Sunday, November 28, 2021

Secret Santa by Annette Dashofy

Every square inch of Golden Oaks Assisted Living was decorated with fake pine garlands, fake poinsettias, colorful bulbs, bows, Santas, and reindeer. In the front room, a group of high school carolers entertained residents in wheelchairs and on walkers. Attired in his civvies, Police Chief Pete Adams passed a brightly decorated Christmas tree. The last time he’d been here, paper angels with handwritten requests for socks, blankets, and toiletries had hung from the branches. Now, the angels graced gift-wrapped boxes under the tree. 

Pete made his way through the crowd to the receptionist’s desk. The petite dark-haired woman was all but hidden by a stunning wood-carved Nativity scene. 

She stood and gave him a professional smile. “Hello, Mr. Adams. I believe he’s in his room.” 

Pete thanked her. She reclaimed her seat, promptly disappearing behind the manger. “You need to find a better place to display that,” he told her. 

“Don’t I know it,” she said with a sigh. 

Strains of “We Three Kings” grew faint as he climbed the stairs and headed down the second-floor hallway. He found his father seated in one of the public gathering areas near his room looking dour despite the presence of Barbara, his neighbor and object of his affections. 

“Hey, Pop.” Pete took the chair across from the older Adams. “Barbara. You look lovely as always.” 

A flush of pink colored her wrinkled cheeks. “Thank you, kind sir.” She patted Pete’s father’s hand. “Harry, look. It’s your son.” 

Harry pulled his hand away. “I know who he is.” 

She met Pete’s gaze and shrugged. “It’s not a good day.” 

“You got that right.” Harry made a fist and thumped the table once. “There’s a thief in this place. Took my favorite pocket watch.” He looked at Pete. “The one that once belonged to President Dwight Eisenhower.” 

Pete knew the watch well. He’d been with his pop the day he bought it at a flea market. The seller swore by the Eisenhower story although even as a kid, Pete had his doubts. Harry had overpaid for the piece. Especially since it never kept the right time. Years later, it quit altogether. “I’m sure you just misplaced it.” 

“I did no such thing.” Harry’s sour expression grew darker. “You people all think I’ve lost my marbles. Well, I’m here to tell you, that watch has been stolen. And it’s not the only thing to go missing around here.” 

Barbara appeared equally downtrodden. “I’m afraid he’s right about that.” 

Harry’s Alzheimer’s often clouded his perception, but his lady friend was sharper than most. If she was agreeing with him, there must be something to the allegation. “What else is missing?” Pete asked her. 

“Little things mostly. Evelyn Downey claims she can’t find the broach her late husband gave her. But she could’ve simply lost it. The clasp hasn’t worked well for years. The last time she wore it to dinner, it fell in her lap. If I hadn’t pointed it out, she’d have dropped it on the floor when she stood up.” 

Pete relaxed. Barbara was probably right. “I’ll check with management and see if anyone has turned it in.” 

“She already did.” Barbara rested her hands on the tabletop. “No one has. If someone found it, they must think finders keepers.” 

Harry looked at her. “That old fart with one leg had his bank robbed.” 

Pete scowled. “What?” 

Barbara shook her head. “His name is Mike.” 

“He’s an old fart.” 

She gave Pete an apologetic smile. “It’s true, he isn’t very pleasant.” 

“What about a bank?” Pete asked. 

“Not a real bank.” She held her hands apart to show the size. “It was an antique mechanical thing. Cast iron, I think. A little man with a rifle supposedly shot a penny into a slot in a tree or something.” 

“William Tell,” Harry corrected her. 

Barbara lowered her hands to her lap. “I only saw it once and not close up. Mike was trying to show it off to a bunch of us but couldn’t get it to work. Still, he was quite proud of it.” 

“Old fart,” Harry muttered. 

Misplacing a cast-iron mechanical bank would be harder than losing a broach or a pocket watch. 

“And then there’s my music box.” 

Pete brought his focus back to Barbara. “The one you keep on your dresser?” He remembered chatting with her in her room once and seeing the dainty gold box, its lid open to reveal intricate inner workings and an ethereal dancer painted inside. 

“Yes. I overwound it years ago and must have broken the spring. But it was so pretty. And it was a gift from my mother, so I couldn’t throw it away.” 

A missing pocket watch, Pete could write off, especially considering it was his father who misplaced it. A lost broach with a faulty clasp? He could accept that as well. But add the mechanical bank and the music box? Harry might be right about a thief roaming the halls of Golden Oaks. 

