This morning before the snow

There’s snow falling here in Central Jersey on this miserable January day. We’ve been lucky, of course. Reading through previous posts from about this time last year, I realize how much worse it could be. Still, the last week or so has hit all of us with so much depressing news – most notably the deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman (oh, that remarkable voice!) – that we can use some sunshine and a little cheer.

I didn’t know either of these men personally, and I often wonder why celebrity deaths affect us so. With me, it’s nostalgic. I loved Bowie’s music, though I’m the first to admit he wasn’t my favorite artist. Still, I’ve always associated certain times in my life (especially wonderful times) with music. Changes is my favorite Bowie song – and not for obvious reasons. I will always love it because this song was used constantly in the ‘80s and ‘90s during NY Mets documentaries. I loved baseball, and 1986 was a particularly great year for my family in terms of our favorite team. Whenever I hear Changes, I think of my husband, Big Mike, rushing home from work, trying to catch the very end of game six of the National League Championship vs. the Astros. He was amazed (Amazing Mets, get it?) that the game had gone into extra innings and delighted he would be able to catch at least some of it on TV – win or lose. The kids were very young, and were both thrilled and terrified that the Mets would blow it, and me, leaving the room, too nervous to watch. I was young and hip (well, not too hip, I was a mom after all), and a mommy who could recite the entire roster and who knew every player’s batting average, as well as wins, losses, and strike-outs and save percentages for the pitchers. I was a huge Wally Bachman fan – and thought the sun rose and set on Mookie Wilson. We were in our own little universe back them and I yearn for those days. So whenever I hear Changes, I always turn to mush and shed some tears – for what once was and for what will never be again.

Okay, just so you don’t think I’m totally certifiable, I have to say I feel the very same way about certain books. Some I take down from the shelves – dusty, yellowed, and faded where the sun hits them – and reread them, relishing the words within and remembering the first time I absorbed everything between the book covers. Peter Straub’s Ghost Story comes to mind, and much later Susan Isaacs’s After All These Years (a totally different kind of book). I recently rediscovered The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons after reading a story about a house that one of my favorite writing buddies wrote and emailed to me. I found the haunting Siddons’s novel so unique when I first read it, that every few years I pull it out and read it again. For Siddons fans, this is quite a departure from the stories she usually writes.

I only hope someday a reader will look back and recall one of my books as they reminisce about better days gone by. Maybe it will be from the Jersey Girl series, or perhaps a stand-alone like Recurring. Who knows?

Hey, a formerly hip mom can dream, can’t she?

Have a wonderful week everybody!

Happy 2016!!!

New Year's 2016

New Year’s Eve – staged!

Happy New Year to everybody and I hope you all have something amazing and wonderful happen in your life in the next 366 days (it’s a leap-year, so we all get one extra day to win the lottery)! I’m thinking about the kind of pure joy that Chris Gardner experienced in The Pursuit of Happyness – where you’re so excited and thrilled that you don’t know what to do with yourself (as happens at the end of the movie). Wouldn’t that be fantastic? I’ve had great joy in my life, but I don’t know if I’ve had that kind of elation before. This would be a great year for it to make an appearance. And if this has happened to you once or twice in the past, I hope it happens again.

I won’t bore you with my writing, diet, and exercise resolutions. I’ll bet we’re all in the same frame of mind. Even if you didn’t make a list, you know you’ve promised yourself that this year will be different! May it be so.

I am busy with Recurring, and I’m determined to get it right if I have to kill someone to make it happen. Chapters have to be shifted around and the first chapter needs some work. It’s tough to cut things and toss them, but it has to be done. As for Food for Thought, it’s going okay but changes also have to made – not as drastic as with the other book, but man, why can’t things go smoothly? I guess if it was easy, everyone would be a writer, but sometimes the work seems like rocket science and I’m missing my thruster (sounds dirty, doesn’t it?).

Example of Clip Art on PowerPoint

Example of PowerPoint Clip Art

I just discovered something this morning that sent me into a panic. Though I don’t use it often, I realized Clip Art has gone practically extinct on my Microsoft Word program. Did anyone else notice this? Though many of the images were kind of cheesy, at least they were free. I looked online for royalty-free, public domain pics and it seems there aren’t many of those out there, and you have to sign up at the various websites to use the free images – which I hate doing.

As a writer, I can sympathize with photographers who get no royalties for their shutter work, but I also know that as a writer, much of what I have written in the past has been viewed for free. Mostly, I consented for the purpose of name recognition (not that I have a household name, but geez, people do need to know you exist and write).

I did a little research and one blogger suggested downloading whatever Clip Art you can from your PowerPoint program. From her own sleuthing, she learned those clips are going by way of the dodo also. So, forgive the clip I used as an example from PowerPoint (photo above) – the lazy woman’s way to add pizzazz to a post. I think I’ll have to keep lugging my camera around and take my own rotten pictures (and I do take lousy pics, as you no-doubt noticed from my staged photo above). I guess practice makes perfect with photography, just like with writing.

May everybody have a joyous, healthy new year . . . and remember to read during all that newfound elation.

Christmas time is here . . .


Christmas 2015

First, Happy Holidays to everyone! I took a break from writing to decorate the outside of the house (the inside will have to wait). I was the only person on the block without lights and I felt ashamed of myself for being such a Scrooge. I know you can’t notice this because I take lousy pictures, but on my front door hangs a genuine, official New Jersey Devils Christmas wreath. My across the street neighbor has his NY Rangers wreath, so obviously we talk hockey every time we see each other. I, of course, know much more about hockey than he does. I’m older and after all, I am a DEVILS fan and boy, do we know hockey.

In my investigating I’ve noticed an abundance of Christmas Cozies out there. Though I’m not a nut for the season, I do love a good mystery. And what better time of the year for a murder than these festive days of Peace on Earth, love, and good cheer?

If you go to Amazon and type in Christmas Murder Mysteries, a list pops up that will make your mouth water like you’re eyeing a bowl filled with chocolate. Some of the titles appear to be novellas, a few are very long short stories, and there are more full length novels than I had imagined possible. The shorter titles are 99 cents, so you won’t break the bank.  I’ll get a few of them tonight on my Kindle app and fall asleep dreaming of victims strangled by their own garland, poisoned by mistletoe-laced eggnog, and impaled with their Christmas trees. Don’t you just love it?

I’ve always wanted to write a Christmas mystery. Colleen Caruso could definitely use some of that old yuletide homicide cheer, but the order of the series just doesn’t seem to flow in the direction of a December setting. I’d love to try one in the next year or two though. After all, the possibilities for murder over the holidays are endless (as anyone with family can attest to).

As it stands now, Colleen and the crew are all being edited in the first draft of Food for Thought. As for Recurring, there are so many twists and turns that my writing pals will need eyes in the back of their heads to catch any discrepancies. Wow, it’s a tough one. I never realized when I began the book how much hard work would go into it.

So enjoy the countdown to Christmas everybody. And a merry welcome to the newcomers to this site!

Thanksgiving Again?



Thanksgiving is upon us and there is so much to do that I feel a panic attack coming on every time I think about it. Besides all the holiday prep, I’m doing all the cooking. With Christmas a little more than a month away and the craziness that goes with the festive season, I feel the dementia setting in.

The panic is even worse as I edit Food for Thought and Recurring. First drafts are crude, ugly, and consistently inconsistent. I’m all over the place. A writer can and will explain something in Chapter Two, then re-explain it in Chapter Seven because she completely forgot she has already covered that part to death! One paragraph of background information has to be deleted, and then the chapter needs rewriting to make it fluent. And how many times can a writer forget to type in the word “the” and not sound like an idiot? Am I typing slower than I’m thinking? Am I thinking at all? Do I ever think? Is my mind somehow blocking this word and that’s the reason I can’t seem put it in everywhere it belongs? If you’ve ever wondered why writers have a reputation for heavy drinking – these are a few of the reasons.

Sometimes when I’m driving, I’m thinking about the books and I remember something I’d like to add or clarify. I pull over, whip out my notebook, write it down, and continue on my way – and hope I remember to check the notebook once I get home. There are scraps of paper everywhere in my office, Post-It notes all over my computer, scribblings on my desk calendar, and a massive pile of papers on the left side of my desk that consists of charts, notebooks, printouts, bills (oh, that’s where they are!), and a few store circulars thrown into the heap to add color and character. I wish I could be a more organized writer, but I guess I like the drama of not being able to find anything or else I wouldn’t do it.

I sure hope I’m better organized when Thursday comes. I have to make a 19 pound turkey (I hope it’s completely defrosted and I don’t have to use an ice pick to chip away inside the cavity again this year), stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, the broccoli, cheese, and rice thing that my mother used to make (nobody knows what it’s called), brussel sprouts, gravy, apple pie, and whatever else I’m sure I forgot to add to the list of cooking chores.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving everybody and remember, if the turkey meat is pink, don’t eat it!



November Already?


