Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Island of Lost Stories--by Linda Kozar

Island of Lost Stories


Sometimes, we needn't look any further than the tip of our nose for a good mystery. For me, it's as easy as perusing a file I keep. I call it, "The Island of Lost Stories." And in that file are the beginnings of many stories I've yet to pursue or finish. Maybe I will. Maybe I won't. For whatever reason, these stories of mine are in book limbo. 

Here's one. If you have an idea for where the story should go next, leave a comment. And maybe, just maybe, I'll pull this story from the file and finish it...

Sliding Doors
By Linda P. Kozar

Home at last. Stephanie Hudson threw her purse and keys on the round entrance table, kicked her shoes off and carefully placed them on the stairs to take when she went up to bed. The coolness of marble flooring felt good on her tired feet, as she made her way to the library.
She opened the vintage French doors, admiring the artful inset of curved glass. A fire usually burned in the massive stone fireplace, but not tonight. It was late. The room was dark with the exception of two small lamps at either end. Each gave off a pale, low light, more for mood than practicality.
The house seemed unusually quiet now that the girls were both off to college. Her husband Mark was probably asleep by now, even the dog. She slipped behind the curved mahogany bar. Not that they needed one. They didn’t drink. It had come with the house. However, the bar was convenient for football seasons and parties. The fridge underneath held soft drinks and water, and a bottle of cool water was what she needed. She twisted the cap off and drank half in one long gulp.
After carefully pulling the doors shut, she walked over to the kitchen to check the lock—a nightly ritual. Before going to bed, she had to check all the locks in the house. Sometimes her husband forgot to lock one of the doors. And that fact was enough to fuel the ritual indefinitely. Still in the kitchen, she moved to the mudroom door. They almost never used it. The front door was more convenient.
She noticed with a smile that her husband had not forgotten to place the little Asian statue of a lion in front of the door. They won the ugly thing as a door prize years ago and found that it made an excellent doorstop. She always placed it in front of the mudroom door at night before going to bed—an added security measure.
Reaching to turn out the light, she was startled by a movement in the shadows. Heart thumping, she drew closer to the glass-framed door.
Her gasp became a scream. A little girl rose from the floor, rubbing her eyes. Panicked, she kicked the statue out of the way and unlatched the door.
Chest heaving, she commanded. “C-come in. It’s cold out there.”
The girl shivered, stepping lightly into the room. She was thin, wearing a light blue sweater over a cotton dress with socks and loafers. A worn teddy bear nestled in the crook of her right arm.
Dressed for summer in the dead of winter.
“What are you doing here, young lady? Who are you?” she asked while fastening the locks and looking for signs of anyone else. “Are your parents around?”
The girl smiled. “My name is Theresa Éclair and,” she hugged the stuffed animal close, “this is Theobold.”
She managed a nervous smile and bent down to eye level with the child. “Well, hello Miss Theresa Éclair. Is—is that your real name or a made-up name? I’ve never known anyone with a name quite like yours.”
The girl shook her head up and down. “Mommy says it’s not my given name, but I don’t like that one, so I made a name for me that I like better, ‘cause I like Éclair’s. I named my teddy too.
“How did you get here?” She glanced behind the girl to the outside door. “Is anyone here with you?”
She shook her head from side-to-side. “No-o-o, ma’am.”
Her husband, still half-asleep, robe askew and slippers half on, stumbled into the room. “What is it, Stef? I thought I heard you—were you screaming?” He blinked three times when he saw the little girl, as if he were still dreaming, and knelt down unsteadily on one knee. “Who is this?”
“I found her in the mudroom.”
The little girl extended her hand to him. “Hi mister, my name is Therese Éclair.”
Mark’s face blanched white. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“Therese Éclair.”
