Monday, November 20, 2017

The Best Selling Author of All Time

Agatha Christie.png
Agatha Christie

If you have never heard of Agatha Christie until now, then maybe you had no idea her book sales come in at around 2 Billion. Her books come in third best-selling only after the Bible and Shakespeare. Yes. I'm surprised too. I'd thought it would be JK Rowling, or perhaps S. King, or even D. Koontz, and no other author of romance or any other genre can claim this. She is dubbed the "Queen of Crime".

With 66 crime novels, 14 short stories and the longest running play, a murder mystery called "The Mouse Trap", her best known characters are Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Christie was a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, and was the inspiration for her Hercule. She had only 6 rejections. I say "only" because most of us have many more than a handful before our first publication.

Born in an upper-middle class family, she taught herself to read, and was a voracious reader, and was surrounded by strong and independent women. She was raised in a house of esoteric beliefs, she and her siblings believed her mother a psychic (which I don't doubt).

During WWII, Christie worked in a hospital and learned all she needed about poisons. Well, well. It's a good thing she became a novelist rather than a murderess.

Her first marriage was not to last. Her husband asked for a divorce, having had an affair with another woman. I'm sure this devastated Agatha, as soon after she disappeared and made headlines.

Christie had no memory of what happened to her. Her car and clothes were found at a chalk quarry, and everyone assumed the worst. She was gone from December 3rd to December 14. She made no mention of this there after in any of her writings.  This would there after be called her Fugue State.

On a trip to an excavation site at Ur in 1930, she met her second husband, Sir Max Malloway. Her fame as an author far exceeded his in archeology.

I've long wanted to read a Christie book, and I've finally found Murder on the Orient Express, which was not the original title. It was titled "Murder on the Calais Coach" when it first appeared in 1934.
Murder on the Orient Express First Edition Cover 1934.jpg

The book now has its newest cover from the latest movie:
Product Details
I hope to see the movie soon, and so will not read the book as yet. But soon. I'll post on both movie and book and differences.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Scam Insurance Notices

Hi, everyone. This post is just a warning to any of you who may be getting notification of any insurance company who send you emails or regular mail that they have signed you up automatically for next year's premium.

I've been getting emails from what claims to be Blue Cross Blue Shield, saying that they've automatically signed me up for next year's insurance so that there won't be any "interruption" in services. First of all, we did not have BCBS last year. Secondly, even if we had, the quoted price per month at over $2,000 is more money than I make per month!

When we got a letter in the mail claiming that they (BCBS), had reviewed our renewal form and we were accepted, we knew this was bogus since we never made any such deal with them at all, and we didn't have their insurance to begin with.

My husband was hopping mad and called the number provided. When he spoke to the woman he made it known that we didn't even have their insurance last year, nor do we want it this year. Eventually, after going around a few times (and he refused to give out any personal information, such as date of birth or especially social security) she put us on hold. It may have been 10-15 min. and this man came on and seemed to think this was a fresh call.

That was a red flag.

After Dennis told him that we'd been put on hold for 15 min, he still insisted ours was a fresh call. Once we got into the meat of the matter, he asked us to tell us the address from where this letter came from. We told him it said Florida. He said that they are based in Texas. He was pretty sure that we'd been shammed--not that it was news to us, but really, someone else would probably be tricked by it. The offer to not have to go through the market place--which you do have to do!--and just go ahead with whatever they were telling you to pay is very scary. The man said we should report it to our attorney general (which I think is someone who just got the job in Illinois), although he had not heard about something like a scam like this as yet. WEll, he has now!

The next day we got our bill in the mail from this place claiming to be BCBS, at over $2,000/month. We happily tossed it in our bin where such is burned.

First of all, I'm sick of being billed for something I can't use. My husband went to have wax removed from his ear this summer because he could no longer hear. This was done at a local place and the procedure was so simple it could be done at home with a spray bottle, water, hydrogen peroxide, and a tube. We had to pay a $30 co-pay. Then we got a $30.** bill in the mail from them. And still had to pay our insurance company--who came out ahead on the deal.

