@ a Very Nice Retreat

Main Building on Schreiner University campus, by Billy Hathorn, licensed under CC BY-SA-3.0

“Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused.” ~ Anon.

I’m staying in a Very Nice Dorm on the campus of Schreiner University in Kerrville for the Writers’ League of TexasSummer Retreat. My job is to write. No classes, just write.

Here is what I’ve accomplished since arriving Sunday afternoon.

(I believe I’ve mentioned I sometimes have a little trouble walking? Like from parking lots to buildings? If I didn’t, I would be bopping all over campus and  wouldn’t have anything to put in this post.)



Saw doe wandering around dorms

Didn’t know where camera was so didn’t stop for picture of doe

Hauled provisions into the dorm

Noticed it was as hot as . . . I thought it would be

Drove to cafeteria; parked in nearby lot (very nearby)

Walked from lot to cafeteria; on the way, noticed my back was out

Considered possibility of walking to orientation

Skipped orientation

Said to myself, “I should not have retreated this summer.”

Drove into town for more provisions

Couldn’t make room key work

Threw two sets of keys down onto the walk as hard as I could, set my tote down carefully because it had breakable stuff in it, and swore I would go home the next morning to my husband, who does everything for me, and my cats, who don’t

Made room key work

Crashed in room

Monday, before leaving room

Got out of bed

Noticed my back was still out

Loaded totes for day of writing at Junkin Worship Center

Lost my room key

Found my room key

Lost my car key

Found my car key

Divested totes

(Do I really need my Kindle? No. Do I really need my camera? No. Do I really need eight pens? No. Do I really need three bottles of orange juice and a bunch of breakfast bars? Only if I want to stay upright. )

Lost my room key.

Found my room key.

Lost and found several other things.

Monday, after leaving room

Drove to WLT office; parked in nearest lot

Walked to office; took emergency contact info to director because I missed orientation

Lost my room key

Walked back to car

Became traditionally hungry for the first time in over three years

Considered walking to cafeteria

Drove into town to Burger King

Considered possibility of legally adopting my massage therapist

Lost my handicap parking permit

Parked in regular space at Burger King, no big deal

Bought Whopper, Coke, and Hershey shake; didn’t want Hershey shake but was unhappy about parking permit

Found my room key in my pocket

Put Hershey shake in freezer at dorm

Was still hungry

Ate remaining half of Whopper

Found my handicap parking permit

Flopped on couch, revised a few lines of manuscript

Regretted eating remaining half of Whopper

Fell asleep

Skipped buffet

Said if this walking thing keeps up, I will spend the whole week in my room writing, because that’s what I came to do, and the room is Very Nice, and the A/C works beautifully

Tuesday before leaving room:

Got out of bed

Noticed my back was better

Didn’t lose anything

Tuesday after leaving room

Drove to mid-campus and parked in lot across from Moody Science Building

Walked to Junkin Worship Center Quiet Writing Room

Collapsed onto couch

Found my handicap parking permit in tote bag

Emailed director re giving her permit numbers so she could testify for me in court, or of my calling campus security

Emailed husband for numbers on license plate because I remember only letters

Decided paying $500 – $750 in fine plus court costs a small price for not walking back to parking lot

WLT rep came from across room and walked permit to car, bless her heart, and I mean that most sincerely

And here I am.

Please note that none of the adventures listed here has anything at all to do with the Writers’ League of Texas. The director offered to have me golf-carted (that’s what they do) where I needed to go, but I can drive and park just about anywhere. My problem is getting from parking lots to doors, so I declined.  The League and the Retreat are doing just fine. It’s all me, me, me.

I’m going to stay in the Junkin Center drinking orange juice and eating breakfast bars (horrid but convenient) till it closes and later try to make it to the dining hall.

When I started chemo, I vowed I would not excuse any of my shortcomings on chemo brain or chemo body or anything else related to it.

I might un-vow that. There’s probably some truth in it, and it’s much better than blaming everything on age.

Now, PLEASE don’t pity me or say you’re sorry about my trials and tribulations.