Halloween has passed and we’re already into November. Where did the time go? The days are flying by and I’m still not done with either book. The worst of it is, these are only first drafts and they’re two diamonds in the rough. I have a friend who is also a novelist and saw that she released three books over the summer. I contacted her and asked how she managed to accomplish this amazing feat. She told me these books were written a long time ago and she had pulled the manuscripts out of a drawer and reworked them — which takes much less time than writing a whole book from scratch. Kudos to her. Nuts to me.

Food for Thought is very close to completion (first draft) and Recurring isn’t. I’m overthinking it and to make matters even worse, my doctor, who discusses my writing projects with me whenever I see him, gave me a suggestion during a recent check-up. Because Recurring centers on a pharmaceutical company, I paid strict attention — I mean, a doctor should know, right? Especially one who had a pharm rep following him around the office the whole time I was there. Anyway, I kind of liked the new angle and went with it, which further complicates an already intricate plot. The thing is, I’d love to have the book done by the beginning of the new year. I have an agent interested in reading the final draft and need to strike while the iron is hot. Talk about pressure.

Back to Food for Thought — below is something I thought I should share with Colleen Caruso fans. Colleen has been a Twinkies lover since New Math is Murder, but I originally had Drake’s Funny Bones as her go-to snack. When the company stopped making the delicious peanut butter-filled cakes, I had to change her favorite munch because they no longer existed. I’m happy to report that Funny Bones are back!

Funny Bones

Yeah, Baby! They’re back! I found these on the shelf in a local Shop Rite and gasped when I saw them. I wanted to tell the world, or at least every shopper in the store. You guessed it, these are my favorite snacks — just the thing to sabotage my diet. Gee, and I was doing so well . . .

Anyway, I was toying with the idea of changing the title of Food for Thought to Another Man’s Poison. I don’t know. I had this book plan laid out in my brain (and in a notebook) for three years and conceived it as Food for Thought, but the new title sounds more intriguing The original title of New Math was changed at the request of the publisher (originally titled The Academics of Murder), so it’s no big deal. All titles are working titles anyway. Any thoughts about the change, guys and gals? Let me know.

So it’s back to work on a Sunday night for me because I have no life, I’m a writer.

I hope everybody has a wonderful week.

Real Life and Fiction


Out and about this morning, I spotted so many glorious trees turning vibrant colors that I literally gasped. Yeah, it’s cliché — but they honestly took my breath away.  They were almost as perfect as my porcelain-delicate kids’ faces when they were babies — okay, not quite, but you get where I’m coming from. So I whipped out my camera and got the shot specifically for this post. And because I tend overanalyze everything to the point that I turn melancholy, a wave of sadness washed over me. In two weeks time the tree above (taken outside the Old Bridge Public Library) will be bare-boned and ugly.

Note to readers: after two weeks my kids weren’t bare-boned and ugly. They grew up to be ridiculously handsome, but that awe-inspiring infant beauty is presently nowhere to be found.

So, back to the library, I turned around and noticed a few trees off in the distance, about a week or so past their prime beauty. I took a shot of those, too.


Why can’t perfection freeze in time? Why can’t it always be beautiful? Like some kind of cosmic rule, life isn’t always pretty. Which got me to thinking about the less attractive side of life when it comes to writing. I came to the conclusion that reality doesn’t necessarily apply to fiction.

After considering all the books I have read, I realized an awful lot of reality is missing even from my very favorite authors. Gone with the Wind comes to mind immediately. Loved it. Read it to death. I re-read it every couple of years.  Rich people. The Civil War. Poor people. Death. Destruction. Reconstruction. And not once within its entire 733 pages does anyone go to the bathroom!

I’ve been reading Stephen King since Carrie, and people do periodically go to the bathroom in his novels. One instance that caught my attention due to the understatement of the “action” was in Salem’s Lot. The doctor (Jimmy Cody) is with Ben Mears when they encounter the undead. Jimmy is so frightened, he wets himself, but it only comes to a couple of drops — a wink and a nod to peeing his pants. A couple of drops? Hey, in my life that’s a deep sneeze or a reaction to the funniest joke I’ve ever heard. A real-life reaction that never seems to make its way into books is to let loose a stream so long and strong that six vampires walking by would slip, fall, and probably drown in the stream of urine.

Why don’t characters ever take out the garbage? When do they trim their toenails? Doesn’t anyone ever wipe down the tiles after they take a shower to prevent mold and mildew? Where is the mundane, less attractive side of life? Even in my own work, how come Colleen Caruso can drink four gin and diet tonics after dinner and not get up a dozen times during the night to use the toilet?

