Pick Your Poison – The Mystery Writer’s Dilemma

Since I began to compose my own mysteries, the biggest struggle seems to be how to kill someone. Maybe it just doesn’t come naturally to me to think of killing someone.

These days, I wouldn’t wish pain upon even my worst “enemies”.

But I have come to love my cozies, the lighthearted mysteries that entertain and comfort me in spite of the misfortune of the murder victims as they are violently attacked, or ingest toxic substances.

So, in my “spare” time, I try to come up with believable, yet unpredictable plots. Research into ways to kill someone can be quite troubling, though. Some poisons that were readily available in earlier times have become regulated today, but still, a good number of drugs, plants and household products could still be accessed by someone plotting a murder, or hopefully, only a good story. Deadly Doses: A Writer’s Guide to Poisons (Howdunit Series) is a classic for mystery writers seeking toxic products for plots.

I’m still not sure how someone who grows more peace loving with age has become enamored of reading and now writing cozy mysteries.

I do know I was never a fan of most fiction,  the plots seemed either too boring or too filled with human drama. Then I discovered cozies. Cozy writers seem to enjoy the same aspects of life that I do. Many focus upon pets, gardening, and generally living a modest but pleasurable lifestyle. While they’re upset by murders, they seem to accept them as an unpleasant but inevitable part of life.

Of course, historical mysteries are still may favorite to write. I think they can be every bit as intriguing as stories involving current era fatalities. One of these days, Black Cats, Schemes, and Childhood Dreams, or a short story of mine may see the light of publication, when I deem them to be ready for public reading.


Book Review of The Vineyard Victims a Wine Country Mystery by Ellen Crosby


The first blush of spring is upon the hills on this slightly chill morning in mid-March. A great day to head outside with a good book if one dons a jacket and finds a spot in the sun. Crocus and snowdrops are up and a faint tint of green shines through the few spots of snow that linger in shady spots along the roadsides.

I highly recommend The Vineyard Victims: A Wine Country Mystery (Wine Country Mysteries) for a first spring read!

There’s a great lesson to be learned from this work of fiction-

Lucie Montgomery, owner of a winery founded by her family amid the lovely landscapes of Virginia experiences a bit of déjà vu as a car driven by a publicly prominent friend plows into the same pillar at the end of her estate’s lane that was the impact point of an accident she experienced ten years before.

The details behind this accident are gradually unearthed as Lucie launches an investigation into the puzzling request Jamie, the accident victim, makes of her just before the car catches fire and consumes his life.

A number of people Lucie knows are discovered to be involved in the events of another era that provoked the current situation leading to the fatal accident.

Quinn, the estate’s wine-maker, who now is engaged to Lucie, is supportive throughout the story. Those who have read the earlier works in the series know of the long winding road they followed before coming together as readers hoped they would.

Things became a bit unbelievable at the point where the answer to the mystery was revealed, but that’s really the only flaw I saw in the story.

I actually didn’t want the book to end, but loved the conclusion when Lucie learned a lesson we all should remember. It seems fate brought a few strange factors together to teach her. Synchronicities this intricately entwined are rare, but can be realities.

A book of inspiration as well as entertainment.  To view more, click the link below: 

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Book Review of Crazy Like a Fox by Rita Mae Brown


Crazy Like a Fox: A Novel (“Sister” Jane)

The Foxhunting Mystery Series with Sister Jane, represented by this current review is just one branch on the talent tree of Rita Mae Brown.

Her early life works featured varied themes, I’ve not explored all of those.

Her later life series’ focused on the intelligence and wonder of companion animals and wild creatures  ( a theme after my own heart)- her cat Sneaky Pie offering inspiration and writing her own series based upon the life of Mary Minor, postmistress of Crozet Virginia at the start of the series.

This series featuring two and four footed members of The Jefferson Hunt Club is a favorite of mine also.

Ms. Brown branched out on a limb for a time with a shorter series set in the west, which I believe featured a canine, but didn’t hold my interest very well.

Sneaky Pie and The Hunt Group have kept me captivated for decades:

Here are my thoughts on Crazy Like a Fox, incidentally, Ms. Brown is a Master of Foxhounds and Hunstman herself, so her technical details come firsthand:

The plot was a bit predictable, I feel, based upon the fact that I figured out who the “ghost” was quite before the conclusion, something unusual for me. A couple of not so subtle clues gave it away fairly early in the story.