Because, folks, it’s all material.


Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, by Hot Furnace, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. Via Wikipedia

Okay. I’ve caught my breath. Now I have to stop this and do the writing I came here to do.

This is a photo of the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library in Kerrville, Texas. Round, two stories. I used to come here for library conferences. The interior is beautiful.

@ A Very Nice Hotel



We’re back from our stay at a Very Nice Hotel, a fine dining experience, a delightful breakfast buffet, all thanks to the City of Austin.

Not funded by the City of Austin, but thanks to.

Last week the C of A turned off the water (10:00 p.m., turn handle of faucet, Surprise!) and rendered our residence plumbing-challenged. We thought it was just the usual grit in the kitchen faucet’s aerator, but it wasn’t, and rapidly the challenge grew. Cold water in the sink slowed to a trickle. The challenge spread from the kitchen to the shower upstairs. The maintenance man installed a new cartridge but that didn’t cure it, and by the time the challenge moved back downstairs to the water heater, it had ballooned into a curse.

The maintenance man took another whack at the problem. When that  failed, the plumber came, and he and the maintenance man together took some whacks. A bunch of them. For two full days.

Yesterday evening, the end of Day #2, when they said our shower would be out of commission all night, we ran away from home.

This was Plumber Day #3. He and the maintenance man spent hours running up and down stairs–which, if you’ve ever seen our stairs, you know is no mean feat–and sitting outside on the sidewalk fiddling with metal part-looking thingies, and cutting out a section of the bathroom wall, and occasionally saying, “Rocks,” and attaching hoses to air compressors.

This afternoon a loud “OW!” floated down the stairs. I braced myself for news of disaster, but it turned out only that the maintenance man had pushed a lever and inadvertently taken a shower.

They frequently assured us as they passed between the front door and the stairs that they “will get this fixed.” We sat in our recliners working on our laptops and said we were sure they would. What we meant was that we recognized they were doing their darndest under horrendous conditions. The manager said she’d never seen anything like it. A few other units had minor issues, but ours was a mess. Location appeared to be the reason. We’re way at the end.

The day could have been as stressful for David and me as it was for the surgical team, but early in the process, we adopted an attitude of shared stoicism.

Late-breaking development: We overheard that the water heater had been turned back on and in about forty-five minutes, the water would be up to shower temperature.

“Does that mean it’s fixed?” I asked David.

“Sounds like it,” he replied.

We were afraid to ask.

Later-breaking development: Curse removed. Challenge completed. Water on. Everything works.

Cats left the bedroom where they were confined from early this morning to a few minutes ago. The front door stayed open (hose running through from outside) all day, and with errands to run, we weren’t  around to catch them if they tried to escape. We didn’t think they would–escaping would have required walking past the upstairs bathroom, where strangers and tools and hoses and stuff were headquartered. But you never know.

William is his usual unconcerned self. He came down, sashayed through the living room, and took his pill like a real trouper. Fight-or-flight Ernest came down, paused with front paws on the floor and hind paws on the bottom stair step, looked around, and went right back up. He’s down again, had supper, and is lying behind David’s chair.

Cats are fine, plumbing is fine, humans had a vacation of sorts and are fine.

This was our second stay at the Very Nice Hotel. (Note: It’s even Nicer than I thought. I looked it up. Wikipedia says that in the array of the company’s holdings, it’s classed as Upscale. Who knew? It seems a run-of-the-mill Very Nice, and rates are quite reasonable, but I should have known, because the restaurant claims it has 12,000 ways to make burgers.)

Anyway, we first stayed there last fall, during the Great Flea Invasion. William and Ernest hadn’t been outside in nine years, but the fleas came to them. Every safe, non-toxic, biodegradable flea killer known to man was tried and didn’t work, so we gave in and used a nasty chemical that required everything in the house be scrubbed on our return. Cats, already scrubbed by the veterinarian, stayed at the hotel with us.

We intended to stay only one night, but I said I wished we could stay two, and David said fine with him, so we did. I liked it. The cats didn’t.

