It’s a Hog’s Life

prize winning pig
[Source: Clickhole]
As you may recall from my previous blog about pigs, the relationship between humans and pigs has been all over the place, from despised as filthy animals to being eaten by the millions. Actually, pigs and humans have so much in common that live tissue can be transplanted from one to the other, pig insulin is a boon to humans, and pigs are often the surrogate of choice when testing potential new drugs. According to some South Sea cultures, pigs were created so humans wouldn’t have to eat each other!

papua new guinea pigs
[Source: Papua New Guinea Tourism]
Experts guess that pigs were introduced to Papua New Guinea (PNG) from elsewhere, maybe as long ago as 10,000 years. Whether they have thrived or not is a matter of definition. PNG pigs are distinctive, and scrawnier than pigs with which we are more familiar. Wild pigs in PNG are slaughtered for food, but domestic pigs are eaten only when no other protein is available. Mostly they are kept for social and political uses, and are particularly important among tribes in the Central Highlands.

papua new guinea nurse piglets
[Source: Science Source]
My interest in PNG pigs was triggered by my reading about pigs in general. I came across the fact that in Papua New Guinea, women sometimes nurse piglets. I had to know more! It turns out that in Papua New Guinea pigs have enormous economical, political, and mystical importance. They are used to buy brides, and to pay debts (for example, compensation for killing members of another tribe). Pigs are killed for important ceremonies, such as cremation, marriage, initiation rites, and to appease ancestral spirits. Pig killings are often followed by days of celebration. An exception is pigs that are sick or stolen, which are eaten as quickly as possible.

pigs papua new guinea
[Source: Minden Pictures]
A man’s wealth is judged by the number of pigs in his household, and every few years, huge pig-giving festival are held to impress other tribesmen. The importance of pigs can scarcely be overstated. They are the only domesticated animal. And the care and feeding of the pigs falls to the women—along with virtually all the other work of the family, such as gardening, cooking, hauling water, gathering firewood, caring for children—and pigs! The men hunt or fish occasionally and protect against enemy attacks.

Someone named Adam, who reports working in PNG, posted the following online: “. . . And I have seen the women breastfeeding pigs. And there is a simple reason for it. Pigs are worth more to the tribe than children. You cannot eat or sell or trade children. . . A child eats your food, which in ten, leaves less on your plate.” Pigs must be kept alive until needed at all costs.
woman pig friends
[Source: Age Fotostock]
The women have very close relationships with pigs. The pigs accompany the women everywhere. Sometimes they spend the night in specially built sties, but others sleep in the same huts as the women and their children. They eat with the family. They are often given names and are treated as pets are here, being stroked, fondled, and cajoled in tender voices. Although women are the caretakers, the pigs are the property of the men. I can’t help wondering about what happens when a man decides to kill a woman’s favorite pig.
dog nursing kittens
[Source: Arizona Daily Star]
Although some people recoil in disgust at the thought of women nursing piglets, others cite more familiar examples of cross-species care throughout the animal world—for example dogs nursing kittens—and point out that people are animals, too.

The idea of a woman nursing a piglet is strange to us, at the least. But This has been the culture in Papua New Guinea for centuries. Who are we to judge?

pig breastfeeding
[Source: Blog of Swine]

Hog Heaven

hog heaven
You may know from previous blog and FB posts that I’m enrolled in a class on nature writing. As a result, I’m even more aware of nature around me—of plants, birds, and squirrels in particular. But I’ve also been reading more about nature—particularly plants and animals, but I may move on to weather or geology at some point. But tonight, let’s talk pigs.
pigs
I grew up in farm country, with friends in 4-H who took their project pigs to the county fair, and uncles who butchered hogs on their farms. But most of us grew up hearing pig doggerel:

 

To market, to market
To buy a fat pig.
Home again, home again
Jiggedy jig.
To market to market
To buy a fat hog.
Home again, home again,
Jiggedy jog.
this little piggy
[Source: Pinterest]
This little piggy went to market.
This little piggy stayed home.
This little piggy ate roast beef.
This little piggy had none.
And this little piggy went wee, wee, wee
All the way home.
three little pigs
[Source: South London Press]
Virtually everyone knows the story of “The Three Little Pigs.” If not that classic, there is always Porky Pig, and even more recently, Miss Piggy—who is cited as saying, “Never eat more than you can lift.”

 

Pigs have been all things to all people throughout history.

 

From the 11th through 13th centuries, the sow and the boar were symbols of all sorts of vices in the Bestiaries, collections of fables involving animals meant to provide morality themes for sermons, or personal reflection. Pigs in 16th century art often represented sins of the flesh.

 

Pigs as unclean: both Islam and traditional Judaism forbid eating pork. Hindus eat no pork, while Sikhs eat very little pork.

 

The contradictory roles of pigs in Greek mythology is beautifully illustrated by the legend that a sow was supposed to have suckled Zeus and a wild boar killed him. In ancient Egypt a pig represented the spirit of Osiris when crops were planted and the spirit of Seth when they were harvested. Nevertheless, they were considered unclean, and drinking pig milk was thought to cause leprosy. Tantric Buddhists worship Marici the Diamond Sow. The Kaulong section of Papua New Guinea is a pig culture—which is fascinating, and too much to go into here, but there is a saying there: “Pigs are our hearts.”

 

chinese zodiac pig
On the positive side: 2019 is the year of the pig in the Chinese zodiac. It comes around every twelve years. In 2007, it was the Year of the Golden Pig, especially auspicious because a Golden Pig year comes only once in every sixty years. The personality of Pigs is supposed to be kind and understanding, an able peacemaker. Pigs are excellent conversationalists, truthful and to the point. A Pig believes in justice and law and order, rejects all falsehood or hypocrisy.

