Shopping in Person During the Pandemic

Yesterday afternoon the day after Memorial Day, I ventured out to shop in person for only the second time in over two months. The crowd at the garden center plus the lack of social distancing and masks the first time made me cautious about doing it again.

So before I even got out of the car, I counted the number of other cars – fewer than ten – in the parking lot of the closest Ace Hardware. I pulled my mask up over my nose and spritzed my hands with the hand sanitizer Jess made from a few odds and ends she found in our hall cabinet early in the pandemic.

Once I was inside, an employee I recognized from previous visits greeted me and asked, “Need some help?” She wore a mask and a small sign on her shirt pocket that said in red Six Feet.

When I acknowledged that I did need help, she proceeded to guide me around the store where there were fewer than ten people including patrons and employees the whole time I was there.

She helped me find caulk for the front window of my house that I put plastic on last fall and a different kind of caulk to reseal the flashing on the roof. She handed the tubes to me instead of having me touch them.

She helped me find garden hose and a nozzle that’s easier for people with arthritis in their hands than the kind that you have to keep holding down to make them work. She put the hose and nozzle in my cart

She left on my own to go into the garden center to search for begonias, but checked me out again later after I’d passed through the line with six feet intervals marked off on the floor. The cashier stations had plastic panels to separate shoppers from cashiers. I paid by credit card. And soon I’d loaded my bags and plants in the back of the car, got in and spritzed my hands before I started the car.

I was on my way out before I spotted the display of discounted Memorial Day planters I hadn’t noticed when I came in because I was too busy counting cars. My hope that Ace would still have some was the reason I’d gone there in the first place, so I parked, chose three planters, paid for them, and again was on my way.

I did turn into the parking lot to a grocery store at the corner, but once I counted the thirtieth car, I said, “No way I’m going in there,” and left. My lessons for today, as the lock down restrictions lift and you venture out to shop, be smart and be careful.

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Mother’s Day Update from Juliet

Hi, Everybody!

Just wanted to touch base with you all today.

In the last week or so, I’ve followed this advice somebody gave on the opinion page of the K. C. Star as a way to fight the anxiety and depression of living through a pandemic: “Find something that brings you joy, and give yourself over to it.”

So I’ve gotten back into my writing and I’m really enjoying it though my plans on researching the weather for April 1901 for my book went sideways for a while because a couple of my favorite resources – the Kansas City Star archives and the Kansas City Library – said, “Oh we’re shut down right now so we can redo everything. It will be great when we come back.” Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . I need to know that stuff now. But I found another resource, so now I know generally at least what the weather was like on Easter in Kansas City a hundred and twenty years ago.

As you might be able to tell from the photo, my hair has gotten pretty shaggy. But I do have an appointment with my stylist the first Friday in June. And maybe until then I can trim up my bangs with my manicure scissors like Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone does from time to time.

And really, we’re doing pretty well staying at home. Oh sure, I miss seeing my Game Night friends in person and going to the show at Cinemark. I really like to grocery shop in person instead of hiring someone to do it second hand. I’d rather exercise with my friends at the center instead of doing it at home through a Facebook Live link. Still, even though we wear masks, have to stay six feet from our neighbors, and can’t pet their doggies, we can walk about the neighborhood pretty much as usual.

But best of all, Jess is on paid leave from her job so she’s sheltering in place with me here in our little blue house. I can’t tell you how grateful I am not to be doing this thing alone. Plus, Jess has gone really far in making this a wonderful Mother’s Day for me. She cleaned the house! She baked peanut butter cookies! She gave me a pretty new top and fun jammies. She’s fixing breakfast for dinner tonight. We hug each other whenever we like.

How are you all doing?

Best, Juliet

Novel Basics Cards # 18 & 19

Novel Basics Card # 18
The Reader Card

The Reader Card asks the question,
“Who will read my novel?”

By now, you probably have a fairly good idea of who will want to read your novel. For one thing, chances are good that your target or ideal reader reads the same sorts of novels as you do, and lots of them, too.

Try to get specific in identifying your ideal reader. For instance, if she reads women’s fiction, does she prefer cozy mysteries with women sleuths? Are the sleuths amateurs or police officers? Or does your ideal reader love romance novels? Must those books be wholesome and clean, with maybe a shy kiss at the end? Or does your reader relish erotica with lots of heavy breathing?

Is your ideal reader a male who enjoys a blood and guts, action-packed thriller with some very specific sex scenes?

