Monday, June 10, 2019

Not a Swan Song

I started my original blog in 2010, and I’ve blogged weekly since that time with few breaks. It’s time to take a rest. I may be back from time to time, but probably not often. It’s time to concentrate on writing and life in general.

I appreciate the comments people have left over the years and I hope some of my posts entertained the readers. Thank you for your support, and I hope my books continue to entertain you, too.

In the meantime, Prudy’s Back! – A Sandi Webster Mystery is now available in audio format.

People Lookin’ Half Dead– A Bogey Man Mystery is reading and waiting to be read. Imagine one of the hottest summers on record and homeless people with nowhere to go, and suddenly some of these people start disappearing. Chris and Pamela Cross, as usual, jump right in the middle of things, which the help of Chris’s newly arrived grandmother.

Until next time (whenever that might be), keep on reading and remember that Life is Good!

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
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Monday, June 3, 2019

Foot-in-Mouth Disease

 (I tried to find an image for Foot-in-Mouth Disease, but it just didn't work out.)

Sometimes we mean well but manage to do or say the wrong thing. I’m a frequent offender. No, this isn’t a confession and, yes, it does have to do with writing.

In real life we often receive unexpected results when we offer a compliment. Let’s say you run into an acquaintance at the grocery store and she’s got a new haircut. You say, “I love your new hair style. Cute dress, too.”

The acquaintance might have any number of reactions, including:

“Waddaya mean by that?
“I hate my hair and my dress doesn’t fit right. I hate my life. I hate everything.”
“Who invited you to join the Fashion Police?”

With any luck you might have caught her on a good day and she’ll say, “Why, thank you,” as she pats her hair and smooths out her dress.

Of course, sometimes we say things and for some unknown reason the words come out of our mouths sounding differently than we intended.

I might say, “Who the heck does your hair?” meaning, I like your new style and I want to make an appointment. Unfortunately, it sounded like, “Tell me who does your hair and I’ll avoid her at all costs.”

In the Sandi Webster series she has a partner (now husband) named Peter Goldberg. Pete is 100% Italian and not Jewish, but the story behind the name will be covered in a future book. Initially, Sandi made an appointment to meet with Pete at a restaurant because she needed help in her agency. When Pete stepped up to the table where Sandi was waiting and introduced himself, one of the first things she said was, “You certainly don’t look like a Goldberg.” Foot-in-Mouth Disease at its finest.

Unperturbed, Pete asked her what a Goldberg should look like. That was the beginning of a long partnership, friendship and romance.

I’ve lived an interesting life and have plenty of interesting stories. When someone tells me a story, I often find myself reminded of an event from my own life and tell said tale. No, I’m not trying to “one up” the other person – I just love telling stories. It’s one of the reasons I became a writer. It also doesn’t mean I’m a know-it-all. Again, I just enjoy telling stories.

How does all of this relate to writing? The story about Sandi and Pete meeting is a good example. People often say or do things without thinking first. It’s human nature – and it’s honest. Our fictional characters need to be honest, too. I’ve read books where the main characters were so perfect that I ended up putting the book down. They come across as super-human and one-dimensional. Let your characters step on a few toes. Sometimes in a mystery that’s what makes the other person blurt out information the protagonist wouldn’t have found out otherwise.

I’ve often put my foot in my mouth, and anyone who knows me can verify my affliction. I’ve been known to backpedal when my comment hadn’t been intended as offensive. I‘ve often offered unwanted advice, but I meant well. Just ask my daughter. No excuse, but that’s me. And sometimes it’s Sandi.

Chris Cross, from the Bogey Man series, often emulates Humphrey Bogart. I suppose he can be annoying, but if you’re going to mimic someone you might as well do it up right. His wife, Pamela, doesn’t seem to mind, and in his mind her opinion is the important one.

What all this boils down to is make your characters real. Let your readers relate to them. Let them have foot-in-mouth disease or let them be clumsy, but keep them down-to-earth. Just don’t make them obnoxious. There’s realistic, but there’s also the Ick Factor to be considered. Don’t overdo or exaggerate the realism with the exception of working toward humor.

Have you ever put your foot in your mouth? Have you ever been on the other side and taken offense when none was intended?

Until next time, relax and enjoy life. Sometimes a comment is just a comment and there’s no hidden agenda – unless you’re a fictional character and then all bets are off.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
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Summer’s on the way and so are heat waves. Check out People Lookin’ Half Dead – A Bogey Man Mystery and find out how Chris and Pamela Cross handle heat and missing people.

Prudy’s Back! – A Sandi Webster Mystery will soon be available as an audio book.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Standing in the Argonne Forest at the End of World War I - 1918

In June of 1918 my grandmother was in an industrial accident and lost her arm from just below the elbow. Not long after that, she married my grandfather. You might wonder why I’m telling you this. In honor of Memorial Day I’m going to share two letters with you that were written by a young soldier who was a pen pal of my grandmother. I thought about editing them because there are a couple of personal comments, but decided you might like to read them as written.

This young man was stationed in France, and I’m presenting you with his letters exactly as they were written – misspellings, commas, periods, no periods and all. These letters are a small piece of history, and I’m thrilled that my grandmother never threw anything away.

Thanks to one of these letters, for a brief moment I stood with a young soldier in the Argonne Forest on Armistice Day on November 11, 1918. Yes, this is Memorial Day, and I’m remembering those who served our country. David was one of them.

