Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime

Those are the two biggest mystery conventions and both will be fairly close to me this year, Sacramento and San Diego.

For years, my husband and I went to every Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime. We visited wonderful cities all over the U.S., places we would never have gone otherwise.  When these two conventions were held previous here, I went on my own–by train to one, and traveling in a car with a friend to another.

I loved the experience and meeting so many wonderful writers and readers. I made so many friends over the years that attending one of these cons was like going to a family reunion.

Sadly, despite the proximity of both cons, I’ve made the decision not to attend either one.

The reasons? Partly my age. It’s not as easy for me to get around these days, and the huge cons require lots of walking, Another reason is the cost, the biggest being the hotel stay and restaurant meals.  Yes, I will miss seeing old friends, meeting new ones, being on a panel, learning a lot about authors whose books I enjoy.

A mystery convention is different than a writer’s conference. I am planning to go to two of those. In March, I’ll attend Writers of Kern in Bakersfield. My daughter is going with me, it’s held in one big room and it’s only one day. In July, I’m signed up for the Public Safety Writers Association’s annual conference in Las Vegas. Again, my daughter is doing the driving duty, and the hotel is not expensive, and one huge lunch is provided each day. The conference is held in one room–and I’ll get to see many of my friends, writers and folks in law enforcement and other public safety fields. Public Safety Writers Association

For those who are able to attend the big cons, have a wonderful time. Be sure and talk to people you don’t know, they may end up being a new fan of your books. If you are a reader, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to your favorite writers.

And of course, in between all this excitement, I’ll continue working on my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree myster.

Spirit Wind cover

A Thousand Thanks

Recently a fellow writer, Jacqueline Seewald, posted an article written by a mystery reader in response to one of her short stories. Along with several others, I commented that this was a gratifying response from a reader, and then I got thinking.

I began writing and publishing mysteries and mystery related articles, reviews, essays over thirty years ago, and to be singled out by a reader for praise is always a thrill. Like any other writer, I want readers to enjoy my work. The number of mystery-related conferences spread throughout the year and scattered around the US and the rest of the world means we are often thrown into contact with current and future (and sometimes past) readers. Both of us—writers and readers—have learned to take this in stride. I make note of which characters a reader liked particularly, a question about a character’s backstory, or hints at a new series or a new direction. But fans don’t have to wait for a conference to find us.

Writers get emails through our websites or blogs, posts on other blogs about a meeting or a particular story, or conversation about a book club. Readers can engage almost any writer on FB or Twitter, on Goodreads or other sites. Writing may be a solitary business, but the readership is ever present. Writers and readers almost can’t avoid meeting each other and engaging in an ongoing conversation. For most of those writing today, this is the norm and always has been. But not for me.

When my first mystery was published, Murder in Mellingham(1993), I was thrilled to have a book launch at Kate’s Mystery Books and meet other writers and readers. After this I attended Malice Domestic and Bouchercon, and met lots of other writers including those I’d never expected to meet in person let alone speak to or have dinner with. It was quite an experience.

But nothing since then has matched the first piece of mail (yes, snail mail) I received from a fan. I was a newbie, still very little known, but a man who read my mystery took the time to write to tell me how much a specific passage had moved him. He had recently lost his mother, and that one line seemed a particular comfort. I’d never received this kind of letter before (And why would I? This was my first mystery.) and barely managed to write a coherent reply.

I remember that letter because it took time to compose, write on paper, address, stamp, and send (and came through my publisher, as I recall) and was very personal. Of all the warm and enthusiastic responses I’ve had from readers, that one is still the one I remember. Did Jacqueline Seewald feel as excited about her reader’s response? Of course she did. Do younger writers who may never have taken to letter writing feel the same way, I wonder, about email notes from readers telling them how much they liked a book? I’m sure they do. But for me, a letter in the mail will always be the ultimate form of communication.

For the article inspired by Jacqueline Seewald’s story, go to: https://jacquelineseewald.blogspot.com/2020/01/how-readers-relate-to-fiction.html?

What Inspired Me to Write Cozies by Karen Shughart

100_0103Many years ago, when my husband and I were living in a suburb in central Pennsylvania near Harrisburg, we decided to explore the south shore of Lake Ontario. The Memorial Day weekend was approaching, a time when we typically headed to beach towns in Delaware or Maryland.  That year, not wanting to deal with gridlock traffic, expensive hotels and wall-to-wall throngs of people, we were determined to do something different.

