I belong to a small and wonderful horde of authors called “The Twelve.” We came together to promote our books and one another. Our first joint effort was called Flight 12.

Each of us contributed a novella featuring one of our main characters from a previous book. All of our characters were linked by this one thing: the flight they shared.

Coordinating a bunch of independent-thinking authors is like herding cats, so we kept it loose. We all started with the premise that each of us would put one of our characters on the same plane, the ominous-sounding Flight 12. From there, we each went our own way. We could write whatever we wanted—as long as there was some suspense and the story involved Flight 12 and one of our characters. I chose a man named Steve Lawson for my flight. Steve Lawson was a bad guy, on the run, and my character DPS Detective Laura Cardinal was investigating him regarding a homicide.

We all started with the premise of the same flight: Flight 12. The flight could be doomed, the flight could make it to its destination—this was where we all wrote our own story.

Which brings me to my fear of flying. I think a lot of people have an atavistic fear of flying. I flew quite a bit, but there were always butterflies in my stomach. As the flight went on and nothing untoward happened, I’d relax, and after a while I would end up being bored. I couldn’t sustain the fear. Honestly, I don’t know what contributes to a fear of flying. For me, it’s a bug, not a feature, but the butterflies always remain until we reached cruising altitude. (I know that taking off and landing are the two most dangerous times on a plane. So when we’re up, it’s easy to turn my fear off, or at least put it on a back-burner.)

Over the years, after so many flights that didn’t end up in the drink, I’ve become more confident. The longer I’m on the plane, the less worried I am. Maybe it’s the “frog in water” kind of deal.

I know that sensationalized air crash stories contribute to my fear. But I also know I can count on getting back to my normal self and, after ten to twenty minutes in the air, my mind drifts off, the fear disappears, and then I’m good. There’s a whole raft of fears about flying, and everyone has to deal with it as they can. For me, I will always feel butterflies in my stomach until we’re up to Cruising Altitude. “Cruising Altitude,” to me, means “safety.” I know (of COURSE I do!) that the most dangerous times are taking off and landing. So the middle part—just TRY to knock a passenger jet out of the sky!!! (Unless there’s a bomb.) Once I’m up, I’m okay. And coming in seems much more controlled. It’s kind of fun gliding down onto the airstrip. I’m anticipating at that point that I will have survived.

So a lot of it for me is mind games. The more I fly, the less fearful I am…

Until there’s a crash on the news. Logically, I know that air disasters are a very tiny percentage. But atavistically, I have to admit, it GETS to me.

Right now, though, I’m fascinated by the photograph I’ve seen in the last couple of days: the idea that Amelia Earhart might have survived after all, and was captured by the Japanese. I squint at the photograph and it seems right to me.

See? Another person who just may have survived a plane ride.

For a limited time Flight 12: A Laura Cardinal Thriller is on sale for just 99¢. Pick up your copy while the sale lasts! http://www.jcarsonblack.com/novels/flight-12/

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How Cyber Crime has Evolved

When I came up with the idea to write a police detective, I met with some friends who were cops and detectives. Their help was invaluable. One of them was a TPD cyber crime expert, Phil Uhal, who generously showed me how he dealt with cyber crime—particularly men who lured young girls over the internet.

The reason I’m bringing this up, was due to our one-night stay at a Gilbert, Arizona, hotel, where Glenn and I wound up watching a 48 Hours episode, showcasing cyber crime—mostly men who lure underage girls, in this case, a fifteen-year-old girl who fell for a man who made a beeline to her town to kidnap her. He lured her from the Kik Messenger application.

If Laura was going to solve this case TODAY, it’s likely that the bad guy, Music Man, would be using Kik, or something like it.

Now that so many people are using social media (almost distraction—I’m talking to YOU, J. Carson Black!) it’s as easy as can be. In fact, thinking back to the Olden Times, it all seemed a bit quaint. As you will soon see, Laura was pretty out of touch back then. Back then, the Dark Net was a little more like this:

Laura watched as Jay pulled up a no-frills site, devoid of graphics.