But Harry’s eyes had glazed over, that all-too-familiar lost look he wore more and more frequently. Pete reached across the table to place a hand on Barbara’s. “I’ll talk to management. See if anyone else has been complaining to them about lost items.” 

“That would be lovely.” She gave him a wry smile. “They don’t pay much attention when we report such things. They just think we’re old, you know?” 

Pete grinned. “I’ll be sure and set them straight.” 

Harry blinked. “Pete? When did you get here?” 

“Just now, Pop.” 

He banged his fist on the table. “Someone stole my Eisenhower pocket watch.” 


Downstairs, the carolers had concluded their concert and were headed toward the doors. The residents were wheeling and walkering their way to the elevators creating a slow-moving traffic jam. Pete located Connie Smith standing outside her office, chatting with a woman he assumed was a family member. He waited until they finished their conversation and the woman strode away before approaching Connie. 

“Chief Adams.” The case manager smiled brightly. “It’s good to see you.” Her smile faded when she noticed his stern expression. “Is everything okay with Harry?” 

Pete glanced around at a group of residents chatting loudly a few feet away. “Perhaps we should discuss this in private.” 

She ushered him into her office and closed the door. “Please. Sit.” Once they were both settled, she picked up a stray pen and asked. “What seems to be the problem?” 

He told her what he’d learned. Her expression transformed from tolerant when he mentioned the lost pocket watch and broach to concerned when he mentioned the bank and music box. 

“Oh, my. That does seem like a lot to simply dismiss.” Connie fingered her hair. “Especially considering what I just heard. The daughter of one of our residents asked me to keep an eye out for her mother’s book. It’s a first edition of To Kill a Mockingbird.” 

“That has to be worth a pretty penny.” 

Connie shrugged. “Probably not as much as you’d think. She really loves that book and has literally read it to pieces. The spine is broken, and the pages are loose. At first, I thought she probably carried it with her and left it somewhere around the facility. But her daughter insists her mother never took the book out of her room because it is so fragile. Once I thought about it, I realized she was right. The only time I’ve ever seen it was on her bedside table.” 

“If someone took it, they had to have entered her room.” 

“So it would seem.” Connie absentmindedly drummed the pen on the table. “Apparently, we have a thief.” 

“Several of the items are too large to hide easily. You shouldn’t have too much of a problem locating them.” 

Connie blinked. “You’re assuming the culprit is one of our residents?” 

Pete had to admit, he had been. “If a visitor had taken the cast iron bank, I’d think someone would’ve noticed.” 

“Not necessarily.” Connie set the pen down. “Family and friends are in and out of here all the time. Especially this time of year, they bring gifts and carry tote bags. We don’t search them for contraband.” 

“How about your security cameras?” 

“I don’t have the staff to go back over all the footage.” She fixed him with a hopeful gaze. “But I’d be happy to let you take a look if you like. As you know, there aren’t any cameras in the rooms, but you might see something suspicious in the hallways.” 

Sitting in front of a monitor, searching security footage for a burglar, wasn’t how Pete had anticipated spending Christmas Eve. But he thought of his pop and Barbara and the other Golden Oaks residents losing treasured possessions and knew there was no other place he should be. 


Harry and Barbara had eagerly accepted Pete’s invitation to look through the videos. They’d had a taste of sleuthing once before when Zoe had enlisted their help to find a killer. This was safer—but duller—by comparison. 

Pete set them both in chairs in the security office and faced his father. “Do you know when your watch went missing?” 

Harry didn’t answer, and his eyes had that blank look again. 

Pete turned to Barbara. “What about your music box?” 

She brought a wrinkled but elegant finger thoughtfully to her chin. “I know it was there on Sunday. I had company. Some ladies from my old church stopped by and were admiring it. I didn’t notice it was missing though until Tuesday.” 

“Good.” Pete tapped the keyboard, pulling up the footage from the camera in the hallway near both Barbara’s and Harry’s rooms and set it to replay Sunday afternoon’s recording. “I’m going to put this on fast forward, so we aren’t here until New Year’s. If you spot anyone coming or going who shouldn’t be, call out and I’ll freeze it.” He shifted his attention to his father. “Got it?” 

“Yeah, yeah.” Harry flipped a hand impatiently. “Roll it.” 

The image played across the screen, showing Barbara’s church ladies scurrying out, which brought a chuckle from her. “Those gals have never moved that fast.” 

“Just let me know if anyone else shows up.” 

