Friday, December 19, 2014

What the Heck is a Cozy Anyway?

I probably don’t have to tell you cozy mysteries are in a class by themselves. Cozy readers are some of the most passionate people I know, but in case anyone out there is stumbling onto the term for the first time, let me tell you the cozy “rules.” Okay, I used quotes because I’m kind of a most-things-are-probably-guidelines girl. Plus, “rules” seems so rude and totalitarian, doesn’t it? I prefer Guidelines. Maybe that’s me?

Cozy guidelines are easy. These lively little mysteries are part of the crime fiction family, but they are also so much more….They’re fun! Cozies always have an amateur, sleuth. Once upon a time most of those were female, nowadays there are plenty of fabulous male amateur sleuths as well. (My heroine's a female, so I'll go with "She" for this post). The heroine’s drawn into the investigation and has to learn as she goes. She lives in a small community where she’s comfortable. The secondary characters are rich and interactive.

Cozies don’t linger on gory crime scene details and they don’t use excessive foul language. They also don’t describe intimate scenes between characters. Ugh, that really does sound like rules, huh?

BUT! Hang in here with me. This is the best part…Cozies are meant to make a reader smile, keep her hooked and hopefully keep her guessing. Cozies can have romance, but it never overwhelms the plot. Cozies are written for quick-witted readers and the storyline moves at a clip. Plus, like any good mystery, red herrings abound! I do enjoy a good bunny trail. Just when I think I know what’s happening, the author yanks the carpet out from under me and I’m reading faster to find out what will happen next! Cozies are a thrill! I’m still getting my head around the fact I’ve written one. No. Three!

Many small things come together to form a good cozy, but my favorite aspect of this genre is the humor. I love to laugh and I really really like to make others laugh. A lot. So, when I pick up a novel that can make me smile, it’s a keeper – and it’s often a cozy. If I can make a reader laugh? You can’t see me, but I’m shaking my head. If I make a reader laugh, I’ve nailed it. I win at authoring.

In my Patience Price Myeteries, I’ve taken a curiosity-driven island counselor and taunted her with endless amounts of intrigue and obstacles. She’s dealt with body parts washing up on the beach, a reality show come to town, locals worried about their safety, a shark infestation, birders arriving by the busload, money problems and some pretty serious threats on her life.
If that’s not enough, she’s got family drama. Her adoring, hippie parents don’t understand her Type-A ways. Her current love interest doesn’t understand why her ex-soul mate is always hanging around and her ex doesn’t really see the problem. The town’s dividing up publicly on the topic of her love life and hey! They even made shirts.

I think women have the most fun with cozies because we understand the struggle. We juggle the same things, minus the murder, I hope. We deal with family and friends and romance. Community commitments and punch a time clock. Women know all about how easy it is to leave the house wearing two different shoes. We’ve all tried to dial our glasses and put the phone on our nose. Imagine trying to solve a murder too. It’s crazy, but when it’s someone else’s crazy…..so it’s fun to watch the antics unfold.

Car bombs? Shootings? Abductions? Sure. But what about golf cart chases, cat dates and missing eyebrows? Absolutely! In a cozy mystery, there’s no end to the antics an amateur can get herself into while following the clues to a killer. I shudder to think how far I’d make it in a real sleuthing scenario. I’m going to guess not very far.

Are you a cozy reader? What’s your favorite series? Do you think you’d make a good sleuth?


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Winter Romance

I must apologize here. I ran into a time crunch, so I am recycling an older blog post I did for the Carina Press blog a few years ago...


****

I never wanted to be married, but I did -- being romantic by nature (no matter what anybody says) always want to have that certain special someone of my own. As it turned out, it took me quite a while to find that someone and by then I was just a little bit set in my ways. Granted, I was set in my ways -- and rather eccentric ways they are -- from the time I was about twelve, so learning to be part of a couple…well, let’s just say I had a learning curve. And in fact, I’m still driving that long and winding road. But I haven’t lost a passenger yet, so maybe that’s a point in my favor.


 
What I do remember keenly from that long period of time when I flying solo, was how lonely the holidays are when you’re not in a relationship. Sometimes even when you are in a relationship, if it’s the wrong relationship. Forget Valentine’s Day. I think the run up from Thanksgiving to New Year’s is the hardest on singletons. It was for me, anyway.



