Love & Safety

(Another great blog written by Whispers co-author Cheril Thomas)

Jade had puppies, won't have any more, and is ready for a new human family!  (Don't worry about the fencing.  It was raining so we couldn't take this sweetheart outside.)

Jade had puppies, won’t have any more, and is ready for a new human family! (Don’t worry about the fencing. It was raining so we couldn’t take this sweetheart outside.)

Dogs like Jade only want a new home… where they can love, play and feel safe.

Whispers co-author Susan Reiss and I are learning a lot about the adoption process and the need for good homes because our main character, Maggie, is adopting a pup… for companionship and protection.

Recently, we talked with Sandy Seebach, Adoption Coordinator at Talbot Humane in Easton, Maryland.  “Our volunteers work hard so the process can be easy for the people who want to adopt our dogs and cats.”

First, people are given a tour, fill out an application and talk to a counselor about the type of animal they want and the home and resources they have to give a pet. Usually within a few days the application is processed and the excitement of welcoming a new family member begins.

But what about the other end of the story? How do all of the healthy, clean, well-fed and groomed animals appear at Talbot Humane? And how can you be sure the animal you select will be right for you?  You might worry that you may be ‘taking on someone else’s problem.’

Adoption coordinator Sandy stressed the temperament screenings each dog goes

Vivan, a Chocolate Lab mix, eager for walks and attention.

Vivan, a Chocolate Lab mix, eager for walks and attention.

through as part of the adoption process. After being brought into the shelter, a dog is given time to settle in a bit and then an initial screening is done. Some dogs go through several rounds of temperament testing to determine their normal personality and reactions. No dog is made available for adoption until their disposition is known. On the door to each holding pen, there is a listing of a dog’s strengths and needs so anyone considering adoption can have a better understanding of the animal that may become part of the family.

In the first few meetings between prospective owners and their potential pets, staff members are there to help everyone – the prospective owner, other family members, even other pets — get acquainted. The staff works hard to help ensure a good fit for both owners and animals.

Even before the adoption process starts, Talbot Humane is at work.  Every dog is spayed or neutered and microchipped. Large dogs and certain breeds need training in order to optimize their new life as a pet. Talbot Humane provides guidance to help new owners meet those training needs.

Talbot Humane is more than a safe haven for dogs and puppies, cats and kitties.  They house birds, guinea pigs and even have a very clever rabbit, all eagerly awaiting a new home.

Are you interested in enriching your life with a pet? Check out the website of your local humane society.  On the Maryland Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, consider visiting Talbot Humane.  Start at their website: A new world of fun and love awaits.

Callie, a Boston Terrier mix, wants to love somebody!

Callie, a Boston Terrier mix, wants to love somebody!

And if you’re on the Shore, come join in the fun at Bark in the Park this Saturday, October 10 at Idlewild Park in Easton. Join us at the Attractions Magazine table in the main tent and enter the “Name the Pup” Contest for a chance to win great prizes… and to see the name you pick for Maggie’s new pup in print, Whispers, the serial mystery, published at!

Where There’s Love, There’s Life!

Vivan, a Chocolate Lab mix, eager for walks and attention.

Vivan, a Chocolate Lab mix, eager for walks and attention.

(A very special blog written by my Whispers co-author Cheril Thomas).

Do you want a friend, a trustworthy confidant and unconditional love? Do you like long walks and cuddles? Need a BFF who will follow you anywhere? Talbot Humane could have your canine soulmate and Bark in the Park is the perfect place to find out.

Talbot Humane will parade their adoptable dogs at the Sixth Annual Bark in the Park Festival in Idlewild Park in Easton on this Saturday, October 10. Co-author Susan Reiss and I were fortunate enough to meet many of the dogs during a recent visit of the Easton facilities.

Callie, a Boston Terrier mix, wants to love somebody!

Callie, a Boston Terrier mix, wants to love somebody!

Why are we so interested?  Maggie, the main character in our serial mystery Whispers, is adopting a dog in the story and we found the perfect one—Callie, a Boston Terrier mix—at Talbot Humane. In support of this community organization, we’ve joined with Attraction Magazine and historic Banning’s Tavern to run a “Name the Pup” Contest.  You can enter to win wonderful prizes and the name you pick to be published in Whispers!

Callie and her friends, Vivian, Jade, and Diesel will all make an appearance inWhispers. And, good news for readers, they are still available for adoption.