Leaving them to watch one monitor, Pete pulled up footage from another camera in the hallway near the resident who’d lost his cast iron bank. 

After twenty minutes, Harry grew impatient. “What are we looking for?” he asked. 

Pete clicked pause on his own video and turned toward them. “Someone coming out of your room or Barbara’s. Someone you didn’t invite or maybe carrying something that doesn’t belong to them.” 

“Some no-good thief stole my Eisenhower pocket watch.” 

“I know, Pop. That’s why we’re doing this.” 

Another twenty minutes passed with an assortment of people zipping down the hallways. The only ones who entered the room Pete watched were nurses, aides, and one of the cleaning crew. His eyes were starting to fog when someone else veered into the room. Pete hit pause, rewind, and play at normal speed. When the visitor exited, he faced the camera, and Pete froze the image. 

“Pop. Barbara. Do you know who this is?” 

Both turned toward him. Barbara adjusted her glasses. “That’s Daryl.” She looked at Harry. “Right?” 

“I don’t remember his name, but we play cards.” 

“And bingo.” Barbara looked at Pete. “Yes. It’s Daryl, but I don’t know his last name.” She pointed at the screen she and Harry had been watching. “He dropped by to visit both of us too. I think he stops in at everyone’s room at least once a week. He’s what you’d call a social butterfly.” 

“You say he visited both of you?” Pete tipped his head toward the video still running on their monitor. “Recently?” 

“Oh, yes. But only when we’re there.” Barbara frowned. “At least I think so.” 

Pete studied the still image on the screen. Daryl was using a cane and his other hand was clearly visible in the frame. If he’d taken anything as large as a cast-iron bank from the room, it wasn’t during this particular visit. Pete looked at Barbara. “Have you seen anything else suspicious?” 

“No.” She gave a disappointed sigh. “The only people in and out of our rooms are those who are supposed to be there. Sorry.” 

“No need to apologize.” She’d given him a solid lead. A social butterfly, if not the thief, might very well know who was. “Do you know which room is Daryl’s?” 


Pete lucked out and found Daryl at home rather than flitting about on his visitation rounds. Pete introduced himself as Harry’s son. 

Daryl smiled broadly. “The police chief.” 

So much for being inconspicuous. “Yes, sir, that’s right. Mind if I come in?” 

Daryl shuffled to one side and waved with his free hand. “Please. I enjoy company.” 

Pete tried to not be too obvious as he scanned the room. Daryl had an extensive collection of wood carvings decorating every available surface. Wildlife, birds, and one extremely realistic-looking turtle drew Pete’s interest. “These are incredible.” 

Daryl beamed. “Thank you.” 

You did these?” 

He held out his hand which trembled like a dry leaf in a stiff wind. “Back before my son got afraid I’d cut off something vital.” Daryl thumped his cane which was also masterfully embellished. 

“Nice work. I do a little carving myself. Gunstocks mostly. But nothing as intricate as these.” 

“Ha. You should see the stuff I’ve given away. These are my rejects.” 

“I noticed a wooden Nativity scene on the front desk when I came in. More of your handiwork?” 

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it? But no, I can’t claim that one.” 

Pete forced his attention from the carvings to subtly scan the rest of the room. None of the missing items appeared in plain view. Coming back to the wooden menagerie, he asked, “None of your work has turned up missing recently, has it?” 

Daryl scowled in puzzlement. “No. Why?” 

Pete kept his expression relaxed. “Some of your neighbors have reported personal items as lost.” He watched Daryl and added, “Or stolen.” 

The old man’s face went blank. “That’s horrible.” 

Pete’s internal BS detector started screaming. Still, nothing about Daryl suggested criminal intent. Perhaps Pete had been in law enforcement too long. He saw lies everywhere. “Tell me something, Daryl. Do you play poker?” 

“Used to.” He grinned. “Around here though, the only card games are bridge or pinochle.” 

Pete took another survey of the room and nodded. “You should talk to my pop. I’m sure he’d be happy to scare up a poker game if there’s enough interest.” Pete patted the old woodcarver on the shoulder and let himself out. 


The light dusting of snow on Christmas morning was just enough to add to the holiday atmosphere without endangering anyone on the roads, freeing Pete from his policing duties for a few hours. Since Zoe also had some rare downtime, he brought her with him to Golden Oaks. 

Aides attired in elf hats and ears were gathered around the angel tree, collecting and sorting the gifts. Zoe rushed over to them. “Wait.” She placed two more packages under the tree. 