Ramsey said, “Welcome to WiNX. This is the quintessential Internet relay chat program.”

Laura tried to remember what Buddy Holland had told her. “Does it have something to do with Instant Messaging?”

“That’s the currency. People talking to each other in real time. You’ve probably done something like it on Facebook or Yahoo.”

“Uh no.” (Author note: I wrote this before I became a Facebook addict!)

He twisted in his chair a little, smiled. “The principle is really simple. You put yourself out there and pretty soon someone wants to talk to you.”

He hit a couple of keys and brought up a screen that reminded Laura of her first experience with a computer, back in the covered wagon days. “That looks like DOS.”

“See? You know more than you think. WiNX is a DOS-based system. See these?” He keyed down through several lines of old-fashioned courier print and pointed with a thumb. “These are channels—rooms where people with like tastes can meet. There’re probably 20,000 channels on WiNX right now.” He flinched again, moved in his seat. Looked at her. “Am I confusing you?”

She remembered how Buddy had thrown technical terms at her without telling her what they meant–enjoying her discomfort. She hesitated to make a fool of herself, but couldn’t help asking, “Are they kind of like TV channels?”

“That’s as good a description as any. Imagine a station with unlimited channels on everything you can imagine.” He clicked on another page. “WiNX has been around forever. The thing you’ve got to know is that this is the real underground. There are no controls. Nobody’s watching you to see that you don’t go over the line. There’s nothing to stop you from doing anything you want to do. It’s a no-man’s land.”

Laura felt a kinetic snap in her spine. A no-man’s land. She got the feeling that she was on the brink of knowing something she’d rather not.

He scrolled down what seemed like miles of print. “Ah, here we are.” He clicked on something called Warezoutpost.

“Warez is ‘wares’,” Jay explained. “As in ‘let me show you my wares.’ See? Software for games. Movies, music. This is where the kids are at because they can download stuff for free.”

He showed her how to locate what he wanted, a movie called Ghost Recon. “This is what draws the kids. Free music, movies. I’m next in line if I want it.”

With a few clicks to the keyboard, he moved on.

“The kids are always the first to know. You can get anything you want off these boards. They cater to every taste. This one is general, but there are channels where kids talk to each other.” He pulled up another window. “Let’s see what we’ve got in the Girls’ Room.”

“The Girls’ Room?”

“I call it that. It’s used by lots preteen girls.”

He pointed out the list of names on the sidebar to the right. “Those are the people in the room now. What I’m going to do is …” He hit a key and then typed in a name, erased it, and typed in another. “Gotta have a nickname.” He typed in “nick1amber/.” This was accepted, and then he typed: “hi.”

It showed up like this:

Amber: hi

Laura heard a chime and a message box popped up. Jay pointed to the status bar and Laura saw the name Gitmo.

Gitmo: how old r u?

Amber: 12

Gitmo: pic?

“He wants a picture.”

Amber: ok were you fro?????????

Amber: from

Gitmo: CA u?

Laura heard a chime. Another person wanting to talk to Amber. Jay hit a key and another instant message box popped up.

Podunk89: a/s

“He’s asking her age and sex.”

Amber: almost 13

Jay nodded to the status bar at the top of the screen. Podunk’s name changed from red to black. He was gone. “Wrong age,” Jay said, going back to Gitmo.

Gitmo: where you been?

Amber: My mom calledm e

Gitmo: send me a pic

A flurry of chimes. Four new names lit up the board.

Amber: well see how old r you?

Gitmo: you ever had sex?

Amber: I had a bf last year

Gitmo: Did bf getta bj?

Amber: You sonud mean!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gitmo: can’t handle a joke LOL

More chimes, the board lighting up with suitors. Jay opened another instant message box.

Smooth Talk: Amber u a little girl?

Amber: im thrteen how old r u???????????????

Smooth Talk: let me see a pic

Amber: I have 1 at shchol school – not here

Smooth Talk: where d you live

Amber: I live in az

Smooth Talk dropped out. Back to Gitmo:

Gitmo: I want a pic

Amber: not fair if u don send me pic toO

Gitmo: you playing games little girl

Amber: fairs fair my pic for yours

Gitmo: if you don’t want to fuck your wasting m time

Gitmo’s name went from red to black.

 

Jay sat up straighter, twisted, adjusted himself against the back of the chair. “That’s what you’re dealing with. These creeps are on these boards all day, trolling for kids.”

Laura was about to say that she didn’t think any child would fall for that, and then shut her mouth.

Children would fall for it. Teenagers would fall for it. Because they had not yet developed that distrust life ground into you over the years, like grime into clothing.

“We did a survey,” Jay said. “Among parents. They think of computers as just another appliance, like a TV set. They don’t realize it’s like leaving the back door to your house open. Anybody can come in, and some of these guys are really smart. They know how to push the buttons.”

“How do you find someone like this? Can you find his ISP?”

“Doubtful. Guy like that, he’d use one of the big servers, like Earthlink, Hotmail—it’s easy to be anonymous. There are search engines that you can look on, but I’m pretty sure this guy wouldn’t have a local ISP.”

“Oh.”

“But there’s an easier way. That’s what’s so interesting about technology. Sometimes the best things are simple. You know the photo you have of him? We can probably trace him through that.” He hit a couple of keys and a beach scene came up on the screen.

“This is why you need me.” Sounding cocky. “Not many people can get their hands on this kind of software.”

He explained that there was something called image recognition software, which could break up every photograph into its elements, then run each element against all kinds of databases, looking for a match. He zoomed in on a man on the beach. “See this guy’s T-shirt? With the software I’m going to use, I can run a search for exact matches. It’s like a search engine, instead of searching for like words, it searches for images. I’m going to need the original photo, though.”

“From what Endicott said, it was a digital photo, and the only thing we have is an inkjet picture.” She nodded to the black-and-white photocopy. “It’s not all that much better than that.”

Jay looked troubled. “It might be harder, but we can still do it. Where is the original?”

“Endicott’s FedExing it—I should get it today.”

“What we’ll do,” Jay said, “is re-scan the picture using high resolution. Then I’ll compare it to the databases. It might take a few days, though.”

“You sure you can’t find him with the ISP?”

“I’ll try that, too. I’m warning you, though, this guy isn’t your average Internet user. I think you know that.”

“But this image recognition software, it’ll take a few days? That’s a long time.”

“How many days has it been so far?”

Too many, she thought.

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The Kentucky Derby is coming up at the end of this week. So…
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love horses. From the time I was a child I was horse-crazy. After years of riding other peoples’ horses at the local Pony Club, my dream came true one hot August day when my parents took me out, at fourteen, to look for a horse of my own.
That was how I got Cookie, a buckskin mare with a mind of her own. Fortunately for me, at 14.2 hands, she was close to the ground. All the kids I knew rode bareback, so I did, too. Cookie liked to shy sideways – about eight to ten feet – and I learned to stick with her, for the most part. I also remember the time I tried to get up on her bareback, by the open-doorway of the feed shed, and I pushed off so hard I slid over her back and face-planted into a bag of horse-feed pellets.
A few years later, I was lucky enough to find the Love of my Life, a dark bay Thoroughbred with one eye. His name was Hatteras. I never worried about him running in to anything, and he never did. He bucked me off a few times as well, and again I had to trudge miles through the deep sand in the riverbed.
 