I think it partly ties into the fact that the winter holidays are such a nostalgic time. We tend to make the effort to get together with family and friends as we don’t during the rest of the year, and there’s often a lot of reminiscing. We find ourselves confronting many of our unrealized dreams, past and future. We find ourselves comparing the way things were with how they are today -- and let’s face it, for most of us, today is a lot more complicated and stressful than yesterday. Let alone yesteryear when our biggest worry was whether Santa would override our parents and bring that pony we so desperately needed.


 Nor does it help that we’re bombarded with advertising featuring happy couples buying each other romantic and expensive presents as proof of undying devotion. It is, after all, the Season of Love. Love in all its facets, including romantic love. There’s no getting around it.



And we’ve all pretty much been there. We’ve all had our turn at being (what feels like) the only one of our friends not happily paired up, the only sibling that can’t seem to settle down, the one on the phone getting the busy signal when we call late on Christmas Eve hoping for a word…


 
And the songs! It’s either walking in a winter wonderland or slicing open your wrists with a cookie cutter.


Yeesh. Like Sam the Snowman says in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, “Tell me when it’s over!” 


 Anyway, now days I have someone to roust out of bed on Christmas morning and drag along to see the nieces and nephews open their gifties. Afterwards we go see a movie (we’re thinking The Hobbit this year), and then it’s back home to open our own presents to each other, then back to the folks for the traditional feast. We’re building our own holiday traditions. And it is…well, it’s nice. It’s not like the Hallmark commercials, but it’s pretty darned good. And there’s no better time of year to count your blessings.



When I write a Christmas story like Icecapade, I deliberately draw on those old dark feelings -- the loneliness, the restlessness, that desire to have someone to share the good stuff -- and the bad -- and the uneasy conviction that you’re just not meant to be with anyone, that you’re not one of the lucky ones. I re-explore those feelings and I complicate things, and make life difficult for everyone, and then I give my characters the happy holiday, the happy ending -- no, the happy beginning of a life shared with another.  I can’t give the real thing to all my readers, but I can give stories that reaffirm my own feeling that love is there if you’re willing to work for it -- and that the holidays are a magical time of year.


 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Interesting Characters Stay in Unique Places- Boutique Hotels

by Sandy Parks

Characters move around, to other cities, other states, and other countries. Sure rich billionaires can afford the Ritz. But if they are truly interesting guys or gals, they might desire privacy, adventure, or simply the unusual, and still be treated like kings or queens. If you don’t have it on your research radar, add the term “boutique hotel.”

Such a hotel is often similar to what we might call a B&B, but much more upscale. Their location is usually unique, isolated, and can often be difficult to reach. Many cater to people from all over the world, on all different travel schedules, and coming from different time zones and languages. If your characters arrive at two in the morning, the hotel staff will be waiting. Pictures tell a thousand words (as a recent posted stated) so let me present a few examples.

Hotel B in Lima Peru. A guard stood by the hotel entrance and
personally unlocked it when guests entered or left. 
This first boutique hotel is in an arts district called Barranca that is undergoing revitalization to its grand days when the rich built summer homes near the water. These early 1900s mansions, attacked by weather and earthquakes over the years, are slowly being refurbished. Champagne and cookies might well be waiting upon arrival.

Door tie signaling privacy.
On the bed, a long black tie will be draped with a note pinned to it. If you wished to be left undisturbed, hang it on the doorknob.

Hotel B eclectic room
The rooms are modern, eclectic, with old world trimmings, and original art.










The upstairs lounge outside this room has showy furniture, modern framed paintings and photos, metal sculptures, and a black chair with a feather-draped footstool. Eclectic, bohemian, and South American all wrapped into one.

Dining and gathering courtyard.

In Ecuador, a boutique hotel in the middle of the historic district is a centuries old home with inner courtyards. One courtyard was once used as a staging area/corral for horses where the family carriages were hitched or riders entered. Today that part is transformed into the hotel’s open-air bar.

