Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Books Read in 2014

1. Insurgent
2. The Book Thief
3. The Help
4. Cell
5. A Monster Calls
6. The End
7. Wonder
8. All Shall Be Well; And All Shall Be Well; And All Manner of Things Shall Be Well
9. Past My Defenses
10. The Bankrupt Viscount
11. Glancing Through the Glimmer
12. The Way of Kings
13. Landline
14. Words of Radiance
15. A Love Worth Living
16. Thirteen Reasons Why
17. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
18. Stephen King's On Writing

Monday, December 29, 2014

Failing at Goals...or Not

Sometimes I wonder: "Why do I even BOTHER making new year resolutions? I'm probably going to fail after week three--if not before!" While this might be true, I still think it's important to try. But "resolution" is too heavy a word for me, so I'm just calling them...

"New Year's Goals"

But why is it important to have goals?

"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."

Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.
- Tony Robbins

“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.”

-Albert Einstein

And how do we achieve goals when we've failed so many times before?

When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't 

adjust the goals, adjust the action steps. 


If something's not working out the way you want it to, and you continue approaching it from the same angle and in the same way, of course you're going to keep failing.

So, vary your steps. If your goal last year was to write 1,000 words a day, but you only lasted for a week, look at your approach. 

Q: Did you get distracted by the Internet? 
A: Well, this time UNPLUG IT! 

Q: Were you undisciplined in your writing time? 
A: Then set aside a certain time when you know you won't be interrupted, get rid of all distractions, and see what else you can do differently.

Some great free software for writers with distraction issues is FocusWriter.


MY New Year's Goals:

1. Finish revisions on Scotch (a novella for--le gasp!--grown-ups)

2. Finish revisions on The Disorderlies

3. Finish writing draft one of Things Heard in a Graveyard (also for an older crowd)

4. Finish writing draft one of Murder in the Afternoon (yet another for those who are no longer kids)

5. Write two KILLER query letters ;-)

8. Write two TO-DIE-FOR synopses

What about YOU? What are your goals for 2015, and how do you plan to reach them?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

On a Cold Winter's Night

What am I drinking?

Am I drinking...

A. Hot chocolate

B. Tea (with lots of sugar and milk!)

C. Coffee

D. Hot buttered rum


E. A gingerbread-scented candle from Swan Creek

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Batman Does NOT Smell

Hooked you with that title? Oh, all right:

Jingle bells, Batman smells
Robin laid an egg
Batman broke a wheel
And Joker took ballet!


(This year's tree)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


My family has very few Christmas/holiday traditions...well, ones that have carried over into (my) adulthood. With seven deaths and some crap in the last year or so, things have changed. Dynamics change. You grow out of old things and into new things.

Why Have Traditions?

I mean, who cares? ...right? Maybe THIS guy...

I learned from my grandmother, who grew up in devastating war times, how important it is to keep with tradition and celebrate the holidays during tough times.
- Marcus Samuelson

Okay, so I have you convinced that holiday traditions are good, yes? But what are some traditions I could start with MY family?" you ask.

So glad you stopped in!

1. Sleeping next to the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve
3. Read the Christmas story together
4. Watch your favorite Christmas movies in a marathon
5. Bake everyone's favorite cookies and decorate them together
6. Give money to a trusted charity in each other's honor
7. Open one gift on Christmas Eve (one family I know gave their daughter new PJs every Christmas Eve)
8. Give an ornament to your loved one that has something to do with what happened during the year*
9. Go caroling at a nursing home
10. Volunteer


How about YOU? What are some of YOUR favorite traditions? Any new ones this year? 

I have a toddler niece and would love to hear ideas for special activities to do with her!

*For example: When I was really into Harry Potter, my mom got me a Harry Potter ornament. When In a Pickle was published, she gave me an ornament with the cover art plastered across it.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sure to Make You Go Grrr!

What day is today?

Note: This pic ^ is from a 2015 calendar, hence the 22nd of December. Pay not attention to that man behind the curtain!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Discussion: Santa?

Question for polite debate:

Is it right/okay to tell a child that Santa Claus is real?

If so, why?

If not, why?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas/Writer Medley/General Silliness

Hark! Show don't tell!
Sweet endings smell.
Write bittersweet,
That's really neat.

Silent as I type,
No talking while I write.
You're too loud,
My ears don't lie
About the racket.
Manuscript = Child
Murder your darlings,
Or suffer slushpile.
Rejections they come, do not wee-eep!
Put the pen down, get some sleep!

