Behold! A review!

(Hope Romantic Times doesn’t mind my copying this ….)

Knit Your Own Murder

The knitting pattern is Betsy’s beloved Sophie. You can get a larger look at her on the cover of Knitting Bones, but if you like to knit you will wind up with a Sophie in three dimensions!


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Truth and Consequences

The most amazing thing has happened. Back in 2006 my book Sins and Needles was published. It involved the search by an adoptee for her biological family. It was inspired by a relatively trivial incident in which Tanya, a new friend of mine, was coming to a party and I, seeing her coming up the walk with the setting sun behind her, thought she was an old friend. Tanya was adopted and searching for her biological mother. When I told her of the mistake, the resemblance, it made her wonder if my old friend was not, perhaps, a blood relative (she wasn’t, but in the book she was). I mentioned Tanya in my Acknowledgements.  Later that year, Tanya came with me to the State Fair and I took a silly picture of her and another friend and posted it on my web site.

Someone doing a search for a lost sister knew Tanya’s name. A link popped up to my web site in connection with Sins and Needles, and she contacted me with an inquiry: Could she and Tanya be siblings?  She’d found the silly picture, too, and thought there was a family resemblance.  I thought that to be an extremely long shot, but I forwarded her email to Tanya. Upshot: Tanya spoke with her biological mother by phone on July 3, and is going to go see her in August. Tanya has found her mother and two sisters.

You never know what real-life consequences will happen when you write a story.  Tanya had given up her search, the only link to her out there was my book and that picture. My fingers and toes are still tingling, Tanya is a mess of tears and laughter.

I’m getting quite a big mixed flock of birds coming for peanuts. It started, you remember, with one crow calling from outside my window early one morning. We’re up to six crows now, and three blue jays. And two or three squirrels and numerous sparrows, who eat the crumbs. It’s interesting to watch behaviors. The hatchling – I call him that, though he’s full grown – still begs his mother (I assume, maybe it’s his father, and maybe the hatchling is female) to share her peanut. She pecks at him, but he persists. When a crow is after a peanut, he lands across the street and approaches in a wide curve, looking furtively from side to side. He’ll grab it and either fly away or take it back across the street to peck it open. A jay on the other hand, lands beside a peanut, scoops it up, and flies off, all in one swift move. The other morning there was a red-winged blackbird in the mix, who didn’t seem to know what he was doing there. The sparrows love it when a passing car mashes a nut so they can eat the remains; they can’t open a peanut unaided.  In less than half an hour, the peanuts I have thrown are all gone – I don’t throw a lot; I don’t want to attract mice or rats.  I watch it all from my third-floor balcony.

Last night’s fireworks display was, as usual, spectacular.   There were some new varieties and colors (pastels!), and it was very satisfying. The part is right next door to our building, so no search for parking and fighting traffic to get there, just a brief walk carrying our folding chairs. We had five guests for a pre-fireworks supper of hot dogs, potato salad, and watermelon, so it was really nice.

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I Fell and Couldn’t Get Up

More bad news. I fell this past Saturday. I was going to my writers’ group’s monthly meeting – which I’d been missing for a long time – and while climbing the steps to a front porch, tumbled over the side and fell perhaps three or four feet. The ground was hard and I think there was a half-buried rock. And there was the sharp edge of a blacktop driveway which my head struck, and split. Not a big cut as it turned out, but blood simply poured out. I was never unconscious but was very dizzy; I looked up and saw the treetops just whizzing past. The homeowner came rushing down and knelt beside me and said “Don’t move, I’m calling 911.” When he stood up, the knee and downward on his trousers was bloody, which made me stop arguing with him that I was okay. Other members of the group came out to commiserate and very quickly there was a siren. They took me by ambulance to Abbott Northwestern’s emergency room, where all this mess began back in March, so it was sadly familiar. I had an MRI – negative, no concussion – my hair was cleaned and the injury glued shut. I was told to go home, rest and try not to fall again. I am trying hard to follow instructions.

