Thursday, June 30, 2022

Those Voices in My Head

Those Voices in My Head by Lois Winston

There are two kinds of people who listen to the voices in their heads—schizophrenics and authors. Fortunately, I fall into the latter category, the group that doesn’t talk back. Or so we pretend. But the truth is, those voices in our heads belong to our characters, and whether we’re brave enough to admit it to the world beyond our writing caves, those conversations go both ways.

Our characters demand quite a lot from us, especially those of us who write mysteries. After all, we’re constantly putting them in situations filled with murder and mayhem. Is it any wonder they’re constantly interrupting our plotting to insinuate their own two cents?

My most demanding character is Anastasia Pollack, the reluctant amateur sleuth of the eponymous Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. In every book, I get to a point in the story where Anastasia goes on strike. She absolutely refuses to continue on the path I’ve laid out for her. No matter how much I try to force her into the next chapter, she won’t budge.

Have I mentioned what a royal pain in my butt she is?

This standoff leaves me no choice but to cave to her demands, especially since she always gets the backing of the rest of my characters who line up in solidarity behind her. Then they pool their resources and send my muse off on holiday.

Have I mentioned my characters play dirty?

No author wants to sit in front of a computer screen staring at a blinking cursor for hours on end, especially when deadlines are looming. My characters know this, which means I have no choice but to capitulate to their demands. Otherwise, they won’t send my muse a return-trip ticket.

With every book, Anastasia tosses a monkey wrench into my plots. “You’re taking the easy way out,” she screams. “I demand more conflict! Another red herring! One more plot twist!”

“There’s no problem with the story the way it is,” I whine.

“Wanna bet?” she asks. “Send the chapter off to your critique partner. See what she has to say.”

“Have you been speaking to her behind my back?”

She grins. “I’ll never tell.”

I wonder what my critique partner would say if I asked if she’d heard from Anastasia. Would she think I’ve gone nuts? I’ve decided it isn’t worth the risk. Anastasia is a fictional character and only a fictional character as far as she knows. Best to keep it that way (and hope she isn’t reading this!) Instead, I send off the chapter for some feedback. A few hours later her notes arrive—stating exactly what Anastasia had said.

“Fine, you win,” I say, bowing to the inevitable. “I’ll write the story your way.”

“You’ll thank me in the end,” she says.

And you know what? Darned if she isn’t right. Every single time, including recently as I was in the middle of writing Guilty as Framed, the 11th Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, now available for preorder.


USA Today and Amazon bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” Learn more about Lois and her books at her website,, where you can also sign up for her newsletter and find links to her various social media sites.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

An Interview with Author Barbara Ross by E. B. Davis

Mud season takes on a whole new meaning in the coastal town of Busman's Harbor, Maine, when local business owners sling dirt at one another in a heated feud over a proposed pedestrian mall. Vandalism is one thing, but murder means Julia Snowden of the Snowden Family Clambake steps in to clean up the case . . .
When Julia spots police cars in front of Lupine Design, she races over. Her sister Livvie works there as a potter. Livvie is unharmed but surrounded by smashed up pottery. The police find the owner Zoey Butterfield digging clay by a nearby bay, but she has no idea who would target her store. Zoey is a vocal advocate for turning four blocks of Main Street into a pedestrian mall on summer weekends. Other shop owners, including her next-door neighbor, are vehemently opposed. Could a small-town fight provoke such destruction? When a murder follows the break-in, it’s up to Julia to dig through the secrets and lies to uncover the truth . . .


Yesterday, Kensington released the tenth book in Barbara Ross’s Maine Clambake mystery series, Muddled Through.

Evidently a reader thought up this title, as Barbara explained in the postscript, and it is an apt title given the season and state of main character Julia Snowden’s life.


I can’t tell you how much I look forward to reading the books in this series. When I start a book, I try to become aware of when I slide into the reading and reality recedes. Total failure—I’m immersed before I know it.


Barbara puts the reader into intriguing action from the very start, and then she hooks you in with each chapter. But the other aspect that hooks me is the historic and other details that Barbara must research to write. Part of it is teaching. I had no idea lupine flowers (see the cover) was pronounced loopin, not loo-pine (long “i”), which begs the question—why isn’t the spelling lupin, solving the problem? English!


Please welcome Barbara Ross to WWK.                                                              E. B. Davis

Fifty years ago, many small-town folk were wary of strangers, or in as they say in Busman’s Harbor, the setting of this series, those “From Away.” But now? We’re such a transient society and Busman’s Harbor has lots of outsiders who own summer cottages there. Would that mentality still exist?


It would. I live part of the year in Key West, Florida. The people who have the good fortune to be born in the Keys are “Conchs.” People who’ve moved to the Keys from other places but have lived there full-time for at least seven years are called “Freshwater Conchs.” The rest of us are just passing through.


Maine doesn’t even have the “freshwater” gradation. I love this joke, which Katherine Hall Page tells in the thirteenth book in her series, The Body in the Lighthouse.


