Two women are walking down the road and pass a frog sitting in the grass. “Hey,” says the frog.
“Wow. It’s a talking frog,” says one of the women. She picks the frog up and holds it in her hand.
The frog says, “Listen, I’m not really a frog. Actually, I’m a critically acclaimed writer. A spell was cast on me and I was turned into a frog. But if you kiss me I’ll turn back into a critically acclaimed writer.”
“Well, I’ll be damned,” says the woman, and puts the frog in her pocket.
Her friend asks, “Aren’t you going to kiss it?”
And she answers, “Hell, no. I’ll make a lot more money with a talking frog.”
In 2009, I accepted a challenge to write a four-sentence review of Nancy Peacock’s memoir A Broom of One’s Own. Starting well before the due date, I wrote the first sentence of the review—over and over—and deleted it. Over and over. Sometimes I wrote the same sentence several times in a row. Sometimes I composed a new sentence to demolish. After weeks of literary and rhetorical torment, I produced the following:
I like Nancy Peacock’s A Broom of One’s Own: Words About Writing, Housecleaning & Life so much that it’s taken me over two months and two missed deadlines to untangle my thoughts and write this four-sentence review, an irony Peacock, author of two critically acclaimed novels, would no doubt address were I in one of her writing classes.
She would probably tell me that there is no perfect writing life; that her job as a part-time housecleaner, begun when full-time writing wouldn’t pay the bills, afforded time, solitude, and the “foundation of regular work” she needed; that engaging in physical labor allowed her unconscious mind to “kick into gear,” so she became not the writer but the “receiver” of her stories.
She’d probably say that writing is hard; that sitting at a desk doesn’t automatically bring brilliance; that writers have to work with what they have; that “if I don’t have the pages I hate I will never have the pages I love”; that there are a million “saner” things to do and a “million good reasons to quit” and that the only good reason to continue is, “This is what I want.”
So, having composed at least two dozen subordinated, coordinated, appositived, participial-phrase-stuffed first sentences and having discarded them before completion; having practically memorized the book’s text searching for the perfect quotation to end with; and having once again stayed awake into the night, racing another missed deadline, I am completing this review—because I value Nancy Peacock’s advice; and because I love A Broom of One’s Own; and because I consider it the equal of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird; and because I want other readers to know about it; and because this is what I want.
Waller Answers Directly with One Sentence: When it takes you over two months to eke out four sentences, don’t quit your day job.
This post doesn’t aim to inform, persuade, or entertain. It’s more of an observation, a meditation, a rumination, a mulling over, a puzzling. A rambling through recent events and old secrets. A mystery.
I. The Story
Crime fiction writer Anne Perry died in Los Angeles on April 10. She was eighty-four. A native of New Zealand and long-time resident of Scotland, she published her first mystery novel, The Cater Street Hangman, in 1979. Her latest, The Fourth Enemy, was published the week before her death. A final novel,A Traitor Among Us, will appear in September 2023.
In all, Perry published over a hundred books: the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series (32 novels); the Daniel Pitt series (6 novels); the William Monk series (24 novels); the Elena Standish series (5 novels); the World War I series (5 novels); the Christmas Stories (20 novellas); the Christmas Collections (6 anthologies); a fantasy series (2 novels); the Timepiece series (4 novellas for young adults with dyslexia); standalone novels (7); and three volumes of nonfiction. She also contributed to and edited four short story anthologies. To date, over 26 million copies of her books have been sold.
In 2014, freelance writer Lenny Picker wrote in Publisher’s Weekly, “Quantity for Perry has not come at the cost of quality. She’s won major mystery awards, including an Edgar and two Anthonys, which demonstrate the esteem of fellow writers and fans alike.” At the 2009 Malice Domestic, she received the Agatha Award for lifetime achievement.
“Her belief in free will,” writes Picker, “allows Perry to hope for spiritual progress, both for herself and for humanity at large.”
He continues, “Perry’s writings are an effort to facilitate such progress. Through mystery and fantasy, she aspires to make a difference in her readers’ lives, by teaching them, in her words, ‘something of the human condition—a wisdom and compassion, an understanding of life that enables feeling empathy for people whose paths may be very different from our own.'”
Crime author Anne Perry, who, as a teenager helped murder her friend’s mother, has died aged 84.
The writer served five years in prison from the age of 15 for bludgeoning Honorah Mary Parker to death.
Perry died in a Los Angeles hospital, her agent confirmed. She had been declining for several months after suffering a heart attack in December. . . .
Her first novel, The Cater Street Hangman, was published in 1979. She went on to write a string of novels across multiple series, which collectively sold 25 million copies around the world.
Three major British writers of crime fiction die. They were contemporaries. They were prolific. Their novels received both popular and critical acclaim.
One major British news outlet reports the deaths. But the third report expends over 300 words before focusing on the author’s literary career–and then devotes only ninety-nine words to her books.
P. D. James lived an exemplary life, untouched by notoriety. The most serious offense I’ve found reported about Ruth Rendell is that on her first writing job, reporting for a newspaper in Essex, ” . . . she was forced to resign after filing a story about a local sports club dinner that she hadn’t attended. Her report failed to mention that the after-dinner speaker had died half-way through the speech.”
But Anne Perry was a murderer. In 1954, when she was fifteen, she helped to bludgeon her best friend’s mother to death. Convicted, she served five years in a New Zealand prison, was released under a new name and identity, joined her family in the United Kingdom, and worked for twenty years in what her New York Times obituary refers to as “less creative fields,” before becoming a writer. In 1994, forty years after the murder, and fifteen years after the publication of her first novel, her secret became public. She has since spoken about it in interviews. Although the Personal Biography on her official website omits reference to the crime, she has never claimed innocence. In the reporter’s judgment, Perry’s criminal past was of more import than her years as a literary superstar.
III. Social Media
Readers, too, judge. So do other writers.
Comments on Perry’s Facebook page express admiration for her and sadness at her passing. Elsewhere, however, reactions are mixed. A paraphrased and truncated sample of what I’ve seen on social media follows:
Perry was a gracious person and a brilliant writer. She should be remembered that way.
She was a murderer. She should have written in a different genre. A murderer shouldn’t write about murder.
Reading her books and knowing what she did–it makes me feel weird.
She didn’t celebrate murder in her books. She brought murderers to justice.