Down the same street is the historic government square and the president’s residence. There a former Archbishop’s palace has been transformed into a boutique hotel and upscale restaurant. Your characters would find wood beams, thick walls, and tall shuttered window. Their bed will be turned down with a poem and a chocolate on the pillows, and slippers on a cloth mat by each side of the bed. A blooming plant and candles are snuggled around a large tub and rose pedals sprinkled across the white porcelain. The antagonist in my upcoming science fiction novel watched for his contact out a window from this palace.
Rose, welcome chocolate, and the daily poem.
What about the more casual or hard to access boutique hotels? Imagine a small French run hotel in the middle of an oasis that is accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicles. Or how about the acclaimed Kasbah du Toubkal nestled in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco?
Kasbah du Toubkal
The trip to the Kasbah starts in a small village at the base of a mountain. There a village storefront welcomes visitors for the Kasbah. Luggage is left on the front sidewalk and soon a bellhop with his donkey stops out front on the dusty street. He loads up the suitcases and starts a long climb up the mountainside to the hotel. Hope your characters are wearing hiking boots. They can either follow the bellhop or take another trail up the mountain. While a bit more casual, the hotel has stunning sights and the feel of exploring hidden lands. Think Shangri-La. Expect a room well stocked with dates, olives, and nuts. Drinking water is distilled from the hotels purification filters and sits in an earthen pitcher in the room. A rustic, steamy private hammam is nestled in a corner of the hotel and awaits tired muscles after your characters' adventures. A great place for a little romance.
Riad in Marrakech
My newly released book OUTFOXED, an action-adventure suspense with romantic elements, uses a few boutique hotels in Morocco. Including one like the photo above, which came from Marrakech. This is the courtyard of an old house (riad) that has been converted into a hotel. It is entered from a dusty walking lane lined by long plaster walls with wooden doors cut into them. It's rather like stepping into another world. 

OUTFOXED: A plane gone. A pilot dead. Hawker Dunlop's repossession team demoralized and in jail.
Ex-military pilot Jet Walczynski and her crew are back in a mission to repossess an airliner in Ecuador. The mission falls apart when they are betrayed and the team disintegrates. Dunlop’s lawyer, Gregori Demos, sees justice as the best recourse for bringing them back together...if the new mission doesn't kill them first. Their task—locate the missing aircraft, nab the betrayer, and uncover the people who financed the deadly con.
Hedge fund billionaire Frederic Zinsli has no intention of being stopped in his life-long drive to avenge his grandfather. He has teamed with the dark side of technology, brought in investors, and obtained the perfect instrument to win his fight. When he discovers Dunlop’s repo team on his tail again, he intends to shut them down for good.
Adding to the difficulty, the CIA has taken an interest in this repossession gone wrong and will gladly sacrifice Dunlop’s people to order to uncover Zinsli’s intentions. While Jet’s team fight personal demons and battles to stay ahead of the opposition, time is counting down. As the truth is revealed and Jet’s team is forced to make precipitous decisions, will they succeed or be outfoxed once again?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Worth a thousand words?

You know what they say? Pictures=1k words. (hmm, that's half way to the daily total.)

I've been a lame blogger lately. Working several jobs at once, and a trip out of the country to my opposite time zone, followed by a wicked case of p-new-moan-ya, (emphasis on the moan, thank you very much) has kept me away from the keyboard.

I think I told you all, I sometimes drive my family crazy taking pictures? Trying to get just the right angle. Not only the colors, the shapes...but the feeling of what I'm seeing.

(I have 12 versions of this flower-filled, offering bowl. And those are the ones I kept.)

It's strange. I've noticed that when I can't get to the keyboard often enough, my pictures become much more elaborate. Almost like little stories.

Poignant.

Kooky.



Romantic.
And hopeful.

It's been a long, weird month (or two.) But the stories are there....

No matter how far I go, I can't stay away.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Taking on the Series Challenge

Writing a series is a lot different than writing a stand-alone book. When an author sits down to plan out a series, it’s like writing multiple books at once. Each book has to have a singular plot, but all the books have to be working together toward a series finale. 

If this is a series that involves the same main character, then all additional main characters, their personalities, growth, issues and challenges all have to be mapped out in coordination with an overall series arc. A series requires a lot of foresight, planning and long-term character development. Plots should be at least lightly sketched out for a few books in advance. If you have an exact number of books planned for your series, then it's even easier. It’s helpful if you have a clear idea of where you want to go with your characters and how you want them to change over the course of the books.




It can all seem daunting, but it is also a lot fun. Personally, I love to revisit my characters in novel after novel. In many ways they have become like family to me. It's fun to plot their activities and watch their growth as people, lovers and friends.

Obviously, I like to write series. The latest book in my humorous, geek mystery series, NO TEST FOR THE WICKED, came out December 1. It’s the fifth book (actually the sixth because there is a novella in the mix) and Lexi Carmichael and her friends are back again for another adventure.

Lexi Carmichael, geek girl extraordinaire, is headed to high school. Again. Returning to high school is not something she ever wanted to do over—it was awful the first time around. So why do she have to go back as part of a new undercover assignment? Because the universe loves playing jokes on her, obviously.