Still, it was an enjoyable tale for those of us fans of Rita Mae, and her foxhunting themed series. Characterization was a bit complex but crafty, and there is a handy guide to human, canine, equine, and wildlife players of the plot.

The mystery involves the disappearance of a cow-horn from a museum of foxhunting, the appearance of an echo to the going home horn blow of Shaker Crown, huntsman of the Jefferson Hunt Club, at the end of each hunt, and reported sightings/conversations with the ghost of a man who hunted with a local club in the early to mid-twentieth century.

I believe that’s all I should reveal about the story. Though more simplistic in plot than most of Rita Mae’s books, it was a relaxing read featuring hounds, hunting, human foibles and failings, and the intelligence and good manners of horses, dogs, foxes, and generally all creatures great and small.

For more information, click the link below:

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On Writing and Restarting . . .


via Daily Prompt: Restart

I keep saying my cozy mystery manuscript is almost “finished”. But then I think I should restart the writing process. I feel I could create a much better work now that I have been actively writing longer and my words flow more freely.

But should I? Or would it be better to devote the time to my new ideas, the list of non-fiction works I think I can whip out more quickly? I need to stay focused to avoid false starts and wasted time, but how does a writer determine what’s best to work on at that particular time.

Perhaps I should take a break, read a book, and later restart my writing brain hoping it will have sorted itself out after having it’s switch turned off for a time – as confused  computers process information efficiently once more after we restart them.

Comments anyone?

P.S. I do have a great new read just now – Crazy Like a Fox by Rita Mae Braun. Stay tuned for the review!

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Dial Meow for Murder – a book for lovers of eclectic characters, pets and all that accompanies the Halloween Season.

a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/premonition/”>Premonition

via Daily Prompt: Premonition

I actually have experienced a few premonitions during my lifetime, a couple of them coming as dreams revealing scenes and details I could never have known might happen, but that did in fact come to fruition. The dreams seemed different from “normal” ones. I sensed that they had meaning, though I was in denial until the events occurred. So I’m a true believer that there is a lot about the universe that we don’t know.

I have a strong desire to make sense of everything, but the world from our perspective doesn’t seem to make much sense, so faith and trust are necessities. From that point of view, I value my unexplained experiences, as they are proof that there’s something beyond the physical world with all it’s flaws.

I have a premonition today, well, really a reality based prediction that those of you who are interested in the spirit of the Halloween season, parties, costumes, and pets, will love the book I was planning to review today.

So, here’s the review. I hope you enjoy it and perhaps click the link to order a copy, and let me know in the comments section if you have had premonitions that came true too:

Book Review of Dial Meow for Murder – A Lucky Paws Pet Sitting Mystery by Bethany Blake

Dial Meow for Murder (Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery)

I’ll have to read the first in the series, Death by Chocolate Lab, now that I’ve become a fan of Daphne and Socrates, oh, and Tinkleston too, the crazy little kitten Daphne just adopted after the death of his owner. Socrates, the basset hound is Daphne’s sidekick and protector. Daphne has her own pet sitting business, though she doesn’t seem to do that job too much in this book. She’s too busy creating costumes, celebrating at Halloween events and solving murders.

A casual romance/friendship is featured, as is a drama concerning the large home of a lady who passed away, which was for sale by Daphne’s mother’s real estate company at the time of the death of the owner.

Daphne’s sister Piper is a veterinarian. Both young ladies are animal lovers so cute pets permeate the tale. Fund raising for pet rescue organizations is a prime pastime for the interesting cast of characters.

I liked how everything turned out in the end, the several plots coming together pretty seamlessly. Well, one character I really liked is leaving Sylvan Creek (PA), which made me a bit sad, but it’s probably a good thing for that character. I’m not sure what the title has to do with the story, but I do like the take on the vintage film “Dial M for Murder”.

A recommended read for those who love pets, and the lovely season of Autumn, and Halloween.

To learn more, view the link below:

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On Blogging: Is it Just My Imagination . . .


via Daily Prompt: Imagination

or does regular blogging really help build writing skills and spur imaginative ideas for more blogs? When first blogging, I wondered how I would find enough material for ongoing articles. I imagined each post would require major research and much editing.

Since I’ve been publishing posts on a regular basis, I find myself writing, and typing, much faster, with fewer obvious errors. I have running lists in my pocket, purse, and by my bedside of new topics I’d like to research or simply post my opinion about.

