The times, they are a-changing

Prior to today's post, I'd gone over a year without updating this blog. We did have a LOT going on this year, but still, I'll try to do better.

I just noticed I also haven't updated the introduction at the top of the blog, which currently reads: "I moderated the Mystery Book Club at Barnes and and wrote their Garden Variety blog. B&N discontinued the boards and forums in May 2014. I'm also part of the Romance University team. I'm a multi-published garden writer/author and a struggling fiction writer, a member of Sisters in Crime, the Ohio Valley RWA and Chicago North RWA as well as an RWA-PRO. I'm the author of six non-fiction books, one co-authored with my daughter. I became a grandma in 2012."

At least I did change the tenses when Barnes & Noble archived the garden blog and all the forums. I really miss the Mystery Forum. There is a group on Facebook called B&N Mystery Forum Refugees, which keeps the spirit of the original …

Farewell to a Friend

I'm going to break a lot of literary rules and give you the backstory first. You'll see why.

July, 1993. Marty and I had just moved to Cincinnati, OH and the first item on our agenda was getting our kids registered for school, which was due to start in a week or two. We were filling out paperwork at Summerside Elementary while the principal, Pat Stockman, and the school secretary, Pauline Sachs, looked up what teachers Jessica and Jonathan would have. The only other people in the office were a woman and her little girl, who looked about three. She told us her name was Elisabeth, and she seemed right at home.

The girl's mom said, "Oh, you're new here? You're going to love it! You should join the PTO - it's a great way to meet people. Jessica, come with me. Your teacher, Tabetha Adams, is here right now, decorating her classroom. I'll introduce you."

So began a 25 year friendship with Kip Iannelli. In those days, Jessica was an extrovert, but meetin…

The Twenty-Dollar Wedding Dress

I bet my husband-to-be was thinking he'd found a really cheap date: I didn't want an engagement ring (in point of fact, we were never officially "engaged." One day we just started planning our wedding.), and the only reason we didn't elope was that my mom was bound and determined her oldest child was going to have a wedding.

I had very little to do with the planning - Marty and I didn't care about the details, and Mom knew exactly what she wanted. All Marty and I wanted was a small wedding with our own selection of music (no organist!) and some pretty flowers from Berthold's Nursery. (It was down to Berthold's or Klehm's and I had known Debbie Berthold most of my life.) And I wanted a wedding cake from Jarosch Bakery. Marty and his dad found a band to play at the reception, and Marty and I wrote our own vows. That was about the extent of our involvement.

No, I'm wrong. We did spend some time over the invitations. Because so many of Marty's…

Trick or Treat - Gothics and Beyond

I have my daughter to thank for this topic. She is a makeup blogger (I should say "vlogger" since she mostly focuses on videos these days), but for a change of pace she did a post on her favorite spooky books. Here's her video:

I've read a lot of the books she mentioned, and I agree with her comments. The first really scary book I remember reading was THE UNINVITED by Dorothy Macardle.

Around the same time - I was in high school - I discovered the gothics of Victoria Holt, books like MISTRESS OF MELLYN and BRIDE OF PENDORRIC. I also enjoyed Anya Seton's GREEN DARKNESS, many of Phyllis A. Whitney's and Dorothy Eden's books, and everything by Mary Stewart. Soon I added more authors to the list: Evelyn Anthony, Velda Johnston and a few male authors, like Edgar Allen Poe. Stephen King later joined my list of favorites, even though sometimes his books were too scary - books like CUJO and PET SEMATARY weren't for me, but I loved THE STAND, FIRESTARTER and …

The Reading Binge Continues..

The only writing I've accomplished this year has been a couple of posts for Romance University, one for The Contemporary Romance Writers Online Chapter and, oh yeah, my mom's obituary. I'm considering doing NaNoWriMo this year - I've skipped it since I moved to Chicago a couple years ago, but I might be ready for a month of November writing insanity.

In the meantime, I've spent many joyful afternoons playing with my granddaughters. My free time - as in, not watching the girls or fixing dinner or doing all the usual things - has been spent reading. I'm back to my old, pre-grandkids, pre-move, pre-writing book-a-day binge reading. I reread all the J.J. Marric Gideon books, discovered and read all the Kerry Greenwood Phryne Fisher mysteries, reread almost all of my beloved Mary Stewart books, and I'm currently bingeing on Susanna Kearsley's wonderful books. I discovered them a year or two ago and read three of the books in succession, and then switched to…

Pecking Away at the Neverending To-Be-Read Pile

I calculated awhile back that if I read two books a day, every day for the rest of my life, I'd have to live to be about 150 years old before I get to the bottom of my waiting-to-be-read pile.

Of course, it isn't really a "pile" - it's boxes and shelves filled with books waiting to be read. I've made some progress recently. I have more reading time now that my grandkids are both going to day care in the morning. At some point I'll use this free time for writing instead of reading, but this summer I'm firmly entrenched in reading mode.

Two things about my "to-be-read" pile, besides the fact that it's not a pile. It's not static, since I'm always adding new and used books to it. And I don't always reach for a book I haven't read. I'm a big fan of re-reading old favorites.

Several years ago I started logging all the books I'd been reading on the Barnes & Noble website. Later, I started building a more comprehensi…

Summertime, and the binge-ing is easy...

I Googled the word binge and this was the top result:

"a short period devoted to indulging in an activity to excess, especially drinking alcohol or eating.

"he went on a binge and was in no shape to drive"
synonyms:drinking bout, debauch
In my lexicon, binge-ing almost always refers to a binge of reading. I read all the time, but there's something especially enjoyable and relaxing about reading in summer. I remember when I was a teenager, sprawling in the grass in our background, soaking up the heat as I devoured book after book. 
As I've gotten older, bingeing has come to mean focusing on the entire booklist of an author, starting at book one and not stopping until I've read them all. This has always been my preferred way of reading. The luxury of reading ALL the books is a thrill that never grows old. When I was young and first fell in love with Nancy Drew, Bess, George, Ned Nickerson, Hannah Gruen et al, I got through every edition in our small libr…

Mystery in the Windy City - Historical (Non-Fiction - Mostly)

Mention historical crime in Chicago and most people will think of Al Capone, the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, Eliot Ness and the Untouchables, More recent history brings us to serial killers Richard Speck and John Wayne Gacy, or the all-too-common gangland killings that keep today's death tolls high.

And then there is the notorious murderer H.H. Holmes, who terrorized women at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair - the Columbian Exposition, killing and disposing of his victims at his "terror castle."
Holmes had faded into obscurity until Erik Larson's brilliant book, THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY became a best seller.  (Images and blurbs from Barnes & Noble's

Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most impo…