Family, Friends, and Food

I’ve been cooking a lot this year. More than usual. When our daughter stays at our house, I like to fix her a decent lunch before she leaves for her twelve-hour shift as a nurse. When I invite friends over, it’s usually for a meal. On holidays, I cook more. And I indulge. M.L. came for supper tonight and HH bought a 4-pound ribeye roast. (He loves them. So does she:). I used Sunny Anderson’s (on the Food Network) recipe for a coffee brine and rub, and I can recommend it. I didn’t grill our roast, used the oven, but boy, was it good. M.L. brought a homemade cherry pie, so we did our pre-holiday meal proud.

I really wanted to participate in Staci Troilo’s virtual cookie exchange this Thursday, but couldn’t pull it off in time. Instead, my sister and cousin are coming on Saturday to bake cookies with me and have supper together. I haven’t made a list of what we’ll bake yet, but there HAS to be peanut butter cookies because they’re both Jenny and Mary’s favorites. And we have to make my favorites–Nancy Fuller’s recipe for Molasses Ginger cookies. But two kinds of cookies aren’t enough for the holidays, so I’ll have to add a few more.

The kids can’t make it home on actual Christmas day, so they’re coming on Sunday and leaving on Monday instead. I’m making beef tenderloin, a big ham, and a few sides. Mary’s bringing her cheesy potatoes, and Holly’s making a yule log for dessert We don’t get too crazy trying new recipes for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter. We all look forward to tradition those days.

In my eighth Jazzi and Ansel books, Jazzi loves to cook, too, and invites her family to a meal every Sunday. But for the first time since she moved out of her parents’ house, she doesn’t have to host the Thanksgiving meal. Walker and Didi invite everyone to their house instead, and everyone’s bringing a dish, having a carry-in. Jazzi only has to make two turkeys, a ham, and pumpkin rolls. Ansel asks her to add deviled eggs. I don’t know about other houses, but there are deviled eggs at every one of our holiday meals. And they go fast.

After their Thanksgiving meal, Jazzi and Ansel don’t have to work on their fixer-upper until Monday, so they spend the weekend decorating their house for Christmas. They’re hosting it, as usual. And sleuthing–as usual..

Whether you have a tiny, intimate celebration, a small get-together, or a large crowd to celebrate the holidays this season, I wish you much happiness. These days, HH and I usually stay home on New Year’s Eve, alone, and celebrate the new year as a couple. And that’s wonderful, too. Happy December!


Finally Loaded!

I never, ever, NEVER want to cut it this close on loading a book again. But The Body in the Buick is finally loaded so it will come out on time on Dec. 21. And this leads me to share a few truths with you.

  1. Don’t start liking a character so much that he’s supposed to be the murderer, but you decide to make it someone else instead. I’m a PLOTTER. I know what happens in every chapter before I start writing a book. One small change affects EVERYTHING. A big change is asking for trouble.
  2. When you change course in the middle of a mystery, you have to go back to change A LOT of things. Up until that point, every clue adds up to the ending you planned. When you change that ending, you have to change every clue. And it’s not fun. Don’t do it. What was I thinking? After that, your plot points are all wonky. You have to change them, too.
  3. Give yourself some breathing room for when life hits you broadside and you can’t keep your usual schedule. It happens, and you just have to make the best of it.
  4. If you decide to write a holiday mystery, write it WAY ahead. Have it done months before you need it. Stress causes gray hairs. I have enough of them without encouraging more. And say thanks to L’Oreal for letting you stay a “natural” redhead.
  5. If you survive and save yourself from disaster, say a big THANK YOU, then REJOICE. Take a deep breath and slow down. Enjoy the things that go along with the season. Bake cookies. Send cards to friends. Watch Christmas movies. And have a wonderful holiday!
  6. Happy December, everyone!

The Three Acts: Act 3

You know that they say the beginning of a book hooks your reader. The end determines if they buy your next book. Craig gives a great wrap-up on what the ending should be.

Story Empire

Hi again, gang. Craig with you once more to continue my series on Three Act Structure. If you’re coming in here, the previous posts were Act 1, Act 2 Part 1, and Act 2 Part 2.