Can writers choose what they write? Choose what they’re good at? Perry tried writing historical fiction but didn’t succeed. Should she have refused to do what she did best?
She had to make a living.
It doesn’t matter what she was; it’s what she became that counts.
She served her time, paid her debt to society.
Five years isn’t enough to make up for murder.
She behaved badly at the trial. She laughed. She’s never expressed remorse.
Maybe bringing criminals to justice in her fiction was an attempt to atone.
It’s impossible to atone for murder.
What about redemption? Don’t you believe in redemption?
When you buy her books, you’re supporting her and condoning murder.
She made a major contribution to the mystery genre and to the culture.
She was a great person.
She read some of my work and offered advice. She was very helpful.
If she’d been a man who committed a brutal murder, would the public let her off so easily?
I love her books. I don’t care what she did before.
She was a murderer.I’ve never read her books and never will read them.
Her books raised awareness of social issues.
It’s a shame reporters dredge up all that business about the murder. That shouldn’t be her legacy.
Leave her to heaven And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge To prick and sting her.
The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interrèd with their bones.
All right–Shakespeare wrote those last two, and he didn’t post them on social media. But they’ve been looping through my brain over the past week, so I thought I’d throw them in.
IV. The Questions
The social media exchange is about more than just Anne Perry. It concerns how we view the relationship between artists and their art.
How do we separate writers from what they’ve written? Can we? Should we try?
And what do readers have the right to expect of writers, beyond words on the page? Do good writers have to be Good People? Just how good do they have to be? When people who’ve done bad deeds write good books, are we wrong to read them?
If writers and their books are inextricably linked, and reading is wrong, how much imperfection should we tolerate before we take those books off our To Be Read list? (Should books by Bad People be pulled from library shelves?*)
Or maybe reading isn’t the issue–maybe it’s money.
When we purchase books by writers whose past acts are abhorrent to us, and thus support them financially, do we condone their crimes? Money talks, but what exactly does it say?
Does time matter? What if a writer is dead, and the crime is long past, and our purchase instead supports heirs, publishers, booksellers–are we still enablers?
Is there a flip side? Do writers–artists–have a responsibility to the public? When they behave unacceptably–in Perry’s case, an understatement–should they expect the public to embrace their creations on merit alone?
Had Perry become a painter or sculptor, would the discussion be different?
Does Art stand on merit alone, independent of its creator?
Should there be a discussion at all? Are these questions a waste of time, gray cells, and energy, and not worth the pixels they’re written in?
Is Shakespeare correct:
There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.
V. One Answer
To Perry, at least, the issue was more than academic. The New York Times obituary quotes from the 2009 documentary film Anne Perry: Interiors:
“‘In a sense it’s not a matter — at the end — of judging,’ she said in the documentary. ‘I did this much good and that much bad. Which is the greater?’
“’It’s in the end, Who am I? Am I somebody that can be trusted? Am I someone that is compassionate, gentle, patient, strong?’ She mentioned other traits: bravery, honesty, caring. ‘If you’re that kind of person — if you’ve done something bad in the past, you’ve obviously changed.’
“She concluded, ‘It’s who you are when time’s up that matters.‘”
Sources–And possibly a summing-up of everything that comes before:
Leave her to heaven And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge To prick and sting her. William Shakespeare, Hamlet, I, v
The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interrèd with their bones – William Shakespeare,Julius Caesar, III, ii
Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. – William Shakespeare, Hamlet, II, ii
*Librarians select books and materials based on their reading of multiple reviews published in professional journals, without regard to the Goodness or Badness of the authors. It’s a matter of professional ethics.
My father is the family genealogist. He did extensive research into both his family and my mother’s family. Dad’s family is rather straightforward—all arriving in Texas in the 1870s and 1880s from what is now the Czech Republic. My mother’s mother was Irish American. Her parents arrived in the US just before 1900, so she had aunts, uncles, and cousins in Cork. While some of my Czech and Irish relatives had life-threatening adventures in settling in the US, they didn’t inspire the characters in my short story, “Danger at Death’s Door.” That honor goes to my Danish relatives.
One ancestor whose history I researched to create a character was one of my great-great-grandfathers on my mother’s father’s side, a man named Lars Peter. Lars Peter’s mother was unmarried when she gave birth to him in 1842 in Denmark. Family oral history says that she was employed at the court in Copenhagen, left to give birth, and was later ‘recalled’ to court. Her child, Lars Peter, was sent away to boarding school where he excelled scholastically. Among other things, he learned to speak, read, and write in both English and Danish. (We have proof of his lovely penmanship because later in life he was a US census-taker, and the names and addresses of his neighbors are recorded in his beautiful handwriting.) After leaving school, Lars Peter joined the military. He was a big man for his time, reaching over six feet tall and 190 pounds as a teenager.
In 1864, sick of Danish-German wars, Lars Peter left the military and signed on to crew a ship bound for the US from Denmark. He arrived in the midst of the US Civil War. Lars Peter jumped ship, ran for his life to avoid being forced into the Union Army by men seeking to draft newly arrive immigrants, made his way to the Great Lakes region, married, and settled on Washington Island. After presenting him with five children, three of whom survived, Lars Peter’s first wife died in childbirth along with a sixth child. The women on the island advised Lars Peter to remarry because he needed someone to care for his young children while he worked. So he crossed to the mainland on his sailboat and walked to farms, looking for an unattached female of marriageable age. He found a woman named Christine (apparently tripping and falling through her family’s front door).
Christine also features in my story, although very briefly and under a different name. She was an immigrant from Denmark of the serf class, uneducated in anything but sewing and farm/household work. She also had one eye that wandered because she was born with it fused closed, and it didn’t open until she was three years old. Christine emigrated to escape near slavery, her life controlled by the Count who owned the estate where she was born, and to escape the scandal that attached to a woman if a man jilted her, refusing to marry her after a marriage had been arranged by their families. She was visiting relatives while recovering from an extended illness, when Lars Peter asked her to come care for his children, and if she liked the situation, get married. She agreed to go with him. Christine fell for his children, and possibly him, and they were married. They went on to have seven children, the last of whom was my great-grandfather, Robert, born in 1897.
Family history states that Lars Peter admitted knowing who his father was, but he refused to name the man. That line of the family tree remains a mystery. Lars Peter died in 1924, a highly regarded citizen of Washington Island, having served as census taker, postmaster, town clerk, town chairman, assessor, and roadmaster at various points in his life.
