A New Mexico Mystery Author Interview: Patricia Smith Wood

Here is my interview with reviewer Amber Foxx. Amber is a mystery writer, too, and knows all the right questions to ask.

Amber Foxx Mysteries

high1952front cover  Easter Egg

Patricia Smith Wood’s father, first as a police officer, and later as a career FBI agent, sparked her own interest in law, solving crime, and mystery. After retiring from a varied and successful business career (including eighteen months working at the FBI, being a security officer at a savings & loan, and owning her own computer business) she attended writing seminars, conferences, and in 2009 graduated from the FBI Citizens’ Academy. Aakenbaaken & Kent published her first mystery, The Easter Egg Murder, on February 14, 2013. Murder on Sagebrush Lane, the second in the series, is finished and awaiting publication.

Last week I reviewed her book and this week she’s here to talk with me about it.

AF:The Easter Egg Murder has one of the most complicated plots I’ve ever read. How did you keep track of it as you wrote? (I picture you with a wall-sized…

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A New Mexico Mystery Review: The Easter Egg Murder

This is such a wonderful review, I want to preserve it for all time! Thanks to Amber Foxx for her take on this adventure, and for her glowing words.

Amber Foxx Mysteries

front cover  Easter Egg

The best analogy I can think of for this book is a Rubik’s Cube. As I read it, I knew all the pieces of the puzzle could fit together, but I never did figure out how until the end. It’s the kind of mystery that engages the mind, with intricately constructed interlocking pieces and multiple layers of relationships, motives and history. It has a whodunit within a whodunit, as the team of amateur sleuths, police and FBI in 2000 work out who is behind the unsolved “Easter Egg murder” from 1950, as well as a murder and an attempted murder in their own time. In spite of this complexity there are no loose ends, no holes, and even its surprise ending is set up so the closure comes from the prior events, not out of the blue.

The cascade of events in this story are triggered when Senator Philip Lawrence…

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I’m Glad You Asked

I’m Glad You Asked. Click on this link to read the post.

This is the latest Guest Blog appearance I’ve done since The Easter Egg Murder was published last year.

I would appreciate having as many people as possible read it and comment on it. A Guest Blogger needs to “deliver the goods” by bringing people to the blog site and getting them to express interest. When a post is well received, people ask you back to post another day. That’s what I hope happens for me.

So please check it out and leave a comment there.

Talk to you later!

I’ve Moved!

MovingBoxIf you stand in one place long enough, you’ll begin to notice everything around you is changing. I’m not standing in one place, but things have changed just the same.

For some time now I’ve had a website at http://www.patriciasmithwood.com. It was in addition to my WordPress blog here. Through a series of changes that happened at Apple, I had to find a new home for my website, and that led me to BlueHost. They’ve been extremely helpful and made my transition easy.

My lovely and talented daughter, Paula High-Young, who has outpaced me in her computer tech knowledge, introduced me to the idea that I could have my website and my WordPress blog combined into a new, more flexible, theme-rich site by creating the website on WordPress through BlueHost.

If all that is far too much information, fear not. You don’t really need to know the nitty-gritty. All you must do is navigate to the new site and change your subscription. Go to http://www.patriciasmithwood.com and click on the subscribe button. It’s still a lovely, easy-to-navigate website but it’s on WordPress, and the internet address is just shorter.

Other Than That, Mrs. Lincoln, Did You Enjoy The Play?

MONKEY

Pat’s Unhappy Face

I am, for the most part, an upbeat person. I don’t get hysterical–well maybe just a little when I see a spider or a creepy, crawly, bug–but I’m pretty even-tempered. Sure I have some down days, but usually I’m a happy camper. If you’ll refer to one of my past posts, Sometimes Dreams Come True you’ll see I was a VERY happy camper back in September 2012 when I received the official offer of a contract from my publisher. There followed months of excited preparation, editing, and planning, and the book came off the press on February 14, 2013. I was on my way. 

But you have to watch out for Monday mornings. The Carpenters had a hit song out in about 1967 called “Rainy Days and Mondays” and the short version was “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” That hasn’t been true for me too often in the past few years, but I had one just last month when I learned on Monday morning that a dear friend had died. And then, today, on this Monday morning, I learned my publishing company is suspending operations.

So what does this mean, you ask? Well for starters, I have to find a new publisher. While my book, The Easter Egg Murder, will continue to be sold through the book distributor, Ingram, my next book in the series, Murder For Breakfast, no longer has a home. With the publisher suspending operations, they won’t be back to publish more books unless, as they say, “our hope is that one of our current books will ‘go viral’ and allow us to restart operations.”

I would love to be the writer whose book is the one to “go viral” and save the publishing company. But realistically, unless all of you out there on the internet mount a campaign to make The Easter Egg Murder a best seller, I don’t see how it will happen.

So I’m taking a deep breath, straightening my posture, and getting to work. I have to finish Murder For Breakfast before I can approach another publisher. Perhaps I’ll even try to get an agent to represent me. It would be nice to have someone else deal with all the issues connected with getting a book published.

So other than that, how did I enjoy this Monday? I’m doing just fine, thank you. Tonight we take our daughter and son-in-law out to dinner for his birthday. We plan to celebrate big time!

Saying Goodbye

1968 Sweet Adelines Convention

1969 Sweet Adelines Convention

I said, “Goodbye” to a friend today. I’m planning to go back after the weekend, but you never know.

She’s had a rough life: full of physical illness, childhood trauma, loss of a child shortly after birth, divorce, and the ravages of age. She’s less than three months away from her 87th birthday. Her current state of health is dismal and the family’s been told it’s only a matter of three or four weeks. She agreed to enter hospice the day before yesterday. For the moment she’s still in her own home, with a nurse checking on her daily, and her son and daughter taking turns staying with her.

She’s had more surgeries than I can remember. What I do recall is a hip replacement, dual knee replacement, surgery on a carotid artery, and that’s only in the last two decades. Now she has Stage IV colon cancer, terminal COPD, high blood pressure, diabetic problems, and lymphoma. And those are just the things I can remember.

I met her in the fall of 1966 when I attended an introductory meeting for Sweet Adelines.

She was the director of the chorus, at that time named Yucca Chapter of Sweet Adelines, International. In that brief moment in time, she was 39 years old, and I was 27. I was struck by her energy, talent, and ability to manage a chorus of women of varying ages and abilities. By the end of that meeting, I was hooked on the sound of four-part female barbershop singing, and I got details about how to join this group. It was the beginning of an entirely new phase of my life.

When I joined Sweet Adelines, I learned that I had a natural tenor voice. I’d always loved harmonizing. I found it exhilarating to sing with this large group of women, led by a woman who was passionate about music.

Within a very short time I discovered she and I had similar interests, and a close friendship evolved quickly. She had two kids, and I had just one, but our daughters were close in age. Our husbands enjoyed spending time together, and before long, our two families were getting together for dinners or just an evening together at one of our homes. Her extended family lived away from our town as did mine, so we spent holidays together.

She taught me much about music and arranging barbershop harmony. We spent hours together each week, working on music, sewing together, or shopping. Before a year had passed, I was invited to be the tenor in her quartet. Eventually I became her assistant director, and enjoyed that immensely.

For seven years our lives were spent singing and performing, thinking it would go on forever. But as folks grow older, they discover nothing is forever. In the course of life events, I embarked on a different path for a time. We didn’t see much of each other for about five years. Then things changed again, and we were back doing things together, although not quite as often as before.

When I look back on those years, I realize that when we first became friends, we each had something the other needed. We each needed the friendship as a compliment to our lives at that time. With the changes inevitably brought about by the passage of years, we became less dependent on each other, and the friendship became a comfortable relationship that didn’t require constant attention. We still talked on the phone, but not daily as before. We still got together and went places together, but not with the frequency of earlier times. But I always knew that if I needed a friendly shoulder, I could pick up the phone and she would be there to listen. I think she felt the same way about reaching out to me. With the advent of the internet and email, we kept in touch that way, too.

She’d been in bad health for a number of years, with one thing or another. Her frequent surgeries took a toll on her, I’m sure. As she progressed into her eighties, I worried that one of these health issues would be her undoing. But she just kept on plugging along, like she always had.

About three weeks ago I returned home to find a voice message from her on my phone. She didn’t sound good, but said she’d call me later in the evening. She didn’t. I called her a couple of times over the next two days, but received no answer. When I reached her at last, she sounded weak and tired. That’s when I learned about her latest hospitalization, and got some of the bad news: stage 4 colon cancer. She told me that surgery was out of the question. The cancer was too far along. But she’d been such a fighter, ever since I’d known her, that I somehow thought she would beat it—-or at least live with it for a while.

Then last Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, I got the word from her daughter that they were meeting with a hospice group that afternoon. She told me about the other things wrong with her mother that I had yet to hear. She said if I wanted to visit with her I should call and make sure she was up to it. She also said it would be good to wait a day or two until she settled in to the hospice routine. She would still be at home as long as they could manage it that way.

