Have a Marlis Day!

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!

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An old poem ends with ” Richer than I you could never be, for I had a mother who read to me.” My earliest memories are at my mother’s side as she read to my brothers and me.  She subscribed to “Children’s Activities” later renamed “Highlights for Children” and I recall filling in the picture words as she trailed her finger over the lines. Oh, how I wanted to read. We traveled through nursery rhymes, fairy tales, the Hundred Acre Woods, and the Land of Oz. Later, she took us to the library and shared her great love of books with us. On this March 4th, we had Mom’s 36th birthday dinner at her parents’ home. I was nine and happy to be the only one in the picture with her. We still had our church clothes on so it must have been a warm day, not like this March 4. If Mom hadn’t shared her love of books with me, I wonder if I’d been the reader I am today. There would probably be no Margo Brown mysteries or  Bailey’s Chase novels for younger readers. Thank you, Mom, not only for being a wonderful mother, but for instilling a passion for books in me.

Marlis's first favorite outfitI don’t remember the day this picture was taken, but I so recall the next summer when my mother got this little lace-trimmed green and yellow plaid sunsuit from the closet. I immediately remembered that I loved it and wanted to put it right on. She wouldn’t let me and I wailed with disappointment. She explained that I had grown and it didn’t fit me anymore. My two-year old brain registered sheer anger at the thought of outgrowing my favorite outfit. Shedding bitter tears, I watched her pack it into a box of clothes to give away. When I ran across this old picture I mused how some things never change. It still infuriates me when I find that I have outgrown my favorite clothes. I struggle with zippers when the dryer shrinks my favorite jeans. I’ve even tried to squeeze into them while lying on the bed, to no avail. Old belts no longer reach around me and skirts are uncomfortably tight. And it all just makes me so mad.  Yes, I’m a lot like the little girl in the picture. In fact, our body shape is now almost exactly the same. Arrrggghhhh!

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Santa’s Christmas tip: Don’t miss the local craft shows.

Writers: This is a great way to display and market your books, connect with readers and share writing, publishing ideas.

Parents and Grandparents: What makes a better stocking stuffer than a book, especially a signed one at a discount price?

Teachers and Librarians: This is a great place to find speakers for an upcoming event.

At the annual South Knox Holiday Craft Show I met Bailey and Jordan, ten-year-olds  who reminded me of Sparky and Grey in my Bailey’s Chase novels. Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope Santa brings you a good book!

A First!

These sixth graders read The Secret of Bailey’s Chase on their tablets. All in uniform at this private school near Indianapolis, these students were bright, courteous, and articulate. I did a trivia quiz with them, tossing Hershey kisses for correct answers, and they knew almost all of them. (No one remembered the cat’s name!) During the Q & A time, these young readers asked interesting and thoughtful questions. I only had an hour with them but could have spent the whole day with this class discussing plot, characters, settings, and writing in general. I’m pleased that most are reading the sequel, Back to Bailey’s Chase, and I hope to hear from them when they finish.

ImageThis is undoubtedly the stupidest dog I’ve ever met. Ace was dropped off at the end of our lane when he was about 8-10 months old, obviously by someone who recognized his lack of potential. Our neighboring daughter & family adopted him, thinking he, probably half border collie and half black lab, would be a perfect outside watchdog for their country home. Ace romped about, chasing squirrels, killing cats and all the rosebushes at both our homes. We tried to teach him simple obedience but failed. I was certain I could teach him to “sit” on command, as I had many dogs through the years. When I did the usual gestures, pressing down on his hips and pulling up on his collar, while giving the command, Ace rolled onto his back, drooled, and kicked all four feet into the air wildly. Every attempt had the same sorry result. However, through the years, his worse behavior has been during storms or fireworks, even far distant shots by hunters. Each event sends Ace into such panic that he tears up doors trying to get into the house. (And no one wants this big, dirty, hairy, smelly dog in the house.) He quickly learned to turn the lever-door handles and let himself inside, (I know, a spark of burglar intelligence buried deep inside his gray matter.) Levers were all changed to knobs, which he soon chewed into masses of twisted metal. Once, we locked him in the garage when a storm approached and he slithered up the wall and escaped through a small window, like magic. Twice Ace chewed the rubber stripping off the bottom of our garage door. I have forbidden him stepping foot on my property, by actually firing a pistol into the air and shouting, “GO HOME!” He goes, even when I now just make the shape of a pistol with my hand and pretend to fire into the air. I know it sounds cruel, but I have no choice. He swims in the lake, then comes to my dining room bay window and shakes his coat dry, chases my cat to the roof, and attempts to destroy my flower gardens. He has ruined my daughter’s beautiful front door with glass panels beside and above. His plan is to chew an Ace-sized hole in the door in case of storms. We can’t watch him all the time, so he does his dirty work when no one is home. One day a sudden storm moved in catching him on the road near our homes. He charged to the front door of our neighbor’s house and beat on the door with his front paws. When the kind woman opened the door, Ace bolted past her, ran through the house to the back bathroom and hid behind the shower curtain. She called. “You won’t believe what your dog just did!” We believed. Terrified of crowds, Ace slips in with guests when there’s a party, then finds a corner and hides his head – like an ostrich. Unless we are very careful, he will jump into the car with anyone leaving, mud and all. Sometimes he gets into the back of our son-in-law’s truck, then climbs onto the top of the cab, where he likes to ride, standing up like a hood ornament. Once, the granddaughters took him to a local pet show. Afraid of the slick gymnasium floor, Ace refused to walk, dropped to his belly, and slithered past the judges. The girls were totally humiliated. I’ve suggested taking him to the shelter, but the family says no one would adopt him, and if they did they’d bring him back and it would be the gas chamber or small pen for the rest of his life. The only good thing he’s ever done was to let our granddaughter dress him up and photograph him for her 4-H project. She did win the champion ribbon at the fair. For some reason, the big dumb mutt is still a little bit lovable.

ImageWhere do you like to read? My favorite spot is my front porch swing. First, I pile several pillows onto the swing for maximum comfort.  Then I place my cold drink and phone on a small table nearby. Next, I settle into place with my current book. I’ve found that I can keep the swing moving if I press the chains gently with my feet. Ah….now give me a warm day with a breeze, a good book in my lap, and it’s a little bit of Heaven. (By the way, this is exactly where Margo Brown read her books in Death of a Hoosier Schoolmaster.) When I glance up from my book, I have a good view of our front lane in case a friend drops in for a visit or a granddaughter comes by for an after school snack and help with homework. Living in southern Indiana usually allows me to enjoy this luxury from April until late October. Then, it’s inside by the fireplace, wrapped in a quilt, a cup of hot tea, and always – a good book. My favorite part of the day!

 

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