Gobble, Gobble

  Which do you like better, cats or dogs? Cats are phenomenal animals. They have surpassed dogs in popularity, but I suspect this is because we have a lot of city dwellers in apartments where space is at a premium. We could never short-shrift our canine buddies; dogs are pretty terrific, too. Most people I know have both when they can. I would if we had the room. In Japan, where many apartments are the size of closets, cats are almost revered, which from a feline’s point of view is only as it should be. This Thanksgiving, Yulie and Ellie want to reach out and wish all their four-footed friends a safe, happy, and tummy-filled holiday. Across the land shelters are filled with those less fortunate. Please remember them, too. To us, their two-footed friends, they advise to keep turkey-coated tinfoil out of harms way and not let pets get too freaked out from visitors or small hands that can paw harshly at them. Good memories and love to all, no matter how many feet we have. Or if we meow or bark. Happy Thanksgiving. To enter to win a Thanksgiving placemat for your cat’s cereal bowl, leave a comment and email your home address to heatherhavenstories@gmail.com.

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Down But Not Out

There is a part of me that hates the Fall. October and November seem to be the two months when I’m going to catch any germ running around. Fall is also social catch-up time, when everybody revs up for the holidays. As an example, just this week, due to a head cold that morphed into a sinus/eye infection, I will be missing three grand events. On the one hand, I could say how lucky I am to have a life where I attend such functions. On the other hand, I could say ‘poor me’. I’m going with the latter. On the plus side, while my health may be temporarily on the wobbly side, my new book, The Culinary Art of Murder, comes out November 27th (only 99¢ on pre-order). And even though my husband gave this upper respiratory infection to me, I still think he’s tops. Although in the future, he’s not allowed to come near me when he’s sick. Meanwhile, have a joyous Fall, everyone. Stay healthy. And if that’s not possible, remember you are blessed. “To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.” Dr. Seuss was pretty danged smart. Happy Thanksgiving.

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A Little Chit-chat With Cindy Sample And Me

              Cindy Sample, the talented writer of the humorous Laurel McKay Mystery Series, and I had a wonderful time on Sept. 9th, talking to the Norcal Sisters in Crime about Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Self-Publishing (but were afraid to ask). Cindy is the taller, elegant one on the left. For an hour and a half, we were led by our moderator and fellow Sister, Marla Cooper, another dazzling writer.

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I followed Walter Mosley!

No, not as a stalker but as a fellow author, and I am still jazzed about it. As part of Mystery Writers of America, I was one of eight authors doing a reading for Noir at the Bar for the Bay Area Book Festival on June 3rd. The other authors were (reading from right to left): moderator Tony Broadbent (standing), Bill Moody, Mysti Berry, Nick Mamatas, Walter Mosley, yours truly, Hans Olav Lahlum, Randall S. Brandt and Laurie R. King. Hope some of the surrounding talent rubbed off on me. I’d like to mention Walter Mosley, author of the fabulous Easy Rawlins Series. He read an excerpt from the first of the series, Devil in a Blue Dress. The man wears a mean fedora, is an incredible writer, and a fine reader. If you haven’t read this novel, please do so. You could even rent the movie starring Denzel Washington. Or do both;  you can’t go wrong. I am also a huge fan of Laurie R. King’s work. Among other works, she is author of the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. Let me mention, Ms. King is president of Mystery Writers of America, NoCal Chapter. Long may she reign. The lady lets no grass grow under her feet. Her latest novel, The Murder of Mary Russell, is mystery fiction at its finest.  But you could start with the first of her series, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. Whatever book of hers you pick up to read, once again, you can’t go wrong. I read from The CEO Came DOA, Book 5 of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries and to pound it into the ground, I followed Walter Mosley! I mean, how cool is that? I want that in my epitaph and on my tombstone!

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I Hold Charles Dickens Responsible

Decided to share this again. Since I was a child, I would watch countless adaptations of A Christmas Carol on TV and in the movies. I’ve seen variations of the character of Scrooge played by the likes of Alec Guinness, Susan Lucci, Jim Carrey, Vanessa Williams, and Scrooge McDuck. I even read the novel way back, when I was into a Reading the Classics Phase, which is a great phase to be in, frankly. We learn from the masters. In 25-words or less, A Christmas Carol is a story of a mean, hard-hearted person who hates Christmas and all it stands for i.e. love, charity, and warm fuzzy slippers. On that fateful Christmas Eve, if antacids had been around, the novel might have taken a different turn. Ebenezer Scrooge might have uttered, “Cripes! It was an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. Someone pass me a Tums.” But being a genius writer, Dickens has Scrooge find his inner self, thanks to an unending supply of colorful and inventive ghosts who are out to show he doesn’t have to be the rat-fink he thinks himself to be. It is touch and go for awhile, but kindness and mercy win out. Love of fellowman scores a touchdown. And we, the readers, cheer from the sidelines. Yes, you can be a B&BP (bigger and better person) if only you try. Taking this story to heart since I was around five-years old, I was convinced it was possible to help change a person’s character. Yes, enlighten them as to the good in everyone, help them to see the gentler part of humankind, that which sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, and you’ve got something. Although, according to Lila Hamilton Alvarez, the matriarch of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, what sets us apart from…

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Sisters in Crime, My Kinda Gals

