Archive for November, 2010

We all know, of course, that genealogists make the best detectives!  And we know who the best fictional genealogist is, don’t we?  Here is the complete set of my Briggie and Alex books for you to choose a gift for that special someone (your mother-in-law?) for Christmas.  They are all available on Kindle as well.

I also have some exciting news and a contest!

Exciting News!

I have a new suspense novel, Foggy With a Chance of Murder, coming out in the spring, featuring a new sleuth, Chloe Greene, who looks like a sprite, writes suspense novels set in foreign places, and packs heat which she doesn’t hesitate to use when required.  Her mother is a Texas lady with an attitude.  Add a terrorist cell, an old love and a new one (who someone is trying to kill), and you have a dangerous recipe!

More exciting news!

At this moment, I am plotting with my cohorts a new Alex and Briggie Christmas novel for ’11!

A nice interview:


If you subscribe to this blog today, and leave me a comment telling me so, you will be able to enter the drawing for one of two copies of Hidden Branch, the fifth A & B adventure or a $20.00 gift certificate for Deseret Book.  If you win, You will get it in time for Christmas.  But you must act now!

Reminders of why you love Briggie:

Cankered Roots:

A split second later she heard the front door.  Whirling, Alex ran into the entryway and stared out into the night.  It was easy to see Briggie in the moonlight, her white Royals nightie, giving her the appearance of an overweight fairy as she sprinted across the lawn to her Bronco.  Another shape, this one rotund and not quite as fast, was lumbering down the driveway from the back of the house.

Briggie emerged, backside first, from the Bronco, her thirty-aught-six rifle in her hand.  Meanwhile, the rotund shape had made it into the street and was hustling across to what looked like an aged Pinto.

Her partner[Briggie] took aim, “Hands up!” she cried.

Ignoring her, the intruder opened the car door . . .

Hey!” she yelled, running across the lawn.  The car started.

Alex heard a shot.  There was a burst of fire by the back tire.  Another shot.  “Darn,” she exclaimed as the Pinto disappeared around the corner.

Of Deadly Descent

[Briggie upon being introduced to antique wonders of Oxford, England]

Well, Stewart [Alex’s dead first husband]what do you think?” she asked aloud.  “Is heaven as magnificent as Oxford?”

Of course, there was no one beside her in the bus but Briggie.  Clutching her duffle with unusual ferocity, Alex’s white-haired friend looked at her in reproach:  “in heaven they drive on the right side of the road.”

The picture of comic terror, her white, wiry hair on end from a night passed on a train, Briggie suddenly relaxed her hold on her bag to pat Alex’s knee.  “When I picture Stewart in the spirit world, I see him pacing.”

Look around you, Briggs! Have you ever seen any place like it?”

Gold flags glinted from the four corners of Magdalene Tower.  Though the November trees were bare, the landscape was far from stark with the college walls glowing their warm honey color in the morning light.

The bus swerved to avoid a bicyclist.

No.” Briggie answered shortly, renewing a death grip on her belongings.

Tangled Roots

[Briggie introducing Alex’s mother to what it means to be a genealogist]

“Oh my goodness,” her mother said.  “This is getting dangerous.  Do you think we should go ahead with it?”

It’s our business,” Briggie told her briskly.  “If it’s an inheritance deal, then something’s up with this genogram.  You say Gladys has the family Bible?” she asked Alex.


Maybe that will give us some kind of lead,” Briggie said, squinting to peer through the falling snow.  “Boy, this is getting interesting.”


Suddenly, behind her [Alex] she heard a commotion.  Everyone looked up.

The little maid was screeching as Charles and Briggie rounded the corner into the corridor.  Briggie took one look at the scene before her and raised her deer rifle, squinting into its sight.  “Hands up!” she commanded.  “Unless you want your ugly head stuffed and mounted on my living room wall.”

Poisoned Pedigree

[Alex, as she races to rescue Briggie from almost certain death]

How in the world could she bear losing Briggie?  Alex thought of her staunch freind, who had rescued her from her bottomless grief and abandonment in Scotland.  Stewart’s Scottish relatives had been so stoic and phlegmatic that Alex couldn’t pour out her grief to them.  The cold village kirk had offered no comfort.  There hadn’t been a body to mourn, or even a memorial service.  After she lost the baby, Alex had begun to waste away, not caring whether she lived or died.  One day Briggie had appeared at her bedside, and in her gruff American accent had told her she was related to Stewart.  Briggie invited her to get out of bed and try to help her prove it.  Since the, she had issued one challenge after another.  Come home to the States where you belong.  Come live with me in my house, and we’ll start a genealogy business together.  Go to my friend, Dr. Brace, and get some help for your depression.  Listen to the missionaries–they have a message that will give meaning to your life.  Go see your parents and make peace with them . . .

Hidden Branch

[Alex is just coming to from another head injury on the floor of a fugitive’s house, when she gets a frantic call on her cell phone]

Briggie’s voice said, “Alex, Leon and I are both in jail in Santa Ana.  Can you come and tell these stupid cops that I didn’t steal those coins and that I didn’t steal those coins and that [ can’t be a spoiler here] . . .”

How did you wind up in jail this time?” Alex asked, exasperated.

“Leon was chasing me in his car, and I ran a couple of lights.  We were both doing about sixty in a twenty-five zone.  We both got stopped.  I thought it was my lucky day.  I told them about Leon, but as soon as they called in, the cops fount out about my arrest the other night.  Leon was claiming I had stolen the coins.  But since I claimed he was a murderer and the FBI was after him, the cops decided to take both of us in.”

“Well, at least you’re safe in jail. . . “

That’s all from Briggie and Alex until next Christmas, which gives you plenty of time to catch up on anything you’ve missed (put it on your Amazon wish list), or introduce the indefatigable Briggie to your friends and relatives! (Click on book cover to order from Amazon)

Contest ends December 6.

[This will be the homepage for a new website scheduled to be up on November 8]

I am a writer. I knew this long before I knew that I was a PTSD survivor. When I began writing the book that came to be titled The Pieces of Paris, I was in the process of learning to write "from my bones." Until that time, many events in my life were contained under a virtual lead shield. My conscious mind sent them into some dark spot inside me that I did not visit.

However, good writers are required to be emotionally honest. I had cultivated a cheerful, passive disposition, but when I began to write this book, I found myself writing a story about a deeply concealed trauma in my own life—the death of my fiancé in Vietnam. For twenty years, I had been having frequent nightmares and waking flashbacks as my nervous system mourned this heartrending loss in its own way.

As I endeavored faithfully to follow my characters through lives so interwoven with my own, I had a life-changing experience. As I sat down at the computer on what I thought was an ordinary day, I was shocked at what spewed forth from some hidden well inside me. Anger! Such anger that I had never felt anything like it in my life. It was the scene where the young man, drafted to serve in Vietnam, turns suddenly vitriolic, venting his real fears and rage on his hapless fiancée. He tells her that he is going to die—that she must get away from him, not wait, and that he is unilaterally severing their bond. He warns that if she does not leave him, she will have to watch him drown himself in the river. I wrote with tears pouring down my cheeks. Tears I had never cried for my lost love who, turning into a brutal stranger before my eyes, claimed, exactly like my character, that he would die in Vietnam.

It didn’t happen exactly like that. My ex-fiancé would endure a three-year coma, during which time I held him like a child in my arms and rained kisses and tears upon him. We cried together, his face contorted in sorrow. By the time he died, I had been married only a matter of months. Fearing disloyalty to my husband, I had never allowed myself to grieve.

I knew nothing about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I had no idea that I was a ticking time bomb. From those moments of anger in front of the computer, my rage grew alarmingly. Too late, I became a Vietnam war protester, writing a livid novel that worked all those buried feelings out into the open. My natural grieving process had been stalled on the denial setting for twenty years. Now I experienced rage followed by soul-ripping anguish and despair. As happens to my heroine, Annalisse, my one-time fiancé stalked me. I could feel his presence. I could feel him watching everything I did. I came to believe, like Annalisse, that I was living life for the two of us.

