Saturday, August 16, 2014

Imagnine finding a hidden room, complete with furniture. by Roseanne Dowell

That's exactly what happened to Anna Hughes. When her fiance noticed a stained glass window that didn't
show inside, Anna decided to tear down the wall and see what was behind it. 
Ben Curtis, her fiance thought the window was boarded up. He didn't like the idea. In fact, he didn't like the old Queen Anne Victorian house. Didn't like the idea Anna wanted to fix up the attic as an office, a place to write. Heck, Ben didn't even like the idea she was an author. He pointed it out to her often enough. Asked why she couldn't get a real job like his associate, Connie. 
Sometimes Anna wondered why they were together. They had little in common. Determined to uncover the window, she hired a contractor Connie recommended. A sexy contractor. When he agreed with Anna about knocking down the wall, Ben suggested he and Anna do it. 
Not one to refuse free labor, she agreed and knock down the wall they did. That's when the shadows appeared hovering over an old chest, beckoning to her. 
Of course Ben thought it was her imagination. 

Shadows in the Attic is now available in print. You can order it from your local bookstore. 


Whack! I swung the hammer, and widened the hole in the attic wall. Even through the plaster dust, I smelled flowers. Roses and something else—lily of the valley—that was it. One more whack and a section of the wall collapsed. 
"Ben, look!" I stepped through the opening and stared into the room. A dusty, women's antique French desk stood in the center of the large room. The wall behind it held book shelves still lined with books. Two chairs grouped, in front of the window, around a table that held a tarnished silver tea set.
I spun around the room. "My God, what is this?" Old pictures hung on faded rose wallpaper. Dim light, from the dirty, stained glass window in the alcove, cast eerie shadows. "This is unbelievable." 
Shadowy figures in the corner of the room hovered over a carved trunk. I swore they beckoned to me. At first I thought my eyes were playing tricks. Between the dust and the dim light, but no, the shadows were there, plain as day. 
"Ben, do you see that?"
"See what?" Ben brushed the dust off his hands and looked at them in disust. 
I held back a giggle. I couldn't help it, he looked so uncomfortable. Physical labor definitely wasn’t Ben's cup of tea. I was still trying to figure out why he helped me. He stepped through the opening and looked at me.
"Shadows over that trunk." I held back, dying to know what was in it, but half afraid to check it out.
"Probably cobwebs." The look on Ben's face said it all.
I sighed. "Cobwebs, right.”
"There you go again. You and that overactive imagination. I suppose now you're going to go ahead with the hare-brained idea of yours." He took a couple steps into the room, stopped next to the desk, and opened a drawer. "Hm, Look at this." He pulled a sheet of stationary out of the drawer. "Mary Elizabeth Gilbert, wonder who she was."
I took the stationary from him. A bouquet of lily of the valley embossed the top of the page above her name. Again, the shadows appeared and beckoned to me. "Those aren't cobwebs, Ben. Look." 
 Like I didn't know the difference between shadows and cobwebs. Definitely shadows. Willowy figures hovered over the trunk. Come open it, they seemed to say. There was a sense of urgency about them, yet I didn't feel threatened. Giving in to the urge, I hurried to the trunk and lifted the decorative lid. "Oh, look at this!" I lifted a pearl handled hairbrush out of the trunk. "It's beautiful." A shadowy figure floated above it. Then, I lifted out a corset and held the tiny form in front of me. One of the shadowy figures moved closer, almost on top of me. 
"Ugh, I can't imagine having to wear one of these." Suddenly, my stomach and chest tightened. I lost my breath, gasped, and sunk to my knees. The corset fell from my hand. The shadows backed off. I couldn’t catch my breath.
When I opened my eyes, Ben stood over me. "Are you okay? What happened? You looked like you were going to pass out."
Finally able to take a deep breath, I let it out slowly. "I...I don't know. I couldn't breathe. It felt like someone was squeezing the life out of me." I looked at the corset lying on the dusty floor. What just happened here? A shadowy figure lingered nearby. What was it trying to tell me? 
"I think we better get out of this dust for a while, get some fresh air." Ben helped me to my feet. "You can come up later. I know how anxious you are to go through that trunk. There's no stopping you now, is there?"
I hated to leave, but Ben was right. I had inhaled an awful lot of dust. "Ben do you smell flowers—roses or lily of the valley?"
"All I smell is plaster and years of dust. Roses, are you sure you're okay?" He furrowed his brow and gave me one of those disapproving looks that said I was nuts. I hated that look. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The day an elephant kissed me... by Sheila Claydon