We looked at a map. If we headed directly north, we’d come to Sodus Point, NY, located on two peninsulas that jutted out onto Lake Ontario and Sodus Bay. We made a reservation at a bed and breakfast with views of the water and within walking distance to restaurants and shops.  On a cool, May morning we drove into this tiny village, passing a golf course, simple cottages, marinas with a forest of sailboats moored in slips, and further out on the bay, a lazy one or two gliding through the water.  I turned to my husband and said, “This is my dream town.”

We spent the weekend exploring, taking short drives to wineries located in the nearby Finger Lakes, walking along the sandy beach, touring the lovely museum that stood on a bluff a block from the bed and breakfast, and eating at maritime-themed restaurants that lined the bay.  We met people who welcomed us, and with absolute sincerity told us that if we came back to visit to get in touch. They meant it and today many of them, along with others, remain our friends.

Two weeks later we placed an offer on a property built more than a century earlier for an assistant lighthouse keeper, and by fall we were spending weekends and holidays in our quaint home by the sea.  Years later, after retiring, we sold our house in Pennsylvania and moved here permanently.

The charm, the weather (yes, it snows in the winter, and we do get lots of wind), the cozy pubs and intimate gatherings of friends, the bountiful growing season where lush orchards, vineyards and farms provide all manner of produce, the holiday celebrations, these gratify and satisfy. Plus, within a short drive, there’s access to a myriad of cultural venues you find in a large city.

Now I’ll get back to the reason for the title of this blog. I always wanted to write Cozies, and I always wanted them to be set in a small village by the sea. I can’t think of a better place for master sleuth, Edmund DeCleryk, and his wife, Annie, to solve crimes. When the wind blows in from the north, the snow comes in droves, the mud washes through the gullies, and I can hear the waves crashing upon the shore, I’m in my glory. Sitting at my computer, snug and warm on a winter’s day, I’m inspired. For me, there’s simply no better place than this for my imagination to soar.

Am I Crazy or What?

I’m doing my hiking plan for creativity and fitness this afternoon and I hit an intersection. I could on and catch a bus home, well, two buses, by just going straight. Or I could walk even further, catch only one bus and get some work done at the library. The problem? I’m getting tired, which given my health, can be a real issue. So, naturally, I went even further and am now at the library.

The book that needed the landing page

The other day, one of my laptops develops this big problem. One of the programs is getting triggered and asking for a password that I never set up. Kind of hard to get anything working when you don’t have the password. I get past it by cancelling the password demand multiple times until it stops popping up. But do I leave it at that? Noooo! I decide to re-install the operating system with a better version for that particular laptop. No, it didn’t go smoothly, but I kept at it until I had the new system up and running and the critical programs installed and working.

Then yesterday, after getting the above laptop going, I go to update a page on my sight that had gotten broken in a recent update, so did I just replace the elements on the page that I’d had there before? Of course not. I redesigned the page (it needed to be more mobile-friendly), and added yet another page because, well, I needed something to link to. I could have just added the link later when I’d gotten that second page up and running. Like I was going to do that.

In fact, several times this week and, oh, last month, when the website first broke, I have skipped the easy fix and gone for a better one, never mind how much this stuff was making me cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

Like with the walking thing. I pushed too far, which means I’ll pretty much be a wet noodle tomorrow. And that’s not good because I have to clean house for a thing on Sunday, which will involve getting things cleared away and not just dumped someplace else, like my husband does. That would be the easier way to do it, but then all that stuff will lay dumped and never get to the right spots, which will, in turn create more problems.

Which is why I seem to prefer going the extra distance. Too often, going with the easy fix just creates more trouble. I’d rather just get it done the right way the first time. Or as close to the right way as I can get it.

Take the webpage thing. The page that had broken was the landing page for my latest book (which was released last spring). The buy links had been dropped – not something that works real well when you’re trying to sell books. The reason I didn’t just go back to the old design was that it was using some bits of software, called plug-ins, that were messing things up for those of my readers using their phones to reach the page. I re-aligned the different elements on the page to put the buy buttons closer to the book cover… Well, you can see what I did here.

I also had to make two new buttons for the new links, convert one of the chapters to .pdf and make the page for the whole Old Los Angeles series – a page I’ve been planning posting anyway. I could have just added the link to the series page when I got around to actually building the series page, but it would have messed up the look of the book page in the meantime.