Lars Peter’s history provides much of the background for the character named Lars Pedersen in my short mystery story “Danger at Death’s Door.” My Lars Pedersen character is also an “educated bastard” from Denmark and a widower in need of a mother for his young children. I named one of the children in the story Robbie, after my great-grandfather Robert, even though he wouldn’t have been born yet. Robert died in 1990 in Texas and lives in my memory as Great-Gampie, a tall man, several inches over six feet, with broad shoulders and a penchant for storytelling.
In my story, my character Lars takes a voyage across the Great Lakes. During the voyage, the ship’s captain hands Lars “one more thing to worry about” when he asks him to investigate a crime aboard ship. As far as I know, the real Lars Peter never encountered a mystery aboard a ship that required him to act as a detective. That portion of the story is entirely fictional.
“Danger at Death’s Door” is scheduled for publication in March 2023 in the mystery anthology Crimeucopia: One More Thing to Worry About, from editor John Connor at Murderous Ink Press.
N. M. Cedeño is a short story writer and novelist living in Texas. She is active in Sisters in Crime- Heart of Texas Chapter and is a member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Find out more at nmcedeno.com
[The blogger having been rendered incapable of typing with more than five fingers, she repeats a post that appeared on Austin Mystery Writers in 2015.]
. . . it was like taking a vase and setting it down so hard it shatters . . . ~ Tracy Chevalier
When I taught secondary English, grading essays was my least favorite task. I was happy to read them, but assigning letter grades? I hated that.
I hated judging. I hated trying to determine the difference between a B and an A, or, worse, between a B-plus and an A-minus.
But the worst–the part that made me want to moan like Hamlet’s father’s ghost, “Oh, horrible, oh, horrible, most horrible!”–was listening to students who believed their work merited higher grades: “But I worked so harrrrrrrd.”
Some had watched classmates complete an entire assignment during a lull in history class and then score A’s. It wasn’t fair.
“Harrrrrrrrrrd” was my signal to say that No, it didn’t seem fair, but that good writing involves more than time sheets and sweat. It’s the words on the page that matter.
Now, to my dismay, I often find myself slipping into student mode. For example, when I submit a chapter to my critique group, or a beta reader, or even a family member, and they find fault, or don’t even mention my genius, I have to restrain myself from wailing, But I worked so harrrrrrrd…
Each time it happens, I repeat to myself the old lecture about time sheets and sweat. I add that whingeing is the hallmark of the amateur.
And I meditate upon Tracy Chevalier.
Chevalier wrote the critically acclaimed historical novel Girl with a Pearl Earring. Her next novel began as a draft written in third person, with small sections in first-person voices of children. The completed manuscript disappointed her.
When I reread the first draft, she says,I cried at the end. It was boring, dead weight, terrible. Then I looked it over and thought, there’s nothing wrong with the story except the way it’s told.
She found the solution in another contemporary novel:
I had the idea when, just as I was finishing the first draft in third person, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, which uses five different voices beautifully. It’s a wonderful book, using multiple voices very successfully, and I thought, “Oh, that’s an interesting technique, I wonder if I should take the kids’ voices I’ve already written and have the three of them tell it.” It just felt right.
The revision was published as Falling Angels, an exquisite novel about a young wife and mother struggling to survive in the rigid, but rapidly changing, social structure of Edwardian England. The book is written in first person, from twelve perspectives, in twelve distinctive voices.
I came across Chevalier’s account when I was just beginning to write fiction and had become obsessed with the work. Writing an entire manuscript, setting it aside, starting all over—it had to be pure drudgery. I couldn’t imagine putting myself through that.
Later, though, I reread the article and a different passage caught my attention—Chevalier’s description of the rewrite:
I took the draft, and it was like taking a vase and setting it down so hard it shatters, then putting the pieces back together in a different way. I rewrote the whole thing in first person with all these different voices.
That passage doesn’t describe drudgery. Shattering a vase, putting the pieces back together to make something new—that’s a picture of creation, of the excitement and the pleasure and the beauty that accompany it.
I love Tracy Chevalier’s novels and admire her talent. But, on a more personal level, I’m grateful to her for sharing publicly how Falling Angels made its way into print—for reminding me that hard work isn’t synonymous with drudgery, for implying that it’s okay to cry over a bad draft and that perceived failure can turn into success, and for showing that the act of writing itself affords as much pleasure as the spirit is willing to embrace.
And—for tacitly suggesting that no one really needs to hear me whinge about how harrrrrrrrd I work.
It’s the words on the page that matter.
Note: I really do love Chevalier’s novels. In fact, I love Falling Angels so much that during library duty one Saturday morning, I was so intent on finishing the book—just racing toward the climax—that I unlocked the front doors but left the lights in the reading room off, and spent the next ninety minutes parked behind the circulation desk, reading, and hoping no one would walk in and want something. I’m not proud of what I did. It was unprofessional. But patrons were understanding. And I finished the book.
Since you can read award-winning author Bruce DeSilva’s excellent review here, I won’t try to duplicate. Except to point out that—
DeSilva calls the Samuel Craddock series “genre-bending,” because the “author’s folksy prose and Jarrett Creek’s small-town ways . . . give the novel the feel of a cozy,” and yet the problems facing the town and Police Chief Craddock “give the novel the feel of a modern police procedural.”
With the term “genre-bending,” DeSilva hits upon one reason—perhaps the reason—for the series’ success. Shames joins elements of two very different genres—cozy mysteries and police procedurals—with skill and grace, into a seamless whole. That ain’t hay either.
As a reader, I enjoy Shames’ novels, but as a writer, I seethe with envy. If only I could do what she does . . .
At the bookstore, I fell in love with the cover. On page one, I fell in love with the book. Soon thereafter, I fell in love with a sentence. Here it is, underlined, in the paragraph quoted below—the words of narrator Samuel Craddock:
I head into the house for my hat and my cane and the keys to my truck. There’s not a thing wrong with me but a bum knee. Several months ago one of my heifers knocked me down accidentally and it spooked her so bad that she stepped on my leg. This happened in the pasture behind my house, where I keep twenty head of white-faced Herefords. It took me two hours to drag myself back to the house, and those damned cows hovered over me every inch of the way.