She’s been ordered to go all 21 Jump Street and track down the students who are breaking into the computer system, changing grades, and causing all kinds of havoc. Although she’s not thrilled about her new gig, at least it gives her something to do other than worry over the fact that she now has a boyfriend. And no freaking idea what to get him for Christmas.

Or it did give her something else to worry about, until she stumbled across a more sinister threat. Lexi is shocked to find distinct traces of a group of international hackers inside the network. Why would dangerous cyber mercenaries be interested in a high school in the middle of Washington, D.C.? What exactly has she gotten herself into?

So, what do you think of series? Love them, prefer a stand-alone novel or a mixture of both?


Monday, December 8, 2014

Romantic Meetings: Take 1

I love to read about the first time a pair of lovers meet, don't you? Maybe they spot one another across a crowded room, or she appears beside him in the moonlight. Or, okay, try this: he's got his gun in his hand, back to the wall, scoping out a darkened warehouse, when he hears a click in his ear and feels the press of metal to his temple. You got it—his dream woman.

Then there are the first meetings that are a little less, shall we say, auspicious? In my upcoming book Trust No One, our hero has just passed out on a city street, and our heroine has run over to pick him up.

"Are you okay?"
The voice floated toward him through a tunnel so bright he had to squeeze his eyes shut to keep from being blinded. He must be on a boat, that's why his stomach was in agony. Seasick. Oh, God, he hated to throw up. Just breathe, in and out, in and out…
"Are you okay?" The voice was closer now, more insistent.
A woman. His sister? Kat?
"I'm going to call an ambulance if you don't answer me."
Not his sister. He tried to say, "Okay," but the vibration made his head throb. So he sat there, silent, vaguely aware of a comforting hand on his arm.
Little by little, the fog cleared, the pounding eased up, and Nathan realized he was sitting on a sidewalk with his back to a hard, uneven wall, holding the sides of his head. He opened one eye. A brown puddle of coffee was running down a squiggly crack in the cement and soaking into the grass beside a parked car. It took another several moments for his vision to clear. Where the hell was he?
"You with me?" she asked.
He lowered his hands from his head and gripped his knees, which were pulled up almost to his chest. Holy shit. He'd gone down right in the middle of a sidewalk beside a busy street. The wall behind him was stone.
New Haven. Right.
He rotated his head slowly to the side and raised his eyes to the woman squatting beside him. Warm brown eyes shot with a gold rays gazed into his, the expression worried and a little wary. Her face was beautiful, with long black lashes, a full mouth and a strip of tiny freckles across the bridge of her nose. She was squeezing his arm. He glanced down at her hand and she loosened her grip, but didn't let go.
"Are you okay?"
Good God almighty. He recognized her. It was Fia.
Sophie.
"Have we…met already?" he asked.
She lifted one side of her mouth in a wry smile. "No, not yet. I saw you from across the street, and I ran over here to see if you were okay. Are you?"
"Yeah, I'm okay," he said, but he wasn't. His head felt like it had been cracked open, and his stomach was on the edge of spilling. He hadn't had a spell like that in over a year. What had set it off?
The girl.
Sophie hugged herself. "I saw you drop your coffee and start squeezing your head like you had a sudden pain, or a seizure or something. By the time I got outside you'd slid down the wall."
"What's your name?"
"Sophie," she said. "Seriously, are you okay to walk or drive or whatever? Do you work at the university?"
Nathan picked himself up off the sidewalk and leaned against the wall, willing himself not to puke. "Um… no," he said. "I'm here to—" He stopped abruptly, remembering. This was the woman who'd changed her name and disappeared without a trace. She didn't want to be found. If he wasn't careful he'd spook her.
"I'm looking at the graduate school." The minute he said that the wariness left her eyes. "And I'm very grateful to you for trying to help me." He examined his right hand, wiped it on his khakis, and offered it to her. "I'm Nathan Hunter."
She shook his hand with a firm grip. "Well, Nathan Hunter, my son will be finished with his O.T. before too long, so I'd better get back across the street. It was nice to—"
"I haven't had an episode like that in a long time," he said, anxious to keep her talking. "Can you describe to me what it looked like in more detail?"
Sophie turned her head to the row house. "I would, but… Well, are you okay to walk?"
He lifted one side of his mouth in what he hoped was a smile, but it could have been a grimace. "I'll start moving my legs and see what happens."
She hesitated just a second, then wrapped her hands around his arm. "Start by leaning on me, and then we'll see."
This time he was certain he smiled. "Where are you leading me? Not that I'm fussy."