I will be refining the series page at some point in the future – it’s in the queue of website fixes I’ve got to do. But it’s looking reasonably good. I’m very pleased with how the book landing page came out, too. It was the longer fix, but it was the better fix.

What about you? Are you okay with the quick fix when needed or do you go the long way around?

New Year, Fresh Perspective by Paty Jager

I wasn’t a child who thought too much about the future. At least not beyond my own desires. There was a time when I wrote a story about being a writer and living on the Oregon Coast in a renovated barn. I would have two tigers as my pets. If you’ve ever read the “Cat Who” books by Lillian Jackson Braun, you know that the protagonist, Qwilleran, made walkways for his cats in his home. This was how I saw my barn, only the funny thing is, I’d never read one of the “Cat Who” books until later. When I did, it was deja vue and my mind went right back to that story I’d written in Jr. High

While I had dreams of being a writer as a teenager, it wasn’t until I had children that I decided to fulfill that dream. I started writing mystery. It was the genre I loved to read. But after two books and a bad start with finding help to make my books better, I segued into romance.

Three years ago, I decided to write what I had always wanted to write. I am a better writer, I’ve had enough classes on craft, and still read murder mystery books. I could do this. And I did.

The best part about how much I enjoy writing the mysteries, are the reader/fan emails I receive. All the years I wrote romance, I think I had a half dozen readers comment on how they enjoyed reading my books. With mystery, I receive something every week!

And a friend who has been with me on my road to becoming published, says my true voice comes out in my mysteries. It took me nearly 30 years to get back to the genre I love best, but I am here and I plan to stay writing murder mystery until my hands are so gnarled I can’t type anymore. 😉

As a writer, did you start with mystery or did you start in another genre? As a reader, have you always read mystery or did you discover it recently?

Oh, and the fresh perspective in the new year? I am only writing mystery. I’ve put writing romance books aside, so the mysteries can come faster!

Missye K. Clarke's Interview of PI-to-Be: Jay Vincent Pedregon

The heavens must love me–well, He does as He does all mankind, but that’s not this post :). Today’s update happens to coincide with the birthday of the Pedregon triumvirate of the McGuinness/Pedregon sleuthing crew. So without further ado, and a possible takeaway on spotlighting one of your cast to learn their world views, backstories, moral compasses, etc., here’s my spin on a fantastic writing tool you can tweak to move your stories along their tracks to The End. Oh, P.S.: Sorry if the following is all the way in bold type–I couldn’t get rid of one in a paragraph, so they were all reformatted. Technology. Gotta love it.

Take it away, Jay Vincent Pedregon!

**~~** **~~** **~~** **~~** **~~**

Thanks for a neat birthday gift, Missye. Hi, ladies! Cool to be here! I’m Jacob Vincent Pedregon–so says what my mom and dad listed on my birth cert. I go by Pedregon or J.V. from my wingdudes. My mom (Ingrid Pedregon) and dad (Angel Pedregon) call me Jay Vincent. My sister Andrea—whom I’ve affectionately called Hamdrea the Flute-Tooting Warthog until Ma and Dad made me quit it—calls me Jerk Vincent or Jay-Jay the Jet Lame in retaliation. It’s surprisingly funny, but I guess I deserve it. But I don’t stop thinking  of her Hamdrea label; she’s cursed with the getting-fat-looking-at-carbs genes from our mom’s side. My grandmother, Nana Grace, also calls me Jay Vincent, and my girl, a gorgeous private eye named Valerie Curtis, calls me Vincent–like that artist dude who did IrisesThat’s partly how I got my name; Ma and Nana go apesh*t over van Gogh’s works. And since my best friend Casper plays acoustic, it’s pretty kickass hearing him do Don McLean’s “Starry Night (Vincent)” sometimes. I didn’t even know my name had a song until C told me about it. 

Any details you care to share about your grandfather?
Timothy Black Elk Pedregon was full Lakota. He and Nana Grace were married in the early 1950s. He’d flown fighters in the Korean Conflict, but I don’t know much of who he’d been past that. He stroked out when I was five in the late 1990s. The two strong memories I have: he air-tossed me every night before I went to bed, and I helped him put together a WWI Sopwith “Camel” for Dad. To this day I still love the smell of model airplane glue, and Dad still has the bi-plane.

