Saturday, November 26, 2011


Christmas 2011 -- Birth of a New Tradition
As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Canadians with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods -- merchandise that has been produced at the expense of Canadian labor. This year will be different. This year Canadians will give the gift of genuine concern for other Canadians. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by Canadians hands. Yes there is!
It's time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper?

Everyone -- yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates from your local Canadian hair salon or barber?
Gym membership? It's appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some health improvement.
Who wouldn't appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, Canadian owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates.
Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plonking down the Benjamines on a Chinese made flat-screen? Perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course.
There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants -- all offering gift certificates. And, if your intended isn't the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint. Remember, folks this isn't about big National chains -- this is about supporting your home town Canadian with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.
How many people couldn't use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by the Canadian working guy?
Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day.
My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is struggling to get his repair business up and running.
OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes.
Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theatre.
Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands.
Honestly, people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese lights for the house? When you buy a five dollar string of lights, about fifty cents stays in the community. If you have those kinds of bucks to burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip.
You see, Christmas is no longer about draining Canadian pockets so that Chinacan build another glittering city. Christmas is now about caring about us, encouraging Canadian small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And, when we care about other Canadians, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn't imagine. THIS is the new Canadian  Christmas tradition.
Forward this to everyone on your mailing list -- post it to discussion groups -- throw up a post on Craigslist in the Rants and Raves section in your city -- send it to the editor of your local paper and radio stations, and TV news departments. This is a revolution of caring about each other, and isn't that what Christmas is about?

BUY CANADIAN - BE  CANADIAN - The job you save might be your own

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thriller Author Lisa Black

Federal Reserve Bank

Serendipity figures into the writing life in sometimes spooky ways. Especially with my first Theresa MacLean book Takeover (the fourth was released September 27). Just as I’d be mulling over some aspect of my plot, someone or something would come along and prod me into the next few chapters.
In the book, the Federal Reserve bank in Cleveland is taken over by armed robbers and forensic scientist Theresa goes against the flashy negotiator by giving the robbers something they want in order to free her wounded and dying fiancé. I am embarrassed to report that it grew out of a recurring daydream about gorgeous Rory Cochrane on CSI Miami. The scene never occurred on CSI Miami, but somehow my brain synapsed the cute guy and the brilliant sunlit street and the desperate situation together and worked at it until I had it perfect, not that thoughts involving Rory Cochrane were difficult to return to. Just a daydream. (Okay, fantasy, I admit it, are you happy now?)

From there, I happened to go to the Sleuthfest convention in Fort Lauderdale and happened to attend the Sisters In Crime dinner and happened to sit next to an older man and his wife, people unknown to me. In the course of making polite conversation (my mother did teach me a few manners, despite what others may tell you) it turned out the man had been a New York police officer for years, many of them on the hostage rescue squad, and he had written an article on negotiation that was still used to teach classes at the FBI Academy. Through him I tracked down a copy of it, which I used and listed in my bibliography in the book.
PT Library

Then, I was sitting on the couch watching TV with my husband (a scene which, unfortunately for our waistlines, occurs all too frequently in my house) when a commercial for the 2006 Harrison Ford movie Firewall aired. I sat up and said aloud, “I won’t make my robbery at an ordinary bank. I’ll make it at the Federal Reserve bank.” Having walked past the Fed in downtown Cleveland many times on my way to the library, I knew it was a large and distinct location. What I didn’t know was that there are only 12 in the country and that a Fed is completely different from your corner savings and loan, so that no one in their right mind would rob a Federal Reserve. This, however, eventually worked in my favor, adding another layer of things-are-not-what-they-seem to the story.

Of course the movie Firewall has absolutely nothing to do with the Federal Reserve. Perhaps the wiring in my brain has a few shorts.

These facts and ideas and half-baked scenes were floating around in my head when we went over our friends’ house for a party one evening. We live in Cape Coral, Florida, so that while my husband and I are in our 40s, most of our friends are retired. I like partying with retirees. They cook well, don’t cancel because they couldn’t find a babysitter, never show up ‘fashionably late’ and have lived long enough to have an endless supply of interesting stories. One such man had been an elevator repairman, one of those guys allowed into even high-security buildings because, of course, no one wants to take the stairs. He could tell me quite a bit about the layout of the Cleveland Fed. Another person at this same party had worked in a bank for all of her professional life and as an examiner for the latter portion of it. She had been to the Fed many times in the course of her work. I had been struggling to come up with a significant title and asked for any inside terminology regarding banks, or robberies, or the Fed. At first she said no, thought about it, got another drink and said, “Well, when we had the kind of robbery where the guy waited in the parking lot for the first employee to show up in the morning, usually the manager, and walked them in at gunpoint to open the safe, we would refer to that as a Morning Glory. When there was a single robber, he was a Lone Gunman, and when there were two or more, we called that a Takeover.”

You never know where or when this kind of help will fall into your lap. Talk to the people you meet, and ask questions. Lots of questions. Even if you don’t even know yet what it is you want to know, ask, talk, and most of all, listen.

Oh, and go to parties.

Lots of parties.

Lisa Black’s fourth book Defensive Wounds was released by Harper Collins on September 27. Forensic scientist Theresa MacLean battles a serial killer operating at an attorney’s convention. Lisa is a full time latent print examiner and CSI for a police department in Florida.  

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Wait for it...

As the north east of much of North America starts to assess the damage and begin clean-up you will hear a voice. A voice full of fire and fury. And this voice will be telling you that Hurricane Irene was God\s punishment for America supporting, and here you get to take your pick:

1. gay and lesbian rights
2. feminists
3. left wing socialists
4. Fidel Castro
4. muslims
5. jews
6. climatologists AND socialists who 'buy' into Global Warming
7. Obama -- why not? They're blaming everything else on him.

Do you really think I'm going to believe that some omnipotent god creature who knows all and sees all, needs to kill a random selection of people, including the faithful -- tell me, do they die saying "Yes! I know this is God's justice."

I'll be honest, I don't understand people who think there is a thing that caress about every little action or thought of a little biped and when they do something that this thing disapproves of, he'll send a hurricane, or maybe a volcano, a tornado, earthquakes and tsunamis to not only kill those people, but a lot of other people as well as thousands of acres of forest or beaches that never did anything to anyone. The animals deaths can be severe too. Does a deer need to die because someone loved someone of the same sex?

Honestly? Do you?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Before even opening her mouth, opera singer, Jenny Lind was already today’s equivalent of a rock star or world-renowned celebrity. If we could all have P. T. Barnum’s marketing savvy pushing our names. She arrived to much fanfare to New York Harbor on September 1st, 1850. Forty thousand people to be exact, and she hadn’t even sung a note. The Swedish Nightingale signed a contract with Barnum and his company to the tune of $187,500 for 150 shows.

