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The Case of the Missing Elizabeth Boyle Novels

July 8, 2017 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley, Java Plots by marianne h donley tagged as , ,

The Case of the Missing Elizabeth Boyle Novels | Marianne H. Donley | A Slice of Orange

I lend books to just about anyone who wants them. Sometime even to people who don’t. I never worry about getting the books back because I have a handy-dandy book embosser. I stamp From The Library of MH Donley right on the title page. Most people returned embossed books.

Oddly, I never get back my Elizabeth Boyle novels.

It took a lot of detective work, but I think I’ve figured out why.

Many years ago, I volunteered to collect books from published authors for a charity function.  A few authors handed me books at our local writers’ meeting, but most mailed them.

Bertha, my mail lady, being kind and gentle instead of a soulless bureaucrat, walked the book bundles up to my door rather than leaving them stuffed inside my tiny mail box.  On the fourth day of lugging books, Bertha asked, “Why are you getting mail from people I know?”

I was startled. I had never been questioned by my mail carrier before.  Did receiving mail from friends of postal workers violated some obscure government code?  Curious, I asked, “Who do you . . .”

“Elizabeth Boyle,” Bertha interrupted.

“You know Elizabeth Boyle?” I asked.

“I love her books,” she said ignoring me. “I’ve read every one.”

“She’s an excellent storyteller,” I said, “I always enjoy her books.”

Bertha narrowed her eyes and handed me another parcel of books.  “But why is she sending YOU books? And all these other authors.  I recognize all of them.”

I explained about the charity function.  But she kept staring at the packages of books in my arms as if I were hiding some evil secret for getting, authors in general and  Elizabeth Boyle, in particular, to send me five copies of their latest book.  With a frown on her face, Bertha stepped down from my front porch and walked back to her mail truck.  Just before she got in, she turned back to me and asked, “So are you an author?”

“I’m working on it,” I answered.

“What exactly are you writing?”

“Right now, a murder mystery,” I said.

Bertha backed up so fast she bumped into her truck.  “Dead people?  You write about dead people?”

I laughed. “Not real dead people.  I do make them up.”

“How do you do that?  Are there research books on how to kill people?”

“Well,” I said, “I do have Deadly Doses: a writer’s guide to poisons.”

“What?” Bertha’s voice squeaked. “Do the poisons work?”

“Haven’t tried any . . .yet,” I said.  I thought she would laugh, but she hopped into her truck and zoomed off to the next set of mailboxes without even waving good bye. I lugged my armful of books through the front door and didn’t think much more about her until I caught her hugging my husband in front of our mailbox two days later.

Now seriously, Dennis gets hugged by everyone.  Checkers at the grocery store. Tellers at the bank.  The principal at a local school who turned out to be his mother’s Avon Lady’s second daughter.  So I didn’t think the hugging part was all that unusual.

“Hi, Bertha,” I said.   “Any more packages for me?”

She leaped into her vehicle, did a quick u-turn and took off down the street.

“That was weird,” Dennis said as he walked up the driveway to where I was standing.  “She jumped out, hugged me, said she was so glad to see I was still alive. Then started quizzing me about your cooking and a book on poison.”

“Hummm,” I said.

“You wouldn’t happen to know what she was talking about?” he asked when he put his arm around my shoulder and we strolled into the house together.

“Not a clue,” I said.

“If anything happens to me, Bertha will testify,” he said.

“Maybe,” I said.

“What do you mean by maybe?”

“I’m pretty sure Bertha could be bought for a few Elizabeth Boyle novels.”

“Indeed,” he said.

We have a new mail carrier these days, but I have noticed that Elizabeth’ novels seem to disappear from this house the second I finish reading them. No one I lend books to admits having them. And they are never in the returned book pile.

Marianne H. Donley | A Slice of Orange

Marianne H. Donley makes her home in Tennessee with her husband and son. She is a member of Bethlehem Writers Group, Romance Writers of America, OCC/RWA, and Music City Romance Writers. When Marianne isn’t working on A Slice of Orange, she might be writing short stories, funny romances, or quirky murder mysteries, but this could be a rumor.

No husbands, mail carriers, or authors were harmed in the writing of this blog.

You will find Marianne’s short romantic story “The Widow Next Door” in:



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The Shopping Gene

December 15, 2008 by in category Java Plots by marianne h donley tagged as ,

By Marianne Donley

I don’t have The Shopping Gene.

I hate shopping.


I would rather iron wrinkled cotton pleated skirts.

I would rather have a tooth pulled without drugs.

All right. All right.