Up on the keyboard
Fingers type
Hope this time I get it right.
I before E, 'cept after C?
I can't remember; woe is me!
Oh, oh, no!
This prose blows!
Oh, oh, no!
This prose goes!
Up on the keyboard,
Clack! Clack! Clack!
This prose is a waking nap.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Today is the day the final Hobbit movie hits theatres! Let me know what you think of it; I'll probably wait for the DVD ;-)


(Pretend that 7 is a 1...)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Seven Days!

One week until the final Hobbit movie arrives in theatres in the US! To celebrate, I'm starting a countdown...using a countdown calendar that I made for the Lord of the Rings movies!


Monday, December 8, 2014

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Books I WANT to Read in the New Year

In no particular order, here is the list:

1. Shadow of the Unicorn
2. The Hundred-Foot Journey
3. My Sister's Reaper
4. Godland
5. Book 2 of the Mistborn trilogy
6. Book 3 of the Mistborn trilogy
7. Dorothy Must Die
8. Misery
9. Little Dorrit
19. The Giver
20. The Great Gatsby
21. Uglies
22. Dead Poets Society
23. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
24. Jurassic Park
25. Fight Club
26. Schindler's List
27. The Bourne Identity
28. Life of Pi
29. The Devil Wears Prada
30. Inkheart
31. Finding Alaska
32. Paper Towns
33. Anna and the French Kiss
34. The Paris Wife
35. Across the Universe
36. Hidden in Paris
37. Cuckoo's Calling
38. The Mists of Avalon
39. This Weakness for You
40. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

I would LIKE to finish reading:

1. Emma
2. Bleakhouse
3. Shatter Me
4. Mistborn (book 1)
5. The Once and Future King

What's on your TBR (to be read) pile?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

I am Thankful for...

- My Mom, who has been a great source of support (and tolerance) as I scratch out my novellas/shorts/whatevers. And, yes, she is forgiven for the novel deletion from 18 or so years ago.

- My sister, Rachel

- My brother-in-law, Ben

- My niece, Miss B.!

- My writerly friends and acquaintances, in person and online (especially Ruthie, Julene, Victoria, Rob, and Debbie)

- My non-writerly friends who put up with me anyway :)

- The Cat

- Water Cat

- My church family at New Community

- A warm house

- Samwise (my computer)

- Every good thing God has given me

What are YOU thankful for? I'd love to hear how you've been blessed =) With so much negative in the world, focusing on our blessings is CRUCIAL.


^The mess from last year...

For the Potterhead in Your Life: A Gift List

A fan of Harry Potter? Know someone who is? Here's a list for you:

A box set of the books

Harry's wand (you can also get Hermione's, Ron's, Dumbledore's, Snape's, Draco's, Sirius's, Voldemort's, Fred and George's, Bellatrix's, Luna's, Narcissa's, Ginny's, McGonagall's, Neville's, Tonks's, Parvati's, Slughorn's, Cho's, Lupin's, Cedric's, Mad Eye's, Lucius Malfoy's, random Death Eaters', Gregorovich's, Flitwick's, Seamus', Madam Pomfrey's, one of the Carrows', Katie Bell's, Fleur's, Xenophilius's, Grindelwald's, Mr. Weasley's, Goyle's, Oliver Wood's, Professor Sprout's, Trelawney's, Lav-Lav's, Pius Thicknesse's, Rufus Scrimgeour's, Yaxley's, Dean's, Crabbe's, Percy's, Bill Weasley's, Mrs. Weasley's, James Potters's, and a few more. All are replicas of the wands used in the movies and come with a cool box and a collector's box.)

The Marauder's Map (Mischief Managed!)


Are you a Potterhead? Anything I should add to the list? Let me know!

P.S. This will be the last gift list before Christmas! Need an idea for the perfect gift still? Drop me a line and I'll do my best to help you! 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Is Your Weather Frightful?

For all of my friends and family getting snow this blustery season: May you stay as snug as my cat "Bug" in a bag. (Doesn't he look happy?)

As for us in northern Ohio...

54-degree HEATWAVE!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lord of the Rings Fans: A Gift List

A box set of the books

A map of Middle Earth

Sting letter opener (this is seriously cool! I got one for my cousin many years ago...)