Anyone who knows me, knows I love horseracing.
In 1994, I decided to write a romantic suspense called DARK HORSE, set in the quarter horse racing world. And darned if I had to research it. So my husband and I piled into the car and drove to Ruidoso, New Mexico, which hosted the biggest and most important quarter horse race in the country. I made a very good friend there in Aleta Walther, Ruidoso Downs’ publicist, and she turned me loose on the backstretch.  (The QH folk called it “backside.”) There, I talked to trainers and grooms at the barns, and soaked up that whole wonderful world. I made a friend for life in Aleta. Back in Tucson, I spent a lot of time following a wonderful racehorse trainer whose horse made it to the All American Futurity at Ruidoso, Zip Peterson. The first day it had rained and the mud was probably five inches deep. He took his horses out to the track (he rode, I trudged) and I floundered around in my pathetic running shoes.  He got a kick out of that. A wonderful man, Zip—he taught me a lot.
So I wrote a suspense novel, DARK HORSE. My publisher, Kensington, bought it. They put a nice cover on the paperback, and the following year I signed books at the All American Futurity. Oftentimes, I’d sign at a bookstore in a mall and maybe one or two people would buy the book and have me sign it, but on All American Futurity Day, I didn’t even have time to drink my Coke. In fact, the paper on the cup almost melted. I think I signed close to three hundred books that day, which was a record for me.
The best thing for me, though, was the time I spent under Zip’s tutelage. There is something very special about the backstretch—a whole different self-contained world. Grooms, exercise riders, trainers, horses, “ponies”—horses who are calm and settled enough to escort high-strung thoroughbreds and quarter horses to the track. I love those no-nonsense types, bomb-proof, tough as old boots. Their motto: “been there, done that.”
Having owned and ridden horses, and having ridden western, english, and bareback (along, I guess, with “feed shed”) it was easy to write DARK HORSE.  It was easy to write the scenes in THE SHOP that were about racehorses. It was easy to write THE BLUELIGHT SPECIAL, the short story. The countless times Cookie dumped me in the riverbed, and I had to stump my way  back to the Dodge Blvd bridge where a nice guy always kept her in his corral and waited for me to show up—well, it paid off.  I didn’t know then that my parents bought me the horse to keep me away from boys at just the right time. (It was my Mom’s idea. She had the strategic capacity of a general.)
Thanks to cable TV, I can watch the Derby hopefuls jog, gallop, and work. I know who the trainers are. It’s that time of year, full of hope and wishes and dreams. The most successful Triple Crown trainer (and the only one in recent times to have won the Triple Crown) is an Arizona native, Bob Baffert, who hailed from Nogales, Arizona, south of Tucson. Not only that, but the University of Arizona is host to the well-regarded Racetrack Industry Program.
There’s nothing like this time of year.
The Kentucky Derby’s coming.
And I can’t wait.
My Love Affair With Horses – May Giveaway
Click the link below for your chance to win an Audio CD version of
THE SHOP (Cyril Landry Thriller).

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I wanted to write something new—something big. Something “high concept,” a term they use in television. Something big, bold, maybe even sexy.  My husband and I were watching cable news over dinner one night and saw Jon Mark Carr’s plane coming in for landing. He had been extradited from another country (Sweden?) and he said he had a story to tell. He claimed he killed Jonbenet Ramsey. (He lied.)

The jet Jon Mark Carr came in on belonged to the Sheriff’s office in Colorado. All the reporters stood, microphones ready, waiting for the Sheriff’s plane to touch down in the meadow runway– must-see television!

And that was how Glenn and I came up with the idea for THE SHOP. Right there as we cooked dinner and watched Jon Mark Carr’s plane come in.

We wanted something big, high-concept, and chock-full of choices for law enforcement. We wanted someone in high office to utilize the death of a celebrity to distract from some of the unsavory things he was doing.

And since our bad guys needed a distraction from all the illegal things they were doing in government, they decided to create a big one: the murders of a famous female star and the young, glamorous people on her reality show.

That was how we came up with THE SHOP.

 

THE SHOP probably ran me more than I ran it. So after the first couple of pages, I realized that my book–THE SHOP itself–was dictating terms. More to the point, Assassin #1 was running THE SHOP.

It’s my fault. First, I gave Assassin #1 a neat name. As a kid who went to catechism long ago, the church Saint Cyril’s stuck in my mind.  A good enough name for a guy with a walk-on part: Cyril Landry.

So, I started typing the scene. Bad guys had been sent to kill the star of the reality show to create days of coverage by the media, thus taking the heat off some U.S. government hijinks no one wanted anyone to know about. So I started writing:

Aspen, Colorado

Landry thought: The kid’s positively giddy.