One of the young women smiled and thanked her. “We had quite a bit of participation this year. Look at all these presents.” 

“That’s wonderful.” Zoe smiled back at her and rejoined Pete. “I’m glad to see all these gifts. It seems like a lot more than last year.” 

He shifted his father’s package to his other arm. “See? You didn’t need to worry.” He knew if she had her way, she’d buy something for every resident in the facility. She’d already delivered cookies to the staff on a previous visit. 

They climbed the stairs and headed down the hallway to Harry’s room where they found him seated in his favorite chair, arms folded and a glum look on his face. 

Zoe crossed to him and pressed a kiss to his cheek. “Merry Christmas, Harry.” 

As always, her presence brought a sparkle to his eyes. “Hello, Sunshine. Is it Christmas?” 

“It sure is.” Pete held out the brightly wrapped box to him. “Santa left this for you at our house.”Harry snorted but accepted the package and gave it a quick shake. “It doesn’t rattle. And it’s light. You got me a box of air.” 

Zoe took a seat on the edge of his bed. “Open it.” 

He ripped into the gift wrap and deposited it on the floor. Pete helped him open the box and watched his eyes grow wide as he pulled out a black and gold Pittsburgh Steelers lap quilt. 

Harry tossed the box on top of the discarded wrapping paper and laid the quilt across his knees. “Maybe they’ll win the Superbowl this year.” But his grin quickly faded. 

“What’s wrong, Pop?” 

“There’s a thief around here. Someone stole my Eisenhower pocket watch. You remember it, don’t you, son?” 

Pete glanced at Zoe who’d taught him to go along with Harry’s repeated tales rather than remind him they’d already covered this ground. “I remember, Pop.” Pete had asked Connie to keep an eye on Daryl regarding the missing items but hadn’t heard back. Considering the holiday, he didn’t expect to for a few days. 

One of the elfin aides appeared in the doorway with a stack of boxes—two larger and one small one. “Ho ho ho.” She entered the room and held out the gifts to Harry. “You must’ve been very good this year.” 

He accepted them with a snort. “You don’t know me very well.” 

The aide winked at Pete and left. 

Zoe rose from the bed and leaned over to examine the tags. “What do we have here?” 

Harry shook the small box. Nothing rattled but he scowled. “This one is heavier than it looks.” 

Zoe met Pete’s gaze. “The big ones have the angel tree tags on them. This little one only has Harry’s name on it. Nothing saying who it’s from.” 

“Open it, Pop.” 

Harry ripped into the colorful paper revealing a generic white box with tape keeping the lid closed. He refused Zoe’s offer of help and picked at the tape until he managed to peel it off. He lifted the lid, removed some crumpled tissue paper, and choked a laugh. “It’s my Eisenhower watch.” He studied it closer. “And it’s running.” He pressed it to his ear and then held it out to Pete. “Listen.” 

Pete could hear the soft tick, tick, tick from where he stood. Before he had a chance to give the suddenly reappeared and resurrected timepiece a closer look, an exuberant cry from across the hall drew his attention. A moment later, Barbara appeared in the doorway on her walker. 

“Come see what I got,” she said, tears glistening. 

Harry set his gifts on the floor as Pete handed him his cane. All three of them crossed to Barbara’s room where gift wrap was folded neatly on her dresser, next to her music box which was playing a soft melody Pete had never heard before. 

Barbara stood over it, a hand pressed to her cheek. “It works. It’s been broken for years, but now it works.” 

Zoe picked up the gift wrap and looked at the tag. “Doesn’t say who it’s from, but the handwriting matches Harry’s.” 

Pete met her gaze and wondered if she was thinking the same thing. 

A smile spread across her beautiful face. “Who had the bank and the broach? And the book?” 

He gestured to her. “Come on. Let’s go see if they received mystery gifts too.” 


It didn’t take long to discover that the secret Santa had struck elsewhere as well. The William Tell bank was back in one-legged Mike’s room and was firing pennies into the slot for the first time in more than a decade. Evelyn Downey was happily wearing her broach which now had a new clasp keeping it secure. And one ecstatic reader was showing off her newly rebound copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.

According to reports shared throughout Golden Oaks, several other residents had received personal items they’d thought were long gone and which were now as good as new. 

The elves were as clueless about the source of the “gifts” as the residents were. Pete, however, had his suspicions. He took Zoe’s hand and drew her down the hall. 

“Where are we going?” 

“Following a hunch,” he told her. 

