Wednesday, July 27, 2022

And what are you reading?

Summer turned hot suddenly, so what's better than cuddling next to the air conditioning and reading a good book?

Last week's author interview is this week's book highlight! 

Kathleen Kaska's Murder at the Menger is Book 5 of the Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series, and is a delightful stand-alone read. 

From the opening sentence, we are immersed into Sydney's world. Sydney, a feisty private investigator, discovers a dead body at the Menger Hotel in San Antonio. The story quickly spirals into a series of twists, adventures, and, of course, more dead bodies. Is it easy to be a female investigator in the murky underworld of the 1950s? Not at all, but Sydney packs a gun and takes no guff. Well, except from her cousin, a sharp contrast to Sydney with her love of shopping, and yet who gladly follows Sydney's cases with her own brand of feistiness.

Kathleen has a real gift for telling a compelling story. She also brings the settings and characters to very vivid life! Here, just one example as a minor character complains about a suspect:  "That woman spins lies better than a tarantula." The reader is pulled along Sydney's investigations and greatly entertained along the way.

Here's a little more about Kathleen Kaska: 

She is the author of the awarding-winning mystery series: the Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series set in the 1950s. Each of these five mysteries is set in a different historic hotel. Her first two Lockhart mysteries, Murder at the Arlington and Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus books for the Pulpwood Queen Book Group, the country’s largest book group. 

Her Kate Caraway Animal-Rights Mystery Series, which includes Run Dog Run, and A Two Horse Town. A third book in this series, Eagle Crossing, will be released later this summer.

Kathleen also writes mystery trivia, including The Sherlock Holmes Quiz Book. Her Holmes short story, “The Adventure at Old Basingstoke,” appears in Sherlock Holmes of Baking Street. She is the founder of The Dogs in the Nighttime, the Sherlock Holmes Society of Anacortes, Washington, and is a scion of The Baker Street Irregulars. She is also a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.

Find out more about Kathleen at:

You might just want to read a little more about the Menger Hotel which just happens to be on the Ghost Tours of San Antonio, Texas

The Menger Hotel, 1865 (Source: Wikipedia)

May you enjoy some fine summer reading and stay cool! 

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Meet the Author: Kathleen Kaska

I first met Kathleen Kaska via Sisters in Crime and became entranced with her feisty heroine, Sydney Lockhart, a brash, unafraid, and curious new reporter, eager to earn her way in a man's world -- with no easy career paths in the 1950's. 

What inspired you to write the Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series? How did Murder at the Arlington lead to Murder at the Menger?

     I was working on my Kate Caraway Animal-Rights Series at the time, but I was also reading humorous mysteries by Janet Evanovich, Carl Hiaasen, and Elizabeth Peters. Their stories and characters were uplifting and enjoyable, especially after a stressful day of teaching middle school students. After reading dozens of their books, a seed must have been planted in my brain, and Sydney Lockhart sprouted. It happened in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

My husband and I spend Thanksgiving week at the historic Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs every year. On one of those trips, I met Sydney Lockhart while unpacking. She walked out of the bathroom and told me she was not happy because there was a dead man in her bathtub. Then she told me her story. All I had to do was write it down. By the end of that week, I had the basis for the series.

I decided that the Sydney Lockhart series would be set in the 1950s, each one at an actual historic hotel. And every time Sydney checked in, she’d become involved in a murder, usually as a suspect. Since Murder at the Arlington, Sydney and I have written, Murder at the Luther (Palacio, Texas), Murder at the Galvez (Galveston, Texas), Murder at the Driskill (Austin, Texas), and most recently, Murder at the Menger.

Murder at the Menger, just released in June, takes place in the historic Menger Hotel in San Antonio, Texas. From the first book to this one, a lot has happened in Sydney's world, most of which was a surprise until I started writing.

What can you tell us about yourself?  Okay, here goes: Ten things to know about me.

1. I grew up in the small Czech/Catholic town of West in Central Texas.

2. When I started writing my Sydney Lockhart series, I realized I could write humor, not something you’d expect from a shy, quiet, easily intimidated child, which I was.

3. After college graduation, I went to New York City to celebrate and stayed for a year and a half.

4. I realized in my forties that I was moderately dyslexic, which explained a lot.

5. I started running marathons when I turned 60. I’ve chalked up 27 so far. I plan to keep it up until I turn 80.

6. I love birding, which led to the publication of my book, The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story.

7. I’m a Sherlockian—a fancy name for anyone obsessed with reading Sherlock Holmes. Check out my book, The Sherlock Holmes Quiz Book.

8. I have three wonderful, fun, beautiful sisters who inspire me and make me happy to be alive.

9. I have a wonderful husband who does the same thing.

10. I love dogs!

What were the key steps in developing your editing services?

    I was born to be a teacher; writing I had to learn. So at age six, I sat my little sister in front of a blackboard and tried to teach her what I had learned in school that day. Her attention span was short, but she was two years old. I did my best to keep her in her seat. You can guess how that turned out.