By this point, we’ve come up with a plan and experienced absolute disaster. Our main character had to regroup, then work some things out on the fly. He or she wound up at the main antagonist’s door, which brings us to Act 3.

We roughed out a system for a hundred-thousand words by dedicating 25K to each section. Act 3 is usually the shortest one, and you have two things to accomplish. First is the final climax or battle, followed by the denouement. Whatever you do, don’t shoot for precisely 25K per section. You have the right to vary, but it makes for a nice general plan.

In the classic…

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The Three Acts: Act 2, Part 2

I was out of town when this blog came out. Glad I found it. A great description of part 2, act 2 in a story.

Story Empire

Hi again, gang. Craig with you once more to continue my series on Three Act Structure. If you’re coming in here, the previous posts were Act 1, and Act 2 Part 1.

At this point, we’ve established the environment of the story, met the main character and any quirks he/she might have. We also introduced the main story problem. Then we formed a plan to remedy said problem and executed that plan. It ended in a major disaster. (Read back for a lot more detail.)

I’m kind of proud of one of my lines, so I’m going to repeat it here: Your hero cannot rise from the ashes until he’s been reduced to ashes in the first place. That’s where we begin this section.

Personal observation: This section is always my middle slog. It’s the hardest part for me to write.

I’m going to open with something…

View original post 926 more words

Only half dead. Will be wiped out by Friday.

Our second grandson lives in Oxnard, California–about an hour north of L.A. He’s finally out of the military, so HH and I and our nurse daughter (Nate’s mom) flew out to see him and his serious girlfriend. We just got home today (late afternoon Tuesday). Nate and Jenna went WAY out of their way to show us a good time. HH’s brother, who lives in Oakland, took the train down to join us. We got an airbnb and had a wonderful time.

We went to Santa Barbara to eat and shop the first day because Nate knows how much I love sightseeing, and it’s beautiful there. We went out on a wharf and I bought salt-water taffy, a secret vice of mine, and then stopped at a restaurant to eat seafood. A perfect day. Then he drove us to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, because there’s Reagan’s Air Force One plane there,. along with an Air Force One helicopter–HH loves train and air museums–and there’s a stealth bomber on display because Nate, HH, and Holly read the book Skunk Works—(don’t ask me.) HH, Nate, and Holly loved it. I enjoyed it. So did HH’s brother, so it was a good day.

The only snag was coming home. Our flight got delayed because of a computer problem, so we sat in the airplane for two hours before take-off and a 4-hour trip home. Lucky for me, I was reading C.S. Boyack’s WRECK OF THE LANTERNFISH, so that helped pass the time. We didn’t get back to Indy until 2:00 in the morning without much to eat but found a 24-hour Burger King so we didn’t starve before going to Holly’s apartment and crashing. We had a slow start this morning but finally got back to our house at about three this afternoon. We were all dead, so took a break before I started making chicken for my writers’ club carry-in tomorrow. On Thursday, I’m going to my cousin’s holiday appetizer party at the assisted living home she’s at. And on Friday? I’m sleeping in and being a bum. Too much fun makes me tired anymore:)

Hope you’ve had a great start to your December!


This scene comes from The Body in the Buick, due to release December 21. Jerod’s dad, Eli, had to fire one of the mechanics who worked at his car repair shop for charging people for repairs they didn’t need. Vince was the first person Eli hired when he started his shop. He liked and trusted him. But something had been bothering Vince lately, something big.

Gaff walked toward them, and when they saw his somber expression, they all stopped work to gather around him.  He looked at Jerod. “When your dad got to work this morning, Vince’s old-school Buick was parked outside the fence.”

Jerod hesitated.  “He was driving that on Saturday when he went to see Dad.  Did he come to ask for his job back?”

Gaff shook his head.  “Your dad and Jarrett went out to look at it and noticed blood smeared on the trunk.”

“Jarrett was at the shop early?” Jazzi asked.

“He had a six-thirty-a.m. client,” Gaff explained.  “The guy was waiting for him when he pulled into the lot, so he had to get straight to work.  The minute he finished work on the car, the client hurried to his job.”