He found Daryl standing in his open doorway, chatting with a young man Pete had seen around the place, usually pushing a cart loaded with a trash can and cleaning supplies. This time, Pete noticed a strong resemblance between the two, as if the janitor was a much younger version of the woodcarver. When they spotted Pete and Zoe’s approach, the janitor started to walk away. 

The final puzzle piece fell in place. Pete called out to him. “Hold up a minute. I want to talk to both of you.” 

The janitor’s eyes took on that deer-in-headlights look common in guilty parties. Daryl, on the other hand, only looked smug. 

“What’s going on?” Zoe whispered. 

“Just wait,” Pete whispered back. He pointed from Daryl to the janitor. “Let me guess. Grandfather and grandson?” 

They exchanged glances. 

The younger man swallowed hard. “Yes, sir.” 

“AKA Santa and Santa’s helper.” Pete didn’t need to pose it as a question. He knew. 

Fifteen minutes later, Pete, Zoe, Daryl, and his grandson, whose name was Levon, gathered around the woodcarving collection after sharing their story. Daryl had come up with the idea after learning about all the broken treasures his neighbors possessed. Levon had the opportunity to sneak those items out of the rooms while cleaning, hiding the harder to conceal pieces in the trash can. 

“Levon has helped me in my workshop since he was a wee tyke.” Daryl’s pride was evident in his smile as he spoke. “He got to be better than me. That Nativity scene you asked about. That’s his handiwork. And he’s not just skilled at carving but at fixing stuff too. I don’t think there’s anything he can’t make work again.” Daryl patted his grandson’s shoulder. “Kid’s got…how do you young folks say it? Crazy skills.” 

Levon lowered his head but not before Pete spotted the crimson flush of embarrassment in his cheeks. 

“Let me get this straight.” Pete looked at Daryl. “You located the broken personal items.” Pete shifted his focus to Levon. “You stole and repaired them.” 

“And wrapped and put them under the tree,” Daryl added. “‘Stole’ is such a harsh word.” 

Levon lifted his gaze to Pete’s. “Are you gonna arrest me?” 

At his side, Pete heard Zoe choke back a laugh. “I don’t know,” he said. “Did you keep any of the loot for yourself?” 

Levon’s eyes widened. “No, sir.” 

“Did you sell any of it for profit?” 

“No, sir. Not for profit or for nothing. I only fixed the stuff and gave it all back. Honest.” 

Pete couldn’t maintain his stern cop face any longer and smiled. “Well, then, I don’t see any reason to arrest you.” 

Levon exhaled so hard, Pete feared the kid’s knees might buckle. 

Daryl raised a finger. “Can I ask one favor?” 

Pete nodded. 

“Could we keep this just among us? We might be playing Santa, but I’d like to keep it a secret Santa if you don’t mind.” 

“No problem.” Pete shook hands with both men. 

As Pete and Zoe walked hand-in-hand back to Harry’s room, it seemed every other conversation they overheard revolved around the joy of having a beloved memento back and like new. Daryl and Levon had been busier than Pete had realized. 

“I think all the comforters and socks and robes from under the angel tree are being ignored because of the cool toys.” Zoe made air quotes around her last two words.

“Maybe, but I doubt any of the angel tree gifters will mind.” He raised an eyebrow at her. “Right?” 

She snuggled closer against him. “Right. After all, people like Daryl and Levon? They’re real angels on earth.” 






Saturday, November 27, 2021

Whose Words Are They? by Kait Carson

This is November. To most folks, that means Thanksgiving and the start of a hectic holiday season that doesn’t wind down until January. To writers it means NaNoWriMo. The National Novel Writing Month. Writers who participate challenge themselves to write fifty thousand words. They may not be good words, that’s not the point. The point is to get it on paper because you can’t edit a blank page. There is much to say for this philosophy. It’s successful, and many novels have been conceived in November.


In 2009 I took part in Nano, as it’s affectionally known, and I completed the word challenge. Diving Diva wasn’t the first book I’d written, but it was the first one I thought might be good enough to publish. Four years later, after extensive revision and a change of title to Death by Blue Water, Henery Press picked up the book, and I spent the next few days doing a happy dance. Thank you, Nano!


My Henery contract provided that all rights would revert to me after five years. The rights to Death by Blue Water reverted in 2019. Those to Death by Sunken Treasure contractually came home to mama two years later. Perfect timing. The pandemic that cost me my day job in July of 2020 opened the possibility of pursuing writing as a full-time job. How lucky was I to begin a full-time indie author career with two books “in the can.” By the time I finished setting Blue Water up for publication, I’d have the rights back to Sunken Treasure. Easy peasy.