So yeah . . . I’m that Pedregon of the McGuinness/Pedregon Casebooks, but I’m not related to stock car racing guys Tony and Cruz of the same surname. It’s fun playing detective like Sherlock Holmes and Quincy and, okay, yeah, Scooby-Doo. But if I’ve one thing constructive to say about my place in these books, I’d love for Missye to get us in more trouble and for me be more than a pretty doorstop; I’m attaining my PI license, not the cousins. Still, Casper’s pretty swell helping me analyze motives, and Logan’s always-thinking-outside-the-norm in motives I’d be perspective-limited in a one-man operation. They’re more impactful than I first figured and really appreciate; doesn’t the Bible say with many advisors victory’s assured in the Old Testament someplace? I think it does. Anyways, overall, I think she’s doing a cracker-jack job with the plots and stories, considering us asshats she’s working with. I’m a little ticked the McGuinness dudes get top billing, but from an alphabetical standpoint, it makes sense. And it does sound nicer than the other way around. I’ll get into that a bit more—I’m a super-jealous guy, and it’s getting me into a sh*tload of trouble.

Life before the series . . . what’d you do?
Before she and I met in another story that ended up D.O.A. from her computer crash, I’d been homeschooled since I could remember. I had my first-ever public sewer—sorry, charter school—experience in junior year where JERSEY DOGS takes place. I love all things genetics: genomes, telomeres, RNA, DNA, chromosomes, genetic mutations, twin sets of DNA, or chimeras, mitochondrial, you name it. Nana Grace crafted these super-cool scavenger hunts to help me figure out the complexities of genetics, and got me into reading medical mysteries solving not-so-gruesome crimes with that unique blueprint every mammal has (go, Michael Crichton!). Animals, though, are different, but the same, too. Isn’t God cool how He did that?

Yeah, He is. Any friends before Casper and Logan?
Childhood acquaintances more like–none stuck around long enough to get to know me. People moved, got divorced, got feelin’ some kinda way over a stupid misunderstanding they wouldn’t talk out, family members died, homeschooling co-op groups broke up, blah, blah. When my sister was born—she’s three years younger—I grew really close to her and was crazy protective of her. I still am. Ma and Nana called me another dad to her, which I guess made my biologic father Angel Pedregon okay with it–to a point.

What else do you love aside from sleuthing?
I love dancing, flying, the colors of autumn, my friends, and family, minestrone, chocolate or blueberry milk, and B/W photography. I’m saving for a great film-loading camera to take shots for contests and for obvious private investigating surveillance. I love animals, too. I think in another life I’d’ve been a veterinarian, but in this life, I don’t have the patience or the headspace to learn the different systems animals have to treat them effectively. Cat systems aren’t like dog systems, and even then, domestic felines’ systems aren’t like the big feline ones. I also love learning. That’s one thing Missye and I have in common: we think learning new stuff is kickass. What we do with that knowledge depends on the need.

I also dig anything paranormal as does she. Remember that closing warehouse scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark? The scene from that same warehouse in Indiana Jones 4? Oh, man, THAT (Hands up if you want a look in those boxes, too!)! Angels, demons, ghosts, zero-gravity, flumes to other dimensions, the space-time continuum, clairaudients, clairsentients, clairvoyents, mediums, healers, shamans, EVPs, you name it. That sh*t is DOPE! Thank you, Rod Serling, for making The Twilight Zone a freakin’ THING!

But you HAVE to dislike something of yourself . . . right? Everybody does.
Why’d you go gettin’ me all emo for? (**sobering**) . . . Gimme a minute . . .

(**voice breaking slightly**) Don’t hate me, okay? I’ve a jealously streak to where it might border psychotic. I guess my good intentions, insecurities, and over-protectiveness for my sister and of my current girlfriend gets that about me out of hand. Having friends like Casper and Logan dig into my heart did me a world of good—I don’t like showing my emotions or my softer side. Or letting somebody know or see how much I like them, love them, hate them. Anyways . . . I’m in counseling now for behavior I shouldn’t’ve committed. Turns out, Missye witnessed her mother being abused when she was a very young girl, and she was powerless to stop it. Casebook 4’s gonna explore all facets of domestic violence more than from a guy to a gal. That’s what I did–DV from this guy to my girl. I hate myself for that and regret that act every day since.

