Thursday, December 26, 2013

Post Christmas blues

What can we do on the Thursday after Christmas besides shop? READ! We can dive into those books we got as gifts, or those we have on our Ereaders that haven't been touched yet.

For those of you bored out of your mind now that the festivities are's a little fun for your answer in the comments.

Grab a book
Turn to page 26 (it is the 26th right?)
and give us the twelfth line (or the 12th and 13th since this is the 12th month and the 13th year of the 2000s)

Here is mine:
From The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
"If not for the form's persistence, she could have dismissed it--like the shape of an animal seen briefly in the clouds."

This is a great book for anyone who hasn't read it...and I hope to read the entire Mistborn series because I am enjoying it a lot.

Okay, happy Thursday y'all, give us your lines and list the book, too, so we can find out what it comes from...I am about to hop off here and try to get some more reading done!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A very special holiday greeting from all of us at MB4

Thank you for being part of our community of writers and readers, and thank you especially for welcoming us into your minds and hearts. We wish you lots of peace, love, health, joy and happiness, today and always. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Turning the Tables - Interview of Aaron Lazar by Joan H. Young

Hi, folks!

Are you all set for Christmas?

For the first time in years, I can say yes to that question! This is mostly because we decided to take seriously our new pledge to keep it simple, do mostly homemade gifts, and enjoy the company of our family rather than going into terrible debt for "things." Things aren't worth it, and although it's fun to spend money like a drunken sailor, we all decided it was time to stop the madness. So - I used my photos to create very special coffee table books for my daughters and calendars for others, featuring the Genesee Valley and my gardens. Reasonable prices (esp. on sale!) at Shutterfly, and one can really put a personal touch to the creations with text beneath each photo.

Now, on to MB4 news!

Last week I conducted an interview with a new favorite author, Joan H Young, who writes delightful cozy mysteries set beside the fictitious Dead Mule Swamp way up north. It seems we must be in sync, for before she read my request to do the interview, I received a similar request from her! She recently posted this interview with me on her blog, and I thought you might like to take a look at the interesting questions she posed.

JHY: I see in your bio that you began writing as a release of your emotions following a period of great loss in your life. I think many people will identify with that, but I'm wondering why you chose to begin writing mysteries.

APL: Joan, I have always read mysteries, and only mysteries! I’m a mystery addict, and so were my parents. The house was always full of books, and my mother and father had their noses buried in PD James, Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, and John D. MacDonald books every day. The bookcases were full of them, and I devoured them all. As a child, when the “Arrow Book Club” flyers would come out at school, I’d bring them home with a dozen books circled, and even though we didn’t have much money to spare, my parents always bought every single book for me that I’d circled! Usually they were mysteries about horses or dogs. I also would devour boxes of books my parents would bring home from auctions. Once we got a whole collection of The Hardy Boys and I was in heaven!

Double Forte a Gus LeGarde mystery Double Forte, book one of the Gus LeGarde mystery series
JHY: One of the things that impressed me about your writing is your ability to give the reader a unique sense of place (in Upstate New York for the Gus LeGarde mysteries). Have you always lived there?

APL: I was born in Boston, grew up in the quiet countryside nearby, and spent summers at my grandparents’ camp in Maine. Dale and I were married when I graduated from Northeastern University in 1981, and we moved to the Finger Lakes region of Upstate NY when I took my job with Kodak the same summer. We started our family here and I’ve called this place home now for 32 years, and can’t imagine living anywhere else. I also base my Moore Mysteries series right here. Tall Pines mysteries always start out on a little house on Honeoye Lake, then migrate up to the Adirondacks, another favorite place of mine.

JHY: Are there particular things you do consciously when you are describing a location for a book?

APL: No, the words just sort of pour out of me, always from real memories that bubble persistently beneath the surface. If I’ve been somewhere that I loved, it usually sticks with me. I try to migrate into my character’s head fully – and as I write I imagine what he sees, tastes, smells, hears…and hopefully my readers can enjoy the same types of images that are floating around in my brain.

