Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Not So Simple Gifts by Sharon Wildwind

Sharon Wildwind is a mystery author and multi-media artist. Her fifth book in the Elizabeth Pepperhawk/Avivah Rosen mystery series is due out soon. For more information about Sharon and her books, visit her web site, her Facebook fan page, or follow her occasional Tweets @sharww.

Not So Simple Gifts
by Sharon Wildwind

This started when I was in university. The day after the semester ended, I cranked up my Christmas Elf workshop. There were three problems with this:

1. Sometimes the semester didn’t end until December 20th.

2. I hate Christmas shopping. I especially hate Christmas shopping in the last 5 days before Christmas. Most of all, I hate places where Christmas carols play incessantly, and at loud volumes.

3. I never had much money.

However, I did have several pairs of knitting needles and, when I went home from university, access to a sewing machine. I also had an abiding love of hand-made things. The solution was to make everyone in my family a Christmas present.

There was one problem with this. The Christmas holidays were one of my prime writing times. I was so focused on my studies that I never considered doing any kind of writing, even keeping a journal, during the school year. What can I say, except that I was young and just getting my feet on the ground. Learning how to make a living (AKA studying) seemed so much more important than learning how to make a life (AKA writing).

So what was it going to be? Presents under the tree or pages in a file folder? Let’s just say that my family learned to accept promissory cards in their stockings. They eventually came to understand that not all gifts have to be given on December 25th. January 23 is a fine date for gifts. February 2 is, too. However, March is pushing it, especially if Easter is early that year.

In exchange for agreeing that Christmas could be a movable feast, they got the side benefits of inventive, hand-made gifts.

There was the year I decided that my gift theme would be whimsical animal totems. My niece, who loved to work out, got a Fitness Chicken with a “Be Healthy” bracelet around its ankle.

There was the year I enlarged cookie cutter shapes and made all the kids a pyjama bag in the shape of fish, butterflies, and flowers.

There was the year everyone got a word, suitable quilted into a miniature wall hanging. Doodle Food was for the professional chef, who liked to play with his food.

And there was the Christmas after a particularly hard year that everyone in the family got a box filled with hope—and a few chocolates.

They also got a few hand-made books out of the deal because I learned to write in my head while making things with my hands. More importantly, I learned to hold what I’d written in my head until I could get to my keyboard or journal. That is a very useful skill for an author because there are times when you simply can’t commit what in your head to paper right away.

So from the red-booted Christmas Elf’s workshop in the frozen Canadian north, I wish you happy creating, whether it’s on paper or in another medium of your choice. You still have another three weeks to Christmas. It’s not too late to start making those Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanzaa/Solstice gifts.

I’ve taken the handmade pledge. Have you?

I pledge to consider handmade alternatives for all of my purchases, whether they are for everyday items or gifts, for myself, my family or my friends.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Meanderings and Muses 2012 Guests

I posted an earlier version of next year's guest list back in September, but we've had a few additions that I wanted to share with you.

This past May my friends Lesa Holstine, Jen Forbus  and I had a blog conversation we called "Three Bookish Women," and it was a bunch of fun.  It was also well received.  And because it was both those things, I thought it would be fun to have more of the same here.  

And from this, the idea of "Women Chat About . . . ." conversations popped into mind.  I asked a few people if they would be interested and am tickled pink that so many agreed.  As usual, there's no set guidelines as to what the guests can talk about - nor is there a limit on their word count.  Sticking with what we've been doing - and know works, along with the addition of "conversations," this should be another terrific year at Meanderings and Muses.  I am ecstatic, as always, with the guest list, which includes many of our past guests, along with some new ones.

We're not having as many guests next year.  As I've mentioned a few times recently - as much as I love Meanderings and Muses - including every guest we've ever had, there are some additional things I want to do with my time in 2012.  I've allowed some of the things on my "want to do/want to learn" list to lie idle and I'd like to get them, and me, shaking and moving.  I've learned I'm just not able to do all the things I want and continue devoting as much time to Meanderings and Muses.  So, we're cutting back - but only a wee bit.  And only in numbers; not quality. 

One of the things I'm planning on doing is writing a little.  Not just the usual creative non-fiction that I enjoy so much, and will always do.  I'm trying my hand at fiction.  I have a couple of dear friends who also happen to be excellent writers giving me a lot of much needed advice, guidance and motivation.  If what I'm working on never sees the light of day it's certainly not because they didn't give it, and me, their best efforts, and more of their time than I deserve.  So, just cross your fingers and we'll see how it goes.

Anyhoo - back to the business at hand -

The Meanderings and Muses Guest Line-Up for 2012

January 8 - Reed Farrel Coleman
January 15 - Pat Browning
January 18 - "Two Women Chat About . . ." Carolyn Rose and Nancy Farina

January 22 - Jen Forbus
January 29 - Judy Hogan

Feb. 5 - Deborah Crombie
Feb. 12 - Julie Dolcemaschio
Feb. 19 - Sarah Byrne
Feb. 26 - Michael Wiley 

Mar. 4 - Andi Shechter 
Mar. 7 - "Two Women Chat About . . . " Cara Black and Denise Hamilton
Mar. 11 - Mike Orenduff
Mar. 18 - Katy Munger
Mar. 25 - Lesa Holstine

Aprl 1 - Margaret Maron
April 4 - "Two Women Chat About . . ." Julie Dolcemaschio and Shelly Fredman

April 8 - Linda Fairstein
April 15 - Earl Staggs
April 22 - JT Ellison

May 6 - Mary Jane Maffini
May 13 - Diane Chamberlain
May 16 - "Three Women Chat About . . . " Liz Zelvin, Avery Aames, and Krista Davis

May 20 - Evelyn David
May 27 - Patty Andersen

June 3 - Susan Anderson
June 10 - Julie Hyzy
June 17 - Beth Anderson
June 20 -
"Two Women Chat About . . . . " - Suzanne Adair and Ann Parker
June 24 - Shirley Wetzel

July 1 - Larry Karp
July 8 - Elizabeth Spann Craig
July 15 - Kari Wainwright
July 18 -
"Two Women Chat About . . . . " - Judy Hogan and Sasscer Hill
July 22 - Bo Parker
July 29 - Nancy Pickard

August 5 - Nancy Martin
August 12 - Bill Crider
August 19 - Tim Myers
August 26 - Meredith Cole

Sept. 2 - Cathy Lee Carper
Sept. 9 - Hank Phillippi Ryan
Sept. 16 - Jonathan Quist
Sept. 19 - "Two Women Chat About . . . . " - Hilary Davidson and Robin Spano

Sept. 23 - Bobbi Mumm
Sept. 30 - Kenneth R. Lewis

Oct. 7 - Vicki Lane
Oct. 14 - Wendy Bartlett
Oct. 21 - Sarah Shaber
Oct. 28 - Neil Plakcy

Nov. 4 - Gillian Roberts
Nov. 11 - Sharon Wildwind
Nov. 18 - Molly Weston

Dec. 2 - Toni McGee Causey
Dec. 9 - Jenny Milchman
Dec. 16 - Shane Gericke
Dec. 30 - Julia Buckley

It's gonna be a great year!  And once again - thanks to everyone; all the guests and all of you who continue to drop by.  It means a lot.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Animals of Cozies - Not as Fluffy as Some Would Have You Believe by Ellery Adams

Ellery Adams grew up on a beach near the Long Island Sound. Having spent her adult life in a series of landlocked towns, she cherishes her memories of open water, violent storms, and the smell of the sea. Now residing in Richmond, Virginia, Ellery writes the Books By the Bay mysteries featuring aspiring writers turned amateur sleuths. Her latest release, The Last Word: A Books By the Bay Mystery will be released December 6th. For more information, kindly visit

The Animals of Cozies – Not as Fluffy as Some Would Have You Believe
By Ellery Adams

I’m here to defend my genre.

Being aggressive goes against my typical congenial nature, but three things occurred in relative succession that have me kicking off my size ten shoes and inviting the cozy naysayers to slip them on for a spell.

  1. A panel moderator recently made fun of my having a standard poodle as my character’s “sidekick,” intimating that poodles are in no way cool.
-This made me rather indignant.

  1. A fellow author introduced their own work by stating (and I’m paraphrasing) that their book was not a cozy because their animals didn’t talk or solve crimes. Their animals behaved as they should: like animals.
-First of all, writers should support one another, no matter how our genres differ. We shouldn’t belittle another’s method, style, or characters. My canine character doesn’t talk, but if other authors can make that work than good for them!

  1. I received an email from a reader questioning my “right” to include a dog in my books when she knew from my Facebook posts that I had four cats at home and no dogs.
-My answer to this challenge will break your heart. If you can handle it, keep reading.

My protagonist, Olivia Limoges, has a unique relationship with her standard poodle, Captain Haviland. He’s constantly at her side. He is her shadow. No, he doesn’t talk, but he is extremely intuitive and intelligent – as many animals are.

He can respond to commands and have mercurial mood changes. He can track a scent, have a complex variety of facial expressions, and a dozen different ways of conveying feelings through noises and body language.

Haviland is a genuine character, but he also serves as a catalyst, allowing the reader a glimpse into the carefully guarded heart of his mistress. He’s not present to provide comic relief or silliness. He’s there because people (real or fictional) are their true selves around their animals and I wanted readers to see Olivia’s true self every now and then.

So if I write such a realistic dog, why don’t I have one? Here comes the tough part. When I was eighteen, I had a German shepherd named Maxwell. He was my Haviland. He was my heart. My shadow. He was brilliant and a tad naughty and my dearest companion. I got him as a confirmation gift when I turned thirteen and for five years, he was the love of my life.

I hated to go away to college and leave him. A few weeks after I’d gone, a local man was bitten by a large dog. Not by any of our three, mind you, but this guy didn’t care. He snapped. He loaded his gun and drove around the neighborhood shooting any large dog he could set his sights on.

Max was behind our front gate when he was shot. Like the guard dog he was, he’d come out to the edge of property to see whose strange scent had invaded his home. The man shot him in the back. Max dragged himself to the front door, which was no small distance, and lay down, partially paralyzed. He was suffering horribly. My mother said she’d never heard such a terrible sound come from an animal before.

My parents had him put him down and then called me. I screamed. I screamed and screamed and screamed until my roommate called the R.A. and I was sent to the infirmary. I drove home as soon as I could stop trembling to be with Max, but it was too late. He was gone. My darling boy had been murdered. 

Sure, the man was arrested and charged, but my heart was broken. I don’t use that term lightly. And it was about to be stopped on a little further. While I was home, my parents informed me that after 23 years of marriage, they were getting divorced. I staggered back to school, my entire world turned upside down.

I recovered, but there will be no more dogs for me. I still can’t talk about Max without the old pain contracting inside my heart. That’s why my dogs aren’t fluff. That’s why my books might be lacking on gore but don’t lack in substance. Because I have known all sorts of pain and its made me as deep and complex as my characters.

So think twice before assuming that an animal on the cover of a mystery novel means that the book is going to be a silly, vapid read. Cozies are filled with a vast array of social issues. Sometimes, the animals help bring some of man’s darkness to light. Sometimes, these fictional animals touch a reader in a way that a human character simply couldn’t. 

Sometimes, they can even help a wounded author heal. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A birthday reflection . . .

Today I've been celebrating the occasion of my birth 63 years ago.

Some people say they don't enjoy celebrating their birthdays once they've started getting older, but oh boy  -  I do.  

As I mentioned on Facebook earlier today, if you can't celebrate life on your very own birthday, what on earth is the point of it all?

And I do think life is to be celebrated.  Fully and completely.

Don't get me wrong - I know, also fully and completely, that it's not always great.  There are some hard times to get through, and we just do the best we can.

And it can sometimes feel like an Alice in Wonderland kind of world we're living in.


(have some cake!)

But you know, just embrace it the best you can when you can.

In the midst of enjoying birthday wishes today, and a fun birthday lunch with Donald, a totally random memory popped into my mind.  

I have no idea why, or where it came from, but here it is.

In a former life, BD (Before Donald) there were two former husbands.  Both were short-lived marriages - a story for another time.  

But anyhooooooo -


(have some more cake.  My friend Judy B. tells me today is National Cake Day!)

anyhooo - where were we?

oh, yeah -

Former husband guy used to love to tell people I was a diamond in the rough & he felt like it was his job to smooth out my rough edges.  It was said all in jest, of course.  uh huh.  sorta.  maybe.

I never really paid any attention and didn't give it much thought at the time, but it was one of those things that really pissed me off later.  After the marriage had ended and all those little "things" started coming back to me.  

If there's one thing I would like to say to him today, it's that I love my rough edges.  Truth be told, I've always enjoyed my rough edges.  They're part of what makes me me.  I'll never be a sophisticate, but I can hold my own.  I can also hold my own in some of the most red-neck bars in South Atlanta, and would probably still bump into people I know quite well if we were to pop into one tonight.

My point with all this is that the people who are in my life right now - those of you who have stopped by here - along with my Facebook friends, and other on-line friends, in addition to the friends I see pretty often (including that adorable guy I've been married to for over 25 years) - all know me for exactly who I am and accept me as I am.  And if I'm a diamond in the rough, or a plain ol lump of coal, it's okay.  And I gotta say - it's lovely to be accepted as who I am.  It's even lovelier though to like myself just fine as I am, and I do.    And I enjoy celebrating "me" as often as I can.  Especially on my birthday.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


As the holiday season rolls around, I'm thankful to have loved ones to share my holidays with.

These are all pictures that were taken last Christmas. 

I'm thankful to have Donald and Harley and my mom, Hazel.  And thankful they're all willing to wear furry Santa hats with me at Christmas.  (they are such good sports!).

And I'm thankful we have Donald's family, and thankful we're able to spend time with them during the Christmas holidays.

Sadly, there's one person not in these pictures.  He hasn't been in any Christmas pictures for a long, long time now.  But I miss him just as much today as I did the day he left us.

My dad.  Alan W. Wilkinson.

But I'm awfully thankful to have had him for as many years as we did.

Miss you dad.

love you.

Monday, November 21, 2011

There's news, and then there's news . . . . Happy Happy - - - Rant Rant

Here's a bit of news that has made me happy.  (extracted in part from the MWA webpage):

Mystery Writers of America announced Martha Grimes as their 2012 Grand Master.  I've been a fan of Ms. Grimes forever and reading this news this morning started my day off just right.  Hooray!  

Previous Grand Masters include Sara Paretsky, Dorothy Gilman, James Lee Burke, Sue Grafton, Bill Pronzini, Stephen King, Marcia Muller, Dick Francis, Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, P.D. James, Ellery Queen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene, and Agatha Christie.

The award will be presented to Ms. Grimes at The Edgar Awards Banquet in New York City on April 26, 2012.  

Also being presented at the banquet - the 2012 Raven Awards to one mystery bookstore and one outstanding individual supporting the mystery book genre, the award recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing.  The recipients are M is for Mystery in San Mateo, CA and Molly Weston of Meritorious Mysteries.

The 2012 Ellery Queen Award will be given to Joe Meyers of the Connecticut Post/Hearst Media News Group. The Ellery Queen award is given to editors or publishers who have distinguished themselves by their generous and wide-ranging support of the genre.

While I cannot claim the privilege of knowing Ms. Grimes, Joe Meyers or Ed and Jeannie Kaufmann who own M is for Mystery, I can proudly claim the ever-so-special Molly Weston as a friend.  I send heart-felt congratulations to everyone for the honor being bestowed upon them, and an extra special hug to Molly.  Well-deserved, sweetie! 

And then - there's the news that makes me feel like the top of my head is going to explode.

These little bits of news:

UC Davis Police Pepper-Spray Seated Students In Occupy Dispute (VIDEO) (UPDATES)

These two photos I pulled off of Facebook express my feelings to a "T" -



and if you're fed up, as I am, with congress getting in an uproar about us "regular folk" and Medicare/Medicaid - think about signing this petition:

Congress: If you voted against Medicare/Medicaid you shouldn't accept taxpayer-funded health insurance

"You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life."

- Winston Churchill

Sunday, November 20, 2011

An Unorthodox Pair O'Docs by Larry Karp

     Larry Karp grew up in Paterson, NJ and New York City. He practiced perinatal medicine (high-risk pregnancy care) and wrote general nonfiction books and articles for 25 years, then, in 1995, he left medical work to begin a second career, writing mystery novels. The backgrounds and settings of Larry's mysteries reflect many of his interests, including musical antiques, medical-ethical issues, and ragtime music. His most recent book, The Ragtime Fool, the third work in a ragtime-based historical mystery trilogy, is set during the ragtime revival of the 1950s.  Larry lives with his wife Myra in Seattle.
     Other mystery novels by Larry Karp include The King of Ragtime and The Ragtime Kid (the first and second books in the trilogy), First Do No Harm, The Midnight Special, Scamming the Birdman, and The Music Box Murders. Larry's mysteries have been finalists for the Daphne Du Maurier and Spotted Owl Awards, and have appeared on the Los Angeles Times and Seattle Times Best-Seller Lists.  The Ragtime Kid was San Marino CA's selection for its 2011 One Book/One City Event.
     Larry's nonfiction books include Genetic Engineering: Threat or Promise?, The View From The Vue, and The Enchanted Ear