Whew–that’s intense. Let’s go a little lighter–it’s your birthday, after all. 
Yeah, let’s do **grin**. So far, with the DV (domestic violence) mystery she’s got us in, we’re something like Archer or that Who Framed Roger Rabbit situation. I read the Gary K. Wolf book with most of the same cast. Movie’s nothing  at ALL like the book, but both are good in their own right. Anyways, you gotta wait and see how that Casebook turns out. But the mystery itself involves art and insurance fraud; the theme addressing domestic violence. It’s a pretty good blend of story, theme, and plot that push how Casper, Logan, and I interact with one another, and how our friendships moves from there. As the expression goes, though: it’ll get worse before things get better. Being friends in your teens is a helluva lot easier than keeping that friendship in adulthood. Maybe it’s because you know more than you should when you’re grown.

The weirdest thing that’s happened to you was–
Other than hearing a tiger cub’s thoughts through the iridium dust in my eyeglass frames, and landing upside down in a thick maple from an ambush attack I and Casper were in, I was almost constricted to death by a black mamba. Yep–gulp!–one of those that grow some 30 feet big, or where you see in news reports some poor dude in India getting swallowed whole by. I took some busted ribs, bruised kidneys, bruised intestines, a bruised liver, and lost my gallbladder when it ruptured in my sleep. I honestly don’t remember anything of the incident but going to sleep the night before and having trouble breathing in my sleep. I got the story firsthand from the guys and medical staff of the attack and after. Trust and believe, my mother had a pluperfect fit when she found out what happened. She’s still pissed I’m not a rent-a-cop in a toy and game store someplace. I told her there’s no action in that; who’d want to knock off a toy and game joint? I also told my parents, Nana Grace, Andrea, and my author I’m not scared to die—I can’t wait  to get on the other side, to be honest. But the ladies don’t see it that way. I suppose I’ll always be Ma’s, Missye’s, and my Nana’s firstborn baby bear. Dad says parents should never have to bury their children, that these things should be the other way around in a perfect world, but he also says when and if I have kids, I’ll understand his, Nana”s, and Ma’s points of view. If it happens, I suppose I will.

I heard through the pipeline you and Missye have a love-hate thing going on. Why? If so, what do you argue about?
(**laughing as he wipes under his eyes**) When she said I’d be dealing with heavy sh*t about domestic violence and I’d be the one dishing it, I. Was. PISSED!!!! I refused to talk to her for the longest time, to tell the truth. Then she did two things: She threatened to fire me by killing my character off. But when she went to the 2017 CrimeCon event in Indianapolis, I got my Golden Ticket, hey! All things crime! Animals to technology in solving crimes, cold case files and forensics everything!! Missye loves forensics too, turns out. She and the McGuinness dudes watched me make a complete, glorious, whole ass of myself that weekend (which the guys gave me sh*t for, but I hardly gave a damn). Her research aside, I let my guard down and let Missye get to know me. She’ll get to another CrimeCon event, her first mystery cruise, and her first Sleuthfest when budgets permit, and I cannot freakin’ wait!! But still . . . I’m pretty private. I don’t mean to be; it just is. I guess we’re both getting okay with knowing one another’s boundaries there.

You mentioned you’re not scared of death or dying.
Nope, not at all. 

Have you seen the other side? Heard first person reports about it? I guess what I’m asking is–why aren’t you afraid of death or dying?
What for? We all of us gotta go some time. Everything dies. Energy doesn’t. I haven’t personally seen anything on the other side, but I heard my wingdudes have. I haven’t told them this, but I overheard Missye say Logan’s had a positive NDE and Casper’s had a negative NDE (near-death experience). Both guys haven’t spelled out to me their experiences, and even my author’s had two of her own (both good, from what I understand). I’m patient–they’ll get around to telling me eventually. But on the whole, I truly believe there’s life after life. So, no . . . I’m not scared to go. 

Level with me–you have to be frightened of something.
Although my mom’s an oncology nurse and my dad’s head IT for a satellite cell phone company, they work odd hours and overtime to make ends meet–as you might’ve guessed, NYC’s not cheap. So during homeschool, Nana Grace taught my sister and me to seize our days–Carpe Diem. Fears are true phantoms; you make them bigger than they really are. That’s what I did. Save for one.

For the longest time, my biggest fear was I thought my author had been playing favorites. Not because I didn’t get top billing on the Casebooks; I explained that already. Missye, Logan, and C–that’s what I sometimes call Casper–they’re tight, man. Finish each other’s sentences, tight. Gab-twenty-six-nine, tight. I never wanted to tell them and her this, but I was seriously butthurt and feeling left out because of their closeness. I always knew Missye was reaching out to me, Casper, too, and she really pushed me, did everything she could think of to make me feel included. She even explained how complex love is, its different types, that one of our characters isn’t important over another, or one lords over the other. Didja ever hear of the Hedgehog’s Dilemma?

No. Explain that to me.
It means the closer we want to get, we’re too scared to because we’re gonna hurt each other in the process. Hedgehogs are cousins to porcupines, and in trying to mate, they’ll hurt one another in the process. So psychologists took that real event occurring in the animal kingdom and applied it to actual human relationships. To a degree, she, Casper, and I are hurting souls trying not to hurt one another . . . but as we’re all bruised, we’ll still hurt one another while trying to heal ourselves. Weird, right?

So I kept resisting because I really was scared she’d say anything to cover her lying to me. She got really pissed at this inference, and reached the point of know return: get my act together or else. I had to come around to realize I was wrong and let myself trust her; I knewshe trusted me, and to a big degree, believed in me. She wouldn’t’ve given me hell if I didn’t matter to her, or given me a girlfriend for the same reasons. C . . . not so much, since he and I’d had issues I’ll let the books explain (some were my fault, others were his), but he and I eventually come around. I guess I always knew my time was running out making this work with my author and the guys–hellooo, she’s an impatient Gemini!–which meant I had to come to terms with a lot of my own sh*t I didn’t want to face. And with her recently reminding me it was I who’d friendzoned her early in our relationship so her heart could accept another she’d forgotten about—a personal matter I won’t divulge further details–I’m doing what I can to fix it. I hope she thinks I’m doing a good job.

So does this make you happy?
Yeah–**sighing contentedly**–it does. Knowing now my author genuinely cares, no BScares like my Nana Grace and my parents do, like the guys, Rocket Dog, and Andrea do, and like my girlfriend does, is pretty freakin’ awesome.

What else makes you smile?
Cool Ranch Doritos, a frosty half dozen longnecks of Dream Weaver, and a big, thick, fat-ringed marbled porterhouse. And a long, unbothered sleep.

If you could rewrite any parts of your story, what would they be and why?
That I wouldn’t have put my hands on my current girlfriend in the first place. I wasn’t raised in a home with that violence, despite Dad loving MMA cage fights. Or that I obsessed so much on this off-limits female during the spring semester of my junior year at Sam Adams Freedom Academy, because the girl said I have gorgeous green eyes, her mother almost took out a restraining order on me. Dad found out. He adamantly assured the girl’s family I’d leave her alone if the order wasn’t filed, since he told her family his mother, Nana Grace, was beginning brain cancer treatments, and I was stressed by that (a slightly tiny fib, but he had to say something to keep Nana and Ma from finding out I’d been an asshole). When we got home and after Ma, Nana, and my sister went to bed, Dad lit me up good–and I wasn’t spanked since I was ten. In retro, that began my DV issues with my current lady, and I didn’t see the signs then like I do now in group and one-on-one counseling. Although this and many DV cases have a genesis, it’s still no excuse to give into that and behave badly.

Of your fellow series’ cast members, who pushes on your nerves most–and why?
That’s easy–Casper. It’s not that he bugs me per se. Remember how I said I’m a nut for anything paranormal? Casper admits he’s a naked paranormal atheist. So how come he gets to have some paranormal abilities in this series don’t have but want, but he  has and doesn’t want? That was another reason I was so pissed with Missye—this was her doing.

Or so I thought.

Authors get to play God. Painters, sculptors, musicians do, too. Musicians bend music in ways that make sense we get goosebumps from when we hear the finished piece. Painters blend colors you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins. A sculptor creates a bird from a piece of heated wood so beautifully, it could be a real bird frozen in time.

But God has to decide what’s best for those who need what they need, when they need it. Those who don’t can be magnanimous to help those who have what they do be sound in it. Missye thought it best I didn’t have this gift, but that I reach out to Casper to help him understand what he’s dealing with—and maybe why—but we’ll figure that out together, I expect. He’s scared to have it, but when I let myself trust Casper, he’ll relax some to know I care enough to help. So as you can see this goes full circle, much like God’s circle of life does.

Now which cast member would you trade places with?
(**shaking my head**) Would you believe . . . Casper?!? I know, right? I can’t sing a note, play a note, don’t have his eventual paranormal gifts he’s scared of .. . . but I’d love to know life behind his new-sidewalk grey eyes if I could. Maybe, at the end of the day, our fears and insecurities are the same, our dreams and what pisses us off are the same. Crazy AF, huh?