I also liked that yesterday evening, when David learned we wouldn’t have water overnight plus part of today, he immediately called for a reservation. We spent one night. The cats stayed home. They have their own water bowl and other accommodations here and are not addicted to nightly showers.

So all is well. And David and I go back to Daily Life happy and secure in the knowledge that if we ever again face invasion by either blood-sucking parasites or the City of Austin, we can vacation at a Very Nice Hotel only a mile away.


10:30 p.m. David said we don’t have hot water.

No matter. This afternoon, the maintenance man came downstairs and said, “Miss, is that you in that picture up there?” I said yes. He said, “Wow.”

The picture is hidden in the upstairs hallway. It was taken after I graduated from high school. I was wearing the formal my mother had made from white watered taffeta and trimmed with seed pearls.

The maintenance man is about one-third of my age.

Who needs hot water?

A Disjointed Post . . .

. . . because my brain is fried.

When we tried to medicate William last night, a pill fell into the pit between the seat of my recliner and the arm, and we weren’t able to locate it. It’s in there somewhere, or it fell through onto the floor under the chair. After a cursory look, we gave up. We feel safe leaving it there because it’s a sure thing neither cat will gobble it up. If it were one of my pills, they would vacuum it up in a nanosecond.

The pill fell because I was careless and William got his tongue in gear and spat it out. We got another pill. Which means he’ll get only twenty-nine pills instead of thirty. William thinks that’s okay.


William is being dosed for pancreatitis. David is the cat holder. Due to my vast experience, I am the pill poker. It took a week for me to remember that coating the pill with butter makes the job easier. William doesn’t resist as enthusiastically and once in his mouth, the pill slides down more easily. He also doesn’t run upstairs after the ordeal, just jumps down and licks the inside of his mouth with vigor but no expression of distaste. Hurrah for butter. We have about two more weeks to go.

Ernest is probably unpillable. We haven’t tried, and I don’t want to.

I use a piller now. I had a piller in years past, but Chloe didn’t take to it, and I didn’t take to Chloe’s offer to use her fangs on my fingers while they were nearby. Every time she had to be pilled, I left her with the vet and let the experts handle her. Same with Christabel. Chloe was wiry and muscular and if she didn’t bite me, she wriggled out of my grasp. Christabel was big and built like Jello and rolled out of every half Nelson I applied.

At the end of this post, there’s a link to a video tutorial on pilling cats. I include it so you can see the piller. The starring vet says the process is easy peasy. Take that with a grain of salt. He’s a vet. He’s had practice. The cat knows resistance if futile. I suspect he’s a clinic cat. Those animals tolerate many outrages with aplomb. I suspect they have no reflexes at all.

My old neighbor, Steve Dauchy, a big orange tom, was a retired clinic cat. One cold winter day, his family smelled something burning and found Steve sleeping on a propane space heater in the kitchen with his tail hanging down beside the vent. His hair was singeing. He woke up when they pulled him off.

One winter night, I woke, reached out my hand, and touched fur I recognized as not my cat. Scared me half to death. I turned the light on, and there was Steve, snoozing away, the third cat on the bed. He’d sneaked into the house when I opened the door, hidden somewhere, and emerged at lights out, I guess. He was very astute. On cold nights, he slept on the seat of the riding lawnmower in his humans’ garden shed, a nice, tight bedroom, but when he saw a chance of a mattress, he jumped at it. The next morning, while Steve breakfasted in my kitchen, I called next door and told the worried humans about the slumber party he’d engineered, and later, when it warmed up, put him outside.

Tonight’s dose went down in record time. David wanted to medicate him before he went to the grocery store, but we waited for him to come downstairs under his own steam. Between four and five-thirty every day, awakened by his circadian rhythms, he waltzes downstairs for insulin and dinner. Mainly dinner. He hardly notices the insulin.

When I was a teen, I read a book about caring for cats. There was a chapter about medicating them. The authors, a married couple, used the terms cat holder and pill poker.

When I pilled my Siamese, Ms., I was both cat holder and pill poker, but after the first few confrontations, she cooperated. I didn’t have a piller, but she didn’t Didn’t open her mouth on command, but I didn’t have to use much force, and she sat still. She was highly intelligent and behaved more like a dog than a cat, except for pilling. Dogs never cooperated.

The Siamese’s first name was Mademoiselle–for some ridiculous reason–until I realized she was liberated, the Gloria Steinem of cats, good looks and all–and I changed it to Ms. That was ridiculous, too, because I called her Kitty. And Puddy. And Puddy-Wuddy. And Feetie-Pie. All the usual cat names.


She produced kittens when she was eleven months old. Her idea, not mine. Wonder of wonders, they were Siamese kittens. Praise goodness for the gentleman Siamese down the street. The kittens would probably have been just as easy to give away as if they’d been generic, but people seemed extra pleased to have purebreds. No official papers, of course. Ms. was not an aristocrat, and considering the kittens were conceived under dubious circumstances, they would never have been accepted into High Society.

My one disastrous encounter with a sick cat occurred at the veterinarian’s. The tech was attending to one end of William and I was holding the other end, the one with teeth. He’d buried his head as far back between my body and my forearm as he could go, considering I had my arm clamped to my side. After suffering indignity for longer than I thought he would, he rebelled. I think he tried to bite me, but he managed only to rub his fang against my arm, hard enough to scrape the skin slightly. Within minutes, I had a budding case of cellulitis–I recognized it as such because I’d had it before from an encounter with cat teeth–and I had to go to the urgent care clinic for pills of my own plus shot of antibiotic. It turned out that William wasn’t sick. That night I wrote a verse about the experience and posted it on my blog, here:

William bit me at the vet,
Didn’t like the aide’s assistance,
Used his claws and fangs to set
On the path of most resistance.
Say I’m teary, say I’m mad,
Say that pills and needles hit me,
Say my arm’s inflamed, and add,
William bit me.

It’s patterned after one of my favorite poems, Leigh Hunt’s “Jenny Kissed Me”:

Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say I’m growing old, but add,
Jenny kissed me.

If Hunt and Jane (Jenny) Carlyle were around to read the parody, they might not approve, but if I didn’t like the original, I wouldn’t have used it. I don’t consider my version an homage, exactly, but I’m fond of it. I’m a rotten poet, but I do pretty well at parody, if I do say so myself. I wish I could write them for a living.

I’m can’t write anything for a living. I don’t write fast enough, and as yet I haven’t hit upon the Great American Novel. I haven’t hit upon any novels at all, just short stories. A couple have brought in a few dollars from contests, and those that have been anthologized bring in a few cents in royalties (which are divided with the other authors), but the cents are donated to charity every year (supplemented, of course). The truth is–like many lightly published authors, I would be tempted to pay to get my stories in print or online. But I wouldn’t do that. My efforts are worth at least $0.00.

I didn’t plan to say anything about my literary efforts, but in a stream-of-consciousness post, things just happen, so I’ll happen to add that my stories appear in the three anthologies pictured in the sidebar–MURDER ON WHEELS, LONE STAR LAWLESS, and DAY OF THE DARK. My best stories, two of them, are in Murder on Wheels, which has an unimpressive cover but good stuff inside, so if you buy one, please buy that one. They’re all available in paperback and ebook formats. They might be available from your local public library–if they’re not, I’d appreciate your requesting the library acquire copies.

Royalties from Murder on Wheels go to Meals on Wheels in Austin, Texas. Royalties from Lone Star Lawless go to the Port Aransas Public Library, which lost its collection and everything else to Hurricane Harvey in 2018. Royalties from Day of the Dark go to Earth & Sky, which through its website presents information about science and nature. The radio program Earth & Sky (EarthSky) used to air on commercial, NPR, and other public radio stations, but since June 2013 has concentrated on its website and social media.

So there it is, a disjointed post. I went to bed too late last night and woke up too early this morning, so I can’t work on my novella-in-progress, because the characters are too tired to do or say anything interesting. They’ve already said and done one hundred + pages, but they need to do and say it better. Anyway, since they’re not cooperating, and since I’m tired, too, I abandoned them for this post.

