”


“She went to shoot some more pumpkins,” Claire said, “Including the one she carried outside.”


“She didn’t,” Glenda roared, pulling car keys out of her jacket pocket.


“Didn’t do what?” Lizzie asked.


“That child wields a mean hacksaw,” Glenda said. “If Granny lost a finger, Granny also lost the art deco diamond ring on her finger. We tried everything to get the ring off and nothing worked.”


“Baby oil usually does the trick,” Lizzie said.


 Glenda snorted. “You’d be the one to know.”


“You’d better hurry,” Claire said. “If the finger and ring are in the pumpkin, she’s about to shoot it sky high.”


“And watch it shatter when it hits the ground,” Phillip said.


Nick held his hand. “Give me your cell phone. It’s time to call the sheriff.”


Glenda lifted the lid on the turkey fryer and started to slip the cell phone inside.


“Oh, no, you don’t.” Lizzie grabbed Glenda’s hand and forced her to drop the phone.


With another boom, the launcher in a nearby field hurled another pumpkin, which exploded mid-air.


“Not Granny’s ring!” Glenda shrieked. Lizzie tackled her, and Glenda dropped to the ground.


“What about poor Granny’s life?” Enraged, Lizzie sat on Glenda’s back, tempted to punch her. “Got her phone?” She asked Nick.


Nick tapped 9-1-1 and requested immediate assistance from the sheriff’s department. After clicking off the phone, he pulled a tissue-wrapped object out of his pocket. “I checked Caitlyn’s pumpkin before I returned it to her.” Nick unwrapped the tissue, revealing a thin, white finger wearing a large art deco ring studded with many small diamonds glittering in the fading sunlight.


Lizzie continued to sit on Glenda. “Nick, did you spot a hacksaw upstairs?”


“On the attic floor near the rocking chair,” Nick said. “I’ll tell the sheriff.”


“Here comes Caitlyn,” Claire said. “Should we grab her?”


“Caitlyn’s shot her last pumpkin,” Lizzie said. “She knows it’s over.”


As sirens sounded across the empty fields, a line of soccer team vans drove up the driveway. Caitlyn slumped to the ground next to her mother.




Thursday, November 26, 2020

Memories of Thanksgivings Past by Connie Berry


Of all the Thanksgivings I can remember, this one may be the weirdest.

No traveling to visit relatives. No gatherings of friends and family around a bountiful table. This year there will be exactly four of us—my husband, myself, and our two sons. Except for me, all males. Which means Thanksgiving dinner will be over and done with in about twenty minutes.

Why would I spend two days cooking and baking for twenty minutes? I wouldn’t—at least not this year. I’m so not in the mood. Instead, I’ve ordered a complete Thanksgiving dinner to be delivered (hopefully) on my doorstep the day before Thanksgiving. Do I feel guilty? To be honest, a bit. But not that much.

Now to the question that really matters. Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to reflect on our blessings and express our thankfulness. Do we have blessings to be thankful for this year?  

Of course we do. So in spite of trips not taken, conferences cancelled, Covid hair, missed restaurant meals, no time spent with friends over coffee, here is my THANKFUL THANKSGIVING LIST, 2020 style:

·       NO COVID. None of my family members—even extended family of at least 150—have gotten Covid. In fact, although I’ve heard of cases, I don’t actually know anyone personally who’s gotten it—yet, anyway. I know we have a ways to go before vaccines are widely available.

·       ZOOM. This free app has provided a way to keep in touch with people I care about. Okay, I admit I’m a little tired of it at this point, but it’s better than nothing.

·       EMMIE. My new puppy is the sweetest little soul. Having her helps me in so many ways to cope with the pandemic. Even though it means setting the alarm for 2 am to help her make it through the night. Small price to pay in my book.

·       COOKING. Never my favorite activity, but during the pandemic, my husband and I have developed a new routine for the evening meal. We gather in the kitchen and share both the cooking and the puppy romping. Emmie loves her ball, and she’s lightning-quick. We think she’s headed for a career as a goalie.