I've come to the conclusion because we've paid for insurance and they can't even pay for a simple thing like that, we may as well not buy it this year. It's just not worth it. I find it ridiculous people are forced to pay for this insurance and it doesn't do anything. We're both in good health, and knock on wood, should stay that way for a while. This year the price is ridiculous. Sure you can go with lower payments, but you don't get anything covered, and you can't even go see a local doctor. You may as well not have it.

I've had it! Dealing with the whole thing has gotten crazy and annoying. I'll pay the penalty. I'll be 64 next August so at least I won't have to worry about it.

Anyway, just be careful, whatever you do, don't believe anything coming from some insurance company that claims you're already signed up, and for goodness sakes, don't pay for something you didn't get through the market place first!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sherlock Holmes - My Newest Obsession

Colour illustration of Holmes bending over a dead man in front of a fireplace

The distinguished profile, the pipe, the deer-stalker's hat--this can be none other than Sherlock Holmes.

I love a mystery. As a teen, or young adult I spent Sunday mornings watching Sherlock Holmes played by the well known actor Basil Rathbone, who to me was a great actor and seemed to bring Holmes to life on screen for 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures.

I've now turned to Jeremy Brett, a later adaptation by Granada Television (1984-1994). These made for TV shows with Brett are more accurate to the late author, Conan Doyle's stories, but I suspect that copyright had everything to do with what they could and could not do with them back in the late 1930-early 1940's. From what I was able to ascertain was that Doyle's works (Homes & Watson) "expired in the UK & Canada at end of 1980, was revived in 1996 and expired again at end of 2000. The author's works are now in public domain in those territories. All works published in the U.S. before 1923 are in public domain."

The first set of stories were published between 1887 - 1893. Conan Doyle killed off Holmes, stating he wished to devote more time to his historical novels. What was intended to be his last Holmes work was called "The Final Problem", which pitted Holmes against the greatest criminal mind, Professor James Moriarty. Holmes takes a trip to "the Continent" with Watson, who is mystified by his friend's behavior, and this strange trip where they try to keep one step ahead of Moriarty who has, in the beginning of the story, threatened to kill Holmes if he doesn't stop his investigations. Which, of course, Holmes refuses to do.

Watson and Holmes arrive in Switzerland, seemingly enjoying a holiday, but Holmes keeps a watch, and carefully scans the distance and sees that Moriarty has figured out his destination. But he says nothing to Watson, not wanting to alarm his friend. Holmes has come to the conclusion that this may be his final battle, that if he rids the world of this fiend, he has done his ultimate in his fight against all crime. Even if it means his death.

The two do-gooders reach a nice village inn, seeming to enjoy themselves. The owner suggests they go up to Reichenbach Falls (now very famous because of the writing of this piece of fiction, and has a plaque there about this famous adventure, where for fans of the famous detective is a desired destination.)

Moriarty and Holmes meet on the cliff at the falls. Holmes asks Moriarty for a little time to write to his friend, Watson, explaining what happened, and he grants him time to leave the note, so that his friend, and the world would know what happened. The note is rather short, but to the point and for Holmes he says this was his ultimate tryst with the most dangerous, most cunning criminal he has ever faced, and to rid the world of him was his ultimate goal in life. Even if it ends his own life. What a tremendous ending the the greatest detective the world has ever known.

Holmes and Moriarty wrestling at the end of a narrow path, with Holmes's hat falling into a waterfall
Holmes and Moriarty in mortal combat before they both fall off the
cliff of Reichenbach Falls

Of course, the public wasn't to be silenced just because 
Holmes had supposedly died. 
They demaded more Sherlock Holmes stories. 

Having so thoroughly killed Holmes off, Doyle had to bring him back, and did so in "The Adventure of the Empty House" in which Holmes returns to his lodgings as himself, but in a disguise goes to Watson's office and nearly scares the life out of him when he reveals himself. His disguises always threw Watson, but the poor man thought him dead and to see him there in his office was a shock.

