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  Jeff Falkingham, Feb 11, 2018  
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The Great River Authors Group Blog

Jeff Falkingham
    Blog Post Date: Saturday, February 11, 2018
'Clues' to a Good Mystery, Part 2
By Jeff Falkingham

     Last time, taking a clue from the popular board game Clue, we looked at solving a mystery by answering three questions: 'Who,' 'Where' and 'How?' (Thus, “Col. Mustard, in the Library, with a Candlestick.”)  Before moving on to other important questions, let’s pause to take a longer look at 'How?'
      While “WHO-dunnit?” has been a focus of murder mysteries for decades, I’d like to point out that How the crime was committed was the focus of many of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most popular Sherlock Holmes tales. For example, in The Problem of Thor Bridge, Holmes proves that a gunshot death, staged as a murder, was actually suicide. In The Case of the Dancing Men, which involved a pistol duel between two parties, the Great Detective discovers and analyzes the presence of an unexplained third bullet found lodged in a wall.
      In addition to dabbling in ballistics, Holmes was also a brilliant toxicologist. His expertise in solving cases involving poison is indisputable! What is intriguing about many of these cases is his discovery, and explanation, of How the poison was administered, or delivered, to the victim. In Adventure of the Lion’s Mane, a rare jellyfish is the venomous vessel. In Adventure of the Speckled Band, it’ssss . . . No, I won’t spoil the surprise!
      In A Study In Scarlet, Doyle’s very first Sherlockian adventure, the vengeful assassin approaches his first victim with two pills in the palm of his hand. “Choose one!” he commands, holding a knife to the other man’s throat. The pills appear to be identical, until the man holding them explains that one has been laced with deadly poison, the other has not. “There is life in one and death in the other. Choose one, and eat!” he repeats. “I will swallow the one you leave. Within minutes, one of us will lie dead on the floor, the other will walk out that door, forever free of the other man’s wrath. CHOOSE one!”
      What prompted this discussion was the February 10th rerun on public television’s Masterpiece Theater of  A Study in Pink, the absolutely brilliant opening tale in the British Broadcasting Corporation’s fabulous  SHERLOCK miniseries (launched in 2010), starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson.
      Next time, as promised, we’ll get to the questions of 'When' and 'WHY?'

Jeff Falkingham
    Blog Post Date: Saturday, January 06, 2018
'Clues' to a Good Mystery
By Jeff Falkingham

          Colonel Mustard. In the Library. With a Candlestick.

          Everybody knows what I’m talking about, right? CLUE!

          "Clue" (or "Cluedo" as it's known in other parts of the world) is a popular murder-mystery game that has been around for 70 years. 

          In this game, several players move from room-to-room in a mansion, gathering evidence to determine which of them has killed the mansion’s owner. The game’s winner is the first player to correctly identify (1) the murderer, (2) the room in which the murder took place, and (3) the murder weapon. For example: “Colonel Mustard, in the Library, with a Candlestick.”

          Answering the questions “Who?”  “Where?” and “How?” makes for a dandy parlor game. But as a murder mystery, it leaves a lot to be desired. 

          Admittedly, the first and most important question asked in murder mysteries is often “WHOdunnit?” In this sense, Clue takes a clue from one of the most popular murder mysteries of all time, Dame Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (also known as Ten Little Indians).  As Ms. Christie herself illustrated in Murder on the Orient Express, there can be a wide variety of surprising answers. But as Lieutenant Columbo proved, it’s also possible to know the identity of the killer right off the bat, and still have a devil of a time proving “How” Col. Mustard actually did it!

          The question of “Where” is often the first one answered. We usually know the scene of the crime. Variations on this can include cases in which the body has been moved (as in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans), or in so-called "locked room" mysteries (such as Edgar Allan Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue, or Doyle’s Adventure of the Speckled Band). The question then usually turns back to one of “How?” 

          But even answering the questions of “Who?” “Where?” and “How?” still leaves a couple of huge questions UN-answered. Next time we'll look at “When?” and “WHY?”

Jeff Falkingham
    Blog Post Date: Friday, March 24, 2017
Website Cost?  From less than $100 – to over $2,000!
By Jeff Falkingham

     Three weeks ago, I promised to blog about “the cost – and value” of an Author Website. Turns out I may have bitten off more than I can chew! I’m NOT a computer expert, by any stretch of the imagination. I’m a writer. What little I know about “design” I learned over 40 years ago in the newspaper business (when we still called it “layout”). What I know about coding (HTML, etc.) wouldn’t fill a shot glass – maybe not even a thimble.

    About 10% of what I’m going to tell you is based on my conversations with other authors. Maybe 15% came from surfing the Internet. The other 75% is based on personal experience. The experiences of others may be entirely different. So, take that for what it’s worth – and let’s get started!

     You can easily spend a couple thousand bucks to have an experienced web-designer build you a very professional-looking website. Depending on your circumstances, it may well be worth it! On the other hand, you can also build one yourself, for less than $100. Yes, that’s true! The first thing you’ll need is a domain name. Mine is -- which comes from the title of my first book, County Courthouse Caper. I feel lucky to have it. When the craze took off, speculators gobbled up potentially popular domain names by the hundreds, hoping to sell them to people who eventually desired them. When I first got mine, it cost less than $10 a year. Fifteen years later, it’s $14.99 – still a bargain!