“And that’s when Dad came?” Jerod asked.

Gaff nodded.  “He and Jarrett popped the trunk on the Buick and found Vince’s body.  It had probably been in there from the time Vince disappeared.  Not in great condition.”

Jazzi wrinkled her nose.  “Was there anything on the security camera?”

“Someone drove the Buick to the fence late on Saturday, parked it, got out, and walked away from the cameras.  Wore a long, black overcoat down to his ankles, a black ski mask, gloves, and black gym shoes.  Probably tossed them all or burned them.  No way to identify him or her.  Can’t tell anything, nothing distinguishing “

Jerod leaned against his shovel handle, looking troubled.  “How did Dad take it?”

Gaff grimaced.  “Not so good.  He really liked Vince, says this whole scam thing is hard to believe, that Vince wasn’t like that.”  Gaff looked directly at Jazzi.  “He said your grandma predicted that Vince had died and it had been bothering him ever since.”

Jazzi nodded.  “If Gran is right…”  She hesitated.  They all knew Gran was always right.  “She saw him, and then the vision went dark.  She said he was going to have it out with someone.”

Gaff sighed.  “I don’t know why people won’t come to us when they need help.”

Jerod gave him a look.  “Probably because he did something wrong, too, and didn’t want to end up in jail.”

“That’s better than dead,” Gaff argued.

“How many people think of that as the alternative?”  Jerod turned to Jazzi.  “You’re going to help figure out what happened, aren’t you?”

Gaff jumped in.  “Eli asked for me to involve you, too.  Are you up for it, though?  I mean…”  His gaze went to her midriff.  “I heard. . .”

“That I’m pregnant?”  What?  Now her brain didn’t work when she was with child?  She swallowed her annoyance.  She looked at Ansel, who nodded yes.  “How can we say no to Eli?” she said.  “He and Eleanor let us use their lake cottage when they’re on vacation.  They’re family.”

Gaff smiled.  “Good, people really do talk more when you’re with me.  I’m going to visit Vince’s wife and brother tomorrow.  Want to come?”

“Sure, just call me when you’re ready to go.”


I finally typed the words The End on the last page of my manuscript. It still needs some rewrites, a little tweaking, but my critique partners have told me I’m in good shape. Nothing major. So I put The Body in the Buick up for preorder with a release date of December 21. That’s late for a Thanksgiving/Christmas story time frame. I know I barely scraped through before it was too late. To apologize, I’m offering the book for $2.99 from now thru January 9.

I hope you have a wonderful December. Mine won’t be as panicked as I’d feared. I can enjoy the trip we planned to see my grandson for a few days. We’ll get to see where he lives in California for the first time. And I’ll be back in plenty of time to pound the keys and fix any touch-ups my friends have circled in red. And thanks to all who sent kind words and encouragement when I was sweating it.

Only in my books

I think it’s going to be a long time before there’s another baby in my life. Both boys of my daughter who’s a nurse are in their twenties. The older one and his wife said they’re in no hurry to start a family. They’re happy with their careers. My younger skipped college when he graduated from high school, joined the marines, and is only starting college now. My second daughter in Florida and her husband sent us a picture of their dog and told us it was the only grand anything to expect from them. LOL. And that’s fine.

When HH and I got married, though, he wanted to start a family right away. Me? Not so much. I’d started teaching and loved it. I had enough kids in my classroom every day, and some of them showed up on our front porch steps on the weekends. I could wait to have a kid of my own. First, we waited until I got my Master’s degree. Then we waited for me to sign my fifth contract and get tenure. And then, I signed my sixth contract to get my life license. None of it did me any good, because Indiana changed its laws for teaching, and after I stayed home with my girls until they started school, and then wanted to go back, no one would hire me or anyone with a Masters because they had to pay us more. Go figure. But I made Ansel like HH when he and Jazzi got married, wanting to start a family as soon as possible. Like HH, though, he respects her wishes, so they put it off for a while.