JHY: I also read that you are an engineer at Kodak. How do you work full-time and still write?

APL: Oops, I need to update some of my bios that are out there! I’ve been gone from Kodak since 2009, when they laid me off along with my entire group. I’ve been happily employed at a small German company since 2010, doing engineering and customer liaisons across the seas between Germany, Thailand, and the US. I love my new job and cherish the people here.

For the Birds a Tall Pines mystery For the Birds a Tall Pines mystery (with Adirondack settings)
I’ve always worked full time and managed to put out a few books each year, and it still works. I get up early and get all my chores done, then take an hour each morning to write in the dark and quiet. Nowadays I write with my dogs near me (or on me!) beside the wood stove. It’s very peaceful. I also love writing on vacation up in the Adirondacks on a chair overlooking The Sacandaga River. Extremely peaceful and invigorating at the same time.

JHY: People don't usually think of engineers as people with great imaginations. Would you like to comment on this?

APL: When I was growing up, I didn’t want to be an engineer. First, I hoped to be a cowboy. Then, I dreamed of all of the artistic possibilities – painter, music teacher, writer, horse farm owner. Unfortunately, none of the above seemed like it would support me. So – I was surprised to find a love of physics and math (hated them in high school) when I went back to night school after starving for a while. (literally!) At that point, engineers were in huge demand, so I went for it. I was pretty good at it, but I really did love the arts first and foremost.

It was surprising to me to find many of my Kodak colleagues had the same passions! My boss was a secret painter and stained-glass window maker. A fellow engineer was a closet musician. And so on. Almost every one of these “boring and predictable” engineers was very artistic and creative. They enjoyed their work, yes. But they really shone when it came to their secret passions! I believe that stereotype before I got to know them, and discovered I was more like them than I’d expected.

JHY: How many books have you written, and in what genres?

APL: I’ve written twenty-one books, if you count my writing guides, Write Like the Wind volumes 1, 2, & 3. Three are nonfiction writing advice books, seventeen are full-length mysteries, and my newest novel— The Seacrest—is a romantic suspense. I’m now working on book twenty-two, another standalone romantic suspense.

JHY: Do you enjoy one of these more than another? Do you have a favorite of the books you have written?

APL: I love them all. Writing is writing, for me. It doesn’t matter what genre. I wrote mysteries for so long, and started writing articles/blog pieces about eight years ago. That was quite different and I enjoyed it immensely. I decided for book twenty-one that I’d branch out. I’d always wanted to write a love story. And I did it!

Asking about my favorite book is almost like asking me to pick a favorite child. Oh, man. Impossible. I guess if I were forced today to pick a few of my books that I might hold dear to the heart, I’d say Essentially Yours and Don’t Let the Wind Catch You, two very different mysteries.

JHY: Do you have a work in progress that you'd like to share?

APL: Yes! I’m tentatively titling this one Bittersweet Hollow, a romantic suspense set on a horse farm in Vermont. It’s about Portia Lamont, a young woman who has been missing for four years. She arrives home—thin and traumatized—to find her mother has cancer. Boone Sterling, the neighbor whose been helping her parents keep the horse farm afloat, may be the one person who can help her recover. Little by little, the family discovers the horror of what happened to Portia. It’s their love that will heal her, in the end.

JHY: Is there some other type of writing you'd like to try some day?

APL: Yes – I’d like to try a children’s story, or maybe a middle grade chapter book!

JHY: What kinds of activities do you enjoy in your free time?

APL: I love walking and photographing the hills and woods of the Genesee Valley and Finger Lakes, I’m a passionate gardener, love to read, cook, and listen to music. Oh, yeah. And I kind of enjoy writing, although it’s more of a calling than a hobby.


Thanks again to Joan for a fun interview, and Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of our readers and friends of Murder By 4! Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday week!