 

Pigs for sport.
  • Greezed pig contests
  • Pig races at the Michigan Spree Festival
Random facts: 
  • Pigs are the most ancient of nonruminant mammals, existing forty million years ago—long before humans.
  • Pigs exist in one form or another in every part of the world.
  • In three months, three weeks, and three days, a sow can produce a litter of eight piglets. With competent treatment, they can be ready for market in six months.
  • Toothbrushes were invented in China and originally used boar bristles; today, industrial and consumer products are practically limitless, from plywood adhesive and dye to glue and bone china.
  • Beyond bacon: because of similarities to humans, pig heart valves, insulin, and porcine bur dressings. These are just examples of pharmaceutical uses, which rank second only to meat in importance.
  • You can’t sweat like a pig because pigs don’t sweat.
  • Pigs put on one pound of weight for every three pounds of feed they consume.
  • If there is an option, pigs do not wallow in their own waste.
  • Pigs can be housebroken.
Pigs in phrase and fable:
  • don’t cast pearls before swine
  • don’t buy a pig in a poke
  • can’t make a silk purse from a swine’s ear
  • graceful as a hog on ice
  • hogging the (x)
  • eat like a pig
  • eating high on the hog
  • living high on the hog
  • sweat like a pig (see above)
  • pig out
  • going whole hog
  • going hog wild
  • looks like a marzipan pig (i.e., prosperous)
  • fat as a pig
  • happy as a hog in shit
  • in a pig’s eye
  • piggy bank
  • piggyback
  • hogging the road
  • pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered
  • being a porker
Bottom line: Pigs are ubiquitous. Is there a place for pigs in your writing?
 

Observe More Closely

Amy Ritchie Johnson
Amy Ritchie Johnson [Source: Twitter]
I am currently enrolled in a four-week class on “Nature Writing” at the VMFA Studio School, taught by Amy Ritchie Johnson. Frankly, I took this class because I like taking writing classes with Amy and this was what was on offer. To my surprise, I’m loving it!

 

observe more closely
If you do an online search for books on nature writing, you will come up with approximately a gazillion choices—not that I am urging you to do so!

 

I just want to share with you an insight that was surprising, at least to me: nature writing can happen in any genre. If the work explores, draws on, or uses nature in a significant way, it’s nature writing. Think about it. Here are several examples (merely examples) mentioned in class.
  • science writing (Lab Girl)
  • memoir (also exemplified by Lab Girl)
  • environmental advocacy
  • mystery (e.g., Where the Crawdads Sing)
  • poetry (e.g., Mary Oliver)
  • fiction (The Secret Garden)
  • creative non-fiction (H is for Hawk)
  • description (think field guides to anything, from snakes to edible plants)
Two weeks in and I am already wishing it were twice as long! Indeed, because of class discussion, I bought The Naturalist’s Notebook, a five-year diary for recording daily observations about nature. So, in my own way, the class will continue.

 

The Naturalist’s Notebook
[Source: Barnes & Noble]
Assignments in this class, including keeping a nature diary for four weeks, are honing our skills in observing and describing. The short version of the advice is observe in minute detail and be specific in your descriptions. This last is an oft-repeated injunction: avoid vague words such as beautiful, stuff, blue, comfortable—words that can mean many things to many people. In nature writing, that means the name of the flower, the kind of tree, the shade of green, the breed of the dog, the type of clouds, etc.

 

BOTTOM LINE: lessons from nature writing are lessons for good writing. Go for it!

Discovering dZi Beads

As you may know from previous FB posts and my weekend blog, I recently visited the VMFA during the creation of the Tibetan mandala. As with many special exhibits, the VMFA shop offered many items related to mandalas and Tibetan culture—and thus I became aware of dZi (pronounced Zee) beads for the first time. The Tibetan word “dZi” translates as “shine, brightness, clearness, splendor.” The name in Mandarin Chinese translates as “heaven’s bead” or “heaven’s pearl.” FYI, I’ve seen it written Dzi as well.

 

The dZi are stone beads worn as part of a necklace or bracelet. Many Asian cultures around Tibet also prize dZi as protective amulets and for positive spiritual benefits. As with many things thought to have good vibes, dZi have and have had multiple uses: ground into powder, they are sometimes used as an ingredient in traditional medicine, and sometimes used as a tool to burnish the gilt on paintings or statuary.

 

The most highly prized dZi beads are ancient, and made of smooth, natural agate. Those being hard to come by, modern-made dZi are even making inroads in Tibet. The designs can be almost anything: circles, ovals, squares, waves, zig zags, stripes, lines, diamonds, dots, etc. The colors are mainly brown to black with a design in off-white. The number of “eyes” in a design is significant, as is their arrangement.

 

DZi stones appeared between 2000 and 1000 BCE. Although the geographic origin is unknown, they are now generally known as Tibetan beads. In Tibetan culture these beads are believed to attract protectors, maybe beneficial ghosts or ancestors. Thus the beads are always treated with respect.

 

As long ago as the early 19th century, “modern era” beads in this style were made in Germany. New dZi have been produced in Asia. The most convincing replicas of ancient beads came from Taiwan during the 1990s, and  good-quality ones from mainland China over the last three year.
New beads are less likely to appeal to purists. However, attitudes toward new beads vary widely: some believe the new stones function as well as the old ones; some believe the protective energies are missing but can move into a new dZi under certain circumstances; at the same time, the ancient beads have absorbed energy—both good and bad—from all the previous owners whereas these new beads have no need to be cleansed in the same way. In any case, one should purify one’s beads and ask them to bond with you. There is an interesting and informative article online titled the Myth and Mystery of Tibetan Dzi Stone Beads that tells how to do this, and how to care for your beads in general. It also identifies the meaning attached to the number of eyes on the bead, from one to twenty-one.