I set my feet on the well-worn path of reviewing the books, omitting references to the traditional publisher and making necessary edits. The only major change was new covers for each book. I did not own the rights to the original artwork. Those rights stayed with the artist and/or publisher. Besides, I intended to continue the series. A new look helps create a new brand. Unfortunately, my artistic talent is limited to stick figures and turkeys drawn by tracing my own hand. I thank my lucky stars for Polly Iyer and her amazing talent. She prepared two outstanding covers for the existing books and a third for the now-in-edits Death Dive that -capture the atmosphere of the series.


Amazon provides basic formatting for e and paper books, but I wanted something a step above, and the opportunity to easily publish on platforms other than Amazon. A program named Vellum is and has been the gold standard, but it operates only on Apple products. I am a PC user. Fate intervened and last month Atticus was released. Atticus is the PC user’s answer to Vellum. Whew, saved by innovation! I have to master the program, but early indications are that it’s non-techy friendly. I typically know just enough about my software to be dangerous to myself. The support team has been great.


Do you sense a dark cloud looming on the horizon? I belong to the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime and receive their self-publishing forum emails. One of my fellow Guppies had recently submitted her book for publication to Amazon--a previously published book to which she had received a rights reversion. Amazon questioned the author’s right to publish the work and publication day was delayed while the author proved her ownership. A wrinkle I hadn’t anticipated. After all, no matter the publisher, traditional or self, the author holds the copyright to the words. The problem arises at the production end. Amazon cannot afford to be seen as a pirate platform. That’s both understandable, laudable, and something that I must resolve before I decide on a publication date.


Whose words are they? They are mine. Forged in NaNoWriMo and buffed to a high sheen through revisions and editing. Amazon does not question that. What may be in question is whether having written the words gives me the right of re-publication. Amazon’s response to my query email glossed over the question of the return of rights. It focused on the suggestion that I publish using KDP and offered information on the mechanics of self-publishing. I wrote again to confirm that Amazon understands my question is not one of mechanics but rights. An unexpected wrinkle in an otherwise smooth process.


Pray that you live in interesting times. The life of a writer is always exciting!

Friday, November 26, 2021

The Legend of Korra by Bryan Konietzo and Michael Dante Di Mortino: A Review by Warren Bull


The Legend of Korra by Bryan Konietzo and Michael Dante Di Mortino: A Review by Warren Bull


This Nickelodeon cartoon series is a follow up to The Last Airbender by the same authors as well as Aaron Ehasz



17-year-old Korra is the reincarnation of the Avatar, Aang, who died seventy years earlier. She is the only person who has the capacity to control all the four elements — earth, wind, fire and water.  Her role in the world is to keep things “in balance.” She has mastered “bending” of earth, fire, and water. However, she is frustrated in her efforts to learn the most difficult,  air bending. Rebellious and brave she runs away from home to study with Aang’s son, Tenzin in Republic City, but finds the city threatened by physical and spiritual evil forces.


Apparently, the authors expect watchers to know the entire saga of the last Avatar because they offer little explanation of the current situation and the relationships between the characters.


Adolescent humor crops up constantly. Adults are well-meaning dolts who have some redeeming qualities, but they lack the insight of children. Okay, I have no trouble with that. Farting is assumed to be hilarious.


I was struck by the authors’ concept of “harmony” in the work. There are two classes of people. Some are benders who have the power to control not only the four elements but also lightning, metal and blood. There is a dangerous rebellion brewing among ordinary people who are exploited by benders and sometimes killed by them. Many benders are criminals who extort their victims. Other benders are police officials who imprison people on whims, destroy others’ property, and show no concern for those who lack the power of bending. They city is governed by a council of five who, apparently ,decide every question. Nobody reviews what the council  decides.


The rebels call themselves “Equalists.” They endorse what is described as the radical, dangerous idea that all people should be treated as equals. Although Korra recognizes the abuse going on and has some sympathy for the common people she works to defeat the rebels and to return to “peace and harmony” by supporting the absolute tyranny of the ruling benders.


Still, for a cartoon, there was an unusual depth in terms of exploring family relationships. The artwork was truly exceptional. It held my interest.  The series won numerous animation awards. I believe people who do not ordinarily watch animation would find the first season of interest.  By the way actress Eva Marie Saint voiced one of the characters.