Warmest regards,

Aaron Lazar

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Return to Plot

Because I am deep into Christmas cookie dough, I am recycling an article. Enjoy everyone, and try to stay on the Nice List, Murderers. Readers, PLEASE-- Buy books this year!

We all plot our books differently. The ways and means are as individual as our DNA. They say there are only so many master plots in the world. But your take on any of those, well, that’s the fun stuff.

I have created a short list of questions to get the ball rolling for plotting your book. This is by no means complete, nor is it set in any sort of concrete.

1. Create the theme or story idea, what is this book about?
2. Who is telling the story?
3. Who is the supporting character(s)?
4. Are they mentors, villains, sidekicks?
5. How do they know the main character?
5. Where does the story take place?
6. What is the inciting incident?
7. What is the conflict?
8. How is this resolved?
8. How will it end?

Also, under the conflict idea, you need to know what the character wants. What is their main motivation, and why is it that they cannot have it? These are the building blocks of good conflict. A writing instructor once said, give the character two choices, sucky or suckier, and you will have a book that keeps the reader turning pages.

And you can do the plotting backwards, which is a very clever way some authors in the mystery genre start their planning out. If you already know whodunit, you can certainly figure out why, how, and when and where it happened.

Remember, a plot is just the building plan, the architectural drawing of the story. Plot, the scheme of things, is transformed by persons, places or things. Add in color, dialogue, setting, and suspense, or humor and you have a real book in your hands.

Vary the structure to fit your story’s needs, but remember there is a theme to everything. Keep your mystery mysterious, your romance romantic, and your fantasy otherworldly, or you may create confusion for the reader. They like to know that what is on the cover is within the pages, too. Sheesh. Nothing like picking up a book with a sexy guy on the front to find out he’s not a romantic interest for the heroine, but instead a sheep herder/murderer/Martian, and this is a western historical/fantasy. (kidding)

Finally, if you can tell the difference between the following two sentences, you know plot.

“The dog ate my homework.” Or “The dog ate my homework because he hates me.”

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

TRIPLE JOY - Three new releases from Twilight Times Authors Heather McLaren, Dina Von Lowenkraft, and Scott Eder!

Hi, folks.

Today I'm breaking a rule - I'm doing a straight promo for three new books. And I'm not apologizing for it, LOL.

This is a big week for print book releases from Twilight Times Books, my own illustrious publisher. I know these authors personally, and I must tell you they are genuinely delightful people, with hearts of gold and stories that will entertain young and old.

Please check out these books if you can and help our writers thrive!

One more thing - aren't these GORGEOUS covers? I'll tell ya folks,  they have set a new standard in my opinion. 

MYTHOS by Heather McLaren


True love was the last thing David Cooley expected to find in the Bahamas, But the moment he laid eyes on Faren Sands, he knew he had found the girl of his dreams. How could he know she was a mermaid from the lost island of Atlantis?
Because of the strict laws regarding human contact, the couple flees the consequences of their forbidden passion, struggling to survive a conflict that has been brewing between the mermaids and sea demons for the last eleven thousand years.

Once the epic battle begins, fate forces David to make a decision that will forever affect his young life. Should he stick by the woman he loves, risking his mortality for a civilization that hates him?


Heather McLaren is a Cherokee writer living in southern Illinois with her husband and four children. Mythos, the first of five books in the Mer Chronicles, is her debut novel. She is currently working on the second book in the series, Beyond Legend, and plans on bringing fantasy into the lives of young adults for years to come.

 DRAGON FIRE by Dina Von Lowenkraft


Some choices are hard to live with.
But some choices will kill you.

When seventeen-year-old Anna first meets Rakan in her hometown north of the Arctic Circle, she is attracted to the pulsing energy that surrounds him. Unaware that he is a shapeshifting dragon, Anna is drawn into a murderous cycle of revenge that pits Rakan and his clan against her best friend June.

Torn between his forbidden relationship with Anna, that could cost them both their lives, and restoring his family’s honor by killing June, Rakan must decide what is right. And what is worth living – or dying – for.