Landry had been getting comfortable with the night, watching from the woods as the party wound down at the house on Castle Creek Road, people getting into their expensive cars and driving away, leaving just the core group.

Shortly after, the young man came out and made his unsteady way to the deck railing.  He had spiky hair and a scarecrow frame.  He looked down at the rushing water, then up at the stars.  Landry could see his smile even from where he was.  The kid’s skinny arms hugged his body, as if he couldn’t quite believe his good fortune.  Tipsy—more than tipsy, inebriated—but something had delighted him, thrilled him.  Something had gone very right for him today.

The young man twirled around, looking at the stars. Mesmerized by them.  He could have been the leading man in his own musical—the wonderful story of his life.  He could barely contain his joy.  He had less than an hour to live.

*   *   *

As they reached the walkway, Landry said, “Gloves and masks from now on.”

They split up.  Jackson would go in first, through the back door. Landry and Davis would go in the front.  Green would remain outside; he was surveillance only.

They waited for Jackson to report in.  “Upstairs clear.”

“How many?”

“Two.  The couple.  They were laying in bed.”

“Lying,” Landry said.

And that’s when I knew. Landry was NOT going to take this bit part of Assassin #1 lying down. This faceless killer turned out to be a star in his own right.

A hired killer who corrects people’s grammar.

Who knew?

—————————————————————————————————–

I’m excited to let you know that SPECTRE BLACK will be on sale for only 99¢ from April 1st- April 30th.  Don’t miss out, grab your copy today!      https://goo.gl/FhqNRw

 

 

 

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With all the talk about building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico, it brought to mind the scene I wrote with the help of former Special Forces operator John Peters, on trucks illegally crossing the border between the U.S. and Mexico. This is from my Cyril Landry thriller, SPECTRE BLACK, which came out last year.

 

In SPECTRE BLACK, the bad guys were smuggling goods into Mexico, not out. Here’s the scene:

Landry doubted that the semi trucks were empty. In fact, even if they’d found a way to go through Customs, they very likely would have made it through without a hitch. Customs had drive-through x-ray machines, but these trucks no doubt had the technology to blank out their x-ray, making the inside of the truck box appear empty. Yes, the Border Patrol had dogs, but dogs couldn’t sniff out weapons—guns were just metal and oil. And if the scanners were aced out…there would be no problem at

It was the unexpected thing. The truth was, the Border Patrol wasn’t as worried about contraband being smuggled into Mexico from the United States than the other way around.

Jolie stared into the darkness, wondering if her eyes would play tricks—or whether she’d see them at all. She knew that their target didn’t want anyone to see his blacked-out trucks. Or even get wind of their passing.

Landry checked in with Jolie. She answered immediately, her voice low.

“Looks like they’re taking the easy route. We’re right here. Can you see us?”

“Roger that.”

As they spoke, the car leading the short convoy went dark, and so did the others. The place was ideal: a dark spot, no lights, no contrast: Dark.

Suddenly, a tow truck came from the Mexican side, parked, and two men jumped out and ran to the fence. They used precision tools to cut grooves toward the top of the iron fence, eighteen feet between them. They worked from opposite sides, using plasma cutters shielded by light-weight steel shields—a little circle around the nozzle of each gun.

Otherwise, the light would be seen for miles.

It would take them all of five seconds to cut and drop the fence. When the trucks were through, they’d use the tow truck’s pulley to replace the fence, and tap-weld the fence here and there to make it would look as if it had never been cut.

The lead semi, which had been idling, shifted gears. In another moment it would nudge the fence, causing it fall flat. And then the semi would drive  over the prone fence and right into Mexico.

Time to stop it.

Find out what happens next in SPECTRE BLACK!

I’m excited to let you know that SPECTRE BLACK will be on sale for only 99¢ from April 1st- April 30th.  Don’t miss out, grab your copy today!      https://goo.gl/FhqNRw

 

 

 

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You know about that TV show “ripped from the headlines”.

There’s very little that’s new under the sun, and that goes for homicides, as well. And in the case of homicide, one factor stands out: psychopathy.

Here’s an interesting fact: psychopaths are pretty much all the same. There isn’t much “there” there. Yes, they can be cunning. Yes, they can be smart—very smart. Yet all of them are predators, whether they’re just ruining a co-worker’s day, or destroying a family unit, or killing someone because they feel like it. It’s all a matter of degree.

Because they are so empty inside, you wouldn’t think they would be all that interesting. But this is where character meets horror; a garden-variety intellect can overcome the odds by its willingness to do something terrible—and there are plenty of opportunities for that. Psychopaths are hunters. They can sense the weak animal in the herd. If three girls are at a nightclub drinking, the psychopath knows which one to cut from that herd. The one who will give them the least trouble, the one who will comply. They have a killer instinct, whether they’re driving a hard business deal or stalking a victim. They are predators. Even the psychopath who never kills a soul will destroy lives in other ways. And the people who find themselves in the rubble wonder, “How could she do this to me?” “How did this happen?

Sociopaths and psychopaths live among us, and they look like everybody else. They have the same foibles, the same appetites, the same good looks or extra poundage or excellent teeth. They live in neighborhoods, they have cars, they have children, they have wives or husbands. But, wonder of wonders! Things never go right around a psychopath. The people who are touched by them, who live with them, often are off-kilter, worried about things—even vague worries—and they have a bad feeling, they feel angry, feel sad, feel put-upon, feel wretched. And usually, they don’t realize that those feelings are usually right at the surface when they’re around a certain person: a person who makes them feel bad.

Not all psychopaths are killers. That said, psychopaths are basically the same. They may not kill you, but they will find ways to hurt you. Even small ways. And you find yourself stepping back emotionally from them, you find yourself watching your step, watching what you say, because deep down inside, you don’t trust them.

Worse than that, if you’re long in the company of a psychopath, you don’t trust yourself. You might second-guess yourself. Or make excuses for a person who has no regard for you at all. Thinking they are normal human beings, and are driven by the same forces you are. It’s what you know. What you expect.

There are warning signals. People know when something’s wrong with a person, and many of them take a step back. Maybe they’re polite about it, but it’s like an animal smelling a poisoned carcass. Better just unentangle. Still, psychopaths can be charming. They can read a person. They know how to manipulate the weak sheep they pick out of the herd, and they know just how far to go and when to pull back, so that the victim wonders if it’s just her imagination.

And then we come to the famous psychopaths. The killers. They’re no different from the garden-variety psychopath (both psychopaths and sociopaths have a very dull inner life), except for the fact that they enjoy the whole predatory experience, especially the killing. Sadistic psychopaths are not brilliant. They just don’t care, and they have a certain animal cunning. They can sense the weakest animal in the herd. They know which deer they can take down.

Without that cunning, they would be completely empty. That they can put something over on you, or even take your life (depending upon their appetite) gives them a lift.

How do smart people fall for these predators? They assume that these folks are just like them: driven by the same wants and needs. And the predators hide in plain sight, acting like a normal person, looking like a normal person, and fool you because they’re so good at this.

And that is how I came to write my work in progress, LADIES MAN, in which a smart, sensible woman crosses the path of a killer, and never suspects what’s behind the mask.

Until it’s too late.

 

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Bad Mojo short stories cover
The first book I ever wrote from beginning to end was a horror novel.
Starting as a child and on through grade school and college, I started a bunch of “books” but never finished them. I was sidetracked from writing when I studied to be an opera singer, but once I realized that life was not for me, the desire to write came back with a vengeance. Inspired by the scary old mining town of Bisbee, Arizona, I wrote my first book: a ghost story. A couple of suspense novels followed before I found what I really loved to write: police procedurals and thrillers.
Now times have changed again, and in keeping with the times, I have returned to horror. Horror is a way of explaining the scary world in print and offers a vicarious way for getting through bad things. I felt the world pressing in, and not in a good way. And that is when I felt moved to write horror stories. For you, and for myself.
And so I indulged in creating scary creatures and animated thugs who tramped toward me. By shining the light on them, I could blow them away like so much fairy dust. I wrote them one after another, couldn’t stop. It turned out to be a lot of fun, and I hope that you will have fun reading them.

