Saturday, May 23, 2020

Cricket Summer

For those readers of mine who like to ask me where I get the ideas for stories, here's the truth about Summer of the Cricket.

Years ago when I was a young newly wed and my husband was stationed in Texas, we lived in the apartment building described in this story.

 Winnie and Joe were real people, although not with those names. And the events that followed did indeed happen.

I fictionalized our jobs and layoffs. Obviously we were in no danger of being unemployed. Nobody gets laid off from the military.

 Soon after this story happened my guy was transferred, which happens frequently in the military, and then his enlistment ended and we moved on with our lives. I never knew what became of Winnie and Joe but I also never forgot them. Years later when I started writing I remembered every scene, everything that was ever said.

Yup, that's where I got the idea.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Little Egypt Bean Salad 15

Looking for a salad to make ahead for the Fourth of July? This one tastes better if made the day before.

The name comes from Cairo, Illinois (pronounced Kay - roe), in an area known as Little Egypt, near the junction of the Wabash and Mississippi rivers. My first introduction to the salad was at a picnic near the docks where catfish were sold from the boats and cooked in a park with picnic tables.

If the name Cairo sounds familiar, you must be a Huckleberry Finn fan. Huck and his friend Jim were trying to raft across the Mississippi River from Missouri, a slave state, to Illinois, a free state. Cairo was the closest destination.

Determine amounts by the number of people and your personal taste preferences. I was told, find a potato salad recipe and replace the potatoes with kidney beans. Or try my favorite variation --

canned kidney beans
chopped onion, yellow or sweet
sweet pickle relish
chopped celery
favorite creamy salad dressing

MIX and put in a Tupperwear type container, and store in the refrigerator overnight.

Optional ingredients include chopped hard boiled eggs and parsley.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Smashed 13

A kind reader wrote to thank me for the short story Smashed.  I replied by giving the reader the true source of the story. So here it is.
"Thanks so much! The story happened to my sister. She went to her car in the grocery lot and the steering wheel was bent down and the seat cushion twisted. She never could figure out how it happened so I made up an explanation. She had to get a repairman out and he repaired but like her, he couldn’t guess the cause."

I must admit that most of my story ideas grow out of things that happen to me and to my relatives and friends. Yes, I add a lot of fiction.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Small House on Pilings 96.

Once upon a time I shared an apartment with two other working women. One of them had, in her recent past, woken up to her wedding day and handled it as described in the story A Small House on Pilings. And then she changed her name and moved to California where we shared an apartment with a third friend, and explained to us why she had changed her name. It was an unforgettable tale and although I have changed names and locations and a few details, most of what happened was exactly as she described it. I am sure you can figure out the reason for her name change. Yeah. He was not amused, and yeah, he had a shotgun.

This story is included with another short story in a booklet titled Tales of Lovers and Liars.

Maybe I should mention here that the other story is Scent of Nicotiana. It, too, is based on an experience of a friend of mine who worked as an emergency room nurse.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Valentine Vampire 98

My short story Valentine Vampire is a romantic version of the Chicago Valentine’s Day Massacre, result of a rivalry between the gangs of Al Capone and Bugs Moran.

My connection to the historical event is this.

My grandmother was on the second floor near a window when the guns went off in what was usually a quiet, peaceful neighborhood. On February 14, 1929, she and everyone else in the area heard the shotguns and submachine guns in a Clark St. garage two blocks away. They had to wait for the newspapers to learn the details of what was soon labeled The St. Valentine's Day Massacre. The story was passed along through the next two generations of her family and eventually worked its way into my fiction.

I used it as the background of Valentine Vampire, a short story about a character in Vampire Career, the first novel in my Turning Vampire series.

Also, Charley Royal, a character in the Sunspinner series, claims he was there, but Charley sometimes exaggerates.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dog in highrise 32

A friend lives in one of those lovely high rise apartments in Seattle, views out every window that she loves, gas fireplace in the living room that her little dog loves, heavenly set up except when her small and aging pet barks and wakes her in the middle of the night to demand a walk outside. Well, she’s had the doggie forever, worries about its creaky joints constantly, and does whatever she can to keep it comfortable.

So last week it woke her at 2 in the morning, woke her from a deep sleep. She stumbled around, managed to pull on her raincoat over her pajamas and stuff her feet into rain boots. Through half closed eyes she did find the leash, clicked it onto the dog’s collar, remembered to grab her keys, and then got them both onto the elevator. And then she leaned back against the elevator wall and got as near to sleep as one can while remaining standing.

And a friendly voice from overhead (God? mugger?) said, “Oh, is the little dog sick tonight?” She kept her eyes closed while she thought. She knew there was no one else on the elevator. It might be easier to pretend to herself she was still in bed asleep and having a bad dream.  And the voice said, “I hope everything is all right.”

At that point she realized the voice was the building’s security man who could see her on the safety monitors. And when the elevator reached the main floor, there he was at the front desk, watching for her and so concerned about her dog she couldn’t tell him that she had spent a couple minutes wondering if he was God or a mugger.

Have you ever had anything like that happen? Sometimes people tell me real events that I am not sure anyone would accept if I put them in a novel.


Monday, December 15, 2014

UF Who? 5

When one of my UF novels ended up in a boxed collection of 8 novels by 7 authors, a publicist sent out questions for each of us to answer. And here are mine:


In Urban Fantasy the location of the story is often more than just a setting; it’s a character, and influences in what happens in the story. Does the city in your story have such and impact and how?

The Sunspinners series is set in a wealthy neighborhood where neighbors politely ignore the protagonist’s household. Possibly they assume there is an insane auntie in the upstairs room, complete with a Jane Eyre nurse. This allows the paranormal family to function without interruptions. Across town is the neighborhood setting of the Mudflat Magic series and is the opposite in that all the low income families in Mudflat know everything about each other. This creates totally different plot complications.

Some Urban Fantasy stories have a divide between the people and creatures who use and know magic and the normal everyday humans. Do you think this affects how some characters respond to emergencies?

Weak magic runs through the Mudflat families and results in them covering for each other. The paranormal sunspinners would love to have a little magic. It would make their lives so much easier. Instead all they have is a normal everyday human to cover for them and yes, it affects their behavior. They have added more security devices to their home than ADT ever dreamed of. 

While not every Urban Fantasy story uses classic monsters, there’s a lot of them in the genre.  How has the use of monsters changed over the years and what makes your monsters unique if you use any of them?
There are earthdemons threatening the sunspinners, and they are a specific race and unrelated to classic monsters. In Mudflat the monsters usually look like normal people so are hard to spot. None of my monsters are based on any I have ever read about. I like to think up my own creatures.

While Urban Fantasy is popular right now, not every one enjoys all aspects of the subgenre. To keep the genre going, what are some of the more unique trends in UF and what would you like to see more of?
Originality. Each book or series has to have new ideas. That’s why I came up with the heroine of the Turning Vampire series. She is a sweet teenager who has to learn to survive as a vampire but works hard at being a good person and never harming anyone. When all your nourishment has to come from human blood, fresh from the source, it ain’t easy being sweet.

Most Urban Fantasy stories center on magical beings or creatures, normal people still have an important role in the story line. Do normals have much of an impact in your UF story and in what way?
Always. It is the normals who have to solve the problems created by magic and by paranormals. Sorry, no superheroes here.

As we know, magic in these UF worlds can take many forms. Some are able to use it and some aren’t. Why do you think magic (of any form) such a popular concept?
Wouldn’t we all love to mumble a few spells and have our problems solved? But then there would be no story. Instead, the protagonists have to plod on alone, suffer a lot, and learn to depend on their wits rather than physical strength. Unlike romances, urban fantasies do not require ‘happy ever after’ endings.

Monsters have been around for ages in stories.  History is full of them. What kind of impact has Urban Fantasy had in dispelling some of the myths associated with some of these creatures from the past and how do you think it will shape the future?
Hmm. Maybe Homer was the first urban fantasy storyteller, earning his livelihood by entertaining his audiences with tales of real cities and normal people and scary monsters. Did he try to shape the future with his tales? I don’t think so. If I had the smarts to shape a better future for the world, I would go into politics, I guess. Instead, I write stories to entertain.

Friday, June 22, 2012

"Poke M for Murder" doesn't have the same ring (pardon the pun) as the famous title "Dial M for Murder." Since the dial phone went out with the trash, I haven't seen a strong verb for placing a phone call using the buttons.  Poke? Key? Thumb? Do you have a good suggestion?