·       WALKS. Okay, it’s not England, but this year in Ohio we’ve had the most beautiful autumn. Sunshine. Glorious colors. My favorite season has not disappointed.

·       WRITING. If I can’t actually be in the British Isles, I can travel there (virtually) every day as I join Kate Hamilton and Tom Mallory in their small slice of Suffolk. The best part? In my fictional world, there’s no Covid. All the shops and pubs are open for business.

·       ASSURANCE IN UNCERTAINTY. As a child of God, I know my journey and destination are in the hands of a loving Father.

·       MEMORIES. This Thanksgiving may not be my favorite, but I have so many happy (and hilarious) Thanksgiving memories to draw upon:

o   The Thanksgivings I spent as a child at my Danish grandmother’s house, eating her turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pumpkin pie. Food at her house was always the best.

o   The year I followed a new online recipe and stuffed the turkey with lemon halves. Big mistake. Everything (turkey, stuffing, gravy) came out tasting like bitter lemon rind. If I ever find that recipe again, I’m pressing charges.

o   The year I saved the turkey carcass to make soup, put the pot in the extra fridge in the basement, and then forgot about it—for three months. Ended up tossing out not only the lethal contents but also the nice stainless steel soup pot.

o   The year Bob and I spent Thanksgiving alone in a rented trailer in the icy interior of Alaska—playing over and over again the tape my mother made for us at the family Thanksgiving gathering. I can still hear the voice of my Scottish aunt’s elderly father: ’Tis a grand day, a grand day.

o   All the years we celebrated Thanksgiving with my parents. I so miss them.

o   The year relatives traveled to our house for Thanksgiving and one of the teenagers, incensed about something that happened on the drive over, spent the entire day fuming in their van. As the mother of teenagers myself, I could sympathize.

o   The year I was preparing Thanksgiving for a huge crowd—not my gift—and realized I’d forgotten to buy ingredients for the pumpkin pie. I was about to rush off to the grocery store one more time when a friend showed up at my door with a glorious, fully baked, homemade pumpkin pie. A true miracle.

Thanksgiving In The Time of Plague will be a memory, too, one day, and I’ve realized that I can choose how it will be remembered. 

Will I regret what I can’t have or celebrate what I do have? Will I fume over what doesn’t feel right or will I keep a sense of humor? Will I harbor bitterness or will I look for the joy?

I choose joy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

An Interview with Author Libby Klein by E. B. Davis


It's vintage Poppy McAllister when the gluten-free baker and B&B owner tries to solve a murder at a Cape May winery . . .
When Poppy and Aunt Ginny agreed to host a Wine and Cheese Happy Hour for a tour group at their Butterfly House Bed and Breakfast on the Jersey Shore, they never anticipated such a sour bunch. Grumpy guest Vince Baker should be in a better mood—he’s filthy rich and on his honeymoon with his much younger wife Sunny, who seems to dote on him almost as much as her high-spirited teacup Pomeranian, Tammy Faye Baker.
But the honeymoon is over when Vince drops dead the next day touring the Laughing Gull Winery. Turns out he's been poisoned, and it seems like everybody on the tour is hiding something. Now Poppy has to put her gluten-free baking on the back burner and bottle up her feelings for the two men in her life while she charges after a bitter killer with a lethal case of sour grapes . . .

Whatever you do, don’t read this book when hungry. Libby Klein’s descriptions of blue cheese-stuffed bacon-wrapped dates; toasted baguette slices infused with orange olive oil, topped with half a fig and goat cheese; and chocolate mousse tartelettes will induce you to buy out the gourmet section at the grocery. Wine Tastings are Murder debuts on December 1. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Murder, mayhem, and chaos are typical at the Cape May B & B and in that milieu, Poppy must decide between beaus. Will she choose Tim, her high school sweetheart or Gia, the kind Italian? Meanwhile, Aunt Ginny and her cohorts are up to something that involves muscular aches and pains, stupefying Poppy, who observes them sitting on bags of frozen vegetables. And then, erroneous alerts and answers to unasked questions spout from Zalexa, the new electronic gadget gifted to Aunt Ginny.