As like as not, your ideal reader is the same gender as your protagonist and a similar age as well because it’s customary in publishing that the reader is about the same age as the protagonist of a novel. (In Young Adult fiction, the protagonist might be a bit older than the reader in order to serve as a role model.)

Long ago I had the fantasy that someday I’d write the book that everybody reads the year it comes out. I haven’t written that novel yet. But Suzanne Collins might have come close with The Hunger Games. A friend’s twelve-year-old granddaughter read those books and so have I, many decades older. Some of my contemporaries have read every one of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.

Speaking of that writer, Rowling has written and published four novels in the Cormoran Strike series so different from the Harry Potter series that she uses the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith. The target readers for those two series are very different and their expectations quite different as well.

Next we’ll talk a bit more about the reader as we discuss Card # 19.

Novel Basics Card # 19
The Intention Card
(Card # 19 is probably my favorite card from my entire pack.)

The Intention Card asks the question,
“How will my novel affect the reader?”

The novel is a tool of infinite possibilities, a sort of Swiss Army knife with a million blades. That’s one of the reasons I read. When I pluck a novel off the new mysteries shelf at the library and bring it home, I’m filled with hope that this novel will surprise me. Maybe the author will say something new or at least in a different way: tease me, thrill me, move me to laughter and to tears in the same book, make me think about the human experience in some new way, expand my life, or simply help me escape my troubling or mundane world for a few hours.

Note: our local libraries are all shut down right now. Yours probably is, too. But many still offer new books through Overdrive that you can check out and read on your tablet.

At this point, I’ll circle back to my brief history of plot by mentioning that Aristotle said the purpose of a tragedy is catharsis, to purge the audience with pity and fear by seeing a man fall from grace through his own hubris.

As for me, I believe that laughter is the best medicine for whatever ails you in life, so I like to make people laugh or at least smile when they read my novels and stories. And I give my stories happy endings.

So what’s the primary intention of your novel? Do you want to entertain your reader by scaring the heck out of him with your horror fiction? Do you want to make her feel sexy with your erotic romance? Or do you want to create a puzzle in a cozy mystery for your reader to figure out? Maybe you want to move your reader to empathize with other people who have survived great adversity, to understand some truth or theme about the human condition from someone else’s suffering that your reader can experience vicariously.

In addition, one of the best things about the novel is its ability to say something worthwhile. So give at least a tentative answer to the question the Intention Card asks.

We have one last card. And then your personalized Novel Basics pack will be complete. Join me next time to discover the identity of Card # 20.

Novel Basics Card # 16

Novel Basics Card # 16

The Subplot Card

The subplot card asks the question,

“What else happens in my novel?”

The novel is a huge beast and needs a lot of plot to reach the minimum required 40,000 words that will go into it. One way a writer often finds those words is with subplots. (Please note that the subplot card, like the wall card, might be a placeholder.)

Indeed, though the publishing industry is always changing, it’s still fairly common advice in publishing that if an author wants a career, she will write a series or trilogy on the theory that the more you write the more you sell. And while the reader expects the major “who wants what?” plot to be resolved in each novel, the subplots and the continuing characters in the series often serve to pull the reader from one novel to the next.

Exactly what the subplot contains depends in part on the genre of the novel. For example, in romantic suspense, the love relationship provides the main plot line and the mystery/suspense provides the subplot with lots of fun interferences with the main plot in play. If you’re writing a mystery novel, you’ll flip that with the mystery plot primary and a romantic subplot secondary.

Many writers, no matter the genre of the novel, might introduce the protagonist’s family and/or friends into the novels to pull the readers from book to book. Will Stephanie Plum favor Ranger or Morelli this time? the fans of Janet Evanovich’s very popular and long-lasting series wonder. They also wonder about the goings-on of Stephanie’s family, especially the outrageous Grandma Mazur.

Each novel in my Calendar Mystery series has its own murder mystery, resolved by the end of the book. But each might also have two or three subplots that carry over from book to book. January Jinx, the first in my calendar mystery series, has three subplots: Minty Wilcox’s goal of getting a suitable job for a woman in Kansas City around 1900, the romantic subplot with Daniel Price, and Minty’s on-going relationships with her family members. Also, Fatal February, the second novel in the series, has an additional mystery subplot besides the major plot line. Mischief in March, the third novel, has a romantic subplot that features two long time supporting characters in the series.

