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Happy to be answering 20 questions on Cozy Mystery Book Reviews today.  Come see!

https://cozymysterybookreviews.blogspot.com/

photo of books on shelves

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Join me today as I guest blog for #ThisorThatThursday. Many thanks to Heather Weidner for hosting me! http://www.heatherweidner.com/blog

 

News and Notes

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I’ve been fortunate enough to place essays in two upcoming Chicken Soup for the Soul books.  The first, the Magic of Dogs, will be out in July.  My contribution is called “A Tail of Serendipity”.  Then, in August, Listen to Your Dreams will be published.  “Addressing the Past” is my essay in that one. It’s about one of Mom’s mysterious and prophetic dreams.

I was a guest recently on the SleuthSayers blog.  Here’s a link to my column: https://www.sleuthsayers.org/search/label/Kate%20Fellowes

Then, I got to talk about characters on the Kings River Life Magazine site.   https://kingsriverlife.com/06/10/its-a-mystery/       

My 50-word story, “Whodunnit?” was reprinted this week, on the fun site 50-Word Stories.  Take a peek at that here: https://fiftywordstories.com/?s=fellowes

Watch this space for whatever comes next!

A Menacing Brew KFellowes

 

 

tilt shift photography of cherry blossoms

 

Whew!  What a time it’s been, this spring just past.  Due to the corona virus pandemic, so many things in life have changed, at least in small part, if not entirely.

So, what have I learned?

–How much my job means to me, not just for the salary it provides, but also for the camaraderie of my co-workers and the security of a predictable schedule.

–Conversely, how pleasant it is to not be bound by a predictable schedule.  To have the luxury of an extra hour in bed in the morning, or up late reading in the evening.

–How deeply I love my family, and my friends, whom I haven’t been able to get together with in ages now.  We can text and chat and share updates on Facebook, of course.  But that can’t replace having coffee and a long conversation over one meal or another.  Virtual hugs don’t feel the same and I’m looking forward to a full social calendar as soon as it’s safe.

–That, even with time on my hands, I will still find a way to avoid doing loathsome chores and overwhelming projects.  (Okay, this revelation doesn’t really surprise me very much, if I’m honest.)

–The healing power and joy of reading.  (Again, just a reinforcement of an old belief.)  While I haven’t read nearly as much as I’d hoped, I’ve still made a welcome dent in my to-be-read pile, with new authors and old favorites.  Every title has been an escape from the nightmare of the nightly news.  There is no better “staycation” than traveling far away via an author’s words.  And with the ever-present anxiety we all feel now, that mental break is nigh on essential, a sort of PPE for the spirit.

–The power of that other PPE of the spirit: time spent in nature.  The park paths are fuller now than ever, with folks getting some fresh air and sunshine and much-needed exercise.  I’ve long held one never feels worse after a walk, because the rhythm and the motion seem to set the brain free.  Tension slips away, solutions to problems appear and light shines at the end of whatever tunnel I’m in.

–There’s hope at the core of the human spirit.  Maybe it’s just a coping mechanism, but perhaps it’s a profound belief wired into our DNA.  We will find a way—because we always have.  Why would now be any different?

So, here comes summer and, yes, it will be unlike any ever before, but in our individual ways we can do our best to make it as good as it can be.  With grateful hearts and the “can do” spirit, we must try.

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A Menacing Brew KFellowes

A Menacing Brew

On Twitter or Facebook, I like to post haiku, because they are such a pleasure to write and give me a legitimate reason to spend some time on social media.

Today’s haiku is extra special.  Hope you like it.

Release Day haiku for you:

New book out today

Feels like another birthday

Or like New Year’s Eve!

 

 

baskets clean color cotton

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Here we are in the midst of a pandemic, our lives turned on end by things we cannot control.  And hasn’t it made you realize how much we are creatures of habit, craving–if not control–structure and schedules?  I can’t say I’ve found myself at loose ends, when I was (mostly) at home for several weeks, but I did do some soul-searching those first few days.  How tied am I to routine? To the predictability of a forty-hour week and two days off in a row?  What would I be able to establish, during this retirement rehearsal, as new habits and routines?

Someone posted online an interesting comment.  “If you come out of this time without having learned a new skill, cleaned out your closets or accomplished that big project you always said you wanted to do, it isn’t time you lack, it’s discipline.”  Truer words!

Well, let it never be said I am without discipline.

I got off to a good start on goal number one: take a long walk every day in nature.  This was super easy to do because I walk a lot anyway, and we have two dogs, so after the dogs got their walks in, I dropped them at home and then just kept going.  How wonderful it felt, not racing to beat the clock before a work day, and not tired at the end of one.  Oh, I can get used to this! I thought.  Now, back at work, I’m racing the clock and strolling on home again, but those leisurely ambles were nice while they lasted.  And they will be nice again, I hope, in my golden years.

Goal number two was predictable: write every day.  Since I have a new novel out this month (A Menacing Brew, Fire Star Press), I am super-charged with enthusiasm now, plotting what will be the second book in the Kirkwood Clues series.  Clicking on my pen every morning, I’d read a bit on writer’s craft in one of the many how-to manuals I’ve acquired over the years, taking notes as I went.  Then, before I got too entranced reading to write, I’d mark my page in the manual and put into action what I’d just read, outlining the new story.  I am not big on outlines, although you’d think I would be after writing myself into a corner more than once in the past.  But this time, I’m finding it really interesting and helpful to fill in my character’s backgrounds.  It’s always been exciting to have them reveal themselves to me as I go along and I know there are authors who write that way with great success, but it was just as exciting to meet them this way, before the adventure gets underway.  Now, when it’s time to start the actual manuscript, I feel confident in my structure and, when I drift away from the path I’d planned to take through the story, it will be easy to find my way back, armed with this detailed framework.

Goal number three didn’t go so well: declutter.  Sigh.  Where does one start?  How does one not run away at the overwhelming amount of work this will involve?  Do I really have to do this at all?  Oh, I’ve read all those books, too, and have my tee-shirts coordinated and stacked the Marie Kondo way, but that still leaves all the books, papers, photographs, clothing, basement stuff and, ugh, the garage.  I did put away winter hats and scarves, swapping heavy knits out for lighter fabrics, but that was end of that.

I guess, as I’ve written elsewhere, it all comes down to motivation.  I really want to walk in nature.  I really want to write.  If I do those things, does it matter if I never get to tossing papers and old shoes?  I don’t think so.

Still, having read at least parts of the book “Atomic Habits” I recall the author’s suggestion to try to be one percent better every day.  That sounds so do-able, even to an unmotivated soul like me.  So now, when the day is consumed with eight hours of work, I’ll strive to make that one percent change on the least pleasant of my goals.  But only after I’ve had a nice walk and gotten in my pages.

Pandemics, I find, make you question what it is that matters to you.  What you want to accomplish, what you want to leave behind, in the fullness of time.  “She wrote a lot of good stuff,” sounds much more monumental than “her closet was tidy”.

Let’s hope better days are ahead for all of us when this episode in history is declared over and things get back to whatever will pass for normal.  We are creatures of habit, yes, but we can always make new ones and adapt, as these last few months have proven.

And I hope someone, somewhere, actually finished their big projects and learned to play the piano, or speak a foreign language or whatever their dream always was.  I’ll just keep chasing mine.

Music and Memory

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One of the best parts of my job working at a public library is seeing all the new materials when I unpack boxes.  Last week, one of the CDs we received was James Taylor’s new release, “American Standard”, featuring those lovely old crooner tunes from the ‘50’s or so.

When I read the contents listed on the back cover and saw that one selection was Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness of You”, I had to pop the disc into my computer at once.  You see, that was my mom and dad’s song.  The one that would get them on the dance floor at every family wedding, or turning slow circles in the kitchen if it came on the radio.

Listening to Taylor’s smooth, yummy voice I closed my eyes and pictured them in my mind.

It’s not the pale moon that excites me
That thrills and delights me
Oh no, it’s just the nearness of you

Toward the end of the song, there’s a trumpet solo and that made me pinch my eyes shut tighter.  Dad played trumpet.  Really well.  Could have made a career of it if he’d chosen to.  Hearing those notes, I could picture Dad in the rec room in the basement, one foot on the rung of a stool as he sat playing along to LPs.  He’d have his eyes closed, too.

I was not dry-eyed at the end of the song, but misty with emotion.  That’s the power of music.  And the power of memory.  And the magic of what happens when the two come together.

 

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I’m pleased to announce I have been named the winner of the San Diego Public Library’s 2019 Matchbook Short Story contest!

It was an exciting challenge to write a story in fifty words or less, to fit inside the cover of a matchbook.  What a fun and creative idea.  My hat is off to whoever came up with the original concept and I would like to thank the judges once again for choosing my (very) little mystery as the winner.  Follow this link to read “Whodunnit?” and learn more about this wonderful library:

San Diego Public Library’s Matchbook Short Story Contest

Of course libraries are near and dear to my heart, not only as a writer but as a reader and as a lifer at the library in my own hometown, where I have worked the Circulation Desk and the Reference Desk, as well as being what I like to think of as Queen of Technical Services.  Where would we be without libraries?  A question without an answer because as long as there is civilization, there will be libraries.  Do you have a library card?  When did you last pay a visit?

Visit the San Diego Public Library’s Library Shop to get your own copy of this year’s prizewinning matchbook, and mark your calendar for October 1st, for a chance to try your hand at the challenge, too.

Holiday Light Show

illuminated christmas lights at night

It has been lovely, these last few weeks, to walk the dogs at night. Why?  Because of the holiday lights I see on so many houses.  We amble a lot further than I’d planned as I stroll by each place, admiring the displays of multi-color lights hung from the eaves, the bushes lit with hundreds of pure white bulbs evenly spaced from top to bottom (how did they do that?  must have taken ages!), the Santa perched on someone’s roof up against the chimney top.

When I was a child, Dad would climb the ladder after Thanksgiving and string lights under the eaves and into the big bushes at the corners of the house, so to me this will always be The Way It Should Be Done, and I do like the bright primary color strings more than the subdued and elegant all-white versions.  But I marvel at the ingenuity and dedication it must have taken to create these visions, no matter the style.  So many people are choosing to shower their homes with moving patterns of light in red or green, with or without graphics.  These are either enchanting, or dizzying, depending on the speed of their movement.  A few blocks from me, someone has paired this with a speaker playing tunes you can hear for quite a ways. When we walk past there, I sing along, of course, because I know all the words and with a Christmas tune, if you know the words, you can’t help but sing along, right?

If we walk at twilight, I sometimes enjoy the bonus of seeing Christmas trees, lit up and gorgeous, before residents draw the curtains on the scene.  Fat trees, skinny ones, giant ones that fill a picture window, smaller ones on tabletops, all of them speak to the holiday season and the traditions we hold dear.  Our tree at home hangs on the back of the front door, high above the reach of our beloved cats. Our other tree is tiny, about a foot and a half tall.  That goes inside the curio cabinet, where its lights reflect off the closed glass doors.  There was a time it stood atop the cabinet, but then, darling Beau made the leap straight up to investigate, with the expected results! Oh, such scamps!

Born of practicality, my Christmas village–consisting of sturdy porcelain houses and all the porcelain people and animals who reside there–can stand up to the feline interest without disaster (most of the time), and has provided me with endless hours of joy as I put it on display in the bookcases each year.  Never the same twice, the village had become a dear tradition over the decades, incorporating not only the items I have purchased, but also those that were part of Mom’s village.

Decorating for the holidays, whether it’s with outdoor lights, indoor trees, or villages and other Christmas collectibles, gives us just a bit of time to take a break from the holiday hustle and bustle and reconnect with memories, one piece at a time. For me, those pieces bring peace.  I hope they will for you, as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Foggy Morning

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Headlights pierce the fog

Dog lifts her head, sniffing air

I squint.  Who goes there?

 

It’s Monday morning and all summer I’ve been using this time to go down to the lakefront to work on my new novel.  It’s been a terrific summer, in that regard, and the approach of cooler weather hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm for the venture, although I know I’ll have to come inside soon enough.

Yesterday, it rained–spritzing, pouring, misting, all three at once–all day.  And this morning, I woke to heavy fog.  So, knowing every wooden picnic table would be soggy, and the view would be spectacular, of course, but a bit washed out, I decided to just tag along with my husband when he exercised the dogs instead.

The park where we walk was as magical as the lakefront on this spindrift day.  Leaves overhead rained on us with every gust of wind.  Trees were shadows in thick white coatings, making me realize that, on foggy days like this, we are truly walking in the clouds.  The headlights of cars drifted slowly out of the mist, growing brighter as they got closer.  The automobiles took shape for only an instant before they were swallowed up again, out of sight.  

It was wonderful to be the only walkers in the park, ambling along as the dogs sniffed enticing smells.  But neither of them strayed far from us, I noticed, and I wondered if the fog unsettled them, at all.

When the world we know so well turns into one we don’t know at all, life is upended.  On ordinary days we might hurry about, confident with our grasp on reality, but on days like this one, we must slow our steps and pay attention.  In the fog, where sturdy objects took on a dreamy quality and mystery lingered behind each tree trunk, I welcomed the opportunity to look around with cautious glances, appreciating the beauty of a familiar scene dressed in new clothes and unrecognizable.

It is always a wonderful world.