 

Imitation dZi are made from materials other than agate or calcedony—virtually any other material. Some of these imitations were created a couple of hundred years ago. Some of the older mock dZi are valued in their own right. The dZi beads available in the VMFA shop are made of traditional materials (agate) and designs, but they are obviously mass-prodced and thus some would consider them to be imitations.

 

If one believes in the power of stones, these would still have the positive properties of these varieties of quartz. Agate and chalcedony are two commonly-encountered varieties of quartz.

 

Agate: all about harmony and balance. Although different varieties/colors of agate have their own properties, all types of agate stones have these agate properties at the heart of their meaning. All agate mineral rocks vibrate or resonate at a slower, less intense rate than some of their more high-frequency quartz relatives. These less intense vibrations impart strength and stability. Agate meaning includes yin and yang energy, providing a balance between the positive and negative.

 

Carnelian is known as a stone of motivation and endurance, leadership and courage. Carnelians have protected and inspired throughout history. A glassy, translucent stone, Carnelian is an orange-colored variety of Chalcedony, a mineral of the Quartz family.

 

Chalcedony is a nurturing stone that promotes brotherhood and good will. It absorbs negative energy. It brings the mind, body, emotions and spirit into harmony. Chalcedony instills feelings of benevolence and generosity. It alleviates hostility and transforms melancholy into joy.

 

Black Onyx is another variety of Chalcedony, which ranges from white-colored stones to black. It is one of the many gemstones believed to have amazing healing and spiritual properties. The story of the origin of this stone varies from culture to culture, but it does go back a very long way in time. Today it is available in pure black, as it is heated and polished.

 

BOTTOM LINE: Get thee to the VMFA, enjoy the exhibit, and learn a bit about Tibetan culture. You never know what information a writer can use down the line!

Mandalas

mandala
A mandala (emphasis on the first syllable) represents the universe, and has symbolic and ritual importance in Hinduism and Buddhism. Hinduism is an Indian and Southeast Asian religion and dharma (way of life). Buddhism is a practice, like yoga, and can be practiced by people of any religion.
Mandalas may be used to focus attention, as a spiritual guidance tool, for establishing a sacred space, and as an aid to meditation and to induce a trance. The basic form is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point.

Vajrayana Buddhism has developed sand painting mandalas. And that brings us to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, which has a special exhibit “Awaken: A Tibetan Journey Toward Enlightenment” open now. According to the VMFA, “From May 2 through May 5, a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery will create a sand mandala near the exhibition’s entrance, which—in accordance with their beliefs and practice—they will dismantle in a return visit on Aug. 3. Their visit is part of the Mystical Arts of Tibet World Tour that has traveled for more than 25 years and is endorsed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.” 
 
This week, I saw the Tibetan Buddhist Monks beginning that sand painting mandala. I could stay only little while, long enough to watch as they used a protractor to mark reference points on the circle.
 
 
They chalked thread or thin rope which two monks positioned across the circle.  A third monk then picked up the center of the thread and dropped it, leaving a faint white chalk line.
 
 
No doubt by today, May 5, the mandala will be an elaborate and beautiful work of art. I intend to see it completed. I heard that when it is done, they will cover it on glass to preserve it during its time on view. And I will appreciate it all the more because, in accordance with their beliefs and practice, they will dismantle it on Aug. 3. I also heard that it will end in the James River—but that may be just gossip.
 
This sand painting is only a small part of the exhibit, which occupies ten spaces. The exhibit is on view April 27 through August 16.
 
 
BOTTOM LINE: Come on down!

Ten Deadly Southern Charmers

Deadly Southern Charm
I invited the eighteen contributors to Deadly Southern Charm to answer a couple of questions for me. Here, in their own words, are the answers ten of them provided.

What are three things about you that your readers probably don’t know?

Heather Weidner authorHeather: (1) I had the best childhood. I grew up in Virginia Beach, and my dad was a cop. One of my first jobs was to pick up spent shell casings for him after he practiced at the range. When he was in charge of the SWAT team in the early 70s (way before paintball), we melted down my old crayons and made wax bullets for simulations. (2) I am an 80s girl, and music from the Decade of Excess is always my favorite. (3) I can’t carry a tune, but I love to sing loudly in the car. And when “Bohemian Rhapsody” comes on, I sing all the parts.

Lynn Cahoon authorLynn: I want to do EVERYTHING. When I was in high school, I was president of the Future Homemakers of America, held office and won district in accounting in Office Education Association, played clarinet in the band, and co-captained our school’s first flag corp. I’ve worked for a non-profit, state social agency, a large corporation, and owned my own businesses. I see it all as experiences for life and writing.

 

 

Samantha McGraw authorSamantha: (1) I worked as a wedding and event planner for 16 years and got my start in the D.C. political world where I planned events for then President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. I also had the pleasure of planning a holiday party for Adrian Cronauer, (the man Good Morning Vietnam was based on.) (2) I once talked my way backstage to meet Robert Plant with my husband who had met him once before, that was my “in.” (3) In addition to writing mysteries, I also write greeting cards and work as a freelance ghostwriter.

Libby Hall author

Libby:  I married a Bermudian and lived there for five years, where we had our two girls.  I refuse to eat blue M&M’s – it’s just not right.  I’m the only person I know who HATES those wire things that “massage” your scalp.