    I went on to teach seventh-grade life science for twenty-five years and loved every minute of it—well, almost. Once I started writing, it was only natural that I wanted to share what I learned with others.

    Fast forward—after I retired from the classroom and had published several books, I went to work for a publishing company as their marketing director, but I also edited manuscripts, which I loved doing. Unfortunately, the company closed two years ago because of COVID, so I decided to start my own editing and coaching business, Metaphor Writing Coach. I work with new and published authors, editing and evaluating their manuscripts and other writing projects. The coaching part of my business also involves working with new writers by helping them complete their WIP and, in some cases, find a publisher.

Any surprises? Any lessons learned you’d like to share? 

Two surprises and a lesson:

    Surprise one: Soon after I started my business, I was surprised when a woman contacted me looking for a ghostwriter for her autobiography. Ghostwriting is an entirely different business, requiring a lot of time, which would have taken me away from my writing. Besides, writing someone else's story just doesn't work for me. It’s true, I've written a biography about ornithologist Robert Porter Allen, but his life’s story dealt with saving endangered birds, which is a passion of mine. I told the woman to write her story, and I would edit and evaluate it. I didn’t think I’d hear from her. Then a year later, she called. She’d finished her autobiography—150,000 words. Now, I have a massive project to tackle. 

    Surprise two: Up until a year ago, the subjects of my blog posts were writing and publishing. I never considered writing about my personal life until I had to give a motivational speech on that very topic. I used humor to tell my story, and I was surprised by the overwhelming response I received. Moreover, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed writing about my childhood. That led to a new blog series, “Growing Up Catholic in a Small Texas Town.” I found that a lot of folks can relate to that.

    Lesson: The best lesson I learned was from an agent who told me not to worry about who will publish my book but instead focus on finishing my manuscript. The editing, publishing, and promoting will come later.

How do you approach social media? Any advice to give?

    In this day and time, engaging in social media communication is a must. Publishers expect their authors to use it to promote their books and increase their readership. Even though connecting with folks through social media is fun, it competes with my writing time. Although I’m good at meeting deadlines—thanks to the nuns who taught me at St. Mary’s School—I do experience stressful moments trying to juggle everything. Of course, I wouldn't do it if I didn't love writing and teaching. I just have to prioritize and allow for relaxation and exercise. 

    My social media advice is to select two or three of your favorite social media platforms in which to engage and set aside time every day to be active on them.

How would you describe your reading? Any books to recommend?

    I read for enjoyment, inspiration, and learning. Enjoyable books allow me to relax. Inspirational books help me to continue to write. I learn how to improve my writing by reading books by bestselling authors.

    I also like reading books by other Texas authors. I recently discovered Attica Locke's Darren Mathews Mystery Series set in East Texas. The first is Bluebird, Bluebird, and the second Heaven, My Home—just released. She’s captured the rich, mystical setting of the Piney Woods in Texas. HarperCollins author Taylor Moore’s first Garrett Kohl mystery, Down Range, was published this spring, and his second one is coming out in August. I was so taken by these two authors and their series that I recently wrote an article about them for Mystery & Suspense Magazine.

    Other books I recommend keeping nearby? Anything written by E.B. White and his stepson, Roger Angell, both of whom wrote for The New Yorker magazine. Anyone who wants to learn to write or write better must read these two fabulous authors. I have several of their books, and I reread them often.

What advice would you like to give other writers?

    I always share the advice that the agent gave me about finishing my manuscript. I also advise readers to read, read, read, especially the genre in which they write.

Thank you, Kathleen, for talking with us this month. I was caught up in Sydney Lockhart's world right from the opening scenes of Murder at the Arlington and Murder at the Menger. Maybe because I remember the 1950s pretty well, even as I felt restive from requirements that women wore skirts no shorter than mid-calf, that we must wear gloves when going to town, and we should never interrupt a man when he spoke. Of course, the 1950s did lead to the 1960s, but with these delightful murder mysteries, we get to experience and explore how feisty women achieved their goals, well before women's lib!

Tune in next week to learn a little more about Murder at the Menger.

For more about Kathleen Kaska, visit her website at:

Monday, July 18, 2022

Monday Morning and Scattered!

 Today in Vancouver, the morning begins with clouds, occasional rain, and a high of 70F. I'm watching a cityscape of folks off to work as yachts, scullers, and little aqua bus boats ply the False River, some 12 stories below. Yes, the morning has been busy!

First, advance review copies of Scattered Stones are available. Just let me know if you'd like an advance, free copy -- if you're willing to write a review for Amazon or GoodReads. And if you really don't want to wait for the official release date of August 1st, an e-book of Scattered Stones is now available on Amazon.

Amazon didn't like my cover because it already had text on it. So, I made a new one using their Cover Creator. Now, here's a question for you: Which cover do you like best and why?

Please let me know in the comments below or by e-mail. I truly appreciate the feedback! Just because your opinion matters, and I just might need to change that cover!!!!

