Why Does This Character Torment Me So?

He refuses every name I give him. Argh!

Everyone else in my newest historical series is comfortable with their names. The nineteen-year-old heroine Cora Countryman’s name is a combination of names from my hometown in Illinois, the model for the booming prairie town in the books. But my hero . . . he refuses to cooperate! His name has changed so many times that my computer screen has erasure holes.

Kewanee, Illinois Historical Society

Names are everything, right? Normally, once the character sketch is complete, they pop into my head and stick. Finn Sturdevant, Grieg Washburn, Brendan Whitelaw, MacLaury and Byron Cooper. But this guy is a puzzlement. He was comfortable being Israel Francis (Rafe) Kaufman from Chicago in the first book, then when I started plotting the second book, wham, he announces he is from Tennessee and demands a new name.

Overlooking the obvious and assuming I have some control over my stories, perhaps I should have given more time upfront to his backstory. I thought I had it all figured out; it’s just . . .

In book one we learn that he was a drummer boy at the Battle of Chickamauga, went to an Eastern college, and is now a newspaperman. Then while plotting book two, he insisted he was a Southern drummer boy, not Northern, and all bets were off.

Bless his heart, the change added depth to the plot, the series, and his character.

So, Israel Kaufman from Chicago permutated to Bedford Kaufman because what name conjures Civil War Era Tennessee more than General Nathan Bedford Forrest. The former Israel Kaufman was semi-okay being Bedford Kaufman, but the Tennessee census indicated that there were literally no Kaufmans in the state in the 1870s.

So, we settled on the surname Kanady. Bedford (Ford) Kanady appealed to him, enough for a complete name change. But he is a tad prickly about his image and worries that the name is a bit card-sharky. There was talk of Harry Kanady, but he claims it is a gunslinger’s name. ‘Just not me‘ has become his mantra. In addition to the census, we have tried to find his using name generators, birth records, online family trees, yoga, and standing on our heads in a corner.

He insists the name must convey savvy and internal toughness. Oh, and a hint of danger, a hazy past, a sharp tongue, and a few visible and invisible scars. He believes he is the kind of guy you see buying stamps at the Post Office who conjures an intriguing fantasy involving magic markers and dark rooms.

Come on . . . you know the type!

Wait a minute! Would Jason Bedford work? Jason . . . Jase, perhaps, to his friends. He isn’t thrilled with Jason. It feels a bit modern, possibly too Western movie for him. There is definite hesitation on his part.

I’ll let him ponder Jason for the night, maybe introduce himself to a few of the other characters. You know, try it on for a while before another search and replace. Wait! Now he speculates that he likes the initial J. and is leaning toward J. Bedford Kanady. Why an initial makes a difference, I don’t know. But he likes the unknown of the J., the rhythm of the full name, and the hint of je ne sais quoi in the diminutive of Ford.  It could work. Maybe? Sounds stuffy to me. But if he likes it . . . whatever!


As promised, here are the solutions to LAST MONTH’S FIRST LINE QUIZ. I am sure you all aced it.

First Line of BookTitle of Book
Last night I dreamed I went to Manderlay again.Rebecca
All the Venables sat at Sunday dinner.Cimarron
The whole affair began very quietly.Madam, Will You Talk?
They were interviewing Clint Maroon.Saratoga Trunk
Nothing ever happens to me.My Brother Michael
It was a cold gray day in late November.Jamaica Inn
They used to hang men at Four Turnings in the old days.My Cousin Rachel


It’s like a grand, sweeping piece of classical music, starting out slowly and gradually building until it reaches a crescendo; imperceptibly winding down and then soaring to a breathtaking ending.

That’s pretty much what it’s like living in Sodus Point in the summer. Located on the south shore of Lake Ontario, we have seasons, defined seasons, and for three-fourths of the year it’s quiet. There are fewer than 900 permanent residents.

The switch is flipped, starting around Memorial Day. There’s an increase in activity. Summer residents begin readying their cottages for warm weather. Tourists, staying at inns and rented homes, stroll our streets, visit our attractions, line up for ice cream, dine on the decks of our waterfront restaurants, or purchase California rolls and bao buns, specialized coffee, baked goods, barbecue, and tacos from food trucks that circle a parking lot like covered wagons.

July 4th weekend brings more traffic-hundreds; maybe thousands from around our region-for classic car and kiddie parades, craft shows, fun runs and a spectacular display of fireworks, beginning at 10 p.m. Our days are long this time of year. We watch the fireworks from our front porch, the jostling crowds and traffic too challenging for the likes of us, and the noise unsettling for our small Beagle, Nova.

A week or two later more visitors from across this country-and pre-pandemic-countries from around the world, descend upon our village to partake of the scenic beauty, pristine beaches, hiking trails, fishing spots, museums, lighthouses, gift shops, great food, and music. There’s lots of music.

Summer is when our historical society and museum sponsors nine weeks of Sunday afternoon concerts in the park on a bluff overlooking the lake. Motorboats anchor, sailboats drift lazily, and pedestrians spread blankets or unfold chairs to listen to a diverse selection of music while munching on hot dogs and sausage, popcorn, and ice cream. Often, during the week, music vibrates through our windows from bars and restaurants lining our business district.

