Real-life Brush with the Law Makes for Great Inspiration

Underside of a car

Last week was quite a week, let me tell you. On New Year’s Eve, I was working from home and my parents warned me someone was approaching. A knock at the door around 4:30pm got me to leave my computer.

I need to properly set the scene. I worked from home that day because I had dropped a desk on my foot while my dad and I were moving it the night before and I needed to keep elevating and icing it (which would have been hard to do at the day job office). I was wearing Christmas leggings covered in wrapped presents, ornaments and candy canes (reminder: this was New Year’s Eve). My hair was up in a bun, no make-up, wearing a couple of tank tops. You get the idea.

I answer the door and I see a badge.

“Are you Lisa?”

“Yes.” My mind runs a million miles a minute. Why was there a police officer at my door? Was I being sued? Is someone hurt – but who – my parents were with me.

“Is that your car?” He points to my red sedan parked on the street (so my parents could have my parking spot).

“Yes.” Then I start thinking my car must have been hit.

The DETECTIVE introduces himself and begins to ask where I’d been on Sunday night because “something had been hit and run over.”

In that moment, my mind completely blanked on what I’d done the previous few days. I told him I’d been at work the day before (Monday). I remembered running errands Friday and I told him I’d been at home all weekend.

“You didn’t leave? Not even to get groceries?” He said it with a smile and he was very nice. But that didn’t make it any less embarrassing to admit that no, I had not left my house for two days.

He then told me a man had been hit, run over, and then left there. He was in the hospital in critical condition. They had surveillance footage showing a red sedan, similar to mine. Oh, and it happened right by my house.

Spoiler: last I heard, the man is in stable condition and getting better. Yay! I’m very relieved and wish him a speedy recovery.

The detective even said, “He was wearing black at night. He would have been hard to see.”

I swear that at that moment I was questioning everything. I was a wreck. I knew I hadn’t done it, but I found myself checking to see if I still take Ambien and could I have been sleep driving (I haven’t had Ambien in years).

With all of the true crime I watch/listen to, I even found myself wondering if I was making too much eye contact, not enough, was I helpful, too helpful. Ugh.

I offered to let him check out my car and he took me up on it (as a second cop approached my front door).

I went back inside to put on shoes and a sweatshirt and tell my parents what was happening. My adrenaline was pretty well spiked at that point.

Grabbing my keys, I walked them out to my car where a THIRD cop joined us. I’m sure my neighbors had fun speculating why there were three separate police vehicles with their drivers talking to me.

The detective got on the ground and pointed his flashlight all over the place. I tried to make awkward small talk and ask how the guy was without sounding guilty. IT WAS A MINEFIELD. To even worry about sounding guilty when I hadn’t done anything wrong.

He said he didn’t see anything, but asked if I’d be willing to take my car to their shop so they could raise it and look more closely.

I mean, yeah, of course, anything to help the investigation and clear myself. I knew a good defense attorney would want to make sure the police did their due diligence in clearing all nearby cars that could be suspect.

But still, I was pretty freaked out.

The detective texted on New Year’s Day to make arrangements for me to bring my car in the day after that. The whole car checking took less than five minutes. I barely had enough time to tell him I write cozy mysteries and had some new ideas based on the whole experience.

It was a wild ride, folks. But when someone asks me where I get my ideas? Now I have a good story to share.

Also, I’ve decided to pursue indie publishing my debut cozy and I’ll be doing so as Lisa Kinsley. Super pumped! I’ll be sure to share my journey here as I prepare for my (TBD) launch.

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.

 

 

New Release from Amber Foxx—Which May or May Not Be a Holiday Mystery

When I was working on Shadow Family, I didn’t think of it as holiday book, even though it starts on Christmas Eve and includes an unconventional New Year’s Eve celebration in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, the Turtle Ascension. (We don’t drop a ball; we raise a turtle in Healing Waters Plaza.) The season is part of the story, and the book came out in December, so maybe it is, in a no-tinsel-no-snowmen way, a holiday mystery. Or maybe not. I’ll let readers decide.

Happy New Year, and here’s my new book.

 

Shadow Family

The Seventh Mae Martin Psychic Mystery

An old flame, an old friend, and the ghost of an old enemy.

 As the holidays approach, Mae Martin thinks the only challenge in her life is the choice between two men. Should she reunite with Hubert, her steady, reliable ex-husband? Or move forward with Jamie, her unpredictable not-quite-ex boyfriend? But then, two trespassers break into Hubert’s house on Christmas Eve to commit the oddest crime in the history of Tylerton, North Carolina.

Hubert needs to go home to Tylerton and asks Mae to go with him, though it’s the last place she wants to be. Reluctantly, she agrees, but before they can leave, a stranger shows up at her house in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico looking for her stepdaughters, bringing the first news of their birth mother in seven years—news of her death.

The girls are finally ready to learn about her, but she was a mystery, not only to the husband and children she walked away from, but also to the friends in her new life. Now her past throws its shadow on them all. Through psychic journeys, unplanned road trips, and risky decisions, Mae searches for the truth about the woman whose children she raised, determined to protect them from the dark side of their family.

The Mae Martin Series

No murder, just mystery. Every life hides a secret, and love is the deepest mystery of all.

Amazon   Barnes and Noble   Apple   Kobo

Resolutions for 2020

2020 Happy New Year

I just wanted to write 2020. I can’t believe that amazing year is almost upon us. Frankly, I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, never have and not going to start now.

However, I do have some plan in place for the coming year—some are on my calendar already, others are what I’m hoping to do.

I am signed up for the PSWA conference in July, I haven’t missed one since I began as program chairman years ago—thankfully someone quite capable took my place a few years ago. If you’re interested, go to https://policewriter.com/ and check it out. It’s a great conference for mystery writers. You get to hear from and mingle with law enforcement and other public safety experts, and you can share your writing expertise by serving on a panel if you so desire. The early bird registration fee runs out at the end of December 31.

I have my regular writing meetings to attend: my weekly critique group, the Tulare Kings Writers and the San Joaquin Sisters in Crime monthly meetings. Hopefully I’ll make it over to the Central Coast Sisters in Crime meetings a couple of times.

I hope to finish and get my latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery finished, edited and published, and have plans to write the next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery. (Ideas are churning around in my head.) And of course, I’ll have to make plans for promoting both.

I’m planning a panel with two other writers to give at our local library, it’ll be called “Ask the Author.”

Hopefully, I’ll be participating in various book and craft fairs throughout the year.

That’s what comes to mind at the moment. I’m sure some of the more organized writers who participate on this blog have far more to report about their plans for the coming year.

No matter what comes up, whatever I do, I’ll enjoy every minute of it. Writing is my passion, meeting readers and writers is something I love.

And now, I’ll wish you all a wonderful New Year.

Marilyn

 

 

 

Guest Author- Lisa Lieberman

Cruising for Fun and Profit

by Lisa Lieberman

King Mongkut’s Palace in Siam

Historical mysteries are travel literature with a kick. You get to visit a different locale, exploring a distant place AND era. New vistas, new sensations: you want to experience it all and, to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, you don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble.

I’m the kind of writer who needs to immerse myself in a setting. The third book in my noir series takes place in Saigon, circa 1957, and builds off my favorite Graham Greene novel: Banished from the set of The Quiet American, actress Cara Walden stumbles onto a communist insurgency—and discovers her brother’s young Vietnamese lover right in the thick of it. How could I get myself to Asia?

Lecturing on the ship.

It turns out that luxury cruise lines are always looking for guest lecturers. I put together a a film and lecture series for Silversea entitled “Asia Through Hollywood’s Eyes,” a romp through classic movies featuring Asian characters and stories. From Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan through Cato in the Pink Panther series, pre-Code gems like Shanghai Express starring Marlene Dietrich (“It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily”) and the ever-fascinating Anna May Wong, beloved epics including The Good Earth and Bridge on the River Kwai, musicals including The King and I along with the best-forgotten Road to Singapore not to mention masterpieces based on Somerset Maugham stories and featuring the best leading ladies out there: The Painted Veil (Garbo), Rain (Joan Crawford), The Letter (Bette Davis).

Tai Chi with William

Okay, it took me the better part of a summer to research and write the lectures. I had to watch all the films (poor me . . .) and learn how to rip DVDs to make clips to embed in my presentations. I had to upgrade my wardrobe and get my bridge game back up to snuff. But October 17, 2015 found me at the five-star InterContinental Hotel in Hong Kong, doing Tai Chi by the pool with William to get the kinks out of my body after the nineteen-hour flight. Then I boarded the ship for the eleven-day all-expenses-paid cruise to Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Singapore and ports in-between. The highlights of my trip included tagging along as a chaperone on a tour of Hue, retracing Graham Greene’s footsteps through Saigon, and visiting the palace and temple grounds of the King of Siam, followed by a very expensive mojito in Somerset Maugham’s favorite watering hole, Bangkok’s Mandarin Oriental.

What an adventure!