If you look closely at the picture of Card #16, you’ll notice that the subplot has its own plot line. Very typically, the subplot begins after the major plot is in place at the start of the book. The subplot might end pretty much before the second set-up scene, or it might end in the dénouement. Some authors put a cliffhanger related to a subplot on the last page of one novel to hook the readers into anticipating the next one. For example, I put a cliffhanger at the end of Mischief in March setting up a new mystery plot that I later resolved in a short story.

I’d be wary of doing that however. Some readers deeply resent that sort of ending. And it also put me in a bit of a pickle of how to resolve the issue for my readers in a timely manner. Ultimately, I wrote and published the short story called “Detectives’ Honeymoon,” later included in Old Time Stories, Book 4 of my Calendar Mystery series and also in the boxed set of the first three novels plus that story.

The boxed set, nearly 1,000 pages of historical mystery fiction, is now available for only $8.99 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07QDKF413

Next will come Card # 17.

Novel Basics Cards # 14 & 15

Card # 14, the First Set-up Scene Card asks the question,

“What leads to Act 2 of my novel?”

Near the end of Act 1 of your novel, after you’ve hooked your reader with the beginning scene and shown your protagonist and her world, you need a scene in which the protagonist commits to the action required in the book. Syd Field called it Plot Point 1 of a movie script and other authors have used the same term for the novel. But I prefer the term set-up since that’s what this scene does. Specifically, the first set-up scene sets up the action that follows in Act 2 in which the heroine confronts the problem and tries to resolve the situation by jumping the hurdles in her way.

It’s like the moment in a boxing match–after the fighter you favor has strutted into the ring, likewise his opponent–when the bell rings and one of boxers throws the first punch, thus setting the tone and character of the match. Or the tennis player puts the ball into play. The private eye might have signed the contract earlier, but now he emotionally commits to it.

In a romance, the heroine and her love interest, having met cute in Act 1, decide to try to make a go of it somehow.

In fantasy, the first set up happens when the hero accepts the call to adventure and sets off on his epic adventure through Middle Earth or goes off to Hogwarts for his first year of wizardry school.

In Theresa Hupp’s historical Western novels Lead Me Home and Forever Mine, the characters begin their journey on the Oregon Trail in the first set-up scene.

And now let’s move on to another pivotal part of your novel, the Second Set up Scene.

The Second Set-up Scene Card asks the question,

“How leads to Act 3 of my novel?”

Similar to the first set-up scene, the second set-up scene, more commonly called Plot Point 2, sets up Act 3 of the novel. That is, it sets up the climactic scene of the novel, the most intense scene of the novel, and also the aftermath of the climax, the dénouement. In the second set-up scene, for example, the hero prepares to make one more attempt to defeat the villain, or the antagonist throws one last, truly daunting challenge in the hero’s way. The protagonist girds her loins, or the villain musters his troops.

In Western fiction, the sheriff sets off to meet the swaggering bad guys in the middle of the street of the little cow town.

In romantic fiction, the hero prepares one last attempt to woo and win the gal he loves.

One of my all time favorite second set-up scenes in crime fiction appears in Dick Francis’s debut novel, Odds Against. Sid Halley, already handicapped with a missing hand, wakes up strapped to a boiler about to explode. Oh boy, you say to yourself, Will Sid get out of there in time to avoid dying? How will he do it? If he gets free, does he go after the bad guy and catch him? No spoilers from me. You have to read this great novel for yourself to find out.

Don’t worry if you don’t have much of an idea for this scene when you initially make out your cards. It will come.

Next time we’ll move on to one more plot card.

 

Novel Basics Cards # 12 & 13

Novel Basics: Card # 12
The Climax Card

The Climax Scene Card asks the question,
“What’s the high point of my novel’s plot?”

Back when I taught Creative Writing at one of America’s top community colleges, often as I introduced the topic of the moment of the highest intensity of your plot, the part of your plot that the entire book has led up to, some young male would snicker as he leaned over to the young female he wanted to impress and make some remark about climaxes that he figured that I wouldn’t understand because as a professor I was just too naïve about all such subjects.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s what it’s usually called, kiddo. Get over it,” I didn’t have time to say.

At any rate, the climax scene, aka the crisis and the catastrophe, can and often does show the do-or-die moment. It’s the highest point on the inverted check mark. Perhaps it involves the final confrontation between the protagonist and antagonist. Christopher Vogler in The Writer’s Journey, his excellent book on mythic structure for fiction and scriptwriters, calls this scene “the ultimate ordeal.” In a coming-of-age novel or a novel of ideas, the strongest, most powerful and intense scene may be when the protagonist has an epiphany about himself or life itself.

Traditionally, the climactic scene brings about a change in the protagonist’s fate, for better–he gets the girl and lives happily ever after with her–or for worse–he dies.

It’s the point in the novel when the protagonist finally resolves the problem of the book or dies trying, when Captain Ahab, for instance, finally confronts the whale in Moby Dick and dies.

In a western, it might be the shoot-out between the sheriff and the leader of the robber gang. In a traditional British murder mystery, it’s the scene in the library when the detective reveals the identity of the killer. In a romance, the lovers resolve their differences at last. In a coming-of-age novel, it might be the scene in which the protagonist finally discovers the truth about her father or his mother. In Stephen King’s psychological horror thriller Misery, Paul Sheldon finally vanquishes his number one fan, the cruel nurse Annie Wilkes.

Sometimes the climax might be a fairly intimate scene, with just the villain and the hero duking it out in the dark. Many mysteries have this sort of pivotal scene, but some novels have much larger climactic scenes with whole armies facing each other on the battlefield. I’ve grown to admire the climactic scenes in the cozy mysteries of Nancy Martin and the romantic adventures of Janet Evanovich for the way both authors bring together every major character in a dramatic, yet comic scene that resolves the mystery at last.

An important tip: avoid letting another character rescue the protagonist at the climax, a fairly common mistake for beginners. In a good, solid plot, the protagonist’s lover can’t come riding up on a white horse, fell the villain, and cut the ropes that tie the damsel to the railroad track. If the damsel is the protagonist, she has to do all of that herself and have the villain’s neck under her dainty foot when the lover rides up on his white horse, slightly too late.

So at least tentatively figure out which of the obstacles the hero confronts is the most intense, the do-or-die moment for your book to describe briefly on your Climax Scene Card. Now let’s move on to another major scene of your novel.

Novel Basics: Card # 13
The Midpoint Scene

The Midpoint Scene Card asks the question,
“What happens halfway through my novel?”

About midway through your novel, you will need a scene in which the plot takes a surprising turn of events or shifts in a new direction. The midpoint scene is very important structurally for your novel. For one thing, if you have a strong midpoint scene, your novel will not sag in the middle, a flaw I’ve heard at least one successfully published novelist complain about.

The midpoint scene is sometimes called the rug pulling because things seem to have been going well for the protagonist, but now something happens that changes everything for him, so he might have to start over again or almost. (The middle point of a W is a really good way of representing this part of a novel.)

For example, after a great struggle involving many challenges, the lone mountain climber grabs a loose rock and falls into a crevasse and breaks her leg. Oh gosh, the reader says. Will she get out of there? And how? Will she make it to the top? (FYI: she can’t get rescued here either.)

In her Adam Dalgliesh novel Original Sin, P. D. James waits until midpoint for the murder to occur after we’ve gotten to know all the characters including the detectives, the suspects and the victim.

In a romance, the guy and the gal get to know each other or at least try to in the first part of Act 2, but about halfway through Act 2 they have a misunderstanding or a falling out. For example, around the middle of Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth Bennet for all the wrong reasons and quite rightly she refuses him.

The midpoint doesn’t necessarily have to be negative. Perhaps in the first half of the book, your heroine has overcome some of her initial obstacles to achieving her goal of getting the guy. And now, strengthened by surmounting earlier obstacles, she’s gained the ability to confront the more challenging obstacles to come in the second half of the novel.

In her excellent book How to Write Killer Fiction, Carolyn Wheat says that in the first half of Act 2 of a mystery we have the first detection. In this section typically the detective is on the false track or the bumbling police detective gets it all wrong. But at midpoint something happens that leads to the second detection and the correct solution. The detective’s prime suspect turns up dead, for instance. Or Miss Marple takes over the investigation.

In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen receives her first gift from her sponsor on page 188 of the 374-page novel.

Next time, we’ll consider two last major scenes you need to figure out as you’re brainstorming your novel.

 

Novel Basics: Cards # 10 and # 11

Novel Basics: Card # 10
The First Scene Card (aka the Hook)

The First Scene Card asks the question,
“How will my novel start?”

Entire books have been written on the importance of the start of your novel. I won’t list any of these books here. But I will say that, above all else, the first scene of a novel must be compelling. It needs to pull your reader into your story, so it’s often called a hook. It also usually introduces the protagonist. Your protagonist, what she wants, her world, just what sort of a person she is, and something of her backstory are the basic subjects for Act 1 of your novel. That’s a lot for you to figure out before you decide where your book starts.

You probably won’t want to start with your protagonist’s birth, Dickens’ masterfully written David Copperfield to the contrary.

Bernard Cornwell begins The Last Kingdom, the first book in his epic Warrior Chronicle series, by telling us that the book (and series) protagonist Uhtred wants back his ancestral lands stolen from him. And then at the bottom of page one, we move right into Uhtred’s account of the day in 866 when his life changed, that is, when he first saw the Danes invading England.

Many beginning writers start with the protagonist waking up in the morning and then take him through the ordinary routine of shower, sh*t and shave. (Actually, I’m quoting from a student’s story.) Believe me. This has been done before, and it hardly ever works. Really you want to start your novel on a day when something different happens.

Now, I realize that the opening to your book might be very vague to you or even absolutely wrong when you first make out this card. In his memoirs Seldom Disappointed Tony Hillerman talks about the drawer he had full of first chapters, that is, false starts to some of his Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn mysteries. (Wonderful series, one of my all time favorites.)

So for now at least, think of a day in the life of your protagonist when something out of the routine happens or recently happened or that protagonist finds out about. It’s not a business-as-usual moment. It’s the start of something different. Uhtred’s life changes completely when the Vikings arrive in his world.

Think about the start of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, on what was decidedly not an ordinary day. Mr. Dursley sees a cat reading a map and several men wearing brightly colored cloaks. Owls are sighted flying in daylight all over the country. What is going on? Dursley wonders, and so do Rowling’s readers.

Often it’s when the character appears who gets the plot car going. In walks this dame of noir mystery fiction, for instance. The wizard Gandalf arrives in the little Hobbit town to fetch Bilbo Baggins off on an adventure.

Some novels start in medias res, that is, in the middle of things. A crime novel might start with the discovery of the body, for instance, another extraordinary event even for cops.

Card # 11: The Last Scene

The Last Scene Card asks the question,

“How will my novel end?”

By now, you shouldn’t be too surprised that the second scene card you complete gives the answer to the question on the Heart Card for your novel, the answer that you put on the back of your Outcome Card. But here, you can expand on it a bit to include the following options.

Yes, and furthermore . . .

Yes, but . . .

No, and furthermore . . .

No, but . . .

Yes, Cinderella gets her Prince Charming, and furthermore they live happily ever after.

No, Gatsby doesn’t get Daisy and furthermore he’s murdered. But Nick considers him worth more than a whole lot of other people including Daisy Buchanan that Gatsby tried so hard to woo and win.

Because I don’t like to use spoilers when I’m writing about the novels you might read, I’ll make some of my examples for the last scene fairly generic.

In Westerns, the hero, having vanquished the villain in a shoot-out and leaving the girl behind, rides off into the sunset.

In categorical romance novels, the girl and boy might ride off together in the sunset on the same horse.

In epic fantasy, the dragon slain and the treasure retrieved, the hero and his buddies celebrate in a victory feast.

Nick Carraway packs his bags, sells his car, prepares to go back home to the Midwest on the train, and reflects upon the lesson he learned from Gatsby.

In the last scene of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the protagonist decides that he’s had a fairly decent day, almost a happy one, one of the 3,653 days in his ten-year stretch in the prison camp, the three extra days being for leap years.

January Jinx, the first book in my Calendar Mystery series, has a yes, but ending. The novel starts with Minty Wilcox on her way to seek employment as a “business girl,” that is, a typist/stenographer, in Kansas City, a place that could downright deadly in 1899. Does she get that job? Okay, I’ll reveal that yes she does. (And furthermore, she meets this really good-looking gent.) But . . . That’s all you get.

Traditionally called the dénouement or unraveling or untying or the clearing up of your plot, the last scene of your book presents the aftermath of the next scene we’ll work on. The last scene ties up any remaining loose ends in the plot, and as is sometimes the case in series fiction, possibly sets up the next book. Do note that sometimes readers complain bitterly about a cliffhanger at the end of a novel, even if you’ve tied up the main plot, but especially if you don’t, so really I can’t advise it.

Popcorn!

Friends, do you find yourself missing popcorn now that movie theaters have gone dark? Pine no more. Using this very simple recipe from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating, you can have this fragrant treat whenever you like.