That’s what author Ernest Hemingway would callone true sentence. Cows are curious. They’re nosy. They like to observe. I’ve seen cows hover. That’s exactly the kind of thing my father might have said about his damn cows.
Shames gets it right. Every word in that sentence, and throughout the book, is pitch-perfect.
The night I read about the hovering cows, I wrote Shames a fan email telling her I loved the sentence.
But when I completed the novel and tried to write a review for my personal blog, I got tangled up in words. It came out sounding like this:
I love this book. It’s just so…There’s this wonderful sentence on the second page about hovering cows…That’s exactly what cows do…I can just see those cows…The person who wrote that sentence knows cows…It’s just so…I just love it.
That’s what happens when a reviewer lacks detachment. Wordsworth said poetry begins with emotion “recollected in tranquility.”So do book reviews. There’s nothing tranquil about that tangle of words.
So, with no review, I compromised. I posted the paragraph containing the beloved sentence and added a picture of white-faced Herefords.
Not long after, Shames spoke at the Heart of Texas (Austin) chapter of Sisters in Crime, and I told her how much I admired her work. A year later, in 2014, I heard her read from her second novel, The Last Death of Jack Harbin. And I’ve read all the books she’s published since.
From 2013 to 2022, that’s nine Samuel Craddock mysteries, each a great read, each just as good as—or better than—the one before.
But regarding Shames’ sentences—
It is a truth universally acknowledged that her hovering cows will always be Number One.
*Shames breaks the silly rule against “mixing” present and past tenses in narration. Samuel Craddock speaks the language spoken by men like him in real Jarrett Creeks all over Texas.
**The cow sentence isn’t really about cows. It’s about Samuel Craddock. But I am fond of white-faced Herefords, and the image Shames paints of them is so vivid that it obscures the man dragging himself toward his house. For me, at least.
***I took the photo of the cover of A Killing at Cotton Hill. The fur on the right side of the book doesn’t belong there, but it was easier to just take the picture than to move the cat.
Kathy Waller has published short crime fiction as well as a novella co-written with Manning Wolfe. For more info, and/or to read her posts on topics ranging from A to izzard, visit her personal blog, Telling the Truth, Mainly (http://kathywaller1.com). She also cross-posts her Ink-Stained Wretches posts at Austin Mystery Writers.
People like to ask writers, do you ever use details from your life in your writing? Answer: Sometimes. It depends on what I’m writing. If I’m writing science fiction or noir, nothing in the story may be evocative of my life. Other times, details from my life do creep into my stories. “It Came Upon a Midnight Ice Storm” is one of those stories that has a bit of my life in it.
Written originally in 2010 or 2011, the manuscript sat forgotten in a file for seven or eight years before I decided to revise and submit it for publication. The story is available in Black Cat Mystery Magazine #12, the special cozies edition, edited by Michael Bracken.
Without further ado, here are some things from my life that influenced my writing of the story “It Came Upon a Midnight Ice Storm.”
The story is set in Dallas during a Christmas Eve ice storm that traps a party of houseguests together overnight. Trouble ensues when one guest accuses the others of stealing her bracelet. I grew up in Dallas County where ice storms hit the city every few years. The city doesn’t get frozen precipitation often enough for anyone to have to drive on it with any regularity. When an ice storm hits and coats everything with an inch of ice, the city shuts down and everyone stays home for a day or two until it melts. Historical note: the first draft of the story was written about ten years before the 2021 catastrophic ice storm that hit Texas. Texans are used to ice storms hitting sections of the state. Ice storms big enough to coat the entire state in frozen precipitation for a week, as happened in 2021, are a whole other matter.
The main character in the story, Eleanor, spent the day baking and preparing for a Christmas Eve family gathering. I enjoy baking. A lot. Cookies, cakes, brownies, muffins, quick breads, scones, and scratch-made baking powder biscuits are the favorites in my house. Pies and fudge appear seasonally. As much as I enjoy baking, there have been times, usually after prepping for an event, where I have been utterly tired of baking, a feeling shared by my main character.
Eleanor’s husband Joe has three siblings with whom he is close in age. I come from a large family and grew up with two brothers and two sisters for a total of five of us, plus two parents, plus assorted dogs. Between friends and relatives our house was frequently packed. Holidays in my family have always involved a lot of people, and, thus, family dynamics. However, none of the characters in the story are like my siblings or my husband’s siblings.
As with Joe’s family in the story, my husband’s family has a Christmas tradition involving setting up a prominently-displayed, elaborate Nativity scene in their home in which the infant Jesus in the display remains covered from head-to-toe in a cloth until December 25th.
According to the character Luke, Die Hard is a classic Christmas movie. Most of my family would agree with this statement.
Like Becky in the story, two of my siblings and my eldest son attended UT Dallas.
Among my more than a dozen nieces and nephews you will find an Eleanor, a Joseph, a Luke, a Rebecca (not called Becky), and a (middle name) Helen (not Helene). However, two of them were born AFTER the characters in this story were named and, in truth, all of the names are coincidental. I wasn’t thinking of anyone in particular when I named the characters. This isn’t the first time I have used a family member’s first name for a character. If the first name fits, I use it.
The above are all details to the story. The plot about the disappearance of an expensive bracelet during a Christmas Eve party is entirely fictional.
N. M. Cedeño is a short story writer and novelist living in Texas. She is active in Sisters in Crime- Heart of Texas Chapter and is a member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Find out more at nmcedeno.com
“Giants are not as powerful as they seem and sometimes the shepherd has a sling in his pocket.” — Malcom Gladwell
Malcom Gladwell is not a “new author.” He has been writing for the New YorkTimes since 1996, and is the best-selling author of many books. But more than that, Gladwell is a one-of-a-kind writer–there is no one else like him. “. . . Gladwell’s true genius lies here, in identifying common assumptions that lie just beneath the surface—beliefs that are so widely accepted, so taken for granted, that we don’t even know we believe in them.” (Adam Grant).
Gladwell’s strength is taking the ordinary and making it interesting. (Adam Grant)
Gladwell shows why finding the answers is not as easy as it appears. By the end of this book, the reader finds that their once comfortable presumptions have been turned on their heads.