Born in the US, Dina has lived on 4 continents, worked as a graphic artist for television and as a consultant in the fashion industry. Somewhere between New York and Paris she picked up an MBA and a black belt – and still thinks the two are connected. Dina is currently the Regional Advisor for SCBWI Belgium, where she lives with her husband, two children, three horses and a cat.

Dina loves to create intricate worlds filled with conflict and passion. She builds her own myths while exploring issues of belonging, racism and the search for truth... after all, how can you find true love if you don’t know who you are and what you believe in? Dina’s key to developing characters is to figure out what they would be willing to die for. And then pushing them to that limit.


KNIGHT OF FLAME, by Scott Eder


Fire. The most chaotic of the primal elements. When wielded properly by the Knight of Flame, it burns like the sun. Otherwise, it slowly consumes the Knight, burning away his control, driving him towards dark deeds. 

Stationed in Tampa, FL, Develor Quinteele, sixth Knight of Flame, waits impatiently for the predicted emergence of the last Gray Lord, his Order's ancient enemy. Hampered by a centuries-old tragedy, Dev knows of only one way to control his elemental power—rage. It broils just below his surface, waiting for the slightest provocation to set it alight.  

Anticipating Dev's transition from asset to liability, his commander assigns a young guardian, Wren, to report on Dev's actions. Torn between duty and love, Wren struggles to save her Knight; but, after a brutal attack by the Gray Lord's minions for which Dev is wrongly blamed, he's stripped of his freedom until he regains control.

With the help of his fellow Knights, can Dev regain his balance and unlock his full elemental potential in time to prevent the destruction of all life in Tampa?


Since he was a kid, Scott wanted to be an author. Through the years, fantastic tales of nobility and strife, honor and chaos dominated his thoughts. After twenty years mired in the corporate machine, he broke free to bring those stories to life.

Scott lives with his wife and two children on the west coast of Florida.

Buy Links:

Contact Links:
Twitter: @Scotteder
And here's one little toot on my own horn: Don't Let the Wind Catch You is also now available in print and audio book! ;o)

 Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Aaron Lazar

Monday, December 16, 2013

Aaron Lazar Interviews Joan H Young - Cozy Mystery Writer from the North Woods!

Hi, folks!

I recently discovered a wonderful author and read all three of her cozy mysteries in a row. Yes, they were that good! I hope you'll enjoy this interview with Joan Young - it was great fun getting to know her. 


Aaron Lazar
APL: I fell in love with Paddy, the Irish Setter in Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp. What is your experience with dogs? Have you always had them, or recently acquired one? I've loved them since I was little, and always have one or two in the family. They sleep with us. ;o) If you have canines, who are they and how have they affected your life?

JHY: Yes, Paddy is an Irish Setter. I haven't owned that particular breed of dog, although I've known a couple. I've owned dogs all my life, although I don't have one at the moment.

My best childhood friend was a dog, since I grew up as an only child in the country. I'm a complete sucker for canines - they become an integral part of my life. Of course they sleep with me! However, at the moment, I'm trying to keep my options for traveling open, and am remaining dogless for now. The most recent was Maggie a Vizsla mix. Our adventures have been covered on my blog ( since I began blogging. However, as dogs will do, she became old and I had to say goodbye.

Before that, I had Chips, a mutt who looked like a miniature Golden Retriever. He may be the most special dog I ever owned (can't really compare him with that childhood dog). He hiked over 1200 miles of the North Country Trail with me, before I lost him to cancer. There's a lot about him in my book, North Country Cache.

APL: Your Anastasia Raven cozy mystery series are just wonderful. I've read them all. I am smitten by the locale, the swamp, the house that Ana is renovating. What kind of house do you live in now? Are you near a swamp? Near the woods? Tell us about it and how it differs from Ana's house.

JHY: They say you should write what you know. When I was grappling with a person and a place I could sustain for a series of books, I knew I had to focus on small towns and rural areas.