May it be sunny and warm where you are -- with only good days ahead.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Beginnings and Endings

 For the last two weeks, here in our condo above False Creek in Vancouver, we've watched the large parking lot twelve stories below fill up with long-haul trucks, massive white tents, and then workers who assembled rows of tables, put up and taken down, with crews cooking, and a fleet of pickups and cabs and limousines coming and going.

We didn't know what was happening until on one of our walks, Allen stopped to ask, and we learned this was one of several staging areas for the filming of Amazon's Wilderness series. Just this summer here in Vancouver. Next year, this somewhat twisted love story can be watched on Amazon Prime. If we wanted a head start on understanding the story, we could read B. E. Jones, Wilderness, the book that inspired the series.

Meanwhile, as morning lights up Vancouver, the trucks roll out, and a line of buildings face the rising sun, a kind of modern Stonehenge.

Now why I've called today's post, 'Beginnings and Endings,' is very simply for nearly the last 8 days, I've struggled with a bad cold. But not today. For as the trucks load up and leave, I can now return to writing -- and exploring this beautiful city. Temperatures remain somewhat cooler than elsewhere, in the mid to upper 70s, and the walkway along False Creek beckons, as do those untouched files in my laptop. All is well. Enjoy the summer!

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

IWSG July 6: What book world would I live in?

The first Wednesday of the month is set aside as Insecure Writers' Support Group. On this day, writers post an update to share what's going on in their writing life. They may respond to the monthly question or share news. We try to read at least 12 other posts; it's pretty wonderful to be a part of an online writing group. I hope you will join us!

July 6 question - If you could live in any book world, which one would you choose?

If I were a teenager, reading science fiction books by the boxful as I once did, this would be an easy question to answer. I loved immersing myself in alien worlds, fantastic journeys, and pursuing quests that took me unexpected places.

That was many decades ago. Right now I'm polishing the very last connections between my historical fiction series and my new (last?) book in this series, Scattered Stones, slated for launch sometime in August, which tells the story of a couple separated by happenstance in 1840s Scotland. I call this story "blue collar gritty" for the average person struggled to make a living in those far off days. So I've been living in this book world of my own making for quite a while, but feeling ready to finish and next to jump into contemporary mystery/suspense stories about art crime in Scotland and Egypt.

Note: If you would like a free review copy of Scattered Stones when it's released, just let me know by e-mail or comments below, and I'll send you the link sometime in the next few weeks!

We're also on the road, a month-long stay in Vancouver, where all is new and slightly different. Our condo overlooks the small False River near Grenville Island. Little aqua-boats churn up and down as do yachts, sailing boats, and smaller sculling boats powered by oars. We're in the midst of downtown with mountain views and busy city life around us. A 6-minute walk takes us to Urban Fare, an upscale grocery store with sushi and Italian food, a bakery, and organic fruits and vegetables. Every nationality seems represented here. Diverse, energetic, young people stroll along the river as do we.  At night, the buildings light up in a breathtaking panoramic view.

And yet our condo is quiet, perfect for writing in a tiny nook or for reading that next book. On my list for the month: Erik Larson's Isaac's Storm and Kathleen Kaska's Murder at the Menger.

May your month go well, with new stories and many words coming your way. Stop by to say thank you to our co-hosts this month: J Lenni Dorner, Janet Alcorn, PJ Colando, Jenni Enzor, and Diane Burton!  And, consider signing up and participating in our monthly blog posts by going HERE!

Don't forget about the IWSG Book Club featuring IWSG writers!

Saturday, July 02, 2022

On the Road: Oh, Canada!

 Staying home is comfortable. Everything that I need is right at hand -- books, computers, sewing projects, all those kitchen necessaries. So why is going on the road so attractive?

We paired a week in Banff to celebrate a family reunion/50th wedding anniversary with a meandering trip across Canada, winding up in Vancouver, our home for the rest of the month. We camped in hotel rooms, hiked when we could, ate some of the wildest food (bison while we're quasi-vegetarians!), and appreciated every moment of being in the Canadian Rockies as we drove from Banff through Yoho, Glacier, Revelstoke, and finally to British Columbia.

There's something about being out in the wilderness, even when we walked along Marble Canyon with hundreds of other tourists.  The loud rush of the water down that narrow gorge. The smell of sharp, clean air, and pines and moss.

Yes, there were tourists, everywhere we went. Yet there were quiet times as well as we sought out those less well-traveled places. We did see a grizzly, out in a wide field, munching away on his meal of grasses and dandelions. A gray wolf sprinted along a steep hillside just as our car rounded a turn. He was too big to be a coyote.

And those mountains. That moment very early in the morning as the sun came up, bringing light to snow-topped rocky craigs, just outside Golden. 

The raven that touched down briefly just a few feet away from our patio table. 

The challenge of walking (with our hiking sticks) over stones in Rock Garden, finding the path . . . slowly. 

The laptop awaits as do writing projects. Tomorrow we begin our month in Vancouver, our apartment just a few blocks away from Stanley Park. A highlight? A corner nook that will serve as my office. Vacation begins!

May your summer be filled with family and fun, busy with all you care for and about, and quiet time as well.