It seems amazing how much more I’ve actually accomplished in my personal life too, since blogging more. It seems I’ve found my passion, and pursuing it doesn’t drain my energy as much as wondering what my passion really was for most of my life. I’ve learned a lot about various topics over the years, well actually decades, I must admit: dog behavior and competitive obedience trials, gardening, home arts, environmental issues, wellness and fitness, and of course, the passion behind this particular blog, reading  – about everything- but especially cozies. So, there’s a wide range of topics to choose from.

The writing adage – write about what you know is so true. Writing about what I know was the key to triggering my imagination, enabling me to begin composing fiction too, a few years ago, something I thought I could never do, and it’s the obvious key to blogging.

Start with what you know, and imagination will lead you to share your thoughts in a new way. Once you’re on that trail, you tap into that creative chain of consciousness, becoming in-spirit (inspired), putting things on paper before they’ve even entered your mind. You type faster and more efficiently, with less errors. Your confidence increases.

For years I fought my inclination to write, feeling I lacked training to accomplish anything worth while, that I was wasting my time. Once I got over my sense of denial, I learned I could create compositions that some would want to read.

I’m still far from being a greatly skilled writer, but blogging is making me a better one, I believe.

Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your bliss”, to achieve success. That’s as true for blogging as it is for any pursuit. The more we blog, the better we can become. So, to all beginning bloggers and to veterans too:

“Keep Calm and Blog On”.

P. S. Since The Daily Post requires working quickly to post the same day, it’s a great way to build experience and trigger one’s instinctive imagination.

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Compromise is Key to Contentment and Continuity in Personal Interactions and National and World Relations

via Daily Prompt: Compromise

Your significant other has planned an impromptu all weekend trip to the Lake, reserving a room for Saturday night. You are tired and hoped to stay home to find out who murdered Mrs. Worthington- a character in the latest installment of a favorite mystery book series, of course.

Would you normally battle it out, resulting in a bad weekend for both of you, perhaps with neither of your plans seen through? Or cave, go on the trip, kicking your spineless self all the way, returning to work on Monday drained, disoriented, and difficult to work with as you’re still focused on finding that killer?

Wouldn’t it have been better for both parties to discuss their feelings, perhaps coming to a compromise of a one day lake trip.

Or, alternatively, to go on the all weekend trip with the agreement that the planning party drive and do what he/she wishes on one day while you spend that day relaxing and discovering the outcome of the investigation?

Of course it takes two to compromise. Sometimes that’s the problem, but one person must make the first move toward discussion rather than disagreement.

Not all situations present options for compromise, but next time you disagree with a course of action, why not consider if a compromise might be possible. Present your thoughts rather than simply complain.

Imaging how much better the world might work if leaders could more often compromise. There seems little we as individuals can do to support that goal, especially in light of the fact that the public seems so divided. Perhaps if we began to consider compromises as solutions to our differences with those we live or work with, the effect might reverberate, creating a better world for us all, personally, politically, globally.

I haven’t read this book but perhaps many of us should start here, as marriages present some of the most difficult, yet imperative situations for which to find compromise.

He Wins, She Wins: Learning the Art of Marital Negotiation

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Book Review of Glow of Death, a Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery – By Jane K. Cleland

Cats, Books, Mystery Books,

via Daily Prompt: Lecture

Perhaps I should attend a lecture on the proper way to review books – learning from the experiences of others is a valued way to improve one’s own talents. But just now I’m too busy reading books I love and hoping to share them with others who like the same kind of cozies I do. – In addition to my other personal and professional responsibilities.

So I hope that readers are ok for now with the fact that I share my honest impression of books with you- my online friends, in the same natural manner I would use with “in person” friends.

So here’s my review of  Glow of Death: A Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery (Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries): My latest favorite from Jane K. Cleland, set in my very favorite place to visit in person, Southern Coastal New England:

It took me a while to read this one. A bit longer than most cozies, it seems, but the plot held the reader’s interest the entire time.

A complex winding plot with some unexpected suspense at the end.   I must admit I got a little lost for a time, keeping track of characters and plot twists, but that was okay.

A tiffany lamp was the star of the story. I learned some details of how to tell a real one from a reproduction, but it does require an expert to be sure. If an item has enough value, people will find a way to accurately make copies.