My current house is not like Ana's. However, a house we lived in for two years is the mirror image of Ana's, without the addition she put on. The name of the swamp is "stolen" from a local area known as Dead Horse Marsh, although the swamp in the book is much larger. There are many rivers where I currently live, and so that general type of terrain was easy to add into the story locale.

I do live in the country, but don't have nearly as much forest to call my own as I would like. However, I'm not far from a National Forest, so there is lots of room to get out and play in the trees. I studied wetlands for a number of years, and so making that type of landscape a key feature of my books was a no-brainer. Your appreciation of nature is so evident in your stories, from the descriptions of the bird songs to the flora/fauna in the woods. From your bio I know you've always enjoyed the outdoors. Do you have any special hiking/canoe/camping pals you prefer to do these outings with?

JHY: Yes, I spend as much time outdoors as I can. I'm pretty much willing to take anyone along who doesn't whine too much and thinks it's fun. That said, there are several people who've gone out with me more than others.

A friend who still lives in New York, Marie Altenau, is my best friend, and forever hiking partner. We met the summer we were 12, and have been close ever since. She hiked over 2600 miles of the North Country Trail with me, and we still try to hike about 100 miles each year.

Locally, there is a Chapter of the North Country Trail Association which maintains a section of that trail. We sponsor a public hike (or sometimes paddling, or skiing) every month. I always attend those when I'm home.

And, there are a couple of local friends I like to go out with for hiking, kayaking, skiing or snowshoeing. I also go out alone quite a bit. I'm totally comfortable with that.

APL: There are a few men in your series who seem like possible love interests for Ana. Although she's definitely "off men" for now, after her disappointing divorce/discovery with her husband, it seems by book three that she's finally coming to terms with her husband's relationship with Brian. Do you think there might be hope for her with the newspaper editor or local detective, both who seemed interested in her?

JHY: Interesting question. You will read part of the answer to that in the next book!

APL: You have a special talent for describing young people and their relationship with mentors. I loved the little boy in your second book, and Sunny and Star in the third book. Do you have experience mentoring young people? Do you have children from whom you've drawn these experiences?

JHY: My husband and I were in youth ministry for 22 years. I guess that gives me some experience! Also, we adopted three boys, now all grown. I'm actually quite relieved that you found those descriptions genuine, because sometimes I think I don't understand children at all. Have you ever based your literary characters on real people, dead or alive? Was Ana completely made-up, or does she possess qualities of folks you've admired? Any of these qualities similar to you, the author?

JHY: I am trying not to make a character exactly like someone in real life. Ana has some of my characteristics, but so does Cora. Ana is definitely more feminine than I am. Cora is neater. As a writer yourself, I'm sure you know that sometimes characters just grow into themselves no matter how we first wrote them.

The opening for "News," where Ana is tearing out the walls was real. I did that. So, scenes sometimes can be taken from real events. Corliss (Len) from "Paddy" is physically a man I saw at a gas station. However, his personality and needs are totally fabricated. I suppose it's dangerous to live near an author because you might end up in a book.

APL: Both book 1 and 3 are full-length novels, but book 2 is a novella. What's the story behind this? I wanted more of that book and was disappointed when it was over!

JHY: "Hollow Tree" is probably only a short story. Basically, I wanted something I was willing to give away for free that would entice people to try the other books. A prequel didn't seem to fit, so I stuck the free one between the other two. I realize it's short, and the ending is a bit abrupt, but I still think it's worth having a free offering.

The idea came to me in a brainstorm and I wrote it in one weekend of insane typing.

I do find it strange that one of the reasons given in the reviews for a lower rating is that it's too short, since it clearly is advertised as a short story! I suppose that's something of a convoluted compliment.

APL: What are you working on now? I hope it's a fourth book in the series.