“And,” he paused to swallow, “About how old are you? I’m guessing you’re about eight years old, maybe?”
“That’s right mister. I turned eight last December, so I’ll be nine before long. I’m going to have a party with all my friends.”
He stood up quickly, now fully awake. “Honey, I’m going to go and make a phone call. Why don’t you sit down with Theresa and keep her company?
“Sure. She leaned in close to his ear and whispered, “You’re going to call the police, I hope?”
He nodded, “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of everything.”
Turning to Theresa he said, “I’ll be back in just a minute. Can I bring you anything? Are you thirsty? Hungry maybe?”
“I’m both, thank you mister. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of milk would be nice.”
He smiled. “Not a problem. I’ll get it for you.”
“Theresa?” Stephanie motioned to a couch in the adjoining room. “Why don’t we sit down in here?”
“Okay,” she answered and followed.
She sat down and rocked her bottom from side to side. “This sure is a comfortable couch, Ma’am.”
“Thank you.” She took a deep breath to calm herself. “Do your parents know you’re out by yourself in the middle of the night?”
Her eyes widened, tears glistening in the corners. “Ma’am, I don’t know where they are.”
She kept her voice calm and even. “Well, let’s start with your house. Where do you live?”
She tilted her head to the side as if puzzled. “Where do I live?” “Oh, you must be joking me.” She giggled.
“Joking you? I can assure you, I’m not. I really want to know where you live.”
“But that’s a silly question, Ma’am.”
“Why is it silly?”
“Because.” She focused on Theobold, poking his raggle-taggle stomach.
“Because, why?”
She looked up. “Because I live here, maa’m.”
A chill ran through her. “What? I-I don’t understand. Maybe your house is similar to ours.”
Theresa glanced around the room. “The house does look a little different.” She pointed to the doorframe. “But see that notch? That’s how big I was when I turned six. You can read my name.”
Stephanie turned her attention to the frame around the French doors. How could she have missed that? They’d lived in the house now for five years. She squinted. There was a mark on the doorframe, faint, but something that did resemble lettering.
She grabbed her purse and pulled out her reading glasses. Crouching down by the doorframe, she examined the lettering. Theresa/6 years was plainly visible.
She pulled off her glasses and stood, stunned.
Her heard Mark’s footsteps before his voice. “They’re on their way.”
“Stef, did you hear--?”
She turned and nodded. “Who? Oh . . .”
“What’s wrong?”
“Could you, would you take a look at this while I talk to her?”
            A puzzled look on his face, they exchanged places. She noticed his beige bathrobe was straightened and sashed, his hair combed.
            Stephanie looked at the girl in a new light. Hair, the color of warm honey cut just below her ears. Blue eyes. Dimples.
“Now tell me honey, how could you possibly believe you live here?” She pointed at Mark. “Do you see that man over there?”
She looked over at him. Mark stood very still against the wall, his skin pale.
“He’s my husband and we live here. We have two grown daughters.” Stephanie smiled. “And as far as we know, we don’t have another daughter.”
Theresa raked Theobold’s fur with her nails. “I didn’t say you were my mommy and daddy. I know who my own parents are.”
“Well then--who are your?”
The girl interrupted to look up at Mark. “Is my sandwich ready, mister? My tummy is growling like a lion.”
He smiled. “Someone else is bringing it.”
A series of headlights lit the room from the driveway outside. Doors banged shut outside. Voices.
Mark moved quickly to open the front door.
Two men in black suits entered the room and looked around, their eyes settling on the girl. A woman’s voice in the hall questioned, “Where is she?”
Mark answered, “In here.”
            The woman entered the room. Dressed in a plaid skirt and cream blazer, Stephanie knew who it was in an instant. She’d seen her on the news. Senator Randall Cook.
Shocked, Stephanie rose from the couch and moved to stand next to Mark. Her eyes locked on the girl. As the woman walked forward, her body crouched in stages until she matched Theresa’s height in a kneeling position in front of the couch. Eyes pooled with tears, she asked, “Is it you, my darling? Is it really you?”

A revelation flashed across the girl’s eyes as she studied the face of the woman in front of her. “Mama? Mama?”
Tears flowed from the senator’s eyes, “Yes, baby. It’s me.”
 The girl reached to stroke her mother’s face. “But Mama, you’re so old.”
The senator nodded, her entire face wet with tears. “Yes, darling, I know.”
“But how did you get to be so old? You-you look like grandma.”
She sobbed and put her arms around the girl. “All in good time my sweet Theresa. All in good time.”
“Mama-a-a!” Mother and daughter clung to one another, sobbing. The senator reaching up at times to stroke her daughter’s hair or kiss her cheek. Locked in embrace, the senator finally looked up at one of the suited men. “Bring her some food.”
He immediately left the room.
Stephanie turned to her husband and whispered. “I-I don’t understand. How could she be Theresa’s mother? She’s got to be in her seventies and the girl’s only eight. Is she adopted or something? And how did she get in our house?”
Before he could answer, a man’s voice interrupted. “Your name is Stephanie Hudson, isn’t it? The senator’s aide had crept up from behind us.
“Yes, it is.”
“What you’re about to hear is a matter of national security. You are not to reveal any of it to anyone. Do you understand?”
“I-I’m not sure what you mean by that.”
“The penalties for revealing any of this information will be quite severe—for you and, he paused, for your family.” He stared at her. “Do you understand now?”
She gasped, looking to Mark for support. There was something about Mark’s eyes, as if he were trying to tell her something. Was it fear?
Her throat tightened. “Y-yes, I understand.” Why didn’t the aide instruct Mark as well?
A commotion at the door drew their attention. More people had arrived, this time with equipment and computers.
Why?
A man approached, but instead of asking the aide, went straight to her husband. “Where should we set up?”
Mark pointed to the mudroom door. “Cordon that area off and set up a command post in the library.”
Mark?” She asked, incredulous.
He drew her aside near the fireplace and held her arms. “Stef, listen carefully. That little girl, her real name is Therese Fairhaven Cook. She’s been missing now for forty years.”
“The senator’s daughter? What are you talking about? She’s only eight.”
He paused. “She was eight when she disappeared from this house in 1966.”

#


Leave a comment if you have an idea where the story should go next!



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ariane the Overexposed Stock Image Model

When I shopped around for pictures for the cover of Good, Clean Murder, I was looking for someone young, fresh faced, and cleaning houses. There was only one girl in all of stock-photo-land who fit that bill. She had dozens of cleaning poses and outfits to chose form. Her pictures were professional and well produced. It was a no brainer to pick Ariane!

As it turned out, the rest of the world agrees with me. My Plain Jane is everywhere! I spot her on the ads at the bottom of celebrity gossip blogs telling me to reduce my debt. I've seen her in Walmart on the packaging for a backpack you can color. The other day she was telling me to get some exercise, and while at the library last week, I saw her on the cover of Face Magazine (for kids) telling me she loves Paris!

It's no wonder fans have started a Facebook page for her called "Ariane the Overexposed cover model" or that I get fan mail--for her!

Even though she's everywhere, selling everything from train tickets to cell phones, I'm not sorry I made her my Plain Jane. She's embodies so much of what I picture when I write this character; energy, enthusiasm, a natural beauty. Little known secret: The model is half Chinese, so I like to think that maybe Jane's Grandma was Chinese too. :)

In honor of Ariana, I want to reveal the cover for Health, Wealth, and Murder: A Plain Jane Mystery and offer a contest.

In the comments, let me know a place you think you have run across Plain Jane and I will put your name in the hat for an early release of Health, Wealth, and Murder! I'll draw THREE names for a free copy of Health, Wealth, and Murder and announce the winner next week. (The book will release May 1st, so that is the day I will email the books out!)

Without further ado, here's the newest cover!


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Recipe From Cynthia Hickey's new cozy - ANYTHING FOR A STORY

In Anything For a Story, Stormi Nelson, best-selling romance author, cooks and freezes casseroles as a way to relax and clear her head. Here is one of the recipes mentioned in the book:

CHICKEN AND FRENCH ONION RICE

Ingredients:
1/4c butter
1 cup of Minute rice
1 can French onion soup
Four chicken breasts
 
Melt butter. Place in 9 x 13 baking dish. Add rice. Place chicken on top. Pour soup over chicken. Add one can of water. Cover with foil. Cook for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, then uncover and cook additional 15 minutes.
 
 
 
Stormi Nelson, best-selling romance author, moved into her huge Victorian house in the private community of Oak Meadows Estates. When her agent tells her that her characters are becoming too cardboard and that she needs to get out and mingle with people, she comes up with the idea of a Neighborhood Watch Program. The only problem is … she’s the only member. On her first night of patrol, she stumbles over a dead body, meets a hunky detective, who happens to be her neighbor and clearly frustrated with her, and her mother, sister, niece and nephew arrive to shake up Stormi’s peaceful life. As she is immersed ever deeper into the mystery surrounding a neighbor’s murder, she decides to change writing tactics and write a romantic mystery based on her experiences. What follows is a frolicking good time as Stormi finds herself the nosiest neighbor of them all. Can she find the killer before she becomes the next victim?


The winner of the healthy/quick recipe contest is ... Carolsue and she wins a Jillian Bradley mystery of her choice.
 
 
 
Multi-published and Best-Selling author Cynthia Hickey had three cozy mysteries and two novellas published through Barbour Publishing. Her first mystery, Fudge-Laced Felonies, won first place in the inspirational category of the Great Expectations contest in 2007. Her third cozy, Chocolate-Covered Crime, received a four-star review from Romantic Times. All three cozies have been re-released as ebooks through the MacGregor Literary Agency, along with a new cozy series, all of which stay in the top 50 of Amazon’s ebooks for their genre. She has several historical romances releasing in 2013 and 2014 through Harlequin’s Heartsong Presents, and has sold more than 150,000 copies of her works. She is active on FB, twitter, and Goodreads. She lives in Arizona with her husband, one of their seven children, two dogs and two cats. She has five grandchildren who keep her busy and tell everyone they know that “Nana is a writer”. Visit her website at www.cynthiahickey.com

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Favorite Recipe Contest and Giveaway


My Meals in a Hurry Board
I don't know how many of you scroll down the Pinterest home page, but I do, and I'm here to tell you I've never seen so many delicious looking recipes in all my life! 
A Sample from my Meals in a Hurry Board

So many pinners (that's what you call us who post pins to our boards) are health conscious (I sort of am but not die-hard). There's paleo, which I just figured out means plant based, low-fat, and gluten-free. Cookbooks abound with all sorts of recipes catering to the health bunch.

So. I think we should have a contest and find out who has the best tasting healthy recipe in their possession. My favorite, so far, is taco seasoning salmon and fresh lemon spinach. The recipe is in our Cozy Kitchen and on my Meals in a Hurry Board. In fact, I'm making it for dinner as I write this post.

What about you? Do you have a healthy or time saving recipe to share? 

To Enter: 

*Send your recipe in a comment

*JOIN THE SITE with Google friend connect if you're new

*Leave your name or an email address so we can contact you if you win.

*Check back next week to see who won.
 
Next Wednesday, we'll announce the first and second place winners. The winners will receive a Jillian and Teddy book of their choice - paperback or ebook. Winners will be chosen by my husband who happens to be the taste tester at our house.

Good luck!

~Nancy Jill 

Nancy Jill Thames was born to write mysteries. From her early days as the neighborhood story-teller to being listed on Amazon Author Watch Bestseller List, she has always had a vivid imagination and loves to solve problems – perfect for plotting whodunnits.
In 2010, Nancy Jill published her first mystery, Murder in Half Moon Bay, introducing her well-loved protagonist, Jillian Bradley, and whimsical Yorkie, “Teddy.” She’s written seven books so far in The Jillian Bradley Mystery Series and is working on her eighth.

When she isn’t plotting Jillian’s next perilous adventure, she commutes between Texas and California finding new ways to spoil her grandchildren, playing classical favorites on her baby grand or having afternoon tea with friends.

Member of Leander Writers’ Guild, American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW CenTex Chapter), and Central Texas Authors

To learn more about Nancy Jill visit these sites.
Twitter @mystriterdva





Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Writers...They Plot Everything!

As you all know I am currently coming up with the Finale of My Reboot Files Series, mostly because I have other projects in the works and it’s time to end the series, at least for now. However, every so often I do get asked if writing is all I do. The answer is, of course not.
When I’m not writing I have hobbies. One of them is I’m a crafter. That’s right I embroider, knit and crochet, just to name a few. Some better than others, but I figure it’s the effort that counts. Still, me being me, I can’t just stick to the regular stuff, I have to come up with something...different.
I'm a writer. I plot.
Such as when I decided to replace the buttons on a sweater.