Most of our friends and family visit during summer months. There’s lots to do: sunbathing on the beach, simple meals cooked on the grill, visits to wineries, farm stands and orchards, and to our local farm animal rescue shelter; be sure to bring bags of carrots and apples for feeding the residents. Friends with boats take us and our guests on tours of the bay or for longer sojourns, we rent pontoons. Although we can hear the Sunday concerts from our front porch, it’s a quick stroll to the park, and part of a must-do Sodus Point experience.

Late in August the summer people begin pack up and leave.  School is starting, soccer and football practice, too. Tourism wanes, but the crowds return to celebrate Labor Day weekend. It’s the grand finale: an annual clambake sponsored by our ambulance association; the final concert on the bluff; and another sumptuous fireworks display. Soon, very soon, there will be quiet on our streets with the promise of autumn in the air, a breathtaking ending to a fine summer.

Guest Blogger ~ Susie Black

No matter what stage an author’s writing career is at, one thing that is constantly drilled into their head is to only write what you know. If you don’t know it, either do the research and learn it or don’t you dare write it. If you don’t have the creds for what you write, you are toast because readers can spot a phony by the second paragraph and never finish reading your book. This concept is one I never lose sight of and is the reason I write about the subjects I do. 

Like the protagonist in my Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, I am a ladies’ swimwear sales exec in the greater Los Angeles area. From the beginning of my career, I have kept a daily journal chronicling the interesting, quirky, and sometimes quite challenging people I have encountered as well as the crazy situations I’ve gotten myself into and out of. My daily journal entries are the foundation of everything I write.

I came to write in the cozy mystery genre because I love solving puzzles. My parents would certainly confirm I have always asked a lot of questions, and I am naturally curious (some narrow-minded people say I am nosy…go figure…LOL). So, writing mysteries was the natural next step for me to take. it is also the genre I read, am comfortable in, and enjoy the most. The bonus is that it was an excellent way to knock off some people on paper who I would have loved to eliminate in real life and still not end up in prison. Extremely therapeutic. I highly recommend it.

As a female who has succeeded in a historically male-dominated industry, it was important to me to write about the apparel business from a woman’s point of view. All of my characters are based on real people, and the central characters are all strong, successful women who have beaten the odds and broken the glass ceiling. Holly Schlivnik, the main character, is based on me with some poetic license taken, of course. The plots and premises of my stories all take place in the fast-paced ladies’ apparel industry. The premise behind the story in Death by Sample Size is what if a buying office big shot in the apparel industry so universally disliked that when she was murdered, there were so many potential suspects that it wasn’t a question of who wanted her dead, it was a question of who didn’t.


Everyone wanted her dead…but who actually killed her?

The last thing swimwear sales exec Holly Schlivnik expected was to discover ruthless buying office big wig Bunny Frank’s corpse trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey with a bikini stuffed down her throat. When Holly’s colleague is arrested for Bunny’s murder, the wise-cracking, irreverent amateur sleuth jumps into action to find the real killer.  Nothing turns out the way Holly thinks it will as she matches wits with a wily killer hellbent on revenge. Get ready to laugh out loud as Susie Black’s Death by Sample Size takes you on a rollicking adventure ride through the Los Angeles apparel industry.

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/gp/productttt/BO93F24T3F

BARNES & NOBLE: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/death-by-sample-size-susie-black/1139356591

Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/Susie-black

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57877534-death-by-sample-size

Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?pcampaignid=books_read_action&id=k8swEAAAQBAJ

I Tunes: https://books.apple.com/us/book/death-by-sample-size/id1564686461

kobo https://www.kobo.com/us/en/search?query=Death+by+Sample+Size

TARGET.COM: https://www.target.com/s?searchTerm=Death+by+Sample+Size

Just behind my college graduation, wedding day, and the birth of my son, June 9th was truly one of the most amazing days of my entire life. My debut cozy mystery Death by Sample Size was released for publication. I am humbled, honored, and proud to be able to say that now I am officially a published author! A life-long dream has come true, a hard-fought-for goal has been accomplished.

Born in the Big Apple, Susie Black now calls sunny Southern California home. Like the protagonist in her Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. Susie began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in humorous mysteries.

She reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she’s a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avid stamp collector. Susie lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect.

Looking for more? Reach her at mysteries_@authorsusieblack.com

Social Media Links:

Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/Susie-black

Facebook: https://facebook.com/TheHollySwimsuitMysterySeries

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57877534-death-by-sample-size

Instagram: Susie Black (@hollyswimsuit) • Instagram photos and videos

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/authorsusieblack-61941011

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/hollysusie1_saved/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/@hollyswimsuit

Why Do We Write? What Do We Write About?

Many of my fellow authors here have been sharing their thoughts about how and why they write, so I thought I’d chime in, too. Sometimes, when I speak to writing groups or classes, an individual in the group asks me how they should decide what they want to write about. Frankly, that question usually astounds me, because I often have at least a dozen ideas competing for attention in my imagination. In my opinion, it all begins with passion.