But why are these dogs, some sweet, cuddly, dignified, playful … and all healthy, why are they waiting for someone to give them the home they deserve?

Some are lost, some abandoned. Many were surrendered by owners who could no longer care for them. Each has a story linked to a person, someone who may have lost a job, was injured or had to move.

Maybe a cute puppy really grew into those big feet and right out of a small apartment.

Perhaps a faithful companion was left homeless when her owner died.

Jade had puppies, won’t have any more, and is ready for a new human family! (Don’t let the fencing bother you. The pet run was very busy when we visited that day.)

Sometimes the very best thing a dog owner without resources can do is to take a dog to Talbot Humane for another chance at a loving home.

Of course, not all dogs are the same.  Some need more care than others.  Some are family dogs, some are loyal to one person. Some thrive as a second or third pet in a household. Some need a place to run.  Others need a warm lap.

Many of the dogs at Talbot Humane, like Callie and her friends, Vivian, Jade, and

Diesel, waiting for a new home (Don’t let the fencing bother you. The pet run was very busy when we visited that day.)

Diesel are adults.  Are you adopting someone else’s problems?  The staff is careful to screen and evaluate so you bring home a healthy, ready-for-love dog.

As humans, we spend our whole lives learning about ourselves. Dogs know from their first breath… that it’s all about the love.  They seem to have an infinite capacity to adapt and show compassion. And where there is love, there is life.

Take a look at all the adoptable dogs at Talbot Humane.  Check them out at Saturday’s Bark in the Park.  Your perfect companion could be waiting for you!

 "Where there's love, there is life." is a quote from Gandhi.

Maggie’s Dog

Logo for the New Mystery Serial Published in Attraction Magazine

Logo for the Mystery Serial Published in Attraction Magazine

Maggie, the leading character in the Whispers weekly serial mystery published by Attraction Magazine is having a crisis.  Because of recent events, she is feeling more and more uncomfortable being alone at home.  She has decided to adopt a dog for companionship and protection.

I must admit that Maggie had a little help with that decision from her authors so that we could support the upcoming fundraising event for Talbot Humane, Bark in the Park on Saturday, October 10 at Idlewild Park, Easton, Maryland.

It’s dangerous when co-authors, Cheril Thomas and I, sat back and enjoyed a glass of wine and muse.

“Wouldn’t it be fun if the dog wanted to adopt was a real dog up for adoption?” one of us suggested.

“Yes!  Then we could march with the real dog in the parade and…” and we were off.

With the threat of Hurricane Joaquin staring at us, we visited the Talbot Humane shelter and found big dogs and even bigger dogs.  Though they were all friendly, healthy and excited, Maggie’s dog just wasn’t there.

The next day, the adoption manager called to say that Maggie’s dog had just been surrendered because the owner was moving and couldn’t keep her.

There is something special when someone talks about your character as if she breathes and lives right down the street.

In minutes, my phone beeped with an incoming text and I met Callie!Callie Small

She is a Boston Terrier Mix, about 3 years old and a svelte 22 lbs.

With the report that the hurricane was swinging away and the only thing our area had to handle was heavy rain from a nor’easter, I put on my swim fins and drove to the shelter to meet the little girl… and fell in love.

She is everything her picture suggested… and more.  She’s playful and loves to run, then she plops down and pants, exhausted.  Attentive and alert, she’s curious about her surroundings and always ready to play.

Cheril and I are furiously writing her into upcoming episodes, but we need YOUR HELP!

This little dog came with a name that will not work in the story.  Callie is too close to Maggie’s husband’s name, Cal.  Does that give you a shiver or what?

You’re invited to submit a name for Maggie’s new dog.  Follow this link to enter.  A small donation would be greatly appreciated.

Bannings Logo

The winning name for the dog will be drawn on Saturday afternoon along with the winners for wonderful prizes like a $500 gift certificate for great food and drinks at Historic Banning’s Tavern, sponsor of Whispers, a $500 gift certificate for great shows and performances at the Avalon… and more!

Thanks for your support of Talbot Humane, Callie and her friends!  And, yes, she will be marching in the parade on Saturday at TH’s Bark in the Park.  Hope to see you then!

Be sure to follow the escapades of Maggie and her new companion as they try to solve the murder!  All episodes are available online at, click on the Whispers logo.

What Are They Drinking? The Results Are In!