Tell us a little nip about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
I’m happy to see it’s this platform. And when funds permit, her website’ll be something cool; she’s still working on the name. I’m also hearing she’s a character in another mystery series one of my wingdudes is in; she’d kill me if I told you who, since he couldn’t keep his yap shut getting some hang time with her. His cousin’s thrilled for that McG, and if I’m being honest–so am I.

Why didn’t she ask me to participate in that series, you might be wondering? I didn’t want to. And we’re both good with that :-).

What’s next for Jay Vincent Pedregon?
Having a damn blast with my two best friends, eventually marrying my girlfriend, and being a surrogate uncle to twin girls. I’ll be a best man in one wedding—the other’s an elopement, but I’m not supposed to know, and I won’t blab which of the McGs who’ll do this, but I think it’s pretty slick. And she’s gonna FREAK in a good way at the idea!

Ultimately, I’m having fun getting to know my author, excited for the adventures she’ll put me in, and enjoying life. On the near horizon, I won’t look forward saying goodbye to Nana Grace. But when it’s my time, I’ll see Nana Grace and Timothy Black Elk again. When my author’s time comes, maybe she, me, and my wingdudes can have adventures ours alone that won’t  make it into a book!

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Happy Birthday Jay Vincent! I couldn’t be more proud of you! Many, many more joyous returns!

The Neglected Senses

In the middle of my current WIP I noticed that once again I’d fallen prey to my particular weakness in writing. I’m not the only one with this flaw but I have been working on correcting it. What is it? The tendency is something so obvious that I even wondered if I should write about it at all, but here it is. Despite all my workshops in which I encourage students to use all their senses when writing, I make the same mistake. I focus on the visual and sometimes the auditory and neglect the senses of taste and smell. (And in the above sentence I didn’t even mention the sense of touch.)

Writers are visual people. We tend to describe the landscape or an interior setting in great detail. We note clothing, especially as it indicates class or wealth, and physical mannerisms especially if they indicate emotional states or character. We tease out special feelings as two people become aware of each other, or we cogitate on clues, drawing the reader into the intricate web of evil. We feel the weather on our faces, our skin under a spring shower, or our fingers in thin gloves going numb in the cold. But we rarely catch a whiff of anything that matters–a lingering scent of a person we dislike or are suspicious of, a dinner of capons and carrots that distract us from a conversation we should be listening to.

In a recent mystery the protagonist enters a strange home where he will be staying and is visibly struck by the level of poverty of the village and the neglect in the home, but this is all visual. Poverty has a smell, and neglect has another smell. Because we don’t emphasize these experiences in our day-to-day lives, they may be harder to describe, but they are vivid for us when we undergo them.

When I’m confronted with a scene in which I want the olfactory sense to be dominant, I recall such experiences, usually around food but not always, and draw on those. These moments are never without people in them. I know these moments are important because I remember them so vividly, partly because of the unusual or captivating tastes and partly because of the environment or setting in which they occur and without which they would not.

During my first week in India, in 1976, I met a social worker who invited me to tea at her apartment. She was about my age, wearing a sweater over her sari (it was January in North India, which can get very chilly), and lived in an attractive two-bedroom apartment, small by Western standards but quite comfortable. She explained she was able to get this flat because of her occupation. (I’ve since learned that the job title Social Worker is closer to our Human Resources Director.) We sat on a small veranda/balcony for tea. Her maidservant (at that time, everyone in India had a maidservant, even the poor) brought in a plate of cheeses and samosas. The slice of cheese had been rolled in flour and dry roasted. I don’t know what kind of cheese, what flour, or what spices were used but to this day I remember this as one of the most succulent, delightful tastes my tongue has ever known.

When I walk through my neighborhood I sometimes notice a particular perfume and know that a certain woman has taken her afternoon walk. The fragrance isn’t strong in the usual sense but it does linger, and usually on the main street, rarely on side streets. Another aroma that still stands out is a cleaning material used mainly in Asia but starting to show up here. It was startling to encounter it in a store in New Hampshire until I remembered that this was an Asian grocery store.

All of these experiences remind me of how powerful taste and smell are in my life, and how effective they can be in deepening a mystery or adding to the description of a scene. One of my goals of the novel I’m currently working on is to use more of these two senses in the solution of the mystery as well as in the vividness of the story telling.