 This Nickelodeon cartoon series is a follow up to The Last Airbender by the same authors as well as Aaron Ehasz


Season Two: Spirits


While I enjoyed season one, I found the second season more engrossing. The art work, a definite strength in the first season, was even more impressive in the follow up. The back story did a great deal to clarify the history of bending. It explored balance, i.e., the conflict between light and darkness (yin and yang) with a surprising level of sophistication.


There was more obvious ethical ambiguity. The characters were age appropriate with boyfriend/girlfriend ups and downs. The idea of personal development applied to the adult characters as well as the adolescents.


The governance was less well defined, which made it appear less dictatorial. Keeping the audience and the type of humor in mind, I can still easily recommend watching this season.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Thanksgiving Memories, or How Not To Make Turkey Soup by Connie Berry


Every Thanksgiving I remember the deadly turkey soup fiasco.


The year my boys were two and five, I decided to follow my mother’s example and use the turkey carcass to make soup. What a great idea, right? I simmered the carcass for hours in a huge stainless pot. By then it was pretty late, and since I was too exhausted to do anything more, I put the pot in the extra refrigerator in the basement. And forgot about it.


Weeks later, realizing the "soup" was now aswirl with deadly organisms, I transferred the pot to the cold garage. And forgot about it again. Until the spring thaw.


Having no clue how to dispose of the lethal brew without slaughtering innocent animals—or people (could water treatment really neutralize what were probably deadly undiscovered toxins?)—I carried the pot outside and stuck it under a tree at the back of our property until I could figure out how to safely make it go away. Out of sight, out of mind.


Come summer, the pot with its murderous contents was still there. My husband got rid of it, expensive pot and all. I never asked how.


Holidays bring back memories—the ones we’d rather forget, the ones that make us laugh, and the ones that touch our hearts.


What are your favorite Thanksgiving memories—the good, the bad, or the ugly? 


     On behalf of all the 

     Writers Who Kill, 

     we wish you a very



Wednesday, November 24, 2021

An Interview with Cynthia Kuhn by E. B. Davis

“Real friends tolerate different points of view.”

“Not toxic friends,” I said.

Cynthia Kuhn, How to Book a Murder, Kindle 1358

To help save her family’s floundering Colorado bookstore, Starlit Bookshop, newly minted Ph.D. Emma Starrs agrees to plan a mystery-themed dinner party for her wealthy, well-connected high school classmate Tabitha Baxter. It’s a delightful evening of cocktails and conjecture until Tabitha’s husband, Tip—hosting the affair in the guise of Edgar Allan Poe’s detective C. Auguste Dupin—winds up murdered.
In a heartbeat, Emma and her aunt Nora, a famous mystery writer, become suspects. Emma is sure the party’s over for Starlit events, until celebrated author Calliope Nightfall, whose gothic sensibilities are intrigued by the circumstances, implores the bookseller to create a Poe-themed launch event for her latest tome. Throwing a bash to die for while searching for additional clues is already enough to drive Emma stark raven mad, but another shocking crime soon reveals that Silvercrest has not yet reached the final chapter of the puzzling case.
Someone in this charming artistic community has murder on the mind, and if Emma cannot outwit the killer, she and her beloved aunt will land behind bars, to walk free nevermore.


The fate of their late parents’ Starlit Bookshop is in the hands of sisters Lucy and Emma Starrs. Main character, Emma, the younger sister, decides to increase customers by planning store events. Unfortunately, the one off-venue event she accepts to help gain recommendations ends in murder. To get off the suspect list, Emma must find out whodunit.

Due to the murder victim’s complex life and finances, the case isn’t easy to solve. He was married to Emma’s high school nemesis, served as the chair of Aunt Nora’s Silvercrest College English department, and involved with several business deals that could have provided motive for his demise.

How to Book a Murder, the first book in Cynthia Kuhn’s Starlit Bookshop mystery series debuts on December 7. This is Cynthia’s second series. Her first, A Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series, is now on Kindle Unlimited!

Please welcome Cynthia Kuhn back to WWK.                                           E. B. Davis


There’s a river, mountain views and snow by Halloween. Where is Silvercrest in Colorado?


Thank you so much for having me on Writers Who Kill! We have had snow by Halloween in the Denver metropolitan area, which always seems a little surreal! The imaginary Silvercrest would be southwest of Denver, right at the foot of the mountains next to a river (that I also made up). The river’s proximity is inspired by Morrison and Estes Park, both of which have water running alongside the main street.


When high school nemesis, Tabitha, comes into the bookstore, Emma immediately feels as if she needs to prove something to the woman. Do we all feel like that from our high school detractors? Why does anyone go to high school reunions? People change.


