Monday, November 26, 2018

Famous, Shmamous

(This is a repeat from a few years ago, but hopefully everyone has a short memory.)

A friend and I were recently discussing a Hollywood celebrity who’s been in the news quite a bit. The outcome of the conversation was that we’re perfectly happy not being famous.

Think about it. If you’re not famous, you can go to the grocery store without people mobbing you and asking questions or asking for an autograph. Well, once there were two ladies who knew who I am and wanted to chat. That’s okay, really, because it’s not something that happens all the time. I don’t feel the need to wear a wig and sunglasses.

I can go to the beauty shop for a haircut without people fawning over me. Hmm. Maybe I wouldn’t mind a little fawning, but at least I don’t have the paparazzi nipping at my heels. Oh, well, if they were then that would probably mean my books were bestsellers. I guess that’s not all bad.

I have some friends who went to a famous author’s house once while on vacation. They stood in the street and watched his house. He came out and said they could look all they wanted, but if they stepped onto his property he might have to shoot them. Oops! Well, honestly, I might find it a little creepy to have people standing in the street, staring at my house.

I can go to parties and remain somewhat anonymous. That’s not all bad. Shopping in a department store? Total anonymity. The only person who’s ever peeked under the dressing room door was a small child, and she was looking for her mother.

Honestly, if I were well-known and wanted to just be one of the crowd, all I’d have to do would be to go out without make-up and let my hair grow out to grey. Without make-up I look like a totally different woman. A neighbor came to the door early one morning and she was shocked and speechless when I opened it. True Story. In my younger days I really was a blonde (uh, not that I’m not one now) and without beauty aids I have no face. Light complexion, all blonde – just two blue eyes staring out of… Well, you get the idea.

On the other hand, with fame (the kind I’m talking about) comes money. I’ve read a few articles about bestselling authors and the fabulous homes they live in. Just think, when something went wrong you wouldn’t have to check the budget before having repairs done or buying a new whatever-it-is.

I guess I appreciate what I do have more because I’ve had to work so hard to get it (not that bestselling authors haven’t). I’d never like to reach a point where I take things for granted. One can always dream about what it would be like though. Publishers and fans beating down my door, figuratively speaking, would make for a very interesting day. I’ve been on television and radio (local shows), and it doesn’t seem to have made a difference in book sales. Ah, well, we keep trying.

So not all of our names are household words. So what? I have more fun when I’m writing than I ever expected. If I do an event I can be myself without feeling like I have to be “on.”

What would I do different if I were famous? Probably nothing. As far as I know, the paparazzi don’t chase after authors. Let’s face it, most people have no idea what their favorite author really looks like. Um, I guess that’s not true. I’d recognize Mary Higgins Clark on the street in a New York minute, along with several other favorites.

What about you? As a reader, do you make it a point to watch for your favorite authors? Have you ever gone out of your way to meet someone you admire? I have. I made it a point to introduce myself to Rhys Bowen. She probably thought I was some crazed whacko fan, but she let me have my picture taken with her. Poor woman. She probably thought if we had a picture together I’d leave her alone. Oh! Now that I think about it, I did.

As a writer, do you wear a wig, sunglasses and a large, floppy hat? Of course not. You’re gracious to your fans and answer their questions willingly – because mystery writers are a fabulous group of people.

Interesting. I’ve used the word “fabulous” twice in this post. Isn’t that a word famous people use?

Until next time, think about what you’d do if you were famous. Would fame be worth it? Have a fabulous week!

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to

Try One Adventure Too Many – A Sandi Webster Mystery. Who knows? Maybe that will turn out to be a breakout book and I’ll be on my way to fame. Uh huh.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Who Killed Tom Turkey?

Marja McGraw is taking the week off to celebrate Thanksgiving, so I’m stepping in and taking her place. My name is Mikey Cross and I’m ten years old. My mom and dad star in Marja’s Bogey Man Mysteries, and I go wherever they go. Today I’m going to tell you a mystery story. I hope you have fun with it.

~ * ~

My name is Mikey Cross. I’ve been called in to solve a case, along with my two trusty sidekicks, Sherlock and Watson. Oh, I should probably mention that they’re yellow Labrador Retrievers – a boy and a girl (Watson is the girl.)

Tom Turkey has been found dead by the side of the road. Four men are standing around the body, shaking their heads. There’s a board lying near the body. Sherlock and Watson are on the case, sniffing the turkey for clues. At least, that’s what I hope they’re doing.

The suspects in this case, as they stand around the body, are Farmer Joe (who owns a turkey farm), John (the butcher at the grocery store), Fred (who’s been raising a turkey for this year’s dinner), and Sam (who drank too much beer on his birthday and drove right into Farmer Joe’s turkey farm).

Looking to my right, I see another dead turkey, and beyond her is a third feathered body. Is there a serial killer on the loose? Why the heck would someone be murdering defenseless, senseless turkeys? Sherlock runs to the second turkey, and Watson doesn’t want to be left out, so she approaches the third one, to guard the body.

“Sit! And don’t touch the bodies or any evidence,” I yell. Sherlock sits, but he’s shaking like a leaf and staring at the turkey. Watson ignores me and begins sniffing the third bird.

I look at the four men and see they’re all smiling. Have they no hearts? I push my way past them. “Hmm. I see tire tracks on the turkey.” I look into the eyes of Sam, the beer drinker.

He drops his head and stammers. “Don’t look at me, sonny. I drove into the turkey farm. This bird is lying beside the road, not back at the farm.”

I walk over and check out the second turkey. “You poor thing,” I whisper. “Why would someone knock you off and leave your body here?” The turkey’s neck looks like it was broken. Another board lay by the body. “Looks like there’s a monster on the loose.” Sherlock looks at me, but quickly turns back to the dead hen.

Maybe a turkey farmer would break a turkey’s neck. I turn and walk back to the men, zeroing in on Farmer Joe. He has a guilty look on his face, but he shakes his head. “These aren’t my turkeys. You can’t blame this on me.”

“My turkeys are back at the store,” John-the-butcher says, smiling wickedly.

“And my turkey is safe and sound in the refrigerator at home,” says Fred, “just waiting to be stuffed.”

I cringe. What heartless buggers!

I take one more walk, ready to look at the third turkey. When I get close to the poor thing, I hear a feeble gobble gobble. Watson’s tail spins in a circle. Sadly, after one more gobble, the turkey is quiet. Once again, there’s a board lying by the body. The murder weapon? I sigh. How am I going to figure this case out?

Hearing a rumble, I look down the road and see a truck full of crates heading our way. It pulls to a stop right in front of the four men and I run back to see who it is. There’s a sign on the side of the truck that says, “Gimbal’s Turkey Ranch.”

I slap myself on the forehead. “Of course! A crate fell off the truck. One turkey was run over by a passing car. One landed on her head, breaking her neck. The third one? I don’t know what killed him, but at least he got one last gobble out.”

I turn to the men. “Men? You’re free to go. Have a good Thanksgiving.”

I whistle and Sherlock and Watson come running. Well, they don’t exactly run, and they keep turning back to look at the bodies. I hope that isn’t drool I see dripping from Sherlock’s mouth.


~ * ~

Happy Thanksgiving from Marja McGraw, Jill, Sugar, Murphy and Clementine!

Until next time, have a great Thanksgiving and try not to overeat.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to

Once again, let me mention One Adventure Too Many – A Sandi Webster Mystery. If you’re looking for something light and mysterious to read, this is it.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Mystery Music

My heartfelt thanks to all veterans, past and present. God bless you!

~ * ~

I turned on the local news on Saturday morning and heard a story that should pique the interest of most mystery writers. Imagine that.

The Delaware River runs between New Jersey and Delaware. For the last couple of weeks people have been hearing loud (lots of base) music. It starts in the early evening and ends around two or three o’clock in the morning. It’s equal opportunity music, meaning it’s rock, jazz, salsa, classical and who knows what else?
The people in both states hear it, and it sounds like it’s coming from the Delaware side of the river.

Needless to say, it’s driving people nuts and interfering with their sleep. There have been numerous complaints to the police about the noise, and yet no one has been able to determine where the music is coming from. Apparently the music suddenly stopped, but many people have said they’ve heard it occasionally over the past few months. It was only recently that it became a nightly event.

By the way, I don’t live in either state, but across the country. However, how could I, in good conscience, pass up sharing this story?

Would this inspire a mystery? Of course, it would. The story could take so many different directions.

Ghostly music trying to lead the authorities to a murder scene? Maybe someone is purposely trying to drive people nuts. It could be an elderly woman who can’t hear the music without the volume turned up. She could be a little crazy and she’s buried bodies in her basement over the years. Maybe someone is trying to make some kind of point.

If you presented the original scenario to seven hundred mystery writers, they could probably come up with at least five hundred ideas. (You have to draw the line somewhere. I figured five hundred was a good cutoff point.)

You could add something to the music. Maybe the music suddenly stops and a loud scream is heard from one side of the river to the other, and then the music starts in again, like nothing ever happened. Or a dog could howl soulfully.

Anything can inspire a good mystery, so why not music with a secret source? I kind of like the little old lady idea, although it reminds me a bit of “Arsenic and Old Lace,” which you should watch if you haven’t seen it – talk about crazy people and good laughs.

There’s always the possibility that some kids are playing a prank. What if that prank went awry?

Oh, here’s one. What if it turned out the music was coming from an old cemetery and the only music anyone heard was from a specific time period, like the 1880s or the 1920s? Since I don’t believe in ghosts, I’d have to come up with another idea for the source of the music. I know, plenty of people do believe in ghosts, so I’ll leave those story ideas to them.

If an individual decided to look for the source of the music, bear in mind that curiosity killed the cat, figuratively speaking.

I wish someone would take this news item and run with it. Create a good mystery. I’d probably read it.

Can you think of a good storyline with the music in mind?

Until next time, pay attention to any unusual stories you hear on the news. You might come up with a unique idea.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to

A Well-Kept Family Secret and Bubba’s Ghost are now available in audio format. Prudy’s Back! is in the works. Just thought I’d mention it.

If you’re looking for something light, you might give One Adventure Too Many a try. These are all Sandi Webster Mysteries.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Personal Choices

I’ve read a lot of traditionally published books that I thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve also read traditionally published books that, to me, were clunkers. The same thing applies to self-published books. Some good, some clunkers.

For years, self-publishing has been given a bad rap. It’s time for that to stop. I wish I had a way to change minds, but other than talking the talk, I don’t know how to do that. So for today I’ll do a little cheerleading.

I will say that I know a number of authors (including me) who had traditional publishers and decided to take a different path. You can relate it to someone changing jobs because they didn’t see eye-to-eye with their boss, or maybe they simply want to be their own boss. That’s the way of life sometimes.

I’ve started doing something different. When I read the book of an author who’s new to me, I find myself checking to see if they’re self-published or traditionally published. We all have different tastes, and you might rave about a book that I don’t care for, so the writing isn’t always the issue, nor is who published the work. In the end, I have to say I’ve read some books I truly enjoyed that were written by self-published authors. There were others that were well-written, but not to my taste.

You might complain that you’ve found typos in self-published books. Fair enough, but I’ve found typos in the books of well-known authors. It happens.

There’s another issue which many people wouldn’t think of, and that’s the fact that traditionally published authors have a publisher to promote their books. Self-published authors don’t have that luxury. Many of these authors can’t afford to hire a publicist, either. Thank heaven for social media.

Word-of-mouth is an important factor. If you read a self-published book that you truly enjoyed, tell your family and friends about it. Do a review for it. And try another book by that same author.

I once submitted a book to a traditional publisher and was told that since I’d self-published when I started writing, they’d never handle my work. I was told they’d never, ever publish a book written by a self-published author. When I started writing, I knew nothing about the process and a relative told me about this “new process” called self-publishing. What a cool idea! Wrong. It seemed to be the kiss of death. Years have gone by. It’s time to step up to the plate and try some new, self-published authors. If you don’t like the book you’ve chosen, try another author. It’s simple. With ebooks being so popular, you don’t have to spend a fortune on a book, either.

By the way, the book that the snooty publisher wouldn’t look at? I ended up finding a different publisher who was happy to work with me. I did okay. When I started self-publishing, I reissued the book and did better than okay. I’ll never be rich, but that’s okay. I’m not writing for the money. I’m writing in the hope of entertaining readers. So far, so good.

Patricia Gligor, Evelyn Cullet and F.M. (Marilyn) Meredith have self-published some books, and they’re all authors whose writing I enjoy. As time goes by, I’ll add names here and there, and if you find a self-published author you enjoy, by all means, spread the word.

It’s time to enjoy good books for what they are, no matter who they’re published by. Let’s get rid of the stigma attached to self-published books.

Okay, that’s my cheerleading effort for this week.

Until next time, try something new. Read a self-published book and see what you think. If one author doesn’t float your boat, try another.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to

Speaking of trying a self-published author, you might try One Adventure Too Many – A Sandi Webster Mystery. It might give you a chuckle while you try to figure out the mystery.

A Well-Kept Family Secret and Bubba's Ghost are both now available in audio format.