Last week I visited the fourth and fifth grade classes at Villa Grove Elementary School in north central Illinois. These fourth graders were excited about The Secret of Bailey’s Chase, which their teachers had just read to them. The students were good listeners and had lots of questions for this author. I hope they continue to read and love books. I thank the teachers for reading my books to their classes and hope they will enjoy the sequel as much as the first book. (I always leave a free book for the teacher who invited me.) It was a lovely drive through the autumn farm land of Illinois, and I always enjoy spending an afternoon with young readers. After six hours of round-trip driving, two hours of speaking and answering the questions of a hundred eager, bouncy youngsters, this retired teacher was glad to put her feet up at the end of the day. However, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat!
Just out of college, I taught reading to third graders. However, I spent most of my career teaching language arts to seventh grade students. My three mysteries were penned during my teaching tenure, working on weekends and summer vacations. After I retired I wrote the two Bailey’s Chase novels for middle grade readers. Since then, I’ve not written any new books but have written a few short stories and enjoyed blogging and speaking at schools. This fall I was asked to volunteer at the local elementary school and listen to children read. So one afternoon a week, I sit in the hallway outside a third grade classroom and listen to children giggle as they read funny books. This little girl asked, “Are you really an author?”
Life has taken me in a full circle, the years rich and rewarding. What a blessing and privilege to teach eager young readers and later to share my love of books with reluctant seventh graders, transforming some into lifelong readers. I consider it an honor to have touched so many lives. Now I’m back in the saddle again and it feels good.
When my son built this 90 ft. suspension bridge across the ravine behind his home, I experienced a rare “deja vu” moment. As I held tightly to the cables and made my way over the bouncing structure, I felt as if I were replaying a scene from a movie or an event in my life. Then it hit me: This is the bridge Sparky and Grey crossed in my ‘tween novel, The Secret of Bailey’s Chase. On a whim, the girls respond to a note in a bottle inviting them to meet on the swinging bridge at the Girl Scout camp. After slipping into the deserted camp, the notorious school bully lures them onto the bridge and then releases his vicious dog toward them. Only by using their newly-discovered powers do the girls evade serious injury. When I wrote the scene, I put myself into the story, visualizing a wooden-slatted bridge, the creek below, the sudden wind and rain pelting them. I felt their unbridled fear as the snarling dog approached following orders from his cruel master. I shivered when Sparky’s leg broke through a rotted board, scraping her tender skin. When Grey helped her up and they clung to each other in terror, I urged them to remember their amazing new abilities. When they outsmarted their Nemesis, I shared their sheer relief and joy. It was so real to me, that I recognized the bridge when I saw it. How I wish all my young readers could cross this dancing bridge. They would understand.
<em>Dr. Dale Glenn, author of <em>Purcell Station</em>, presented his debut novel to our book club Thursday evening. Eighty or so readers came for dinner with the author, a book presentation, Q and A time, and signing. This is one book that our members agreed on. We all loved it! Born in Knox County, this Hoosier went on to earn a doctorate and enjoy a career in education as a principal and professor at Indiana University.
Set in the fifties, the reader travels to a small town in southern Indiana where a young boy spends summers with his grandparents. While there, he embarks on many adventures as well as a mystery. A coming of age story, based on his own early teen years, Dale captures the spirit of small town life and love. We all hope for a sequel.
Our amazing book club formed in 2003 when Oprah encouraged women to join her in reading and discussing great books. We have met since then and invited an author every year, starting with James Alexander Thom in 2004. For this special night, we invite family and friends to join us for dinner with the author. Our community looks forward to this annual event. Thank you, Dr. Glenn, for your outstanding presentation.
As a special promotion, Amazon is offering my 3rd Margo Brown mystery FREE from Wed. June 25 until Sun., June 29. The Curriculum Murders was published in 2004 by SterlingHouse, so this is an anniversary special. You may order it for your eReader, Kindle, Nook, or Ipad by going to amazon.com and clicking on the book cover. In this mystery, teacher/sleuth Margo and her friend Roxie must race against time to stop a killer who is targeting his former teachers. Set in a small town during the holidays, this cozy mystery includes suspense, humor, and even recipes. You don’t have to read my mysteries in order, so download and enjoy! (You may want to read the reviews on amazon.) Please share this info with friends. A lot of takers insures another book promotion. Thanks, Marlis
What reader didn’t love Nancy Drew and the Hardy boys? While reading them, we found independence and a puzzle. Murder is never the point of a mystery. It is the story of the protagonist, who demands justice in an unjust world, a white knight who never betrays her code of honor. In mysteries, we explore society’s ills and attempt to right those wrongs. Mysteries are a quest for honor, celebrating heroes willing to fight dishonesty, fraud, and corruption. They look at the dregs of society, yet are suspenseful and often romantic. We write stories of broken relationships and in solving the crime, the sleuth must explore the relationships between the victim and those connected to the victim. Mysteries focus on the intimate, destructive, frightening secrets hidden beneath a seemingly peaceful community. Of course, we don’t have murders in our small towns every year or live among serial killers, but we do live among flawed relationships. We all know about the abused wife or child, the despair of an unloved child, the hatred of a spurned lover, the jealousy among siblings. We deal with the manipulative aunt, the miserly uncle, the jealous wife, the interfering mother-in-law, the bossy sister, the nosy neighbor, the alcoholic cousin, the combative couple down the street, the impossible boss. The characters are real and readers recognize them at once. “Oh, yes, that’s just like Uncle Harry, or the woman at the office, or me.” The emotions created by these people affect everyone around them.
Critics say: all those murders in a small community? No, there may not be a body in the basement, but there will always be heartbreak and passion, fear, denial, jealousy, anger, and revenge in every society. It’s how these emotions destroy lives that fascinate the writers and readers of mysteries. They mirror the realities of our lives. We live in an unjust world, but we want the world to be good and fair and just, and mysteries show us that goodness and truth matter. So, in a mystery, we go to a magical place where justice is served, where wrongs are made right, where goodness always triumphs. In addition to charming the reader with village life, the mystery often affords humor as the amateur sleuth outwits inept law enforcement officials.
We write mysteries because we love to read them. In writing them, we determine the weather, direct the events, and settle the scores. We have the power to create people, set up communities, solve riddles, and kill people off at will. Mystery writers love closure and happy endings. Now you know why, so let’s all go read a mystery!
Almost every good amateur sleuth has a dog. There’s Sarah Booth & Sweetie Pie, Stephanie Plum & Bob, Kate Davidson & Bella, Raine Stockton & Cisco, Maggie Porter & Sweet Pea, and many more. Margo Brown’s collie, Sasha, appears in all three of my mysteries. Of course, my Lassie was the model for Sasha. I owned this magnificent animal for over fourteen years. I miss her and wish she were here to hunt mushrooms with me again. By the way, I believe spring has finally arrived. The morels are coming! The morels are coming!