Norma Huss's Blog
August 15, 2014
This is really Kayla’s story. She’s the 15-year-old Sophomore who is tired of seeing things others don’t see. But when she faces the teenage ghost, it’s Kayla who disappears.
Where did she go? What’s with the year 1946? And why don’t her twenty-first century friends miss her? Who is taking her place?
Cherish (A YA Ghost Mystery) will be published September 1, 2014. If you can’t wait until then, read the first two chapters here.
Be prepared for a spooky read. Remember — Halloween is coming!
July 16, 2014
In September my YA ghost mystery, Cherish, will be published (before all my grandkids get too old to be interested in Halloween stories). I’m doing a cover reveal program on my Goodreads site. I’ll encouraging perspective readers (of all ages) to list Cherish as “want to read” by giving away a two-chapter PDF.
Here’s the back-cover blurb.
“Cherish can’t be my name. It doesn’t sound right. But who am I? I should have listened better in that mini-psych class in middle school. I’ve heard of bi-polar and multiple personalities. I think. Is this the way people go crazy?”
Kayla shouldn’t have taken that strange girl’s hand, because that’s when Everything Changed.
“And, wasn’t it the twenty-first century? What’s with the date, October 1946? That can’t be right.”
But, if SHE is Cherish, how about the date on that tombstone? If she doesn’t find a way back to her own body, and her own time.., Kayla will DIE in a few days.
Not on the cover, the elevator pitch for this mystery: How can Kayla return to own century after she finds herself in 1946 with only her cell phone and a couple of Twinkies?
Ghosts and Halloween — sound like a mystery you’d like to read?
I’ve heard of mother-daughter reads. This is a grandmother-granddaughter read. I know, as a grandmother, I continue to be amazed by everything people do with their cell phones. (And, believe me, I had a lot of younger generation help while writing about text-messaging — a big part of the mystery in this book.) Teens will be just as amazed by last century’s antique social media — the hard-wired telephone that isn’t going anywhere, or doing much of anything.
June 24, 2014
Vinnie Hansen, the very first guest I’ve had on this blog, is a retired high school English teacher who lives in Santa Cruz, California. From the story she tells me, it sounds like she and her husband, artist Daniel S. Friedman love to travel—and read.
In my family we have the expression “under-the-tree good.” It refers to a
hot South Dakota afternoon when my brother Frank mixed up some orange Kool-Aid for us, his three younger siblings. He put ice cubes in it. We sat in a shady spot in the tree line behind the house and drank the beverage from brightly colored aluminum cups. The four of us agreed this was the best Kool-Aid ever. Thus originated the standard of under-the-tree good.
How much difference really could there be in one batch of Kool-Aid vs. another? In truth, a confluence of elements—heat, shade, kindness, ice-cubes—conspired to create the sensation of under-the-tree good.
Externals can also shape our experience with a book. I recently read Cara Black’s Murder in the Latin Quarter while staying in the Latin Quarter. The book became a blue print for a scavenger hunt. My husband and I tracked down 61 rue Buffon, the scene of the crime. Across the street was the lovely Jardin des Plantes. Without the mystery, I may not have visited, although this garden is every bit as beautiful and worthy as Jardin du Luxembourg. But I had to go to the garden! Protagonist Aimée Leduc escaped through the grounds on her Vespa.
My husband and I walked up into the area where Hemingway lived and Verlaine wrote his poetry. At the Pantheon where Victor Hugo is interred, I looked about and thought, “This is where the second murder in the book takes place.”
Important scenes in the mystery involve inhabitants of the catacombs that run under Paris. My husband and I didn’t descend into these tunnels. However, on Pont de la Concorde, two men, clearly not city workers, popped up out of a manhole and crossed the bridge. I felt as though the book were coming alive in front of me! Even though Murder in the Latin Quarter is set in 1997, it is clear that people still haunt this underground world of Paris.
Even now as I finish the book at home, I follow Aimée along the streets of Paris. When she turns onto Rue Cujas, I think, “We were there!”
All this makes reading the book an under-the-tree good experience.
My own Carol Sabala mystery series is set in what author Laura Crum called a “faithfully rendered” Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is a tourist-destination beach town full of wonderful sights. Like Cara Black’s books, mine are set back in time, but many Santa Cruz landmarks have not changed. I love the idea of a Santa Cruz tourist picking up one of my mysteries, newly re-released from misterio press.
While reading Murder, Honey, maybe he or she will be inspired to eat a burger—meat or veggie—at Carpo’s. If the person is in town for our annual Open Studios in October, what fun to combine the trip with Art, Wine & Bullets set during the art event!
I would love to provide an under-the-tree-good experience.
Vinnie is in the process of updating her Carol Sabala mystery series for re-release by misterio press, while also working on the next installment in the series.
A Carol Sabala Murder Mystery
The strangled body of a gallery owner offers Carol an opportunity to cement her reputation as a private eye. Instead, the investigation turns into a nightmare during which Carol unravels much more than a murder case.
June 13, 2014
I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where the words “Amish” and “TV” don’t belong together. Many, possibly most Amish don’t even use electricity. We are befuddled about all this “Amish Mafia” stuff. We, especially me, only know about it from our local newspaper. In fact, today’s poll shows 80.9 % say “Yes, enough is enough.” But that doesn’t leave nearly twenty percent who want to watch it because 13.7 % say, “Honestly, I don’t watch this stuff and I don’t care either way.”
Okay, I’m getting the cart before the horse. What brought this subject up again? A couple of front-page articles in yesterday’s newspaper. One tells about another “reality” TV show being filmed right now, “Amish Haunting.” The other is the story of a local filmmaker who wants to combat those offensive Amish shows. (Follow the links to read their articles.)
The filmmaker, Mary Haverstick, calls it Amish-sploitation. She wonders what would happen if someone should produce such films about another religion, say, Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. Nope, they wouldn’t do that. They prefer to attack a religion that doesn’t believe in objecting to anything, or taking anyone to court.
Something I learned—all those shows are created and filmed by a production company called Hot Snakes Media. Besides “Amish Mafia” and the Haunting mentioned above, they have produced “Breaking Amish” and “Return to Amish.” Might sound like they specialize in Amish productions, but they also have others, among them “Elder Skelter” and “Naked Science.” One has to wonder about the brilliance of the TV audience.
June 8, 2014
A lovely June morning, clear and comfortably warm. Saturday was a perfect day for our planned outing. My husband and I drove to Smoketown Airport in Pennsylvania for breakfast. Why? We do it every year when they have the Fly-in, Cruise-in Pancake Breakfast. We eat breakfast then stroll around to see the antique automobiles and airplanes. We visit with our friends Jack and Shirley who have helped organize and run the event for years, and any of their children or grandchildren who might be there. (Three generations of flyers in that bunch.)
This year we didn’t have any of our grandchildren along to take a Young Eagles airplane ride. That’s part of the event—a free airplane ride and a Young Eagles certificate for all children ages eight through seventeen. A band plays while people wander and watch a parachuter jump from 3,000 feet. (Our friend Jack piloted the plane.)
All the airplanes and antique autos are spiffed up and gleaming. We saw a bright yellow street rod and another car from 1927. The airplanes included a couple of ultra-lights, a home-built ir two, and a 1929 Fairchild 71. It’s one of only seven still flying, and it sparkled. It has a long body for extra storage and wicker seats for four or five.
Since we saw the newspaper photographer taking pictures, I waited until Sunday to write this up so I could include a link to the airport fly-in article.
I know this blog is my mystery, history, and spook writings, and this is only history with a real stretch. But maybe it’s inspiration. Hmm. Do I want to write a mystery about a daring Nancy Drew type with her vintage auto solving crimes?
One thing I do want to add is the link to the interview I mentioned in my last blog post. (It’s now broken.) Now, here’s where to find my Coffee Chat with Ally Shields.
May 22, 2014
I’m visiting Ally Shields for coffee and a chat. She asks me questions while we sip. She wants to know all about my next mystery—a YA ghost story. And, of course, she wants a new fact added to my bio.
Visit Ally Shields blog to read about more than just me. She likes to interview writers on the paranormal side. Most interesting.
May 10, 2014
“Radium girls?” What does that mean, you ask. Think “glow in the dark.” Now cast your mind back to the 1920s. Okay, my mind doesn’t go back that far, and I imagine, neither does yours.
Let’s start from the beginning. I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, home of Hamilton Watch and in the past, another watch company. A local newspaper columnist, Jack Brubaker, has been following radium girls. He found several, one is 102 year-old Cora Bodkey. When she was fourteen, she worked for Hamilton Watch painting radium numbers on watches. They used pens instead of brushes and were warned not to put the pens in their mouths. Even then, in 1926, they knew that many women liked to point their brushes by mouth and some were getting sick. Other than that, they had no clue about radium, only that it glowed in the dark.
Eventually, watch companies switched to using tritium and the government began to strictly regulate its use, although it was less radioactive. One woman, who used a brush, remembers they tested her urine every week, and, although it was always high, nothing was ever done about it. Few locally knew about anyone being sick, but one remembered a woman who died of tongue cancer.
Radium girls were at work in other places before World War I. One always thinks of the world becoming more dangerous. But now, in 2014, we think of a person of fourteen as a child, and radium as definitely nothing to handle. Come to think of it, every time I read of the dangers of mercury poisoning, I remember the time, maybe I was fourteen, when one of us broke a thermometer. We had a lot of fun rolling those little gray dots around the floor in semi-liquid balls, pushing them with our fingers. Yep, mercury.
April 30, 2014
The last day of April, and the rain is pouring down. I’m trying to remember to sing the words to a song that was popular years ago — April Showers. I’m trying to remember that, according to the song, showers bring May flowers, but this isn’t showers. It’s a pound-through-the-umbrella downpour.
Okay, instead or looking forward to those flowers, I’m looking back to Aprils of past years.
Twenty-five years ago the Pennsylvania Super 7 lottery was at a then-record high $115,500,000 jackpot. Eventually, fourteen winners each received $317,524 per year for twenty-six years. They have one year more to go. (I don’t remember this story. I wasn’t into betting on the lottery.) I do remember the then-popular TV shows: “Alf” “Cheers,” McGyver,” and “Golden Girls.”
Fifty years ago the Ford Mustang made its debut locally, priced at $2,368. After sixty years in business, when the 91 year old owner retired, the Smithsonian accepted the fixtures of his pharmacy to create a “Gay ‘90s Apothecary” at the museum. Movies showing locally were: “The Horror at Party Beach,” The Curse of the Living Corpse,” Cleopatra,” and “Muscle Beach Party,” (at the drive-in with Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon). I probably didn’t see any of those movies. I was busy with a very young family of small children, and my husband was working three jobs.
Seventy-five years ago the local library got its very first bookmobile. Most of the county adopted Daylight Saving Time-but one town held out for regular time, however their banks and business opened an hour earlier to accommodate their customers. Popular radio shows were “Lum and Abner,” “Jack Armstrong” (the all-American boy-I do remember that one), “The Lone Ranger,” and “The Green Hornet.” These were all before I was married, so this was not my county. I definitely remember our bookmobile coming from Bellingham, Washington, and stopping at the bottom of the hill, after a thirty-mile trip.
Now, I have no personal memory of one hundred years ago. I’m old, but not that old. However, locally in mid-April it was Cleanup Week. Thousands of people including children painted, scrubbed, white-washed, and swept while wandering judges toured and awarded prizes. Another week some two hundred people attended an afternoon social honoring National Rally Day of the Suffragettes. The event began with singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Also during April, “The Last Days of Pompeii,” a silent moving picture was being shown — admission price ten cents.
March 22, 2014
Is spring ever coming?
Four years ago I was invited to post on the Working Stiffs blog on the last day of March. All month other writers had posting writing hints. What could I write? I looked my window and thought—inspiration!
What did I see? A popcorn tree. Well, it didn’t look like a popcorn tree just then, but it had earlier. I’d had to take a picture. You know it wasn’t ACTUALLY a popcorn tree. It was a tree with branches completely devoid of leaves, but snow had gathered in so many heavy clumps it reminded me of little popcorn balls. That day, I decided there had to be a story there somewhere! So, how could I use a popcorn tree? This is what I wrote…
I’ll go to my inspiration collection, writerly quotes I’ve collected over the years. My very favorite is one I’ve printed up and taped right over my computer. I glance at it every day, and try to do my best:
“That was the moment I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of the professional which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you are writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.” Agatha Christie
But today, I need more advice, something that gathers my notes and gives me direction. Perhaps this one:
“Keep a notebook, honey, and someday it will keep you.” Mae West
Sorry, not that one. (I could only wish!) Aha! How about the next quote?
“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” Voltaire
Oops, that does SO not go with Mae’s quote. But I have more quotes.
“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” F. Scott Fitzgerald
VERY useful when one is busy submitting that lovely manuscript to a multitude of agents, but does it help me today? I must dig deeper.
“Always remember, perseverance is as important as talent.” Dean Koontz
“The professional writer is the amateur who didn’t quit.” Richard Back
Yes, I am inspired. I can do it. Let me think a bit. How about a children’s story. Maybe a picture book manuscript. Except I’m a mystery writer. But are there picture book mysteries? Could be the first of a collection of “what-is-it?” pictures, you know, the close-up that doesn’t provide enough external clues to.… How about an adult mystery. It could make a good title: Dead Under The Popcorn Tree, or Murder By Popcorn. No, no, that’s really bad! How about.… Is that another quote I hear banging on my door?
“Don’t think! Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things; you simply must do them.” Ray Bradbury
There you go! And guess what? That’s the quote I’ll use. Just plunk a popcorn tree down on the website, and ramble (with quote collection in hand).
Have you ever seen a popcorn tree? How about some other strange and wonderful sight that inspired you? Did you find advice that really helped? I must admit, the first one I quoted here has helped me through many a session of writing that was not going particularly well. Do you have a favorite quote?
Yes, that was it. But the website, Working Stiffs is no longer active. But they have kept all the old posts active. There are a lot of good posts. Find mine here at Working Stiffs, then look for others.
March 9, 2014
The Smashwords Read an E-Book week is over, and what a great success. I wonder how many books were “sold” at free or half-price. Many copies of my two mysteries found new homes. I do hope everyone likes their new reads. (Perhaps you will post a review on Smashwords and elsewhere of the books you read—not just mine, but from any author. To me, that’s half the fun. Well, maybe a quarter of the fun.)
My new subject is the Amish Mafia. Is there such a thing as shown on a currently popular TV show? Well, I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where the show is set. From time to time our local newspaper follows up on that question. (Um, I’m thinking arrest records of the stars, comments by the Amish community, and a few other things.) I’ve got to tell you, the conclusion is the only thing “true” about the show is that it IS filmed in Lancaster County.
What do people in other parts of the world think about this? Follow this link to the Amish Mafia article, then tell me what you think. (I particularly like some of the comments made at the end of the article. I also remember seeing the previous articles that one can click to.)