I had Ellen take a picture of my bloody, matted hair, but it’s so gross I will spare you all.

Yesterday in the mail I got a slender album of pictures and history of my father’s side of the family dating from the Civil War. It’s the work of Linda Ewebank, a cousin, and it’s beautiful, informative, awesome. Makes me kind of sad I have no children to leave it to.

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Hen and Chicks

I drove on Monday!  No problems at all. Parking lot, side streets, main streets, freeway – no problem. It was so great, I got my freedom back. No more annoying others for rides, no more not asking for rides because I don’t want to be annoying. Hurrah!

It had been suggested that I go to a licensed facility to be tested before driving, but when I called a recommended number – not the state licensing bureau, but a medical facility – I was told the testing took FOUR HOURS, three of which included cognition tests, sanity tests, coordination testing, a physical, etc. Then another hour (!) behind the wheel. Plus, it cost $400 – which was not covered by my insurance! I didn’t go. That kind of testing must be for someone who has had her license taken away, possibly after a stay in an asylum. Or prison. My license is secure in my wallet, was never even threatened by removal, and a long way from ordinary renewal.

So Ellen had a doctor’s appointment way up in the northern suburbs and I rode along so we could pull into a dying mall with lots of open spaces where nobody was parking. We had taken my car. I got behind the wheel and discovered my knee in no fashion interfered with my movement from gas pedal to brake. Ellen yelled “Stop!” at one point as a test and I slammed on the brakes instantly. See? No problem. So I drove us home. We stopped at a favorite clothing store and I found out my new dress size (I’m down three sizes!), and I bought a new blouse. It’s a store for plus sized women, and they have had a problem all summer getting their smallest size, which is what I’m wearing now, and sometimes those were too big. So not many choices – but I was so pleased to find I take their smallest size, I wasn’t annoyed.

My tower of flowers is having problems. The “vining geraniums” aren’t vining and the two smaller pots at the top have both had their petunias fade and die. I filled the pots with Miracle Gro soil left over from last year, and maybe that wasn’t a good idea. I replaced one small-pot plant with another petunia, but the top pot, which gets the heat of the sun badly, I bought a hen-and-chicks plant for.  Almost a cactus, it can take the heat.  It’s a really pretty specimen of a succulent – here’s a picture of it. Note the hen has only one chick.

Hen With Chick

The writing is still coming along slowly, but I can feel the juices stirring, and I think things will open up dramatically pretty soon. I sure hope so, it’s so frustrating to sit and stare at what little I’ve written and be unable to add to it.

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Caw, caw, caw!

Nearly two weeks go I was awakened around six a.m. by a crow sitting on a wire near an open window in my bedroom. Last year some crows had learned that if they sat in a tree across the street and yelled for awhile, I’d come out on our balcony and throw peanuts in the shell out into the street for them. This must have been a remnant of that mob. “Caw, caw, caw!” he yelled. “Caw, caw, caw!” Though annoyed, I obediently got out of bed and found what was left of the unshelled peanuts in a ZipLoc bag and went out in slippers and nightgown to feed him. The next morning he was back.

