Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2019

Car Horns

(Author's Note: I wrote this in 2005. I live in North Carolina now. One day I'll write about turn signals.) Photo by Jimmy Chan , via Pexels Let's pretend that you live in China. Let's also pretend that, unlike me, you own a car. A Volkswagen Santana, of course. Who do you honk the horn at? Well, you honk at everyone who's in your way, and who you think is in your way, and who you are passing, and who you think is trying to pass you. Every bicycle needs a honk in case the driver can't see you. Every pedestrian, most definitely, because they're not looking at anything except their feet as they float out in front of you, or the text messages they're sending on their cell phones. Every car does this, and the roads become a constant cacophony of car horns. The noise is such that everybody tunes it out in order to function, so the horns are pointless. Nobody is listening to the horns. Some of us wear MP3 players cranked up to full volume specificall

For the Love of Writing

My book Making History: how to remember, record, interpret, and share the events of your life , published in 2007, is full of great stories – some of them mine, and many others from people who shared theirs while attending my memoir-writing workshops. Here is one of my own stories, illustrating that we should never underestimate the power of our heroes. Ever since I can remember I wanted to be a writer. I wrote plays, poems, stories, and even a newsletter for my family, which I subjected them to every Sunday night at the dinner table during the year that I was nine. My mother kept some of my early efforts, and it is to her credit she was able to see anything impressive in them. One of the first stories I wrote was a thrilling epistle called “The Cow.” It featured a cow who broke out of its pasture and ran amok through a quiet suburban neighborhood, mooing and bellowing in rage while it knocked over cars and trash cans. It even ate pet cats, birds and small dogs. The cow was eve

What Do Romance Readers Really Want?

I enjoy reading romance novels, particularly those set in the Regency era. I got to thinking about why this is so and realized it was because of the societal norms portrayed in the stories. Yes, they're fantasies about what it would be like to be a Lady hotly pursued by a rakish Duke, or even an Earl, and finally be the one who tames his wild heart. But for me, it's more than that. In Regency romances, men treat women like ladies, and I find such courtesies sorely lacking in modern life. I was raised in the 50s when men still held doors for women, so a desire for those small bits of what I consider to be masculine grace is woven into my DNA. At that point in history, members of the male sex were not as yet fearful of excoriation from some nascent feminist more determined to stake out her own boundaries than to be grateful for a simple act of courtesy. Now when I reach a door at the same time as a man, I see the poor thing looking at me with terror-stricken eyes and feel sa

Love Is 365 Days a Year

February, the month of romance. Personally, setting a day aside in a month when lovers are supposed to acknowledge each other in romantic terms is silly. There, I said it. Bite me! My son thinks Hallmark is the smartest company on the planet. They have a poem for every day of the year (birthdays, you know) and now charge upwards of three or four dollars to say what a smart man can say in a few words. Let’s not forget florists and supermarkets who peddle their rose bouquets and planters. Oh, and add jewelry stores, because nothing beats a diamond to show how much you love the woman in your life. And it’s always the woman. How much advertising do you see for the man? Not much. Are we that conditioned? The point is, shouldn’t we show our affection to those we love daily? My husband didn’t like having certain days to buy me things. Granted, he was raised in a country where there is no Valentine’s Day, so it was never that important to him. He did buy me flowers and a card, and we somet

Romancing the What?

Do you remember the 1980s movie Romancing the Stone ? I never knew what that title meant, and am still not real sure, even after a bit of research. I checked the Cambridge Dictionary online and found “to tell stories that are not true, or to describe an event in a way that makes it sound better than it was.” So, I thought, my novels are romancing. That makes sense. The word for “novel” in French is “roman.” I’ve been romancing crime, romancing Illinois, romancing history… But romancing a stone? After reading the synopsis on Wikipedia , I conclude it was the filmmakers who were romancing the stone, an emerald. They told a fantastical tale about the good guys and the bad guys chasing after each other during the search for a great treasure. Do you have a better idea? Pat (Patricia) Stoltey is the author of four novels published by Five Star/Cengage : two amateur sleuth, one thriller that was a finalist for a Colorado Book Award in 2015, and the

Writing - Love it or Hate It

For February, this month of celebrating love in our personal and professional lives, I am taking a look at how love enters into my writing. Many writers I know have a love/hate relationship with this wacky world of writing, as do I. We love the process of writing when those great surges of creative urges give us words faster than our keyboards can keep up. We love it when we finish a scene and can smile and say, "Damn! That was a fun ride." We love getting positive feedback.  And we love the satisfaction of coming to The End of a story with that great sense of accomplishment. Photo courtesy of  On the other side of the coin, we hate marketing - at least some of us do. We hate feeling like we are butting our heads against a brick wall when it comes to submitting an article or a story or a book for publication. We hate the things that are out of our control, like the algorithms on Amazon that determine the standings of our books. We hate the fact that A

Writers Gotta Read, Right? Valentine's Day

Ah… Valentine's Day! Bring on the romance and the love, the chocolate, and the lacy, cutout paper hearts. Sooooo lovely! (By Chordboard - Self, from material in my possession., Public Domain, ] --> But I'm a mystery author, so I can't help but think of the "dark side" as well: The downside of love—jealousy, possessiveness, obsession.  The poisoned box of candy.  The scissors, sharp enough to cut paper, but maybe sharp enough for other, more deadly uses…  ... And now for the dark side. "Jealousy" by Edvard Munch, 1895 (Edvard Munch [Public domain]) Whether you prefer the light-hearted romance or the emotional ruin of this special day dedicated to lovers—or something in between—there's something for you to read as the following lists show… Let's start with some cozy-with-murder mysteries, provided by The Cozy Mystery List . Here's the latest list from the ever-

Is love dead?

February has long been associated with love, and Valentine's Day is celebrated in a number of countries, including the U.S., Mexico, Argentina, Britain, France, Australia, and Canada among others. Strangely, it's origins lie in the Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility rite involving the sacrificial killing of animals celebrated on February 15. The name was reportedly changed to St.Valentine's Day in the fifth century by Pope Gelasius I to honor Christian martyrs by the same name. Literary links to the ancient festival and modern celebrations include Shakespeare's Julius Caesar , which opens during the Lupercalia in Rome, and Chaucer's fourteenth-century work,  Parlement of Foules , written to celebrate romantic love and the first anniversary of King Richard II's engagement. He wrote, "For this was on seynt Volantynys day, Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make." ("For this was on St. Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh th