Monday, January 23, 2017

A Neighborly Killing by Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Let’s get one thing straight right away: Regan and Tom, the protagonists in my Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries, are not me and my husband, Craig.

OK, I confess, originally Regan and Tom were named Nancy and Craig. Most of my characters start out with the name of someone I know, but they stopped being us the first time Nancy found a body and Craig (the real one) found me curled in a ball on the sofa in my office, shaking and crying. It was a matter of self preservation that they couldn’t be us.

An interesting thing happened once I changed Nancy and Craig’s names to Regan and Tom. The characters started behaving differently. I was so fascinated by the change in their personalities that I renamed almost all my characters. Suddenly they were willing to do things they would never have done as themselves. For example, Kaivan in “The Death Contingency,” like his real counterpart my friend Korosh, was still a clothes-horse, flirt, and a patriotic naturalized citizen, but he became a plausible potential villain, a role the real Korosh could never have played.

The changes were so much fun to watch that everyone except Dave, Regan and Tom’s semi-retired policeman buddy who lost an eye in a shootout, got renamed. He escaped a new identity only because he’s written very closely to his real persona and doesn’t have to be forced to do anything he wouldn’t readily do.

Freed from having to be in the books, my real Craig happily became my beta reader. I’d give him my perfectly written (HA!) mysteries for comments. We’d have heated arguments every time he read my words. “You may know what you mean, but it’s not on the page. Fix it.” I couldn’t send my books to the editor until all needed rewrites were finished. He also took over the job of taking the disparate elements I wanted for book covers and blending them until they looked just like I saw them in my head.  

So Tom was no longer Craig, but there was one aspect of Craig that remained in Tom completely unchanged, Tom’s devastatingly blue eyes, the eyes both Regan and I loved.

My real Craig died on July 26th in 2016. I want to write another Regan and Tom mystery because I have a great plot in mind, but so far I can’t bring myself to do it. Even though Craig wasn’t Tom, I find I can’t write Tom in Craig’s absence. It’s all about his eyes. I’m hoping I’ll soon be able to move forward and put pen to paper, or in our modern world, tap my computer keys, because I miss Tom just like I do Craig.

Waking up to gunshots and discovering the body of their neighbor just outside their bedroom door is bad enough, but when the Coroner rules the death a suicide, Realtors Regan McHenry and her husband Tom Kiley don’t believe it for a minute. Never mind what the physical evidence says; they heard their dead neighbor arguing with someone in the moments preceding his death.

Blurb :

What really happened has become more than just a mystery they’d like to solve because the circumstances of their dead neighbor’s past keep interfering with their present and putting them in danger.

Facebook : , and the best Amazon author page,  because people can see all the books and read beginning pages.


Nancy Lynn Jarvis finally acknowledged she was having too much fun writing to ever sell another house, so she let her license lapse in May of 2013, after her twenty-fifth anniversary in real estate.
After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare/Santa Cruz at UCSC.
Nancy’s philosophy is that you should try something radically different every few years. Writing was her latest adventure until she recently started playing Airbnb hostess. She hopes to begin hosting writer retreats soon, especially retreats for her fellow cozy mystery writers.
Nancy invites you to take a peek into the real estate world through the stories that form the backdrop of her Regan McHenry mysteries. The murders are made up, but the real estate details and ideas come from her own experiences.
She’s also playing with a new series called Geezers With Tools (double entendre intended) about two retired men who start a handyman business, one because he is recently widowed and needs a way to fill his time, and the other because he’s a player who thinks it will be a good way to meet women.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Devil's Cold Dish by Eleanor Kuhns

A Devil’s Cold Dish is as much a story about being an outsider as it is about malice and revenge.  I am always fascinated by the consequences of being different – or at least being perceived as different. And there are so many ways to be different: mental and physical defects, sexual orientation, even living outside the sexual mores of the local village (I explored this in Cradle to Grave ) to mention a few.  Even now, in this modern age when we encourage tolerance and speak of inclusiveness,  being perceived as Other can cause suffering. How much worse must it have been two hundred years ago?

In A Simple Murder, my first book, Mouse (Hannah Moore) was born with cleft palate. The superstition of the times claimed that if a pregnant woman saw a hare, her child would be born with this deformity. Now the defect is easily correctible with surgery. But then, in the late 1700s?

What would happen to a girl with this defect when marriage was almost the only path open to a woman? Especially a girl like Mouse without wealth or position so even the option of using a good dowry to attract a mate would be closed to her. I gave Mouse a future by putting her into the Shakers. In that celibate community, she would have had a job, a family, and a purpose.

