Have a Marlis Day!


When I was a child, medicine hurt. Scrapes and cuts were first rinsed with alcohol, then dabbed with merthiolate. In case you’re not familiar with this dark red antiseptic containing mercury and sodium, which has since been banned by the FDA, it burned like Hades! If that didn’t do the trick parents and teachers dabbed the wound with iodine, also pain intensive. Even oral medicine was so putrid, I wept each time it was poured into the tablespoon for my strep throat. In a brave effort to comfort me, my grandpa said “Oh, it can’t be that awful” and took a swig from the bottle. His eyebrows hit his hairline and I swear I saw smoke blast from his ears. Once my small cousin was the unfortunate victim of a “finger in the car door” incident. I still shudder as her grandmother and mine insisted that she dip it into a jug of turpentine. “The best thing for smashed fingers,” they said in unison. It took a thousand pounds of grandmas and aunts to hold little Cheryl down for the finger treatment. But it did no good to fight the system; they were big – we were little. Today, a child’s cut or scrape is sprayed with first aid mist, which they find cool and soothing. Then a happy band-aid is applied. Of course it doesn’t hurt when taken off, in contrast to ours which took skin with it. And splinters in bare feet. What kid doesn’t remember thrashing about the bed while her dad, with a firm grasp on her ankle, dug into the bottom of her foot with a needle? Today when kids get splinters, adults agree: just leave it alone; it’ll work itself out. It was scary to be a kid in my day.

A loose tooth? Just tie it to a string and fasten it to a door knob. Slam the door and she won’t feel a thing. Yeah, right. My dentist wouldn’t even use Novocain when he drilled our teeth. “It’s not so bad,” the adults said. “Just for extractions” said the masochistic dentist,  who looked a lot like depictions of Satan. When a child choked on a fish bone at our family’s annual fish fry, the adults forced the child to eat several slices of white bread to “push it down.” Once that didn’t work and little Larry was flopped screaming onto the tabletop, his mouth held open while someone probed his throat with tweezers for the offending bone. I didn’t eat fish for twenty years. There was even a time when burns were thought to be best treated with hot water – as hot as you can stand. Oh, the pain. Now a splashy cold bath for a child’s burn. I’m glad times have changed. No wonder all kids thought of running off and joining a circus in my day. I won’t even get into corporal punishment and how every adult had the right to whack us, no questions asked. In fact, if your parents found out, you got it again. We came through childhood and I suppose it  made us tougher. I developed a slight stutter, while a lot of my friends chewed their fingernails or wet their beds. But we made it and have mountains of happy memories. But I’ll always ask: What was with the pain??



I read some fascinating books last year, and being a teacher I feel a need to assign each a grade. Hope you will pick some for your 2016 list.

A+  All the Light We Cannot See, Cutting for Stone, When I Found You, The Signature of All Things

A  The Nightingale, The Light Between Oceans, The Housemaid’s Daughter, The Girls of Atomic City, Rogue Lawyer, Leaving Time, The House We Grew Up In, The End of Your Life Book Club

A-  I Am the Messenger, Trail of Broken Wings, Orange is the New Black, The Girl on the Train, The Invention of Wings, Big Little Lies, Molly Murphy Mysteries

I didn’t list authors, but you can find them online. Please leave your favorite titles for me in the “comment” section. Cheers! Marlis

daleTis the Season…Dr.Dale Glenn and I signed lots of books at the South Knox Craft Show on Saturday. His book, Purcell Station, is set in Decker, IN, so he creates a lot of interest. The show was huge, with an estimated 1700 in attendance. My Margo Brown mysteries are only available now as e-books, but I had plenty of my Bailey’s Chase novels for middle-grade readers.  It was fun meeting and greeting all the readers. A signed book always makes a good Christmas present. : )

Happy Holidays, Everyone!


