Monday, October 12, 2015

I Love Surprises and Clues

I watched a commercial on television recently that was about people enjoying surprises. I’m one of those who loves a good surprise, and mysteries generally hold plenty of them, although not always good ones.

For the purposes of this week’s blog, I’m going to talk about clues, or what could be considered clues.

I’ve mentioned a few times in recent blogs that my house is for sale.  Being the positive thinker that I (sometimes) am, I’ve started packing already. When the house finally sells, I’ll be ready to go.

It’s been interesting. There are a number of boxes that have been stored rather than unpacked. Now I’m having to go through the boxes to sort and throw out or repack. I’ve always been a “saver”, and there are plenty of things I’d forgotten I had. I’ll open a box and think, Wow! I forgot I had this. Other times I’ll think, I wonder why I saved this.

I’ve watched several television shows having to do with forgotten items. I used to watch If Walls Could Talk. People would buy an historic house or building and find amazing things in unlikely places. Recently I watched a show called Attic Gold which involves a small company who will clean out an attic, free of charge, but they keep what they find and remodel the attic. I’ve watched some of the shows where people purchase the contents of storage units and find amazing things. I realize that some “finds” are staged. After all, this is television. However, I also know that there really are some surprises out there.

I remember a show I watched a long time ago where the new owners were going to renovate an older house, and they found old movie posters that had been used as insulation in the walls. They were in pristine condition and valuable.

Where a mystery is involved, people will hide things in the most unlikely places. When a writer is developing a story, they can create a scenario wherein a character might find something of historic importance, or they might find something recently hidden – clues.

I wrote Old Murders Never Die, which had to do with finding a ghost town that no one had seen since the late 1800s. All Sandi Webster had to work with were things she found in the town. The people had left suddenly and many homes and businesses were found just as they were left, with plates still sitting on dining tables and merchandise still in the general store. It was fun to dream up what a modern day person might find and coming up with an old mystery. The clues were all there, just waiting for her.

I found a letter that a soldier had written to my grandmother during World War I. He wrote it on Armistice Day and described what was going on. He was in the Argonne Forest when this took place. Fascinating. He included a few comments about what was going on in her life, which made it even more personal and interesting. (She’d recently been in an industrial accident and lost her arm. This would have been in 1918. It’s difficult to know how long it took her original letter about her arm to reach him.)

Another unexpected, and shocking, find was a photograph that was mixed in with family photos. I know I’ve mentioned this in other posts, but it’s difficult to forget. My grandmother gave me a large trunk filled with photos dating back to the 1800s through around 1980. There were so many to sort through, and as I looked at them I found a photo of a firing squad shooting people. The Officer in Charge sat astride a horse, the troops were in the background, and you could actually see the smoke coming out of the rifles. The people being shot appeared to be starting to fall. For clarification, no one involved was American. I sent the photo to a retired military historian and he believes these were possibly Asians. Even more startling, or to add to it, it appears that my grandfather took the picture. This would have been between 1904 and 1907. I won’t include the photo in this post because it would shock too many people.

Clues? They can be found in the darnedest places. Maybe you’ve found something of interest mixed in with the ordinary, everyday things. Tell us about your most surprising find.

Until next time, try sorting through some of those old boxes that have been stored and forgotten. You may find things that make you smile, or that make your mouth pop open in surprise.

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Thought for the Day

Read a good book. Is that simple or what? 

I enjoy being entertained and books can often be more entertaining that a television show or movie. Why? Because there are so many details left out of TV shows and movies due to time constraints. I particularly love a good mystery.

Many years ago, before I started writing, I attended a presentation by an older man who made me feel that he knew things – things I wanted to know, too. He said there are only thirty-two types of stories that could be written and that the key was to come up with a unique twist on an old theme. I don’t know where he got his information or if he was correct, but I’m always looking for a writer with a new twist. I’ve found several authors who fill the bill. Yippee!

However, and I’ve said this before, I prefer a mystery with some humor in it. Actually, I think I’m starting to sound like a broken record, for those of you who know what a record is. Off topic, but I was going to play an old 33 rpm record for a child once and they just couldn’t get the hang of what it was. My, how things have changed. Anyway, I’ve probably mentioned enjoying humor one too many times over the years.

There’s so much drama in our everyday lives. Why would I want to read about more? All I have to do is turn on the news and I can watch all the conflict I want. What’s happening in a book isn’t my drama. It’s someone else’s problem, and if they can handle it with humor, I’m in.

That’s not to say I don’t read some dramatic stories. I do, but the author has to really grab my attention. Maybe I’m turning into a prude, but I don’t care for graphic sex or violence, and I’m not too thrilled with graphic language.

There are authors who combine “quirky” with their humor and the combination can be quite entertaining.

I’d name names, but you have to figure out who entertains you on your own. Maybe some of my reading choices would be considered “quirky”. You may enjoy something more traditional.

I’ve read every single book written by some authors, and there are others who seem to change their style midstream. Sometimes that works. Sometimes it doesn’t. I once stopped reading an author’s work because of a comment made to readers at the beginning of the book. It was rude, to say the least. I’m still not naming names, but I didn’t care for what the writer did to some of the characters in the book, either. Oh, well, it was the author’s choice.

Short post this week. Spread your wings and try some new (to you) authors.

Do you have any thoughts to offer about the subject of reading and how you choose your reading material? I’d love to hear them. Maybe I’ll learn something new.

Until next week, I hope you have a good week, that you read an entertaining book, and that nothing happens to switch your Cranky Button on. Enjoy life!

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
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