Holmes aficionados refer to this period (1891-1894) as the Great Hiatus. No one knows precisely what Holmes did or where he went during this time, although in "The Empty House", there is some explanation--he went to France, was in contact with his brother Mycroft, who sent him money and kept Holmes's secret as well as his lodgings in tact (and I suppose paid during those years of self-inflicted hiatus.) 

To my knowledge (correct me if I'm wrong), no one has written a continuing account of what Holmes did afterward. Doyle certainly did not.

After realizing that there was a hole in his adventures, so to speak, I had a night of sudden inspiration and wrote a short chapter about what happened next. This is going to be worked into my next Lainey Quilholt murder mystery (3rd book), where a character in the book is writing it--a book called "The Lost Manuscript of Sherlock Holmes". I thought it clever, anyway.

I'll have that piece up next time. Until then, all you Sherlock Holmes fans, I hope you enjoyed my little bit of history about Conan Doyle's most famous detective. He was so famous in fact, that people actually thought he was a real live person. Even to this day letters go to 221B Baker St., London, England. And someone (sort of like Santa Claus), answers them.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Halloween Spooks

It's that time of year again, and although I've decorated for it, I couldn't get into it as I have in past. However, I'll share my various pics from the house, and beyond.
I've always collected jack-o-lanterns, and these are small ceramic ones
I can put a flameless candle in and light up areas around the house.

I also collect skulls. This one to the right is one of my oldest wax pieces. I couldn't say for sure, but
I think it dates back to the '70's.
The card, to the left, was sent by my sister, and it plays the Psycho notes.
My sister and I love Halloween. We're both a little strange. 

Decorating my French doors is always something I get into. Here is one pane with the greeting in
the jell decorations I've collected.
I always wait until after the season to grab up whatever is left over.

Here is another pane with the bloody hand prints. The feel of the jell makes it somewhat believable.

A number of my decorations fall under the category of handmade, either by me or others. Two more wax pieces dating back to 70's are in among the decorations.
The ghost behind the gravestone [RIP] my husband cut the figures out and I painted and put together a long time ago when I did crafts. Not sure why this little guy never sold, but my gain, right?

Here are more jacks which light up. The black one to the right does the various colored lights inside. I couldn't get the foam pumpkin on the left to light up as I took the picture, as this Jack was simply too quick.
In the middle is a ceramic black cat arching it's back, and again, I've got flameless candle in it, and in the
glass candle holder in front of it.

 More Jacks here, lit up. The large ceramic one is my oldest ceramic piece.

And this is the small afghan I made last year (last year's photo).
This year I've draped it on the back of couch. But this shows it off better.

Below is sample from a local store I frequently find my most recent pieces, but I look/shop all over for just the right things.

Hopefully, if weather is good (isn't looking like it at this point), I'll have pictures of the Pumpkin Fest.
All for now!

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Little Aside

October has always held a special place in my mind/heart/spirit. I think it's my creative side that gets twanged like a harp string when autumn leaves turn, the air turns crisp, and pumpkins and gourdes are in the supermarket or at farm stands.

This October, we haven't had the usual crispness, or the leaves changing around here. The leaves have simply begun to fall. We had a long stretch of 90+ temps and sort of put a damper on my usual decorating. (More on that in my other blog.) And a few personal things going on as well has thrown me.

I took the whole day off yesterday to either explore my other creative talents, or just veg out and watch Sherlock Holmes (my latest interest).

My other creative verve is painting. I've taken pictures of the pieces I've done. Here is a sample of one of my very first ones. I call it "Sunrise on the Prairie".

The above painting I used this picture from my phone camera below to create.

I was out behind the barn back in August, where some of the prairie plants stretch out for acres. I knew exactly what I wanted to take a picture of, found the right angle, as the sun was coming up over the rise, and it turned out wonderfully. And I think the painting worked out well for a novice in water colors. I've an art degree, which I've never used really.

This next painting I did from a photo also, but from our vacation. I'm still practicing water and sky, so it's not perfect.

And it's from this picture from my vacation up to Lake Superior.
These watercolors are done on post card sized paper. Easy to send in a letter or card envelope.
I've sent the above painting to my ailing brother who had a massive stroke, he can't speak, and I'm told he can't even write his thoughts down. He's going through therapy, of course. He's 77 this year--yes quite a span of years between some of my brother's and sisters. (My father would have been 99 this year!) He was a good big brother, always taking us (my little brother and I), places. I remember holding on to his finger because my hand was so small. He called us "Clobbers", I guess because we roughhoused with him a lot. He tended to tickle me to death.

After having sent the card with my painting in it, I had word that he loved it and put it up on his refrigerator--sort of like when I was little and did drawings (I sometimes drew on walls, so there was my artwork for all to see when they passed by. My mother must have pulled her hair. I know my sister didn't appreciate when I used her favorite lipstick to draw on our shared bedroom wall!). I was happy to give it to him. He's to have surgery, but this was put off until spring, I'm told.

His daughter has also been sick. She's gone through cancer therapy--yes, all at the same time! But she is recovering, and is going back to work. She works at a grocery store where they tend to be better than most places I've ever heard of. They have a catering service, and on-line grocery shopping. She told us that they would bring her food to her door so she wouldn't have to go out. My husband saw her at the store, last week, and gave her a hug and I really hope to see her back at her job--of course not as many hours, and going at her own pace. She may go back to doing the on-line shopping (they get the orders and go through the store shopping for these people). Or she may do service counter. It remains up to her. That's a nice place to work.

They also have a dietitian. And while Dennis was there, he heard her name called over the intercom, requesting her to meet the dietitian in the health food area.

I haven't decided what picture I'll give to her, as yet. I thought maybe I'd come up with something for her this Christmas. It might give me a chance to practice a little more.

Well, that's all I have for now. I'm working on the next murder mystery. Sort of slow going, but I don't care. I've just sent in the sequel to "Spell of the Black Unicorn", which has been written for a dozen years, and I only had to go through (thankfully), and edit.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

I've had a good summer off, had a lot going on, both inside and outside. Flowers have bloomed and some still are, and others, like my sunflowers, are going to seed.

But the writing continues. I'm one of those who needs to have about 3 different stories going at once. And I've waited for publisher to send me edits of my 6th book in Sabrina Strong series to me, and finally got them last weekend, and I'm still working on them. So, concentration is on Requiem at the moment. I've also realized I need to write up a description of the book. Last night I wrote it out in longhand, feeling that it might help the germ of inspiration for me to use a pen instead of type it out. Let's see how it is, and this is quite a rough draft, but I think it gets the message across.

Bill is back, literally from the dead. Is he vampire? Human? Or something more? His objective is to find and protect the Sybil. But this may prove to be harder than ever since the demon Naamah has vowed vengeance against her and enlists the talents of a witch to help.

Meanwhile, after the takeover, Tremayne is once again in power, calling Sabrina and Vasyl to his realm. His reasons for summoning the rival rogue vampire becomes apparent soon enough. Vasyl is asked to take over the eastern half of the U.S., while Tremayne goes to take on the western half, vacated by the vanquished (and very dead), Ilona.

Sabrina is uncertain of ramifications, and where this puts her in the hierarchy, but she knows her husband is now a very powerful and important vampire in Tremayne's realm. But she barely has time to get comfortable in this new position when she's attacked by Lief, who wants revenge for her having killed his mate. The V.I.U. (Vampire Investigation Unit), ignores the situation and lets Lief go. Showing that they side on the demonic side rather than vampire.

More than ever, Sabrina has to become pregnant, and when it looks as though she's about to go through with it, her spilled blood causes Vasyl to vacate and abdicate his new realm before he is tempted beyond the point of no return.

A breach in security at Tremayne Towers causes Sabrina, and others to fight off some nasty demons, but she is injured and needs a quick infusion of vampire blood to save her life. This is where Stefan Capella comes in as a major player in the Sybil's life. The secret behind who he really is is revealed soon enough, and although he brings on the charm, Sabrina isn't crazy about where this will ultimately lead.

This is what I've got so far. I'm sure it will change, and I haven't put an ending on it, as yet. Leave comments as usual. Love to hear from you.