JHY: Yes, it is! I'm about 2/3 finished with another full-length book called Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp. This plot is much more complex than any of the others, and I hope to keep readers guessing until very near the end. It should be ready to release in early 2014. It's filled with interactions between familiar characters, and a few new people.

You can find all my books and published stories, with links for how to purchase them, at

Author Bio:

Joan Young has enjoyed the out-of-doors her entire life. Highlights of her outdoor adventures include Girl Scouting, which provided yearly training in camp skills, the opportunity to engage in a 10-day canoe trip, and numerous short backpacking excursions. She was selected to attend the 1965 Senior Scout Roundup in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, an international event to which 10,000 girls were invited. She has ridden a bicycle from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean in 1986, and on August 3, 2010 became the first woman to complete the North Country National Scenic Trail on foot. Her mileage totaled 4395 miles.

In 2005, North Country Cache made its debut for the 25th Anniversary of the North Country Trail, telling stories about the first half of her NCT hike. Since then, more and more of her time has been spent writing, including a monthly column in the local newspaper about outdoor recreation. If only more and more money came from that endeavor, it could be called a career!
She has recently begun writing more fiction, including a number of short stories, some of which await publication through Twin Trinity Media, and the Anastasia Raven mysteries.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Christmas Mini-Miracle, by Barb Caffrey

To tell the story of my relationship with my late husband and frequent writing collaborator Michael B. Caffrey (1958-2004), I need to go back to an earlier, simpler time. It was 2001, and it was Christmas. And I hated it.

Why did I hate it? Is it because I hate Christmas? (Hardly.) Is it because I was lonely, and was far away from my friends and family, wondering what would happen next? (Getting warmer . . .)

Well, during the 2001 Christmas season, I was talking to Michael via instant messaging. He and I had met through a mutual friend in July of 2001, but as I was going through a bitter divorce, I didn't pay much attention – excepting one thing: He called me "Barbara" (which is not my name), and I also, unfortunately, called him "Mike" (which was not his name). But once we got past that, we got on like a house on fire, and shared many tales of the books we'd read, the books we were writing, and life in general.

What I didn't know at the time was, Michael had decided right then and there that he was going to marry me. But he had the mother-wit to keep it to himself, as I was very much off men, thank you . . . Jesus Christ himself could've come down from Heaven and said, "Michael is your soul mate," and I'd probably have disbelieved him, as I was just that much off men.

Anyway, Michael lived in San Francisco, while I lived in Iowa. That's why our friendship at this time was conducted long-distance, and mostly consisted of e-mail and instant messaging exchanges.

On Christmas Eve of 2001, Michael and I got into a lengthy conversation that lasted for well over thirty-six hours straight. We talked about all sorts of things, and couldn't bear to stop talking with each other. (Thank goodness for an Internet connection!)

At the end of that conversation, he asked me, "Can we please consider ourselves dating now?" And I agreed . . . not knowing that we'd end up happily married six months later, being able to write together, work together, laugh together . . .

. . . or that he'd die just three, short years later in September of 2004.

Michael was the most important, influential person in my entire life. When he died suddenly, I was absolutely devastated. He was only 46. He should've had years – the four heart attacks that killed him were without warning. He'd passed a stress test eight months previously, and he was so bright, so talented, such a wonderful person in every possible respect . . .

It was because of the terrible sense of incompletion – knowing that Michael had not had enough time to get his own work across – that I made a vow to get all of his work into print. He'd left behind two novels in various stages of development, one completed novella, and three short stories; writing with me, we'd had our first short story accepted for publication ("Bright as Diamonds" in the BEDLAM'S EDGE anthology, published in 2005), and had finished another story, "Trouble with Elfs," published in 2007.