 

 

 

frances aylor authorFrances: 1) I love to travel and have visited over 30 countries. 2) I worked in the investment industry and am passionate about promoting financial literacy. My financial thriller Money Grab has a few investment tips worked into the plot. I’ve done presentations for college groups on how to manage your money. 3) I’m married to my high school sweetheart.

 

maggie king authorMaggie: 1) I wrote very bad poetry in high school as an outlet for my considerable adolescent angst. 2) I lived in Los Angeles for many years, and what I miss the most is the Hollywood Bowl with its classical and jazz concerts. I met my husband at a singles classical concert given in an elegant home in the Hollywood Hills. Our wedding reception was hosted by the woman who managed the singles’ concerts. 3) I relocated from Los Angeles to Charlottesville, Virginia without benefit of a preliminary visit! I lived there for six years before moving down the road to Richmond (which I did visit first).

Kristin: 1) In my twenties, I bought a one-way ticket to Prague and ended up living there for three years. 2) Every year for the past decade, I’ve tap danced as a *Rockette* for our local theater’s live-Christmas holiday spectacular every December. 3) I love to travel, and at one point my passport was so full of stamps, I had to go to the U.S. Embassy to get pages added so I could keep using it.

Genilee Swope Parente authorGenilee: 1) I’m a small-town girl originally from Ohio, which is why I chose a small town for my story and for the book I’m writing using some of the same characters. I love the people and feel of a small town. 2) I set the story and my book in New Iberia, Louisiana because I lived near there (Lafayette, Louisiana) for several years and fell I love with the culture of that area. 3) I’m about to become a small-town gal again. After living in the D.C. area forty years, I’m moving to Granbury, Texas in June.

J.A.: I’ve visited the Chichen Itza ruins in Mexico. In the mid 90’s I competed in an international martial arts tournament in Atlanta. I placed second in weapons with a nunchucks form. Bugs Bunny was, and still is, my hero.

Stacie: 1) I got in a fight with Kazakhstani bus conductor in 2017 over whether I should be speaking Kazakh or Russian on his bus.  2) I fulfilled all qualifications for Red Cross Senior Lifesaver – including swimming a mile – when I was 10, too young to actually get the award.  But I did get an article in the newspaper!  3) I’ve lived in 10 states and one defunct foreign country (USSR).

 

If you could be any other writer, living or dead, who would you be and why?

Heather:  This is a tough one. I’m not sure I’d know how to write any other way than I do. If I could, I’d love to do some time travel and meet Emily Dickinson, Jack London, Agatha Christie, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Lynn: I’m like Heather, I love the writer I am. But, there are some I’d love to be in their shoes for maybe a day. Mostly to understand their thought process. Stephen King when he was writing The Stand, Deborah Harkness writing the All Souls Trilogy. Robyn Carr writing the Thunder Point series. And Richard Bach writing Illusions.

Samantha: First, I have to second Lynn’s comment on Richard Bach. Illusions will always be one of my favorite books. I don’t know that I’d want to be another writer, but there are a few I would have liked to have known and learned from including Agatha Christie and Sue Grafton.

Libby:  I would have loved to be able to write characters the way Marion Zimmer Bradley did in The Mists of Avalon. I would also love to see how Charles de Lint gets his ideas, and how JK Rowling managed her time and tight plot threads while writing the Harry Potter series.

Frances: Two writers I admire are Daphne du Maurier and Tana French. Both write suspense-filled novels, bristling with tension, with memorable characters struggling to find their place in the world. Their descriptions are poetic and evocative.

Maggie: I’ve loved Anne Tyler and W. Somerset Maugham since first “meeting” them in high school. An author who can write a story that appeals to a silly high school girl is indeed gifted. I have studied the works of mystery writers Gillian Roberts and Joan Smith extensively and consider them mentors. And Agatha Christie and Sue Grafton—how did they come up with those compelling plots and great characters?

Kristin: I would be Jodi Picoult.  I respect how she can take a timely, edgy current event or issue and create a suspense novel, which explores every angle and makes the reader reassess their views on said topic. I’m not sure I’m as brave and bold as she is, but I’d love to give it a go!

Genilee: I’d love to have the ability to layer a plot like Mary Higgins Clark, who has always been skilled at throwing the reader off in believable ways. Like Maggie, I’d love to be able to immerse the reader completely in the story and characters the way Anne Tyler can.

J.A.: I’d love to have a chair and a tape recorder for one day at the Alqonquin Round Table.

Stacie: I would really like to sit down and talk with Colin Cotterill, from London but also with Australian citizenship who writes the humorous and insightful Dr. Siri Paiboun series about the National Coroner of Laos.  What fun to experience so many different cultures and places, and be able to write about them in a way that speaks to people from all over the world!


Authors

Frances Aylor, CFA combines her investing experience and love of travel in her financial thrillers. MONEY GRAB is the first in the series.  www.francesaylor.com

Mollie Cox Bryan is the author of cookbooks, articles, essays, poetry, and fiction.  An Agatha Award nominee, she lives in Central Virginia.  www.molliecoxbryan.com

Lynn Cahoon is the NYT and USA Today author of the best-selling Tourist Trap, Cat Latimer and Farm-to-Fork mystery series. www.lynncahoon.com

A. Chalkley is a native Virginian. She is a writer, retired public safety communications officer, and a member of Sisters in Crime.

Stacie Giles, after a career as a political scientist, linguist, and CIA analyst, is now writing historical cozies with a twist.  Her first short story is in honor of her grandfather who was a policeman in Memphis in the 1920s.