In A Devil’s Cold Dish I explore the consequences of being the ‘Other” on my two main characters. Will Rees grew up in a small Maine town as an angry little boy, a fighter. No one will let him forget his past either, even though Rees has grown up and become a different person. Besides that, as a former soldier in the Continental Army and now a traveling weaver, he has seen a lot more of the world than this little town. He has become more cosmopolitan and the hidebound opinions of Dugard, Maine are no longer his. He has gained a certain perspective. Resentment of Rees’s ‘town bronze’ in his home town means that the allegation he committed a murder is believed.

His wife Lydia is even more at risk,  An outspoken woman and a Shaker besides she is viewed with suspicion. The Shakers were suspect because of their religious beliefs.  They were celibate and pacifists – a fact that meant both British and Americans persecuted them during the War for Independence. In a time when a woman could not inherit her husband’s estate unless he specifically named her in his will, the Sisters enjoyed equal status with the Brothers.  They welcomed black people, including escaped slaves, since they believed everyone was a child of God. It is surely no surprise to learn the Shakers were abolitionists. 

Being different could get you killed. Women especially were at risk.  Even though the Salem witch trials were one hundred years in the past, the belief in witches was still current and widely accepted.  (The last witchcraft trial in New York took place in 1816.) An accusation of witchcraft was usually a death sentence.

A malicious accusation directed at Lydia would be believed. All of the family would be in danger.  With powerful enemies ranged against them, Rees protects his family by sending them away. And he investigates the murders while a fugitive, running for his own life.

Eleanor Kuhns is the 2011 winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel. A lifelong librarian, she received her Masters from Columbia University and is currently the Assistant Director of the Goshen Public Library in Orange County New York.

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Medicinal Alcohol by Sarah E. Glenn

            From ancient times, alcohol’s potency has been revered and yet feared. It is the wine of Dionysus, the sacred barley-drink of the Eleusinian Mysteries, and the reason John Barleycorn had to die. Even so, the classical Greeks warned against drinking unwatered wine, and the Bible advises its readers to only drink in moderation.

Alcohol’s use in medicine is equally ancient. Wine enhanced the potency of herbal medicines and extended their shelf life. The invention of distillation improved this even further. Certain essences from plants are more easily extracted by alcohol than water, and tinctures formed an important part of the pharmacopeia before modern chemistry took over. Many nostrums sold in the nineteenth century counted alcohol as a major ingredient, their effect sometime heightened with narcotics. Homemade cold remedies like hot toddies and buttered rum were popular.

During the 1830s, however, the Temperance movement swelled in the United States and public pressure to ban alcohol sales mounted. Alcohol was seen as the source of many evils, no matter the method or reason for its administration, and even medical authority seemed to bend under the political winds. In 1917, shortly before Prohibition began, the American Medical Association proclaimed that alcohol was ‘detrimental to the human economy’ and had ‘no scientific value.’ The organization passed a resolution that it was opposed to the use of alcohol as a beverage or ‘as a therapeutic agent.’

The AMA may have echoed the public sentiments of the time, but a medical loophole was created in the Volstead Act for the therapeutic prescribing of alcohol. As a result, medicinal alcohol, also known as Spiritus frumenti, was prescribed throughout American Prohibition.

Under the provisions of this loophole, only a physician with a proper permit could write a prescription for medicinal liquor. Furthermore, the dose of this medical dispensation was limited to one pint every ten days, or ten to sixteen shots depending on the generosity of the patient’s pouring hand. The government issued books of specially designed forms for this purpose. The designs were changed often to outstrip counterfeiters.

Economist Clark Warburton stated that the consumption of medicinal alcohol increased by 400 percent during the 1920s. By 1929, there were 116,756 physicians in the twenty-six states that permitted the use of medicinal alcohol. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, about half of those physicians were prescribing it for patients.

            Kentucky was a major source for medicinal alcohol. One of the more famous locations to take your prescription for S. frumenti was Krause’s Drug Store in Covington, Kentucky. Its unofficial name was the ‘Bootleg Drug Store’, due to its no-questions-asked prescription policy and the still that Old Man Krause kept in the basement. Other area pharmacists, particularly ones in Cincinnati, often refused to refill prescriptions for alcohol and sent those customers to Krause’s establishment. Mr. Krause, always the obliging health provider, kept his store open during Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day so no customer would suffer without his medication during the holidays.

Only a small number of distilleries received permits to produce liquor for medicinal purposes, several (once again) in Kentucky. The Stizel Distillery and Brown-Forman were located in Louisville; another, Glenmore Distilleries, was located in Owensboro. The longest-lived, the George T. Stagg Distillery, operated along the Kentucky River in Frankfort. In 1925, it bottled 1 million pints of ‘medicinal whiskey’. Today known as Buffalo Trace, it is one of the few American distilleries that can claim to have been in continuous operation since the 1700’s, due to its medical connections.