And, of course, he'd worked with me on my novel ELFY, forthcoming from Twilight Times Books in 2014 – he edited it, helped me figure out the Elfy language (Bilre), culture, mores and more. But perhaps even more importantly, Michael was as proud of my work as he was of his own – so how could I not help him, now that he had passed on and was no longer able to help himself? first thing I did was to write 1400 words of internal monologue into his completed novella in his science fiction/space opera Adventures of Joey Maverick series, A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT, to make it a legal collaboration and a little easier to sell (as it's extremely difficult to sell works by a deceased, unknown author and it's much easier to sell as a collaboration). I tried several markets, but eventually A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT ended up at the Written Word Online Magazine and was published in May of 2005.

Then, in trying to pull another adventure from Michael's oeuvre, I realized I was going to have to do something completely collaborative in order to come up with a stand-alone adventure for Joey Maverick. So with JOEY MAVERICK: ON WESTMOUNT STATION, I added subplots, new characters (one of them a saboteur), and some action to come up with an adventure I hoped people would enjoy, and did my best to remain consistent with Michael's writing style – which is absolutely nothing like my own.

Doing all of that took me over a year and a half, as I needed to research a number of things – feline biology, as one of Michael's alien species, the Kiral, is feline-derived. Bomb-making materials, and a plausible reason someone might get a bomb onto a space station and not be found out immediately. How a space station head of security would act when a lowly Lieutenant who's not even assigned to the station manages to stop a bomb from going off. And I had to figure out how to make all of this work within Michael's premise for the Joey Maverick series, which went something like this: "Joey Maverick's one, notable adventure that everyone knows about is in the novella A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT. Everything else he does is so quiet, no one knows what he's doing."

Or as I decided to think about it, quiet heroism.

Many military men and women do all sorts of things – rescue missions, disaster relief, etc. – that never get written up in the history books because they're considered "minor." Yet without them and their quiet adventures that no one talks about, what kind of world would we be living on? from there, it's just a short step toward figuring out how to write an adventure that is plausible but definitely would not be something most people would ever know about – as sabotage on a space station is probably the very last thing anyone would want to get out. Instead, it would most certainly be covered up, and would fit Michael's premise as well.

So I wrote the story. Showed it to my first readers. Sent it around . . . and didn't find anyone interested in it for three years.

Then, I found e-Quill Publishing in Australia. They liked Michael's writing and put Michael's two Maverick stories plus his three fantasy stories about Princess Columba and her cat familiar up for sale.

But I found this wasn't the end of the story, either. Because my American friends were having trouble buying the stories through e-Quill – something about Australia's version of PayPal not syncing up with the American version. And then, finally, ELFY was accepted by Lida Quillen at Twilight Times Books . . . which was the main impetus for me ending my relationship, quite amicably, with e-Quill Publishing in 2012.

So what was I going to do with Michael's stories now? Well, the first thing I did was to ask Ms. Quillen if she thought she might like them, but while there was interest in seeing Michael's three fantasy stories, there wasn't any interest in his space opera Joey Maverick series.

And money was tight, as it's been since Michael's untimely passing, so I was worried I'd not be able to come up with decent cover art (as I knew that was essential if I was going to self-publish).

Fortunately, a friend of mine steered me toward iStockPhoto (a great place to look for cover art). I found two photos right away that I felt were perfect for Michael's two stories. Once I had my chosen images, I sent them to a cover artist for lettering that my friend recommended, and got them back quickly.

At this point, the process stalled out yet again as I was unable to get the stories formatted to my liking. This vexed me for nearly a month until I finally decided to post two RTF files at Amazon . . . and no one's yet complained about the formatting!

So this, indeed, is my Christmas mini-miracle. It started in 2001 with that lengthy conversation of ours, and it ended with me finally getting Michael's two stories up at Amazon at the very end of November, just in time for someone to find them for a Christmas present to give to a special someone – or maybe just to give to himself.

I like to think that Michael would be happy with what I've done with his stories. So I'd just like to wish him a Merry Christmas, wherever he is . . . and I hope that when I go to greet him in eternity, he'll tell me he knew I could do it.

And smile.