Barb Goffman has won the Agatha, Macavity, and Silver Falchion awards for her short stories, and is a twenty-three-time finalist for US crime-writing awards.www.Barbgoffman.com

Libby Hall is a communication analyst with a consulting firm in Richmond, Virginia.  She is also a blogger, freelance writer, wife, and mother of two.

Bradley Harper is a retired Army pathologist.  Library Journal named his debut novel, A KNIFE IN THE FOG, Debut of the Month for October 2018, and is a finalist for the 2019 Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American author. www.bharperauthor.com

Sherry Harris is the Agatha Award-nominated author of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mystery series and is the president of Sisters in Crime.www.sherryharrisauthor.com

Maggie King penned the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries. Her short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries and 50 Shades of Cabernet anthologies. www.maggieking.com

Kristin Kisska is a member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime, and programs chair of the Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia chapter. www.kristinkisska.com

Samantha McGraw has a love of mysteries and afternoon tea. She lives in Richmond with her husband and blogs at Tea Cottage Mysteries.www.samanthamcgraw.com

K.L. Murphy is a freelance writer and the author of the Detective Cancini Mysteries.  She lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband, four children, and two dogs.www.Kellielarsenmurphy.com

Genilee Swope Parente has written the romantic mystery The Fate Series with her mother F. Sharon Swope. The two also have several collections of short stories. www.swopeparente.com

Deb Rolfe primarily writes mystery novels. This is her first published short story. She and her husband enjoy life in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Ronald Sterling is the author of six books and draws upon his colorful and varied life experience as a U.S. Airman, saloonkeeper, private detective, realtor, and New Jersey mayor.

S.E. Warwick, in the last century earned a bachelor’s degree in American Studies. Ever since, she has been trying to decipher the American enigma.

Heather Weidner is the author of the Delanie Fitzgerald Mysteries.  She has short stories in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 SHADES OF CABERNET and TO FETCH A THIEF.  She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and Jack Russell terriers.  www.heatherweidner.com

 

Editors

Mary Burton is a New York Times, USA Today and Kindle best-selling author.  She is currently working on her latest suspense. www.maryburton.com

Mary Miley is a historian and writer with 14 nonfiction books and 5 mystery novels to her credit. www.marymileytheobald.com

 

Social Media Links

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LethalLadiesWrite/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LethalLadiesCVA?lang=en

Website: https://www.sistersincrimecentralvirginia.com/anthologies

Book Links

Wildside: http://wildsidepress.com/deadly-southern-charm-a-lethal-ladies-mystery-anthology-edited-by-mary-burton-and-mary-miley-paperback/

Wildside eBook: http://wildsidepress.com/deadly-southern-charm-a-lethal-ladies-mystery-anthology-edited-by-mary-burton-and-mary-miley-epub-kindle-pdf/?ctk=92a212b3-7ff7-473d-a5dd-78ab99163c27

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Deadly-Southern-Charm-Mystery-Anthology/dp/1479448397

 

Praise for the Anthology

Deadly Southern Charm is a keep-you-up-at-night collection loaded with well-crafted characters and perfect plotting by some of today’s best mystery writers. Brava!

USA Today and NYT Best-selling author, Ellery Adams 

Deliciously devious and absolutely delightful, these marvelous stories will keep you captivated! Sweeter than sweet tea on the surface, but with smartly sinister secrets only a true southern writer can provide.  What a joy to read!

Hank Phillippi Ryan best-selling Agatha and Mary Higgins Clark Awards winner

This collection of short crime fiction charms even as the stories immerse you in murder, revenge, and deadly deeds. Set all over the south, from Virginia to North and South Carolina, in Atlanta, Memphis, and New Orleans, the stories by eighteen authors engage and entertain with rich imagery and dialog from the region – and nefarious plots, too. Pour a glass of sweet tea and settle in on the porch swing for a fabulous read.

Edith Maxwell, Agatha and Macavity Awards nominee

This can’t-put-it-down collection of mystery short stories is flavored with the oft-eerie ambiance of the South, where the most genteel manners may hide a dark and murderous intent. Enjoy Deadly Southern Charm with a Mint Julep in hand – a strong one.

Ellen Byron, USA Today best-selling author, Agatha and Daphne Awards nominee and Lefty winner

Why Procrastinate?

why procrastinate
Procrastination has been my long-term companion, and I’ve got to tell you, it isn’t all bad. Procrastination is voluntarily putting off an unpleasant task, often against one’s better judgment.

 

Procrastination is typically perceived to be a bad thing, so I will start there. Research indicates that procrastination generally leads to lower-quality work performance reduced feelings of well-being. As a group, students who procrastinate get lower grades. Procrastinators put off a lot of unpleasant tasks, for example, getting medical treatments and diagnostic tests.
procrastinate
[Source: Wonderopolis]

Here are 5 reason for procrastination, according to Psychology Today.

  1. absence of structure
  2. unpleasant, boring tasks
  3. timing: when present activities are rewarding and longer-term outcomes are in the future
  4. lack of confidence about one’s ability to do the task
  5. anxiety: postponing getting started because of fear of failure
 
My personal favorite isn’t on this list: the ego-defensive function of feeling better about oneself. This related to #5 above. Whatever the outcome, the procrastinator can always say to him/her self, “Not bad for the amount of time I spent on it. Of course, I could do better.”
procrastination
Exceptionally bright, capable people are highly rewarded for procrastination. Examples include students who get A’s without studying. Teachers who get good reviews when they lecture spontaneously. Etc.

 

According to Stephanie Vozza, procrastination has gotten a bad rap. She listed 6 reasons why procrastination can lead to greater success and happiness.
 