Woo woo, sexy way to meet, huh? 
At least he didn't throw up on her shoes…
I love to hear about real first meetings, too. How did you meet your prince? Care to share?

-- Ana


Friday, December 5, 2014

Officer Erik’s professional holiday victim check list.

You may be a professional victim if you:
Leave your car unlocked. Even if it’s in your driveway.
Carry every credit card known to man when you shop.   
At night, park in an unlit area of the mall and walk to your car by yourself.
Walk to your car with ear buds in and music blaring.
Leave packages in your car where they can be seen.
Put packages in the trunk and don’t lock the car 
Leave your purse and keys in an unlocked car. Even if it’s in your driveway.
Leave your home unlocked at any time. 
Leave your garage door open and the access door to you home unlocked.
Use your credit card on an unsecured web site.
Things you can do to protect yourself.
Carry a purse with zipable compartments and zip them.
Use a purse that has a long strap and put it over your arm and head.  
If someone bumps into you immediately check your purse.
Carry your keys in your pocket. If you purse is snatched they won’t be able to drive away in your car and be in and out of your house before you get there.
Don’t leave your purse unattended in a shopping cart.
If you must put your purse in the cart, loop the child safety strap through the handles.  Makes it harder to grab and run.
Don’t be afraid to ask store security to walk you to your car. Don’t ask them to help carry your packages.

If you feel uneasy, there is a reason.  Listen to your inner warning system.

Yes I write thrillers and see bad guys everywhere, but these are common sense tips. Be safe out there.

  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

INGREDIENTS FOR WRITING - by Kathy Ivan

Suspense.  Mystery.  Romance. 

There's something about those words that stir the imagination.  Being able to craft a story filled with the right elements, a blending of all three, reminds me of baking.  All the ingredients have to be added in exactly the right amounts in order for your delicious confection to come out perfect (and in my case hopefully edible). 


I love layering in all the nuances to my stories, adding a dash of mystery to keep the reader turning the pages.  Did I write enough intrigue and danger within the world I've created that the reader absolutely, positively, unequivocally cannot stop reading when they reach the end of the chapter, and must turn the page to find out what happens next.  Don't you love that feeling? 

There are differing techniques I use while I'm writing.  If it's a mystery, the reader can't know whodunit until the very end—the big black moment.  I'll feed little hints and clues along the way, but I never come right out and say Mr. X is the villain.  That's left up to the reader to figure out and if I've done my job right they'll admit they never saw the ending coming. 


Now suspense for me is a totally different mindset.  I've got no problem telling the reader right up front who my bad guy or gal is and the horrible things they've done to earn that moniker.  Then it's up to the hero and/or heroine to not only catch the evil-doer, but stop whatever nefarious scheme they've concocted and foil it, making sure that evil is denounced and trounced and everybody lives happily ever after. 

But, and this is a big one for me—there always, always has to be a romance in my books.  Romance is my passion, for both writing and reading.  I don't want to read a book that doesn't have a good solid romance as a cornerstone of the story, and my romantic suspense writing needs that touchstone not only for my readers but for my own satisfaction.  Besides, watching the sexual tension ratchet up between your hero and heroine while they're running away from the maniacal mobster bent on their immediate destruction gives me a vicarious thrill.  




(Hey, if I'm the heroine and I'm gonna be chased by some crazy guy determined to end my life, I darn well better have a handsome hero beside me, although hopefully I'm kick-ass enough to save myself when the situation arises.) 

Suspense.  Mystery.  Romance.  My ingredients for a truly good book. 

Kathy Ivan is busy at work on her next romantic suspense set deep in the bayous of Louisiana.  Her latest suspense, Connor's Gamble is available now. 


Monday, December 1, 2014

Writing Is A Juggling Act

I was hoping to have a grand cover reveal today, but alas that will not be happening. Many authors self-publish nowadays. There is a fulfilling sense of control when it comes to self-publishing. There are also about a thousand tasks to try and keep track of. Where does the artist stand on your cover? How long until the editor returns your copy edits? How to schedule advertising when you don't even have the cover yet? And--always--how to meet that magical deadline you envisioned when you first started this project.

This book is the first in a 3-book Romantic Suspense series dealing with a fictional company that handles risk assessment throughout the world. If you want to start a global business, what obstacles will each region present? Weather, political strife, economy, ebola...

Working on a three-book series is a juggling act of its own. Although they will all be stand-alone reads, the underlying ties are like balls in the air. You have to make sure one lands in each book. I use Microsoft OneNote. Honestly I used to use that at my old job to keep my head on straight. Now I find it invaluable for planning this series. Of course, now it's just as critical to back up the OneNote document as it is the novels themselves.