     My domain name came with a FREE “business contact” email address: When an email is submitted to that address, it is immediately forwarded to my personal (hotmail) account, with a flag identifying it as a “contact from website.” In some cases, the domain name and/or the business email address are “bundled” with a hosting service, which allows your website to connect to the Internet, and which, in turn, might be “bundled” with a website platform and/or a “drag & drop” website-building software package. When one or the other is said to be included for FREE – rest assured that you are still paying for it.

     The most popular website-building program right now is probably WordPress. I know at least a couple people who swear by it, as the best available! I also know a couple other people who regularly swear at it, claiming it has a very steep learning curve. Other highly-rated website builders include Wix, SquareSpace and Weebly. A popular rating service describes them as “best overall,” the most “design-oriented” and the “easiest to use,” respectively. The cost of a 5- to 7-page website can run from $4 to $28 a month -- $6 to $40 a month if hosting is included. Those cited above are all in the upper portion of that range.

     I chose to go with GoDaddy’s Website Tonight. It’s at the low end of the price range: $5.99 a month for the basic 5-page “Personal Website” builder (which I used for several years), and another $3.99 a month for the “Business Website” upgrade (which, among other things, gives you both a Desktop and a Mobile version, automatically).

     So, there you have it: $15 a year for your domain, $72 a year for your website builder; that comes to less than $100 (actually, just $87) a year! Earlier this month, I chose to pay the extra $48 a year for the Business upgrade. You can check out the results at, on both your desktop computer (if you still have one?) and your mobile device. If I must say so myself, I think it’s quite impressive (for the cost) – and I did it all by myself!

     Admittedly, there was a lot of “trial and error” at first. (Remember, I am NOT a computer expert!)  GoDaddy has over 300 easily-modified design schemes (they call them “themes”) from which to choose. And I probably putzed for the better part of three days with a project that your neighbor’s high school kid could have completed in three hours. But GoDaddy provides extensive online Tips (if you take the time to look at them), plus an online Live Chat connection to a Customer Service rep who will calmly and patiently walk you through any stumbling blocks  -- FREE of charge, I might add! (Though I’m sure it’s already been figured into your monthly fee.) Once you’ve mastered the basics, updates are a breeze.

     As for the VALUE of an Author Website, I’ll try to be brief. One year, I added a “counter” at the bottom of my Home Page. To my surprise, I was averaging 150 hits a week. That’s nearly 8,000 a year! Of course, MANY of them were my own (I finally dropped the counter, because it had become addictive), and a number of them were from website designers who contacted me to say “Your website is very nice! But it could be much more effective if you’d just hire me to make a few tweaks for you.”  (I’m happy to say that, after a year of getting such a message at least weekly, I’ve not had a single one in the month since I “tweaked” it myself!)

     Finally, here’s the clincher: ONE of the “out-of-the-blue” contacts from my website was from a regional library director, who hired me to give my Book Talk program at nine venues in five days. The resulting payoff, for speaking fees, books purchased, mileage and per diem, was over $4,600 (plus my lodging was paid for as well). That one “hit” alone covered YEARS of the cost of my Author Website – even if I’d paid $2,000 for it! (Which I didn’t.)

Jeff Falkingham
    Blog Post Date: Sunday, March 12, 2017
Doyle vs. Clemens: A New Perspective
By Jeff Falkingham

     Often called “the father of American literature,” Samuel Clemens (also known as Mark Twain) was born in Missouri in 1835 and died in Connecticut in 1910. His best-known works are The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, published in 1876, and its sequel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, published in 1885.

      Until the publication of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in 1925, Clemens’ Huckleberry Finn had been known, for 40 years, as “The Great American Novel.”  It is not unlikely that Clemens himself gave it that name! A proud man who came from humble beginnings, Clemens was already at the peak of his popularity when Arthur Conan Doyle appeared on the scene in 1887. It is clear that Clemens did not appreciate this upstart newcomer, who quickly threatened to steal his literary thunder. In his many speaking tours, both at home and abroad, Clemens never missed an opportunity to put down or one-up his British counterpart. For example, when the press made a big deal out of Doyle’s budding friendship with Harry Houdini, Clemens pointed out that his own circle of friends included both Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla.

      In 1891, Doyle published A Case of Identity, in which his fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, uses the unique characteristics of a typewriter (then a fairly new device) to identify a killer. Clemens immediately boasted that he had been using a typewriter for years -- and that, in fact,Tom Sawyer was “the first-ever novel to be written on a typewriter.” When confronted with evidence that this simply was not true, Clemens recanted. He then claimed it was Life on the Mississippi, published much later, which he had written on a typewriter. In fact, handwritten notes to friends and colleagues reveal that, while he owned a series of typewriters, Clemens never really got the hang of actually using one; and under deadline, he regularly dictated his stories to a male clerk -- or scrivener, as they were known at the time.

      Clemens not only belittled Conan Doyle in his speaking engagements; he also attacked Doyle in writing. In 1889, just two years after the first appearance of Doyle’s wildly popular “Sherlock Holmes” character, Clemens published a work of science fiction titled A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. In this tale, an ingenious American travels back through time to medieval England, where he stuns the backward British population with his thorough knowledge of science and modern technology. To many readers, the “ingenious Yankee” was Clemens himself (who lived in Connecticut at the time) and “King Arthur” was not Arthur of Camelot, but Arthur Conan Doyle – the implication being that astute American readers are not as easily duped as their British counterparts.

      If you doubt this interpretation, consider a subsequent attack on Doyle that was not nearly so subtle:  In 1902, Clemens published A Double-Barreled Detective Story. In this satiric tale, Sherlock Holmes finds himself in a California mining town, where Clemens has him using his investigative methods to a ridiculously exaggerated degree -- resulting in a completely wrong conclusion. How did Doyle react to this so-called “feud”? For the most part, he took the high road and ignored it. However, a clue to Doyle’s annoyance with Clemens can be found in the way that Sherlock Holmes treats the subject of fingerprints.

      As most Sherlockians are aware, Holmes (and Doyle) were years ahead of their time when it came to utilizing such forensic methods as blood analysis, ballistics, toxicology, chemical or microscopic analysis of minutia, unique physical characteristics, and so on. Yet even though fingerprinting experienced a meteoric rise in the early 1900s, Doyle barely mentions it. In fact, in Sherlock’s 60 cases, a fingerprint comes into play only once (more on that in a moment). Why does one of the era’s major breakthroughs in criminal investigation methods not play a more significant role in the Sherlock Holmes Casebook?  The answer is simple: Because Clemens beat Doyle to the punch!  

      In 1893, Clemens published The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson and the Comedy of the Extraordinary Twins. In one of the book’s story arcs, David Wilson is a small-town Missouri lawyer who, for no apparent reason, enjoys the curious life-long hobby of collecting fingerprints. To make a long story short: two babies, from different families, are switched at birth. One grows up as the heir to riches, the other endures an upbringing amid abject poverty and ridicule. In adulthood, one man turns out to be “good,” the other is “bad.” Eventually, one is accused of murder. Is it the right one? Only Pudd’nhead Wilson knows for sure!

      In Doyle’s Case of the Norwood Builder (the only Sherlock Holmes story in which fingerprints play even a minor role in the solution of the crime), a bloody thumb-print found at the scene turns out to be a red herring – a phony clue, made by a wax reproduction, planted to lead the detective astray. Published in 1903 (10 years after Pudd’nhead Wilson, but just one year after Double-Barrelled Detective Story), The Norwood Builder was Doyle’s way of “pooh-poohing” Clemens, like a cow swishing its tail to swat away a pesky fly.

      “Doyle vs. Clemens” is the sixth and latest addition to the offerings on the Book Talks menu for Jeff’s popular “Elementary, My Dear Watson! (Investigating Sherlock Holmes)” multimedia program. See details at  

Jeff Falkingham
    Blog Post Date: Tuesday, February 28, 2017
A Basic 5-Page Author Website
By Jeff Falkingham

For only the second time in 10 years, I recently overhauled my Website. There seems to be more demand for talking about books than writing them these days. So, I felt my approach should reflect this trend. Here are summaries of the five pages currently on my Website. Check it out at!

Home – This is your front door, your window to the world. You must instantly grab the viewer’s attention – and try to hold it! My Home Page opens with a very brief paragraph on Sherlock Holmes, followed by five equally brief bullet points about him. Then come brief introductions to me (barely a sentence and a half) and my program (two and a half sentences), followed by six even briefer bullet points (each only four or five words in length) about the units that make up that program. At the bottom of the page, a highlighted box contains a Link to “an independent newspaper review” of said program.

About – Again, a brief opening paragraph or two about my program, then brief descriptions (just two or three sentences each) about the six units that make up that program. One of the units (the NEW one) is highlighted – as is a NEW special offer. Each unit is accompanied by a small image. Since this is the busiest page, there are NO Links (other than the Menu buttons at the top).

Books – Again, a very brief lead-in, followed by brief synopses of my two books. Each is accompanied by a Link that allows you to read the first chapter. NEW to my Website this time around is a prominent Review of each book (highlighted), accompanied by a Link to that Book’s page on A fairly busy page, but presented in small units that the reader can access at their choice.

Events – An opportunity for me to “brag” (briefly) about where I’ve been – and, more importantly (in the first highlighted box), where I’m going to be next!  Also Included is a small Gallery of photos (nothing big) and, at the bottom, a Link to this Blog Page!

Contact – For businesses, the image can be replaced by a Map. In addition to the electronically submitted Form, I list a mailing address, email address & phone number (answering machine). No CELL phones on the golf course, please!  

In my next Blog, I’ll discuss the cost – and value – of an Author Website. 

Jeff Falkingham
    Blog Post Date: Friday, September 16, 2016
Indie Author Day
By Jeff Falkingham

Jeff Falkingham plans to kick off his 2016-2017 Book Talk campaign by taking part in "Indie Author Day" at the Willmar Public Library on Saturday, October 8. This event is designed to bring local writing communities together at local libraries all across North America, to participate in author panels, book readings & signings, workshops, presentations and more.

The October 8 event in Willmar will begin at 12:30 with a Meet & Greet session and book signings by several local and regional Minnesota authors. It will be held in the multipurpose room on the second floor of the Willmar Public Library, located at 410 5th Street SW in Willmar. A full schedule of afternoon events can be found at the library's website:  This event is sponsored by the Pioneerland Regional Library System.
Jeff Falkingham
    Blog Post Date: Friday, July 22, 2016
One-Act Plays Help Promote Books!
By Jeff Falkingham

On Saturday, June 25, I participated in the Sesquicentennial (150th Anniversary) Celebration in my hometown of Browns Valley, MN. In the morning, I was one of more than 40 exhibitors at the annual Arts & Crafts Fair in the City Park. The event, which included food vendors, games and live music, was very well attended, on a bright, sunny (albeit windy) day.

In the afternoon, I was the featured entertainment at the local school’s annual Alumni Social. A large crowd enjoyed my program, titled “Sherlock Holmes and the Raspberry Wine Inquisition.” The one-act comedy/mystery found the Great Detective investigating a case of skullduggery that may (or may not?) have involved divine intervention. (How else do you explain water turned into wine?)

The “Raspberry Wine Inquisition” was my third attempt at play writing. Last year, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our high school graduation, a former classmate and I produced “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Purloined Pussycat.” In a tale reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express,” all 26 members of our graduating class were suspects in the disappearance of our school headmaster’s prized house pet.

My first one-act play was “A Conan Doyle Primer.” In this two-man costumed skit, Holmes and his sidekick, Dr. John Watson, discuss the work of their creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This unit has since become a staple as the opening act in “Elementary, My Dear Watson!” – the multimedia presentation that I give to schools, libraries, historical societies and book or social clubs.

Jimmy Olsen
    Blog Post Date: Saturday, May 28, 2016
The Klinefelter Legacy
By Jimmy Olsen

   If you are a regular reader of this blog you know I seldom review books, especially recent releases, but today I’m breaking my own rules to recommend The Klinefelter Legacy by Andy Marso. Buy this book and a box of Kleenex.
    Many of you from Central Minnesota will recall the killing of St. Joseph Police Officer Brian Klinefelter on a frigid January night in 1996. In some ways it became a sort of “urban legend” if a town the size of St. Joe can have an urban legend, but Marso’s well-researched book caps this event with a solid ring of truth. A truth that got the story right, and most important for Brian’s family and friends, went to the heart of such tragedies so commonplace on the evening news many of us expect them. Our daily dose of senseless violence.
    The implications of this violence is obvious to those who experience it, but the real implications are universal. Senseless killing today is barely news. Now almost a game of numbers: How many murders in Minneapolis today? How many beheaded Christians for ISIS this week? How many Minnesota millions sent overseas to fund terrorism?
    Marso approached his subject honestly, pulling no punches, but not ignoring the important role Christianity played in this story. Telling it from the point of view of those involved – physically and emotionally. I recall reading a story once about a man who came home to find his wife brutally murdered, her blood sprayed on the walls of their bedroom, along a hallway and finally into the bathroom where her body was discarded. After all the excitement of emergency responses by police, TV news crews, paramedics, and medical examiners the husband was finally left alone to clean up the mess. Mopping up his wife’s blood was a memory he carried throughout his life. Hadn’t he been through enough? Now he had to clean up.
    The Klinefelter family had to clean up too, but the way they did it is seldom articulated on the evening news. Marso tells this story honestly, and as a reader, I was impressed with his straightforward approach to what it takes for average people to transcend typical responses to personal tragedy. Anger, but not hatred. Sorrow, but not hopelessness. Healing, but not forgetting.
    As a mystery writer, I can tell you this story is not a boring, laborious account. Even if you think you know the plot, don’t be too sure. “Doug Thomsen maneuvered his Buick SUV down a straight, slim stretch of country road between St. Cloud and St. Stephen, retracing a path he took almost twenty years earlier with a gun to his head.” And that’s just the first sentence of the Preface. This is a page turner. Don’t start it too late in the evening or you will be up all night.
    There’s nothing worse than a reviewer giving so much away you don’t want to read the book, so as to plot, it’s like so much good writing, it depends on the “characters”- their thoughts and actions. You get to know the people whose lives were changed that cold winter night. What they did, was vastly more enduring and significant than what the murderer did. The ending will surprise you.

  (p.s. I bought my copy at KEEPRS on Division Street near Hwy 15 in St. Cloud, OR try Books Revisited downtown across St. Germain Street from Herberger’s, or Books Revisited in Crossroads.)

