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Tomorrow is my Toys For Tots book signing! It’ll be at the Harrison County Library from 1-4. I’ll have this year’s benefit anthology, THE GIFT OF MURDER, and last year’s, DYING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND and SWORD AND SORCERESS XXIII. I bought a truckload of SSXXIII, for some reason. I could built a freakin’ house out of them, I got so many. I think they’ve been multiplying like coat hangers.

Anyway, I don’t have all that many copies of TGOM. I bought a bunch, but I’ve been selling them, and now I hope I’m worrying with good cause. It would totally suck if nobody showed up, especially since there’ll be a toy collection box there.

Meanwhile, I’ve been zipping away on DOWN AND DIRTY DEATH. I have over 40,000 words, way ahead of schedule, but right on the mark for my personal goal. I think I’m ready for the story to take another turn. Wheeeee!


writing prompt: Have a character go shopping for a child/elder that he/she doesn’t know.

Yesterday was a blast. Today I have ch-ch-ch-ch-church and then an all-day party for Charlie’s family. Wheeeeee!

Tomorrow, I’m going to run a contest. You have to try to guess what my costume is. Nobody could guess yesterday, and I thought it was pretty obvious. Ah, well, that’s what happens when your brain works sideways, I guess.

Winner gets a free copy of THE GIFT OF MURDER, this year’s mystery anthology from Wolfmont for the benefit of the Marine Toys For Tots Foundation.


writing prompt: Send a character to a masquerade party wearing a costume nobody else can identify, much to his/her disgust and chagrin.

I’m not supposed to use this free blog to sell stuff, so I’m being bad. But I’m not selling anything for my own sake, so I’m good.

A while back, I announced the happy happenstance that a story I wrote had been accepted into THE GIFT OF MURDER, an anthology of crime stories set during the winter holiday season. All the authors donated our stories, and Wolfmont donates all its net proceeds to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. Here, I’ll let publisher Tony Burton tell you all about it:

In case you didn’t know, Wolfmont has, for the last three years, published anthologies of short crime fiction, with the theme of crimes around the winter holiday season. By the sale of those books, we have been able to donate a total of over $6,600 to the Toys for Tots Foundation.

This fourth book will be our largest thus far to help Toys for Tots, with 278 pages of great stories.

The 2009 anthology contains nineteen fantastic stories of winter holiday crime from some very talented and generous authors. Here is the roster:

Stefanie Lazer

Anita Page

Steve Shrott

Herschel Cozine

Our goal in 2008 was to raise at least $3,000 more for these kids, and we made it, overtopping our goal to reach $3,300.

Our goal with THE GIFT OF MURDER is to be able to push our total for the four years up to over $10,000 for Toys for Tots!

We have stories not only of Christmas crime, but Chanukah and Kwanzaa, and some stories that combine all three!

Order from us, contact one of the authors to purchase a copy, or get it through your local bookseller!

Get it from your favorite

independent bookseller!

Or, if you prefer, order from Amazon

Or, you can buy it directly from Wolfmont. I’ll also be selling copies here and there, hither and yon, once place or another.

Here’s an excerpt from my story, “The Spirit of Spadena Street”:

Mama clack-clacked into my home office in those wooden-soled sandals she wears around the house–probably because they make noise. She came hooting and talking without contractions so I’d know it was important, “Oh! LeJune! You will never guess what happened!”

I saved the document I was working on. I knew from long, sad experience I might as well see this thing through. My swivel chair creaked under my weight as I swung around to face her and said, “What happened, Mama?”

“I was outside talking to Chickapoo and her cell phone rang and it was that friend of hers, Louise Janssen that works at the hospital and Louise said Joseph Caltrop just got admitted.”

“No!” That was news. Joseph Caltrop was a friend and neighbor. He was a realtor and the owner of the place we were having our neighborhood Christmas party. “Was it a heart attack, or what?”

With a gleam of great satisfaction that I hadn’t guessed right, Mama said. “No. He had been mugged!

“Oh, my Lord and time! Is he going to be all right?”

“Was it a gang?”

“What I told you is what Chickapoo told me Louise told her.”

“I wonder if Buck knows anything.”

Before I had the whole sentence out, Mama sprinted for the living room, but I flipped open my cell and pulled up Buck’s number.

“I got it!” I called, and heard her faint damn from the hall.

I urge you to buy the book, not for my story, but for the cause. But I hope you like my story. 🙂 These are the characters I’m writing about in this year’s National Novel Writing Month project. The book will be called DOWN AND DIRTY DEATH.


writing prompt: How does your main character get along with his/her mother? How would he/she get along if they lived together?

Not like real housekeeping. Not like mopping the floor and dusting the tchotchkes and stuff. I mean metaphorical housekeeping. Like:

Yesterday or whenever, I posted Three Sisters Casserole but I didn’t say why I called it that. Some of my five regular readers already know this but, for those who don’t, The Three Sisters is what food history peeps call the three mainstays of American Indian agriculture and cuisine: beans, corn and squash. Since those were the primary ingredients of the casserole….

Recently, a friend whose sense of humor sometimes takes a dry turn, announced that she had read another blog to which I had posted and that it was very funny–“Marian can be quite witty. You wouldn’t expect it, but she can be.” The lady sitting next to her went all wide-eyed and jaw-dropped and gasped, “That was kind of a…left-handed compliment, wasn’t it?” I was glad I didn’t have a mouthful of coffee during the exchange or I would have lost it.