  1. Structured procrastinators get more done. While putting off one thing, they do something else.
  2. Procrastinators make better decisions. I’m doubtful about this one, but if while delaying making a decision a person is gathering relevant information, it could be.
  3. Procrastination leads to creativity. When a task seems too hard to do, you might invent a better way.
  4. Unnecessary tasks disappear when you procrastinate.
  5. Procrastination leads to better apologies.
  6. Procrastination reveals what you find important.
procrastination today
BOTTOM LINE: Like so much in life, there’s both an upside and a downside to procrastination.

Throwback Post: Queen of Mystery


By “Queen of Mystery,” I don’t mean Agatha Christie. Frankly, Christie’s mysteries usually annoy me—too much alligator-over-the-transom in her solutions—meaning that some completely unforeseen, unpredictable bit of info suddenly appears and unlocks everything. (No offense to Christie fans out there; but reading preferences are very individual. Ask any writer who’s received multiple rejections for a piece of work that someone more on the same wavelength eventually accepts.) No, if I were bestowing the crown, it would be Dorothy L. Sayers.
 
Dorothy L. Sayers novels
 
Sayers was a woman of many achievements. She translated Dante, wrote poetry, and worked as a copyeditor. She was a playwright, essayist, literary critic, and Christian humanist, as well as a student of classical and modern languages. But she is best known for her Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane mysteries. You may recall from last Friday’s blog that Sayers is one of the few fiction authors I periodically re-read. Now, you might ask, “Why would anyone reread a mystery? Once you know Who Done It—and probably how and why—what’s the point?”

 

Dorothy L. Sayers The Unpleasantness at The Bellona Club; The Five Red Herrings

 

In the case of Sayers, my answer is three-fold. First there is her openings that draw me.  The Unpleasantness at The Bellona Club begins, “’What in the world, Wimsey, are you doing in this Morgue?’ demanded Captain Fentiman, flinging aside “The Evening Banner” with the air of a man released from an irksome duty. ‘Oh, I wouldn’t call it that,’ retorted Wimsey, amiably. ‘Funeral Parlor at the very least. Look at the marble. Look at the furnishings. Look at the palms and the chaste bronze nude in the corner.'”

 

Five Red Herrings opens, “If one lives in Gallowy, one either fishes or paints. . . To be neither of these things is considered odd and almost eccentric.”

 

Strong Poison begins, “There were crimson roses on the bench; they looked like splashes of blood. The judge was an old man; so old, he seemed to have outlived time and change and death. His parrot-face and parrot-voice were dry, like his old heavily-veined hands. His scarlet robe clashed harshly with the crimson of the roses.”

 

Have His Carcase begins, “The best remedy for a bruised heart is not, as so many people seem to think, repose upon a manly bosom. Much more efficacious are honest work, physical activity, and the sudden acquisition of wealth.”
 
Dorothy L. Sayers novels

 

The second reason to reread is to really grasp the intricate plots that often allow me to learn something. And, coincidentally, to appreciate all the ways she foreshadowed the ending and inserted the evidence and clues without telegraphing the ending. In various Sayers novels, I learned the effects of chronic ingestion of arsenic, a lot about English bell-ringing, cyphers, the advertising world, a great deal about the questions surrounding the execution of the family of Czar Nicholas II—among other things.
 
Dorothy L. Sayers books
 
And then there are the characters and their romance. I recently read that Sayers once commented that Lord Peter Wimsey was a mixture of Fred Astaire and Bertie Wooster. I always envisioned Wimsey as Astaire, even when the TV serials starred Ian Carmichael or Edward Petheridge. He’s brilliant, graceful, athletic, debonaire—plus he blathers, and suffers “shell shock” (a.k.a., PTSD). Harriet Vane is highly intelligent, strong-willed, principled, with a low opinion of men—and not really beautiful. I find them appealing in their flaws.

 

Dorothy L. Sayers books, cheap editions

 

Sayers set her mysteries between WWI and WWII, but they are still popular today. Masterpiece Theater aired the series. The complete DVD collection was released in 2003.

 

Dorothy L. Sayers, "Are Women Human?"

 

Harriet Vane was very atypical for her time. Sayers did not devote a lot of time to talking or writing about  or otherwise dealing with her own non-traditional choices, let alone her heroine’s. In Are Women Human, two Sayers essays address the issue of women in society. Her position is that women are first and foremost human beings, and that women and men must be regarded and treated as essentially much more alike than different. Human beings—color, age, background or abilities aside—are equal. Sex does not, a priori, determine anything. Sounds pretty modern to me!

 

So get thee to the library or Amazon or your favorite bookstore and sample Dorothy L. Sayers. Her first mystery was Whose Body? That’s as good a place as many to start. Unless you’d rather go for romance first, in which case, start with Strong Poison. But do it!
Dorothy L. Sayers,

The Upside of Addiction for Writers

upside addiction writers
When we think addiction, our first thoughts are likely to be drugs and/or alcohol, possibly nicotine—i.e., substance abuse. These addictions are defined by the psychological and physical inability to stop consuming a chemical, drug, or substance, even though it is causing psychological and physical harm. These addictions provide almost limitless possibilities for tension, conflict, and drama—and they are well documented.

 

upside addiction writers

But wait! There’s more! Some addictions also involve an inability to stop partaking in activities, such as gambling, eating, or working. In these circumstances, a person has a behavioral addiction.

Addicts cannot control how they use a substance or partake in an activity, and they become dependent on it to cope with daily life. As writers, think of addictions as a path to comfort for your characters. As such, any comforting activity or substance could become an addiction.
 
shopping therapy
[Source: Pinterest]
Usually, people start using a drug or engaging in an activity voluntarily. But addiction reduces self-control. There have been many cartoons and jokes about shopping therapy. Consider the implications of a shopping addiction.

Symptoms

  • Uncontrollably seeking drugs or uncontrollably engaging in harmful levels of the addictive behavior, e.g., the shopper spends so much money that it endangers the family finances.
  • Neglecting or losing interest in activities that do not involve the harmful substance or behavior, e.g., dropping out of exercise classes, bridge, etc., in favor of eBay.
  • Relationship difficulties, which often involve lashing out at people who point out the dependency. In the shopping example, arguments with one’s significant other are obvious!
  • An inability to stop using a drug, though it may be causing health problems or personal problems, such as issues with employment or relationships. So, maybe the shopping addict is shopping online during work hours.
  • Hiding substances or behaviors and otherwise exercising secrecy, for example, by refusing to explain injuries that occurred while under the influence. In the case of the shopping addict, maybe shredding credit card statements so family members won’t see the dozens of PayPal charges.
  • Profound changes in appearance, including a noticeable abandonment of hygiene. For the shopping addict, noticeable changes might include a sudden increase in fashionable accessories, new golf clubs, etc.
  • Increased risk-taking, both to access the substance or activity and while using it or engaging in it. You fill in the examples! Maybe the money runs out and theft results.

 

Withdrawal

depression addiction symptom

Stopping the use of a drug can lead to anxiety.

These symptoms include:

  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • tremors and shaking
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fatigue
  • a loss of appetite

Some of these symptoms are more typical of substance abuse than of behavioral addiction, but all could work for a character. On the other hand, if a person has regularly used alcohol or benzodiazepines, and stop suddenly or without medical supervision, withdrawal can be fatal

In Summary

Addiction is a serious, chronic dependence on a substance or activity.

A person with an addiction is unable to stop taking a substance or engaging in a behavior, though it has harmful effects on daily living.

Misuse is different from addiction. Substance misuse does not always lead to addiction, while addiction involves regular misuse of substances or engagement in harmful behavior.

BOTTOM LINE: Nearly any comforting activity—be it eating in general or chocolate, drugs or gambling—can become an addictionSymptoms of addiction often include declining physical health, irritation, fatigue, and an inability to cease using a substance or engaging in a behavior. Addiction can lead to behavior that strains relationships and inhibits daily activities. Ceasing to use the substance or engage in the behavior often leads to withdrawal symptoms, as listed above.

bookaholic
The last word: A book addiction is relatively benign, although it seriously endangers your ignorance!

Focus on Fiona Quinn

fiona quinn

Fiona Quinn is an incredibly productive and wide-ranging writer, and I was eager to know more—so I asked!

VL: Since 2014, you have published 3 shorter works in anthologies and collections, 17 novels, and 7 coauthored books, been on the USA Today Bestseller’s List 4 times. How do you do all that?

FQ: Writing is my full-time job. My work day involves research, training, writing, and business/marketing. Though, I have found that being an author is a lifestyle more than a job. I enjoy it immensely, even when things become frustrating. There are lots of puzzles to be solved with each of my tasks. I crave the experience of growing and learning.

fiona quinn books

VL: Clearly, all that you are doing works for you! I’ve now read all of your books except Ours—which is on my list, of course, and found the variations fascinating. How would you characterize each of your series? And why did you go in each of these very different directions?

FQ: Because of the way that I like to read, I developed my books to be read in various ways. All of the books written in my Iniquus World can be read as a standalone, part of the series, or as part of a world. The Iniquus World is a place of tactical suspense.

My only series where it’s best to read books 1-4 (Book 5 out in May, 2019) is the Lynx Series. This is a series that has to do with the growth arc of my character Lexi Sobado and her psychic abilities. These abilities are both helpful and devastating as they put a bullseye on her back.

Strike Force – is the name of the team that Lexi works on. In this series, each book focuses on one of the ex-special forces operators and their love interest. These books are tactical military romantic suspense, heavy on the suspense. The women are strong, resourceful, and intelligent. Their capabilities are part of the solutions.

Uncommon Enemies are the books I wrote to focus on science. These books are tactical military romantic suspense. The women are PhDs in their fields. Their brilliant minds get them into trouble. Luckily, in each book they meet the man who is their compliment, intelligent, valorous, and capable, arriving on the scene with his own sets of expertise.

Kate Hamilton Mysteries are straight-up mystery novellas. Kate is a CSI high school teacher and very good at what she does. She is married to Reaper Hamilton and is having issues at home along with the mysteries she is solving. Mine is available on Amazon. Yours is available in a charity boxed set called Summer Snoops. Money earned through this set goes to support no-kill shelters. Ours will be available in the summer. But as this is part of the Iniquus World, characters from Iniquus are involved and soon her husband, an ex-SEAL, will be working with Iniquus, too. (That’s for a series that starts this fall.)

The FBI Joint Task Force – In this series, we see the other side of the Iniquus contract. What is going on behind the scenes at the FBI and why they are hiring Iniquus special operatives to intervene. These are also tactical military romantic suspense novels.

fiona quinn kay

Aside from my World of Iniquus I write If You See Kay (Badge Bunny Booze Mystery Collection) along with my dear friend Tina Glasneck. It started out as a joke, but we have learned a lot by writing these short books. They are serious mysteries hidden behind some bad puns and jokes. It’s an interesting puzzle to write something that will make someone snort their drink laughing and at the same time have a good mystery running. Tina and I have our seventh book all mapped out and ready for writing as soon as I’m done with Gulf Lynx. It’s great to break away from my individual writing to collaborate and get different sounds and voices in my head. I think this exercise helps me to keep all of my writing fresh and interesting.

The Elemental Witch Series – This series was a writing challenge I took on to help grow my skills. A friend invited me to write a dystopian urban fantasy as part of a project she was developing. My characters focus on the strengths of women and have a similar vibe to my Iniquus World but set in a future dystopia and using witchcraft for survival.

resistance elemental witch series

VL: Do you have a favorite series? Why is that your favorite? If you don’t have a favorite, why not?

FQ: The books I’ve written are the books I’d like to read. I love all my books like they’re my children. I think my favorite series to write has been Uncommon Enemies. All my books are fact based. These books allowed me to research scientific information and politics and marry the two in interesting ways. Though, that’s true for each of my books… Hmm, well… Actually, I think my favorite book is the one I’ve just finished writing.

VL: I can identify with that! Different, but love them every one. Many of your plots involve pretty esoteric knowledge or skills—which I love! How do you come up with those ideas? And how do you research them?

FQ: The spark for my novels comes from different places. It could be an article I just read, a person I just met, or in the instances of my FBI novel COLD RED, a swamp that I just fell into.

My first choice in getting the writing right is to try something—or as close of a something as I can. I write about my research and training on my blog ThrillWriting. My second choice is to find someone who has performed that action as part of their job. For example, I’ve just made friends with a CIA analyst who worked in the USSR, and then the Middle East. We eat lunch together, and he talks about his experiences. I get to ask lots of questions. My third way to learn is to read autobiographies and lots of non-fiction. I gather all of the data, I knead it together, and out comes my plot.

VL: In my opinion, your work as a whole carries several meta-messages—things the reader take away from the story without it being explicitly stated. For example, your major women characters are all smart and capable, even the ones who are rescued by Iniquus, and active in meeting the plot challenges/solving the mystery. Virtually all of your primary characters are physically attractive and fit. All the hero(in)es are loyal, honorable, dependable, helpful, and as non-violent as the situation allows. Did you do that on purpose? Are there message you try to convey?

FQ: Yes, actually. I wanted to write about men and women that I would respect, and those traits that you’ve listed are the traits I look for in those I surround myself with, and the traits I tried to engender in my children.

Physically fit to get the job done, build health, and develop dedication/discipline. Morally strong. Generous and kind with one’s talents. Multi-dimensional with a breadth of knowledge as well as a depth of specialized knowledge. Grace in the challenges presented. I think people who have these traits are inherently attractive.

My characters all have to use their capabilities to survive. If someone says, “you do it,” then the task cannot be accomplished. All characters have something important to contribute and without their specific contributions, the solution would never be found.

I’d add to your list an ability to work with a team, setting ego aside.

VL: Hmmm, yes, good addition. Your plots are pretty convoluted and at the end, I say to myself, “Yeah, I can see that!” Do you know the ending when you start writing? Would you say you are a plotter or a pantser?

FQ: I call myself a planter, a combination of plotter and pantser. I know my story. I know how it ends. The journey often takes me in directions I hadn’t conceived. As the characters reveal themselves, as the tasks they are undertaking get thwarted, I enjoy the discovery. But there is a strong skeleton that I am fleshing out when I sit down to write.

VL: And what skeleton are you going to be fleshing out next?

FQ: I am finishing up book 5 of the Lynx series, Gulf Lynx. This year I plan to finish the Kate Hamilton trilogy and her husband is joining Iniquus, so I will get to know a new Iniquus team with the first book of a new series. I have another FBI book that wants to be written. Tina and I have some Badge Bunny books we want to get done. It’s a busy writing year! I give each book the time and space it needs, so we’ll see how far I get with my list.

VL: What about your personal life? From your FB posts, I know you have a “hubby” and more than one child. But do you have pets, hobbies, outside activities?

FQ: I have a husband, four children, one grandchild. I have a dog, Little Bear, who was on the team that developed the protocol for training diabetes alert dogs. He’s a very special dog, who has kept Kid #4 seizure-free for over ten years.

fiona quinn author

I am active in my community by volunteering with the Search and Rescue team, Community Emergency Response Team, and Medical Reserve Corps. Right now, I am training to take the HAM radio certification test. I’m about to take off for four days to learn about tactical K-9 field medical care. I read and do art. I enjoy my friendships. I travel and try new things. I just got back from Florida where I did indoor skydiving since I am too chicken to jump out of a plane.  So, I stay busy.

VL: I’d call that the perfect example of understatement! But then, you’ve always struck me as a very energetic person. When I think of you at writing-related events, the image that comes to mind is bright red dress and lipstick, a flamboyant delivery. Is that the real you? How would you describe your personality?

FQ: I am multifaceted. I really enjoy putting on a red dress and my bright red lipstick and telling stories that engage people. I feel wonderful when I can make people laugh, or gasp. I also enjoy dressing in yoga pants and curling up on a friend’s couch for a quiet talk with a cup of tea. I’m also a nerdy introvert who likes to hide in my office thinking, thinking, thinking. And I find I’m my best when I mix up the three. My default, though, is the nerdy introvert. It’s a choice to get out there and extrovert (as a verb).

VL: Last but far from least, how can people get in touch with you and follow your writing life?

FQ: The easiest place to find everything you need—from a sign up for my newsletter, to my social media, to my news—is all on my website www.fionaquinnbooks.com. I hope you’ll visit!

fiona quinn author

VL: You are a fascinating and appealing writer. Thank you for sharing with my readers!