“A Down East man and his pregnant wife are visiting in New Hampshire when she goes into labor. He bundles her into the car, and they drive as fast as they can to the Maine border, but it’s no good. The baby is born before they can cross it. The same day another baby is born somewhere on the Maine coast. As soon as he can travel, his parents take him to Asia, where he lives for the rest of his life. The other baby lives a long life, too, but he never leaves the state again. They die at the same time. The Ellsworth American runs both obituaries. “Local Man Dies in Singapore” and “Man from New Hampshire Dead at Eighty-one.”


After spring mud comes black fly season. Remind me why people love Maine so much. Don’t the ocean breezes keep the bugs away?


It’s true. Black flies don’t bother us on the coast. But in the woods…


If in twelve thousand years, not enough topsoil has developed to absorb rain and snow melt in Maine (leaving clay exposed for potters), how many years does it take to develop topsoil?


Twelve thousand years is the blink of an eye in the history of the earth. The main point about the topsoil is there’s not enough of it to absorb and drain a combination of snow melt and spring rains, hence “mud season.”


Now that Julia is living with her mother again, broken her relationship with Chris, and unable to continue operating their winter restaurant, she has too much time to think. She’s retrospective, thinking about the last ten years of her life. She’s down. Is this natural or is she depressed?


I don’t think she’s clinically depressed (whatever that might mean), but she’s pensive, betwixt and between, trying to make sense of her life and figure out what’s next.


What does animatronic mean and how does it apply to Busman’s Harbor?


Animatronic comes up in a heated town hearing. A local complains about the “Disneyfication” of their resort town and says the developers won’t stop until the citizens are all animatronic—like the moving statues in the Hall of Presidents at Disney World. It’s a fight about what to keep and what to let go of to accommodate the tourists on which the town depends.


Who were “rusticators?” What was the purpose?


Rusticators are the first wave of tourists who came to Maine in the late nineteenth century. They came specifically to get away from the growing cities and experience a simple life for a week or a summer. They came to Maine because it was rustic.


My husband might be a Mainer. What is that, and is it the same as being cheap or being a potential recycler?


Some people might say it has to do with being cheap, but it really has to do with keeping anything you might ever have a use for, no matter how unlikely. My husband may be one, too.


Are there a lot of New York City expats in Maine?


Oh, my goodness, yes. And since the pandemic, even more.


I would have thought the most popular vehicle in Maine to be four-wheel drive trucks, not Subarus. But are the Subarus four-wheel drive as well?


Subarus are all wheel drive and Maine is the second-best market for Subarus in the country. (Following only Vermont.) However, there are more Ford F150s here than Subarus. (I just had to look that up.) But Maine’s love affair with the Subaru is well-known and well documented.


What does the psychological term “well defended” mean?


The way it’s used in Muddled Through it means self-protective, not allowing oneself to be upset by events by pushing feelings away. It’s not a good thing in the long run because the person isn’t feeling their feelings, but it can be a crutch to get through a crisis in the short term.


Why does Busman’s Harbor have two main streets? Isn’t it confusing?


Busman’s Harbor only has one main street, called Main Street, but it curls around a hill and crosses itself, thereby creating the intersection of Main and Main. You can see a map of it here.


What is pine syrup/bitters? Does it taste like pine, just as yucky gin tastes like spruce trees?


It tastes like Christmas! Really, pine syrup and pine bitters are lovely.


The lobster stew sounds incredible. But even if you could grind up lobster shells so fine as to not cut up your stomach, are they even digestible? They were used to thicken the stew?


It’s lobster bisque that was traditionally thickened by ground up lobster shells—and I mean truly ground up to powder. Some chefs still make it that way.


What do Mainers call tonic (that stuff you add to yucky gin)?


I think you’re alluding to what other people call soda or pop. Old, true New Englanders (not just Mainers) call that tonic. It’s fading from the language rapidly. You hear soda much more often today. I guess they call tonic, tonic as well.


I thought pecan pie was a Southern thing. The recipe is titled Cardamom Pecan Pie, but with the substitution of maple syrup, maybe it should be called Maple Nut Pie. It really is a different pie, isn’t it?


Hmm. Substituting maple syrup for another sweetener is a common practice. I have a novella coming out next year where maple syrup gets substituted for brown sugar in Irish coffee. I don’t think that makes it a whole different thing, does it? I fully acknowledge that pecan pie is a southern thing.


National Geographic Magazine has only employed four female staff photographers in its history. True?


As of 2000, when the book Women Photographers at National Geographic was published it was true, and those four were widely spaced in time. Further it says, “Until the 1970s (and some might say beyond) the National Geographic Society was the publishing equivalent of a private men’s club. Women worked at the society, but nearly always as secretaries or clerks. Men and women ate in separate dining rooms.” Nonetheless from 1907 onward, a small number of intrepid women, almost always submitting over the transom in the early days, or later working as free-lancers, did get their photographs published in the magazine. Some of their achievements are extraordinary.