Larry Karp

     Seventeen years ago, when I left medical work to write mystery novels full-time, there was one background I knew I was not going to write against.  After thirty years of total immersion in complicated pregnancies, I was ready for a clean break from medicine.

     During my medical career, by way of dragging my head out of my job for short stretches, I'd gotten into buying, selling, collecting and restoring antique music boxes.  The world of antiques is full of characters who are, to put it mildly, interesting, and my first three books comprised a series, set in New York, among music box aficionados.  The detective was a neurologist as well as a music box collector - well, why not?  What did I know about the lives of butchers, bakers, or chandlers?  I could have spent a lot of time finding out, or I could've gone ahead and written my first mystery with an amateur detective who used his medical knowledge to track down murderers, but never, ever treated a patient on the page.

     As I approached Book Four in the series, I remembered a story I'd wanted to write since I was a teenager, a book about a junkman who got rich selling scrap metal on the black market during World War II.  I'd made several tries at writing it over the years, but the story never went anywhere.

     Just at that time, I happened to read a newspaper story about a doctor in a small town in Georgia, many years ago, who ran a live-in clinic in his house for young women, mostly from well-off southern families, who found themselves in what then was called The Family Way.  Excuses were made for the girls (as they were then called) while they stayed for months at the doctor's facility until he delivered them and sold their babies to well-off couples looking to adopt.  Some of the people in his town thought the doctor was Satan Incarnate; others thought he was a saint.

     Then I remembered my childhood family doctor in Paterson, NJ, a G.P. with near-supernatural diagnostic abilities.  Instantly, he fused in my mind with the doc in the newspaper story to become Samuel Firestone, M.D., a friend of Murray Fleischman, my fictional junkman, and went right to work, pushing my long-stagnant story forward.  At first I refused to go along with this pushy doctor, but it felt like such a good story, I finally gave in.  We all have our price.  Never say never, ever.  Of FIRST, DO NO HARM, the Booklist reviewer wrote, "A triumph of storytelling - the juggling of the two narratives is flawless-that will hold readers as spellbound as a terrifying tale told 'round the campfire."

     With that story finally out of my system, I spent the next five years writing an historical-mystery trilogy that covered the story of ragtime music.  In the process, I did a ton of research, and enjoyed every minute...except for the nagging thought: what next?  I'd gladly have done another ragtime book, but the third volume of the trilogy clearly had closed the chain.  Anything else ragtime seemed anticlimactic.

     Coming up as I was on fifteen years away from thorny, worrisome obstetrical situations, the difficult memories, like those of childbirth pain itself, had eased considerably.  My mind meandered way back to my time as a research fellow, when I was studying the causes of chromosomal errors, such as those that underlie Down Syndrome.  The work involved laboratory fertilization of mouse eggs, basically the same procedure as was then being done in humans by doctors racing to be first to produce a human baby through in vitro fertilization.  The competition was intense, and I remember thinking, someone could end up murdered.  Then, a few years later, I became Medical Director of the Reproductive Genetics Lab at Seattle's Swedish Medical Center.  After a two-year competition with the University of Washington's team, the Swedish laboratory conceived the first IVF baby in the Pacific Northwest, and I delivered that baby.

     All right, I decided, an IVF-based mystery it would be. But the story wouldn't come - not until I remembered a particular doctor I'd worked with years before.  Most docs I've known really don't behave as if they think they're gods, but this guy could've run Zeus, Wotan, Ahura Mazda, and Jehovah into the ground.  If he'd been in the IVF chase, he'd have won or else, no matter what he might have needed to do.  As Dr. Colin Sanford, he couldn't wait to pit himself against a smart, tenacious police detective, to pull off A PERILOUS CONCEPTION.  And I couldn't wait to see whether he really could do it.

     Now I know.