The novella will be out this fall. I won’t mention the title or anything else, because it’s a secret, but you can be sure more Blatant Self Promotion will appear in a future post. Not a disjointed one, I hope.

Now I’ll go back to those characters and try to rev them up. They produced pretty well yesterday, when they were rested, so I know they can do it. With the deadline they’re working under, they need to get on a stick.


This turned out less disjointed than I expected it to. Half about cats, my default topic, and the rest about books and writing. All about me, my perpetual topic. The experts say not to write about yourself, but except for Helen Hunt Jackson’s nineteenth-century novel RAMONA, I’m about all I know.

I’m putting what I know about Ramona on a separate blog, but doing so requires typing a lot of footnotes, and that’s a slow and sleep-inducing procedure. The text is interesting, though, if I do say so myself.



Interview with Elizabeth Buhmann, Author of Blue Lake


Yesterday we posted a review of Elizabeth Buhmann’s novel BLUE LAKE. Today we hear from the author herself:


Where did you get the idea for Blue Lake?

A friend told me something about her family history. Her grandmother, who was born in 1910, had 12 children. By the time the last child came along, her oldest daughter was in her twenties, childless, and wishing she could have a baby. So that youngest child was given to her sister and grew up believing that her sister was her mother and her mother was her grandmother.

The way my friend told it, the situation played out without great trauma—the little girl learned that she was adopted in the usual sort of way. But to me, the possibilities for very deep emotional upheaval were striking, just depending on the circumstances. For my main character, Regina, being given to her sister was a disaster, and the feelings of betrayal, rejection, and abandonment are intense.

Why the mid-century setting?

Another friend, who read a very early draft of this story, said, “It’s great but the setting in time falls between contemporary and historical. Can’t you tell the same story set in present day?”

The answer is no. For two reasons. One: too many things that happen in the story could not happen now. Advances in forensic science, victim services, and child protection would be expected to change the outcome at nearly every stage. And yet I think that many of the old attitudes and assumptions—especially about female victims, racial prejudice, and the sovereignty of the family—are stubbornly alive today.

Two: There is a shape to that era—the twenties, the Crash, the Depression, World War II, emerging modernism—that is unique and still shapes our world experience. And I don’t think anyone disputes that the Old South continues to haunt us.

This book is very different from your first!

It is! LAY DEATH AT HER DOOR was a much riskier project, having a protagonist who was in so many ways also an antagonist. And it was contemporary. And although the crimes reached back decades, the truth about them was entirely accessible in the end.

In Blue Lake, the violence reaches back so far in the past, and in a time when the truth about an isolated incident could so much more easily slip out of reach forever, that it felt to me as though Regina would never be able penetrate the mystery. It was a challenge to lead her to the answers she so desperately needed.

Always murder! Why do you write about murder?

To me it is the ultimate drama, when human emotions result in one person killing another. I try to treat murder with respect, for the extreme and shocking act that it is for real. I love a good cozy mystery as much as the next person, but I cannot write one. Murder is a deadly serious topic—could not be more so.

I also read mysteries and thrillers that feature serial killers, though these are not my favorites at all. These murders are committed by people who fall well outside the realm of normal human emotional response. I am more interested in a murder that is understandable, so to speak.

I would not go so far as to say that we are all capable of killing another human being. I have no idea whether that is true—probably not? But I think we all recognize and experience emotions which, if we were tested to a limit and beyond, could make us really want to kill another person.

Laws are quite clear about issues such as self-defense and justifiable homicide, but our individual perceptions of these concepts, in extreme and highly emotional circumstances, can be quite elastic. And it may well be that anyone who murders has a deeply flawed character. But character flaws are universally human, too.


