So Many Blogs…. by Karen Shughart

This is my 45th blog for Ladies of Mystery. I started writing at this site in September, 2019, and I’m proud to say I haven’t duplicated a topic, not once. That’s a lot of blogs, and when I realized how many I’d written, I was surprised and took some time to reflect on this. Is it really possible to blog every month and avoid duplication? Why yes, it is.

Think about it. There’s a huge world out there, with infinite possibilities for observation and discourse. You can write about the seasons, or the place in which you live. You can write about writing, the writing process, your latest releases, the struggles, and challenges, of creating a book or a chapter or the characters in your books. About marketing and promoting. You can write about family and friends and animals. Music. A special outing. It’s an endless list if you just look around and observe.

You can write about gardening, beaches, swimming or snowshoeing. Trips taken, meals eaten, beverages sampled, and cultural events you’ve attended. Wine tastings. Memorials to loved ones and pets who have passed. You can write about rain and snow and sun and wind. You can write about suffering, loss, and experiencing joy. During Covid, one of my blogs was about kindness and the many ways it manifested itself in our community; another about what it’s like to live across the street from a large lake in the middle of apple growing country.

Sometimes I whiz through whatever blog I’m writing for the month. My rough draft gets tweaked a little, and then voila, it’s ready to publish. Other times it takes a bit longer, sometimes more than a bit longer, as I search for the right word or tone or to put a semblance of order into my thoughts. It depends on the topic, and my mood, but eventually it gets done.

When I first started writing blogs here, I carefully constructed a list of the topics I wanted to write about for each month during that particular year, and I stuck to it. It helped me focus and because I was new at it, it also helped alleviate some anxiety when faced with a deadline. Then, occasionally, I would scratch the blog I planned to write for something that seemed more appropriate at that time. As I’ve become more comfortable, I typically pick my topic on a monthly basis, depending on my mood and life experiences at the time.

The books in my Edmund DeCleryk cozy mystery series typically run (give-or-take) about 70,000 words. I try to limit blogs to no more than 500, they’re easy to compose; really, no more than a page in a book. Plus, readers don’t want to spend a whole day reading a blog. And that’s why I’m stopping here. There’s more to write about, but I just checked and I’m coming up on those 500 words.

Karen Shughart is the author of the maritime-themed Edmund DeCleryk cozy mystery series that includes historical backstories with a twist, and recipes provided by the sleuth’s wife, Annie, the head of the local historical society. Book three, Murder at Freedom Hill, is an International Firebird Book Award winner in the mystery and fiction categories.

Thoughts on a Book Tour

I am back home after spending last week driving around western Oregon and stopping at 5 bookstores.

Backstory: Last summer I attended a talk by author Dwight Holing at my local library. He was there talking about his series that is set in Harney County- where I live. When he was asked about how he advertised his books, and he mentioned Bookbub didn’t work well for him, I said, “Yeah, it doesn’t work well for me either.” He looked at me and said, “What genre are you?” My reply, “Same as yours.”

He asked my name and then said, “Your books stalk mine on Amazon!”

My rebuttal was “No, yours stalk mine.” We had a chuckle and he said to come talk to him after his presentation.

I did and we decided since we both write crime fiction set in Oregon with game wardens, his a federal agent and mine a state police officer, that we should team up and do something.

Dwight Holing and myself at Bloomsbury Books in Ashland, OR

Fast forward a few months and we came up with a book tour when we both had a new book out. We spent months setting up bookstores and planning to do it all in one week.

We just finished that week of visiting bookstores. After a phone conversation we’d decided to do a back and forth, “This is why I… What do you do?” format. And we had lots of encouraging comments about how well we played off one another. Then we would read from our books and take questions. It was interesting that most of the questions were from new or emerging writers. Though we did each have some fans or family at each of the stops we had.

Me talking at Grass Roots Bookstore in Corvallis, OR.

I was lucky enough to meet Sharon Dean who has been a guest of this blog. She came to our Ashland event. It was fun to meet someone in person who I have only exchanged emails with.

And in Bend I was able to meet up with some writer friends that before I moved to Princeton, we met once a month and had lunch and talked about writing.

The one thing that both Dwight and I concluded from this trip is that in-person events are no longer something that brings readers in. We had small groups at everyone of the events even though we both talked it up in our newsletters and social media and put out news releases in each town we visited. He said he’s going to start doing Zoom Book Clubs and will invite me to participate when he gets it all figured out.

While I enjoyed my week of driving around Oregon and meeting new people, I do agree that I won’t be doing another event like this any time soon. I think being set up where people are already gathered like flea markets, oktoberfest, and such is the way to go instead of bookstores.

Guest Blogger ~ John DeDakis


On the night of December 20, 1959, I was sitting in the left front seat of the Vista-Dome car of the Burlington Zephyr passenger train as it hurtled through northern Illinois on its way from Chicago toward my hometown of La Crosse, Wisconsin. 

The engineer would later tell a coroner’s jury that he was going 90 miles an hour (legal at the time) as we rounded a gentle curve at the tiny town of Chadwick.

From my vantage point in the darkened dome car near the front of the train, I could see the locomotive’s searchlight slice through the darkness, sweeping the tracks that stretched ahead of us.  Suddenly, off to my left, I saw a car speeding toward a crossing we were approaching.  The car looked like a 1949 Chevy, distinctive because of its sloped rear end.  A split second later, I lost sight of the car as it went in front of the train.

I heard a bang, the train shuddered, and debris rained onto the Plexiglas dome, cracking the window I’d been peering through. I ducked, then scrambled down the narrow stairway to the dome car’s lower level where I told my dad and the conductor what I’d just witnessed. 

I was nine years old.

The crash killed three people including a boy about my age.

Fast forward to 1994. I was doing a writing exercise recounting a personal experience—the one you’ve just read.  As I wrote, I remembered a radio news report about a car-train collision in which an infant survived.  I began wondering, “What if an infant survived the crash I witnessed and grew up wondering about her past?” 

That idea turned into my first mystery-suspense novel Fast Track.

The novel isn’t about the accident.  If anything, it’s an example of how a personal experience can be the seed of an idea that can blossom into something else—something redeeming. 

Fast Track begins with my 25-year-old heroine vexed because she doesn’t know what to do with her life. She discovers the body of the aunt who raised her from infancy—a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning. (This is an echo of my sister’s suicide in 1980, but that’s another story for another time.) That trauma begins a quest to unlock secrets kept hidden for a quarter century when my protagonist’s parents died in a mysterious car-train collision.

The Fast Track manuscript went through 14 major revisions over 10 years before I found my current agent, Barbara Casey, (the 39th agent I queried).  During that process, I drew on other personal experiences to add texture to a story that includes politics, journalism, and mentoring relationships.

Fast Track is the first novel in a series that’s now five books and counting. But it all started more than 63 years ago in Chadwick, Illinois.  So, I suppose it’s fitting that I named my heroine Lark Chadwick.

Orphaned as an infant, sexually assaulted as a naïve college student, strong-willed, impulsive Lark Chadwick is vexed and trying to figure out what to do with her mixed-up life. When she discovers the body of the aunt who raised her, Lark goes on a search for answers.

She is stunned to learn from a 25-year-old newspaper clipping that she’s the “miracle baby” who survived a suspicious car accident that killed her parents at a rural railroad crossing in southern Wisconsin. Lark convinces Lionel Stone, the crusty Pulitzer-Prize winning editor, to let her do a follow-up investigation of the crash. Two of her sources are the sheriff and the town’s mayor, they’re running against each other for Congress, the election is a week away, and both men have a secret that will unravel the mystery.

Award-winning novelist, writing coach, and manuscript editor John DeDakis is a former editor on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.” DeDakis is the author of five mystery-suspense-thriller novels. In his most recent novel, FAKE, protagonist Lark Chadwick is a White House correspondent dealing with “fake news” in the era of #MeToo. DeDakis, a former White House correspondent, regularly leads writing workshops at literary centers and writers’ conferences. He is also the host of the video podcast “One-to-One with John DeDakis” on YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Originally from La Crosse, Wisconsin, DeDakis now lives with his wife Cindy in Baltimore, Maryland.