The Poppy McAllister mystery series is a joy to read. In comparison to Poppy’s dilemmas, your stress level will deflate. 

Please welcome Libby Klein back to WWK.                              E. B. Davis


Do you own an Alexa-like devise? Have you developed a satisfactory relationship with her yet or does she make you want to swear? Does she embarrass you in front of guests?

I have several Alexas. We have a love hate relationship. At least once a week I check on a timer to hear her respond that there are no timers set - when I know I clearly set a timer. She drives me crazy with her selective hearing. She hasn’t embarrassed me yet, but she is often used against me as a fact checking resource. I need to find a way to program her to agree with me when she hears my husband’s voice.


Tim creates a sign for his restaurant Maxine’s in the form of a female crab named Maxine. Is Tim aware that the crab has attributes of a woman that isn’t Poppy? I don’t think he is. Tim is very focused on making his restaurant successful and he’ll do whatever it takes to draw people in. He is a good example of how we can get tunnel vision and miss the cues around us that something is off.


Why doesn’t Aunt Ginny want to marry her beau Royce? Aunt Ginny has been married five times. She’s not ready to give up her free-wheeling lifestyle and settle down again. Her days of sharing the remote and doing a man’s laundry are behind her - at least for the time being…


Poppy reacts when Tim says he wants her to work for him every day. Poppy reacted to “everyday.” I reacted to his use of the word “for.” Wasn’t theirs supposed to be a partnership, like their relationship? They were always going to be equal partners, in business and romance. A lot of time has passed and they’ve had a few bumps along the way to finding out if they have a future together. It’s possible that we see both of them reveal a side to their true feelings in the use of those words you’ve pointed out. It’s something they’ll have to overcome if they’re meant to be together.


Victory, Poppy’s new chambermaid, passed three requirements to get the job. What were they? She
was available. She had a valid work visa. And she wasn’t spooked away by Aunt Ginny and Figaro’s antics. That last one is harder to pass then you might think.


Are cliques now squads? Why the change in terminology? Cliques exclude others from being a part of the group because they aren’t good enough or cool enough to be friends with. A squad is your group of best friends, but you’re also open to having new friends join the group.


Figaro keeps Poppy on her toes. Does your cat play head-games with you? How do you know for sure? My cat is very naughty. She keeps finding new and creative ways to get what she wants. Her newest trick is pressing the buttons on an air purifier next to my bed until the beeping wakes me up. The first time was a happy accident. Every time after that has been carefully calculated to annoy me. 


Birthday boobs? And what might they be? That’s when a rich girl gets breast implants for her 18th birthday. I think I got a diaper bag.


There are TSA dogs in Hawaii that sniff for fruit? Yes. Absolutely. Illegal fruit? What is illegal fruit? Customs is very strict about what you can take on and off the island. How do they train the dogs to sniff fruit without eating it? I have no idea, but I’d love to know the answer to that. How do they differentiate between fruit and illegal fruit? Maybe they go to fruit trafficking school and sniff contraband papaya all day. I don’t think you can take fresh fruit onto or off the island with the exception of Dole pineapple. Maybe they spray that with something to make it safe. We’ll have to ask the dogs to be sure.

Poppy doesn’t react well when Gia hires a young redhead to work the coffee bar. Does she really think Gia will trade her in for a newer model?
Poppy’s self esteem is tenuous at best. She’s making great strides in self-acceptance, but a younger, skinnier red head would be a challenge for the strongest of egos.


