Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Story for 2012

I promised a more cheerful Christmas story for 2012, so here it is:

A Christmas Story for 2012
By: Gwen Mayo

"I won't do it," Santa fumed.

"Now Dear, you can't disappoint the children," his wife said, in her most soothing tones. "You have to be willing to make sacrifices."

"But this..."

He looked in the three way mirror at the sequined suit that glowed brighter than Rudolph's nose. Just thinking about the casino ads on the sides and bottom of his sleigh made him cringe.

"We can't afford all those toys without a corporate sponsor. It could have been much worse." She said, pointing to the team waiting to be hitched toe his sleigh. "You have to set an example for your reindeer. How do you think Prancer and Dancer feel?"

Santa looked at his team and sighed. He picked up the shiny red top hat and kissed her on the cheek.

"You're right Martha. If they can wear stiletto heels and boas, I've no business complaining about sequins."


Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Christmas Story before the End of the World

Most of my friends know I have an addiction to writing tiny little stories. I thought that on the eve of the end of the world I would share one of my favorite seasonal ones with readers.

The following little Christmas story appeared in Flashshot on December 23, 2010. I thought it was the perfect tale to repeat today. I hope you agree.

Clockwork Christmas
By Gwen Mayo

Edith loved Christmas. She delighted in decorating.

His inventions weren’t able to stop the progression of her illness. Harvey smiled and adjusted the gears of his clockwork wife.

This year would be different.

He threw open the drapes so the neighborhood could watch Edith decorate the tree.

The snowball fight on his front lawn abruptly ended. Frightened children ran home to their mothers.

He saw pointing fingers followed by closed shades.

Gears turned and clockwork Edith followed his wife’s commands.

Harvey smiled.

 “Just wait Edith,” he said. “Christmas Eve I’ll let you fly the clockwork sleigh with my zombie Santa.”


For the record, I don't believe that the world is going to end tomorrow. If I did, I am sure I would be rambling off more profound thoughts.

Okay, even if I knew the world was ending I would still be eating cookies and writing silly stories. Chocolate chip anyone? They're yummy.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Guest Blog: Donna Fletcher Crow

A Story to Tell

Thank you inviting me to be a guest today on your blog, Gwen and Sarah. This visit is part of the tour many of us are doing for the brand new e-book 25 Years in the Rearview Mirror, 52 Authors Look Back. If you enjoy magazine columns and Chicken Soup for the Soul books, then you're sure to enjoy our collection of essays, designed to warm your heart, raise your spirits and compel you to examine your own life. Read about school days, quirky jobs, romance, raising a family, hard times, the writing journey, and find out what makes your favorite characters tick. Get a full listing of authors, essay titles and retailers here: http://ning.it/OknwVR

Follow the 25 Years in the Rearview Mirror Blog and Radio Tour schedule here: http://ning.it/NZpHrP

Since Gwen and I share a love for historical fiction I want to share some of the historical background in A Darkly Hidden Truth, book 2 in my Monastery Murders series.

A particularly perceptive reader once asked me, “What drives you?”

Ah, good question! Writing is hard work. One must be self-motivated and determined to get up every morning and go to the computer (or typewriter was it was in those days). The answer obviously wasn't money. I did make a modest income, but less than I could have been making teaching school as I did before becoming a full-time writer.

“The story,” I replied. “I want to tell my characters’ stories.” This is especially true when working with historical characters, as I almost always do in my books. Whether the historical characters are my hero and heroine or background characters, I’m driven— I’ll use the word— to tell their story.

We can learn so much from people from the past. They have fought, suffered, endured to pass their knowledge and wisdom on to us. We need to know and appreciate what they have done.

That was many years ago when I was first asked the question, but my answer holds just as true in my 41st novel which I am now working on, as it did in that very first series my reader asked about.

A Darkly Hidden Truth has two remarkable women in the background whose stories I have long wanted to tell. Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe were both mystical medieval women writers and their life spans crossed— they actually met in an event Margery records— but they lived far different lives, had far different personalities and wrote in vastly different styles.