Before she was thirty, Lind took the capitols of Europe by storm. I read that Queen Victoria herself threw flowers at her feet. Lind was known for her pure vocal style and humility. Barnum sold her to the American public as a simple, humble woman who dedicated much of her life and earnings to charitable causes. She was a soprano with a range from B to middle C to high G.

Her nationwide tour began in New York City on September 11th, 1850 at the Castle Gardens. The five thousand attendees obtained their tickets through an auction, paying as much as $250 per ticket, which then wasn’t cheap.

During her performance, Lind sang her interpretation of “Casta Diva”, which you can hear:

Maria Calla’s interpretation here.

I wanted to discover what Jenny Lind sang because I wanted to somehow tie it in with what my heroine was feeling at the time. I was lucky in that the music worked perfectly with her emotions.

Here’s a brief excerpt from my novella, His Fifth Avenue Thief. Aaron and Cathlene are attending their first event publically as husband and wife after enduring a separation that tested their inner strength and emotions.

A hush fell over the crowd as the theater darkened. A cacophony of sound rose up from the pit below before falling silent. The curtain parted and Jenny Lind stepped out on stage.

Quiet and restrained, the orchestra began to play. The soprano joined in, her note clear and crisp, floating to all corners of the theater.

Cathlene sat enraptured by her voice. It mesmerized her, transporting her to a place she’d never been. She floated free and happy on this cloud of joy. She was here with Aaron, and there was nothing else which mattered. The performance drowned out the horror of Standish’s crime against her, taking her from the hell she’d been living in and bringing her out into the light.

“I’ve never heard anything sound so beautiful,” Aaron whispered. “Only thing better than hearing her sing of love is hearing you confess yours for me.”

She couldn’t answer. She couldn’t break this fragile spell, this link the music created between them, seeming to dissolve the barriers that separated their lives and hearts.

The beauty of the music, every note that filled the air ringing with emotion, brought tears to her eyes. From what Italian she understood, the Nightingale sang of love found but lost. Every phrase seemed to be torn from her soul, the pain of the heartbroken lover in the story burrowed its way into Cathlene’s own soul.
She was just like this overwrought lover. Both yearning for days long past, time that couldn’t be recaptured. Both wanting their love the way they used to be, but deep down, both knowing it was lost to them forever.

Their sorrow was almost palpable to her, for Cathlene felt her own pain as she thought of being parted from Aaron again. She’d once more fallen in love with the man she’d once known. Trouble was, he wasn’t the same; then again, neither was she. Her lip quivered. He didn’t feel as strongly for her as she did him. Drudging up past memories couldn’t save them.

Elizabeth sent her a concerned glance. She leaned over and whispered something, but Cathlene couldn’t hear for all the emotions that swamped through her. How she wished she had someone to confide in. Sitting amongst these strangers – even Aaron was still a stranger to her in many ways. He fit well into this world, whereas she was completely on her own and alone.

I learned all this, and only included very little of it in my novella, His Fifth Avenue Thief. While writing my first Historical, I learned that although I’d like to include everything along with the kitchen sink where fun facts are concerned, you have to weed out what won’t move the story, or the plot forward. It wasn’t easy picking and choosing what to include, but I had so much fun doing the research.

If you’re an author, while in the process of writing a book, have you ever felt torn what to include? Did you ever wish you would’ve used something other than what you did? If you’re a reader, have you ever stopped reading because the author simply included too much information? Or not enough to keep you hooked?

I’d like to thank P.A. Brown for having me here today. I’ve got to work at the evil day job, but I’ll pop in and say hello as soon as I’m able. I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to one lucky, random commenter. You’ll have until Midnight, Friday EST to leave a comment for a chance to win.

My next stop on my blog tour is for my

Cyber launch party at Author Island

I’m pretty sure I’ll be giving away a prize. [wink]


Abbey MacInnis is a published author of Contemporary Western romance. Along with Contemporary, she writes Historical, Paranormal and erotic romance. Whether she’s being swept off her feet by a Medieval knight, regency rake, or cowboy or cop, her heroes are always strong men who’ll love their women unconditionally.

On most days, Abbey can be found at her computer, penning her latest tale. A tale where love, respect, and passion combine to create a satisfying and happy ending. She invites you to step in to the pages of her romances, to leave your worries behind and get swept up in her world.

His Fifth Avenue Thief blurb:

Two years prior, Irishman Aaron O’Connel took his life from rags to riches. Chance and wits have kept him alive in 1850’S New York City. But no amount of money or success can bring his love Cathlene back from the dead. When a thief sneaks her way into his mansion, the last woman he expects to find absconding with his belongings is his long lost wife.

Abandoned on New York’s shores, a widowed, penniless, and ruined Cathlene O'Connel was left to fend for herself in an unfamiliar world. Fear and circumstance drove her to a life of thieving in order to survive, but her heart risks the biggest danger of all when Aaron hands her a scandalous proposition: A son in exchange for her freedom.
Now that he has her back, Aaron doesn't intend to let Cathlene slip between his fingers. He'll do whatever it takes to regain her trust and love. But when an enemy from Cathlene's past resurfaces, Aaron not only faces battling for Cathlene's heart, but also her life.

Buy it at:


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Monday, July 25, 2011

Review A Dozen Deadly Rose

Review A Dozen Deadly Roses by Kathy Bennett

Web Site

This novel is Ms Bennett's first published. And it's a good beginning. A Dozen Deadly Roses is a romantic suspense. LAPD officer Jade Donovan is a field training officer. But when she finds out who the ‘rookie' riding with her will be, she knows she's in trouble. Mac Stryker was her training officer. He was also a drunk who nearly got them both killed. A mistake lands Jade in Mac's bed. She is left pregnant and Mac leaves the force, never knowing he had a son.

Now he's back and Jade just knows he's going to be trouble. She is torn between telling him about his son and maybe having to face his claims as a father. Stryker might be sober, but can he stay that way? Jade knows first hand how easy and often reformed drunks can fall back into the bottle.

As if that isn't enough, someone is stalking her. It starts with a gold box being delivered, filled with a dozen dead roses. The next day the same shows up on her doorstep, this time with eleven dead roses. It quickly becomes clear the threat is bad. Jade doesn't want her division to know what's going on. She'll tackle it herself. Her determination starts a train of events that will see her facing a killer and maybe losing everything--her life, her son's and Stryker's love.

I really enjoyed this book. I'm glad to hear the author plans more. Her characters are well developed and likable--or unlikeable as the case may be--and I know I was rooting for Jade and Stryker. If you like cops, suspense and romance, then this is the book for you. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Great Icons... and then there's Los Angeles

What icon comes to mind when you hear the name New York City? For me it's the Statue of Liberty. Others might think of the Empire State Building. What about Paris? The Eiffel Tower. London? Buckingham Palace. San Francisco? The Golden Gate Bridge. Egypt? The pyramids. The Sydney Opera House. The Great Wall of China, Mount Rushmore, the Taj Mahal...

All great monuments of their time that stand for ingenuity, craftsmanship and the indomitable spirit of mankind and our artistic skills.