You’ll need a brown paper lunch bag (the kind you’re not sending your kids or grandkids to school with right now), vegetable oil (I prefer canola) and popcorn. Bittman says it should be fresh. Mine wasn’t, but it still worked, just not so much popped as it did when it was fresh. Also Bittman says you need salt. At our house, we watch our salt intake with great care and prefer to add it sparingly after the popcorn has popped.

Okay, put 2 teaspoons of oil in the bag and add a quarter cup of popcorn. Fold the bag over twice and crimp firmly. Shake the bag to mix the corn with the oil.

Put the bag in the microwave. (Tip: I put the bag on a paper towel to keep the glass carousel from getting greasy.) Our current microwave has a popcorn setting that works to perfection. If yours doesn’t, set it on high and pop the corn for two minutes to three minutes depending on the power of your microwave. With our old microwave, closer to two minutes was best because you really don’t want to burn your popcorn. (Tip from Bittman: stop the microwave when the pops are four seconds apart.) Take the bag out promptly and empty it into a bowl. Bittman makes some suggestions for what you might add besides salt. We’re cheese freaks at our house, so we sometimes put Parmesan on our popcorn. But mostly we eat it plain with a little salt.

Enjoy!

Fun in Old K.C. only 99 Cents

As their wedding day fast approaches, Minty Wilcox has some questions about her fiancé Daniel Price. Did he really kill someone? Why has he never told her he’s rich? And for goodness’ sake, where will they go on their honeymoon?

 

From Minty’s journal . . .

But back to my story of naming the Irish setter puppy that Papa has given us as a wedding present . . . My fiancé, the outrageous Daniel Price, the man that I am to marry in less than a week, told me in no uncertain terms that the dog must be named Butch! I suppose he was just teasing, but still . . . Butch?

Even Papa said, “Why, Daniel, giving this sweet girl pup a thug’s name doesn’t bode well for when you two start giving Laura and me grandchildren.”

(That reminded me of possibly being called “Mrs. Elmer Horace Frankenfurter-Engishdeiler” that at one point Daniel said was his real name, so I giggled a bit over it.)

After Papa said that, Daniel backed down and said, “Well, let me think about it then.”

He does seem to like the pup very much. After he half scared the poor little thing to death with his clown’s wig and white face, he took off the wig, went upstairs to the bathroom and washed up. When he came down again, he looked fairly normal except for the bruise around his left eye.

Speaking of that, my brother Kit said, “Will you have a black eye for your wedding day?”

“I might,” Daniel said . . .

Mischief in March is Book 3 of the Calendar Mystery series that tells the story of Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price from newly met to newly wed and beyond a hundred years or so ago, when life in Kansas City could get downright deadly.

For a short time only, Mischief in March is $0.99 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XR1STRN and £0.99 at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XR1STRN
(And it’s always free on Kindle Unlimited.)

Free Fun Short Story

“Stop! Thief!” a woman screamed. Across the lobby, outside the New England National Bank stood a stooped woman in black and a raggedy little boy. The woman pointed to a fellow running up the stairs and shouted, “Come back here with my purse.” Then, seeming to notice Minty and Daniel for the first time, she said, “That man took my purse!”

“Hold this, darling girl,” Daniel said.

Minty took the shopping bag fragrant with the lunch they’d just purchased from the deli down the street and clutched it to her chest as Daniel sprinted off past the elevators.

After that, in quick succession, the boy who’d opened the doors for them whistled sharply and shouted, “Let’s get out of here, Mick!”

The little kid turned away from the screaming old lady and limped up to Minty. “Please, ma’am, could you spare a nickel?” he said. “I ain’t eat nothing yet today.” He gazed up at Minty with heart-breaking blue eyes.

“No time for that now, Mick,” said the boy who’d held the door for Minty and Daniel. He snatched the shopping bag out of Minty’s hand and pushed past her to the door.

“Hey!” Minty said. “Give that—“

In their first case together as a detective couple, newly engaged Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price pursue a gang of thieves plaguing Kansas City in February 1900. Distractions include the objections of their boss to any show at all of their affection for each other inside the office and out and Minty’s wayward thoughts about the secret married couples keep to themselves. Join the fun, mystery and romance of this Calendar Mystery short story that takes place between the events of Fatal February and Mischief in March. And along the way meet the son of a famous outlaw.

Praise for “The 9th Street Gang”
If you wish for something pleasant to get your mind off the lately awful news, delve yourself into the story of three little hoodlums that steal this story from the endearing main characters and enjoy the tidbits of Kansas City history. Amazon Reviewer

Get “The 9th Street Gang” for free at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B079YYVTTX