Is it terrible to want to preserve memories of someone by avoiding the present-day real person?


Such an interesting question. But yes, I think in particular with a romantic partner, when the relationship is firmly in the past, it can be better to remember than to deal with current reality. Sometimes with former friends as well. Like when you rediscover them through Facebook and they’ve turned into jerks.


Why would forensic psychologists think that having someone in your family murdered gives anyone in the family more propensity to kill?


Because violence begets violence and someone raised in violent circumstances is more likely to be violent. It doesn’t apply in the situation in Muddled Through, though. In this case the psychologist, who hasn’t met the person in question, is generalizing and is wrong.


Is it a journalist’s job to make the populace feel safe by portraying murder victims as living unwisely, making them responsible for their own murders? Sounds like blaming the victim and casting aspersions to me.


I don’t think it’s a journalism thing. I think it’s a human-being thing. We look at the victims of anything horrible, manmade or natural, and we think, “I’m a different person in different circumstances, so that won’t happen to me.” It’s a defense mechanism. If we thought about all the terrible things that can happen all the time we’d never make it through the day.


With that, with the murder cited in the newspaper articles in Muddled Through, there is a degree of victim-blaming, particularly when the stories instigated by “leaks” from the defense counsel.


Maine lupines are actually from the West Coast?


Yes. The lupines we love to see in meadows and by the side of the road in June are invasive. We do have one native type of lupine, but it’s been wiped out by the visitors and taken a particular type of butterfly with it. We do love the lupines, though. They are beautiful.


Pottery must be a lot like writing. It teaches you failure. Right?


After interviewing potters for this book, I came away feeling like there was a difference. Both activities are about creating art, but potters face uncontrollable failure all the time from the beginning of their practice to the end. With writing it’s about trying to get close to an ideal and failing. With potters it’s about things literally blowing up in the kiln.


A character in the book tells Julia she needs to learn to fail in regard to her relationship with Chris. I’m not so sure that’s correct. Perhaps in the short term. But is it more that Julia has learned where she needs to draw the line, and appreciate that lesson, for long-term success? She’s already done that in her working relationship with Sonny.


You’re right about Julia’s decision of course. But I think when a loving relationship founders, we’re all susceptible to feeling like we’ve failed. Julia’s inexperienced at love. Her relationship with Chris is the first romantic partnership in her life that’s lasted more than weeks. Their relationship went on for a long time and was intense. They lived together and worked together. Julia imagined a future together, and I think it’s that imaginary future that she’s actually mourning.


What’s next for Julia?


After Muddled Through, we pick Julia up in “Perked Up," a novella in Irish Coffee Murder which will be published on January 31, 2023. The eleventh Maine Clambake Mystery is due to my publisher three days from now. (Gulp.) That will be out summer of 2023.


Thanks so much for asking! Your questions always make me think.


Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Personal Libraries and a Method to the Madness by Martha Reed

We had long harsh months of gray days and bitter winter when I was growing up in Ohio. Back in those dinosaur days, television only offered three channels (NBC, ABC, CBS) and the interactive outlet known as the internet wasn’t even imagined. What we did have were plenty of books.

My grandfather and grandmother were voracious readers. Pop liked political and military biographies and Mamie kept up with the latest seriously high-brow literature with her monthly book club. I grew up surrounded by bookshelves and I was pretty much allowed to read whatever I liked. I think my parents figured if I got ahold of anything too prurient it would go over my head, which it did. I’ve gone back and re-read some of the novels I read in childhood. I’ve been surprised to find that there was a whole other storyline going on that I had completely missed.

I remember reading Wuthering Heights at a way-too-early age. I moped around the house for days before my mother finally pinned me down and asked me what was wrong. “Cathy died and left Heathcliff alone!” I replied, bursting into tears. After that, I think Mom had a talk with the school librarian and together they kept a closer eye on my choice of reading material.

Mom had another trick for keeping me occupied during foul weather: encyclopedias. Do kids even know what those are these days? I used our musty old set of Encyclopedia Brittanica for researching book reports, and when I was itchy for something new to read Mom would hand me Volume 1 from our set. I would burrow into it, studying grammar, definitions, and then add these new words to my vocabulary. Once, when I used the word ‘sanctuary’ at the dinner table, my father raised one eyebrow sympathetically, looked at my mother and asked, “She worked all the way through to “S”? Tough day.”

The trigger for these memories is that I moved into my new condo home this month. It’s taken me a week, but I’ve finally unpacked my boxes. This is my third move in five years. What is striking me is that as I continue to whittle down my furniture and my personal belongings, I’m hanging on to my three bookcases and my personal library.