Now think Los Angeles. I would hazard a guess that what pops to mind is Hollywood and the Hollywood sign or Graumann's Chinese Theater. Vast monuments? Skillfully designed edifices that strikes awe into people when they first see it?

No, a nearly century old advertising gimmick to sell lots in a city that was promoting growth. Harry Chandler, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, along with other wealthy Californians, was also a land speculator. He promoted the growth of Los Angeles, the Valley and of course, Hollywood. The sign meant to help him and the other investors to get richer went up in 1923 at the cost of $23,000. The LAND part of the sign was removed in 1949. It was fixed and made more permanent in 1978. In 2005 the metal sign was stripped and repainted white.

I guess in terms of monuments, it beats a giant donut.

This is part of why I love L.A. It's not like anyplace else. Where else would pocket dogs be created. Where pet rocks actually became a craze. (I had a pet rock, but I didn't buy him in some store, I caught him myself, up in the hills and I had to break him all by myself) Where people throng from all over the world to see the hand prints or foot prints of men and (and the odd animal) they only know through the screen. Where even the cops are good looking. Where some east coast exiles came with a few black and white, grainy moving pictures and created a multi-billion dollar enterprise that has shaped beliefs and societies.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


There is quite a lot to consider when you put a human mummy on display. Who was the person who is now mummified, and did he or she believe in an afterlife? Surely any concept of an afterlife does not include being in a public museum case! Is the body naked (bare bones, as in unclothed and skeletonized, or just unwrapped)? What culture does it belong to, and what does having the mummy on display teach us about ancient belief systems, health, and disease?

Last week I had the great good fortune to attend the 7th World Congress on Mummy Studies in San Diego. Aside from the fact that I am apparently allergic to the flora of California, I really enjoyed the conference. Where else can you hear about a waxwork on display out west that turned out to be a mummy, or “piggies in peat” (experimental animal mummification using piglets in peat bogs in Europe)? I can truthfully say I attended more papers than I usually do because I was absolutely fascinated with the content and the range of subjects.

The first session was on the ethics of mummies—both the study of dead bodies and the display of them. The concept of stakeholder theory was introduced: who are the stakeholders in a mummy display? The scientists, the museum staff, the public, the mummy itself…and the descendants of the mummy, if they can be identified. And here is a lesson for the unwary: a protest about a “stuffed Eskimo” in a museum case incensed Greenlanders until a DNA analysis proved that the body in question was of Dutch origin. Then, the protesters said it was okay to call it a “stuffed Dutchman,” just not an Eskimo. But, as we all agreed, it was clearly not respectful to label any mummy, a dead human being, a “stuffed” anything.

But how do you show respect for a dead body or a mummy of unknown origins? Although most Western societies require permission from the family before an autopsy or a burial of a recently dead body, the correct procedure for dealing with ancient remains is often unclear. Scholars such as the anthropologists, physicians, chemists, and curators at this conference strive to balance the advancement of knowledge with cultural sensitivity whenever they can. For example, many agree that modern displays of Egyptian mummies should not reveal bare bones, large areas of dried up skin, or lone body parts. This was not always the case, as many early displays showed mummies unwrapped or dissected after autopsies. In contrast, Native American human remains, such as those formerly on display at Dickson Mounds in Illinois, are now covered up completely and are only available for scientific study on a very limited basis.

People vary in their reactions to human remains in a public museum according to their upbringing and religious beliefs, so some modern displays give the visitor a choice: you can push a button on an unlit case to see the mummy inside, or if such a display offends you, just move on. One of the curators for the traveling “Mummies of the World” exhibit told us that the public response to seeing mummies on display has so far been overwhelmingly positive. A mummy shown in a scientific context (rather than in a curio cabinet with snakes and rocks), with interesting information about the person’s life as revealed by medical imaging or DNA analysis, usually fascinates rather than horrifies.
Scientific studies can humanize a mummy by revealing unseen facts about the person inside. Two examples: a CT scan can reveal that a mummy is a child, not an adult, by showing adult teeth coming in right behind baby teeth, and DNA analysis has recently proven that the Tyrolean Iceman’s eyes were brown, not blue.

Sarah Wisseman

Archaeological mysteries:
The Mummy Blog

"Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives." -William C. Dement, professor of psychiatry (b. 1928)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Red pigment and silver mining

As I get ready to head to San Diego at the weekend for the World Mummy Congress, I am reflecting on all the places our University of Illinois mummy has taken me.

One of the strangest: the world of pigment analysis. Our red stucco covering was analyzed twice, once by a lab at the U of I, and the second time by the Getty Conservation Institute. Both times, lead oxide was identified. This is interesting because you might expect an iron oxide for the color red. But red lead, or minium, was popular in antiquity, and that is what our pigment turns out to be. Even better, the Getty researchers linked the composition to that of nine other Roman period mummies from Egypt, and to the source: the silver mine of Rio Tinto in Spain.

Why is this so cool? Because it provides additional evidence that our little mummy, a child of perhaps mixed parentage who lived in Roman Egypt, came from a relatively well-to-do family. Not only did he or she have parent who could afford exotic ingredients like minium and gold leaf for the mummy wrappings, but the portrait was originally very detailed and probably gorgeous to look at. Take a look on our website, and check out the wonderful new book on Herakleides by Lorelei Corcoran and Marie Svoboda on the red shroud mummy group.

Sarah Wisseman

Archaeological mysteries:
The Mummy Blog:

"Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives." -William C. Dement, professor of psychiatry (b. 1928)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Morals and the end of the world

So, it’s now the 23rd.

Two days after the beginning of the end.

Now I’m not buying into this latest doomsday prediction. In fact, I feel for those poor fools that really think the end is at hand – especially those that donated to the cause. Talk about a colossal scam.

Well, in the spirit of taking advantage of people’s stupidity and curiosity, my husband joked about a half-assed money scheme that was so simple and so ludicrous that it probably would generate mounds of money – but I said it was morally wrong to take advantage of someone’s stupidity. While a part of me would love to be filthy rich, I do not want to get there by taking advantage of people.

It just ain’t my style.

That’s what these doomsday scam artists are peddling, scamming people out of their hard earned money in some sort of pay to pave your road to heaven scheme. There is nothing that gets me going like witnessing the fleecing of innocents.

Perhaps my next book will highlight the take down of some sort of religious zealot.

What are your thoughts on this whole doomsday prophecy?

Thanks for letting me rant a little. In the meantime, check out Hunting Season, my latest release.

After an undercover bust goes to hell, Special Agent Steve Williams becomes the target of an assassin and his wife’s visions escalate, forecasting a brutal assault on their family. Escaping from the city and armed with scant details from Jennifer’s dreams, Steve trudges through a litany of past connections, searching for the key to stop the course of fate. A brother with a grudge, a serial killer and a mafia assassin are all on his trail and the hunt begins . . .