Good questions. It probably could go in a variety of ways, depending on how we feel about revisiting people or places. But Tabitha has been positively awful to Emma (and others) in the past, so she prompts a strong reaction.


Even though Emma dislikes Tabitha, Emma makes a deal to oversee the murder mystery dinner when its planner vamooses. Why does she do that?


Starlit Books is floundering. They need the money and Emma has event planning experience from her doctoral program years, so she impulsively offers to take the job.


Why is their red tabby named Anne Shirley?


The sisters are fans of L.M. Montgomery, who was their mother’s favorite author. Backstory secret: their own names are also inspired by her work.


Although Emma is the younger sister, she takes on the challenge of planning events and marketing the bookstore to save it from bankruptcy. Why hasn’t Lucy done more to save the store?


Lucy was happy to take on the management elements but found herself overwhelmed, so she had to let the marketing and special events go. Her parents used to divide the same work up when they were in charge, too, so it does work better as a two-person job.


After finishing her PhD, Emma decided to return to Silvercrest to help save the store. Why did she apply for a tenure-track teaching position if she knew she couldn’t take it?


Emma didn’t know when she applied for the tenure-track position months earlier—it’s quite a long process—that Starlit Books was in trouble. When she found out, she immediately decided not to accept the teaching offer and went home to help instead.


What did Emma do for her dissertation?


Emma wrote a novel with a critical preface examining the works of women mystery writers of the Golden Age as a historical precedent. It was the kind of dissertation that creative writers wrote at the school I attended. (I was in the literary studies program there, so I wasn’t able to choose that option, but I would have loved to!)


Aunt Nora, Lucy, and Emma all like purple. What draws them to that color?


I honestly didn’t notice that they all did—how interesting! But I don’t blame them. It’s compelling to me too.


Calliope Nightfall nicknames Lucy, Romance, and Emma, Raven. Why?


Calliope believes that bestowing a new name on someone is giving them a gift. It’s a little unusual, but so is Calliope, whom I adored writing. Her personality just kept getting bigger and bigger.


Is Lucy a talented artist? Calliope loves Lucy’s sketch of her.


Lucy is very talented and could certainly go further with her artistic abilities if she wanted to do so.


Emma characterizes autumn as “she.” What gender would Emma characterize winter as?


It would likely depend on the writing situation and her purpose.           


What is a “terminal degree?”


A terminal degree is the highest degree awarded and can serve as an eligibility requirement for certain jobs (PhD, EdD, MFA, etc.). 


When Tabitha publicly accuses Emma and Aunt Nora of her husband’s murder, why don’t they get a lawyer and slap her with a lawsuit to shut her up? Tabitha’s accusations could hurt the store’s business.


It never even occurs to them. They’re not the litigious type, for one thing, but also they think her behavior is, as always, simply terrible. In other words, it’s Tabitha being Tabitha.


What is “family language?”


Certain phrases that are learned or used within families—for example, Emma notices that two related characters use the same phrasing, which is attributed to their father.


Why does Emma have mixed feelings about joining Jake’s West Side writers’ group?


On the one hand, she and Jake have been in competition forever. There is definitely some baggage there. On the other hand, she wants to finalize her novel and thinks this group could help her do that.


When Emma is stressed with too many things on her schedule simultaneously, she focuses on the present, here and now. Is that her way of coping?


Absolutely! It’s the same principle as “one day at a time.”


Is a phone recorder actually the video function on the phone? In Colorado, is it legal to record a conversation if the person recording is part of the conversation?


Some states, like Colorado, have one-party consent, which may come from the person who is recording. And no, it’s not the video but the voice memo app.


Who is Phryne Fisher?


She’s a character in a series of detective novels by Kerry Greenwood that have been adapted into the TV series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (and film). The 1920s-era costumes are so gorgeous that they’ve been featured in an exhibition.


What’s next for Emma and the Starlit Bookshop?


In the second book of the series, there is murder and mayhem…at a library gala!

Cynthia Kuhn is an English professor and author of the Lila Maclean Academic Mysteries and Starlit Bookshop Mysteries. Her books have been Agatha Award and William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant winners and were shortlisted for the Daphne du Maurier Award and Lefty Awards. She currently serves on the national board of Sisters in Crime and is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and the multi-author blog, Chicks on the Case. Originally from upstate New York, she lives with her family in Colorado.



Twitter: @cynthiakuhn



How to Book a Murder: