Poise Versus Panic By Patricia Smith Wood

imageSince I’m a Gemini, I have many “twin” features. Sometimes I’m one side, sometimes I’m the other.

I’ll give you an example. I can often take two different sides of an argument. Not as much as I once could (I think I’m getting set in my ways), but when called upon, I can. That means I can sometimes talk myself “down off the ceiling” when I get upset about something, or am too invested in one outcome over another.

I think most of us would prefer to respond to problems with poise, as opposed to panic, but sometimes, we just don’t pull it off. I’m going to tell you about two women who did.

I belong to the Croak & Dagger New Mexico Chapter of Sisters in Crime. As most chapters do, we have an interesting speaker (or two) at each of our meetings. For our February meeting, our program chair had secured two very interesting women who just happened to also be members of our chapter. One was a medical doctor with lots of emergency room experience, and the other was a Ph.D. in biology who had been a dean at the University of Wisconsin. They would talk to us about poisons—a subject they were both well versed in. They had given the same talk to a large group of writers at a conference in Las Vegas last summer, and they graciously agreed to provide it for us.

Well, naturally, mystery writers are interested in ways to kill people, so we were looking forward to the presentation. The two experts were going to give us a slide show to impart their information. Our intrepid program chair had contacted the officials at our meeting place (a community center) and requested a slide projector and a laptop for the night of the meeting. This was not an unusual request, and we had often asked for and received equipment such as this for a program. Everything was on track.

Until it wasn’t. Our program chair showed up early at the community center and found only a projector set up in the room—not the needed laptop. She immediately contacted the front desk and inquired. She explained she had been promised the equipment would be there, ready for the presentation no later than 6:30. The two young women (volunteers) shrugged. They knew nothing. It wasn’t their job.

I arrived within seconds of these revelations. I’m the membership chair (and immediate past president) of the group. I hadn’t known there would be slide presentation so was surprised at the problem. I called my husband and asked him to bring a laptop to me which we had used a number of times for slide shows. He did. I tried to set it up, there was a problem. Nobody there knew how to fix it, including me.

If you were a presenter, how would you feel right about now? What would you do? Say you’ll do it another time? Throw up your hands and pout? That’s NOT what our two ladies did.

They used their notes (and the laptop screen) to go through their presentation verbally. They took turns, went through the list of most potent poisons and where they come from. They explained the ways in which someone might be introduced to each poison. They answered questions and thoroughly captured their audience. It was a wonderful presentation.

No, we, the audience, did not get to see the slides. I’m sure that would have been wonderful. But that isn’t the point. Some people (and maybe even me) might have lost their cool, thrown a tantrum because the equipment they needed wasn’t available, or walked out and left us without a program. Not these ladies.

They didn’t pout—they were (and are) poised. They behaved like the professionals they are. They showed us all how to react to a minor disaster.

Which is, as it turns out, to do whatever you can to fix it, but if you can’t, do the best you can under the circumstances. I must admit I was inspired as much by the way they handled the situation as I was with the actual presentation. It’s a lesson I hope I don’t soon forget.

When I grow up, I want to be just like those two ladies.

Walk the Walk by Paty Jager

paty shadow (1)The whole reason I picked an amateur sleuth was to avoid having to be too technical with cop speak and legalese.

I’m working on Book 8, Fatal Fall, in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series. Shandra has the flu and her boyfriend, Weippe County Detective Ryan Greer, has had more time in this book than in previous ones. I didn’t think this would be a problem. Usually Shandra is sleuthing, and Ryan is backing her up with his credentials. This book, he’s doing the investigating, and I find myself having to look up cop jargon and legal words.

My poor son-in-law who is in law enforcement has had more emails than he probably likes from his mother-in-law lately. 😉 I’ve also googled, and I remembered seeing a couple of blot posts on the crimescene yahoo group about cop speak.

I had a suspect who had been arrested before. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to say on felonies or misdemeanors. I googled and found a wonderful dictionary of legal terms that helped me out.


A lesser crime punishable by a fine and/or county jail time for up to one year. Misdemeanors are distinguished from felonies which can be punished by a state prison term. They are tried in the lowest local court such as municipal, police or justice courts. Typical misdemeanors include: petty theft, disturbing the peace, simple assault and battery, drunk driving without injury to others, drunkenness in public, various traffic violations, public nuisances, and some crimes which can be charged either as a felony or misdemeanor depending on the circumstances and the discretion of the District Attorney. “High crimes and misdemeanors” referred to in the U. S. Constitution are felonies.


A serious crime, characterized under federal law and many state statutes as any offense punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of one year. Under the early Common Law, felonies were crimes involving moral turpitude, those which violated the moral standards of a community. Later, however, crimes that did not involve moral turpitude became included in the definition of a felony. Presently many state statutes list various classes of felonies with penalties commensurate with the gravity of the offense. Crimes classified as felonies include, among others, Treason, Arson, murder, rape, Robbery, Burglary, Manslaughter, and Kidnapping.

I needed to know about warrants- I asked my son-in-law and Wikipedia.

Search warrant is a court order that a magistrate, judge or Supreme Court official issues to authorize law enforcement officers to conduct a search of a person, location, or vehicle for evidence of a crime and to confiscate any evidence they find.  Typically, a search warrant is required for searches police conduct in the course of a criminal investigation.

Since I am in the cop’s point of view so much, I needed to use words that I wouldn’t use for Shandra. This is where I remembered seeing, and I had thought I’d bookmarked, blogs that Lee Lofland had posted on the Crimescene and Sisters in Crime yahoo loops. I posted to the crimescene loop, and he sent me the URLs to the blog posts. Here they are for your viewing and perhaps writing pleasure.



All of this information will help to make my character, Detective Ryan Greer, sound as if he and I know what we’re talking about.

Have you ever come across a book where the character said or did something that didn’t jive with what you knew of their profession?


SH Mug Art


Guest Author Marianne Jones

Sisters in Crime (or The Birth of a Murder Mystery)

I blame my sister. For years she has been a huge mystery fan, especially of Agatha Christie and the various British detective series’ on television. I had been pursuing the literary life since childhood, and had published a mixed bag of poetry, dramas, short fiction, newspaper and magazine articles, and children’s books. Yet I had never considered attempting a murder mystery.

And then my sister Karen said to me one day, “You should write a murder mystery set in Thunder Bay.”

Thunder Bay, Ontario, our home town, is a small city in the center of Canada, nestled at the head of Lake Superior. It’s set in the midst of some of the loveliest natural beauty you’ll ever see, but because it is geographically isolated, most people are unaware of it. Those that are aware tend to ignore it. Karen thought that made it the ideal location for a good whodunit.

At first I dismissed the idea. But Karen is nothing if not persistent. Finally, I relented enough to say, “If you come up with an idea, I’ll write it.”

Of course, you know what happened. She called my bluff. She gave me a story idea loosely based on a disastrous women’s retreat she had attended. As she described the unfortunate event, I began to visualize my protagonists, middle-aged church ladies Margaret and Louise in the middle of it. At that point I was hooked, and The Serenity Stone Murder was conceived.

Sometimes I hit a snag with the story, and would call on Karen and her daughter Kirsti for advice. Over nachos and ciders at our favourite Thunder Bay restaurant, (appropriately called The Madhouse), the three of us partners in crime plotted together.

It was especially fun to write about Thunder Bay and the surrounding area, with its familiar landmarks. The fictional town of Jackpine, where my intrepid heroines reside, was modelled on any number of the small towns in Northwestern Ontario. Having lived in one of those small towns for five years, I knew well the winter longings of their residents to come to the “big city” of Thunder Bay for shopping and entertainment.

Writing CoverThe Serenity Stone Murder has been a fun ride. Happily, Stacey Voss, editor and owner of Split Tree Publishing, thought it was a great read as well. And readers from as far away as Kenya and New Zealand, have been enjoying it as well! So now there is no stopping Margaret and Louise. They’re already embarking on their next adventure—in the Thunder Bay region, of course!

The Serenity Stone Murder

What are two nice middle-aged church ladies doing at a New Age goddess conference? And what does it have to do with the mysterious death of Thunder Bay’s casino manager? Will Mary Carlisle, organist at St. Stephen’s Church, capture the heart of Thomas Greenfield, church gardener?

Find out the answers to these, and other burning questions in The Serenity Stone Murder, a kinder, gentler murder mystery set in Thunder Bay, Ontario, home of the Sleeping Giant, the Hoito Restaurant, and the world-famous Persion cinnamon bun. For those who like their mysteries served up with a side dish of humour.

Buy links: http://www.amazon.com/Serenity-Stone-Murder-Marianne-Jones-ebook/dp/B00ODELIZA




Writer Bio

Marianne Jones is a retired teacher from Thunder Bay, Ontario. Her work has appeared in Reader’s Digest, Canadian Living, The Globe and Mail, and numerous literary and denominational publications. Her books include The Land of Mogan, a children’s fantasy novel, Here, on the Ground, an award-winning collection of poetry, Great- Grandma’s Gifts, a picture book for preschool and early elementary, and The Serenity Stone Murder, a cozy mystery set in Thunder Bay.

Marianne has been named International Poet Laureate by Utmost Christian Writers. Her poetry has won numerous awards, and some of them are permanently installed at Prince Arthur’s Landing at Marina Park in Thunder Bay.

Social media links:

Facebook Author Page    https://www.facebook.com/MarianneJonesAuthor

Twitter                               https://www.twitter.com/MarianneJones@Mariann36863659

LinkedIn                             https://www.linkedin.com/mariannejones

Google+                             https://mail.google.com/jonesmarianne2@gmail.com

Goodreads                         https://www.goodreads.com/marianne   jones

Amazon Author Page       https://www.amazon.com/author/jonesmarianne

Website                         https://www.mariannejones.ca