Recently my little town of Springville hit the national news when one storm after another caused the Tule River to flood and fill houses with water and mud. We were among those ordered to evacuate because we live near the river—however despite the rushing water taking out trees and bridges as it headed toward the lake, we were in no danger. However, the first day the only roads to get out of town were flooded and closed.

Long ago I wrote a mystery called A Deadly Feast about a storm that caused a raging river to take out a bridge and strand those who lived on the other side for several days.

Raging Water is a Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery written several years ago about the flooding of Bear Creek which forces people living along the river to evacuate and causes a huge mud slide which makes it impossible for anyone to leave.

Both books have a great similarity to what recently went on in our small town.

This is happened before.

I wrote Bears With Us when we had an occasional bear sighting in an around Springville. At the time, my grandson was a police officer in Aspen CO and many bear encounters he shared with me. I used his expertise to add excitement to the story.

Last summer several bears decided Springville would be a great place to dine. People reported bear sightings regularly. We had two different bears who decided to visit our trash trailer on different nights looking for hand-outs. One was a big black male, the other a smaller brown bear. They didn’t bother anything else, but were scary if you came home during their visits. Believe me, on those occasions we scurried into the house. We haven’t seen them since early fall.

Since I’ve written my final and the last offering in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, I’m no longer worried about writing fiction that predicts future events. But it was fun telling readers about it.


Is April the Cruelest Month? by Karen Shughart

In the poem, The Wasteland, T.S. Eliot writes, “April is the cruelest month….”

The month of April is a time of birth and renewal, and a time of hope. April may bring showers, but we have a reasonable expectation that it will also bring spring flowers. For Eliot, at least when he wrote the poem, nothing was crueler than hope because for him it often led to disappointment. It was safer to hold on tightly to cynicism and pessimism, because then he wouldn’t get hurt.

For most of us, though, April is not cruel at all.  If you live where I do, in the north, April is a time of anticipation, a time when we believe that, as Alexander Pope wrote in An Essay on Man, “hope springs eternal in the human breast.” Hopefulness, despite our challenges and disappointments, continues to renew itself.  Even the holidays observed by various cultures and religions this time of year celebrate the themes of birth, renewal, and hope.

We rejoice when tiny buds start to swell on the trees, when we wake up to birdsong, and daylight lasts longer. We delight in the first sight of bright yellow daffodils and brilliant-colored tulips  as they stretch towards the sun.  And the sun, weak and pale in the winter, shines brightly now, warming our bodies and souls and expanding our hearts to ever so many possibilities.

Photo by Jacek Mleczek on

We know that when the daffodils and tulips finally end their run for the year, we have a reasonable expectation that they’ll be back next year, and other flowers will follow. When we plant our gardens, at some point we will harvest what we sow. Soon, we’ll be seeing baby birds peeping out of nests; ducklings, cygnets and goslings swimming with determination behind their attentive parents; and tiny, newborn animals scurrying about. April, the spring, symbolizes youth, but even those of us who are in the autumn and winter of our lives can feel happy, young, and energized.

In northern climates the weather in April is fickle. It rains, sometimes it snows, and at times it seems as though winter won’t quite lose its icy grip; then there are those intermittent grey, cloudy days. Regardless of what Mother Nature throws our way, I am compelled to put away the heaviest of winter clothes, clean out the closets, and plan menus around seasonal foods with lighter ingredients.  I start to make a list of things I want to do to get ready for summer. I always know the rain will stop, the snow will melt, and the grey, cloudy days will be followed by brilliant sun. If April isn’t quite what I expected, there’s always next year.

Cruel? I think not. After April comes May with more abundance,  even warmer days, and the anticipation of summer.

Karen Shughart is the author of the Edmund DeCleryk cozy mystery series, published by Cozy Cat Press