I’ve given some thought as to why this is. I think I’ve figured out the method to my madness. One bookcase is filled with books by friends and writers I admire. These books are hand signed, and I treasure them. I’ve filled the second bookcase with mystery and crime fiction classics – Dorothy L. Sayers, Daphne du Maurier, Patricia Highsmith with modern classics by Dennis Lehane, Thom Thomas, Lori Rader-Day, and Louise Penny.

My third bookcase is classic literature not covered by the crime or mystery fiction label although I’m still on the fence over Silas Marner by George Elliott, Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe, and Deliverance by James Dickey. To my mind, these books have definite criminal elements. I’m even willing to argue that The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is fundamentally a murder mystery at heart.

I have instituted a rule about adding new books to my collection. If I read something new that is so stellar that I simply must keep it, then I must donate one of the others to a local Free Library. This ruthless culling keeps the standard high and keeps my library volume almost within reason.

How do you manage your reading selections and/or your library? Do you use Kindle to store your books?

Monday, June 27, 2022

A Rose Isn't Always A Rose by Nancy L. Eady

          I did online research this week on jewelry because I was looking to buy a present. Then the week finished with the receipt of a beautiful rose-gold diamond ring for my 35th wedding anniversary present (a little early due to anonymous packaging and the mistaken belief that the package was a replacement outdoor light for our RV, another story entirely). In looking through the possibilities for jewelry I was astounded by the variety of ways in which jewelry can be defined. I was equally astounded by how precisely devoid of any emotional content those descriptions were.

         For example, my favorite jewelry metal is rose gold, with non-tarnishing silver second. Why? Rose gold has a subtle warmth, richness and kindness that to me is absent from yellow gold.  It’s okay if you don’t agree with me.  But when you read a description of rose gold, you are told something like “rose gold is an alloy of 24 K gold and copper.” That description, chemically and metallurgically correct, does not begin to convey the same emotions that words like “subtle warmth” and “richness” do. (In the “it’s amazing what you learn from Google” department, gold rose is harder and wears better then pure gold because of the extra copper.)

          White gold is similarly described as combining pure gold with zinc and nickel. But to me, a desire for white gold is somewhat mystifying, since white gold looks pretty much like silver, which is less expensive. 

Gemstone definitions are similarly technical. Gems (in which I include semi-precious stones) are classified by type (topaz. emerald, ruby, diamond) and by grade. The distinctive characteristics of a gem include color, cut, clarity and carat weight and all of those characteristics are figured into the grade a gem stone is to receive. According to Fire Mountain Gems and Beads, gemstones are rated between A and D, with A being the best quality and D being the poorest quality. In addition, some sources I’ve read suggest that for stones such as emeralds and rubies, the rating can increase from A up through AAAA. There may even be a category above AAAA called “heirloom.” The more “A’s” the better the quality of the gemstone, and the more expensive the gem stone is. All of which is very useful if you’re going buy an expensive piece of jewelry but which does nothing to excite the imagination or give a glimpse into the character of person wearing the gemstone. 

For example, all of the above doesn’t tell you nearly as much about me as a person as would knowing that I love the color and variety of gemstones to the extent that most of the time (with the exception of my anniversary ring) I prefer them over diamonds. Diamonds are brilliant, and hard; emeralds, for example, are inviting, mysteriously green and dancing with reflected color.

What do you think a person’s jewelry tells you about their character? How would you use it in a story or novel of your own?

Sunday, June 26, 2022

In Conversation with James Patterson by Annette Dashofy

A few months back, I received an email from a library where I’d done a talk last fall. They had received a grant and were using it to bring James Patterson (THE James Patterson) to the area. He had requested a local moderator to join him on stage to discuss his memoir. The librarian asked if I’d be interested. 

I replied yes (HELL YES) without a second thought. 

It was far from a done deal. I had to submit a letter telling about myself and why I wanted to do this and why I thought I was the right person for the job. They also wanted a list of ten sample questions. I have no idea how many others were applying for the moderator role, but apparently I was not alone.

 To be honest, it had been a long time since I’d read a James Patterson novel. So many books, so little time. And the man puts out a LOT of novels each year. I knew I had to do my homework. The librarian stressed this conversation would be about his autobiography. His life. Yes, I downloaded and read/listened to as many of his novels as I could before the event, but my homework and the source of my sample questions was his MasterClass. 

I compiled all the requested material and sent it off. And waited. After a few weeks, I got the word—I had been selected! 

His speaker’s bureau sent me an early copy of the book and requested another list of questions—the real ones this time—to be approved. 

(They were.) 

Leading up to the event, there wasn’t much for me to do. I didn’t have to promote because tickets sold out almost immediately. Five hundred seats, all filled. 

Nothing to be nervous about. Ha! 

In the final weeks leading up to June 16, I changed my mind about my wardrobe five or six times. I settled on my comfy flat shoes over heels, figuring I’d be nervous enough without worrying about falling on my face. Since it was 90 degrees and sauna-level humidity that day, I opted for a flowy blouse and lightweight cardigan rather than my lined, heavyweight suit jacket. 

The evening of the event, the weather forecasters called for heavy storms, winds, hail, possible tornados, all striking during the time I’d be making the hour or so trip to Harmony PA and the Steamfitters Event Center. The good news was the storms missed us. The bad news was rush hour traffic was even worse than usual. I hate arriving late, and it looked like I would be cutting it close. 

Then Google Maps deposited me in the middle of a farmer’s field. 

I strongly considered resting my head on my steering wheel and crying. 

But after a long discussion with Google, she redirected me back the way I’d just come and took me right to the front door of the event center. Now seriously, Google, why couldn’t you have done that the first time? 

At least I wasn’t late. Punctual, but not late. 

Everyone from the library was wonderful and grateful to have me there. James arrived a few minutes after I did, along with his entourage. 

I don’t have an entourage. 

We were all directed into the green room to get mic’d. James and I had a lovely chat about what he expected. He assured me we’d have fun.

In the "green room" prior to the event

Someone caught an image of us
 on the BIG screen

A few minutes before seven, event center staff bustled us through the backstage area where we waited behind a closed door while one of the librarians introduced us. “Go,” someone ordered and nudged me through that door and onto the stage to the applause of 500 smiling fans. 

James Patterson’s fans. I knew that was the case going in and was fine with it. Besides, where else can you get that kind of exposure to mystery/suspense readers? 

I had forty-five minutes to ask my questions, which consisted of me lobbing the opening of one of his many personal stories at him and then sitting back and letting him do his thing. I had to pay close attention though. He frequently answered questions I hadn’t asked yet while shifting from one story of his life to another. But it was great. I finished my list exactly on time. Then the audience had fifteen minutes to ask their questions. At 8:01, I spotted James’s assistant signaling from the sidelines. Wrap it up. Which I did. 

His signing table was already set up and “his people” had the signing process down to a science. One took the book from the adoring fan, opened it to the right page, and set it before James. Another accepted phones and snapped photos of the fans and James. I heard someone say he signed 300 books in an hour. 

James's assistant taking photos

The signing line wrapped around the room

It was amazing.

 But that didn’t leave a lot of time for him to chat with those fans. I stood nearby and took care of that part. Several came over to me and asked if they could ask me questions. I said yes (HELL, YES) and had lovely exchanges with some avid readers. 

Oh, and his assistant made sure to sneak my copy in for James to sign. 

"Annette--you were (are) great!" 
I'll take it!

It was a fast-paced, very structured, whirlwind of an evening. I was relieved when it was over. 

After the event, a group shot with
the librarians who worked so hard to put this on 

And I’m beyond grateful to have been part of it. 

Fellow authors, have you ever been part of an event with a “megastar?” Fellow readers, who’s the biggest-name author you’ve ever met or want to meet?



Saturday, June 25, 2022

Cozy v. Traditional by Kait Carson

In April of 2016 traditional publishing houses attempted murder. Their victim, the cozy mystery. You can read all about this distant, and unsuccessful, crime here. Readers and writers rallied round. Most of the culled authors found homes with other traditional publishers and/or they went indie. Readers kept buying and supporting cozy authors. In the end, the cozy lived. Long live the cozy. This is a good thing because along came the pandemic, and we ALL needed to escape into the cozy world. 

Recently, Becky Clark asked her Facebook friends about the differences between cozy and traditional. There were a number of answers. The general consensus is that all cozies are traditional mysteries, but not all traditional mysteries are cozies. Who else heard a screeching sound similar to a needle skipping over a vinyl record? Who else knows what a vinyl record is? Okay, moving on… 

The cozy, epitomized by Miss Marple featured an amateur sleuth in a small town, violent crime took place off the page accompanied by little blood, and less cussing. The traditional enjoyed a broader definition, could, although not necessarily have a harder edge, and the violence may or may not take place on the page. The traditional is still a mild read, sometimes with saltier language, but It doesn’t impinge on noir, thriller, or suspense territory. Cozies often have recipes at the end, quirky characters, and can be lighthearted and humorous. Traditional mysteries lack recipes, their characters not so quirky, humor is welcome, but it’s rarely laugh out loud. 

One result of the attempted murder of the cozy was to create a semi-hybrid genre. Cozies, that while still softer, featured ripped from the headlines crimes. Their protagonists no longer stumbled on crimes and cringed. They took pride in their crime-solving accomplishments. Instead of accidently discovering clues, they actively pursued them, sometimes working in opposition to law enforcement, but sometimes alongside them. 

These new cozy traditional protagonists are a diverse group. They do not seek out violence, but they do not shirk from it. While they don’t carry guns (yet) they may well have a black belt and are not afraid to use it. Their age groups span the gamut from newly hatched college graduates to retirees. Readers eagerly embraced this new genre. Revamped publishing houses caught on and cozies with a traditional edge (or traditional mysteries with a cozy edge) became the norm. 

Just as protagonists and story lines became more diverse, so too did the cozy genre. It’s an exciting time to be a writer. 