This one was stolen, replaced with a fake, and Josie was challenged with finding the real one, and finding the murderer of the lady with whom she had met to appraise the lamp. Well, maybe. That’s all I’m saying

I learned a bit about tomato cultivation, as a side character did nothing but tend to her plants it seemed, each time Josie passed her home. It seemed a bit repetitive, but I would love the meet the character in person, very pleasant and a great sense of style.

Josie finds romance with her cop boyfriend who’s out of town assignment finally comes to an end and they can spend more time together. And Hank, the watch cat of Prescott Antiques gains a new friend.

If you find antiques fascinating, love cats, and the New England Coast, and appreciate an assortment of interesting characters, all entwined into a detailed plot you will enjoy this story.

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Creating Space-Time for Reading-Writing

Cats, Books, Mystery Books,

via Daily Prompt: Profuse

The biggest challenge for many of us as writers, is finding a place and making moments to pursue our passions of working/relaxing with printed words.

I work one nearly full time job and another that takes up a few hours each week. Add to that the profuse amount of personal responsibilities that tug at my brain each day-housecleaning, catbox cleaning and personal time with pets, bill paying, grocery shopping, meal prep, reading . . . . You all get the picture, as we share the same struggle between meeting our obligations, and fulfilling our personal needs.

It’s amazing to me that I’ve been able to do as many blog posts as I have lately, here and at http://www.thepennymasonpost.wordpress.com. I guess I’ve managed because I’m making it my priority just now, as I did my book projects. Blogging is, admittedly a bit easier as once you click publish, a post is done. Longer projects consume my mind as I’m trying to focus on other activities. Still, it blogging takes up time.

I suppose the phrase in the first sentence (making moments) of this post holds the key to finding time to read or write. I make notes of ideas for posts while at breakfast. I take a book to work or compose a post while on my lunch break, I stay up too late typing many nights, but feel I won’t sleep if I don’t put on paper what’s in my mind, or finish that next chapter before a book is due at the library.

I don’t really have a personal place to read or write, but that doesn’t really matter. The kitchen table works, as does my recliner, my car, or a park bench. When we’re focused upon the world of words, it’s like an out of body experience anyway.

Regarding writing, as other bloggers can confirm, I’m sure, when our mind holds a profuse amount of ideas we’ll invent a place and time to put the words on paper.

Share your creative ways to make time-space for reading-writing in our comments section . . .

Keep Calm and Read On



Book Review of The Witches’ Tree by M. C. Beaton – An Agatha Raisin Mystery

The Witches' Tree by M. C. Beaton - An Agatha Raisin Mystery

The Witches’ Tree: An Agatha Raisin Mystery (Agatha Raisin Mysteries)

In the latest installment of the Agatha Raisin series, Agatha takes great risks while investigating murders she believes may have been committed by members of a coven of proclaimed witches, in a nearby village. The victims were found hanging from a landmark referred to as the Witches’ Tree.

As usual, Agatha encounters some eccentric characters, some of them suspects also. She and her top assistant Toni suffer an attack, a warning to stay away from the investigation.

Throughout the story, middle aged Agatha suffers her usual insecurities concerning the changing figure and facial features that come with increasing maturity and her ongoing dream of a perfect relationship and of finding a companion for her senior years.

Her marriage to Jimmy Raisin, before the series started didn’t last long, nor did her marriage to James Lacey, her next door neighbor. Sir Charles Fraith, longtime friend/sometimes lover plays prominently in this story, and Agatha entertains thoughts of settling down with him, but also forms a fleeting fetish toward the brother of a client. Assertive Agatha seems destined to live alone, as her strong will seems to override her sensitive side.

Toward the end of the story, though, age and stress seem to overwhelm her, she doesn’t bounce back as fast as the Agatha we’ve seen so far.

Hodge and Boswell, her cats play supportive parts.

Colorful character Roy Silver her young friend and former employee drops in briefly.

After following all the trails through the witches’ village and the collection of garden gnomes on the lawn of a cottage whose residents feature in the investigation, the solution to the murder came suddenly, surprising me.

Agatha Raisin former public relations professional – head of her own detective agency solves another case that baffled the police. As Agatha mentions, sometimes the authorities today get caught up in technology, depending upon DNA and waiting for physical evidence to solve cases rather than doing creative sleuthing.

Agatha never hesitates to tell it like she sees it, in quite colorful language, making these stories vastly entertaining.

For more information about this book, click the link below:

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