There is no better introduction for Gladwell’s, David and Goliath, than the story of David and Goliath – the most well-known underdog vs. giant story of all time. It is much more than we thought– David was a lucky young man who delivered a one-in-a-million shot instantly slaying the giant. David did do those things, but thanks to Gladwell, we now know there were other reasons that played a very large part in David’s victory.
No one disputes the fact that Goliath was a giant of a man for his day. He was a scary guy– overwhelmingly huge compared to others. What was not known is that Goliath suffered from a debilitating growth condition, now known as “acromegaly, a benign tumor of the pituitary gland” (Gladwell). Acromegaly caused Goliath’s unchecked growth and also impacted his eyesight–Goliath could not see well. And because of his size, Goliath’s responses were delayed, and because of his disease, he was not only slow, he could not see clearly. For this famous battle at least, these two facts substantially reduced Goliath’s chances of victory.
While Goliath was already a proven warrior, he was primarily successful engaged within hand-to-hand combat — traditional warfare. Traditional hand combat mandated certain behaviors and dress. Combatants wore a heavily armored breast plate, needed the ability to carry and wield a large and heavy sword with alacrity, must have the ability to target and throw a javelin, and all this, while wearing a heavy metal helmet.
The fully dressed combatant was restricted both in movement and sheer weight. Moreover, to be effective wielding the sword, the warrior must be very close to their opponent—face-to-face. In this story, David was at the bottom of a ravine, while Goliath was standing at the top of a slope bellowing demands while walking in a downward direction towards David. Unbeknownst to Goliath, the fight with David would not follow the familiar traditional rules of either dress, weapon, or combat, and there would be no face-to-face contact.
Unlike Goliath, the young shepherd David had never worn armor, fought hand to hand combat, or a major battle. David was small, lithe, unencumbered, and his only weapon a sling – and in that –slinging– he was an expert. David refused an offer of armor because he knew it would weigh him down. David approached the fight with excellent eyesight, a honed skill, unburdened by armor and no predisposed concepts of traditional warfare. David would not be close enough for hand-to-hand combat, and he carried no sword.
“So here we have a big, lumbering guy weighed down with armor, who can’t see much more than a few feet in front of his face, up against a kid running at him with a devastating weapon and a rock traveling with the stopping power of a .45 caliber handgun. That’s not a story of an underdog and a favorite. David has a ton of advantages in that battle, they’re just not obvious. That’s what gets the book rolling is this notion that we need to do a better job of looking at what an advantage is.” Malcom Gladwell (Interview, Inc.com)
We know the end of this story, and the underdog (weak) (disadvantaged) proves to be no underdog at all, and becomes in this situation the winner, (strong) (advantaged). This type of scrutiny is where Gladwell shines, taking a subject, stripping away assumptions, turning it on its head–making the story something else entirely.
Gladwell’s precise and skillful analysis continues on throughout the book’s nine sections, all equally thought-provoking, and all dealing with preconceived assumptions of weak and strong, advantages or disadvantages. In one of his more bewildering propositions, Gladwell questions the impact of certain types of disability and asks: Can disability ever be desirable? (Gladwell). A premise that at first blush, appears both jarring and indistinctly hopeful. We answer we cannot imagine that there is an appropriate answer.
To structure his premise, Gladwell reviews the impact of living with dyslexia – “a learning disability that makes it difficult to read, write, and spell, no matter how hard the person tries or how intelligent he or she is” (LDOnline). The root cause for dyslexia is still being studied, however, so far what we do know is that the brain’s mechanical functions are unable to link the vital connection of essential neuron transmitters that allow an individual to learn, to read, to speak, and to write.
Dyslexic individuals struggle every day, normal activities take a very long time and exhaustive concentration. Gladwell suggests that for dyslexics, the harder it is to learn, the more they excel in adulthood. The premise —they excelbecause they have worked so very hard from the very beginning to cope, to fit in, to make it through daily life.
This may seem improbable, but it has been found that “a high number of entrepreneurs are dyslexic” (Gladwell). Within one entrepreneurial group studied, it was found that approximately one-third of those participating had some type of learning disability. Which begs the question, would you want your child to have a disability? It is a tough question and a harder one to answer (Gladwell).
“I sat down with countless numbers of people who have been very successful in their fields who have dyslexia to ask them, ‘Did you succeed in spite of your disability or because of it,’ and every one of them said because of the disability. (emphasis added)
“In other words, these were people who, because they could not read easily were forced to develop other skills and try other strategies that proved to be more advantageous in terms of their careers.”Malcolm Gladwell, Air Talk.
The success stories of affected individuals winning over dyslexia exist because they were forced to compensate from a very early age and developed skills to overcome learning roadblocks—they were and are, flexible and adaptive and found a way to exist in a very cloudy and disorganized world. Dyslexia forced them to learn to listen acutely, memorize large amounts of information, and develop a razor-sharp ability to read people, retain complex nuances and facts, not on paper, but in their minds. So, under Gladwell’s premise, there are benefits to a disability – which may not be easily understood. (Photo: Pixabay)
While there is much, much more within Gladwell’s stories, in the end, the reader must decide which speaks to them. Which story is the most relatable, plausible? Gladwell writes simply; his premises, rebuttal, and results are presented in an easy to read format while challenging the reader to think deeply.
And if you stay the course to the end of the book, you will be given a glimmer of hope, because that is what Gladwell gives – hope. Hope that despite incredible odds, things are not as they seem –there is always more. Gladwell’s gift is to leave the reader questioning everything – and that is what Gladwell does better than anyone.
A former paralegal, Renee Kimball has a master’s degree in criminal justice. Among her interests are reading and writing. She is an active Animal Advocate, fosters and rescues both dogs and cats from shelters, and works with various organizations to find them forever homes.
Our family’s favorite mystery quote (bolded below) appears in Strong Poison, by Dorothy Sayers, where detective Lord Peter Wimsey first meets novelist Harriet Vane. Vane’s on trial for murder, accused of systematically poisoning her former lover with arsenic.
Wimsey suspects the lover’s uncle, Norman Urquhart, but the uncle assures the police that he served a blameless dinner to his nephew. Wimsey sends the all-competent Bunter (his manservant and WWI batman), to winkle out secrets from Urquhart’s cook, Mrs. Pettican, and the housemaid.