Gradually, my feelings leveled out into normal sadness that continues to this day. It wasn’t for another ten years that I learned that in writing that novel (which I decided I could not publish) I had experienced what was called "PTSD."

But that was not to be the end. In my fifties, a bigger land mine inside me exploded with crying jags that seemed to have no trigger. They went on for months and would begin any time, any place for no discernible reason. Eventually, pain that had hidden under my lead shield from the time I was a child descended upon me with a ferocity that felt like crawling naked through broken glass. The full weight of every buried horror from childhood through adolescence visited me all at once. I held onto life by only a sliver of will. For twenty years, I had been living in a depressed state, but nothing like this had ever happened.

I know now, that there were angels in attendance who saved me. Living friends held me while I wept, and people from the other side of the veil of mortality intervened, carrying me along, sheltering me from self-harm until finally my rage and my pain were spent.

I said at the beginning that I was a survivor. But, I am more than that. I am victorious! Step by step, I felt my way to forgiveness of those who had caused my long-buried pain. I could not have done this without the understanding of a Savior (or as many would say, "a higher power") who stood as a perfect protector, friend, advocate, and mediator. As I became more devout in my understanding of Him and His plan, I began to make rational sense out of the world around me. My shield finally dropped away, and I learned for the first time to trust and to truly love. That shield that had kept pain in for so long, had also kept love out.

Once I felt that love and its honey-sweet healing power–from my Savior, my husband, my family, my dear friends–all I wanted to do was share it with the world. I had no desire so great as to heal people of the pain I had experienced. My tool was my pen (or my computer, to be more accurate).

Like I said, I am a writer. Tolstoy said that the task of real art is to carry the reader inside the author’s characters to such depth, that the reader will virtually experience everything the characters do. Recently, I realized that everything I have written is related to recovery from PTSD. My series of mysteries chronicles the recovery of a woman who was rejected by her parents and then lost her husband in a terrorist attack. ( )The Last Waltz: A Novel of Love and War, is a story of another heroine’s progress from a starry eyed debutante in the Vienna of 1913 through the hell of World War One and its aftermath. Although she had no control over history, she had control over her reaction to it. Changing from the inside out, she came to know and to express the deepest reaches of that love that redeems.(

Then it was time to do something about that ancient manuscript about the Vietnam War. It was old news by now. In the rewriting of it, to bring it into the present day with a more timely trauma, I found deeper meaning in the journey of my characters. I realized that my opening paragraph, written far before I understood it, characterized PTSD perfectly:

It was the simple things that undid her, Annalisse had discovered. Something as ordinary as the scent of lilacs when the air was heavy, a brief measure of Tchaikovsky, or a dream. A dream like the one she’d awakened from last night—so real she could smell the Paris Metro in it. Any of these things could revive in a moment the memories she’d spent the last six years burying. They crept under the leaden shield around her heart and found the small, secret place where she still had feeling.

In Pieces of Paris, Annalisse and Dennis’s trial of their marriage became, with my added understanding, an epic similar to the first chapters of Genesis. They learned, as we all must, that there is no Eden in this life. When Dennis decides to put such notions of perfectionism behind him, he chooses honest love, just as we all must if we are to find the joy mortality has to offer. Love redeems, love purifies, and love makes us fit for heaven.

And, after all that’s said and done, life’s very purpose is to shape us, using pain as a tool to enlarge our souls so that we can serve as we are served and love as we are loved.

Do not ever put your life’s journey on hold, or cut it short. The best times occur along the way, as you come to know the higher power, and how magnificent and all-changing that power can be. As you take it into your lives and do your best to emulate it, you will enter a sphere of peace in this troubled world.

I think T.S. Eliot said it better than I ever could: In order to get to where you are to where you are not, you must go through the way in which you are not.

Courage. You are not alone.