These aren’t exactly burning literary questions. We who write know that in most instances, it’s understood that people do occasionally take out the trash, use the toilet, and trim their toenails. These daily routines have no place in a nicely flowing story and they certainly serve no purpose — unless the toenail clippings contain DNA and can be used to solve a crime. Come to think of it, if a writer puts in every pit stop, every meal, all the oil changes, washed dishes, garbage hauls, and gas runs, the book would be 2,000 pages long and a totally boring read.

So there! I answered my own question! But seriously, wouldn’t you love to see a just a little more of real life reflected in the novels you read?


Okay, I’ll try not to do that!

Have a wonderful weekend everybody. Get out and enjoy the fall foliage.

Where Do Ideas Come From?

Dust Man and ColleenThe Dust Man and Colleen 

Over the past few weeks I’ve been asked what inspires me when I’m writing a book or a short story. Most of you know that with the Jersey Girl cozy mysteries, I get that inspiration from me! I was a stringer for a local newspaper for many, many years, and some of the people you interview are so bizarre, they are storylines in themselves.

I didn’t pick the reporter job as an occupation for Colleen Caruso simply because she needed a career. She’s a bit crazy. The job’s a bit crazy. They went hand-in-hand. A nutty, harried mom handling deadlines and kids makes for a faster pace than a single, childless woman who writes poetry, though I suppose poet had better have a day job if poetry is her only source of income. In truth, being a stringer isn’t exactly lucrative either. I mean, it’s not a constant, day-in and day-out career. I’ve worked a regular day job plus did the stringer stuff. And raised kids. And cleaned the house, cooked, did laundry, chauffeured the kids, the friends, the animals, and the husband (husbands always end up last – so sorry my Big Mike love). When the kids moved out on their own, I worked, cleaned, and wrote articles. Later still, I home-hospiced my mom. I was able to cover some newspaper assignments that I was lucky enough to get considering the hospice care was a 24/7 job and I couldn’t leave my house. I conducted all of the interviews over the phone (with back-and-forth emails to supplement the conversations). Being a stringer is hard work, but it’s fun. And let’s face it, I’m dead familiar with the job (a nod to the movie Educating Rita), and all that running around is what the Jersey Girl cozies are all about.

Crafty Cat Crimes

Some years ago, I wrote a short story for a Crafty Cat Crimes anthology called The Day Frank Hollings Died. I’ve been called many things, but never a cat (I should be so lucky). Where did I get the inspiration to create a cat-sleuth? As it happens, I’ve been a cat-mom several times (in addition to several other species). My latest is the Dust Man (see above). But this was pre-Dust Man and the story required a smart, arrogant, crime-solving cat with a numbskull human mom who needed looking after. My inspiration for Tom Cat (original, huh?) came from the Top Cat cartoons that I loved as a kid – close friends get to call him T.C. (providing it’s with dignity). Another huge inspiration – Brian Setzer. I kept singing the Stray Cat Strut and playing the album as I was writing the story to get a feel for my street-savvy feline. Geez, am I giving my age away or what? Anyway, both T.C. and the Stray Cat provided the inspiration I needed to get the story written and accepted for the anthology!

So if you’ve ever wondered where writers get their ideas – now you know.

Have a wonderful work week everybody and keep reading.


Scary Stuff and Scarier Scenes


The rain has stopped and the sun is finally out. Though the temperature is a bit on the cool side, I’ll take it! We’ve had three days of rain and gloom and many of us were living under the threat of Hurricane Joaquin’s wrath. It looks like the south will take the brunt of the storm, but I couldn’t help recalling Superstorm Sandy and my five days without electricity, heat, and Halloween. Trick-or-treating was cancelled in my area that year, and the kids were told they could go door-to-door the following week to get their goodies. Everyone complied – the kids, the parents, and the households handing out the candy. As with most things, it all worked out.

To keep myself occupied over the weekend, I’ve been researching for a chapter in Recurring where the protagonist has to check out something in Camden, New Jersey. I needed a frightening setting and situation for a scene and boy, did I ever get one.

It’s been years since I’ve been there, not even passing by the city on my way to somewhere else, and rather than hop in the car and drive south, I used the internet to get a feel for the notorious streets. To say I’ve never seen anything like it is an understatement. The main character in Recurring, Elaine Masters, works in the family business – Endicott Pharmaceuticals (a family-owned drug developer and manufacturer). She tracks down a problem involving a nursing home and one of her company’s products, and finds herself in the middle of – nothing – which was exactly what was needed in the storyline. The photos helped to give me a perfect visual perspective for the setting. Unfortunately, they also gave me nightmares. I have a pretty good imagination, but I could never conceive living under the conditions some people do in parts of that city. Danger, hopelessness, Beirut in 1983 – you name it and those were the impressions I came away with after viewing the photos. If anyone is interested, click on Camden Streets and scroll down. You can see buildings that once stood tall and proud. It was a noble city in the past, and with hard work, some luck, and a little intervention from above, it will be noble again.