Eleven brooch

Just a note/reminder: I am not paid to write these suggestions, and I don't own all the items on the list (though, I have read all the books I recommended in last week's post.)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Gifts for the Christian(s) in Your Life

Grace for the Moment by Max Lucado - Twice a day for 365 days, read a short message along with a corresponding Scripture verse. Available from Barnes and Noble for $17.98 (as of 9/16/14.)

Music Inspired by The Story - 2 discs, 18 songs from about different characters/events in the Bible. For the first listen, I had fun trying to figure out who was the point of view character in each song. $11.52 from Amazon (as of 9/16/14.)

God's Not Dead (DVD + Blu Ray) - I found this movie somewhat cheesy but encouraging, nonetheless. $17.99 from Family Christian stores (as of 9/16/14.)

BTW - I'm not getting paid to do this, and these aren't really ads. Just trying to help ease the holiday stress B-)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Congratulations to...

Susanne Drazic!

You have won not only the calligraphy set with sealing wax and seal, but the notebook as well!

Please email your address to so that I can ship you your prizes!

Congrats, and thanks for reading and commenting on As a Dog Returneth.


Friday, October 31, 2014

As a Dog Returneth (a Serial): Part VII or the End

With the slightest of smug sneers, Ackerman slipped into his dressing gown and poured himself a small sherry. As the lukewarm amber trickled down his throat, he pocketed his bedside revolver.

"Blasted fools better not interfere," he said. One quick look around the room was now in order. The door to his flat was bolted. Check. The eastern window was open a crack. Check. All he had to do now was hide and wait.

With a chuckle he looked down at the dummy stuffed in his bed. If that didn't confuse his prey, then, well, perhaps he was finished. Ackerman toasted his nemesis and downed the last of the bottle.

As he blew out the lights, he heard a faint rustling noise coming from what he assumed was the window. This was it. Quietly as he could, Ackerman slipped between the wall and his bed.

The old window slid open with barely a creak, blowing in rain and cold air. There was a soft footfall on the window seat, then the creaking of floorboards.

Ackerman prepared his revolver.

Then someone laughed a laugh he had not been expecting to hear. It was a high laugh, much too high a laugh to belong to his man.

"Inspector Ackerman," said a familiar voice. "Please, don't get up."

"Betsy?" he asked. "But I thought… Surely it can't be—"

"Instead of drawing this out with much gloating, giving you the chance to escape, I might add—"

"It had to have been Vervain! He wouldn't touch the punch! Made the excuse that he couldn't drink alcohol. He was taking quinine for malaria, just as Miss Smithe was; that's how he knew about her. You can't be the X—"

A gunshot rang through the night, and feathers flew up in a cloud. Ackerman leapt from his hiding place and tackled the woman to the ground, wresting the pistol from her hands.

     "Tell me," he said between ragged breaths as he pinned her hands to her sides, "tell me how and why, and I might let you live to see the gallows. Are you truly the X Murderer?" He could feel her glowering at him in the darkness, felt her body wriggle as his nails dug into her wrists. "You blasted, vile creature. You cost me my career, my wife, my life!"

"How's that?" she demanded.

“Tell me why Miss Prewitt? Mr. Keefes? Mr. and Mrs. Miller? Why Miss Smithe? Why? I had a theory," he interrupted her. "I had a theory, and the Chief thought it was ludicrous. It's the reason I suspected Vervain."

"Let me go, you—"

"A religious fanatic, on the loose, trying to convert the 'lost souls,' condemning the wicked to their 'rightful' damnation."

Betsy tried to break in, "I don't know what you're—"

"It all fit," said Ackerman. "Every last one of the X Murderer's victims were into witchcraft; and I suppose Miss Smithe, God rest her poor soul, will be found to have had such ties. But what would have been your motive? It makes no sense. No sense at all."

They were quiet for a moment. Or, at least, Ackerman was. Betsy continued to whimper and writhe.

"Well," he said at long last, "I suppose that's for the judge and jury to discover. Of course, if you cooperate, I might convince the judge to show some leniency."

"The girls!" Betsy said at once. "It was me who told them to dress as they did. Or, rather, their maids. I'm good friends with both. I dropped a few hints, and they took them."

"Then you laced the punch with poison."

"Yes, yes. But I didn't commit no other murders! I swear it, on my honor."

"On the honor of a woman who just attempted to murder an aging man in his bed?" Ackerman shook his head. "Never mind that, yet. Tell me, it was you who attempted to frame Boyette?"

"Y—No. It wasn't! I swear it. I didn't think I'd get in no trouble for this. He told me I would be taken care of. I did this for him, for love, and now he is—"

Whatever he was, Ackerman didn't find out. A second gunshot rang through the night, this time piercing him in the back, above his heart.

He could just register Betsy screaming as he fell sideways off her. And as he slipped into unconsciousness, the face of Reverend Martin Vervain swam in front of his face.


"You were right," said King, looking down at his old friend. "It was Vervain all along. He came quietly, of course, once we stormed your house. He definitely wanted the credit this time." He patted Ackerman on the shoulder. "I'm sorry I didn't get there sooner, my friend. We were following the maid, my suspect, you understand. Who knew it was a diversion?" King gave a mirthless laugh. "You knew, probably. But he fooled us all, hiding under your bed like that. Really, you should have headed straight home and not for the pub. Blasted cockiness on your part, I'm afraid." He saluted the casket as it was closed and whispered, "Rest in peace, Eugene."

Your final opportunity is here! Comment for a chance to win some a calligraphy set! (US only)

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, y'alls! Are you going to any parties? Dressing up? Trick-or-Treating? Huh? Huh? HUH!?!


If it's not raining, I plan to dress up in my green medieval-y dress. I also have a domino mask I could strap on, but it's molting :-/

And here, for your terror: a creep-tastical selfie of yours truly...


Thursday, October 30, 2014

As a Dog Returneth (a Serial): Part VI

"Unable to arrest?" scoffed Mrs. Dent, watching Ackerman's dim figure through the window. "Loophole in the law? What are people about these days, I ask. Honestly." 

It was nearing ten o'clock, and everyone had gathered his coat and gloves. No one seemed to want to be the first to leave.

"He seemed like such a kind, decent man," Reverend Vervain said. "I don't believe he could have done such atrocious things."

"I hate to let the man go free, but the law's the law," King said. He shook his head ruefully. "I would like one last word with him before he leaves." The inspector hurried out of the room, through the drafty hall and out the front door.

"Ackerman!" he called out. "I want a word with you."

The man turned, a smile playing across his face. "Yes, Inspector?"

When he was in closer proximity, King lowered his voice. "I don't like this, Eugene; I don't like this one bit. I know what you're about."

Ackerman grinned. "Of course you do. Very clever to pick up on my hints—especially the Africa one."

King scowled. "I'd like to know why exactly we're doing this."

"Don't you see that if our man thought he'd gotten away with it, framing our dear Mr. Boyette, he'd go on his merry way, and we might never hear from him again? No, he must be provoked."

"Are you mad? Taking away his credit like that? That makes our man desperate, more dangerous."

"More dangerous than ever," Ackerman agreed. He reached into his coat pocket and offered King a piece of candy. "Sweet?"

"No. Well, if we're going to do this, we'd better do it properly." He looked around, then led Ackerman to his carriage. "When do you think he'll come after you?"

"Oh, our man's a daring fellow, and rather impatient at that. He'll act almost immediately."

King looked around, half-expecting the villain to leap out at them from the bushes. "I'll send around some of my men straight away."

One hand on the carriage door, the other on King's shoulder, Ackerman said, "No. That's exactly what you mustn't do."

"What? You don't mean to wait for this monster alone? The last thing we need is another murder on our hands. Yours would be a particularly low blow."

Ackerman smiled wryly. "It's got to be me. It's got to be me alone. I've waited too long and worked to hard to catch this rotten scoundrel."

"If this is about credit, you're being foolish."

"Good night, King." Ackerman removed his hand from his old colleague, stepped into his carriage and called for the driver to walk on.

As the carriage disappeared out of sight, Inspector King walked back towards the house. Whether it had been a cat or the wind, he couldn't be sure; but there was a soft rustling in the bushes nearby.

Don't forget to comment for a chance to win some a calligraphy set! (US only)

Jane Austen Fan (Austenite) Gift List

Christmas is now less than two months away. Here's a list of gift ideas for the Jane Austen fanatic in your life:

1. Jane Austen Tea - Jane Austen-themed bags of tea. Sounds scrummy! Starting at $14.95 from Bingley's Tea Limited (as of 9/11/14.)

2. The Complete Works of Jane Austen - Pretty self-explanatory. Hardback edition available from Barnes and Noble for $28.39 (as of 9/11/14.)

3. Jane Austen Note Cards - Not sure how many cards are included, but they depict different scenes from Austen's books (at least Pride and Prejudice.) $10.08 from Amazon (as of 9/11/14.)

4. The Pemberley Shoppe! Check out this site for all sorts of cool Jane Austen gifts.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

As a Dog Returneth (a Serial): Part V

All the interviews seemed to blend into one, and they all ended with the same question, in varying forms: Have you recently been to Africa?

About one quarter of the group said yes, including Mrs. Dent, Reverend Vervain, a frog named Gerald Overs, Mr. Boyette and, according to Reverend Vervain, the deceased Miss Smithe.

No one but Mr. Boyette and Miss Blyde seemed to have motive. Everyone else would have had means of slipping something into the punch, the undoubted source of the poison. Poison was the coroner's immediate ruling upon seeing the body.

Mr. Ackerman followed Inspector King into the large parlor where the suspects sat.

"It could be any number of poisons," King muttered.

"No," said Ackerman quietly. "Not any." He reached into his pocket and produced the bottle he had rescued earlier. "Quinine. A fast-acting poison that yields the same symptoms Miss Smithe experienced before her heart failed: paleness, sweating, fainting and fits. It comes together quite nicely, actually."

"Where did you get that bottle?"

"What? This? This is table salt." He handed the bottle over to King and frowned. "The bottle might have once contained quinine; one can not be certain. I merely found it lying by the piano; an interesting clue."

"'Clue?'" King asked. "So, you're saying this 'quonine' stuff in the punch was the one and only murder weapon?"

"'Quinine.' And in answer to your question, 'no and yes.' It was meant to look like the punch has been poisoned, which, in some respects is true. I'm sure that three glasses or more of that stuff would kill any of us."

"But nobody's died so far besides Miss Smithe," said King through gritted teeth.

"Precisely. Which, I think is a very good clue." Ackerman smiled at everyone's bewildered face. "You are perhaps unaware that Miss Smithe was being treated for malaria?"

There were more mutterings and exchanges of glances.

"Quinine," he continued, "is a poison used to treat cases of malaria, a disease—"

"Yes, yes; I'm quite aware of what malaria is. So, she took a dose of quinine at home, came here, drank the punch—"

"Which was laced with quinine."

"Right, that. So you're saying she unwittingly overdosed?"

Ackerman clapped his hands together. "Bravo, Inspector, bravo."

Instead of looking pleased at the praise, Inspector King looked ready to explode. "But how does this fit in with your theory of the X Murders?"

"'X Murders'?" said Miss Blyde. "That's the second time that's been mentioned this evening."

Mrs. Dent gasped. "You don't know? Why, this very house was home to the first X Murder, ten years ago to this day!”

There was a collective shudder.

Looking delighted, Mrs. Dent continued. "He always left his mark somewhere, an X, you know. And there was no rhyme or reason to his killings. No mobile operetta… No, that's not the word, it's—"

Ackerman stepped in. "Oh, there was a modus operandi: He never did the same murder twice, or so he thought. Sometimes it was strangling, sometimes it was stabbing, and, in this case, it was poisoning—though, he has done poisoning before, just not this fast-acting. No, what ties all the murders together is the X mark—"

"But, why, we could be dealing with a copycat!" said Mrs. Dent, deflating slightly.

"—And the Gray threads."

King narrowed his eyes. "Gray threads?"

"Yes, Inspector, you will remember that small strands of gray thread were found on the scene of each crime?"

The inspector looked at him thoughtfully for a moment, and then said, "Yes. But that was never revealed to the public… until your blunder just now."

               "Oh, I don't think it really matters any more. The murderer wore gray gloves. The murderer is standing in this very room. The murderer is…I, as a matter of fact."

Don't forget to comment for a chance to win some a calligraphy set! (US only)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

As a Dog Returneth (a Serial): Part IV

"I'm telling you, I'm innocent!" Erik Boyette traced a hand across his brow. "Why would I want to poison Kathryn Smithe?"

Inspector King crossed and uncrossed his legs, then scribbled something down on his notepad. "Why indeed? Grayson."

A reliable yet shabby-looking police sergeant stepped forward. "Yes, sir?"

"Fetch Miss Blyde, will you, please? Thank you. Now, Mr. Boyette, why did you wish to kill your fiancée?"

Boyette frowned. "Kill Ethne? Are you mad? It's Miss Smithe that's dead, isn't it?"

The inspector smiled and folded his fingers together. "Yes, it is Miss Smithe, God rest her soul. The point—" There was a knock on the door. "Come in, Grayson. The point, Mr. Boyette, is this: Miss Smithe pretended to be your betrothed, for goodness knows what petty reason. You believed her, slipped something into her punch and here we are. The question is 'why'?"

"Sir, I—"

"You had the opportunity: A crowded party, noise, distractions."

"I didn't do it! You must believe me, Inspector; I would never harm Ethne Blyde. I love her."

King nodded. "Love. Love can do funny things to a fellow." He turned to the door. "Ah, Grayson. I see you brought the girl." His eyes traveled to another gentleman who had also entered the room. "What's this?"

"Mr. African, sir," said Grayson.

"Ackerman, actually, sir," the man said.

Grayson rolled his eyes. "I'm sorry, sir; he said he wanted to help, and he was very persistent."

"Every Tom, Dick, and Harry thinks he can solve a murder." King waved them away with an inky hand. "Tell him to leave; I don't need some old fool getting in the way and muddling things up for me."

Mr. Ackerman gave a bow and said, "Sir, please do not think I'm an interfering busybody. You see, I was the chief inspector in charge of the original X Murder case."

The confusion on Miss Blyde and Mr. Boyette's faces was nothing to the surprise on Grayson's stubbly mug. King, however, grunted and pointed to the leather armchair opposite him. "Miss Blyde, you may have a seat there. Mr. Grayson, take Mr. Boyette into another room; I'll send for you both again when I'm ready. And… Ackerman, was it?"

"At your service," said Ackerman.

"We'll see. You may take the window seat. Now, Miss Blyde, tell me truthfully: Why were you and Miss Smithe dressed in an identical manner?"

Miss Blyde, now without wig and mask, took the seat offered her. "The truth? I don't know."

"You don't know what the truth is, my dear?" In an identical movement, King and Ackerman drew a notepad from their inner jacket pockets.

"No, no, I know what the truth is, and the truth is this: I don't know why she dressed like I did. We're good friends."

Inspector King looked at the pale-faced beauty, sitting tall and straight before him. One of her hands clutched to the armrest, while the other rested a pointed finger against her lower lip. King jotted down a few letters next to the woman's name, letters that would be gibberish to another. "Please, continue."

"Well, I told her what I was wearing tonight. She obviously copied me purposely."

"Do you know what possible motive she might have had?"

For a moment, Miss Blyde looked like she had no answer to the question, then burst out suddenly: "She's jealous. That's why she did it. Erik told me he thought that Kathryn was I when she came from the punch bowl."

"And where were you when Miss Smithe was getting punch?"

A blush came over her pale features, and she hemmed and hawed a little before answering. "I was powdering my nose. There's nothing odd about that, is there?"

Mr. Ackerman answered instead. "No, but didn't Mr. Boyette believe you to be at the punch bowl?"

Every trace of the blush disappeared from Miss Blyde's face. "How did you—?" She looked over at Mr. Ackerman for the first time since entering the room. "How dare you!" she spat. "How dare you accuse me of this nonsense."

Ackerman's eyes narrowed. "You have been caught in two lies tonight, madam. The truth would be refreshing."

"Two lies?" she parroted.

"Ackerman," said King in a tone of warning.

"Isn't it true that you and the late Miss Smithe were after the same man? That you weren't close friends at all?"

"I never!" she cried.

"Enough," King roared. "Mr. Ackerman, if you continue to interrupt me, I shall see you behind bars."

With a shrug, Mr. Ackerman lowered his notebook and said, "Very well, Inspector. I shall behave myself."

Inspector King turned back to Miss Blyde. "A thousand apologies, Madam. It shall not happen again."

"I should think not," she said.

"Might I ask one polite question?"

At this, the woman sat up more straightly in her chair and folded her hands in her lap. "Yes?"

"Where were you doing missions work in Africa?"

Miss Blyde crinkled her brow. "I've never been. Why?"

"Oh, you have a hint of a foreign accent in your voice. One often picks up that sort of thing when one visits different countries. I was merely curious, having traveled to South Africa recently myself."

Miss Blyde nodded stiffly, as if she did not approve of such travels.

Monday, October 27, 2014

As a Dog Returneth (a Serial): Part III

The chattering had increased in volume, and more persons forced their way into the room, some heading for the punch bowl, and others searching out acquaintances.

"Inspector Ackerman," said a booming voice that caused half the room to stop and stare.

Mr. Ackerman winced. How'd he know it was I?

"Oh, right, Mr. Ackerman. Forgive me," said the friar, who now stood beside him. "You perhaps don't remember, but I'm Reverend Martin Vervain. I administered the Last Rites right here, in this room, ten years ago—to the day, come to think of it. Sad business, really sad business."

Inclining his head, Ackerman smiled and took a sip of punch.

"And I haven't noticed you in church since." The man shot him a stern look, then broke down in laughter. "It's all right; we all lose our faith at some point along the way. It's understandable in your case."

Ackerman raised both his eyebrows. "Is that so?"

Reverend Vervain gave a wry smile. "Well, what I mean to say is, the X Murderer has given you quite a bit of trouble."

"That he did. But no more. I am retired." Ackerman returned the smile and waved the matter away. "So, has the ministry been keeping you busy?"

"Busy? I should daresay it's been running me all over the place. I just returned from a missions trip to Africa with a group of volunteers. A few of them are at the party this evening, in fact."

"Still fighting for souls?"

"Oh, yes." The reverend rubbed his hands together and laughed. "The harvest is ripe for picking."

"Leave me alone!"

"Ethne, are you all right?" asked the gentleman dressed as a peacock. He pursued his partner across the room.

As the lady passed, Ackerman noted that she was rather pale in the face, and her blue gown was stained with perspiration marks.

"I'm not Ethne," she gasped, then dropped to the ground. She convulsed several times and was still.

"Out of the way!" Ackerman yelled. He pushed through the throng of people and dropped next to the girl.

"I don't understand," said the peacock, ripping his mask away. "She left for the punch bowl a few minutes ago, and came back looking like—"

"Quiet!" Ackerman listened for the girl's breathing and felt for a pulse; nothing. "Does anyone here know how to perform chest compressions?"

There was more murmuring.

"Never mind," he snapped. He pressed one hand over the other on the woman's chest and proceeded to apply and remove direct, hard pressure to the ribcage. For nearly five minutes he went on like this, until…

"I've just rung for the doctor," cried a middle-aged woman.

"You're too late," Ackerman panted, looking at his watch. It was five thirty-nine. "She's dead."

The silence was broken at once.




Ackerman rose. "Do not touch the body," he roared at the dead woman's beau. "And do not leave this house. That goes for everyone."

"Erik? What's going on?" someone cried.

A woman wearing a blue gown and a feline-esque mask pushed her way through the crowd.

"Ethne?" said the beau, whose gaze flitted between the woman on the floor and the woman in the crowd.

Ackerman looked at the X scratched into the floor. He blinked. “Of course,” he thought. “Of course.”

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

As a Dog Returnetth (a Serial): Part II

Two identically-dressed women stood in opposite corners of the room. Their deep blue gowns matched down to the gold thread and bunched up ruffles. The black masks were of the same feline curves and points. Their hair was the same. The only difference Ackerman could detect was in the women's attitudes. While the lady on the left spoke animatedly to a fat friar, whose hood had just slipped, the lady on the right stood rigid and quiet with a peacock one could only assume to be her beau.

Ackerman smiled. No one had given him more than a look.

As he ladled punch into a crystal glass, he heard the woman with the friar say, "—Stupid cow; it serves her right. She stole him right from under me!"

The friar puffed out his chest and shook his head. "Really, Miss Smithe; show some grace, and mind your language."

The girl drew her shawl more tightly around her shoulders. "Forgive me, Reverend. I forgot who I was talking to." Her eyes flitted to the punch bowl and then to her costume "twin." "Why don't you have a seat, and I'll fetch you some punch."

"A lovely gesture, Miss Smithe; but I'm afraid I shall not be indulging tonight. Drinking aggravates the ulcer, you know."

Not pausing to listen to the girl's subsequent fussing, Ackerman sat down several feet away on the window seat.

The women in the middle of the room now turned their attention to the instrument in the corner. Ackerman hoped they wouldn't pry and remove the cover, though he knew the bloodstains had been wiped clean.

     The grouping was too far away for him to make out what they were saying, but they all seemed absorbed. What a bunch of old biddies, Ackerman said to himself.

     He sipped his punch and let his gaze wander around the entire party. “Dull as tombs,” he thought. Drier than this punch, even. He thought of the flask in his hip pocket and sighed; he really oughtn't. Alcohol always gave him that strange prickly sensation in the back of his neck.

It was nearing five twenty when the doorbell rang, and a group of six women and three men were shown inside. There were several gasps followed by a whirlwind of whispers; they had spied the piano as well.

Ackerman spied something else: A stray medicine bottle near one of the piano legs. As he went to retrieve it, in respect for the homeowners, a gaggle of women swooped down upon the instrument. He pocketed the bottle and paused to listen.

"Is that it?" a witch asked an orange cat.

The cat nodded her blonde head and pointed a gloved hand. "Yes, but it was in the center of the room when they found her."

"Was she really—"

"Stuffed half inside?" a flamingo finished for her. "Yes, my dear; it's sad but true." The woman fluttered a fan and dabbed her brow. "I was there that afternoon, you know. What a sad way to go, strangled with a piano string in one's own home. Poor, dear Mildred."

            "You must be very brave to speak of this, Mrs. Dent."

So, that was Gillian Cartwright—wife of the now-deceased millionaire, Lucius Dent. She had been one of Ackerman's main suspects in the Prewitt murder. She had had the motive: Greed. Aunt Prewitt left her a hefty sum, though the estate itself had been left to her nephew, Philip Janson and his wife, Martha. The Jansons had been suspects at first but, along with Miss Cartwright, they had a solid alibi. And that was before the "X" symbols began showing up all over Lena and Amherst.
Ackerman moved away before he could be recognized.

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

As a Dog Returneth (A Serial): Part I

"As a dog returneth to its vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly." The words forced their way into Eugene Ackerman's mind as he strolled up the walk to Prewitt Manor. Time had hardly touched the place over the past ten years. The only thing that stood out to Ackerman as different was the stone marker over a patch of unkempt grass.

Could it be Mildred Prewitt's final resting place?

Ackerman tore his eyes from the sight and rang the doorbell two times in quick succession. Before anyone could answer, he slipped a domino mask over his eyes and removed the invitation from his pocket.

"You are cordially invited to attend the Lena Historical Society's first annual Halloween Masquerade Ball. Date: The thirty-first of October, 1899; Time: 5:00 PM; Place: Prewitt Manor on North Ridge. Please come dressed in attire appropriate to a masquerade."

Standing there, Ackerman wondered if he would have done better to come in full costume. Before he could change his mind and turn around, the door opened.

"Inspector Ackerman!" the maid cried.

Ackerman stared at her. "How did you know?"

"Your hair! It was always sticking up in funny places. You haven't changed a bit."

Betsy Miller had hardly changed either. She had the same dirty face and wrinkled half-apron; and she wore the same wide-eyed expression that she had ten years ago.

"Mr. Ackerman, actually," Ackerman said in what he hoped was a jovial voice.

The woman blinked. "Oh, so you've retired, then?" Before he could give an affirmative, she stood aside and said, "Don't let me keep you out in this cold, Inspector. Just let me take your coat and you can join the party." She helped Ackerman out of his coat and offered to take his gray gloves.

"I'll hold onto them, thank you," he said.

The maid shot him a quizzical look, but made no comment. "You're one of the first to arrive, I must say. Those that are already here are in the drawing room. You remember where that is."

Of course he did.

As he walked past the grand staircase and ducked through the entryway, he made quick mental notes of the changes that had occurred. The grand piano was no longer displayed in the middle of the floor, but was shoved off in a corner and covered with a dust cloth. Also, the crowd of masqueraders now populating the room replaced the swarm of mourners, reporters, investigators and suspects.

Three women stood grouped in the middle of the room. One was dressed in white and wore a silver mask with matching silver wings. Another wore a light green dress and a gold domino mask; what she was supposed to be escaped Ackerman. The third woman was dressed in the most shocking red. Red dress, red mask, red horns… Blood-red, he thought with a shudder and looked elsewhere.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Win a Calligraphy Set! (US only)

Starting tomorrow, I'll begin posting a Halloween short story in segments. 'Tis the season, after all ;-)

What's in it for you, though, besides a free read? Well, you could win some stuff... (ETA - formatting is weird. Each prize comes with a signed post card, 'cept for the e-book.)



So, what do you have to do to win one of these prizes? Comment on one or all of the story entries to be entered into a random drawing. The more story entries you comment on, the more your name goes into the virtual hat.

All entrants must be 18 years of age or older in order to be eligible for the first two prizes. To win a e-copy of In a Pickle, no such restrictions apply, but you must have a working email address.

Enter until 11:59:59 PM on October 31st, 2014. Entrants will be chosen and notified the first week of November. Prizes will be shipped ASAP.

Happy reading!