Mary Welk 1So sad to hear of the passing of a dear friend and mystery writer, Mary Welk of Chicago area. She and her friends came to our book club several years ago and sang “Going to Monroe City” to the tune of “Kansas City.” Mary played the guitar. Our group loved the singing, dancing, booktalks, and books these “Mystery Mavens” brought to our small town. Mary and Luisa Beuhler spent the night at my home and enjoyed the hot tub with me. Sandra Tooley and Alex Matthews stayed at a hotel. Mary was my first friend when I joined Mystery Writers of America and I always enjoyed visiting with her at conferences. Not only a great writer, she was the mother of six, wonderful grandmother of many little ones, and a retired nurse who really never retired for caring for others, and sometimes a stand-up comedian. Love you and miss you, Mary. Make the angels laugh!

mary welk 2

cats 002

It all started when I spotted this allusive cat near my home. Always a sucker for calico cats, I had no idea what this would lead to. It seemed harmless to leave a little cat food on the edge of the deck. At first she came at night, accepted my offering, and returned to the safety of the woods. Weeks passed and she became more bold as I watched from my deck chair. After tossing bits of tuna in her direction, I finally had her purring and eating from my hand. It all seemed so good at the time. A feral cat no longer, she began sleeping on the cushion of my front porch swing allowing me to stroke her back as I read. I called her Marmalade, after the cat in my Bailey’s Chase novels. It was nice to have a cat after so many years of cat-hating dogs.

kittens 001

Then she showed up one day with a family. Okay, I thought, I’ll just find homes for them.And I did, except for Storm, the little wild-eyed stiped one. Storm refused to conform to domestication and never allowed human touch…only food. Being responsible, I had Marmalade spayed. It wasn’t long until two grown females from Marmalade’s previous litters showed up at the edge of the woods, sneaking onto the deck at night searching for food. She showed great affection for these two daughters and longed to share her good fortune. Of course, I felt sorry for these hungry, wild cats, so I sprinkled more dry food about.

Imagine my shock when they both brought up families. Now I had three grown females and six half grown kittens…all desperately wild except Marmalade. I could only imagine how many cats I would have when the young reproduced. Someone told me the adults have two litters a year. Yikes! I could have a hundred cats in a year! They would decimate the songbirds and small wildlife population in my area. With the growing tribe, Marmalade moved entirely to the front porch, avoiding the upcoming drama.

I called the Animal Shelter in Vincennes. They told me of a free spay & neuter program for feral cats. All I had to do was catch them, bring them in early on a Tuesday for surgery, pick them up later the same day, and return them to the wilds…my backyard and woods.

Now. How to catch them? I moved my dog Gypsy’s kennel onto the back porch and began leaving cat food near it. Suspicious eyes watched, leery of the new black cage. However, hunger prevailed and one by one, they crept up, grabbed a mouthful of kibble and dashed to safety under the deck. A few days later, I moved the bowl of feed near the door of the kennel. They cautiously came, darting in and out when they saw me or heard the door open. I decided it was time to introduce tuna, so I left some sprinkled about.Then I mixed tuna with catfood and put the bowl inside the kennel. It was too much temptation for the felines. I waited until I knew they were good and hungry for my move. Imagine their shock when I slipped out and slammed the door shut trapping four inside.

It was not pretty, my friends. The captives screamed and yowled, crashing into the sides of the pen until I feared they would break it down. With foam dripping down their chins, the frenzied cats bit at the sides of the kennel. Only when I covered it with a blanket did they settle down. The next morning they hissed and bit at me as I carted them to the friendly vet, warned him, and left. When I returned I learned how the vet tranquilized them through the cage, then removed them for the procedure. Smart. Repeating the process, I caught them all, each coming home with a cropped right ear to signify they were sterile. My son said I was a responsible citizen. It felt good.Only on the last catch, did I rush the cage so quickly I lost my footing and sat down hard on the concrete porch. Nothing broke, but I walked funny for a few days. I think my feral cats enjoyed that part of the whole business.

authors at fairLast week four other authors and I (all educators) shared a table at the Knox Co. Fair. The purpose was to bring a little literary flair to the otherwise agricultural event. The plan was to meet and greet, sell and sign books. Actually, more meeting and greeting took place than selling and signing, but it was a fun week. Book lovers came and shared titles of beloved books. Old friends surfaced with memories and handshakes.

The best part of being an author has been meeting other writers. As the “Old Soldier” of the group, I shared favorite conferences and outlets to these first-time authors. (The KY Book Fair being  my favorite venue.)

Jim Beery, local teacher and journalist, compiled his articles, including pictures of family members. Dr. Dale Glenn of Bloomington shared memories of summers with his grandparents in small, nearby Decker in his novel, PURCELL STATION. Wini Frances and Linda Miller of Daviess Co. published read-alouds for children.

Thanks to all who dropped by our table. Keep reading and sharing those good books!

A friend suggested the Ivy Malone mysteries by Lorena McCourtney. I enjoyed the feisty retired librarian/amateur sleuth, so I found the author on FaceBook and asked to be her friend. After a brief chat, this fan asked for an interview on my blog. Lorena agreed and I hope my friends will soon be engaged in Ivy Malone’s adventures.




  1. When did you start writing?
  2. Oh, my, this was so long ago! Way back in the dim, dark ages of time. I made my first “professional” sale when I was in high school, an article called “Dad Has Plans,” about my father’s desire to move to Alaska. It was published in a magazine called The Alaska Sportsman. Then in college, where I majored in Animal Husbandry, I wrote a few articles on agricultural subjects. Marriage and motherhood then intervened, but by the time I returned to writing I knew I wanted to write fiction. I then had some 250 children’s and teenage short stories published, plus another 150 of the old “confession” magazine stories. Then I went to book-length, mass-market romances, then to Christian romances, and finally to where I am now (which is where I really feel at home), writing Christian mysteries.  So I might say to anyone who is just now starting writing, it may take a while to find your niche!


  1. Did you pattern Ivy after someone?

I think every writer puts a part of herself in her characters. I didn’t actually pattern Ivy after anyone, but she probably has more of me in her than any of my other characters. Not that I’m as adventurous as Ivy is! Nor do I go around getting involved in murders. But Ivy and I are of the same generation, and her “invisibility” comes from my personal experience. Ivy has a “black thumb,” and mine is pretty black too. And, of course, we both have our strong Christian beliefs.


  1. How do you plan a new book?

Hmm. Good question. I think it would be easier, and perhaps take less time, if I planned more. But I just can’t get into the details until I’m into the writing. When I’m working with characters I already know, like Ivy, I mostly work with details of the plot – who got murdered, why, who did it, how Ivy solves the mystery. Although I’ve been known to change the killer halfway through a book! If I’m working with new characters I spend much more time thinking about personality traits and previous events that affected their lives.

  1. When & where do you get your best plot ideas?

Sometimes it seems as if plot ideas are everywhere; sometimes it seems as if my brain is a barren desert of ideas. They may come from anywhere: something I read, something that happens to someone I know, sometimes just a lot of “what-if”ing in my head.

  1. How much time do you spend with a book before submitting to editors?

I like to have a year to work on a book, but editors I’ve worked with usually set deadlines not more than 9 months apart. I’ve never submitted a manuscript to other readers before sending it to the editor.

  1. Any plans to retire?

Actually, I consider myself semi-retired right now. I’m not really retired, because I’m still writing and publishing. But I’m retired from what is generally being called “traditional publishing” now. Meaning I’m still writing, with the intention of publishing e-books myself, but I’ve retired from dealing with publishers now. Which does not mean I was unhappy with the publisher of my Ivy books, the Julesburg Mysteries, or the Cate Kinkaid files. My editor there was great. It simply means that various problems, mostly medical for both my husband and me, have made trying to stick to publisher deadlines just not possible now.

  1. Who do you read?

Well . . . I read most anything that looks interesting. Since I’ve been writing mysteries, I read more in that genre than I used to. I’ve never been fond of historicals, but occasionally I read one of them too (and surprise myself by enjoying it).

  1. If you ever tour the Midwest, will you stop and visit our book club in so. Indiana?

I never have done any touring, so I’m not likely to start now. But I’ll be glad to answer any questions your book club might have.

  1. What are you working on now?  (this is a question I added myself)

Right now I’m finishing up Book #5 in the Ivy Malone Mysteries, “Go, Ivy, Go!”, mostly just waiting for a cover before I can put it up on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo.

I’m also in the process of getting some of my other books, which were published in print only, formatted for availability as e-books. The one I most recently finished is “Your Chariot Awaits,” Book #1 of my Andi McConnell Mysteries, which is now available on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. Andi has just been downsized from her job, dumped by her boyfriend, and is depressed about her upcoming 60th birthday. Good news! She inherits a sleek black limousine. Bad news: that dead body that soon turns up in the trunk.

Happy reading!

First of Series

First of Series


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