“What are you passionate about? What do you think about every day?” I ask. One man’s face lit up and he answered that his passion was music. He had been writing about his grandfather using his ham radio, memories that were pleasant, but not really connected to his passion. He was inspired to develop a story about a musician right at that meeting. Another person started musing about the pioneer history of the area.

I have three passions, and those are always the basis of my stories. First is my passion for justice. I worked as a private investigator for a decade, and nobody hires a private investigator when everything is going well. Someone is always being cheated or threatened or mistreated. And as anyone in the law enforcement or legal profession would tell you, justice does not always prevail in real life. I worked on multiple cases where a crime had obviously been committed, but there was not enough evidence to charge the perpetrator, or in some cases, not enough evidence to even find the perpetrator. The sad real-life case of two murdered hikers in my area was the inspiration for my novel Backcountry. I had to fictionalize what might have happened, but the frightening, ugly fact is that the real killer is still out there. But in my novels, I can make justice prevail, and that feels good.

My second passion is for wilderness and wild animals. I spend a lot of time hiking, kayaking, snowshoeing, scuba diving in wild places, and I want to share my enthusiasm for our public lands and fellow creatures with as many readers as I can. So each novel in my Sam Westin Wilderness Series is set in a wild place, and each features wildlife. And yes, humans are nearly always the villains of my stories, because that is nearly always the case in real life. Humans kill wild animals a million times more often than any wild animal ever kills a human.

My third passion is for animals in general. I couldn’t live without animals in my life. I am constantly fascinated by their physical abilities and their intelligence. I love the fact that they are not human, I celebrate the special powers of their species. Imagine being a bird, living in a world of air where moving in any direction is possible. Imagine being able to dive to great depths in the ocean and swim through clouds of squid and fish like a whale. Imagine being able to jump to the top of a refrigerator like my cats, or find people by scent like a dog. So my passion for animals comes out not only in my wilderness novels, but my fascination with animal intelligence is the basis for my Neema Mysteries, which feature signing gorillas.

So, my advice to aspiring writers is always: Find your passion. And then share it in your stories.

Writing Makes me Happy by Paty Jager

I started this writing journey decades ago because I had a need to write. That sounds hokey or corny to some but it was my husband who first realized when I didn’t have time to write, I became cranky. LOL I would become irritable and crabby when I was so busy raising kids and taking care of the chores that I didn’t have time to write. He would say, “Go write for a while. Leave the dishes, or do the laundry later.” And I would go write, and the real world would once again be a happy place for me.

My best guess would be, anyway from what I’ve noticed over the years, my overactive imagination would keep me up at night with ‘what ifs’ and tragedies befalling family members. When I write and am engrossed in causing all kinds of trouble for my characters, my mind is at ease and I sleep better. If I don’t write, I put all of the danger into potential threats to my family members and friends. Weird, right?

I also enjoy the research. Over the years, even as a child, I would read books and discover new places, new people, new cultures, and learn about things I didn’t have where I lived. That was exciting to me! As a teen I loved the old Gothic Romances by Phyliss Whitney, Mary Stewart, and Victoria Holt. I enjoyed living in mansions, the terror of crossing a moor in the dark, experiencing a time and country that was so different from what I lived. I also liked they were the thickest books in the school library. I could go through a thin novel in two days, reading during lunch, afterschool and when I was supposed to be sleeping. 😉

I started reading mysteries then and continued as an adult. A good mystery for me has twists and turns and engaging characters. I devoured books by Agatha Christie, Dick Francis, Dorothy Gilman. Lilian Jackson Braun, Tony Hillerman, and Sue Grafton.

Putting a bit of mystery in everything I write has shown me that I am a writer who has to write mystery to feel I’ve built a complete story. And that is why I write mystery books. It is what, is deep in my core. I like writing twists and turns and having justice at the end of the story.

My innate need to always write about justice or injustice has brought me to writing mysteries with Native American influences. Whether it is characters or setting. Their plight has always tugged at my conscious and now, with writing, I have a way to show they are human and viable people just like everyone else. They have been trod upon and nearly annihilated, yet because of their faith and resilience they are growing stronger and becoming a voice that needs to be heard.

Writing mysteries with Native American elements is what makes me happy. I have a couple of romance series I need to finish, and I tried. However, my heart isn’t into those at this time, so I will continue to write the stories that are calling to me.

Here is the latest release of my new Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series.

Poker Face

Spotted Pony Casino Mystery

Book 1

Dela Alvaro is a disabled veteran who grew up on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation. When an IED in Iraq ended her military career, she came home to reassess her life and landed a job in security at the Indian run casino on the reservation.

Not even a year into being the assistant to the head of security, Dela is promoted on a trial basis. When one of the casino employees is found stabbed and stuffed in a laundry chute, she knows she can kiss head of security good-bye if she doesn’t find the killer before the media gets hold of the story.

While she is in over her head, she can’t decide if the FBI Special Agent called in to help is a blessing or a curse. It’s a man she ran across in Iraq who overrode her authority. When a second casino employee is killed, Dela has to decide if she can trust the special agent with not only keeping her job but keeping the rest of the casino employees safe.

Universal Buy link: