The Skeleton Gives a Test

News: Robeader is the randomly selected winner of Marni Graff’s book! Please contact Marni at

I am happy to welcome back Leigh Perry aka Toni L.P. Kelner. She is giving away a copy of The Skeleton Paints a Picture to one of our commenters! See details below!

By Leigh Perry

It’s been many moons since I attended school, but with the October 10 release of The Skeleton Paints a Picture, I’ve been living in the head of a fictional academic for a number of years. It’s the fourth in my Family Skeleton series featuring adjunct English professor Georgia Thackery and her best friend, an ambulatory skeleton named Sid. Sid walks, he talks, and he tells bone jokes.

This latest adventure is set at an art school, which is a different kind of setting for Georgia and Sid, but it’s still academia, and I guess it’s finally rubbed in. I’m in the mood to toss a pop quiz in your direction. And naturally, I have bones on the brain!

So take a crack—not a bone crack, mind you—at these. Post your answers down below, and on Oct. 24, I’ll figure out who has the most answers write and send that person a signed copy or The Skeleton Paints a Picture. (Or an electronic edition or Audible download, if you prefer.) In case of a tie, I’ll draw a name from the contenders!

  1. Which character on the original series Star Trek went by the nickname, “Bones?”
  2. From what were dice originally made?
  3. The TV show Bones was based on the life and works of what forensic anthropologist and author?
  4. The Skull and Bones is a secret society at what Ivy League school?
  5. What is the longest bone in the human body?
  6. What are the three bones in the human ear?
  7. What is produced by the marrow in bones?
  8. Does the average woman have one more rib bone then a man?
  9. Who wrote and illustrated the epic comic book Bone?
  10. The appearance of sea dog Billy Bones begins what classic book?
  11. Are human bones considered an organ?
  12. An adult human has approximately how many bones in their bodies?  206; 228; or 270?
  13. What bone makes the kneecap?
  14. The tomb of what literary giant is inscribed, “Cursed be he that moves my bones?”
  15. What royal bones were found under a parking lot in England?
  16. What is the bone at the very bottom of the spine?
  17. What adversary did the British derisively refer to as “Old Boney?”
  18. Which Shakespearean character’s speech included the line, “The evil men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones?”
  19. Do giraffes have fewer, the same number, or more vertebrae in their neck than humans?
  20. Put on display for much of his early life, and then living in London Hospital, Joseph Merrick suffered from a variety of skin and bone abnormalities and is known to popular culture by what name?

Note: These questions were provided by the incredibly erudite pair of trivia mavens Merely Players, who provide trivia quizzes and character appearances at venues throughout the Charlotte, NC area. They are available for birthday parties, corporate events, and educational presentations. (And are some of the smartest people you will ever meet.) You can find them on Facebook at:

Leigh Perry writes the Family Skeleton mysteries featuring adjunct English professor Georgia Thackery and her best friend, an ambulatory skeleton named Sid. The Skeleton Paints a Picture is the fourth, and most recent. As Toni L.P. Kelner, she’s the co-editor of paranormal fiction anthologies with Charlaine Harris; the author of eleven mystery novels; and an Agatha Award winner and multiple award nominee for short fiction. No matter what you call her, she lives north of Boston with her husband, two daughters, one guinea pig, and an every-increasing number of books.

Guest: Marni Graff

Edith here, still a bit high from Bouchercon. I am delighted to welcome our friend Marni Graff back to the blog. She has an awesome new Nora Tierney English Mystery out, The Golden Hour. And she’s going to give away a signed copy to one commenter here today!

Take it away, Marni.goldenhour_cover_final_front

What’s in a Name?

One of my favorite parts of starting a new book is finding and assigning names for my characters as I create them. The way a name sounds, what it means, and even how often I’ll be typing a long name are all considerations. I vary ethnicity, and often choose surnames that are from the particular area in England where my American sleuth, Nora Tierney, will visit in this particular volume. I’ve even chosen names in homage to other authors or their characters. I do seem to have a thing about names.

My own name, Marni, is a nickname that stuck after the Hitchcock movie, reduced from Marnette, and the story behind that unusual name goes like this: my grandparents had decided to name their daughter Kathleen but needed a sturdy middle name to handle their German descent surname, Loschmidt. They were stumped and asked my godmother to come up with an unusual name. Martha wanted a bit of her name in there but thought “Martha” too old-fashioned for a baby born in the 1950s. She was reading Hugo’s Les Miserables at the time, and coined the name from the lovers, Marius and Cosette. In French it translates to “little sea” but while there was not a drop of French blood in my family on either side, they liked the Irish-French-German combination of names: Kathleen Marnette Loschmidt. Of course, my mother added to the mix by marrying an Italian, so my maiden name is Marnette Kathleen Travia!

Maybe my unusual name spurred my interest in names. In my new release, The Golden Hour, I have not one but two characters named after real people, a first for me. The first came after Bouchercon Raleigh, where I offered naming rights as a literacy auction prize. The winner asked me if I would name the character for her mother, who is a huge mystery fan. This character was supposed to make an appearance, nothing of significance, but this would be the perfect gift for her mother’s 80th birthday.

Yet as I asked Betty Kaplan’s daughter, Lisa, about her mom, I found out Betty had been one of the first pediatric nurse practitioners in California, and was also such a handy woman, she was on a first name basis with the Sears repair department, known for tackling her own appliances. I started to think of a way I could use Betty in my plot, and in the final book, my Betty Kaplan has all of those attributes, but is British and lives in Bath. She’s a retired nurse practitioner who volunteers at Bath’s Royal United Hospital in their Caring Angels program. How that fits into the plot I’ll leave for readers to find out. Happy Birthday, Betty!

The second character name request came from my son, Sean, a paramedic police officer who had lost a colleague on duty after a traffic stop cost Alex Thalmann his life. Sean and Alex had been in training together, where the former Marine had been a great motivator for the entire class. His loss was felt by our entire community, and I readily agreed to Sean’s request to honor Alex in the name of all of the men and women in uniform who put their lives in danger on a daily basis for us.

This time there was no question about creating a character for the British Alex Thalmann. In The Golden Hour, he’s the Somerset and Avon Constabulary detective leading the Bath case that involves Nora and Declan and affects their little family and their future. Alex’s mom is so pleased her son has been given a huge promotion and is immortalized on those pages. It was an easy tribute to make that gave her something to smile about for a change. We’ll miss you, Alex.

Readers: Has your name ever been used in someone’s book? And for writers, how do you go about choosing your character names?

Remember, Marni is going to give away a signed copy to one commenter here today!

MKGHdshotMarni Graff is the award-winning author of The Nora Tierney English Mysteries and The Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries. The Blue Virgin introduces . Newly published is The Golden Hour, with Nora, an American writer living in Oxford, solving crimes in Bath. Graff’s new Manhattan series, Death Unscripted, features nurse Trudy Genova, a medical consultant for a New York movie studio. Graff is also co-author of Writing in a Changing World, and writes crime book reviews at She is Managing Editor of Bridle Path Press and a member of Sisters in Crime and the NC Writers Network. All of Graff’s books are available wherever books are sold.

Wicked Wednesday- Favorite Halloween Candy

Jessie: In NH where the foliage is beautiful it breaks the heart.

pick-and-mix-171342_1920Everywhere I’ve been in the last couple of weeks, from the pharmacy to the gas station, has had bountiful displays of Halloween candy for sale. So far, I have managed to leave it be. But it has got me to wondering which sort of candy do you each favor? Which ones beg to be tossed into your shopping basket?

Liz: Milk Duds and Tootsie Rolls! Omg, I love them both. So I don’t buy them, even for Halloween, because I know I’ll eat them way before the trick or treaters arrive!

Sherry: I was in the store today and passed the candy row. It was tempting, but I managed to resist! Pretty much anything that is chocolate is what I throw in and pass out — Snickers, Kit Kats, M&Ms…I could go on and on and on. I’ve taken to waiting until the last minute so we don’t eat it prior to the big night.

Jessie: I love candy corn. There, I said it. Candy corn. Or the tiny pumpkins made out out the same sugary, toxic madness as candy corn. When I was a child I loved to put pieces of candy corn on my incisors and pretend I was a vampire. Ok, sometimes I still do…

Edith: (Why am I not surprised, Jessie!) I bought the tiny bags of peanut M&Ms last week – and pretty much assume they’ll be gone by Halloween! I also love Baby Ruth bars, and if I come into contact with candy corn I still have to bite off one color at a time. I swear each color tastes different.

Barb: I love candy corn, too, Jessie! I’m so glad you admitted it. My favorite though is mini-Butterfingers. I don’t buy until the last minute and I hate that neither Bill nor I have an office to send the leftovers to, though our street in Somerville, MA was the “trick or treat street” and there were never any leftovers.

Julie: Count me as another candy corn girl! Love it. Also love Butterfingers. My favorite are Reese’s cups. LOVE. Them. Will admit, I hit target after Halloween to get some sale stuff. Also, the Halloween M&M colors are harvest, so good to get a bag or two for Thanksgiving.

Readers, what is your favorite Halloween candy?Save

The Detective’s Daughter – The Creative Ones

Kim in Baltimore sitting in the heat after foolishly taking all the air conditioners out of the windows.

In August I took a job a job as an assistant to the artist Maxine Taylor. Though art had been my minor in college, nothing compares to first hand experience. I have lately given great thought to what it means to be creative and have gone as far to buy journals to help me develop my own work more creatively. This led me to ask the question: Does our level of creativity form the path we take in life or does it hinder our plans?

One of my many journals

My dad was both a creative and talented artist. When I was a child he would sit and sketch my dolls as I pretended to be on the boardwalk at Atlantic City. He would give me the finished sketch and I would hang them up just as my parents did with the portraits we brought home from vacation.

Dad showed such promise as an artist he was encouraged to attend the college of art after his high school graduation by his teachers. My grandmother had hoped that he would work in the advertising department of a big store like Hoschild Kohn. True to form, Dad would not commit himself to Nana’s plan. She told him she would be happy with any career he chose as long as it wasn’t police work. Legend has it he applied to the police academy that day. Their relationship is a column for another time.

Despite joining the force, Dad did not abandon his art. At work he was known for drawing

The mascot Dad designed and drew for his homicide unit.

detailed accounts of crime scenes and designing mascots for the different divisions in the force. At home, in addition to his sketching, he dabbled in jewelry making, ceramics, pottery, velvet painting and interior design. He made a small fortune designing and making chess set, a small business venture he stopped because the demand for his games became more than he could produce. Near the end of his life he had a small mail-order business selling puzzles of police badges from across the country that he had painted.

Dad and Mom, who was an expert seamstress, collaborated on two projects. The first was a Halloween costume for my sister. The year she started crawling they built her a turtle shell. It was cute and she won a prize. We always won prizes for the costumes Mom made for us. Their second project was creating a Bicentennial room in our house. Mom sewed, Dad painted and in the end the room was so red, white and blue it gave us all migraines.

A ring Dad made in the 1970s.

Nana always believed Dad had wasted his talent by joining the police force, but he hadn’t. He had a unique way of observing situations and an uncanny ability to read people. Those were the skills that saw him through a forty year career of solving crimes and retiring as a homicide detective with no open cases on the books. Now, that takes creativity and talent.

Readers, how has your creativity formed your role in life? Tell us in the comments. [Note: Kim is out of town on a writing retreat and won’t be able to reply to comments – but she’s thinking of you!]



Jessie: In New Hampshire where autumn has well adn truly arrived.

Last week I attended a conference for novelists down in Florida. There is a lot to thinkfullsizeoutput_5c7 about and I left with a head crammed full of possibilities and things to ponder. One of the workshops that I attended was on the subject of newsletters.

I must admit, rather shamefacedly, that I do not currently have a newsletter. I have meant to put one together, told myself I should put one together, added it to my projects list and agonized thoroughly over the lack of one. But somehow, I have never seemed to have managed it. The workshop presenter convinced me it was time to change all that.

Apparently, a newsletter is not all that difficult to produce and according to the presenter readers actually truly love to find them in their email inboxes.  she made the entire thing seem like fun instead of like something overwhelming and tedious. Which brings me to the point of this post. I could use a little help from all of you.

I would love to know which sorts of things you like to hear from writers when you subscribe to a newsletter. I’d love to know how frequently you like to receive such things. I’d like to know if you value notifications about upcoming releases, author appearances, exclusive content available only to newsletter subscribers, or newsy tidbits and behind-the-scenes information about what went into the books that you like to read.

I also would love to grow the numbers of people interested in receiving the inaugural issue of my newsletter. I do have a sign-up link  for one on my website and have added it here should any of you be interested in signing up.

Readers, I’d love to hear the answers to the questions above. Writers, do you send out a newsletter?

Opening Lines

Write an opening line for the picture below:

Edith: “Good Lord, this baby’s heavy. Whadda they got in it, a body?”

Barb: “I told these guys a thousand times, you rob the safe while it’s IN the bank.”

Sherry: (I’m still laughing at Barb’s line.) They said it was a safe job. I didn’t know they meant it literally.

Jessie: I thought the guy that hired me said it was a safe heist. It turns out he said a safe hoist.

Liz: We tried to be as casual as possible and look like we were supposed to be jacking the safe. I mean, would four guys in their right minds think they could get away with this in broad daylight otherwise?

Julie: When he said he wanted something to protect the family jewels, she took him literally.

Readers: Add yours!

The Food Conundrum

Finished Product (1)

The recipe I came up with for Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen–shrubs!

When you write cozies, there is always the food issue. That is, do you include recipes or not?

Now, for some folks, that answer is an easy one. They’re centered around food, so of course! There’s even a great blog called Mystery Lovers Kitchen that is about mysteries and food. It features a huge array of cozy authors. They let me do a guest post in August. I made shrubs, which are discussed in Chime and Punishment. Part of the challenge is taking pictures of the process that look somewhat appetizing.

I like mysteries with food. In fact, Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swenson series is a go to for cookie recipes for me. There’s even a cookbook, which I own and have given as gifts.  Her Highlander Cookie Bar recipe is one of my go-tos when I need to impress. (Shortbread on the bottom, brownies on top. Oh. My.)

Several of the Wickeds have series that include recipes. In my Clock Shop series, there was a natural fit if I featured recipes from the Sleeping Latte. But, then I learned some of the “rules”. The recipe needs to be original. And, since I know I try them on occasion, they need to taste good. I bake, and cook, but I couldn’t take the pressure.

For my Theater Cop series, a food tie in doesn’t really work as well. Though, I did mention cinnamon and sugar french fries with a cream cheese frosting dip that I thought sounded pretty interesting in book 2, which will be out next September. I totally made them up, so the recipe isn’t in the book.

I am writing a new series (stay tuned), and I’m not sure if I’m going to have recipes. But I do find myself mentioning food a lot, just in case. I plan to have the nieces help me develop a couple to see if I can pull it off. We’ll see how it goes.

Today, my question for you dear readers, do you like cozies with recipes? Do you try them? Trust them? Should I try and pull this off? Let me know in the comments!