One morning it rained and he didn’t come, but this instantly became his custom: he’d call around six and I’d respond. (Then I’d go back to bed and sleep till seven or seven-thirty.)
Then last Thursday and Friday we went to St. Cloud for a quilt show, and it broke the chain; he didn’t come Saturday and Sunday. But Monday: “Caw, caw, caw!” I’m not really sure why I respond to his peremptory summons, why I am amused to obey – but I do and I am.
But: On Monday he brought a friend, and at nine o’clock a half dozen crows turned up, and called from the trees across the street. I understand crows can communicate with one another. Has my early-morning pal told his friends? And should I invest in a bigger bag of peanuts?
This morning he was late, it was nearly seven before he turned up, and this time he had two more crows with him – and four more came soon after. What’s going on? I don’t know. Two of them are still out there, one cawing in a peculiar soft voice that sounds curiously like human speech. But the daily feeding is over, fellows, till tomorrow.
The quilt show was fun. I didn’t get much of a chance to go around and look at the gorgeous, magnificent, beautiful, amazing quilts on display, because I’m still not able to walk any great distance, even with a walker, and this was a BIG show. But what I did see impressed me tremendously. If you ever hear of a quilt show in your area (say, less than three hours’ distance), go. You won’t be sorry.
We sold quite a lot of books. I sat with fellow mystery author Arlene Sachitano (she writes quilting mysteries – has nine titles – for a very small publisher) who was great company. And her books are very well written. Linne Lindquist and her husband Jack own The Craftsman’s Touch, a small company that sells quilting books and patterns out of Bemidji, MN, and at quilt shows all over the country. They’ll be in Houston in, I think, November and want me to come down. I’ve been before, that show is HUGE. And I’ll have a new book to push.
Ellen is putting together collections of my previously-published short stories to be published as slender (+60,000 words) e-books. Some feature Betsy Devonshire, some stand alone, some feature characters from my first series (Peter and Kori Brichter), some feature Father Hugh of Paddington, Mass Priest at Deer Abby, some are Minnesota small town mysteries Ellen and I wrote together. Some of them are pretty good. It’s been good to look back and see how many there are.

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Here’s a photo Ellen took of me a few days ago with our cat Snaps.  I’m down twenty-six pounds from my last photo and I wanted a record of that; I suspect that at least some of it will come back as I finish healing.  The big thing is that the antibiotic I’m taking makes me a little sick and it has messed up my sense of smell so that almost everything tastes wrong, different, or even sickening.  Note Father Hugh of Paddington who stayed with me at the nursing home.  The white fluffy thing on my knees is a prayer shawl given to me by my church, a great comfort.

My muse continues her return, I am working on the subplot in which Betsy’s first husband pays a visit.  He is a retired Chief Boatswain’s Mate Aaron Ryan (called Rooster), loud and rude and very amusing, and he makes Betsy’s current beau Connor uncomfortable.  How could Betsy have been taken in by someone like him?  (Because she was very young and naive and he was sweet and protective of her.)   He calls her Betsy-Boo, she calls him Ron-a-Roo.  This is going to be fun.

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Galloping Horses

Had a lovely holiday at the house of friends. We had a delicious dinner at noon, then went to a local golf course and messed around the putting green for nearly an hour. My healing has progressed to where I can stand and walk short distances without even a cane, longer distances on hard floors with a cane, but still use my walker for streets and sidewalks and carpeted surfaces. So I tottered around the green striking my three yellow golf balls and now and again hitting the little poles that they have instead of holes (which is good, as stooping to retrieve a ball from a hole probably would have left me unable to get back on my feet). Then back to the house to eat ice cream and watch a marathon of “How It’s Made,” and stitching.

I’m working on a belt in needlepoint. I bought it years ago in Savannah while on a book tour selling my first needlework mystery, Crewel World. (Just about every stitcher I know has a collection of projects, some started, all begging for attention. Now and again it’s a good thing to go into that stash and renew an acquaintance with it.) The belt features a row of galloping horses, all black. The horses are done, now I’m working on the background, which is layers of stripes. If you look closely, you’ll notice that each horse’s feet are in a different position – and that they describe the correct progression of a horse at the gallop. If I ever get it made into a belt I can spin around so it looks as if the horses are running around my waist. What’s more, I lost quite a bit of weight during my illness, so there won’t be a large gap between the strap and the buckle.


Have you ever seen a small bird attacking a bigger bird in the air? The bigger bird is probably a crow and the smaller bird is a bereaved parent exacting revenge for the loss of an infant from the nest. I really like crows but they are omnivores, and time the hatching of their young to the birth of rabbits, which is the main source of food for their hatchlings. But they steal other birds’ babies, too. And they will feast on road kill. I don’t mind that last, but it’s sad to watch a parent robin or thrush striking futilely at a crow in the air. You can almost hear the crow laughing.

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