Julian of Norwich (1342-1416) became the first woman to write a book in English when she wrote an account of the 16 mystical “showings” she experienced of the love of God. After her amazing showings Julian lived a life of quiet contemplation as an anchoress in a single room attached to a church in Norwich, going nowhere and seeing only her servant and those who came to her worldside window for counseling— Margery being one of those seekers. Margery travelled the world, going on pilgrimages as far afield as the Holy Land and Santiago de Compostelo.

Julian wrote her Revelations of Divine Love, speaking only of her visions and of the love of God for his creatures. She divulges no details of her personal life— we don’t even know her name. We call her Julian because that was the dedication of her church. We know how she would have lived because she lived by The Ancrene Rule which set out rules for anchoresses. That left me free as a novelist to imagine a life for her prior to her visions which she experienced at the age of 30. Had she been married? Had she taken vows as a nun? No one knows, but I had great fun entering into “what might have been.”

Margery Kempe (1373-1440) “wrote” the first autobiography in English, although she was illiterate, by dictating it. Unlike Julian, Margery tells all. Even of the joyous sex life she shared with her husband. (They had 14 children.) She tells of her period of madness after the birth of her first child. She tells of her spiritual struggles with earthly vanity. She tells of her shrieking and bouts of uncontrollable weeping that made one group of pilgrims abandon her so that she had to cross the Alps in a blizzard with only an aged priest as companion.

And yet both women tell of the love of God, of the goodness of life. They speak of joy and beauty in the midst of unbelievable suffering. They tell stories I could never invent in my wildest fantasy. And it’s all true. And it’s all ours because two women centuries ago put their unique experiences on paper. And now I have the privilege of telling their stories alongside the adventures of my fictional Felicity and Antony in A Darkly Hidden Truth:

Antony needs Felicity’s help to find a valuable stolen icon. But Felicity is determined to become a nun. Then her impossible mother turns up unannounced. And a dear friend turns up murdered. Felicity and Antony are off on another adventure that takes them from remote Yorkshire to London to the soggy marshes of the Norfolk Broads. Felicity learns the wisdom of holy women from today and ages past and Antony explores the arcane rites of the Knights Hospitaller. But what good will any of that do them if Felicity can’t save Antony’s life?

Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 40 books, mostly novels dealing with British history.  The award-winning Glastonbury, A Novel of the Holy Grail, an Arthurian grail search epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work.  She is also the author of The Monastery Murders: A Very Private Grave  and A Darkly Hidden Truth, as well as the Lord Danvers series of Victorian true-crime novels and the romantic suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries. Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho.  They have 4 adult children and 11 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener.

To read more about Donna’s books and see pictures from her garden and research trips, go to: http://www.donnafletchercrow.com/

You can follow her on Facebook at: http://ning.it/OHi0MY

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Beginning a New Project

The image above is the beginning of a grand Spanish style hotel built in Homosassa Springs, Florida in the 1920's. This hotel and the arcade across the street were the start of a new planned tourist town the likes of which had never been built in Florida. City plans called for a rail station, expansive streets, sidewalks nine feet wide, and a resort centered around a beautiful clear spring where manatees wintered.

Sarah and I are stepping back into this time as a setting for a new mystery story. For a while now, the two of us have been writing short stories involving two retired army nurses who served in France during World War One. We are thinking of bringing them to Florida during the land boom of the 1920's to look at a property in Homosassa Springs that they could use as a winter retreat.

Our big decision now is what length story. We both have a passion for short fiction, but are considering a traditional closed room mystery novel for this plot. Lots of wealthy investors were being lured to Florida by developers. Before the land bust of 1926, property on Florida's Gulf Coast attracted sportsmen, industrialists, the idle rich, and gangsters.