So I have no cover yet, but I can share the WIP blurb for SHADOW. :)

Nathan William Bethard.
Nothing would stop him from finding Nathan Bethard. Nothing.
Was it a vendetta? Hell yeah.
Was he insane? Probably.
No matter the obstacle, he would find the man.

And only God knew what would happen when he did.

The Shadow was watching her again. Sophie Diem could not see him. She could not prove that he was there--but she felt his eyes bore into her back. Sometimes he would approach. On those occasions she tried to run. Running was pointless, though. He would always return. And he would always ask the same question−over and over and over…

Where is Nathan Bethard?


Big hugs to you all! :)
Gladys (aka Maureen)

www.maureenamiller.com

Friday, November 28, 2014

The wonders of technology

This wasn’t my original date to post here but I had an emergency and the lovely Anne Marie came to my aid and swapped. Thank you, Anne Marie!

My emergency? I’m in the midst of a renovation project and while the builders were knocking my sitting room about, my phone line vanished in a huge heap of rubble. All I was left with was a tiny black cable coming into the house from outside. No landline, and no broadband.

No internet connection other than on my trusty iPhone? I’m old, very old, so I should know better, but it was enough to bring me out in a cold sweat. 

When the engineer finally arrived to sort out a new connection, he obviously noted my stress levels and remarked, somewhat sympathetically, that no one copes well without an internet connection. He went on to tell me how he’d tried to explain to his young son how we contacted friends in the days before we all carried phones around with us. He explained that if you needed to phone your friend in the evening, you had to make prior arrangements to ensure said friend was at home to take the call. Young son couldn’t grasp this concept. “But what if he’d gone out?” he asked. “Then you’d tramp the streets looking for him...”. It’s like the boy asking his dad how people emailed each other before the internet was around.

Here in the UK, a TV program called Tomorrow’s World was aired from the 60s for almost 40 years. It was all a bit space-age for me but I occasionally watched it. I remember one episode when the presenter confidently declared that, one day, we’d store our music on something the size of a thumbnail. I looked at my towering stack of vinyl, shook my head at such stupidity and switched off the TV. Hmm. Now I have thousands of songs stored on something much, much smaller. And backed up in the cloud, of course.

As old as I am, I still take all this wonderful technology for granted. Until it isn’t there.

Do you take it for granted? Do you long for a rest from the internet?  Does any of our modern-day technology astound or bother you?

I often think about my dogs as they walk around with my name, address and phone numbers recorded on small microchips beneath their skin. I’m never sure if this is wonderful or a step too far. I also wonder how long it will be before we’re all walking round with microchips beneath our skin…

And while we’re talking technology, here’s my new phone line, clinging precarious to stone that’s been there since 1875 - and will hopefully still be there when the builders have done their thing. :) 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

TURKEYS ARE FOREVER--OR SO THEY SEEM


Y’all are probably too busy slaving over your stoves to comment today.  If so, I understand, believe me, I really do.  Thanksgiving dinner is a big operation.  But that said, having to prepare too much food is a first world problem not a third world problem.  Besides, it’s not the bird that’s creating all the work, it’s those sides.  The creamed onions, the squash, the sweet potato casserole with the little marshmallows on top, the two kinds of cranberry, the three kinds of pie.

 

The Pilgrims with their scrawny wild turkeys wouldn’t recognize our feast though we celebrate in their honor.  We even put our ceramic Pilgrim salt and pepper shakers on the groaning table . . . and after dinner, maybe between the bird and the pie . . . when we’re groaning instead of the table, we go around and have each guest tell what he’s most thankful for.

 

Despite all the problems in this troubled world of ours, we do have many blessings to count.  Without being Pollyanna about it, tops on my personal list is this wonderful country of ours where I live with my beloved family and enjoy the freedom to write my tongue-in-cheek Murders by Design Mysteries.  (Notice how I snuck that in—like garlic in the mashed potatoes.)


 

Number five in the series, The Design Is Murder just came out a week ago.  And of course, I’m especially thankful for that.  And for the fact that Charlotte, a five pound Maltipoo puppy, helped Deva Dunne solve the murder.  I could go on about Charlotte, but I have to run.  The green beans are waiting to be topped off with the fried onion rings.

 

Seriously, for a taste of The Design is Murder take a peek at Jean’s website: www. Jeanharrington.com.  Or for the whole piece, here’s the link:  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=The%20Design%20Is%20Murder