Jeff Falkingham
    Blog Post Date: Tuesday, December 01, 2015
Is Cumberbatch the "Best Holmes Ever"?
By Jeff Falkingham
  In little more than a few short years, Benedict Cumberbatch has become the most popular reincarnation of Sherlock Holmes in decades. His worldwide popularity (especially among teens and young adults) far exceeds that of his contemporaries, Hollywood’s Robert Downey, Jr. and CBS television’s Jonny Lee Miller

   In fact, if you Google “Best Holmes Ever?” you’ll likely find the young star of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s “Sherlock” miniseries among the top two or three names in almost every poll!  Only the BBC’s Jeremy Brett (who played Holmes from 1984-1994) can challenge Cumberbatch as a serious contender for the title once held firmly by Basil Rathbone (who made 14 feature-length Holmes films between 1939 and 1946).
In January, Cumberbatch will take aim at Rathbone’s crown. He’ll do it using a trick previously employed by Rathbone himself: time travel. Basil’s version of The Great Detective achieved its greatest popularity when the setting for his movies jumped from the Victorian Era of the 1890s to the Nazi-fighting days of the 1940s. Producers of “Sherlock” are doing the reverse, taking Cumberbatch and co-star Martin Freeman (who plays Dr. John Watson) out of their familiar 21st Century setting, and back to 1895, for a Conan Doyle-inspired tale called “The Case of the Abominable Bride” (to be shown January 1 on PBS, and in select theaters on January 5 & 6). 

   If the gambit succeeds, it not only will increase Cumberbatch’s popularity; it also is likely to boost interest in Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories. Take advantage of this increased interest by inviting Minnesota mystery writer Jeff Falkingham to entertain your Library patrons! His popular 'Elementary, My Dear Watson' multimedia presentation takes his audience outside the box for an inside look at one of the most beloved and enduring fictional characters in literary history. (See

Mary Jo Mosher
  Email address: mjmd32741[AT]
    Blog Post Date: Thursday, November 05, 2015
The Day Robert Tried to Give Me Away
By Mary Jo Mosher

  It seems whenever we head for Wyoming, the motorhome rebels at crossing the Dakotas. We can’t figure out if it doesn’t like South Dakota or if it’s just being lazy. If there were a route that bypasses this hot, dry, boring, sparsely-populated treeless state, we would happily take it.
   This particular year, all was well until Litchfield where we turned onto 212 toward Watertown where the motorhome began belching smoke. Our mechanic at home had pronounced the transmission healthy before we left, so Robert thought the problem might be loose transmission bolts. It turned out later he was in the ballpark. We stopped at the next town where he tightened the bolts and checked the fluid. Everything appeared okay, so we drove on. But the problem continued sporadically, the motorhome barely making it into Watertown where a mechanic checked it.
  “Too much tranny fluid,” the mechanic told us. “When the excess burns off, there should be no more smoke. But I recommend adding some conditioner to soften the seals.”
   That done, we made it to Pierre with no more problems. So, after eating supper at the city park along the river, we drove south on Highway 83 toward the freeway. Twenty-three miles later smoke began pouring from under the motorhome filling the inside as well. A mile or two farther, the engine died, leaving us stranded on a quiet country road.
   We hoped to see a farm house nearby, but out there they were great distances apart. Looking toward the field on our left, we noticed a farmer and his son loading plowing equipment onto a flatbed, and Robert hiked off, hoping they could help.
   “We have to take this equipment to Pierre,” the man said, after listening to Robert’s story. “I can give one of you a ride to town and call a tow truck.”
   Robert agreed and came trudging back to me. “You go with him, and ride back with the tow truck. I need to let the horses out so they can stretch a bit.”
   “Why don’t you go and I’ll stay with the horses,” I said, remembering that murders in Minneapolis were up to two a day and that it wasn’t advised, especially for women, to take rides from strangers.
   “You’ll be okay,” Robert told me confidently. But my apprehension hadn’t been eased as I hesitantly climbed into the rancher’s truck. On the short drive to Pierre, I found the man friendly and extremely helpful, and I began to relax. Once there, he introduced me to the tow truck driver and told me the stock yard gates would be open for the horses when we returned.
   Since it was Saturday, mechanics were off duty. But the tow truck driver was able to find one who needed the extra pay for working on his day off. A transmission transplant was needed, the work taking at least a day. So we killed time by walking the dogs and taking them for a swim in a bay of the river. We cooked supper on the grill in the park and played canasta. Robert lost, but we weren’t playing for clothes this time.

Jeff Falkingham
    Blog Post Date: Saturday, October 31, 2015
Outreach Programs
By Jeff Falkingham

On Wednesday, October 21, I teamed up with the head librarian for three Pioneerland Regional Libraries to conduct a 30-minute "outreach" program in the Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley School District. The program was attended by more than 80 students (Grades 7-9) and staff members. I spoke about Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes, and (of course) my two works of historical fiction for young adults -- and the work that went into writing, publishing and promoting them. The librarian spoke about new features and programs available at the three venues she oversees.

Later that evening, the local library hosted my 60-minute multimeda program, titled "Elementary, My Dear Watson!" (details at Both events were sponsored by a grant from SAMMIE, the Southwest Area Multicounty Multitype Interlibrary Exchange. My appearance received extensive coverage in area media outlets, including at least half a dozen newspapers and two radio stations. I went home with a nice speaker's fee, a lighter load of books, and a pocketful of references and leads for future presentations.

Barbara Bettenberg
    Blog Post Date: Wednesday, September 02, 2015
Grandkids…the best!
By Barbie Bettenberg

I know! Grandparents are the worst braggers in the whole world. The thing is, we just can’t help ourselves. Ask any grandparent. Unless your grandkids are serial killers or worse, it’s just in our nature to brag. They’re cute and funny and almost as much fun as a new puppy. As long as they don’t live with you, that is. That’s a whole different situation. For me, I get to babysit for a couple days, fill them up with sugar, let them go to bed whenever they want and then I just ship them home. How much better can it get?


They say the funniest things! When my Granddaughter Carmen was being potty trained, we would have a potty party whenever she was successful. “Yeah! You did it! You’re such a good girl!” Giving her a treat was part of the potty party. So, during all of this, I went into the bathroom and, well, you know. I came out and Carmen said, “Did you go potty?”

“I did,” I said.

“Yeah! You did it!” she said.

I didn’t even get a treat! I must be doing something wrong.


Grandkids make you feel younger and sometimes you act a little childish. I was watching 3 of my grandkids for the weekend. The oldest got sick and started crying, “I want my Mom!” Then the 3 year old started crying, “I want my Daddy!” I had just changed the 6 month old and was holding her while the other two were hanging off my legs crying.

What’s a Grandma to do? I just sat on the floor with them and started crying, “I want my Mom, too!” Carmen, the oldest, started laughing and said, “But Grandma, your Mom’s in Heaven.” I just pouted and said, “I don’t care! I want her anyway!”

We all ended up laughing and it kind of broke the crying spell for all of us. (Mine was a bit faked, but it worked!) Of course, then I had to lay the baby down so I could actually stand up. I am a Grandma, after all.


Olivia, the 3 year old, bumped into a chair and started crying. “Did that chair hurt you?” I asked.

“Yes,” she cried.

“Ok, chair!” I said. “You are in time out! You hurt Olivia and that’s your punishment! And I don’t want to hear a peep out of you!” That seemed to satisfy her. She smiled and sat by the chair for a minute.

“Grandma Barbie, chair wants to talk to you.”

“Well, chair! What do you have to say for yourself?”

“Chair says sorry,” Olivia said.

“Oh, good. Thanks, chair. Please don’t hurt Olivia again.”

Time to fill them all up with sugar and send them home.

Jeff Falkingham
    Blog Post Date: Tuesday, June 16, 2015
MN Legacy Funding a Great Opportunity for Artists
By Jeff Falkingham

On June 12, the Minnesota State Legislature, in a "special session," finally approved $540 million in Legacy funding for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, including $125 million budgeted for Arts & Cultural Heritage.

This means that EACH of our state's more than 300 public libraries now has thousands of dollars to use to encourage performers, artists & authors to visit their communities!

Their fiscal year runs from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016. NOW is the perfect time to pitch your book and book talks to them!

Talk to your local librarian, or visit for a list of contacts for each of Minnesota's Regional Public Library Systems. Good luck!

Jeff Falkingham
    Blog Post Date: Wednesday, April 22, 2015
'Book Talk' Events
By Jeff Falkingham

On Saturday, April 18, I was the featured guest speaker for the West Central Minnesota district meeting of the General Federation of Women's Clubs. Hosted by the Progress Study Club of Browns Valley (my hometown, and the setting for my first book), the event was attended by 32 leaders from nine communities in west central Minnesota.

It being National Library Week, the theme of the event was books and libraries. I gave the 20-minute keynote address in the morning, focusing on the importance of local libraries, from an author's point of view. I also provided the after-lunch entertainment, performing a 10-minute costumed skit in the role of Dr. John Watson, with the assistance of GFWC district secretary Judy Gunderson playing Sherlock Holmes.

Several of the audience members expressed an interest in having me visit their communities. I strongly suggested that they work with their local libraries, to get help from Minnesota's Arts and Cultural Heritage Legacy Fund in covering expenses. To date, I have given approximately 50 "book talks" to libraries, schools, historical societies and book or social clubs across Minnesota and beyond.

See for further details.

Donna Lovitz
    Blog Post Date: Monday, May 12, 2014
The Other Side of Kokomo
By Donna Lovitz