The idea of writing "Murder on the Mullet Express" has a certain appeal. There is one problem: from October of 1925 to May of 1926, Florida railroads placed an embargo on passenger trains. The demand for Florida produce in the North, and building materials in the South had increased rail traffic to capacity. Developers in Homosassa Springs resorted to bringing potential customers into Jacksonville by train, then transporting them to the hotel by limousine. A seven passenger Packard wouldn't have room for enough suspects for a novel. We would have to set this story earlier than our previous stories or make it a short story plot. Writing it after the embargo was over is not an option. By the time the embargo was lifted, the real estate market was in decline.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Writing far from Home

Photograph Above: Weeping cherry trees in bloom in the Lexington Cemetery Photograph Below: Howard Park Beach in Tarpon Springs, Florida

I am in essence a Kentucky writer who has been relocated to a foreign world. I miss the hills and trees, the blush of spring across the Bluegrass State, and most of all the people that will always make Kentucky my home.

There are also practical reasons to miss writing in my home state. If I wanted to describe a certain crypt in the Lexington cemetery or the direction a street ran, I could drive over and look at it while making my notes. If I had historical questions, the Kentucky Room at the Lexington Public Library, UK,

and Transylvania's special collections were a short distance away. Researching the nineteenth century in Kentucky is much harder a thousand miles from home.

There is nothing disparaging I want to say about Florida. It is beautiful here on the Gulf Coast. I love walking along the causeway at Fred Howard Park, breathing in the salty scent of the breeze off Saint Joseph Sound and looking out over white sand and tranquil turquoise water.

The Tarpon Springs Public Library is friendly and an excellent resource. I participated in their local writer's day this month and met many of the other writers who live nearby. I have even taken up writing a weekly column about Tarpon Springs on Examiner.com.

What I don't like is the difficulty I am having thinking of Florida as home. I have a Florida driver's license, put Florida plates on the car, my voter registration card arrived today... I'm doing everything I am supposed to do to settle here, but I am as unsettled now as I was the day I arrived.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Back in the Saddle Again

Okay, I'm not literally back in the saddle. Injuries from my ill-spent youth prevent me from being able to ride. The saddle in question is the recliner in our great room where I sit typing this post. It has been too long since my last blog post. Real life got in the way.

My father-in-law developed pneumonia in February, which caused major complications with his sarcoidosis and pulmonary hypertension. The result was a choice between his going into a nursing home, or our moving to Florida to help look after him. Sarah and I chose to move.

Ours was a rather rapid exit from Kentucky. Within a month, and with a lot of help from our friends and family, we packed our belongings, left our jobs, canceled our scheduled appearances, and moved eleven hundred miles from nearly everyone we knew. As a result, writing in general and my blog in particular were put out to pasture.

We are slowly getting settled into our new lives here. Sarah's dad is much better than when we arrived. His memory isn't what it was before the collapse, and he is pretty much confined to a wheelchair. We've gotten ramps built, a handicapped shower installed, and other needed changes around the house finished. The two of us have sort of settled into the back half of the duplex, which gives us and her parents some privacy.

I think the move was the best decision for all of us. Her folks won't be able to live on their own again. At seventy-one, Sarah's mother can't manage his oxygen, wheelchair, walker, and the other necessities of getting him moved from one place to another. She also finds talking to all of his therapists and doctors a chore better delegated to us. The same is true of paying bills, shopping, dealing with ordering oxygen and medicines, and handling most problems that come up.

So what happens when a writer becomes the primary caretaker for a family member? Writing suffers. That doesn't mean writers stop writing. I started out small, doing a weekly column for Examiner.com, then went back to work on my book. Now, I am back to my blog. Stay tuned, and you might see a new book review soon.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Villain and Gerald Costlow

Gwen just discovered that Gerald Costlow discussed villains in general, and Circle of Dishonor's in particular, in his blog post "The Villain". She only wishes she had found it sooner. She says that shows how bad she is at keeping up with her friends.

The sequel to Gerald's "A Plethory of Powers".

Monday, February 20, 2012

Book Review: The Last Nude by Ellis Avery

The Last Nude is a complex story splashed across the lifespan of painter Tamara de Lempicka. I didn’t know much about de Lempicka when I started reading the book and had only vague ideas of what it was like to live in Paris during the Jazz Age. Ellis Avery did a great job of making the city and the era come alive. The wealth and decadence of the age along with the underlying tensions of turbulent political winds mingle with the passions of Tamara and her model Rafaela.