Gwen Mayo is passionate about blending her loves of history and mystery fiction. She currently lives and writes in Safety Harbor, Florida, but grew up in a large Irish family in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. She is the author of the Nessa Donnelly Mysteries and co-author of the Old Crows stories with Sarah Glenn.

Her stories have appeared in A Whodunit Halloween, Decades of Dirt, Halloween Frights (Volume I), and several flash fiction collections. She belongs to Sisters in Crime, SinC Guppies, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, the Historical Novel Society, and the Florida Authors and Publishers Association.

Gwen has a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Kentucky. Her most interesting job, though, was as a brakeman and railroad engineer from 1983 - 1987. She was one of the last engineers to be certified on steam locomotives.

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Sarah E. Glenn has a B.S. in Journalism, which is a great degree for the dilettante she is. Later on, she did a stint as a graduate student in classical languages. She didn’t get the degree, but she’s great with crosswords. Her most interesting job was working the reports desk for the police department in Lexington, Kentucky, where she learned that criminals really are dumb.

Her great-great aunt served as a nurse in WWI, and was injured by poison gas during the fighting. A hundred years later, this would inspire Sarah to write stories Aunt Dess would probably not approve of.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

And A Better Time

In the 60s, we were living in Oxnard--and despite the racial turmoil going on everywhere else, in our small part of the world, things were going fairly well.

We were definitely lower middle-class, and to be honest quite poor. Hubby was in the Seabees and poorly paid.We barely made it from month to month. We lived in a neighborhood with other poorly paid people--firemen and police officers. We were all buying our homes because in this particular tract, the down payment was only $100.

Our neighborhood was nicely racially mixed, using the terms of the time: white, black, Mexican, Filipino, and a smattering of others. Most of the schools were as racially mixed as was the PTA, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Camp Fire Girls.

My small Blue Bird group became Camp Fire Girls, and in Junior High swelled to 20 girls from all ethnic backgrounds and stayed together through high school. We had a wonderful time--we had many camp outs including back packing into the mountains, we visited Hollywood and went to free TV shows, on the bus to San Diego to a huge conference for high school age Camp Fire (Horizon Club), we put on musicals to make money, we had all sorts of parties, and our big and final adventure was a bus trip with our first stop at the Gene Pumping Station where the Colorado River water comes into California, we spent 3 days at the Grand Canyon and then we went to Las Vegas.

One of the exciting things about all this was most of the girls had never been out of California, a handful never out of Ventura County. We worked hard to make enough money to pay for our own Greyhound bus and for where we stayed in the Grand Canyon--plus our food along the way. 

Looking back, it was a great time. Most of those girls are grandmothers
now. I'm still in touch with many of them. And one has had a great singing career and is a back-up singer for Barry Manilow.

How I loved my Camp Fire Girls--and I learned as much or more by being their leader.

The little boy was my Makr--oh, how he wanted to be in Camp Fire.
We had a reunion, middle row, me and two moms that always helped.

And another reunion, with just a few--a couple of the moms and me.
Of course many of the girls had moved faraway--the reunion was in Oxnard at my daughter's house--and now she's moved too. Two of the women who helped me, have now passed away.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Doggedly Determined by Nancy Cole Silverman

After a year of being pet-less, my husband and I agreed it was time to adopt a new dog.  Last year, at Christmas time, we lost both our standard poodles to different cancers.  It was a devastating blow. But, we figured we had been lucky with them for as long as we had – nearly fifteen years – and we did our best to respect their memory and move forward.  However, as the holidays approached, I was determined to bring a little joy back into our lives. Something in the form of a wet nose, padded paws, and furry tail.  And, because I do believe fate interceded, we found a breeder with pups available post-holiday.


The pups were born November 5th , ten in all, and like I said, available for adoption between Christmas and New Years. However, there were problems. While the pups were fine, Ali, their mom, a three-year-old standard poodle show dog, was not.  The breeder was faced with some tough choices.  Ali couldn’t be bred again and would have to be re-homed. Did I want her?
Absolutely!  I didn't have to think twice about it. 

So, on December 30th  rather than return from the breeders with an eight-week-old puppy, puppy pads and a stack of manuals on How to Train Your Puppy, we brought Ali home. And she is....well, you decide.  That’s her picture above, and if it looks like she’s posing for the camera, she probably is.  After all, she was a show dog and the equivalent of Miss California when it comes to that type of thing.  But to me, she’s Ali, my new best friend.