I grew up going to Ocean City, NJ for vacation. Is Morrow’s Nut House still around? It was there last year. I didn’t get to visit this year because of the pandemic, so I don’t know if Covid has made any drastic changes to the area landmarks. I hope everyone has weathered the storm. I ordered ingredients from a few places in Cape May to put in my recipes for the next book so I’m doing my small part to keep them around.


Guests named Baker check into the B & B with a teacup Pomeranian named Tammy Faye. Which is bigger, Figaro or Tammy Faye? Figaro is bigger than a teacup pom. Which animal is innocent? Neither.


Sunny Baker looks like a gold digger. She’s much too young for her husband. She’s a stay-at-home wife. But when her daughter-in-law and social media lifestyle bogger, Zara, gang up on Sunny, she defends herself well by saying, “I thought women fought for the right to make their own choices in life and not have someone else tell them how they should live.” I felt like applauding Sunny. Is judging Sunny harshly too easy? You’ll have to decide that for yourself. No one is one-dimensional. The characters in my books are rarely what they seem. I hope they surprise you.


Is there a bridge to Cape May? There are two bridges. One from North Cape May that leads to West Cape May, and one at the end of the Garden State Parkway – Exit Zero. Cape May is a man-made island.


Victory has uniform problems, but that’s not her biggest problem. Why does Poppy find Victory asleep all the time? Victory has narcolepsy. That was not mentioned on her job application.


I think we all have had cheerleader problems. Did you? I definitely did. The cheerleaders were the mean girls in my school. That’s not to say that I have a bitter grudge against all cheerleaders. My daughter and granddaughters were cheerleaders, and they were wonderful. I think people are individuals. Bullying and shallowness are not caused by pompoms, but they sure ran rampant in my small neck of the woods.


Who really said, “With great power comes great responsibility”? Uncle Ben. A character in Spider Man. You can ask Alexa. She’ll tell you.


Why does Poppy’s best friend Sawyer think Poppy is cursed? Because it’s not normal to keep finding murder victims. Don’t Google this. Just take my word for it.


Is there a recipe for strawberries in chocolate balsamic glaze? Chocolate balsamic vinegar can be found in gourmet and specialty stores. Just drizzle the chocolate balsamic over the strawberries. It’s delicious over ice cream too.


How much do people need to have in common to make a relationship work? I don’t think there’s a simple answer for this. The only constant is that it takes a lot of hard work to make a relationship endure, and it isn’t always as fun or easy as Hollywood makes it look.


What is keto flu? The temporary detox effect of your body kicking sugar and going through withdrawals from a lack of simple carbohydrates. You feel like you have the flu for a few days. The more sugar you are used to eating before you cut it out, the worse you feel while you adjust. It’s like drinking four cups of coffee a day then cutting out caffeine cold turkey. I get terribly loopy after a vacation or holiday when I go back to no sugar. 


Even though Poppy’s high school nemesis (cheerleader) turned detective Amber wants to keep the suspects together by having them stay at Poppy’s B & B, surely Poppy should be able to charge them. Why does she take on the burden and do it for free? Amber can’t make them stay anywhere they don’t want to stay unless they’ve been officially charged with a crime. The detective saying, “Don’t leave town” is only a thing in television and movies. Poppy is trying to garner a little good will with the police by working with them to provide a way to keep the suspects in town during the investigation. Free lodging at a beach B&B would be hard to pass up. And no one wants to make themselves look suspicious by refusing the generosity.


I was so happy with the ending until you dropped the bomb. What is next for Poppy and Aunt Ginny? So many delightfully horrible things. Beauty Expos Are Murder comes out next summer and it picks up moments after Wine Tastings ends. You’ll get to see how Poppy handles the men in her life, and whether or not she chooses to move forward with romance. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

2020, The Plague Year Revisited by Martha Reed

As we near the turn of the year with a hopeful promise of a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, I wanted to stop and consider any writerly lessons I’ve learned from the quarantine isolation and social distancing experience since the experiences may eventually be used as grist in the fiction writing mill.

Fortunately for me, quarantine didn’t impact my daily writing output. I’ve followed the same routine I had pre-COVID, working on my WIP (e.g., Work in Progress) during the mornings and taking care of any marketing and promotion or other author business related chores in the afternoon.

I suspect this routine sameness directly correlates to the fact that I don’t have school age children quarantined at home.

 My complete and absolute sympathy goes out to those creative writers and parents who are home schooling their kids during this pandemic as they continue to develop their stories. I can see on Facebook that some folks are successfully doing it and they deserve a heartfelt salute. When I consider how much extra energy, time and focus home schooling must take, I’m in awe of their success. I believe I’d lose my damn mind if I had to do it, especially knowing that the little buggers would be expectantly crouched outside my home office door ready to ask: ‘What’s for dinner’?

 Virginia Woolf once said, “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” To my mind, that room must include a door to firmly shut out such distractions and these days also include the ability to ruthlessly disconnect the internet, that great time sucking thief.

A surprising lockdown silver lining is the availability of online writer’s conferences. I love attending conferences and conventions. They’re my reward for doing the creative writing work. I’ve always had international conferences like St. Hilda’s Crime Fiction Weekend in Oxford, England and Bloody Scotland on my radar, but in 2020 everything went online and best of all, free. There were no more excuses for not setting aside the time to attend them and I joyfully signed up. I’ve now been introduced to an expansive brave new world of European crime fiction authors with distinctly non-American plots and writing styles. It’s been an eye-opening opportunity with lots of room for new personal writerly growth.

 The negative side of online conferences is that I miss the personal introductions, interactions, and new connections that I make, one of the greatest joys in my life. Crime fiction writers are my family. Sure, during Zoom calls everyone is friendly, but it’s not the same thing. Not to grumble, but I do feel that COVID-19 robbed my year of that. I’ve been doing the work without getting the full perks. Hopefully, this will change in 2021 and we can all raise a glass together again soon.

 The bottom line is please stay safe. How are you coping with quarantine and social distancing? Have you developed any new good writerly habits?



Monday, November 23, 2020


             This Thursday is Thanksgiving. Because I post on the fourth Monday of every month, and because we at Writers Who Kill change our schedules from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day, 2020 is one of the very rare years when I post the week of Thanksgiving. Usually, the fourth Monday in November happens after Thanksgiving. Wherever you are, here in the United States or overseas either with our armed forces or as an expatriate, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving in spite of COVID. 

           Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays; it is a time to breathe before I am pushed into the Christmas season, relax with my family and, most importantly, thank God for the many, many blessings in my life. It’s hard to imagine a year without a Thanksgiving, but Thanksgiving hasn’t always been a national holiday. Curious, I decided to look into its history. NOT the history of the first Thanksgiving; I love that story too much to clutter it with inconvenient historical facts (although I know my share of them). I prefer to leave my mental image of the grateful Pilgrims with the helpful Indians intact. Instead, I looked up how Thanksgiving came to be the beloved national holiday it is today. 

            During the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress declared one or more national days of official Thanksgiving, as did George Washington, John Adams, and James Madison as presidents. In 1817, New York became the first state to adopt an official day for a yearly Thanksgiving holiday. Several other states followed suit, but in keeping with the unanimity we expect from the separate 50 states, each state selected a different day. In 1827, Sarah Josepha Hale began campaigning to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. As the editor of first The Ladies Magazine and then Godey’s Ladies’ Book until the age of almost 90 (she retired in 1877), she had, as Teddy Roosevelt would have said, a bully pulpit from which to lobby. (Ms. Hale was also the author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”) 

            After 36 years of hard campaigning, which included editorials and dozens of letters to governors, presidents, congressmen, and senators, she achieved her goal when in 1863 Abraham Lincoln designated the last Thursday in November as the national holiday of Thanksgiving. In his proclamation, made in the second year of the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln asked Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” 

           The first Thanksgiving Day parade was held in Philadelphia in 1920; the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Day Parade began in 1924, along with America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Detroit. In 1934, the Detroit Lions hosted the first of their annual Thanksgiving Day games, a tradition that continues even today. The only years since then that the Detroit Lions haven’t played a Thanksgiving game were in 1939 through 1944 during World War II. They’re even playing this year, in spite of COVID-19, although the fans won’t be able to attend in person.  The Dallas Cowboys began their annual Thanksgiving Day game in 1966. Then, in 2006, the NFL added a third game to the schedule, completing the slate of Thanksgiving Day football games as we know it today. 

                Thanksgiving continued to be held every year on the last Thursday of November until 1939, when Franklin D. Roosevelt, in the middle of the Depression, attempted to move it up to the third Thursday in November in an effort to increase holiday retail sales. This change was incredibly unpopular (some critics called it “Franksgiving”) and in 1941 he reluctantly signed a bill from Congress establishing Thanksgiving as occurring on the fourth Thursday of November, where it remains today. 

            Because Thanksgiving has been a national holiday since the Civil War, most families now follow their own special traditions. My husband, daughter, and I travel somewhere in our camper, just the three of us, for Thanksgiving weekend. Usually, we go to the Gatlinburg area. If we can, Kayla and I watch at least part of the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade together, because I know my Mom and sisters are doing the same wherever they are. It gives us a sense of closeness even though we are apart. What are your family traditions?

Sunday, November 22, 2020

NaNoWriMo by Annette Dashofy



For those unfamiliar with “NaNoWriMo,” the letters stand for National Novel Writing Month, an annual challenge that takes place in November. The idea is you sign up at the website and commit to write 50,000 words, a complete first draft, in thirty days.


The mere thought of that many words in that short period of time has always made me slightly hysterical. Plus I always had a really good excuse for not participating. I was either on deadline for a work in progress, or edits were due, or I was working on an upcoming release… There simply wasn’t an opportunity to focus so completely on blasting out a first draft.


However, I’ve frequently “borrowed from the NaNo energy,” as I called it, to write more than usual. That was my plan for this year as well.


Several of my writing buddies announced they’d signed up. It still wasn’t enough to put myself through the stress. But then two things happened.


First, one of those writing buddies said she was doing NaNoWriMo as a distraction from everything going on in the country. A distraction. Hmm. That might work.


Second, near the end of October, I signed with an agent! And not only for the new series, but for the next Zoe Chambers Mystery too! She’s submitting a proposal based on the first three chapters and synopsis because the book itself isn’t finished.


Which brought me back to NaNoWriMo. While you’re supposed to start a new manuscript at the beginning, I didn’t see any mention on the website about NaNo police. No one would come knocking on my door to see what I was working on. Fatal Reunion, my Zoe WIP, was at 35,000 words and progressing at a snail’s pace. I estimated it would finish out at about 85,000 words. I may not be great at math, but even I can calculate I needed roughly 50,000 words to complete the manuscript.


The universe was speaking to me. And I took the hint.


As I’m writing this, I’m happy to report that I’m on track. In order to meet the 50K word goal, I need to average 1667 words per day. I’ve only missed the mark once, and having anticipated that slow day, I’d written extra words for several days prior.


It’s been easier than I anticipated. I have to turn off my inner editor. I’m using a lot of weak verbs and adverbs just to keep plowing ahead. I’ve hit research speed bumps and learned to type brackets as placeholders until I find the answers I need. And I’ve trained myself to keep pounding the keyboard even when I feel I’ve run out of things to say. Yes, the stuff I’m putting on the page is absolutely horrid. But it’s easier to fix words than to stare at a blank page.


Fellow Writers Who Kill, have you ever tried NaNoWriMo? If so, how did you do? And readers, have you ever taken on a challenge that felt overwhelming? Tell us about it.