So on Friday after Thanksgiving, I phoned and asked if I could come visit. She was coughing so much during that conversation and it sounded so congested, that I almost told her I’d wait. But she said she was up for a visit, so I went. By the time I arrived, she’d been given morphine to calm the cough, and it did wonders for her. Unfortunately, it also caused her to drift off periodically. She kept apologizing, but I told her not to worry. We had a good visit for the better part of an hour. We talked about some funny things we’d experienced together over the years. She remembered each event and added her own memories of it.

I’d been warned that the hospice nurse was arriving at 1 p.m., so I decided at 12:45 I should go and let her rest a bit before the nurse came. She looked so fragile, lying there in her recliner, I wanted to hug her but didn’t dare. Instead, I stroked her cheek and told her I’d be back in a few days. My own daughter asked that I include her in my next visit, so we made plans to go see her on Monday. And here’s where I stopped writing this piece on Friday—-planning to see her again on Monday.

I was getting dressed this morning in preparation to go see my friend when a call came from her daughter. She told me her mother had passed away in her sleep last night. This was the way she’d always wanted to go. She feared suffering a stroke that would leave her alive but paralyzed. She wouldn’t need to worry about that any longer.

I don’t know what to say now. She’s not hurting any more, and she went peacefully. She was almost 87, and I suppose that’s a good long life for anyone. But after all these years, it will be strange the next time I think about calling her or sending her an email, and I remember, suddenly, she’s not here anymore.

Monday Observations

This morning was a fairly typical beginning of the week. I’m looking to get organized for the next seven days, and I’m brimming with insights.

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1.  I’ve Become My Father – No lie, I remember when I was much younger, I saw my father entering into “old fogeyness” (if that’s not a word it should be!) It seemed to me he railed against everything new and, in my opinion, exciting. Whereas all my life we’d enjoyed the same music, now he thought Elvis Presley was too loud and vulgar. Not only that, but his conversations were peppered with phrases like, “Well when I was young . . .”; “In my day we were more . . . ” and similar observations. I think he would love being here now to see me uttering the same phrases. (By the way, have any of you noticed how poorly behaved children are these days? Why in my day . . . )

2.  In the same vein, if I were a person who texted and drove at the same time, I could have killed several people this past weekend. No kidding! Even adults don’t look where they’re going anymore! Yesterday, My Dear One and I were off to get an ice cream concoction. As we approached a parking place, a woman and her two children emerged from a row of parked cars and walked directly into our path. The children eyed us lazily, but the mom was too busy texting to even realize a car was approaching. None of them stopped, of course, and continued on into the path of our car. She obviously assumed if there was a car approaching, it would stop for her (which, naturally, we did.) But it still annoys me. Why is it not her responsibility to watch out for herself, and more important, for her children. This doesn’t even touch the subject of what she’s teaching her kids by NOT teaching them self responsibility.

3.  This morning I saw golden leaves on the ground when we went for a walk. I try to pretend summer will last a little longer, but when the trees start shedding their foliage, I have to face facts. I also have to realize there are only three more months left in 2013. That means the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is just days away. That, to me, seems incredible. Where did the year go? It’s joined all those many others I lost track of. Why oh why is it that the days, weeks, and years go by so quickly when you are entering your twilight time. I remember vividly how long it took the first 20 years of my life to pass. I wanted to be a grown-up so bad I thought I’d never reach that magic age. Now I look back and wonder how it got away from me so fast.

4.   Have you ever noticed how much more you treasure your friends the older you get? I have friends I’ve known since I was 12 years old, and they mean even more to me now than they did then. I suspect it’s partially because we all survived this long when we never thought we would. And the friends I’ve made in later life I treasure for different reasons. They came to know me after I was “formed” and don’t remember how raw I was as a new model human. These friends accept me for who I was when they met me, and who I’ve become in the years since. They keep me grounded. All I know is I could do without a lot of “things” but I couldn’t survive without my friends!

5.  And here’s another of my recent observations: just when you think you’ll probably not change any more, or that you won’t learn anything new, you do. I’ve learned more in the last year, I suppose, than I have in the last five. That seems rather backwards to me, but there you have it. If you are willing, you can learn new things. It might not come as easily as before, but it can happen. You can also change yourself if that’s what you want to do. You can reevaluate old beliefs and the restrictions you’ve put on yourself. Then you can embark on a journey of personal development. You may not achieve the original goal, but you’ll learn something along the way, and you may even reach a goal. As with so many things, the key is to set the goal in the first place and just keep going.

I think that’s about enough for one day. I have the entire week to get through!