Bunter ingratiates himself by means of crumpets:
“At half-past four…he was seated in the kitchen of Mr. Urquhart’s house, toasting crumpets. He had been trained to a great pitch of dexterity in the preparation of crumpets, and if he was somewhat lavish in the matter of butter, that hurt nobody except Mr. Urquhart. It was natural that the conversation should turn to the subject of murder. Nothing goes so well with a hot fire and buttered crumpets as a wet day without and a good dose of comfortable horrors within. The heavier the lashing of the rain and the ghastlier the details, the better the flavour seems to be.”
What a setting! I’ve never tasted a crumpet, but can feel the heat of the fire and inhale the smells of toasting and melting butter. And in contrast to (or fueled by) this warmth, this delicious comfort, the cook reminds us of the victim’s death: “A dreadful wicked woman she must ‘a’ been,” said Mrs. Pettican, “—‘ev another crumpet, do, Mr. Bunter—a-torturin’ of the poor soul that long-winded way. Bashin’ on the ‘ed or the ‘asty use of a carvin’ knife when roused I can understand, but the ‘orrors of slow poisonin’ is the work of a fiend in ‘uman form, in my opinion.”
So in our kitchen at buttery moments some family member will mutter, “If he was somewhat lavish in the matter of butter…” But this week I wondered, “What are crumpets?” I mean, with Bunter toasting them over a (presumably coal) fire, then lavishing butter on them, they sound wonderful, especially for teatime in a firelit kitchen, on a cold wet afternoon, discussing the horrors of slow poisoning.
Compelled by curiosity I found a recipe. https://www.daringgourmet.com/traditional-english-crumpets/ Huh. I’d imagined English muffins. No. Instead, the goal is a tender disc, yeasty but also leavened with baking soda, creating bubbled holes to absorb melted butter, jam, and other decorations. Problem: locating crumpet rings. Yes, I’ve ordered some.
Sayers wasn’t writing a culinary cozy, despite the crumpets and an intense discussion on the following page between Mrs. Pettican and Bunter about casseroled chicken. A scene beginning with toasting crumpets produces a triumph of setting and character, a comic but dread-inspiring description of the victim’s death, and clever clue placement. Sayers does not describe either the smell of the toasting, or the taste of the crumpets, but surely you, dear reader, imagined those? Didn’t you feel yourself right there in the kitchen, with the rainy day outside, the gossipy discussion of the lover’s death agonies, and a vivid depiction of Bunter’s character? Courteous, yet firm, he deftly extracts critical information not reflected in the police report—and yes, a clue you doubtless spotted. Maybe Vane will escape the hangman’s noose after all.
Despite the strong impact of smells on humans, writers’ references to smell often seem sparse. Part of the problem is the sheer difficulty of describing certain smells. Imagine trying to describe the smell of a beloved house. It’s a mysterious mix, isn’t it? If I try to describe my mother’s house, I can’t do it with just one word. Part of the remembered smell is a faint perfume—maybe a bath powder she used, like Caswell Massey’s Gardenia. But there are other ingredients as well—contributions from oak furniture, cotton sheets, old Christmas cards on a closet shelf… See, I can’t accurately describe the smell itself; I have to name things.
My grandmother’s house in Hill County delivered a similar mixture, varying by seasons. In summer, it smelled of cantaloupe from her garden; at Christmas, of a decorated cedar tree. But always the substrate included a hard-to-describe mixture of our grandfather’s Yardley English Lavender talc, kept on the kitchen shelf where he shaved; of the garbage chute in the kitchen; of oil and electric discharges from his ham radio rig; of the ancient living room piano (wires, wood, felt). How describe the totality of that smell, that amalgam of odors, so instantly recognizable to me, but unknown to you? And how describe it without a bunch of nouns?
Poets apparently run into that problem. I set out to locate poems incorporating odor and fragrance, grabbing poetry volumes from the shelves. Yeats? Gorgeous references to sight and sound, as in “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”: “Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee, /And live alone in the bee-loud glade…” The poem is rich in sight, in sound, but not smell. We don’t smell the clay and wattles or honey.
Same for Wendell Berry’s A Small Porch—a volume of ideas, images, light and air. But I didn’t find smell. Nor did I find smell references in Chaucer or a number of Renaissance English poets, except that Michael Drayton gives us a wonderful line in “To the Virginian Voyage” referring to the much-anticipated Virginia landfall of seaborne English explorers: “When as the luscious smell/of that delicious land…” Of course Shakespeare mentions the “sweet odour” of roses (as in Sonnet 54): “Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made.”
Indeed, I had trouble finding references to smell in most of the poetry books I opened. There were some. In “Aimless Love,” “gazing down affectionately at the soap,” Billy Collins writes, “I could feel myself falling again/as I felt its turning in my wet hands/and caught the scent of lavender and stone.”
Marianne Moore, in “Enough,” from O To Be a Dragon, gives us this: “The crested moss-rose casts a spell; its bud of solid green, as well, /and the Old Pink Moss—with fragrant wings/ imparting balsam scent that clings…” Many readers will recognize balsam. Another from Moore’s “In the Public Garden”: “O yes, and snowdrops in the snow that smell like violets.”
Also readers may know the smell of violets. Charles Wright, in “Dog Creek Mainline,” gives more challenging references: “Dog Creek: cat track and bird splay,/Spindrift and windfall; woodrot; Odor of muscadine…” If you’ve played around wild grapevine you know the odor of muscadine––maybe woodrot too.
Try the experiment yourself. Pull some poetry off the shelf. Don’t most poems rely on sight and sound, and rarely odor? Because a particular smell can be very hard to describe.
“The way the brain deals with smells is very different to how it deals with other senses, such as seeing and hearing. For example, we can identify the different instruments playing in a band, or the different shapes and colours in a painting. But it is very hard for us to tell the individual parts of a smell mixture.” He goes on: “We can sense the smell of “orange” or “coffee” as a single thing, but have trouble identifying the many different parts that make up those smells individually. However, it is possible to get better at this with practice. Professional wine-tasters or perfume-makers can detect more parts of a smell mixture than most people.”
Our difficulty in describing smell is not that we humans can’t detect odors—we can, says Greg Miller, Science (November 11, 2014): “We humans have about 400 different types of receptors for detecting odorant molecules. That’s on the low end for mammals, but it’s enough, at least in theory, to allow us to distinguish a trillion different odors, one team of neuroscientists calculated earlier this year (although there’s been some controversy about that estimate).”