I'm still talking about the things that happen on a journey that are often so much more interesting than the journey itself and today I'm remembering what happened to me in Thailand.
If you think of Bangkok you might conjure up images of elaborate and beautiful temples, huge statues of Buddha covered in gold leaf, shaven headed monks in saffron robes, and the picturesque floating markets where women sell tropical fruit and vegetables, fresh, ready-to-drink coconut juice and even local food cooked from the floating kitchens on their boats. All these things would be true, of course, as would images of flower bedecked hindu shrines and the ubiquitous 3-wheeled tuk tuks that are used all the time by locals while the less adventurous stick to a conventional taxi. There is the exciting and colourful nightlife too. Full of beautiful girls, and of the even more beautiful katoeys who are so feminine that it's almost impossible to believe they're not female, and who work for airlines, at cosmetic counters in upmarket shopping malls or star in cabaret shows. Some are even television celebrities.
There are the markets too. Vast affairs. In Bangkok the largest is the 35-acre Chatuchak market which has more than 8,000 market stalls with just about everything possible on sale, from underwear to live animals, or, if you're feeling tired, you can have a restful foot massage instead. Then, of course, there is the food. Thai food is wonderful. It has so many flavours, one for every palate, and the best food is very often found in shopping malls and on the street. Thai people love to cook and they love to eat and I once had a wonderful meal sitting at a dilapidated table outside a cafe only a few feet from the road. Frequented mainly by locals, every dish was such an assault on the taste buds that I didn't care at all about the traffic zooming by.
This post is not about all that, however. I'm not going to go into detail about any of the above. Instead I'm going to show you what was truly magical about my visit.
Overwhelmed by the noise of bustling Bangkok we decided to spend a few days at Hua Hin. Once a tranquil fishing village it became a Royal resort when King Ram VII discovered it in the 1920s, and even though it is now a popular holiday centre it still retains some of its original quaintness and peace. In addition, its beaches are spectacular, with clear blue seas, palm trees and all the other things that make for a cinematic setting. So was the highlight of my trip a few days in the tropical sunshine topping up my tan, or was it just resting under an umbrella while I sipped a beachside cocktail? No, those things didn't happen. Instead I went swimming with a baby elephant.
It wasn't planned, it wasn't touristy, I was just there when the mahout brought the baby onto the beach for his first glimpse of the sea. Although my elephant is probably full size by now, his behaviour was exactly the same as the one I've posted here. He was nervous at first, then excited and finally, totally elated as he rushed in and out of the waves and let them roll him over. And while he did all this I swam with him and played with him, and then, when he was finally too tired to do anything else but totter back up the beach, I was allowed to share his bananas. I had one to his dozen or so, and feeding them to him was wonderful. He took them so delicately and gratefully, and at the end, just before his mahout led him away, he kissed me. Well that's what it felt like anyway when he gently touched my cheek with the end of his trunk.
I know it is possible to have elephant 'experiences' in elephant sanctuaries and I'm sure those experiences are enjoyable but the magic of my encounter was that it was entirely spontaneous and natural. My baby elephant wasn't trained or domesticated, he was just full of the energy and joy de vivre of the very young. How lucky I was to be on that beach that day. I will never forget it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Prologue of My Latest Manuscript: Gold Fever by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey

                                              Gold Fever 


             October 23, 1960


     It was late afternoon on a cold autumn day. The wind blew through the trees, snatching the few dead leaves left on the branches and swirling them through the air. Heavy dark clouds hung low over the mountains, threatening snow. Two men grunted as they carried a blanket‑wrapped body through the green cedars and pines and the already bare poplar trees. They were hunched down in their coats, their hats pulled tight on their heads. They turned their faces away from the wind.
     "This is a good spot," the man in the lead said. He was tall and gaunt, and with a three days growth of whiskers appeared older than his twenty-four years.
     The second man was younger than the first, hardly more than a boy. He didnt answer.
     They stopped and roughly dropped their bundle on the ground in a small meadow. Over the sound of the wind they could hear the sound of a waterfall made by a small creek dropping over the edge of a nearby cliff.
     Lets get this done, the first man said gruffly.
     The men unhooked their shovels which had been tied to their backs. During the summer the small meadow was knee deep in ferns, flowers, and small bush as were all the meadows in the region. The growth suggested a plentiful, rich, nutritious soil. But instead, of easy digging, their shovels clanged continuously against rock as they tried to remove the sparse layer of dirt. It was the occasional bountiful rains of the British Columbia summer that kept the vegetation alive.
     They worked silently. The young man occasionally snuck a quick glance at the covered body waiting to be buried. Many times they had to stop and lift out a rock before they could continue. Digging in the mountain side for gold was never easy, digging a grave was even harder.
     Despite the cold day and the wind, the older man was soon sweating. He stopped and removed his coat, throwing it beside the body.
     We shouldnt be doing this, the younger man said. If it was an accident like you said, we should tell the police.
     They wont believe us that he fell and hit his head on a rock. Theyll think we murdered him for the gold and send us both to prison. Then who would look after your mother?
     But he has a family.
     And we would have to give them his share of the gold. We have more of a right than they do. We did most of the work.
     B but wed agreed, the three of us, to divide the gold equally.
     "Shut up and keep digging.
     They resumed chipping away at the rock and dirt. Eventually the older man stopped. He looked at the depth of the hole and then over at the body. "Thats good enough. Weve got enough dirt to cover him." He dropped his shovel on the ground beside the makeshift grave and stepped out.
     The younger man followed suit. They knelt down beside the body. The older man lifted the corner of the blanket and took one last look at the face of the dead person.
     Nice guy but too trusting.He let the blanket fall and they rolled the body into the grave. They each grabbed their shovels and began filling in the hole.
     "Just fill it in 'til its level with the ground."
     "What about the rest of the dirt?" asked the younger man.
     "We'll just spread it around."
     Are we putting rocks on top to keep the animals away?
     No, throw them into the bush.
     "What about a marker?"
     "Dont be stupid. We dont need anyone finding it.
     What little dirt was left they scattered in the weeds. The younger man tossed the rocks near the edge of the bush. The older man pulled a few dead ferns and flowers and stuck them in the darker, fresh dirt trying to make it blend in with the rest of the area.
     "Do you want to say a few words?" asked the younger man. They had finished and were looking down at the almost unnoticeable grave. The wind had increased and the older man had put his coat back on. Night was rapidly falling.
     "Theres nothing to say.
     The younger man looked down at the grave. Im sorry, he said softly. This isnt right.
     The older man's anger was immediate. He jumped at the younger man grabbing the front of his coat and pulling his face close.
     Are you starting to go soft on me? Do I have to shut you up?
     The youngers eyes widened. No, no, he said, fear in his voice.
     Don't you ever tell anybody," the older man said through clenched teeth. He pulled the younger man closer until their noses almost touched. "Do you understand? Nobody. Ever."
     The younger man nodded as best he could. "Nobody," he whispered.
     "Promise me."
     The younger man hesitated and the older man shook him until his head flopped back and forth.
     "Promise me."
     "I promise."
     The older man stared into his eyes then, apparently satisfied, let him go with a shove. He gave one last glance at the rectangle then picked up his shovel and walked away.
     The younger man looked down at the grave then quickly followed the other man.
     Back at their large canvas tent, which had been pitched on a high bank overlooking the Salmo River, the older man began packing his few clothes into his duffel bag.
     "What are you doing?" the younger one asked.
     "I'm taking leaving here first thing tomorrow."
     "What about me? Can I come with you?"
     "Why not?" There was desperation in his voice.
     "Because I've got no time to look after you. Go back to Fruitvale and your Ma or go to work in the smelter in Trail.” The man tossed a small bag at him. “Here’s your share of the gold. It will keep you going until you make up your mind."
     "I don't know anything about working in the smelter."
     "I’m leaving this tent. Stay here if you want or find something else to do because you aren't coming with me." The man threw his duffel bag on his bed then took a step towards the younger man. He glared down at him. If you ever break your promise I’ll come back and kill you and your Ma and any other family you have. You understand? Even if it’s ten, twenty years from now.
     The younger man quickly nodded.
     The older man dropped down beside his duffel bag on the bed and turned his back to the younger one.
     After a few minutes, the younger man laid down on his bunk. He clasped his hands behind his head and stared at the sloping ceiling until it was too dark to see.
     Later that night when the storm had ended and the moon was high in the sky, a shadow crept silently out of the tent and worked his way through the trees to the small clearing. On the way he broke two branches off a tree and bound them together with some string. The clouds had dispersed and the moon was full and bright. Although it had only been a few hours since they had dug the grave, he already had a hard time locating it. When he at last found the right spot, he plunged the cross into the ground as far as he could, then took a rock and pounded it in further. He gathered the rocks they had thrown aside and piled them on the grave. Then he stood for a few minutes in the moonlight and gazed down at the grave.
     Finally, with a sigh, he silently left the small clearing. Instead of heading back to the tent, he started walking down the road. He’d been scared of being killed himself so he’d pretended he wanted to stay with the other man, acting as if he trusted him. But now he wanted to get as far away from him as possible and never see him again.