  When I heard the therapist say that by October my arm would be back to normal, I was both sad and happy. Happy my arm I had suffered with for the last six months was going to be normal, but sad it was going to take another six months before this ordeal would be over. I guess I didn’t realize all the difficulties this could create. Even typing is painful and I have to take lots of breaks. The doctor told my husband that with an enormous tear such as mine he should get me to focus on the humorous side of the situation. That’s when it came to me that the whole thing was like a destination wedding attended solely out of obligation.
   You travel on a plane/car to some island/hospital that someone else has chosen and you know little about. Then an official performs some sort of ritual, while loved ones look on and wait. Joyous remarks are expressed about the union much like the muscle attaching to the bone in my arm. That day you feel tired but think about the endless possibilities of what a person could do around the island/ house. When the alcohol/anesthesia wears off you’re painfully reminded by an overly aggressive guest that this is about the union and is not your vacation. To top things off, you’re not allowed to do any touring/moving and have to stay put. Not wanting to admit you’re feeling fatigued, you argue but in the end decide to take advantage of whatever services are available at the hotel/house.   
   Soon it is announced that your presence is mandatory for the unwrapping of the gifts/bandages. Although you were aware of this part of the union months ago, it still doesn’t sound like that much fun. But you admit to yourself that you are a little curious and decide to go. Everyone holds their breath in anticipation as the gifts/ bandages are unwrapped. When the oohs and awws are expressed, you realize that you are the only one in the room that doesn’t see the beauty in some of the artwork. The gifts are examined and then carefully wrapped up for the journey home with special handling instructions. At that moment it sinks in that you are in charge of the gifts for the rest of the trip.
   Now you’re taking a slow ship home/ to recovery. What happened to the fast plane that got you to the island in the first place?  With a lot of time on your hands you begin to assess the situation. Was it all worth it? The time off work, the financial cost, the inconvenience/pain?
   Suddenly you realize the whole thing was about the union, not the disruption of your life. With that epiphany, a wave of relief rolls through and the voice of logic tells you that your life will soon return to normal.
  In the end you are grateful about the union, but hope it will be a long time if ever again, before you’re invited to another destination wedding/surgery.

Mary Jo Mosher
  Email address: mjmd32741[AT]
    Blog Post Date: Saturday, March 12, 2014
The Demise of Mr. Dometic (alias Thermo Stat)
By Mary Jo Mosher

  It was late spring in 2013 when my husband and I walked into our new camper and met Mr. Dometic whose job it was to keep our new home cozy. “Before we get started,” he said pompously, handing me a booklet touting his reputation, reliability, and superior intellegence.     
   "Read this.”
   "Okay, let’s get to work,” I said, after quickly glancing through the booklet. When he failed to respond right away, I yelled, “Stat!”
   "I prefer working with your husband,” he said arrogantly, glaring at me as though I were a freak.
   "Hmm . . . probably can’t tolerate women giving him orders,” I mumbled with immediate dislike and walked away. By the day’s end, Mr. Dometic had gotten nowhere with a job that should have taken 10 minutes at most. Still bundled in my winter jacket, I was livid. My husband threatened to fire him, but Mr. Dometic just laughed.
   “You won’t fire me. I’m irreplaceable,” he said sarcastically.”
   My husband looked him in the eye and said through clenched teeth, “We’ll see about that. You’ll be here at seven tomorrow morning. Sharp! And you’d better have heat in here before the day is over.”
   “Is that a threat?” Mr. Dometic asked defiantly and left.
   Upon arising the next morning, shivering, I noticed Mr. Dometic hadn’t arrived. “I didn’t think that creep would show up,” I said angrily, dumping the breakfast dishes in the sink.
   Just then, Mr. Dometic staggered in expecting the wall to hold him up. Three hours later, we found him sound asleep. We still had no heat, and it seemed we never would. My ire continued to rise because this idiot refused to work.
   “You aren’t worth the powder to blow you up with,” I yelled at him, after which he opened his eyes to greet me with a defiant scowl. “You want heat? I’ll give you heat,” he said sarcastically, and to my delight, hot air began warming the room.
   “It’s about time you got it right,” I yelled back and walked away. Minutes later, we heard a roar followed by a rush of air. “What’s that?” I exclaimed. I thought we told him heat. Its 45 degrees outside. Why is the air conditioning on?”
   “I don’t know,” my husband said disgustedly. “I sure can’t figure him out.”
   The next morning, Mr. Dometic announced he was quitting.
   “You’re what?” I asked, screaming in his ugly face and pounding his chest. “I hate you. Do you understand? I hate you with a passion! You’re a lazy, arrogant, worthless piece of junk. Whoever made you should have his head shoved in a toilet. I want you out of here!”
   Mr. Dometic emitted an evil laugh. “You can’t hurt me and you can’t replace me.” His taunting words pushed me over the edge. “Wanna bet?” I muttered as I stomped into the bedroom, grabbed my revolver, cocked it, and confronted him again. “If we don’t have heat in the next five minutes, you’re dead.”
   Mr. Dometic glared at me with obvious distaste and refused to move. Then, as the air conditioner continued to roar, I pointed the gun at him, fired, and stood gloating over his shattered body.