J.E. Taylor is a publisher, a writer, an editor, a manuscript formatter, a mother, a wife and a business analyst, not necessarily in that order. She first sat down to seriously write in February of 2007 after her daughter asked:

“Mom, if you could do anything, what would you do?”

From that moment on, she hasn’t looked back and now her writing resume includes five+ novels either published or targeted for release along with several short stories on the virtual shelves including a few within upcoming eXcessica anthologies.

Ms. Taylor is co-owner of Novel Concept Publishing (, an e-book publisher specializing in all fiction genres. She also moonlights as an Assistant Editor of Allegory, an online venue for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, and lends a hand offering her services judging writing contests for various RWA chapters.

She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children and during the summer months enjoys her weekends on the shore in southern Maine.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Now available.

When Kyle Winslow escapes from custody and targets everyone Special Agent Steve Williams cares about, a turn of fate brings Steve face to face with Ty Aris – a criminal mastermind topping the FBI’s most wanted list. Torn between justice and vengeance, Steve must make a decision. Join alliances with Ty, or arrest him and lose his best chance to catch the bastard who destroyed his family.

A brief look into the mind of Special Agent Steve Williams...

The scene from the balcony reminded me of Charlie’s city view and I shudder, sinking into the chaise lounge and studying my new partner. He isn’t actually with the FBI.

Nope, he’s WANTED by the FBI.

Why haven’t I brought him in?

Good goddamn question.

I wonder why I haven’t either.

He’s as dangerous as they get. Even more so than The Slasher, but I need him. His technological genius leaves anything we have at the FBI in the dust, never mind the other talents he brings to the table. You see, he’s the best chance I have of hunting down the bastard that targeted my family.

“What are you looking at?” Chris Ryan asks, turning his steel blue gaze from the city to me.

His sharp-eyed glare catches me by surprise. He was reading my mind again - my contemplations of putting him behind bars when this was all over. Yes, one of his many talents includes reading minds.

Imagine a killer endowed with extra-sensory gifts like mind reading and the ability to control matter and you’ve got Chris Ryan – a.k.a. Ty Aris - a criminal mastermind that reinvented himself and snowed the authorities and inherited billions.

Every fiber of my being wants to lock him up. Except I can’t do that. You see, I made a promise to a dying man and now I’m stuck. Stuck between doing what I know is right and that stupid promise.

“Why did you do it?” I had to ask.

He sighs and takes the chair next to me, his lips pressing together in contemplation as he surveys the city skyline. “I’d like to say I was forced into it, but we both know that’s a lie.”

“An honest criminal. How refreshing.” The sarcasm in my voice palatable.

“Smart ass.” A hint of a smirk appears along with a condescending roll of his eyes.
At least he didn’t drop a litany of excuses. I had to give him that but it still didn’t erase my need to put him in jail.

“I’m not going to jail,” he says and retreats back into the apartment.
The shit thing is - even if I wanted to arrest him, I’m not sure I can.

For more information about J.E. Taylor, please visit her at her website or her blog.

Hunting Season is the follow up to Vengeance – which is on sale for $0.99 for the month of May:

After an undercover bust goes to hell, Special Agent Steve Williams becomes the target of an assassin and his wife’s visions escalate, forecasting a brutal assault on their family. Escaping from the city and armed with scant details from Jennifer’s dreams, Steve trudges through a litany of past connections, searching for the key to stop the course of fate. A brother with a grudge, a serial killer and a mafia assassin are all on his trail and the hunt begins . . .

My Bio:
J.E. Taylor is a writer, an editor, a manuscript formatter, a mother, a wife and a business analyst, not necessarily in that order. She first sat down to seriously write in February of 2007 after her daughter asked:

“Mom, if you could do anything, what would you do?”

From that moment on, she hasn’t looked back and now her writing resume includes six+ published novels along with several short stories on the virtual shelves including a few within eXcessica anthologies.

Ms. Taylor also moonlights as an Assistant Editor of Allegory, an online venue for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, and lends a hand in formatting manuscripts for eXcessica as well as offering her services judging writing contests for various RWA chapters.

She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children and during the summer months enjoys her weekends on the shore in southern Maine.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Putting the Crime in Crime Fiction

Often in crime novels, particularly in mysteries, the reader never witnesses the actual crime that is the subject of the story. Of course, there’s often good reason: showing the crime may very well remove most, if not all, of the mystery. Some mystery writers get around this by writing a prologue and keeping the details of the crime just vague enough to keep readers guessing. But there is a trend in crime fiction toward eliminating prologues – many editors prefer their authors to jump into their story by introducing the main character, usually a professional or amateur investigator.

The fact that the criminal act in crime fiction – usually a murder – takes place off screen may lead some aspiring writers to dive into their stories without first giving much thought to the villain and his villainous deeds. In my experience as both a writer and reader of crime fiction, this is a mistake. The crime itself – what James N. Frey, author of How to Write a Damn Good Mystery calls “the plot behind the plot” – is one of the most important events in any mystery. Whether you use an outline or write by the seat of your pants, the subject crime of your story should be vivid in your mind before you draft the first sentence of Chapter One.

I recommend writing the scene in which the crime takes place, even if you don’t intend to use it in your story. Why? Well, for one, it’ll help you play fair with the reader. While creating your mystery, you’ll need to insert clues throughout, evidence clever readers will pick up on, even if they don’t figure out the ending. By writing the crime scene beforehand, you’ll be in a better position to map out your story and insert clues in just the right places. The same goes for the all-important red herrings. Misdirection in mysteries is every bit as important as truth.

The crime in my second novel NIGHT ON FIRE is the murder of a newlywed named Trevor Simms. The prime suspect is his new wife Erin. The killer in my novel attempted to cover his or her tracks by setting the crime scene – the honeymoon suite at a popular Hawaiian beach resort – on fire. The fire spread and left eleven innocents dead. The crime of arson complicated my novel more than I ever expected, because arson investigation is extremely difficult. Arson is a crime that destroys its own clues, and arsonists are rarely caught and convicted. Had I not planned the murder and arson in great detail prior to writing my novel, I’m certain I would have run into insurmountable obstacles midway through.

By conducting research and drafting the murder scene beforehand, I was able to plant invaluable clues throughout my story – the fire’s point of origin, the charcoal starter fluid used as an accelerant, and a dozen coins found in the hotel hallway, to name a few. Remember, the method of the crime is every bit as important as the investigation that follows. Save yourself some time and panic, and plan your crime in detail beforehand. (As an author and former defense attorney, I assure you, that advice works as well for crime writers as it does for criminals).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Earlier this year, I learned about the best-preserved mummy in the world for a talk I was giving. Surprise: it’s not Egyptian, but Chinese. The Lady of Dai, or “Diva” mummy of the Western Han Dynasty was prepared and buried over 2,000 years ago and is so well preserved that type A blood still runs in her veins and physicians can autopsy her body as if she died yesterday.