“November 12, 1918

Dear Dolly,

I received your letter yesterday and was very, very sorry to hear of your terrible misfortune. Peace articles were signed yesterday and hostilities ceased at eleven oclock. We are in the Argonne Forest on the ground that the Germans have just left and will be glad to get back out of the lines again where you can see a civilian. And hope to be on the way home soon. I consider myself very lucky to come out of this great war as well as I am. The guns were firing yesterday right up till two minutes to eleven. Last night we held a celebration of our own the air was ful of star shells and rockets and flares which the Germans left behind. It was like a fourth of July celebration.

Tonight it is the same when a star shell is up you can read a news paper by the light. Well I have had a touch of gas in fact several kinds, tear gas, sneezing gas, clorine and several kinds and been under shell fire a great bit and now it is all over and every soldier has a big smile on his face. I must congratulate you on your marriage and I hope you live happy and I wish you the best of luck. I must close now as it is getting late so I will close now.

As ever your friend

D.B. Gordon
Co.D 16th Engrs. Ry

Second Letter:

“Consenvoye, France
Dec, 7, 1918

Dear Dolly,

I received your letter today and was much pleased to hear from you. I am sorry that I have not any more pictures but if I ever get out of ‘No Mans Land’ and get back to civilization I will have some more taken. I expect to get a furlough in a few days as soon as the bunch now out get back. It must be rather dead at home with all the churches, Theaters and everything closed. Things are worse than that up here where we are all the towns and villiages are almost leveled and no civilians are back here yet. I would like to get back in the S.O.S.

The French Girls are very good looking and they are also very polite and friendly to us. If you see a French farmer Girl on Sunday when she is dressed up you would think she came right from Paris. And when you would see the same girl during the week working on the farm you would not recognize her. France is a very beautiful country and has a lovely climate similar to your state [Southern California] in some parts. We have had no snow here yet and it is quite warm during the day. Of course the rainy season is very disagreeable to us as we have to be out in it all the time. This part of the country that has been fought over there is nothing not a tree but what is dead and most of them broken and the ground is so full of shell holes that you cant go out after dark without falling in a couple of dozen of them and most of them are full of water. There is thousands of German helmets around here, we have one for a wash basin. I would like to bring lots of stuff home but I am afraid we wont be able to carry heavy junk such as helmets. I have lots of German buttons and decorations Well if I get my furlough I will send you some cards. I must close now as it is getting late

Your friend,


D.B. Gordon
Co D. 16th Engrs (Ry)

P.S. This is German stationary I am using that I picked up in a German hospital.”

My grandmother had several photos of military men, but I have no idea which one is David, so I’m not including a photo.

Until next time, I’m remembering military personnel throughout the years with admiration and appreciation.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
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Monday, May 20, 2019


From time to time we talk about life getting in the way of work, and that’s what’s been going on over the past couple of weeks. I caught the “Ick,” whatever that is, but things are getting back to normal. Sorry to have deserted you.

This week I’m here to talk about choices in books. We have hardcover books in both regular typeface and in large print. The same goes for some trade paperbacks and we have regular paperbacks. Of course, we have ebooks which seem to be pretty popular right now. I wonder what will come next. And, we also have audio books, which is my subject this week.

 A Well-Kept Family Secret and Bubba’s Ghost (both Sandi Webster Mysteries) are available in audio format now, and have been for a while. Coming up? Prudy’s Back!, another Sandi Webster Mystery. By the way, the reason there’s an exclamation point in the title is to indicate that it’s not about Prudy’s backside. It’s about her return. She was a private investigator back in the forties and fifties, and she wants Sandi to help her solve the unsolved case that meant the most to her. She just can’t let go of it.

After a narrator (in this case Viv Williams) puts the book in audio format, the author must proof the product. That means listening to the narration while reading along in the book. It’s time-consuming, but kind of a treat. Prudy’s Back! was released in 2009. After its release I moved on to other projects and didn’t give it much thought. Now that I’ve proofed the story, I remember how unique and how much fun it was to write. Sometimes looking back can be a good thing.

Prudy was based on a woman I met through someone my daughter worked with back in the day. Well, she was based on her in that she was a P.I. a long time ago. Her daughter remembered her wearing a long fur coat, cowgirl boots and smoking a long, black cigarette. When I spoke to the woman she laughed because other than the boots, her daughter’s memory was quite faulty. I liked the memory and presented Prudy as the daughter remembered her mother.

However, why would someone choose an audio book when so many other formats are available? Why would someone want to listen to Prudy? Many people like to listen to a story while they’re on a road trip and they certainly don’t want a story that will put them to sleep while driving. My mother-in-law had vision problems and she loved books. Audio stories made her day. I can think of several reasons to enjoy an audio book, like if you’re working out you can listen, but those of you who enjoy them already know why they’re your choice.

My husband and I used to listen to audio books while we traveled, and I have to make a confession. When the narrator was male, and he read female dialogue, it made me snicker. It was simply difficult to take a male voice trying to sound like a female too seriously. The reverse is true for female narrators. It’s a quirk of mine, and I can’t help it. However, I thought Viv Williams did a pretty good job of it with Prudy and the other characters, including the men.

So, if you’re looking for choices, you’ve got plenty in today’s market. I still prefer a paper book, but I find myself reading more ebooks simply because of the convenience (and the cost).

Prudy’s Back! should be released over the next two weeks. I’ll let you know when it’s available.

In the meantime, I’ve been lax about promoting my books and it’s time for that to change. I just need to come up with a new and unique idea. Yeah, like that’s gonna happen. I’m not sure there are any new ideas. Oh, well… Time will tell.

Until next time, give audio books a try. They make great gifts, too. Remember my mother-in-law. She might have had vision problems, but her hearing was fine.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
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Remember, People Lookin’ Half Dead – A Bogey Man Mystery is waiting for you. Think massive heat and homeless people disappearing.