Elizabeth Buhmann is originally from Virginia, where both of her novels are set. Growing up as the daughter of an Army officer, she lived in France, Germany, New York, Japan, and Saint Louis. She graduated magna cum laude from Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, and has a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh. For twenty years she worked for the Texas Attorney General as a researcher and writer on criminal justice and crime victim issues. Her first murder mystery, Lay Death at Her Door, earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly and twice reached the Amazon Top 100 (paid Kindle). Elizabeth lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and dog. She is an avid gardener, loves murder mysteries, and is a long-time student of Tai Chi.


BLUE LAKE: A Mystery is available at https://www.amazon.com/Blue-Lake-Mystery-Elizabeth-Buhmann-ebook/dp/B07SKJ1CF4/





LAY DEATH AT HER DOOR is available at https://www.amazon.com/Lay-Death-at-Her-Door-ebook/dp/B07D7YPNC2

A Mid-Century Murder: Elizabeth Buhmann’s Blue Lake


“Rural Virginia, 1945. The Second World War had just ended when Alice Hannon found the lifeless body of her five-year-old daughter, Eugenie, floating in Blue Lake. The tragedy of the little girl’s death destroyed the Hannon family.

“More than twenty years later, Alice’s youngest daughter, Regina, returns home after a long estrangement because her father is dying. She is shocked to discover, quite by accident, that her sister’s drowning was briefly investigated as a murder at the time.

“For as long as she can remember, Regina has lived in the shadow of her family’s grief. She becomes convinced that if she can discover the truth about Eugenie’s death, she can mend the central rift in her life. With little to go on but old newspapers and letters, the dead girl’s hairpin, and her own earliest memories, Regina teases out a family history of cascading tragedy that turns her world upside down.” 

When I began Elizabeth Buhmann’s BLUE LAKE, I was–I’m ashamed to say–afraid I would be disappointed. Her first novel, LAY DEATH AT HER DOOR, was so well constructed, clues so obviously placed, that I should have been able to predict the ending–but so deftly woven into the plot that the last chapter was a complete surprise. More than a surprise–a shock. That novel was so good, I knew BLUE LAKE couldn’t match it.

I was wrong. BLUE LAKE is different from its predecessor, of course, but just as well written and just as suspenseful.  And when I reached the end, I said, “I should have known.”

BLUE LAKE does not disappoint.

Buhmann hides things in plain sight–the mark of a good mystery writer, and the delight of every mystery reader.


Tomorrow I’ll post an interview with Elizabeth Buhmann.

Read the book: https://www.amazon.com/Blue-Lake-Mystery-Elizabeth-Buhmann-ebook/dp/B07SKJ1CF4/


FTC Disclaimer: Elizabeth Buhmann is a friend and fellow writer. When we were both members of Austin Mystery Writers, I read the first chapters of BLUE LAKE in draft form and then waited impatiently for it to reach publication. The synopsis above is quoted from Amazon. The rest is mine. Nobody told me what to think or to say, and I posted because I wanted to. I bought the ebook with my very own money. No reviewers were bribed in the writing of this review.



Homicide Detective Speaks to Writers’ Group

Author N. M. Cedeno writes about Detective Dave Fugitt’s recent presentation to Heart of Texas Sisters in Crime chapter. Detective Fugitt is a member of Austin Police Department’s Homicide Unit.

Ink-Stained Wretches

SistersInCrime_300 dpi (better res.) Logo provided by Sisters in Crime- Heart of Texas Chapter

At the June Sisters in Crime – Heart of Texas meeting, Detective Dave Fugitt presented an overview of the Austin Police Department Homicide Unit. Local mystery author and Travis County Assistant District Attorney Mark Pryor introduced Det. Fugitt as the best homicide investigator in the Austin Police Department. In his capacity as ADA, Mr. Pryor and Det. Fugitt have worked together on murder cases in Travis County.

Fugitt is a member of the Homicide Investigators of Texas and the International Homicide Investigators Association. The International Homicide Investigators Association holds annual symposiums for detectives from around the world. During these meetings, detectives share ideas for solving cold cases and keep up to date on new techniques and technology in forensics and crime solving. The association also holds regional training events around the United States.

As an APD homicide investigator Fugitt has…

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