How did the Chinese undertakers do it? First, they swaddled her body in 20 layers of silk, then they immersed her in a salt solution that was mildly acidic with some magnesium in it, they encased her in four separate coffins. Finally, they sealed her in a cold chamber under many layers of charcoal and coal.

Who was she? Her name was Xin Zhui, and she was the wife of the ruler of Dai near the city of Changsha. Researchers have discovered that the woman was middle-aged and obese, with clogged arteries and a damaged heart. Seems like heart disease is not unique to modern American society—this lady overate the wrong stuff. She also showed evidence of several parasites and probably lower back pain at the time of her death.

The Diva starred in a National Geographic special in 2004. She continues to be a person of fascination for mummy enthusiasts, and I expect to hear more about her at the World Mummy Congress in San Diego in June.

Web Site

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pace Robbers

In our rush to write our stories, we focus on getting words on the page. The events in the story unfold. The characters face their challenges and overcome them. We've written a fantastic story, rich with details, humor, sexual tension and sensory details. Yeah!

Then, when we re-read or when beloved crit partners, agents or editors take a look, they flag certain sections and comment "the pace drags here". What to do? Become the pace police and hunt down those sneaky pace robbers. The ones that slow down the pace of your story like rush hour traffic. Let's profile a few of these nasty pace criminals.

Pace Robber #1 – Dilly-dallying Description

Description should have a purpose for the character. If it has a purpose for the character, it will have a purpose for the reader. I’m talking about more than just a line or two of description to set the scene. Pace-robbing description is whole paragraphs of scenery, landscapes, description of the architecture of a building or the décor of a room, or its occupants.

Even if you are using description as a way of slowing the pace, you can’t expect most readers to enjoy long paragraphs of description (even though some do). Many readers skim or skip description, but this doesn’t mean you should leave it in. Keep it trim, give it a purpose, or break it up and present it a little at a time as the characters interact.

Pace Robber #2 – Exhibitionist Exposition

Exposition is information. Usually it’s information you need your reader to know in order to understand the story. The trouble with exposition is that the characters in the book typically already know this information. It’s a bit silly to have your character, Jane, think: “I think I’ll call my Aunt Sally, the only aunt on my mother’s side who lives too far away for me to visit and who always has the best advice for me when I’m in trouble.” Not only is this “telling” rather than “showing” but it can jar the reader right out of the story when what you really want is for the reader to get lost in the story.

Exposition often equals “author intrusion” which means that the reader can sense the presence of the author, rather than the characters. You can treat exposition the same way you treat description by giving the characters a reason for talking about it or giving it a little at a time so the reader doesn’t notice your author intrusion.

Another exposition pace robber is the blow-by-blow form of exposition:

Joe got up and brushed his teeth, then showered. He dressed in his best blue suit. He left the house around eight and got into his silver Hummer. Driving the forty miles along Highway 17, he reached the city in about thirty minutes. He parked in the VIP spot in the Allied United underground lot and got into the elevator, pressing the button for the 9th floor. He stepped out of the elevator and walked the empty hallway to the corner office.

Um…I’m bored. Not only is this uninteresting, most of it is unnecessary. We don’t need to know how he gets ready for his day or how he gets to work unless these things are critical to the plot. Oh, that was just characterization, you say? Right, so um you wanted a cardboard character?

Pace Robber #3 – Dopey Dialogue

A partner to blow-by-blow exposition is bland dialogue. "Whudda you wanna do? Dunno, whudda you wanna do?"

What you wanna do is get to the meat of the conversation. Unless there is some special tension about these words for the characters, just cut to the point of the conversation and leave the rest out. The same goes for people greeting each other, thanking each other, ending a conversation, introducing themselves, and all those other polite social things we do every day. If it’s not crucial to the story, just leave it out.

Pace Robber #4 – Rogue Scenes

Rogue Scenes are scenes in which readers learn nothing new. Suppose your character Sally has just had an encounter at the bank with a handsome stranger who mysteriously gave her roses and kissed her hand. She gets home and repeats the experience to her mother, then phones a friend and tells her all about it. It’s a very realistic scenario, because that’s exactly what someone would probably do.

But this is not reality, this is fiction.

Each scene should have a purpose and the reader should learn something new in each scene. Sure, Sally is going to talk about it to other people, but let most of that happen “off screen”. For example, assuming she’s had her “off screen” conversation with her friend, she could have an “on screen” scene with her friend and say, “I’m going to meet that guy, you know, the one I told you about. The guy who gave me roses at the bank.”

It's fine to do a little recap now and then by giving readers reminders in the form of quick, small details, but don't let a great scene turn into a rogue later on.

Pace Robber #5 – Intrepid Introspection

Introspection happens when a character shares his thinking process. Character introspection is important for the reader to fully understand what your characters are thinking. Beware of overusing introspection to get your point across or simply using it to run through a list of possibilities as your characters think things over. Too many questions quickly throw the scene out of focus and rob you of the pace you set. It’s tempting to put in the questions that your character has and present a number of avenues for them to pursue because this can add to the tension, but don’t give the reader too many things to focus on at once.

There's no point in ranting a character's internal questions at your readers. They don’t know the answers, only you do. Your job is to pose a question and then reveal answers in a way that makes them want to know more.

That's my top 5 Most Wanted list of Pace Robbers. Am I saying you should never slow down the pace? No, you should slow down the pace from time to time and make sure the reader has a chance to breathe. But make the pace work for you by keeping these rotten pace robbers in the clink!

Interested in learning more about pacing? Join me for a year-long novel writing course at Savvy Authors where you can immerse yourself in craft and emerge with a completed, polished novel. Where do you want to be with your writing a year from now? Or stop by my blog for more great craft articles.

Click here to register


Saturday, April 2, 2011


A wrapped body from antiquity is the ultimate mystery. We don’t know who is inside, how he or she lived or died, what the story is behind it. Unwrapping it, either with a surgical knife or virtually using a computer, is like Christmas for archaeologists and physical anthropologists.

Twenty years ago, we CT scanned an Egyptian mummy from our University of Illinois museum. Using medical imaging is wonderful because it doesn’t harm the artifact—you can obtain a lot of information without cutting the mummy open to look inside the wrappings. In 1990, we used a huge, expensive university supercomputer to do a “virtual autopsy.” Now the software is so accessible that you can download it and “unwrap” the mummy on a personal laptop. Then you can trim the images, change colors and densities, and rotate them in three-dimensions.

The first time around, X-rays and CT scans revealed that our mummy was a child, maybe 8 years old at the time of death. Physical anthropologists can age bodies by looking at growth plates at the end of the long bones and the teeth: our child showed adult teeth coming in right behind baby teeth and open growth plates. Here are some of the early pictures:

My husband calls this little mummy Lazarus because it keeps coming back. After our real-life adventure 20 years ago, I wrote my first mystery, Bound for Eternity, based on the mummy investigation. It will take us weeks of work to go through the hundreds of images and actually understand the new data. Since I am crazy about mummies and love computer toys, I am in heaven.