If I sound a bit preoccupied, it’s because I am.  Not that I’ve time to be.  I’ve got a new book coming out later this year – WITHOUT A DOUBT, the fourth in the Carol Childs Mysteries and my final edits will keep me busy right up until mid-April. And then of course, because I am obsessive, I’m working on a fifth book in the series and a couple of short stories I hope to submit to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.  But I’m taking a dog leg – you know, an alternate route – and going to allow myself a little play time.

One of my pet projects has long been working and writing about therapeutic riding programs for disabled children.  For years I had horses and worked with and reported on some of the fabulous things horses could do for a child who was crippled and unable to do anything more than sit in a wheelchair.  Through one of the therapeutic riding programs I worked with, I watched as some of their small deformed bodies were mounted on the back of a horse and held securely in place as trainers worked with the horse and child.  When I say it was heartwarming, I mean I could feel the blood rush to my heart and that I had tears in my eyes when I saw the smiles on their faces and their parents. For the first time, some of those sitting on the back of a horse were able to look down on their caretakers or see them eye to eye. 

I’ve never forgotten that experience, and after adopting Ali, it got me thinking about using her as a therapy dog. She’s calm, well-trained and I think it’s no accident we’ve found each other. If all works out, I hope to have her visiting children's hospitals and old folks’ homes before the end of the year.
How about that? Without even realizing it, I’ve just given Ali her first New Year’s Resolution. 
So, it’s going to be a busy year.  Between my crazy writing schedule and working with Ali, it’s an exciting time, but if you’ll excuse the pun, I’m doggedly determined.

Stay tuned.  Room for Doubt, the fourth of the Carol Childs Mysteries with Henery Press, drops July 18th.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Hidden Figures, the movie and memories it brought to mind

We loved "Hidden Figures". Besides a wonderful true story, it was a big reminder of the horror of segregation and how the press totally ignored these three African American women who actually made it possible for the US to go into space.

Watching it brought back memories of my feeble and totally unsuccessful attempt at pointing out how stupid segregation was back in the early 50s. Yes, I was a big ahead of everyone.

I grew up in Los Angeles CA and I never heard my folks talk bad about any race. No, I didn't grow up in an integrated neighborhood and the only neighbors of a different race were the Italians who lived across the street and had been there far longer than any of the rest of us.

When I first got married I moved to Maryland, and had my first exposure to racism. Believe me, it was a horrible shock. I won't go into all the things I heard and saw. However, I thought I could change things in a small way by doing the following:

I rode on the back of the bus.
I drank out of "colored" drinking fountains.
I sat in the balcony at the movies (it was where the "coloreds" were supposed to sit.
I tried to make friends, not successfully, with every black person I met.

Did it do any good? No. I quickly learned this is what the black people said about me.

"That's that crazy girl from California." Didn't stop me though. I was 18 and truly though I could make a change. I was a few years too early.

On a later visit back to the same area, by this time I had three kids, things hadn't improved much. I had to do some laundry so took my dirty clothes to the closest laundromat. I had never been in one before so asked for help from those around me. The women seemed reluctant to help me, but finally did. We chatted and I was asked where I was from. When I said California, glances were exchanged, and I was asked who I was visiting.

When I returned to my in-laws, I was asked where I'd done my laundry. When gave them the name of the business, I was told that wasn't proper, I 'd gone to the laundry for black people. 

My response, "My clothes got clean and everyone was nice to me." 

If you get the opportunity, be sure and see Hidden Figures.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Lots of Rain in California, and the Rivers are Raging

We've had a big drought in California for too many years--and now we're getting lots of rain. The Tule River runs through Springville, my little town in the foothills. In fact the Tule flows/or rages, depending upon the time of year, behind our house. We are high enough, that we don't have to worry, but many homes are built right along the river, and for them, at times, it's scary.

There is a history of the Tule flooding and I heard many stories about it which inspired a story about flooding and mud slides which came out in 2012, Raging Water.

Raging Water Blurb:

A rash of burglaries and the murder of two women shock the mountain community of Bear Creek. Add a fast-moving thunderstorm that brings torrential rains and Tempe Crabtree, the resident deputy can forget about her days off.

Who would murder two harmless women? Did a drug addict simply want their medications or did they share a secret someone was willing to kill for?

When a massive mud slide blocks the road into town, temporary shelters are set-up, residents high above the river open their homes to friends and neighbors, tensions rise and tempers flare. 

The village of Bear Creek in many ways has a strong resemblance to my town of Springville though the fictional place is higher in the mountains. 

This is what the Tule River looks like now:

If you haven't read this book in the series yet, it's available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.