Rafaela is beautifully captured as the love interest of Tamara de Lempicka. Little is known of the model’s life, leaving Avery free to create her background. I could easily believe that Rafaela was a half Catholic, half Jewish runaway determined to escape an arranged marriage.

Tamara also comes alive on the page, but the result isn’t pleasant. After looking at a few short biographies of Tamara de Lempicka, it is clear that in life she was known to be rather disagreeable. She certainly leaves much to be desired as a protagonist. Tamara is arrogant, proud, stubborn, and unscrupulous. Rafaela is no match for her. The unequal relationship between the women and Tamara’s willingness to do anything for the sake of her art left me cold.

Overall the book is a tantalizing look at an era that was soon to be lost to the Great Depression and World War II. It is worth the read for the glimpse it gives us at a world few can remember. The characters are complicated, well developed, and interesting. Avery does a nice mix of historical and fictional, glitter and grit, sensual and harsh. Every page offered something new to the reader.

Ellis Avery has created a memorable work that I am happy to recommend She does a credible job of explaining the reasons behind Tamara de Lempika’s more egregious acts. Just remember there is a huge gap between understanding and liking de Lempika, and don’t come to the work expecting to find a protagonist the average reader would identify with.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Highlighted Author

Highlighted Author

Today I am the Highlighted Author on Charlene A. Wilson's blog. Charlene highlights authors of both fiction and non-fiction works on her site. Stop by and find out more about authors in your favorite genre.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

2012 Derringer Awards Submission Instructions

This year I am the coordinator for the Derringer Awards Judging. Below is an update of the instructions for submitting stories. I did not write the instructions, those came from the Short Mystery Fiction Society Blog. I have simply updated them with my contact information and reposted theme here so my mystery editing friends who might not belong to the society could enter stories. Authors must belong to SMFS to submit.
The period to submit stories for the Derringer Awards will open Sunday, Jan.1, 2012, at 12:00 p.m. (noon), Eastern Standard Time. The following link will take you to the blog page which details the complete rules and guidelines for the Derringer process. http://shortmystery.blogspot.com/2008/08/smfs-derringer-awards-procedure.html

1.) Who can submit: Members of SMFS as of Dec. 31, 2011 or editors of publications (print or online; see link above to read qualifications for 'publication') that feature short mystery fiction.

2.) Submission limits: Each member of SMFS may submit up to two (2) stories, your own or someone else's. Please note that a story's author need not be a member of SMFS, but the submission must be made by either a member or the editor of the publication in which the story first appeared in 2011. Submission limits for editors are detailed below, from the blog page: If the publication contains up to 25 stories first appearing in 2011, up to 3 of these may be submitted by the editor for Derringer consideration in 2012." 26 to 50 stories first appearing in 2011, up to 4 of these may be submitted by the editor for Derringer consideration in 2012." 51 to 75 stories first appearing in 2011, up to 5 of these may be submitted by the editor for Derringer consideration in 2012." more than 75 stories first appearing in 2011, up to 6 of these may be submitted by the editor for Derringer consideration in 2012. By the way, editors who are also SMFS members still have their two-story quota as members, in addition to the number allowed for their magazines.

3.) Publication date: Only stories first published in English in 2011 are eligible for the 2012 awards. If a story appeared, for example, in a "Winter 2010-2011" issue, or a "December 2010-January 2011" issue of a publication, it would be eligible for consideration this year. On the other hand, one appearing in such issues for 2011-2012 would be eligible for consideration in the 2012 award cycle.

4.) Submission format: Please submit each story, with its author and publication data, to me at hypatiax@aol.com in Rich Text Format(*.rtf). I will check the story's eligibility and strip identifying data from it before sending it on to the appropriate judges. The subject line of your email should read: Derringer - Story Title - Category

The Categories are:

Best Flash Story - up to 1000 words
Best Short Story - 1001 to 4000 words
Best Long story - 4001 to 8000 words
Best Novelette - 8001 - 17,500 words

PLEASE NOTE: Again, submissions begin at 12:00 EST Sunday, Jan. 1. Please don't send anything before that time, as it will be discarded.

Gwen Mayo
Derringer Coordinator 2012