Here are some pictures of the trip to the hospital:


Sarah U. Wisseman, Ph.D
Web Site

Archaeological mysteries:
author email:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Aztec mythology and Mexican Catholicism meet in VIPER

When Latina insurance agent Selena De La Cruz walked onto the stage of my first mystery, BLEEDER, wearing those red heels and driving that fast car, I knew she had a story of her own. In fact, when she played a much larger role in BLEEDER than I’d anticipated, I began to feel that the sequel should feature her as the protagonist.
Then, when I learned about the Catholic custom of placing a “Book of the Dead” in the church sanctuary on All Souls’ Day to commemorate the parish’s dearly departed, I knew for certain the next book would be Selena’s story. She’d have such a Book in her parish, I thought, and even if she wasn’t exactly a consistently practicing Catholic, she’d know the custom. And what if her name was in it?
I quickly discovered that Mexicans celebrate a holiday nearly concurrent with the Catholic All Souls’ Day, called “The Day of the Dead” (El Dia de los Muertos). It is a family fiesta where women bake special breads and weave flower garlands to decorate a family altar meant to remember and respect dead relatives, who are believed to return in spirit for a visit and enjoy their favorite foods and drinks once again. Families decorate the house with colorfully dressed skeleton figures, give candy skulls to children, and have picnics in cemeteries where they call out playful insults to a female ‘grim reaper’ figure (similar to the old Aztec goddess of death) known as “Lady Death” – “Hey, you old baldy, you missed me this year!” It’s all light-hearted and it reflects a subtle blending of Aztec rituals, Catholic beliefs and folk superstitions. Many Mexican-Americans, seeking to acculturate to America and yet affirm their national tradiciones, are at ease with attending Mass and maintaining the home altar, as Selena does.
Having decided that the “Book of the Dead” had Selena’s name in it, I imagined that her name appeared last in a longer list of 8 or 9 names of men, and that the men listed before her were drug dealers she’d known in her former DEA career, who were being systematically killed in order, presumably by a dangerous drug lord called “The Snake” who Selena had helped imprison years ago but was now out, and seeking revenge on his enemies and competition. It was important that the villain be called “La Serpiente” for a few reasons related to the religious themes of the story.
First, I decided that the killer would be a devotee of Aztec deities and would be motivated, in part, by a desire to appease certain goddesses in particular by human sacrifices – cleaning up the community of drug dealer ‘vermin’ at the same time. My research into serial killers suggested that these were legit (and stronger) motives, beyond the simple ‘revenge’ idea. Because of their regenerative skin-shedding powers, snakes were important in Aztec religion, with several snake deities (The Feathered Serpent, for example) and others like the ‘mother of gods,’ Coatlicue, who is depicted wearing a skirt of rattlers. I decided the killer would be a snake-keeper (since they were sacred and regarded as ‘children’ of the deities) and one of the motives would be restoring ‘proper’ reverence for Aztec gods and goddesses among Mexicans, who – as my killer believed – had been misled by the Spanish conquerors into accepting a fake substitute, The Virgin Mary, “Our Lady of Guadalupe”, whose star-spangled blue mantle is remarkably similar to an Aztec goddess of life and death named Xochiquetzal (many Mexican girls are still named “Xochi”).
Picking up on this idea, I included a girl visionary in the story who would claim to be visited by a mysterious “Blue Lady” announcing the next killing. While some in the Mexican community would believe it is “Lady Death” and others believe it is perhaps Xochiquetzal or another Aztec goddess of death, the girl would describe the apparition exactly as Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego, looking like a pregnant Aztec princess, a form recognizable to all Mexicans since She is the Patroness of Mexico.  Her miraculous image, imprinted on Juan’s tilma (cape), is still preserved in the glorious Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. It is hardly a coincidence that She is named “Guadalupe,” for it derives from an Aztec phrase, coatl-lupe, meaning ‘She who crushes the snake.” This can be understood in a couple of ways: First, Her appearance prompted the conversion of the Aztecs by the millions, whereby they abandoned their practice of human sacrifice (which took tens of thousands of lives per year, including children). In this symbolic way, then, Mary ‘crushed’ the Aztec “snake" deities who were appeased by the slaughtering. Secondly, it points to a passage in Genesis chapter 3, where in Eden – after the ‘fall’ – God tells Eve that the snake, now on its belly, will snap at women’s heels but a woman shall crush its head. This is why many statues and paintings of Mary show Her with a foot on a snake, since She is the “New Eve” who brings the Savior into the world, thus defeating the devil, ‘that old serpent.’ Third, it prefigures the confrontation of my protagonist with the killer’s most dangerous snake, the Barba, known to Mexicans as – what else – El Diablo, The Devil.
VIPER is an action-packed thriller that moves at a fast pace, richly informed by Aztec culture and Mexican Catholic customs. It’s all meant to be in the background, part of making Selena completely authentic as a character coming to terms with her bi-cultural identity, and showingrespeto for her community and her heritage.

Amazon links – USA paper, Kindle, and UK paper, Kindle:

The Joys of Historical Research

My new book, a historical mystery set in Prohibition era central Illinois, is taking me in many new directions. Since my protagonist, Dr. Earl Snyder Junker, is a physician, I need to know about medical practice in the 1920s. Could my character be a medical examiner as well as a family doctor? What kinds of diseases would he encounter, and what could he offer as treatments before antibiotics?

Fortunately, I have a physician husband (a retired pathologist) who can steer me to the right sort of medical information. Even better, I just signed up for an online course of the history of forensics with Dr. D. P. Lyle, a physician/author who frequently teaches mystery writers:

Dr. D.P. Lyle

Dr. Junker is also an amateur archaeologist during a time when it was still okay for private individuals to dig up burial mounds, before archaeology became an academic discipline. Early arrowhead hunters in Illinois sometimes operated like cowboys, laying claim to sites illegally and shooting at anyone who tried to stop them. Here I have plenty of help from Illinois archaeologists who know the colorful characters and history of digging in the Midwest.

Junker’s wife, Martha, is a German immigrant, so that means investigating anti-immigrant feelings that were rampant between the World Wars. And their nineteen-year-old daughter, Anna, is a nursing student by day and a fun-loving flapper by night. The 1920s was an exciting time for women who had just gained the right to vote and were breaking social taboos left and right: they drank booze and smoked cigarettes in public, wore revealing dresses and short skirts and bobbed their hair short.

But the most fascinating subject is Prohibition and the myriad ways for ordinary people to make and transport illegal liquor. The literature on this subject is vast and often available on the Internet. Two of my favorite discoveries so far: my hometown of Champaign, Illinois, had an underground passage between two major streets so speakeasy patrons could escape excise agents, and there’s a wonderful article on Prohibition in Cincinnati online


Friday, February 25, 2011

Archaeology and Murder,

Meet author Sarah Wisseman

Archaeological sites are composed of layers, just like geological strata. In the Middle East, where I worked on my first excavation, people chose the same sites over and over again to build on for two reasons—the availability of water, and defensibility. Thus, walled cities with protected cisterns inside rose on the same “tells” over and over again.

Unlike the layer-cake they are so often compared too, archaeological layers are messy. Instead of being neat, horizontal layers that are easy to interpret, they are disturbed by running water, animal burrowing, tree roots growing, and humans digging garbage pits and foundation trenches.

Mysteries are composed of layers, too. The top layer, or stratum, is what the reader sees and where the main story takes place. A couple of strata down is where the villain hangs out, plotting and planning away, occasionally rising to the surface like a misplaced artifact in an ancient garbage pit.

Personalities are layered as well, and it's the job of writers to reveal the layers in their characters in ways that move the story along. And everyone has a garbage pit--the family traumas from the past, the dysfunctional relationships of the present. Garbage, like compost, can provide rich beginnings for new stories.

Gradually I'm excavating my own life to unearth situations and characters that will make good mysteries. These include creepy old attic museums, digs in Israel, Italy, and Nevada, and peculiar academic characters that morph into murderers (or murderees!).

My latest book, The House of the Sphinx, has at least three layers. Lisa Donahue, archaeologist and museum curator, finally gets to visit Egypt with her physician husband, James. Their standard tour of Egypt, complete with a four-night cruise on the Nile, is the top layer. Underneath is a terrorist plot to infect Western tourists with smallpox at major archaeological sites. And below that is the complicated layer of interactions within the Arab family that aids the terrorists.

I love reading layered mysteries, especially historicals. A recent discovery is Medicus, by Ruth Downie. It’s about an irascible but loveable Roman physician working in Britannia and his slave/housekeeper Tilla who won’t obey orders. A fabulous read!

Web Site

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Peg Herring's Blog Jog Day

Thanks, Pat, for hosting Peg’s Blog Crawl. Yesterday’s post, “Why Do We Say That, Part II”.

The Post - Dialogue and What It Reveals

When I taught high school, I used to get a kick out of watching certain students look at choices for their upcoming book reports. They would flip through the pages, looking for a book with lots of dialogue: fewer words, less to read, more movement. No long descriptions for them!

Dialogue indeed moves a story along. We are interested in what people have to say and how they say it. Writers convey many things as dialogue flows: personality, plot, and emotion, as well as time and place. Readers often get the messages subconsciously, without really thinking about specifics. Here are a few of the methods.

First, the words themselves. What vocabulary is appropriate for the character, the setting, the time period? With historical characters, readers want the flavor of the era, but they also want to understand what is said, so dialogue must be carefully researched. Most of the time an occasional word or phrase is enough to remind the reader of the time difference.

In any era, characters speak as their backgrounds demand. Writers ask themselves: would this character use four-syllable words, figurative language, pidgin English, expletives, baby-talk? Other description can often be minimal if the author displays his characters’ personalities by the way they express themselves.

Authors must consider word order, syntax, and level of complication of a character's language. One speaker might use as few words as possible. Another might love the sound of his or her own voice. Some people "decorate" their sentences with lots of extras: modifiers, qualifiers, even brain stutters. I once had a speech student who started every sentence with "You know--" It meant nothing, but it said something about her personality and her hope that others would agree with her statements.

Another consideration is how words are said. Does the speaker mumble? Stammer? Have an accent? Authors can add variety and depth with differences in dialogue. We must be careful, though. Taken too far, odd spellings and syntax of dialect or argot interrupt the reader's understanding.

A question writers argue among themselves is so-called “bad” words. How much of a character’s cursing is too much? The answer to that is quite personal. Some don’t mind it and contend that swearing helps a writer depict characters realistically, and it is certainly an easy way of conveying anger or lack of education or socialization. Other writers avoid offensive words whenever possible. For me, swearing quickly becomes tiresome, though I recognize that it can be used successfully by a writer with the right sense of timing and character.

Dialogue interest readers, and truthfully, it interests me as a writer, too. I like hearing what my character have to say. I like tweaking their words so that they unconsciously reveal themselves. I like choosing just the right expressions, the ones that tip readers off to who a character really is, just like real-life conversations do.

The Poser-Name a book/series where a child is the sleuth. (Let’s make it a little more difficult and eliminate Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.)

The Prizes-Weekly prizes (your choice of THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY in e- or print format) drawn from the names of those who comment on the blogs as we go. Comment once/day, but the first commenter each day gets entered twice in Saturday’s drawing!

The Pitch: THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY, First in The Dead Detective Mysteries, paranormal mystery. Tori Van Camp wakes in a stateroom on a cruise ship with no memory of booking a cruise, but she does have a vivid recollection of being shot in the chest. Determined to find out what happened and why, Tori enlists the help of an odd detective named Seamus. Together they embark on an investigation like nothing she’s ever experienced. Death is all around her, and unless they act quickly, two people she cares about are prime candidates for murder. Read more about this book and the author here or buy the book here.

The Perpetrator: Peg Herring writes historical and contemporary mysteries. She loves everything about publishing, even editing (most days). Peg’s historical series, The Simon and Elizabeth Mysteries, debuted in 2010 to great reviews. The second in the series will be available in November from Five Star.

The Pathway: The next entry, “Portmanteau Words” and the answers/comments to the Poser will be up tomorrow here.

The Perpetrator: Peg Herring writes historical and contemporary mysteries. She loves everything about publishing, even editing (most days). Peg’s historical series, The Simon and Elizabeth Mysteries, debuted in 2010 to great reviews. The second in the series will be available in November from Five Star.

The Pathway: The next entry, “Portmanteau Words” and the answers/comments to the Poser will be up tomorrow on Mid List Life

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


The Deputy Tempe Crabtree series is set in modern times in a small mountain community in the Southern Sierra. Though the community of Bear Creek is similar to the town I live in, I moved the location 1000 feet higher into the mountains. The Bear Creek Indian Reservation in the books is similar to the Tule River Indian Reservation, also nearby. Tempe is a quarter Native American and she is often called upon to help out with crimes that occur on the reservation or involve Indians.

When I first began about Tempe, I really didn’t know it was going to be a series. The first book I wrote—though not the first published—Deadly Trail is about the murder of the owner of a local Inn. One of the suspects is Nick Two John who has made a garden behind the Inn with native plants. In this book, Nick introduces Tempe to much of her Indian heritage. The Inn is similar to one in our little town. Much of the information about native plants came from an Indian couple who have a similar garden.

In the second book, Deadly Omen, a princess candidate is murdered at a Pow Wow while Tempe is working there. I got the idea for this book while attending a Pow Wow and helping the invited photographer by getting permissions and names of people she took pictures of. During the Pow Wow, I took many notes. When this book came out, one of the local Indians called to tell me that I’d gotten everything right.