Behold! The Store Bought Sweater. But What's With Those Buttons?

Yes, this was one of those "What Was I Thinking?" purchases. Not that the sweater is bad, even the buttons aren't that bad.

See they're pretty. Kind of.

The picture doesn't do it justice. The glass buttons are so...shiny, it hurts.
In my defense, I needed a black sweater, and had trouble finding one I liked. This one fit, looked pretty good, and was on sale. So in desperation I bought it. Then I wore it once or twice, hated it and stuck it my closet. Where it sat. For years. Especially after I bought another black sweater that I actually liked.
Anyway comes the day that I need another black sweater. I find this one hiding in the back of my closet. It's then that I make a discovery. Once I get past the buttons, I actually like the sweater. But those buttons! I still hate them on this sweater. However, this time, I think why don't I replace the buttons? It'll save me the aggravation of trying to find another sweater. Fully realizing that I was venturing into a whole new territory of aggravation.
Button purgatory!
You see, I lived with a woman (my mother) who knew how to sew and actually enjoyed it. So I knew from her that finding the right buttons, in the right amount, that you can afford (these are buttons after all) takes dedication! Mom would take hours, I'm not exaggerating, looking over buttons before she found the magic button combination that existed in her mind's eye.
Even knowing that I didn't think it would be that hard because I knew what I wanted. The plan was to replace the glass buttons with pearl style buttons. Simple, classic, and works for day or night wear.  Easy, right? Wrong!
The way buttons work is, depending on the size of the button, they'll come in different amounts on a card. In this case the size I needed came in the amount of three buttons per card. Two cards, six buttons. Problem. This sweater has seven buttons!
You've got to wonder what sadist thinks this stuff up. I mean clothes are these people's business. You can't tell me they don't know you are never going to be able to find the right amount of button! So why do they do it? To make you buy more buttons or a new sweater.
Button sadists. They make for good antagonists!
So this was my dilemma (the drama builds). Do I buy an extra card which leaves me with two extra buttons of the buttons I liked (which I probably never use again) or buy a new sweater?
Or do I do the Cindy thing and come up with a plot twist?
Plot twist it is!
Recently I've gotten back to wearing brooches and pins. So I thought, why don't I do the six buttons in black to tone them down, and buy a fancier button to imitate a brooch for that seventh button?
Take that button sadists!
I know, it's genius! Now I just had to make it work. And you thought mysteries were hard.
The black buttons weren't a problem, they were the same size as the original buttons, so it was a simple replacement. As long as you know how to sew on a button. Which I do. I must have been paying attention when Mom showed me. Go figure.
The genius part comes with the top button (shown below). It mimics a brooch, but weighs less so it lays better. Still it's about twice the size of the original button, so it wasn't going to fit through the button hole. What do I do?


I sewed a snap between the top flaps of the sweater so it will stay closed. Then I sew the brooch button at the top to cover  the top button hole to give the illusion it is fasten through the button hole! The button sadist are defeated! A Happy Ending!


New and Improved Sweater!

I don't know if this is an original idea. I'm sure someone else has thought of it sometime. But this is how a writer thinks. We plot out everything.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What I love About Miss Marple and Other Cozy Thoughts



I love a good cozy mystery, and there’s nothing like a review of classic cozies to remind me why I fell in love with the genre. Like most of my fellow cozy authors, I read Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and the Bobbsey Twins as a little girl. Later came Agatha Christie, P.D. James, Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, and Patricia Wentworth, to name a few.  

When I’m asked who my favorite author is, the short answer is, I don’t have one. That’s because there are too many good authors to name just one, or even ten. But as far as cozy authors go, I think Agatha Christie is the queen.   

I recently purchased a set of two books called Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks and Agatha Christie Murder in the Making. Both are by John Curran, who was given access by the Christie family to the notebooks in which Agatha Christie jotted her notes over the many years of her successful career.  (I recommend these books to anyone who is a Christie fan. They are slightly repetitious, but full of fascinating insight into Christie and her books.)

While cozy mysteries seem simple, they aren’t. They often depend on deep characterization, and in some cozies, even a bit of caricature. (To write good caricature, the author must have a good grasp of characterization.) The twists and turns of clues have to be presented in such a way to lead to a satisfying ending. The bad guy needs to be obvious, but not obvious. Agatha Christie expresses it perfectly in her biography. “The whole point of a good detective story was that it must be somebody obvious but at the same time for some reason, you would then find that it is not obvious, that he could not possibly have done it. Thought really, of course, he had done it.”

In my cozy-in-progress, I recently changed my mind about who the bad guy is because my original wasn’t developing as I thought he should. That often happens to me as I write a book. Changing bad guys midstream used to make me feel I wasn’t a good author or not organized enough. No more! According to John Curran and the Christie notebooks, Agatha Christie didn’t always know, either. In some of her notebooks, she changed her mind about the bad guys in stories several times.

Joan Hickson as Miss Marple
One of my favorite cozy heroines is Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. She is the ultimate amateur detective--someone I could aspire to be when I get old. My husband and I just finished a Miss Marple marathon. We watched the PBS versions starring Joan Hickson, who is my favorite Miss Marple of all time. The shows in which she stars are some of the only ones to stay faithful to the plots as written by Christie.  

Joan Hickson is perfect in the role in my opinion. In fact, in 1946, Agatha Christie wrote a letter to Joan Hickson after seeing her in a play. She said, “I hope that one day you will play my dear Miss Marple.” That didn’t happen for another 38 years. When Joan Hickson was 78 years old, she filmed the first Miss Marple for television. (Seventy-eight! Wow.)

Miss Marple made her first appearance in print in a series of six short stories published between December 927 and May 1928 in the Royal Magazine. In the first of those stories, Miss Marple is dressed completely in black and sit in her cottage in St. Mary Mead, knitting and listening and solving crimes that have baffled the police. The first full-length book that featured her was The Murder at the Vicarage. In that book, the vicar’s wife describes Miss Marple as “that terrible Miss Marple. . .the worst cat in the village.” On the other hand, the vicar describes her as “a white-haired old lady with a gentle, appealing manner.”

And I guess that is the key to a great hero or heroine in a cozy. The character is multi-faceted—seen by the other characters in the story in many different lights. And that’s what I love about Miss Marple. She can be tough, kind, catty, humorous, and even when she acts befuddled, her brain is ticking like the best clock in the world.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

For Our Readers

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank our readers. Without you we wouldn't need to write. This past weekend I went to a literary festival in Dahlonega, Georgia. I met a lot of fellow authors but the highlight was meeting some of my readers. I met several people who had read my books and I met new people who bought my books and would be reading them for the first time. I was thrilled when a young lady came to my table and ask me if I was the author of Death in Dahlonega, Murder in Marietta and Terror on Tybee Island. She had read two of the three books and wanted to meet me. Here is a picture of this sweet young lady.


Photo: A young fan!



While I was there I was able to eat lunch with the Book Ends book club. These ladies have read all three of my books and invited me to lunch with them. I was thrilled to be invited. I want to thank each and every person who's read any of my books and offered me support over the past few years. It never fails to encourage me when a fan tells me how much they enjoyed reading about Trixie and Dee Dee. I instantly want to go home and start writing. Writing is lonely and takes a lot of will power to sit down and write. If you haven't encouraged your favorite writer please take the time to do so. You don't know how much a few words will encourage them and give them the extra push to keep writing.


Photo: At the Dahlonega Literary Festival






Deborah has worked as a freelance writer and photographer, since 2001, for the historical magazine “Georgia Backroads.” She has had many articles and photographs published during this time. Her writing is featured in “Tales of the Rails” edited by Olin Jackson. She has also had a showing of her photographs at Floyd Medical Center Art Gallery as well as winning several awards. Her debut cozy mystery "Death in Dahlonega", a winner in the ACFW Category Five Writer's Contest, is now available. She is a current member of the Georgia Writers Association, and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. Deborah has been nominated for Georgia Author of the Year 2012. She has an established blog, Butterfly Journey, where she reviews Christian Fiction. You can also catch her at
Sleuths and Suspects, where she reviews mysteries. She also contributes to the Cozy Mystery Magazine every other Tuesday.