Readers and writers, how do you see the difference between cozy and traditional? Does it matter? 

Friday, June 24, 2022

Misunderstandings 1

 Misunderstandings 1 : A blog by Warren Bull Image by Ben White on unsplash

The world is filled with misunderstandings. We communicate as best we can, but, as writers know only too well, anything that can be misinterpreted will be. Sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, the best we can do is to expect to be misunderstood.

For greater details about the examples below consult

The Yucatan Peninsula on the southern end of Mexico is the ancestral home of the Maya people. When the first Spanish explorers arrived there, they wanted to learn the name of the area. There were no interpreters available, but the Spanish made a valiant effort. They reproduced the repeated answer they heard and came up with “Yucatan,” which in the native language translates into, “I don’t understand you.” Thus, the name.

Soon after becoming president, Jimmy Carter gave a speech at a Japanese college. He started by telling a joke to put everyone at ease. He later admitted it was not a funny joke, but at least it was short. He was surprised when the Japanese interpreter translated the joke in very few words. The entire audience burst out in hearty laughter.

President Carter was curious about how the Japanese interpreter translated his joke so quickly and why people laughed much harder than he expected. Finally, after continuing questions, the interpreter simply admitted he translated the joke as: President Carter told a funny story. Everyone must laugh.”

During World War 2, President Roosevelt was on board the battleship USS Iowa on a long voyage to North Africa.

One of the escorts attached to the Iowa was the destroyer USS William D. Porter. The ship had a streak of very bad luck during the voyage. At one point, it accidentally detonated an antisubmarine depth charge. At another time, it lost power in one of its boilers and fell well behind the convoy. President Roosevelt requested an anti-aircraft drill by shooting at balloons. During the exercise, the William D. Porter accidentally fired a ready and armed torpedo right at the Iowa.

To make matters even worse, the captain of the William D. Porter didn’t even radio the Iowa about the torpedo and instead used light signals to tell them a torpedo was on its way since he wanted to stick to the rules given for the drill. However, the Iowa didn’t immediately understand their signaling. The William D. Porter broke radio silence and warned the battleship of the incoming torpedo. Fortunately, the Iowa managed to avoid the torpedo.

Just in case the firing was actually a part of an assassination attempt, the Iowa then pointed all of its guns at the William D. Porter until the situation was cleared up.

Afterwards, the William D. Porter was always greeted with “Don’t shoot, we’re Republicans!”

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Where I Write by Connie Berry

This is a photo of my desk at home in Ohio. As you can probably tell, I didn’t straighten it up for you, although it can get a lot messier than this at times. This is where I write, in all its disorganized glory. Maybe you can pick out some of the elements, maybe not, but I surround myself with things I need and love. Here are my Top Ten:

1.     My comfortable chair

When we moved into this house twenty-one years ago, I bought one of the old-style X chairs with all the adjustments. When you spend a lot of time sitting down, it’s important to be comfortable.

2.     My special keyboard and monitor

Since my computer is really small, I need these additional items to be able to write. I like my keyboard (the HP Wireless Elite v. 2) so much that I buy them in twos.

3.     My printer

I like to print out bits of research—I know, I know, but I’m not good at organizing information online.

4.     A notebook for every current project

Which is where I keep all those printed-out bits of research.

5.     My current shelf of resource books

The books change with every project. You might be able to make out several books on Devon. It’s a clue.

6.     My painted rock

The rock was given to me by a dear friend, an artist. It’s not only lovely to look at; it comes in handy as a paperweight.

7.     My candle holder

I love to burn scented candles when I’m writing. Makes me happy.

8.     Photographs of people I care about

Included are my parents, my children, my friends, and my Wall of Women (the red cork board), where I keep photos of women who’ve played important roles in my life.

9.     Graphics

Among my favorites are a framed Peanuts cartoon, given to me by a student during my years of teaching, and a print by Carl Larsson, which reminds me of my Scandinavian heritage.

10.  My bottle of FIJI water


If a desk tells you something about its occupant, you now know more about me than you did before.

What’s on your desk, and what would that tell us about you? Enquiring minds want to know!

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

An Interview with Author Debra H. Goldstein by E. B. Davis

When Sarah Blair’s mother participates in a reality show competition for brides in Wheaton, Alabama, things get a little too real as a murderer crashes the wedding party . . .

Sometimes Sarah’s mother, Maybelle, can be higher maintenance than her Siamese cat RahRah. Maybelle and her friend, Mr. George Rogers, have been chosen to be one of five couples competing for a small-town “perfect” wedding and dream honeymoon on a Southern Belles reality show—and guess who has to be chaperone. Even more vexing, the producers have decided to put up the crew and participants at the restaurant/bed and breakfast owned by Sarah’s nemesis Jane Clark.
But when someone turns up dead with Jane kneeling by the body with blood on her hands, she goes from being Sarah’s chief rival to the police’s chief suspect. Neither Sarah nor her twin, Chef Emily Johnson, can stand Jane—still, they don’t think she’s a murderer. The producers vow the show must go on, but to protect their mother and the other contestants, Sarah vows to find the true killer before someone else gets eliminated . . .