THE GIFT OF MURDER is available for pre-order (a little cheaper than the full $15 price). THE GIFT OF MURDER is the winter-holiday mystery anthology Wolfmont publishes every year to benefit the Marines’ Toys for Tots Foundation. I have a story in it, “The Spirit of Spadena Street”, featuring LeJune and her mother June Rose, who live together on Spadena Street, a two-block neighborhood of Storybook Style houses. The neighborhood is planning a holiday party, trying to decide on what holiday they’re going to celebrate (not all the neighbors are Christian, but June Rose says she must have a “sweet little baby Jesus” or she won’t be happy). One of the neighbors is mugged and left with the warning, “We know where you live.” The thought of desperadoes stalking Spadena Street makes LeJune’s and June Rose’s blood boil. They won’t have it, and they put their minds to figuring out what’s behind the mugging and how to keep their neighborhood safe. In the process, LeJune goes ass-over-tip and finds herself staring up the nostrils of a corpse.

I’m hoping to get to the coffee shop today or tomorrow to work on updating my web site. I would like to move my blog to my web site. If I do that, I’ll close this blog down, just leaving a page with a link to the new one. Everything on this one would be moved there, and still be available, except for the Culinary Chronicles that are here now. I’ve stopped writing those, having passed the happy task on to Karlis Streips, so I’ll rename that page something else and change the ones here now for newer ones, and maybe even write a new one now and then instead of keeping the same ones up forever.

Better go, or I won’t have any time in town.


writing prompt: How would you have reacted, if you heard what sounded like an insult between friends? Put a character in that situation.

Ever since I wrote the June Rose and LeJune story for Wolfmont’s Toys for Tots benefit anthology this year, I’ve been thinking about the book I started with that mother/daughter pair. I started it a couple of years ago, but it wasn’t working, despite my having done quite a few chapters.

While I was writing the story, both women came alive for me. Writers–you know how you know all this stuff about your characters, and they just sit there like rag dolls and let you push them around where you need them to go, do and say whatever is necessary, but they aren’t REAL? It’s so frustrating! Then, if you’re patient and lucky and keep working with them, they come to life. That’s the way it was with these two. Suddenly–YAY!–there they were, being real. heee!

So that’s one hurdle jumped. The other problem with the book is that I started it WAY too early in the action. One of my many failings as a writer. I’m now starting to get a handle on where the story actually needs to start. I tried telling the story to myself, and it began with when they inherited this house… but the first chapter is back when they visit the person from whom they inherit it. The book ought to start where the story starts. ha!

Anyway, what I’m doing now is clearing the decks of other work and thinking about the book so I can give it a big run during National Novel Writing Month. I still haven’t cleaned up the book I wrote last year during the push, but both are part of the same series and I haven’t decided which I want to come first.

Work In Progress–Happy!


writing prompt: Tell somebody about something that happened. Then write a story about that happening, starting with the first thing you told them when you were telling what happened. No background, no lead-in, start at the beginning and fill in the background later.

I said more than a week ago that I would post pictures of our signing, and I don’t think I ever did.

“We” means both the Southern Indiana Writers and S. M. Harding and I, S. H. (Suzanne) and I both being in DYING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND, Wolfmont Press’s Toys for Tots anthology.

We approached our target:


Little did they know…. HA!

The Mystery Company turned out to be a great place, and we would have said so, even if it DIDN’T have a coffee and chocolate shop as part of it.


Jim Huang and a charming woman whose name I never got were actually happy to see us!


Suzanne (S. M. Harding) turned out to be not only a fine writer but a delightful person. She very generously donated a free cup of coffee to everyone who brought in a toy for the Marines’ toy collection box. This picture of her would be less blurry if I had partaken less of her generosity. Javajavajavajava!


We sold ALL the Toys for Tots books and people brought in so many toys the Marine had to make three trips to his vehicle to load up! Here are Suzanne, a VERY cute Marine and Old Lady Allen–in other words, me.


And a fine time was had by all.


Southern Indiana Writers’ next signing is December 13 from 1-4pm at the Harrison County Public Library.


Writing Prompt: The Mystery Company ONLY stocks mysteries, crime fiction, suspense and non-fiction related thereto. What kind of “dedicated” store would you like to visit? What kind would one of your characters like to visit or to run?

First, Trick or Treat is officially extended to and including November 8, the day of my SIGNING at the Harrison County Library in Corydon, Indiana.

My signing is from 1 to 4 pm, and the book being sold and signed is DYING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND, the Toys for Tots benefit book.

I’ve done my first day’s writing session for NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month! So proud, so proud. I did 2003 words, my my word processor’s count. Yay, me!

Charlie is putting a new sink into the upstairs bathroom, which means we don’t have water. Yes, it’s past lunch time. Yes, I have to pee.

Oh–he’s finished.

Might do more writing today! Yay–I’m in the groove!


writing prompt: What is your main character having for lunch? What is your villain having?

I am so proud to announce I’ve had a story accepted in the third annual Wolfmont Press anthology to benefit Toys for Tots ™! This one is called DYING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND and my story is called “Team Player”.

Dying in a Winter Wonderland

Dying in a Winter Wonderland

All the authors donated our stories, and Tony Burton, the publisher, is donating all his profits to Toys for Tots ™. All the stories are mysteries that take place during the winter holiday season. The books can be ordered online from booksellers, through your local independent book store’s connections to Baker & Taylor and Ingram’s, or directly from Wolfmont. None of us–publisher or authors–are making a nickel off this. It’s all for the kids.


writing exercise: The parents of a child you have never liked find themselves in a desperate financial bind at Christmas. They won’t apply for “charity” and have no friends or family. What do you do, if anything? How would a selection of your characters react? Say, I like this one. I think I may write a story with this one. Sara, guess who it’s about? Who’s your second guess?


Here is where I ramble on about whatever happens to fall through my mind. I also have a professional site, where I post about my books, stories, news and appearances. Every month, I post a “Hot Flash” there–a story or prose poem of about 50 words. I hope you enjoy your visit. –Marian Allen

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