Jimmy Olsen
    Blog Post Date: Monday, March 3, 2014
Medical Collections
By Jimmy Olsen

  I knew a woman once who loved to have surgery. Just about everything on her body was either cut away or implanted. The same was true of her insides. To make matters worse, she loved to talk about it, so when you saw her coming you looked for the exit door.
   All of us are forced from time to time into dealing with medical professionals, but truthfully, the experience is usually unpleasant and a relief when it ends. I’ve known dying men say “At least I’m done with doctors.”
   But I want to be fair. Usually they are trying to help. I have a urologist like that. He wants to help me find out why I have blood in my urine. I wasn’t that concerned since I didn’t know it was there, but he saw it through a microscope and sure enough there it was. My first reaction was why did he look at it through a microscope in the first place? But that’s what they do.
   He’s a good doctor I think and told me, “We’re going to do a 24-hour urine collection on you. It’s easy. You don’t have to leave your house. FedEx will bring you a box with simple instructions.”
   “Great,” I said. “Sounds painless.”
   “You don’t even have to bring it in afterwards. FedEx will collect it.”
   A few days later I got the box. Plain brown wrapper, as they say. I opened it and took out a bright orange, 4-liter jug with a screw top lid and a spigot. My first thought was I hoped they didn’t send the same jug to women because the lid offered a small target and most of their collections would end up on their shoes.
   The first morning I read the simple instructions. There were twelve steps.
   Step 1: The first morning urinate into the toilet and discard. (It included a picture of a toilet, just in case you’d been wondering all these years what that thing was in your bathroom.) Then in bold print Do Not Collect This Void. So, you begin a scientific test by taking a leak in your toilet and flushing it. I wondered did they tap into my sewer line to collect the sample?
   Step 2: The next time you need to urinate, unscrew the lid of the orange container and urinate directly into the container. Avoid skin contact with the inside of the container. Do Not Swallow. I’m not stupid. I know which skin they’re referring to, but this is a large jug and unless it somehow becomes a moving target I can’t imagine how your skin could come into contact with the inside of it. But that didn’t bother me as much as Do Not Swallow. Did they think that once you collected a nice cup or two of your urine you’d be tempted to drink some? Somebody had to write these instructions. “You know Ed, the first thing they’re going to do after they collect their pee is drink it.” And Ed nods and says, “You’re right. We better forbid that in the instructions otherwise they’ll probably run it through twice.”
   Step 3: Refrigerate. (This explains Step 2) There is a picture of the orange container and an arrow pointing from it to a refrigerator, in case you haven’t seen one before. Nearby is a cooler, for campers who are collecting their urine I suppose. Camping all these years I’ve been wasting mine by peeing in the woods. But whether you put the orange jug in a refrigerator or a cooler it will be cooled. So now I know why you might be tempted to drink it – cool urine must be a thirst-quencher.
   I should note here that each step is drawn on the full page instruction sheet as a separate box, like a comic strip, but funnier.
   Step 4: This step just tells you to keep voiding for 24 hours into the orange container, then when the clock ticks exactly 24 hours you write down the date and total volume in the container – to the nearest millimeter. Now I can’t speak for anyone else, but if you collect 24 hours of my voids you’ll have enough of it to float at least a small fishing boat. In addition, like most Americans, I don’t know a stinking millimeter from a pedicure. But luckily, Step 4 has the illustration of a bulging eyeball with a gray-shaded dotted line connecting it to the side of the orange container where there are little marks to indicate millimeters. Or not, it’s too small to read.
   Step 5: This is where it gets complicated. The instructions say to removed two vials from a box. The illustration depicts two little plastic vials jumping out of a cardboard box onto a surface and spinning off their lids, and reads: Do not remove gauze from the vial. Okay. I didn’t know they had gauze. What could you possibly need with gauze? Who would look in there to see “Is there gauze?”
   Step 6: In this step the illustration depicts a man wearing cuff links shaking the orange jug up and down. You are instructed to “Vigorously shake the orange container.” No kidding. To make sure nothing is lost you are also instructed to tightly cap the container lid and close the spout. Awhile ago they were concerned we might be drinking it and now they’re worried if a drop or two escapes. And what’s the point of shaking it in the first place? It’s going to get all mixed up. And if they wanted to mix it, why can’t they shake it? I know FedEx is a great company, but don’t they know that between my house and some other point in the continental United States there are some bumps. The collection will get a good shaking somewhere.
   Step 7: Simple. Pour the contents of the orange jug into the two small vials. Sounds easy. But even a guy like me knows that four liters doesn’t fit into two three-millimeter vials. You can’t pour a gallon of milk into two glasses. Of course, most likely they expected us to have drunk the remainder after it was refrigerated anyway.
   Steps 8 – 11: Boring shipping instructions.
   Step 12: You have to make it all the way here to discover that the excess urine is poured into the toilet. An illustration of the orange jug suspended above a toilet bowl, yellow liquid flowing, and a red arrow from the other side of the jug pointing to a container marked “trash.” Some “don’ts” again. Don’t send orange jug back to them. Don’t flush gauze, which is a thing about the size of a Kleenex. Discard jug and gauze into trash. The plastic bag used to send the vials back has a biohazard warning label. Guess it doesn’t apply to garbage men handling jugs of urine that look like orange juice containers. At the very least they should include a label – Don’t Drink This – and that would cover us all.
   A cautionary note for those who might donate a similar collection: Even if you overcome the temptation to drink your pee, don’t place the container near anything in the refrigerator you
might later eat or drink. I stored mine alongside my wife’s yogurt. I don’t like yogurt anyway.