Five Belles Too Many, Debra H. Goldstein’s fifth book in the Sarah Blair mystery series, will be released on June 28th. This book involves two things I have no experience with—reality TV shows and gambling. Most of my questions involve learning about these topics so please forgive my ignorance.


As a regular blogger with WWK, Debra needs no introduction. But please ask any questions I may have missed. Thanks!        E. B. Davis


Debra—did you study reality show psychology and marketing to write this book?


Having appeared on Jeopardy and participated in early try-outs for a show that never aired, I had a limited amount of personal knowledge of what happens behind the scenes on game shows. I also had the benefit of being able to interview a friend who once worked for an invitation company that produced an invitation that became a finalist for a similar “Perfect Wedding” segment. Finally, I networked and was put in touch with an individual who, having been associated with many reality TV shows, was able to explain the call sheet and the roles different people have for a television show to successfully be taped.


Jane is scathing to many people, but she creates her own problems by not taking the time to do her homework. Is she too busy, not detail oriented, or a scatterbrain?


Jane is none of the things you mentioned. She is an individual who dreams of hitting it big no matter what it takes to get there. Jane jumps at opportunities, but never thinks things might not occur the way she wants. Her continuous competition with Sarah and Chef Emily reflects a jealous desire to have the same level of success they do, but she fails to recognize the hard work they put into achieving their goals. When things to wrong for her, she blames everyone except herself.


Many of the contestants on the show know each other or have connections to the show’s production staff. Cliff is a contractor for the show and his uncle is a contestant. Maybelle is a contestant and her daughters own the restaurant hosting the show’s dinners. Aren’t all of these relationships conflict of interest to the competition of the show?


In real life, the interconnected relationships would never occur. I took some leeway in setting the show in a small town with a limited number of available venues, competitors, and experienced laborers. Rather than shying away from the conflicts, I highlighted them by having Jane and Chef Bernardi argue their impropriety, but I had the producer explain:

“We’re in complete compliance with the network’s rules for segments like this. We even have a compliance person on set every day. Jane’s Place and you will either win or lose on merit. The audience will vote on the invitations, dress, and things like that, but guest judges will be evaluating the competitions involving tasting of food and cakes. Their judging will be based on your abilities and final products.”


How can “no kill” animal shelters put down about ten percent of healthy animals?


Shelters have different philosophies in terms of killing unwanted animals. Many traditional shelters used euthanasia as their means of dealing with too many animals for the shelter or an overflowing population of unwanted animals. It was an adopt some and kill the rest approach. Today’s No Kill shelters specifically reserve euthanasia for irremediably suffering animals or those whose behavior precludes rehabilitation. Instead of using death as a remedy for otherwise healthy animals, No Kill shelters believe in promoting adoption, fostering, targeted spay/neuter programs, and other means that control the flow into shelter life. Ten percent is a maximum with most having and achieving a goal far less than that.


Sarah blurts out her comments about Cuban cigars without a filter, and then she worries she’s becoming her mother. Do we all worry about that?


Don’t you? Although most of us love/adore our mothers, there are the times that they chide us, ask a question we don’t want to answer, or say or do something that absolutely embarrasses us. When that happens, we all resolve to never become our mothers. There is even an insurance company that now has a series of commercials about becoming our parents. In Sarah Blair’s world, Mother Maybelle can be the perfect Southern Belle who smiles sweetly while saying “Bless your heart,” and the woman Sarah hopes to never become, but Sarah loves her mother and will do anything for her (despite Sarah’s groaning and fear of becoming her mother).


I’m surprised that in this era the show’s management thought that cigars would be a perfect gift for the male contestants. Am I na├»ve? Do guys really like them?


I used cigars for two reasons. First, many guys really do like them as evidenced by the number of cigar stores that exist in most urban areas. Second, it was a play on the Southern tradition of the Gone with the Wind era when after dinner the women retired while the men had a final drink and a cigar. Stereotypical images of the South are deliberately being emphasized by the reality show producers in Five Belles Too Many. Besides the cigars, there is a challenge that includes Southern Belle costumes and another one with flower arranging.


Are reality shows less about the competition and more about the rivalry and conflict like any drama?


Reality shows are edited to make the viewers engage with different characters. If you think of Top Chef, the Bachelor or Survivor franchises, or any of the Housewives shows, the editing always makes someone appear to be a villain and someone a well-liked angel. Similar to a novel, without episodic conflict or drama, there would be no reason for a reader to turn the page or a viewer to tune in to the show’s next episode.


Does it matter that the contestants weren’t randomly picked? I guess none of them really are.


