Norma Huss's Blog

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!

Popcorn TreeWhat 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.

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Published on March 22, 2014 14:14 • 1 view

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.)

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Published on March 09, 2014 13:40 • 1 view

March 1, 2014

From March 2 through March 8, 2014, it’s Read an E-book Week at Smashwords. That means big discounts. Many books are on sale, including my two mysteries based in the Chesapeake Bay area.

Death of a Hot Chick and Yesterday’s Body are both free for the week. Find my Coupon Code here on my Smashwords site.

Death of a Hot Chick<br />A Cyd Denlinger Mystery
Yesterday's Body<br />A Jo Durbin Mystery


A young widow trying to survive…a ghost with an agenda…and a boat they share…

Violent death comes suddenly to Smith Harbor, the Chesapeake Bay fishing village with intertwined and lasting relationships.

Cyd Denlinger wants to forget her late, philandering husband, keep her family from running her life, and regain her commercial boat captain’s license. What she doesn’t want is to be involved with an old flame OR a ghost.

But the nagging ghost offers a trade that’s hard to resist.

“Find my killer!” she demands. In exchange, Cyd will own the boat Snapdragon. Easy for a ghost to offer something she can’t use. Not so easy to solve a murder with too much help from family and friends.

Not too safe either, especially when Cyd wonders: Was the killer’s target his victim or her boat?


Jo Durbin wasn’t under 40 or anorexic slim. So how did she get the job?

She wonders, will the police find her fingerprints on the murder weapon? And did one of those beautiful people she worked with kill Francine?

Or will they point to Jo — posing as a homeless bag lady?

“I very much like your voice. You project just the tone and attitude I love to read.”: Chris Roerden, Author of Agatha Award-winning Don’t Murder Your Mystery.

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Published on March 01, 2014 13:54 • 2 views

January 25, 2014

I found out two days late, that January 23rd was National Pie Day. Who knew? But that bit of information segues right into a subject I want to visit. Well, two subjects—pies and mothers. Make that four subjects. Add books and movies.

Last Sunday Parade Magazine included with our newspaper had an article about an upcoming movie called Labor Day. Both the picture (see below) and the subject and title of the article (Life of Pie) caught my attention. Of course, it’s about pie. Many years ago Joyce Maynard, author of the book of the same name, had spent the summer with her mother who was dying of cancer baking a pie nearly every day, while her mother’s friends visited. She’d rolled out the crust on wax paper, just as she’d learned from her mother. That summer inspired her to teach many others how to make pie. And baking pies inspired her to include a pie-making scene in her latest novel, Labor Day.

Pie and a pie-baking mother struck a cord with me. My mother loved to bake. We always had dessert of some sort, always homemade, usually cake or pie more often than cookies. We lived on a farm, so we had our own fruit and berries. I especially remember apple pies. After we children left home, my mother continued to bake pies. Since she had become diabetic, she’d bake a small sugar-free one for herself and another for my dad. Often she’d bake two and give one away. After my father died, Mom still baked. She couldn’t eat all the pies, so she gave them away. A neighbor stopped by? Have a pie. Any family activity? Bring two pies. A doctor appointment? Take a pie for the entire staff to share.

Although I don’t make many pies myself, I learned from my mother. She used a board instead of wax paper to roll out the dough. I use a cloth for my rolling surface. The author uses wax paper. But we all did one thing the same—use the absolute minimum of cold water when mixing the dough. Those memories inspire me to see the movie, and definitely to read the book, Labor Day, by Joyce Maynard. (In fact, due to the marvels of the internet and Kindle, I have it already, when a week ago I didn’t even know the book existed.)

Life of Pie-from Parade Magazine

Life of Pie-from Parade Magazine

The illustration with the article shows the author demonstrating her pie expertise to the movie’s stars, Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet. Josh plays an escaped convict who hides out in Kate’s house. He makes the pie in the movie. (Kate came to the demonstration as she wanted to learn how to bake pies too.) While they baked and ate three pies, author Joyce Maynard found a pie connection with actor Josh. His mother, who had died young, had also been a baker. I too found a connection with both of them—a mother who baked pies.

On Amazon’s page for Labor Day, I learned more about the book. It is told from the thirteen-year-old son’s point of view. More information about Joyce Maynard’s book can be found here. You can read the entire Parade article here, see a clearer picture, and even watch a video of Joyce Maynard making an apple pie. Incidently, the movie will open January 31. And, for a local humor column on the subject, click on National Pie Day.