Can’t you smell those spices? And doesn’t that passage help round out (pun) our vision of Nero Wolfe, gourmet, gourmand, brilliant detective? We’re planted in the kitchen of Wolfe’s New York brownstone, the primary setting for all the mysteries. These few lines convey Wolfe’s insistence on sophisticated cuisine, and reflect the rigor he demands of every employee under his roof, including Fritz the cook; Theodore Horstmann, the keeper of his orchid greenhouse; and our narrator, his foot soldier, Archie Goodwin. A shish kebab recipe helps define the setting and Wolfe’s character as well.
Ngaio Marsh begins Night at the Vulcan (1951) with Martyn Tarne, a young New Zealand actress desperately seeking an acting role in London. One night, out of food and money, with no place to stay, she enters the Vulcan Theatre which has advertised for a dresser: “She was at the back of the stalls, standing on thick carpet at the top of the ramp facing the centre aisle…The deadened air smelt of naphthalene and plush.” The empty theatre lacks an eager audience, waiting for the curtain to go up. Instead Marsh gives us the “deadened air” of a closed theatre, where the plush seats are empty, and the air smells of naphthalene—chemical dry cleaning. Martyn starts to work: “As soon as she crossed the threshold of the star dressing-room she smelt greasepaint. The dressing-shelf was bare, the room untenanted, but the smell of cosmetics mingled with the faint reek of gas.” I don’t know the smell of greasepaint, but Martyn does; she’s in a setting she understands.
Mick Herron’s unputdownable Slough House series uses odor to create the key setting––the decrepit building which serves as center stage. Book 2, Dead Lions, describes entry to the building as follows: “No one enters Slough House by the front door; instead, via a shabby alleyway, its inmates let themselves into a grubby yard with mildewed walls….” Yecch, mildew. The building houses the “slow horses” who flunked out of MI-5’s headquarters in posh Regent’s Park, and are now under the tutelage of former Cold Warrior Jackson Lamb, a terrifying mentor. “Jackson Lamb’s lair,” the office on the building’s top floor, is described thus: “The air is heavy with a dog’s olfactory daydream: takeaway food, illicit cigarettes, day-old farts and stale beer, but there will be no time to catalogue this because Jackson Lamb can move surprisingly swiftly for a man of his bulk….” No question that odor is part of the setting. Lamb is an olfactory terrorist. https://www.amazon.com/Dead-Lions-Slough-House-Book-ebook/dp/B008ADFIKQ/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2OWSNB20HLYMN&keywords=dead+lions&qid=1659990272&sprefix=dead+lion%2Caps%2C169&sr=8-1
The century-old Beer Barn, a beloved road house in Coffee Creek, is where townspeople gather in my Ghost series. That includes lawyer and protagonist Alice Greer. Naturally the smell of beer is key. In Book 3, Ghost Letter, Alice invites a political reporter to the Beer Barn for lunch: “As they pushed through the Beer Barn’s tall swinging doors the fragrant haze enveloped them—incense compounded of hickory smoke from the wood-fired grill, chiles toasted on an iron comal, and thousands of bubbles popping in bottles and glasses, releasing the yeasty magic of beer to the air.”
Smells may be hard to define, but including the smell of a setting can enrich a mystery’s impact. Or, as Mrs. Pettican says, “Have another crumpet, do!”
Helen Currie Foster lives and writes north of Dripping Springs, Texas, loosely supervised by three burros jostling for roles in the Alice MacDonald Greer Mystery series, set in the unique landscape of the Texas Hill Country. So far all three burros have made an appearance, though insisting on aliases. Book 8 is on its way…
Many writers find motivation in challenging themselves in various ways. Some attempt to write a novel length manuscript each November as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Some writers set daily, weekly, or monthly word count targets as challenges to meet. Most do this because they know that when they challenge themselves, they find out what they are capable of accomplishing and learn to push themselves to accomplish more.
Sometimes we writers set these goals for ourselves, other times someone, like an editor in need of a story, provides the challenge for us.
In the last week of May 2022, I received an unexpected writing challenge. It arrived in the form of an email from an editor, inviting me to submit a short crime fiction story for an anthology. The catch was that the original deadline, which the editor was willing to extend for me, was only about a week away.
I read the submission criteria, considered my options, and reviewed what was already on my schedule. Then I asked for a month, June, to submit the story, not knowing if that would work for the editor’s timeline.
Could I have said no? Sure. But I recognized that the challenge was also an opportunity to show myself and the editor what I was capable of doing. I was afraid the editor might need the story sooner than my suggested deadline and that he might say no.
The editor replied to my email, agreeing to give me until the end of June to submit the story.
Hooray! And Yikes! I had a deadline to meet.
Meeting the Deadline:
The short story had to fit the specifications for the anthology in question which meant that it had to be set during a particular time period and incorporate some historical event. The time in question happens to be the decade in which I was born, so I have no personal memories of historical events from then. I had to do research. Normally, I research until I get a good grasp for an era before writing. I’ve been known to fall down research rabbit holes and find far more material than I need. My research process had to be curtailed to cover only what was essential: the time and place where I was going to set the story.
Next, I selected a previously created character to make a second appearance in my new story. That character, a private detective named Jerry Milam, appeared in a story called “Nice Girls Don’t” which I wrote for the anthology Groovy Gumshoes: Private Eyes in the Psychedelic Sixties. Already having a protagonist saved me from having to create a main character from scratch.
After researching the decade and selecting a protagonist, writing the first draft took about three days, resulting in a manuscript that was missing some details. Then, I left on a previously scheduled, nine-day, family vacation, taking my laptop, but knowing I wouldn’t have time to do much work. As it turned out, I only opened the laptop twice during my trip, both times late in the evening.
Once I returned home, I went to work in earnest adding the details I knew were missing. The middle of the story felt muddled, so I reworked it in another draft the following day. Satisfied that the manuscript was complete, I emailed the story to two of the world’s best beta readers, two analytical and detail-oriented people who know that I WANT them to point out every possible error. They know I can take criticism. (I’d rather hear about errors from them than have the story rejected for those same errors!) Both returned notes on the story within a few days, for which I am extremely grateful. (Thanks, Mike and Deb!) After reviewing what errors my beta readers noticed, I corrected and completed the final draft of the story.