The Travelling Detective Series
Illegally Dead
The Only Shadow In The House
Whistler's Murder


Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Today’s reader is savvy and knowledgeable.  I believe this is the reason for the rise in the suspense genre.  Complex characters and shocking plots grab the reader tight, unwilling to let go until the very end.  Conflict advances and drives the plot into an unpredictable story that leaves us exhausted – yet satisfied.

Suspense is the aphrodisiac that keeps readers turning those pages.  So how do you create a gripping suspenseful story that leaves everyone talking?  By creating characters the reader cares about while giving conflict, tension, pacing and clever foreshadowing.  

Create situations where your reader is curious about what’s coming next.  This curiosity builds suspense and a good writer will make it flow naturally.  There are many ways to create suspense:
·         By withholding information from the reader
·         By withholding information from the main characters
·         By telling the story from the villain’s POV – withholding from main characters
·         By the main character knowing who the killer is – but he/she has to prove it
·         Maybe there’s more than one killer
·         The options are endless as are plots.

Most writers know who the killer is . . . oh, we may be surprised now and then, but most likely we have a good idea who we believe did the dead.  You could let the reader know right away – but if you’re like me – I love guessing.

Keeping the killer a mystery to the main characters works so well, it’s the most common plot.  Like I just said, we love guessing.  I want to dissect all the evidence, evaluate the characters, apply common sense, and finally draw my own conclusion and hope I guessed who dun it!

Writing the suspense can be tricky . . . you need to foreshadow along the way just enough so the reader realizes they could have figured it out – but failed to take that vital bit of information seriously. 

So what should you avoid when writing suspense?  I think a prolog is a killer.  I hate them to be honest.  Whatever you need your reader to learn about a character should be fed in small doses.  Make sure it’s important and ameliorates the plot so the reader will understand the character’s motive and why he reacts/behaves in certain conditions or anxious situations.

Intensity is the key to gripping your reader and not letting go.  It speeds up the momentum and the writer must increase the awareness with each new chapter until it climaxes at the end.  Never let this suspenseful action slow . . . or your reader will lose interest.

Suspenseful stories also revolve around relationships, usually love interests, but that can’t realistically interrupt the flow of the intensity.  Don’t have your hero and heroine chasing down a possible killer in an old mine shaft, then have them suddenly rolling on the ground in a passionate interlude, then get back to the chase.  I know – we’ve read it before and doesn’t it just annoy the crap out of you?  It does me.
Keep in mind if your characters are in danger and dealing with a killer – then we have to be realistic.  Think it through and ask yourself, “Would a couple really stop in the middle of a chase, have a quickie, then resume the chase?”  This might be their only chance to catch the killer.  Your reader would probably scream, “What are you doing?  You’ve almost caught him!  Put your pants back on and be real.”  You must create believable scenes so your readers don’t question what’s happening. 

In writing suspense, emotion is what gets your reader invested in the story.  In knowing the characters, the reader will either pull for them or become anxious for them to get their due castigations.  

Keep the emotion high so the reader understands the importance of the situation.   It’s the emotion that motivates us, what dictates how we react, and controls our decisions.  And, I’ll say it again, “Suspense is the aphrodisiac that keeps readers turning those pages.”  

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Monday, August 11, 2014



Puget Sound has a lot of mystery writers—writing is a good thing to do when it rains—and, for years, I went to meetings of the Mystery Writers of America. They were well-attended and exciting. Then, one of the writers decided people who hadn’t been published by MWA-approved-publishers should be banned. Now, if 20 people attend, it’s a good turnout. However, during the heyday of smooshing with Ann Rule and Earl Emerson, I learned about the three-legged stool:  characters, setting, and action, and giving equal space to each. 

I am currently editing Tahuya Daze (ta-who-ya) the second of my Puget Sound Mysteries, which takes place on Hood Canal. At the book’s beginning, the heroine, Mercedes, comments on madrona trees. They’re unique to the Pacific Northwest. Supposedly, Captain George Vancouver thought their color was like that of strawberries, but then, he’d been at sea for a long time.

Goeducks are also indigenous here. Halfway through the book, Mercedes goes over to the Skokomish Indian Reservation and sees one of these. For those interested, they’re very hard to dig and the skin peels off the neck. (Not to be crude, but it is similar to removing a condom). Ground up goeduck necks and breasts make great chowder. On the TV show, dirty Jobs, Mike Rowe visited a goeduck farm and dug one up. Sadly, he broke its shell, a big no-no.

Since my book takes place in July, my husband and I have been photographing. When Mercedes is captured by the bad guy and forced to walk through some clear-cut land on the hills above the canal.

I remember reading Phyllis Whitney’s books, each of  which took place in a different country. As someone on Goodreads wrote, “Her novels are set in interesting locales that often become a character themselves.”
Not everyone in my critique group likes the three-legged stool: too many people and too much physical “stuff”. I, however, want a sense of place and an opportunity to know the characters. Aren’t well all lucky there’s no right answer?

I tried very hard to make this blog pretty and to have the photographs next to the appropriate paragraph. Unfortunately, it didn't work.  Thanks for any comments you care to make. Karla

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Get the Fire Extinguisher! - by Cheryl Wright

Oh my. I do love a fun card. And these Girlfriends cards by Art Impressions literally take the cake!

I've seen a few versions of other people's interpretation of this stamp set, appropriately called Giant Cake, and I might have to, ahem, borrow, some of their ideas.

Here's my version:

These cards are absolutely perfect for my age group, and are just so much fun, albeit a little fiddly to color!

I've lashed out, and have ordered two more sets from the Girlfriends range, which should arrive in the next couple of weeks. (They are extremely difficult to buy in Australia, so I have no choice but to buy them from the US.)  I absolutely adore these stamps, and I'm having an absolute ball with them.

It's wonderful to see what other cardmakers have done with these cards, and I spend quite a bit of time - way more than I'd like - on Pinterest seeking them out.

 Since my last post, I've made another card with the Party Girls set. I added some blue hair this time, as it reminded me of the older ladies I knew in my youth. Blue hair was very popular back them, for ladies 'of distinction'.

Thanks for stopping by. Til next time,


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A Poodle, a Wedding Anniversary, and a Opossum By Connie Vines

I had an article about the craft of writing written and ready to post.  I decided, instead, to share that post next month. Why? For thos...