Almost all shows have try-outs. The contestants are then chosen based upon demographics the show’s producers want to have represented. In Five Belles Too Many, the segment, which will play on a New York televised show, is being filmed in Wheaton, Alabama. The big rivalry in Alabama is between Auburn and Alabama football. Consequently, there had to be a couple representing each team. The show also needed to have a couple who represented the stereotypical image people have of the South (think Jethro and Elly Mae from The Beverly Hillbillys). With the South covered, I went the opposite way by having one couple be fans of the Day of the Dead. Finally, because most couples trying to win a perfect wedding are young, I had four couples be in their twenties, but I gave the final slot to Mother Maybelle and her friend, George, to represent an over sixty dynamic. The mixture makes for great fun!


Is there outside betting on reality show outcomes?


Hopefully not, but the reality is that bookies take bets on anything. If you Google betting on game shows or reality shows, you will find many advertised lines of bets taken on scripted and unscripted shows. There also is the history of scandals involving the giving of answers or questions in advance associated with original game shows like The $64,000 Question.


What is a gambling line? Do gambling lines change during the competition? What’s a push?


In gambling, the line is the odds. It can change based upon circumstances and betting. A push in betting is a tie between the better and the house. In that instance, the odds maker fails to make money and the better only ends up with the return of his/her original bet.


Is the type of gambling set up by Chef Bernardi illegal?


The best thing to say about the way Chef Bernardi manages the gambling in Five Belles Too Many is that his actions aren’t particularly kosher.


How did you manage to delay the murder until Chapter 7? Did your publisher comment?


My editor/publisher loves Five Belles Too Many and never mentioned that the murder doesn’t happen until Chapter 7. In fact, I never noticed that fact either, until you asked this question. I tend to write short tight chapters and there was a lot of fun character and gameshow groundwork to lay before a murder occurred.


Why did Sarah go out of her way to help Jane by getting her counsel and investigating when Sarah can’t stand Jane?


Sarah can’t help herself. Despite Jane (aka the Bimbo) breaking up Sarah’s marriage, trying to steal Sarah’s Siamese cat, RahRah, sabotaging Chefs Marcus and Emily’s restaurant endeavors, and being a general pain in the neck, Sarah doesn’t believe Jane is a murderer. Consequently, Sarah’s better nature beats out the hatred she feels toward her greatest nemesis.


I was confused by the doctor, who I assume was the ME or coroner, who took orders from the police chief. Isn’t that a conflict of interest? Isn’t the norm that they are separate offices so the chief wouldn’t have undue influence to bend the forensics to his line of inquiry?


Wheaton, Alabama is portrayed throughout the series as a small town with a limited police presence. Besides the Chief and another officer, the doctor does double duty as a detective and the coroner. In small towns, coroners are often appointed or elected. In Wheaton, it is an appointed position held by a very scrupulous individual who believes in doing things the right way rather than jumping to conclusions. In this case, it is clearly indicated in all the books that Dr. Smith never deviates from proper forensic behavior.


Sarah asks herself is Harlan a saint or fool for helping Jane, but he’s doing it for Sarah. Shouldn’t she ask herself that question?


Don’t all of us sometimes miss the most obvious question that we should be asking ourselves?


Is Cliff really changing or does he want to be with Sarah again?

Throughout the five books, the individual arcs for each character change. The Sarah from One Taste Too Many goes from being an insecure woman who married at eighteen, was divorced at twenty-eight, and only got RahRah, the Siamese cat out of the marriage, to a woman with more confidence and the ability to believe in herself as she interacts with others and successfully solves crimes that allow her to protect family and friends. Cliff, too, matures. They have a special relationship which may or may not be a permanent one.


A “Day of the Dead” wedding theme. Really?


When it comes to weddings, anything is possible. One thing to remember in terms of reality shows is that not everyone enters for the prize that is being given. In this instance, the Day of the Dead couple has an ulterior motive for competing and saw this wedding as a means to distinguish them from other competitors trying to win a spot on the show.


To me, tiramisu is much ado about nothing. What’s the appeal?


Tiramisu, which is a recipe found in Four Cuts Too Many, is either loved or hated. I, for one, love its strong coffee flavoring and the texture of tiramisu – as well as the fact that the amount of coffee and sugar the dessert contains gives one a quick energy boost.


What’s a bromance?


A bromance is a very close non-sexual relationship between two men. In the Sarah Blair books, Sarah often thinks Harlan and Chief Gerard have a bromance because of their mutual respect and interaction, despite the Chief always getting it wrong until Harlan and Sarah feed him the correct information and conclusions.


What’s a kill fee?


A kill fee is an amount of money a party makes after scrapping an agreed work or project. In writing, an editor may accept a story, but then, pay a kill fee when the editor decides not to run the story. Where parties have contracted for food or other services with reliance by the second party, the one canceling the agreement may pay a kill fee rather than having a dispute tied to breaking a contract


What’s next for Sarah?


That is up in the air. Her fate is in the readers’ hands.