In the next few days, I reviewed word choices and line edited the entire document. I made MSWord read the story to me, so I could proofread by listening for errors. Finally, I submitted the story to the editor on June 18, almost exactly four weeks after I received the initial invitation to submit.
Did I hesitate before hitting “send” to submit the manuscript, wondering if I needed to review it one more time?
Did I send it anyway?
A week later, I heard back from the editor. The story was accepted for the anthology. I’ll provide more details on the story closer to publication.
I met the challenge and learned something. I could have done it in even less time. I’m glad that when an opportunity dropped in my lap, I was able to rise to the occasion. I’m grateful that the editor gave me the opportunity to meet this challenge.
Leave me a comment on writing challenges you’ve met!
N. M. Cedeño is a short story writer and novelist living in Texas. She is active in Sisters in Crime- Heart of Texas Chapter and is a member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Find out more at nmcedeno.com.
This week I’ve been in the Land of Stuck. Walking in circles around the kitchen island struggling to come up with the missing scene. My next mystery’s nearly done, but… I’m stuck. Ever been there?
The poetry shelf offers a momentary escape. Billy Collins can always pull me into a poem. Often he’s going for a walk and I can’t help but feel invited. His “Aimless Love” begins:
He’s got me.
Or “The Trouble with Poetry,” which begins,
“This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.”
Well, of course there he’s got me. Then again:
“The trouble with poetry, I realized
as I walked along a beach one night––
cold Florida sand under my bare feet,
a show of stars in the sky––”
I feel that same cold Florida sand under my right arch, despite the Texas heat outside.
Another walking poet: Mary Oliver. In Blue Iris, She begins “White Pine” this way:
“The sun rises late in this southern county. And, since the first thing I do when I wake up is go out into the world, I walk here along a dark road.”
Huh. Walking as discipline? Every morning?
Walking’s not just for poets. St. Augustine is often credited with the Latin phrase Solvitur ambulando––“it is solved by walking” (which may have originally been a response to the 5th C. B.C. philosopher Zeno’s concept that we can never actually arrive at a destination).
“Solvitur ambulando” was the official mottol of the Royal Air Forces Escaping Society, formed in 1946 to help those in former occupied countries during WWII who risked their lives to help RAF crew members escape. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solvitur_ambulando (check out the terrific solvitur ambulando quotes in this article, from Lewis Carroll, Dorothy Sayers and others). I can’t imagine how high the blood pressure of those resistance heroes climbed during such episodes. Mine skyrocketed just reading A Woman of No Importance, Sonia Purnell’s description of the amazing work of America’s Virginia Hall in France during the resistance. Talk about tense moments. So, did the RAF Escaping Society adopt this motto because of the therapeutic value of walking, or because walking can trigger ideas, or solutions? Or both?
The English provide walkers with such wonderful public walking paths. My husband and I recently walked the Thames Footpath for several miles along the Thames, over to Bray––yes! Home of the Vicar of Bray! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Vicar_of_Bray
In this charming village you can taste amazing smoked salmon at The Hinds Head (where you can read how many times the Vicar changed his denomination to keep his job, back in the religious flip-flops of England’s sixteenth century) and also at The Crown, a pluperfect pub. The Thames Footpath takes you through leafy woods, with views of the rivers, the fields, and occasional historic and mysterious signs (“Battlemead”). It provides boats to watch, ranging from kayaks and paddleboards to elegant near-yachts, festooned with banners for Jubilee, and one incredible ancient polished Chris Craft, casually docked by the restaurant at the Boathouse at Boulter’s Lock by two grizzled old salts. We tried but failed to overhear their intense lunch conversation. Just trying to eavesdrop was imagination-stirring. Where did they come from? Where were they going?
The footpath also led us to the village of Cookham, home of another surprise: the Stanley Spencer Gallery. Spencer, a WWI veteran and Slade School graduate, produced remarkable paintings, sometimes mixing nominally biblical subjects with contemporary life—for example, a resurrection study of Cookham housewives in aprons, climbing out of their graves with surprised faces. https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/sir-stanley-spencer-1977.
I thought I remembered Spencer’s name from Virginia Woolf’s diaries and looked it up when we got home. She wrote on May 22, 1934, about Clive Bell, Vanessa Bell (Clive’s wife), Duncan Grant (Vanessa’s lover), and Quentin Bell (Vanessa’s son) “all talking at once about Spencer’s pictures.” In 1934 Spencer was showing six works in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition…about the time Patrick Leigh Fermor was off in the middle of his big walk.
Other poetic walkers? You’ve already thought of Robert Frost (“Two Roads Diverged…”) and Dante. Dante’s walks take the cake; I mean, the Inferno’s a hell of a walk.
So if walking calms the mind, allows creativity, reveals solutions, why am I revolving around the kitchen island?
Now that I think about it, some ideas have emerged. For instance, how much my extended family loves hiking in the Rockies, with (1) a destination; (2) a well-rounded lunch, including chocolate, in the pack; (3) plenty of water. How it feels to set off, hoping to see (1) moose, or (2) marmots, or (3) ptarmigan. How it feels to walk to the destination, grab a flat-topped boulder, warmed by sun, and have lunch, staring out at the view. Then to walk…downhill. No longer out of breath. Watching your fellow hikers dodging limbs, swinging around switchbacks. Triumphant walkers. And in the meantime, there have been discussions on the trail, conversations about this and that, switching from one companion to another. At the end of the trail, a sense of sleepy satisfaction.
So it’s time to get up early enough for a walk. Get up early enough to beat the Texas sun, and see if my neighbor’s front pasture includes a jackrabbit, or “jackbunny” as some call it. Cause a snort from the deer in the brush.
… Okay. Back from the walk. I think I’ve figured out that pesky bit about the last scene, except for a couple of details. So tomorrow, when the alarm rings—I’m going for a walk. Would you like to come too? I’d love it. We could talk.
Helen Currie Foster lives and writes north of Dripping Springs, Texas, closely supervised by three burros. She’s curious about human nature, human history and prehistory, and why the past keeps crashing the party. She’s currently finishing book 8 in the Alice MacDonald Greer Mystery novel series. Book 7, Ghost Daughter, was named Grand Prize Short List in the 2022 Eric Hoffer Book Awards, and Finalist for Mystery, 2022 National Indie Excellence Awards. Her books are available on Amazon, Kindle, and Audible, and at independent bookstores.She loves to talk with book groups.