The Glass Forest

A Cara Welden Mystery

Saigon, 1957: Banished from the set of The Quiet American, actress Cara Walden stumbles onto a communist insurgency-and discovers her brother’s young Vietnamese lover right in the thick of it. A bittersweet story of love and betrayal set in the early years of American involvement in the country, Lisa Lieberman’s tribute to Graham Greene shows us a Vietnam already simmering with discontent.

Universal buy link:https://books2read.com/liebermanglassforest

Lisa Lieberman writes the Cara Walden series of historical mysteries based on old movies and featuring blacklisted Hollywood people on the lam in dangerous international locales. Her books hit the sweet spot between Casablanca and John le Carré. Trained as a modern European cultural and intellectual historian, Lieberman abandoned a perfectly respectable academic career for the life of a vicarious adventurer through perilous times. She has written extensively on postwar Europe and lectures locally on efforts to come to terms with the trauma of the Holocaust in film and literature. She is Vice President of the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime and a member of Mystery Writers of America.

Website: https://deathlessprose.com/
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/LisaLiebermanAuthor/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/deathlessprose1/

Holiday Greetings

This is going to be short. I love the holidays, don’t get me wrong. I hate writing about them. If I write something sweet, it inevitably comes off as goopy and insincere. If I try to be funny and mildly sardonic, it comes off as cranky.

So, I’m going to post greetings in the form of pictures, sort of like you’d find in your friends’ annual holiday letters. These are my pets, by the way. I don’t post pictures of my adult daughter or husband in the interests of protecting their privacy. The dog and cats don’t care.

This is TobyWan, as in TobyWan is nosy. He’s part basset, part beagle.

Toby lives for cookies, which is why he’s looking so intently at my camera in this shot. He also lives for naps.

We call him the Drama Queen because of his wails as soon as we come home.

Meet Benzi. Doesn’t she look cute? She’s a terrorist at heart. Her full name is Benzedrine, but she’s also known the Benzo-matic and Purrr-bot. She’s got this weird chirping purr than makes her sound like a tribble.

This is Sadie Cat. We were going to call her Medusa, because she has the stare that can turn you to stone. But then we found out she had a name, and since she was 8 years old when we adopted her, it wasn’t fair to change it.

This is Xanax, demonstrating how she got her name. That isn’t just a lucky shot. She really does sleep like that. We’ll call her Xannikins, but she is also in the guise of the mild-mannered Puff. She is also a terrorist

Anyway, the best of holiday wishes to you and yours from all of us at The Old Homestead.

Books and Holidays by Karen Shughart

candles candlelight
Photo by Zenia Love on Pexels.com

I own a collection of beautifully illustrated children’s books, some from childhood and others I’ve collected throughout the years. I seem to be especially drawn to those about the holidays that occur this time of year.

What I love about these books is that the stories are charming, the endings typically happy, and it’s hard to not feel good after reading one of them on my own or to a curious and delighted child.  Plus, they are often colorfully and beautifully illustrated. I send books to my nieces and nephews and to friends’ children. Books are lasting, and what better way to share the joy of this season than by giving a book that represents the timelessness of the holiday.

I also like to browse in bookstores during this time of year, sometimes buying; sometimes not, but the sheer numbers of books that are available for people of all ages create excitement and a sense of wonder. I’ve gotten immersed in various versions of The Nutcracker, The Night Before Christmas, The Polar Express, an exquisitely illustrated  version of Robert Frost’s Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening,  and several that tell the story of a miracle that happened more than two thousand years ago that caused a light to burn for eight days instead of one and created the Jewish holiday of Chanukah.  Then there are the picture books and photography books that show gardens and parks in their splendor, books from arboretums and conservatories and nature preserves. If you want a sense of how beautiful the season is, take a look at one of those.

Curious about how cultures unlike my own celebrate the holidays, I’ve read books about Kwanzaa, the festival that recognizes the African diaspora and pays homage to African unity, heritage and culture in the United States and other countries; and Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, to name two. What strikes me is that all the holidays, however diverse, share one major theme:  the lighting of candles and the emphasis on light. Our lives certainly are made brighter during these short, dark days.

Some years we decorate a little more, sometimes less, depending on our schedule and our inclination. Without fail, each year around this time I put the coffee table books away and retrieve those we’ve lovingly collected over many years that represent the holidays. They’re pretty, yes, but it’s also a pleasure to reread and revisit them each year to help get into the spirit of the season.

I’m attracted to the books because they make me feel good. The messages of hope and redemption, the miracles we don’t think about much at other times, the beautiful and colorful illustrations and sometimes, even, the music and recipes that accompany them. There’s something in each that inspires me and causes me to reflect upon what this time of year really represents.