Web site: Barb Caffrey's Blog (AKA Elfyverse)

BARB CAFFREY is a writer, editor and musician from the Midwest. Her humorous fantasy novel, ELFY, will be published in 2014 by Twilight Times Books, and her story "At the Crossroads" will appear in the 2014 anthology STARS OF DARKOVER. Previous stories and poems have appeared in BEDLAM'S EDGE (with late husband Michael B. Caffrey), HOW BEER SAVED THE WORLD, the BEARING NORTH anthology, the Written Word online magazine, Joyful Online, the Midwest Literary Magazine, and at e-Quill Publishing. Barb has edited for Masterpiece Comics, the Written Word,, is on the editorial board of Twilight Times Books and completed a copy-editing internship at the sports Web site Bleacher Report. She reviews books for Shiny Book Review and, more occasionally, at for their Vine program. And once upon a time, she was an opinion columnist and arts and entertainment reporter for both the Daily Nebraskan and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Ranger News; additional op-eds were published by the Racine Labor Paper and by the Racine Journal-Times (under the previous married name).

She is the widow of writer and editor par excellence Michael B. Caffrey (1958-2004), who was also her frequent co-writer.  He completed one novel, MAVERICK, LIEUTENANT, in his lifetime, and had nearly completed a second, MINIATURES; both are currently being edited and revised for publication based on Michael’s notes. One of Michael’s stories in his Adventures of Joey Maverick series, “A Dark and Stormy Night,” was first published by the Written Word in 2005, reprinted at e-Quill Publishing in 2010, and is now available at Amazon. “On Westmount Station,” the second story in the Adventures of Joey Maverick, was published by e-Quill Publishing in 2011 and is also available at Amazon.  Michael’s three fantasy stories about Princess Columba and her remarkable cat-familiar were published in September 2010 by e-Quill Publishing; the fourth, incomplete story will be completed by Barb as soon as circumstances permit.

Due to Barb amicably ending her professional relationship with e-Quill Publishing in mid-2012, Michael’s Columba stories are currently unavailable. Barb plans to bring these stories back out ASAP, as she’s vowed that Michael’s work — his words — will live on as long as there are people to read them.

She follows politics, loves sports, watches far too much reality TV and is mystified by the “Maury” show. What all this says about her is anyone’s guess.

Find her at Elfyverse (AKA "Barb Caffrey's Blog") for discussions of all and sundry, or at Shiny Book Review. Or send her an e-mail at barbcaffrey (all one word) AT yahoo DOT com – she'll get back to you.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pre-holiday stuff

I am flying by on my Christmas sleigh, drawn by eight tiny reindeers, to tell you of some pre-holiday news...

First, An Unexpected Performance will be on FREE DOWNLOAD for Kindle starting tomorrow and going for a twenty-four hour special. Remember you do not need a Kindle device to read Kindle books. All you need is the Kindle app.

And second, there is a FREEEEEEE short story available for you on my website called Christmas is a Crime. It is dark, and edgy, and not very appealing for most people, but you dear Murderer, you will eat it up. So go to Kim Smith, Author and get your belly full.

Also, all of my Christmas short stories are available now for .99 at Amazon. You can get Christmas Layover , The Christmas Kiss , and The Christmas Heist all for a mere buck. If you go to Red Rose Publishing you can get them for .50 - so don't delay!
On another note, it is only a bit over a week until our big celebration (yes, it is almost like a speeding train, bearing down on us!), and I am almost finished making presents. Yes, Murderers, I am MAKING my presents this year. I have found that my kids have such wide and varied tastes that there is no way to purchase gifts that will make the grade. They do not like certain clothes, they watch Netflix movies, they have video games, and music and other things that would be gifts, so that leaves gift cards and homemade things. Which they love much more. I also stuff stockings for them with things they can use into the New Year, like shampoo and toothpaste. (okay, I am a mother Santa.)

So, for the next few days left to me to get 'er done, I will be finishing up my Santa chores. Then it will be off to the kitchens to bake the goodies. Does anyone have a good recipe for Gingerbread or Snickerdoodles?