At the end of book 7, The Body in the Trench, Jazzi tells Ansel she’s ready. And he’s excited. So excited, he did what HH did. Jazzi woke up every morning to have a thermometer pushed under her tongue. HH kept a chart for the optimum times to get pregnant. And when I finally did test positive, he could finally relax. But that’s where the comparison ends. In book 8, when Jazzi tells Ansel the good news, he’s ecstatic and wants to swaddle her and protect her. She has to fight to be able to keep working on the fixer-upper with him.

My daughter read the first fifty pages of the new book and complained. “I think Ansel would want to tell the world right away. He’d want to choose names and go out to buy baby furniture. He’d get a little crazy.”

She was right, but that’s not the way it happened for me, so that’s not the way I wrote it at first. HH was so sure I was healthy and fine, he didn’t fuss over me much at all. As a matter of fact, when I had our baby, (like any good Hoosier), it was March madness, so HH stayed home the first night to watch his favorite team play. Thankfully, they lost, or I might not have seen him until it was time for him to pick me up. LOL. We both lived through it, but it was dicier for him:)

Anyway, having Jazzi and Ansel start a family brought back lots of memories for me. Like me, Jazzi never gets morning sickness. The bigger she gets, the better she feels. She hasn’t started to show in this book. I’ll worry about that in the next one. And I’ll have to worry about what she can and can’t do, too. But my doctor let me do quite a bit. I was hanging wallpaper when my labor pains started. I have lots to look forward to in book 9.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This has been a hard year, harder in some ways than last year and the Covid pandemic. But the truth is, when all’s said and done, I’m one lucky person. I’m surrounded by people who love me. Always have been, even if there were bumps along the way. I have a roof over my head and I’m not destitute or worrying about where my next meal will come from. I have security that many people don’t have. And I get to write. And I love that. So I can’t complain. Okay, I still do, but that’s me. But I know that I’m lucky and there are people who aren’t. And I hope that someday, all of us will have enough–enough food, enough love, and enough security. The sooner that happens for all of us, the better.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Good Luck!

Best laid plans…and all that. I’ve mentioned before that our daughter stays at our place when she comes to town to work (usually three nights in a row) as a traveling nurse. We love getting to see her. So much so, it’s eaten into some of my writing time. But she leaves for work at 2:15 in the afternoon, and I can still squeeze in a few hours on the days I’m naughty and yak instead of write. And after she leaves on the fourth day, I have her days off to write.

IF her car works. Last month, she couldn’t return home to Indy because it kept overheating. She couldn’t trust it for a two-and-a-half-hour drive, so she took it to a shop close to us and was stranded here. Definitely a few no-writing days. By the time she got it back, it was a work day again, so she never got to home. This last weekend, she’d packed her trunk full of clothes and presents to drive from our house to Detroit to see her BFF from childhood. BUT, the car broke down again. And this time, the fix wasn’t going to be cheap or quick. Repair shops are busier than ever. And since she drives all the time for her job, she decided to buy a new car that will be dependable.

BUT, it’s not easy to buy a good used car or a new car right now! The pandemic has made it so that she found three cars she wanted, called to put an offer on them, and they were all sold before she found them and made the call. This happened over and over again! The local news keeps saying the same thing about the housing market here. If a decent house is listed, it’s gone before the day’s out. Realtors keep warning people not to sell their houses unless they have somewhere else to go. According to the paper, it’s even hard to find a good place to rent.

That must be what it’s like to be a New York Times best-selling writer. You put your book up, and everyone starts buying it. How wonderful would that feel?! Anyway, I have a whole day tomorrow to write. Heaven. And then there’s Thanksgiving, and I’m having my sister and cousin over for steaks and French fries, since that’s their favorite. My daughter works, and my grandsons can’t make it home. So, Thanksgiving’s going to be small this year, and I think I’m ready for that. This has been such a weird year, why have a normal Thanksgiving? On Friday, my sister and HH and I are doing the local Christmas attractions–the Festival of Trees, the Gingerbread exhibit, and the Botanical Gardens, then we’re going to Coney Island. Untraditional. And it sounds great. Then…on the weekend, I can write until my fingers cramp. And I’M SO READY!

Whatever you’re doing for the holiday, I hope you have a great one! Enjoy. And happy writing and reading.