Number three is Unequally Yoked (only available as an e-book) and is about a child’s disappearance. Tempe participates in mourning ceremonial and her eyes are opened to who is responsible. I learned about the ceremony in a book about the Tule River Indians written by Frank Latta.

Intervention is set in a mountain lodge during a blizzard where Tempe and her husband have gone for a romantic weekend. The other guests include several people from the movie industry and one disappears. Tempe is guided by the spirit of a Great Blue Heron—or perhaps, an angel. There is a mountain lodge near where I live and I borrowed a lot of its history for this book. (Again, much of what I used came for an interview I did for the newspaper about this particular lodge.)

In Wingbeat, an owl flies down in front of Tempe, a warning of danger ahead. While investigating the death of a long missing granddaughter she encounters a hidden marijuana farm. The location for the pot farm is a place way up in the mountains where I once interviewed someone for a newspaper article. The home was self-sufficient and so difficult to find, I thought at the time it was the perfect place for something illegal.

Due to the death of my publisher, I had to find another publishing company. The next in the series is Calling the Dead. Tempe calls back the dead to find out the truth about a suicide. I learned about this through a book about Indian ceremonies and it fit right into what I was writing.

Next came Judgment Fire. In this one, while investigating the murder of a battered wife, Tempe learns why she didn’t embrace her Indian heritage. Under the guidance of a shaman, she does a star ceremony which opens her eyes to much of what is going on.

Kindred Spirits came about while I was visiting in Crescent City, California and met a Tolowa woman. We became instant friends and she told me all about the Tolowa people who were nearly wiped out when the white settlers came to the area. I knew I had to write a book with her in it. She had such a dynamic personality, she became two important characters. Tempe goes to Crescent City to learn more about a murder victim found after a wild fire in the mountains above Bear Creek. During her stay she learns about the Tolowa’s encounters with Big Foot.

While doing research about Big Foot on the Internet for the earlier book, I came across a webpage that tells about a creature called the Hairy Man who roams in the mountains near the Tule River Reservation. I was fortunate to go on a field trip with the local college’s anthropology class to a rock shelter with pictographs of the Hairy Man and his family. While there, I knew Tempe would have an encounter with the Hairy Man and Dispel the Mist is the book where it happens.

The latest, Invisible Path, also has its roots in my visit to the rock shelter. A short distance from there, at the end of the paved reservation road, there is rehabilitation center for Indians with drug and alcohol abuse problems. I decided the next book should have something to do with the rehab center and some of the young men on the reservation.

The book that will come out this fall is title Bears With Us and the ideas began when my police office grandson began telling about his encounters with bears while he was on the job. At the same time, we had a few bear visitations in our little town. I asked him lots and lots of questions and got plenty of great answers.

I am quick to let people know that I am writing fiction. Though I borrow a lot from the Tule River Reservation and the Indians who live there, the stories and the characters come from my imagination. Despite that, I often run into Indians who say, “Oh, you’re the woman who writes about us.”

Though I’m not a Native American myself, I have a great-granddaughter who is ¼ Tule River Indian and a daughter-in-law whose father is a full-blooded Yaqui. In fact, she looks a lot like I envision Tempe.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll run out of ideas for this series, but so far that hasn’t been a problem.

Bio: 1Marilyn Meredith is the author of nearly thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Invisible Path from Mundania Press. Native American Tempe is the resident deputy of the town of Bear Creek, which has a great resemblance to Springville. Invisible Path is the 9th in this series and can be purchased in the usual places and is also available on Kindle. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel is Angel Lost, the third from Oak Tree Press.

Marilyn is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Internet chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at and her blog at

Breaking Horses to Harness

A fascinating look at what is involved in breaking horses to harness and the sort of things they need to be exposed to. Obviously not all of these training experiences would be applicable before the internal combustion engine was created, but there would still be a lot a horse would have to learn to tolerate without panicking. The dangers or cart horses is clearly illustrated by the death of six-year-old Lena Russo in New York's Lower East Side in 1922 when a cart horse bolted and plowed into the family.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Before eBay there was Sears, Roebuck

Before there was an Internet, even before telephones and electricity were common in American homes, buying household good could be done from the comfort of your living room. Americans have always loved convenience. The first drive-through restaurant, the first automatic car wash, the first assembly line were all American inventions designed to make like easier and more convenient. Before the nineteenth century rolled out you could buy anything from groceries to houses through the mail, have it guaranteed and on credit. A Sears, Roebuck home ordered through the mail would go for a little more than a $1,000.00 and would be shipped by rail to anywhere in the US. Some of the Sears’ houses still stand, surely a testament to their quality. How many homes built today will be standing in 2120?

Browsing through an 1897 Sears, Roebuck & Co. Catalogue is a fascinating glimpse into the past. Into a past where there was no FDA or USDA to set rules on the safety of items sold, even the ones meant to be taken internally. You could buy tinctures of arsenic, belladona, digitalis and of course laudanum, a liquid heroin mixture. Turpentine was sold for internal use. Many of these concoctions were sold as cure-alls for ailments we haven’t even heard of today.

For instance, you could purchase Peruvian Wine of Coca, It was “urgently recommended” for such ailments as cures for anemia, impurity, impoverishment of the Blood, Consumption, weakness of the lungs, asthma, Nervous debility, loss of appetite, Malarial Complaints, Biliousness, Stomach Disorder, Dyspepsia, Languor and fatigue, Obesity, Loss of Forces and Weakness caused by excess and similar Diseases of the same nature. It was especially recommended for persons in delicate health and convalescents.

Or try Dr. Rose’s French Arsenic Complexion Wafers. Sarsaparilla would cure scrofula tuberculoses. ‘Female pills’ containing one or more abortifacients that carried the warning that they must be taken carefully for female troubles. Many of these compounds were concocted by Sears, Roebuck themselves and came with money back guarantees. The ingredients were never listed in either the catalogue or on the products themselves. No way of knowing what dosage you were getting or ever exactly what was in each potion. It was truly buyer beware in those days.

On a lighter side, you could buy an Electric Washer made of the best Virginia white cedar for $3.50. An Acme Hay Tedder could be had for $21.00. For $19.95 you could purchase the 1897 Encyclopedia Britannica. A Columbus A Grade Canopy Top Park Wagon Surrey went for $79.00 or $76.63 if you sent cash.

Sears, Roebuck offered discounts for cash and encouraged club purchases where several people would send in order together for more discounts. Sears, Roebuck also introduced monthly payments for their pricier objects. To give an idea of what the prices mean, a dollar in 1897 had a consumer price index of $26.70 or a GDP Deflator value of $23.60.

These catalogues are a wonderful glimpse into a different world long gone.

Richard Sears illustrated the cover of his 1894 catalog declaring it the "Book of Bargains: A Money Saver for Everyone," and the "Cheapest Supply House on Earth," claiming that "Our trade reaches around the World." Sears also knew the importance of keeping customers, boldly stating that "We Can’t Afford to Lose a Customer."

Sears, Roebuck & Co.