The first drafts for both Recurring and Food for Thought will be finished by the end of the month. Then the real work begins! Revising and editing takes a lot more concentration than writing a draft, but making sure everything is right, everything clicks, and it all reads well, is a job in itself. Hopefully this will all go smoothly.

Have a great night and an amazing week everyone!

Psychic Pstuff

102_0174 Irene Peterson and Karyn Peterson

I attended a Sisters in Crime Central Jersey meeting on Saturday, where sensitive Irene Peterson gave an informative talk on all things psychic, including the occult, the paranormal, and foretelling or divination. Do I believe in such things? Not really, though I have to admit that as a mom, I’ve had more than my share of instances when the kids were young where I sensed they needed me immediately and they actually were in grave danger. I think maybe this is where the sensitive-thing comes in. It’s ingrained in many moms for survival of the species, I suppose, and I guess with all that day-to-day contact a mom automatically knows when there’s trouble. Alas, I no longer get those sensations — the kids aren’t little anymore and they have their own households. But at one time it was there.

It’s not that I went with a skeptical mind. I actually attended because there is a psychic in a series I’m mapping out and I needed a little more than a nodding acquaintance with the subject. I wasn’t disappointed. Irene and her daughter Karyn (I don’t know if Karyn is a sensitive like her mom, but she sure knows plenty about the subject) were warm, friendly, very funny, and wonderful speakers. I came away with lots of useful information. Irene is also a fiction writer and has books available on amazon. I haven’t had the chance to check them out yet, but I fully intend to.

Storm night-Sept 2015

Now onto my stuff. How’s this for a strange pre-dusk sky? I thought it was just freaky-looking enough to grab my iPad and run outside to take the shot. It’s actually in color, though it looks more black and white to me. These kinds of shots always get me thinking of dark subjects, which helps with Recurring (which is coming along nicely). Come to think of it, Recurring contains a touch of the supernatural also, so I guess my time spent at that meeting on Saturday was even more useful than I had originally thought.

Food for Thought is getting interesting, especially with Evan Rhodes! What a character! If he was my brother, I’d break his ***! Kudos to hunky Ken Rhodes for not drowning him when he was young!

That’s all for now. Enjoy this lovely cooler weather and have a great week everybody!

Autumn at Last!


Autumn is just around the corner and it is my favorite time of the year. The air smells crisp and clean, blue jays squawk incessantly (sounding very exotic to my untrained ear), and the woods turn vibrant shades of orange, red, and yellow. I love fall colors (both in nature and in clothes!). There’s inspiration all around – especially for murder.

Except for growing the ingredients for potential pies and for Halloween decorations, what good is a pumpkin patch without a body lying between those bright orangey rows? What a great place to ditch a corpse!

Fall brings bonfires and a great way to destroy evidence. Think about it, ropes used in strangulation, wood-handled knives, even duct tape or blood-soiled fabric with a murderer’s DNA can all go up in flames and be rendered useless to investigators. You can hide a body beneath those small mountains of baled hay that people use to decorate their yards for the trick-or-treaters, or inside those tall, dried corn stalks that look so innocent and countrified for Halloween revelers. Of course, there is always the obvious – the fake headstone on the front lawn with a real corpse resting not-so-peacefully beneath the new patch of sod used to cover it. I think that might be a little too tame for most of us. What do you think?


I’m fond of the old body in the woods with leaves covering it trick that I personally prefer when I wish to hide a carcass. I mean, I only use this one when I don’t want the body discovered until the following spring! If it’s of no importance when the stiff is found, I’m kind of partial to dressing him/her/it up as a ghoul and sitting him amongst the rest of the Halloween décor on the front porch. Except for the smell after a few days, this is a perfectly acceptable way to use both the holiday and the crisp autumn air to temporarily dispose of a body – on your neighbor’s veranda, of course!

Okay, now down to business. I’m deep into Food for Thought and, hopefully, will have the first draft completed very soon! Not so with Recurring. This one is complicated and some days I’m scratching my head and rechecking my facts, which is an awful thing to do in the middle of a writing frenzy. I lose momentum and it’s so unnecessary considering it’s more important to write it all out and recheck those facts, then make adjustments and corrections later. Still, it’s coming along, but at a much slower pace than I had originally anticipated.

So until next week, enjoy our still-warm weather while we have it. Remember, Christmas is only 98 days away!

. . . and a happy welcome those who have recently signed up for this blog! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I love writing it.