I would rather clean bathrooms than go shopping. Considering I live with men who think “close” counts in other things beside horseshoes and grenades, two toddlers who LOVE unrolling and splashing, and a dog who thinks bathroom rugs are alive and must stalked and then shaken bald for the safety of the family and good of all mankind, that’s saying a lot.

I know this is a character flaw because when I confessed to my Great-Aunt Alice she gasped, loud. Then she took my right hand in both of hers and said, “Marianne, you are not a Hebert.” Which in our family was akin to condemning someone to eternal damnation. In-laws in the Hebert family are “jokingly” referred to as out-laws, and we even made up tee-shirts that said so for the family reunion.

It didn’t escape my notice that this was only considered a female character flaw and not a male one. I can’t remember seeing my dad or one of my three brothers in a store. I’m pretty sure the words, “I’m going shopping.” have never been utter by any of them. None of them were told they weren’t Heberts.

My three sisters however are a different story. They love shopping. They plan shopping excursions with the cunning second only to Hannibal’s army scaling the Alps on the back of elephants. And they bring home spoils of the war. They expect me to admire their prowess at finding the last puce handbag at thirty percent off. They assure me that will go with the sweater they scored last year. I try to be suitably admiring, but I just don’t get it. I have four hand bags, a gold beaded job for wedding and things, a black one for winter, a white one for summer, and a red tote that the Alpha Smart will fit into for conference. I can’t imagine wanting a puce one, or using it either.

Occasionally they will invite me to go alone on their shopping safaris. It took me a while to realize that the occasions always coincided with Christmas and packed parking lots.

Not to brag or anything, but I excel at Competitive Parking. I honed my skills as a undergraduate at Cal Poly, where the administration sold a billion (more or less) parking passes for each and every marked parking space. If some little blonde coed communication major, with a belly button ring, a red Mazda Miata, and a giant boyfriend to carry her one paperback text book thought she was getting MY parking space when I had a thirty pound calculus book, a forty pound chemistry book and the entire works of Shakespear and ten seconds to get to class –well all I can say is HA! I can still spot a car backing out of a space close to the front of a building 8.3 miles away. I will get there first.

But once I parked the car for them, I was quickly abandoned at the nearest Nordstrom’s with a cup of coffee, a thick paperback and the instructions not to wander too close to the shoe section, because everyone knows buy shoes is NOT really shopping and my closet is sort of full. (Okay, so the sentence, “You can’t buy another pair of shoes unless you throw out a pair first.” has been spoken a time or two at my house. I just think the person saying that should fork over his closet as well because those three pairs of shoes and the flip-flops he owns are lonely.)

My sisters even buy their own gas. I can’t figure out why they don’t have gas fairies living at their houses, but they don’t. It’s sad. Gas fairies are pretty handy. When I need gas I just sort of casually mention it during dinner. Then the next morning “magic” my car has a full tank of gas. The gas fairy sometime grouses about the fact the tank was a third full when this conversation usually takes place. Excuse me, a third full is the same as saying two-thirds empty which means that tank is more empty than it is full.

None of my children inherited the shopping gene. My daughter, Steph, didn’t carry a handbag until she was twenty-five. She even pales at the mention of new shoes. She borrowed my car one time but immediately brought it back because it was making this weird pinging noise. The gas fairy had to explain it was the car signaling it need gas. (Who knew?)

But her daughter, Maddie, who is only two years old, loves shopping.

Steph, Maddie and I do video conferences a few times a week. When I ask Maddie what she’s going to do that day, she always makes her eyes go wide and squeals, “Shopping.”

Then she runs around in circles clapping her hands.

It’s a little scary.

Steph looks at Maddie running in circles and says, “That is NOT my fault.”

Mine either.

But we know who to blame.

Maddie got more than her big blue eyes from the gas fairy.

Marianne Donley writes quirky murder mysteries fueled by her life as a mom and a teacher. She makes her home in Pennsylvania with her supportive husband Dennis and two loveable but bad dogs. Her grown children have respectfully asked her to use a pen name which she declined on the grounds that even if some of their more colorful misdeeds make it into her plots, who would know the books are fiction. Besides they weren’t exactly worried about publicly humiliating her while growing up.

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On Finishing the Damn Book

October 15, 2008 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley, Java Plots by marianne h donley tagged as , ,

by Marianne H. Donley

I am taking an online class titled Fast Draft. The idea behind the class is to send your internal editor on vacation. Somewhere nice, of course, like the East Coast where she can bask in the fall colors and leave you the heck alone. Then you’re supposed to write twenty pages a day for two weeks. (For those of you who don’t want to do the math this early in the morning, that would be two hundred eighty pages.) You aren’t supposed to pay the less bit of attention to the quality of your written pages, here quantity only counts.