Yesterday I attended the Sisters in Crime Northern California Chapter’s Annual Showcase. Authors of newly published books – one of which was me – were offered the opportunity of either reading an excerpt from the book, or in Camille Minichino‘s case, reading an essay one of her character’s had ‘written’ for the occasion. It was all upbeat, supportive, and charming. I think charm and talent pretty much describes this group. Walk a mile in our writing shoes we could say, and you’d know success in this field doesn’t come easily. But it has come to many within the group. Collectively and individually, we are all proud of any and all achievements. I tend to be nervous when I have to read my work. Furthermore, I never know what I’m going to ad-lib during the occasion. I often have babble-breath, whatever’s going on inside comes burbling up. And unedited. It is the stuff nightmares are made of. However, most of the women who read yesterday did their work credit. Calm and rational were they. And unbelievably charming. For the ones whose work I’ve already read, I said ‘Yup, they do it credit. It’s that good’. For the ones whose work I have yet to read, I said, “Gotta get that book’. And I did. Here’s a list of the other participating authors, whose new work was featured. Just click on each name for more info and to buy their novels via Amazon: Elin Barnes – A sweetheart, one of the heartbeats of SinC, and a mighty fine writer. I’ve read the first two books of the Darcy Lynch Series, and have pre-ordered the 3rd. I only have to wait until Nov 10th for it to arrive. Warning: Her series is addictive! Janet Dawson – This prolific writer was unable to come, but some lucky duck won…

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Naming A Book Is Almost As Important As Naming A Child

If you are less well known than Stephen King, your book titles (and covers) are of paramount importance in attracting new readers. Allowing for a slight exaggeration, each week about a million new books are published, glutting the market. Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, and so forth make it easy to publish a book. It’s pretty cheap, too.  Expect your dry cleaner or local dog walker to be putting one out any minute. Vanity Publishing. It’s all the rage. In fact, there are even programs for sale on the internet that will write the book for you. You merely provide a subject matter and it’s off. It will write paragraph after paragraph and keep on going until you tell it to stop. 15,000 words? 30? Just plug it in, baby, and go to a movie. A double feature if you want an 85K book. So we have arrived. Now the ‘author’ no longer needs to write a sentence in order to produce a book. Actually, you don’t even need to be in the same room. Naming a book is super important. This can cause a certain amount of trouble for actual writers trying to write actual books. Nowadays, you not only have to write a damned good book, you have to make people notice and choose it from the multitudes. To that end, you cannot spend too much time or thought in choosing the right book title (and cover). 1 – The title should be short and catchy – dare I say clever – pulling the reader in immediately. Even if they don’t know who the devil you are, ideally, the thumbnail image of the book should make them pause for a moment to look it over. My latest book, The CEO Came DOA, book five of the Alvarez Family Mysteries, I believe accomplishes…

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Halloween is Coming! And It’s Double Double Toil and Trouble!

It’s odd what can give birth to a series. The Persephone Cole Vintage Mysteries happened after years of research for my stand-alone circus noir mystery, Death of a Clown. I didn’t want all of the knowledge I’d gleaned of the nineteen-forties to go to waste! In addition, I had been challenged to write a mystery with a protagonist who wasn’t an ideal beauty, i.e. young, svelte, and beautiful. So I came up with Persephone (Percy) Cole, who I believe fills the criteria. Thirty-five years old – considered middle-aged in the forties – Percy is a five-foot eleven, full-figured gal, with a wicked sense of humor, and a take no prisoners’ attitude. Her one soft spot is her eight-year old son, Oliver, a child that gives her life meaning. Fortunately, when I created a character physically larger than most men of seventy plus years ago, I was offering up a woman who was quite comfortable with being a female Sam Spade. As one of the country’s first female private investigators, Percy fits into a man’s world at a time when few women did. The first of the series, The Dagger Before Me, takes place over Halloween in a Broadway theater during a production of Macbeth. I chose a Broadway theater because I worked backstage in most of them for many years. I am very familiar with what is often considered an exotic job in an exotic world. Celebrating Halloween, The Dagger Before Me is on sale from October 3 through 10 for only 99¢. Iced Diamonds takes place in the Diamond District of Manhattan, although sadly, I don’t know diamonds nearly as well as I know Broadway. However, I found the idea of a dead elf in the storefront window of a jeweler’s during the Christmas season mad fun to write about. The Chocolate Kiss-Off revolves around chocolate and murder. What could be better? Valentine’s Day is upon…

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Am I Emotionally Involved In Some Scenes I Write? Nooooo, Never!

Pretty much everyone knows the phrase ‘4th wall’ refers to that make-believe wall which separates those onstage from the audience in a theater. Theoretical, the ‘4th wall’ has been removed so the audience can vicariously experience whatever is happening onstage from a safe and neutral distance. But pish-tosh. Vicarious is not a part of my working vocabulary. Neutral is merely a gear on my car. When a character suffers, I suffer. If everyone onstage is sad and melancholy, that’s my lot in life, too, at least until the final curtain call. I am that audience member who weeps so loudly my sobs disturb everyone else. Sorry. I remember when I was writing the third book of the Alvarez Family Mystery Series, Death Runs in the Family. There  was a scene involving Lee Alvarez, protagonist, and the catnapping of her cat, Tugger, and his playmate, Baba. The two stolen felines were in the back of a station wagon on their way from Palo Alto, CA, to Las Vegas, NV. It would be around an eight hour drive, bad enough for two cats trapped in their carrier in the real world, but this was make believe, right? Well, not really. I had to stop in the middle of the scene, leaving it unfinished for the next three days. I don’t remember why, but at the time it was necessary. On the third night I awoke from a deep sleep completely distraught. Lying beside me, my husband sleepily asked what was wrong. “Darling,” I said, “I left those two cats in the back of the station wagon without food and water for three days! I have to go rescue them!” “You mean the cats in your book? The one’s you’re writing about? The fictional ones?” “Yes, but I can’t stand it. I have to free them. I have to finish the…

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