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Ideas are all over, many of them just lying around and easy to pick up. But an idea is just the beginning of a story—the premise. Good ideas lead to other ideas as a writer goes along,  taking brick after brick and building a house.
When I wrote the first Laura Cardinal novel, DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN, I had a killer who preyed on young girls. Which, of course, is nothing new. But that, alone, wasn’t enough. As I went along, more ideas came to me. The bad guy was bad, yes. But he wasn’t bad enough. So partway through the book, I came up with a much worse guy, to be revealed later, and that guy was so evil it made my scalp prickle. His name online was “Dark Moondancer.”
How did I come up with the name “Dark Moondancer?” The name came from a very good racehorse.
Racehorse names are plentiful and must be unique (as I discovered when I wrote the racing suspense novel, DARK HORSE.) There simply cannot be two horses with the same name. And since there are only so many names people can come up with, the owners have to go farther and farther afield. Which leads to some genuinely funny names.
Like Hoofhearted.
Say that three times really fast and you’ll see why the name always got a reaction at the racetrack.
Wishing you all a very happy and productive New Year!

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My husband Glenn and I went out yesterday on a beautiful and sunny Tucson morning to go get a Christmas tree. I love that. Just to smell that spicy pine scent takes me back to when I was a kid, dressed in my fringed Annie Oakley outfit, draping those shimmering strands called “Icicles” on the tree.  When I really believed that Santa was coming—and I’d stay up and then fall asleep and just miss him. He was a wily one.  Today I’m hanging ornaments on the tree. Many of them are very old—the ones that survived my childhood. Another thing survived my childhood. My parents had an aluminum tree (way back) and a color wheel. I still have the color-wheel and it’s rotating right now, casting pine shadows on the ceiling, going from red, to yellow, to blue, to green.


We all have traditions. Big families, small families. Pets. People coming from all over. On a sunny Arizona day, we put the old lights (again, these are the old ones, from long ago) up on the roof. Generations of cats have been outside with us, enjoying the fact that we were working assiduously. In their way, they all enjoyed the ceremonial Light Stringing.
I know you guys all have your own traditions, and if you like, please share them on my Facebook Author Page—I’d love that!
Happy Holidays to you all, and a joyous, peaceful, and love-filled season.
Maggy and Glenn

Please visit my Facebook Author Page and share your family holiday traditions for a chance to win your choice of either a Laura Cardinal or Cyril Landry mug.
Winner to be announced on December 31st.

 

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I studied to be an opera singer. I did pretty well, had talent, but eventually it came to me that I was trying something that did not work for me. I got two degrees and played a few leading roles, despite stage fright, which stuck with me ALWAYS. Then one day sanity knocked on my door, and I realized that when I was younger, all I did was write and illustrate “books.”

One night, Glenn and I were watching “The New Twilight Zone” series, and there were natives in the Amazon jungle who appeared whenever the guy aimed his camera at the landscape. And they were coming at him with spears. He’d have to take their picture right quick to stop them. We brainstormed it and thought it would be great to have an old camera that took pictures of the past. And we knew the EXACT place to set the story: Bisbee, Arizona.

Bisbee is spooky as hell, and the buildings are the same as they were at the turn of the century. PERFECT. And so I came up with an old box camera that took pictures in the present – but these pictures developed as pictures from the past.

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And just like that, I started writing (when I was a kid, I wrote tons of stories, before getting sidelined into opera singing). I had a lot to learn, but I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun as I had on that quest. I finished the book, found an agent, and tried to sell it. It didn’t sell for a couple of years, but finally ended up at Kensington (DARKSCOPE, a Pinnacle paperback). I’ll never forget the day I went into Frys and there was my book on the racks. There was a lot to learn, and I’ve come a long way since then, but that first book – like a first painting or a first dog show ribbon or (especially) a new baby – A first is always something exhilarating, and will stay with you forever.

What was a First for you, and did you think you were half-crazy to try it?

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