It was actually working pretty well there for a while. I will admit that I struggled to get twenty pages completed each day, but I was getting much more writing done. Since the start of the class, I’ve been averaging about ten pages a day. Before the class, I would be thrilled with three. No internal editor in sight. When an idea for tweaking an earlier chapter popped into my head, I made a note of it and then forged on.

Then we went to the Poconos on Saturday. What was I thinking? The Poconos are on the East Coast. Yes, the fall colors were beautiful, but the place was just crawling with internal editors. I think at least six of them hitched a ride home with us. Now, they’re crowded into my little writing cubby, whispering things.

Internal editor #1: That first scene in chapter six. You must be joking.

Internal editor #2: But we can tell you how to fix it.

Internal editor #3 It really isn’t funny. It doesn’t move the story forward.

Internal editor #4: Wait, chapter six is fine. Can we talk about the ending of chapter seven? Can we say weak? WEAK!

Internal editor #5: What the heck happened to the dog in chapter four? First she was there barking and then she disappeared. You have to go back and explain what happened to the dog. Short fix. It won’t take you long, a sentence here, a bark there. Two or three hours at the most. You know if you don’t do it now, you’ll forget all about it.

Internal editor #6: No offence, in that scene you just wrote, your heroine is acting like a twit. But I can tell you how to fix it. All you have to do is rewrite her scene from the hero’s POV, so instead of her just cleaning things up, he’s searching for clues. Clues are much better than cleaning.

I don’t think all of the internal editors who hopped into the car are mine. Some of them could be yours. If so, I wish you would call them home. I have to get rid of them, especially the ones who don’t belong to me. I enjoy writing a lot of pages each day and I don’t like all the whispering going on while I write. Sending them on vacation didn’t work for long. Yet, I don’t want to do anything too drastic like tossing them in the septic tank. While that would help get pages done, I really wouldn’t want to work with them after they lived in that environment. In addition, I suspect they won’t be too happy about the whole situation. Since I want to make use of them later when the first draft is done I really don’t want them mad at me. I suspect living in the septic for any length of time would make them all a bit grumpy.

So I’ve decided to give them all sleeping pills in this morning’s coffee. These are going to be long lasting magic sleeping pills, sort of like apple Sleeping Beauty ate (which I guess makes me the wicked witch, but I can deal with that). They are going to stay asleep until I write the magic words “The End” on that last page. So if I have YOUR internal editor hanging around, you might want to get her out of here before breakfast, otherwise she won’t be working until the end of November.

Marianne Donley writes quirky murder mysteries fueled by her life as a mom and a teacher. She makes her home in Pennsylvania with her supportive husband Dennis and two loveable but bad dogs. Her grown children have respectfully asked her to use a pen name, which she declined on the grounds that even if some of their more colorful misdeeds make it into her plots, who would know the books are fiction. Besides, they weren’t exactly worried about publicly humiliating her while growing up.

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September 15, 2008 by in category Java Plots by marianne h donley tagged as

Marianne Donley

On one of the many loops I belong to, someone mentioned a free writing program ywriter4 . About a dozen people on the loop chimed in saying they used the program and loved it. They mentioned story boards, and “problem word” finder, total word count along with chapter and scene word count, and other neat stuff I didn’t know I wanted. Curious, I downloaded the program and tried it. (For the faint of heart –no viruses, I swear.)

Okay, I love this program.

It has a Daily Word Count Tracker, so I know how many words I need to write each day to stay on target for finishing my work in progress. I don’t know why I like knowing I need to only write 300 words a day to finish by December 31. I suspect it’s because, heck 300 words is something I can practically finish in my sleep. 300 words is not as overwhelming as 300 huge blank pages of white. If I have to skip writing a day or two or okay, okay a week, and that Daily Word Count starts edging up toward 400 words a day, then I find myself working really hard to move it back down to my target of 300. And I can’t cheat –one word on a page doesn’t count as a page finished no matter how many paragraphs HAD been on that page during the day.

The Story Board feature is pretty cool too. After you create empty files of all your chapters and scenes (should you write like me and plot first) then you can decide from whose POV to write each scene. The Story Board then plots the book using your main characters as threads. At a glance I saw that I had six scenes from the heroine’s POV and my hero completely disappeared from the book –not a good idea. So I was able to rework the outline before writing to make sure the poor man was included.

Do you find yourself over using words? This program will run a problem word finder, either predefined (as, then, suddenly, all “ly” words, etc.) or user defined (for this book, seriously). It will even give you at total word usage count. I currently have written “seriously” 192 times and the word “and” 502 times. I suspect I need to get rid of some of both of them –seriously.