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Published on January 25, 2014 13:23 • 10 views

January 14, 2014

I’ve been busy which is really not a good excuse. Everyone is busy this time of year—the holidays, visits, cooking, cleaning, bad colds—and I’ve had them all. Plus, I’ve been pouring over the proof of my new book and discovering lots of things that need to be changed. But I must take time out to write in my blog. And—I’ve found a good subject—the continuing realization that the more things change, the more they stay the same!

Every Monday our local newspaper has a column of old news taken from papers 25, 50, 75, and 100 years ago. Yes, our newspaper has been in business that long! (Well, the paper’s name has undergone a few name changes. It’s now a combination of the two previous ones put out by the same company.) Would you believe the local news 25 years ago was similar to one a fellow mystery writer based her first mystery on, and incidently, started my habit of clipping these columns? The author is Stacy Juba, and her book is Twenty-Five Years Ago Today. Her book centered around an unsolved murder. My local article tells of an unsolved disappearance of a 15-year old girl who left with a man “well known to her.” Foul play and her death were feared and she is still missing. Stacy, are you up for another plot? Or, since Stacy has several other books completely plotted and published, am I?

Not only was the 50-year-ago news of a huge snow storm with ultra-low temperatures one that I remember well, those ultra-low temperatures were repeated this year. Fortunately, the twelve-foot drifts weren’t. Of course, that affected the annual Pennsylvania Farm Show—both times. In fact, that happens so often, the frequent bad, cold weather for the same week is referred to as Farm Show Weather.

Now, 75 years ago the weather wasn’t really mentioned. That news was from 1939, a year still in the depression that started ten years earlier and wasn’t completely erased until the arms build-up to win World War II began after Pearl Harbor Day on December 7, 1941. Locally, 21 “relief chislers” had defrauded the government for a total of $1,408. One woman thought the government knew she had a job. Her husband was in jail and she had to walk ten miles to and from her job. Personally, I think I’d have let her keep the $100.10 she was overpaid. (There are certain facts in this story that remind me of today as well. Can you say “hard times for many?”)

Fortunately, the 100-years ago today story doesn’t remind me of current events. A man who owned the local store and ran the enclosed post office came down with “the dreaded” disease of small pox. Not only was his business establishment quarantined and closed, but his entire family was quarantined and two nearby schools were closed for two weeks.

Have you heard any old news lately that could have been said about yesterday as well? If my comments section is working, I’d love to hear it.

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Published on January 14, 2014 09:13 • 9 views

December 13, 2013

A welcoming door

A welcoming door

Thanksgiving is all about family around the fire, turkey with all the trimmings, blessings, falling leaves, and nippy weather, right? Not always. We visited our Florida daughter and grandchildren.

Florida Sunset

Florida Sunset

We visited the beach where our granddaughter took a fabulous sunset picture of her mother for her class. We ate lots. Daughter and I worked on formatting the final version of my new book. (More about that later.) And we dropped grandson off at college after his break and came home. Okay, he drove, but it was our car.

Yep, we came home, shortly to see a little more than nippy weather.

Early December Snow in Pennsylvania

Early December Snow in Pennsylvania

How was your Thanksgiving? Did you celebrate in the traditional manner?

Looks like the comment section is not working again. You may comment on the contact page. I’d love to hear from you!


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Published on December 13, 2013 09:04 • 12 views

October 2, 2013

It’s a common problem, at least for me. I make plans, schedule things — sure I’ll have no problem handling it all. Then what happens? I realize I have way more than I want to do.

Exercise. It’s very good for one, and absolutely essential for a writer who spends so much time in front of her computer. Therefore, two mornings a week I exercise with a class. Great fun, actually. Of course, even though it’s only a 45-minute class, it takes me the rest of the morning to actually feel like working. Yep, morning gone.

Two mornings gone out of a week? No problem. I can handle that two-week class on optimizing Goodreads for authors. Also, I can learn how to post to my mystery critique group all over again since we started using Google groups instead of Yahoo groups. (And, that course? Also on a new venue — more to learn.)

Oh, yeah, there’s a few other things. I’m counting down the time until my new YA is published. Working with the artist on the cover design now. And, hopefully those edits I’m doing on the sequel to Yesterday’s Body will be final edits.

Then there’s the article and the blog post I agreed to do. A month or two ago I spaced them out, too busy in August and September. Yep, due this month. Working on it, really I am.

Is there more? Uh-huh. Oldest grandson getting married. Then the following week youngest daughter and family having their annual, all-day fall party.

I’m sure there’s a book among those I’ve read that would absolutely fit this post. But, will I take an afternoon lulling through the shelves, picking the perfect read to recommend? Nope, sorry, not today. I’m over-scheduled as it is. I’ll have more time next week — make that next month.

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Published on October 02, 2013 19:12 • 20 views

September 20, 2013

This week I didn’t post my usual article. Instead, I visited Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers with a blog about a sailing trip my husband and I made in 1989. It was the first big trip we made on our sailboat. I called it Sailing the Dismal Swamp Canal to Hurricane Hugo.

ICW Trip - 1989

ICW Trip — 1989

To see this post, go to this blog site. Of course, with a title that includes a hurricane name, you might guess what we ran into.

We took many trips between that one and our last big trip some years later. By then we were too old to handle lines and dodge swinging booms. We had a power cruiser instead of a sail boat. For that last trip, we were a group of only two boats. I blogged about that last year for Dames of Dialogue. You can see it at their blog.

Death of a Hot Chick, the mystery mentioned in both blogs was inspired by my sailing trips. So too was my amateur sleuth, Cyd Denlinger. I blogged about how I chose her before I had a single book published. That is on Working Stuffs.

These blog posts, especially the last one I mention above, will give you an idea of how a writer’s mind works when she is crafting someone to solve her mysteries. Enjoy!

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Published on September 20, 2013 13:29 • 31 views

September 11, 2013

Seasonal? Not as in salt and pepper or onion flakes. Oh, no. As in, it must be fall because kids went back to school, despite the fact that fall does not officially arrive until later in September. So, since it IS fall, Halloween must be close behind. How do I know? My local grocery store has a full display of Halloween Tastykakes. Yum!

Definitely time for spooky thoughts. Ghosts, magic, and spooky paranormal mystery books. Yes!

One series of choice for the season is L. L. Bartlett’s Jeff Resnick series. Bartlett (under two other names) writes two of my favorite cozy mystery series, but this is more of a psychological thriller. Jeff has dreams, or visions, of murder. How spooky is that? The first in the series is Murder on the Mind. The newest one, Dark Waters, comes out on October 1, 2013.

Another favorite series is Sofie Kelly’s Magical Cats mystery series. Are those cats real, ghosts, or what? One that I read is Curiosity Thrilled The Cat. The newest one, Final Catcall, also comes out October 1, 2013.

Soon I hope to announce my newest mystery, a spooky young adult titled Cherish. There are ghosts, time travel, and Halloween involved in this one.

I keep trying to get comments active on this post. Maybe this time? Don’t know yet. However, comments will be open on my Goodreads blog tomorrow.

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Published on September 11, 2013 12:48 • 46 views

September 4, 2013

Remember when school started the Tuesday or Wednesday after Labor Day? Remember when you took the kids shopping for shoes the week before–so they wouldn’t outgrow their new footwear before school started? Remember when the kids scanned the school lunch menu and decided they preferred a bag lunch from home? And most of all — remember when there were no backpacks that weighed down your child’s young shoulders?

Okay, I’m old. Even my kids are old because they can remember it all as well. Now, their kids, that’s a different story. They have ipads and smart phones and computers, as well as books. They might take a class presented on the computer at home. They all return to school in August, some even early August. (Of course, they do get more or longer vacations during the year. That may be all to the good, actually.) I’ve even read about schools that decide the bag lunch isn’t adequate and throw it out. Ah, me. A group of us old ladies got together a couple of weeks ago and agreed that we wouldn’t want to be raising out children now.

But, of course, every old generation looks askance at the young upstarts. Everything is new, and they wouldn’t want it any other way. Look at the amazing things our children and grandchildren are learning–and doing. Even we old fogies are catching up with the times. And, for sure, if our youngsters kept to the twentieth century ways, they’d be completely lost in a year or two.

How lost would they be if they started the way I did? Maybe you learned to read from a Dick and Jane book too. I did, and, believe it or not, so did my oldest daughter. I was amazed when she brought her book home to show us. There it was. “See Dick run. See Jane run.” All year long she studied from that book, just as I did. And, at the end of the book and the end of the year came the story I loved. “Dark Pony.”

So, in honor of the past, the book I want to mention today is We Play (Read With Dick and Jane) It is even available! (There are others listed, but they are unavailable.)

I would ask you to add a comment, but that isn’t working. Don’t know why. Haven’t figured out how to fix it yet. Hopefully, next week my comments will be back. However, you can comment on my other pages — don’t know why that is either! You may also visit my website here. Love to see you.

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Published on September 04, 2013 17:15 • 25 views

Norma Huss's Blog

Norma Huss
The Grandma Moses of Mystery
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