But my all time favorite part of this program, Scene Notes. I always have these brilliant ideas in chapter ten about chapter two. It is so very tempting to go back to chapter two and used said brilliant idea. Yet, noodling around in chapter two doesn’t move my story forward toward the finish line. I want to get to the finish line! So I can click on the Scene Note tab for chapter two, write my brilliant idea down, then get back to chapter ten. The note is “hooked” (high tech word –I know) to the scene for which I think I will use it and not in a Word document that I may or may not remember weeks later. Every time I bring up chapter two I see the note attached. This way I don’t rewrite chapter two, over and over unless that brilliant idea was really brilliant and I can do it when I get to polishing the second draft and not while slugging out the first.

So if you are looking for something to help organize your writing ywriter4 could be for you –and best of all it’s free. Let me know what you think of it or if you have something else you use, I’d like to know that too.

Marianne Donley writes quirky murder mysteries fueled by her life as a mom and a teacher. She makes her home in Pennsylvania with her supportive husband Dennis and two loveable but bad dogs. Her grown children have respectfully asked her to use a pen name which she declined on the grounds that even if some of their more colorful misdeeds make it into her plots, who would know the books are fiction. Besides they weren’t exactly worried about publicly humiliating her while growing up.

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Time: Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

August 15, 2008 by in category Java Plots by marianne h donley tagged as

By Marianne H. Donley
I love clocks. I have wind up analogue clocks that chime every fifteen minutes, a KitKat Clock with red sequined eyes and a moving tail that acts like a pendulum, battery clocks that are boring but accurate, atomic clocks that know when to change to daylight-saving time without me telling them to do so, and, of course, digital clocks on the microwave, cable box and computer screen. With one or two exceptions they all report different times.
It starts in my bedroom where we have matching digital clocks on matching night stands. The old guy’s clock reads ten minutes faster than my clock. He sets it that way on purpose. Every morning when HIS clock says 6:30 and mine says 6:20 he shuts the alarm off BEFORE it rings. Then he goes back to sleep.
I poke him and say, “Time to get up.”
He says, “No, I can sleep for ten more minutes.”
I say, “Why do you set it early?”
He says, “So, I can sleep for ten more minutes.”
This makes no sense to me. He knows the clock is ten minutes fast. Why doesn’t he set the clock for the correct time and then set the alarm for ten minutes early? As much as I like math (and I really do–be careful I’ve been know to prove the square root of two is irrational with little provocation!) I don’t want to do arithmetic at 6:20 in the morning. In addition, he is legally blind without his contacts on, no joke. So he can’t even see the clock until he gets up and gets dressed. And, not to belabor the point, he turns the alarm off BEFORE it rings, so why does he even need to set the alarm?
Moving down to the family room we have the mantle clock, an eight-day, key wind, Westminster Chime, Seth Thomas, my sister, Rosemary, gave to me as an engagement/Christmas present. No matter how many times I set it or fiddle with the +/- lever in the back, it runs about two minutes slow. This doesn’t really bother me. The clock is thirty something and has survived my kids, my nieces and nephews, and now my grand kids trying to see how it works. I figure it’s entitled to be a little slow. This drives the old guy nuts. He complains about it nearly every day which is why I keep fiddling with it.

In the dinning room we have an eight-day, key wind, Westminster Chime that my brother, Michael, made for my son, David’s wedding. We hung the clock when David and his family moved in with us. It doesn’t work because someone (I’m not naming names, but it wasn’t me) set the time by moving the hands counterclockwise. We’ve taken the clock to a variety of clock repair guys who have told us a variety of tall tales as to why it doesn’t work, including one guy who said it needed to be cleaned to the tune of three hundred dollars and one who wanted to replace its expensive movement with a cheap battery operated one.
My KitKat Clock didn’t survive the move from California whole. One of the mover guys misplaced his tail (on purpose I suspect as I had to take the clock off the wall twice and hand it to the guy when he said everything was packed). I hung KitKat in the solarium anyway, and his red sequined eyes still move with the time. But without his tail, he doesn’t have quite the noble bearing he did before. He keeps pretty good time as long as he is perfectly balanced. Dust his pretty face and he’s likely to stop ticking completely until I get the level out. My five-year-old grandson would like the clock to completely disappear because KitKat has scary little eyes. When he visits, I think poor tailless KitKat will have to live in the basement for a while.Now here are two time related tasks for you.

Task One: Go look at an advertisement for clocks or watches. You can use a newspaper or even the Internet. What time is it in most of the ads? Do you have any idea why?Task Two: A Westminster Chime clock, chimes four times at quarter past the hour, eight times at half passed, twelve times at quarter to the hour and sixteen times at the hour PLUS one extra chime for each hour (so at 6 am the clock will chime twenty-two times). How many chimes will that be for this whole year? (I warned you about the math.)

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