The Readers and Friends of Whispers have spoken!  Based on the results of voting during the past several weeks, the new cocktails, dreamed up by our Whispers Mixologist at Historic Banning’s Tavern, are now matched to the characters in the serial mystery.

Here are the results:

Maggie Maitland, teller of the Whispers Tale:  Peartree Martini
The true essence of sophistication served in a glass all its own. Clean and simple until you look into its depths to find to find something truly unique and unexpected.

Ginger, Maggie’s best friend:  Blackberry Margarita
A succulent garnet concoction perfects a romp of unique flavors, along with the tang of salt and crowned with the oh-so-healthy and sumptuous blackberry for a younger look.

Rose (not Rosie), Finn’s Widow:  Cucumber Martini
Ritzy, yet reserved.  Classy, yet curious.  In its misty freshness, there is something muddled trying to sort out its two companions—one feisty, one mellow.

Eva, Finn’s First Wife:  Perfect Double Dos Margarita-OLE!
More than a song, more than a showgirl with a kick, it’s a double-dose of strong and sweet flavors bordered by a rim of salt to keep it in check.

H.C. Drummond, State Police Detective investigating the murder:  Favorite Manhattan
Highly-sophisticated flavor and a smooth rosewood color.  Look!  A luscious cherry is nestled deep at its center, like a secret.  This one wants to be stirred, not shaken.

“Sandy” Batista, Sergeant & H.C. Drummond’s partner: Cuban Daiquiri
The many colors and flavors of Cuba, where it originated, will rekindle your thoughts of a sun-drenched beach, soft breezes… and the uncertainty of shifting sands.

Paulina, the Local BusybodyBabbling Russian
Smooth flavors blended with fine vodka make one babble for joy.  Alabaster goodness reminds you that the here-and-now is all that matters.

Lindsay, Co-owner and Chef of Ashlin’s:  Summer Relief (Cooler)
This tawny blend of light, sparkly flavors recalls memories of a lemonade stand that offers cool relief while it ignites a warm feeling deep inside.

Thank you to all for participating!

Watch for the characters enjoying these Banning’s cocktails in upcoming episodes of Whispers in Attraction Magazine

Can’t Type. Must Write. Now What?

computer keyboardIt started as a vague achy feeling in my left arm and, about a month ago, stabbing pain sent me flying to the doctor.  The diagnosis was tendinitis below the elbow to the tips of my fingers.  I think the dismantling a library of 3,500 volumes and drafting thousands of words a week probably caused it.  The remedy was rest and painkillers.

Not possible!  I have two book deadlines were hanging over my head.  It was time to unplug.

A friend recommended dictation.  After a long process of evaluating options, I called Dragon to find out which one of their many voice-activated software programs might work for me.  I found what I needed at the local Target (Target?  Not Staples??)

The software I’m now using to write this blog is Dragon Naturally Speaking 13 Basics.

person speakingI was leery about several aspects of writing by dictation:  Would I be spending my time correcting the software’s mistakes?  How awkward would I feel sitting at my desk and talking to myself?  Would it be, all about the software and not about the writing?

I’m glad I set aside a block of time to load and work with the program.  I don’t know if it took a long time to load or it just seemed like it because I was so anxious to try it.  Then, it asked me to begin training the program and yes, it does learn.  I was afraid this would take hours.  I made myself comfortable and read a block of copy that took maybe one minute.  The screen flashed.  Of course, I thought I had done something wrong delete.  The little comment box thanked me for reading the material and directed me to the tutorial!

I strongly recommend taking the time to go through the tutorial.  It didn’t take that long.  It was very clear and interactive.  It’s worth it to learn the basic commands and you can always go back and review the more advanced material.  There is also a learning center available for quick help.

I’ve been using the software for five days now, much to the benefit of my arm, and here are a few tricks for writers that I’ve learned:

I like to write with music playing in the background.  Would the additional sound confuse the sensitive microphone?  I don’t know how, but it ignores the music, even the song lyrics, and listens to me.

As tempting as it is, it’s not a good idea to watch the screen while dictating.  I’m making technology work, but if I watch the words appearing on the screen, the writing suffers.  It helps to gaze out the window or look at a painting during the dictation process and then, at a natural stopping place, checking the screen to make sure the software is with me.

When I first started with the software, I was very self-conscious about dictating.  Then, a wonderful thing happened.  I was thinking about a new scene.  I glanced out the window and started running off at the mouth.  When I realized with a start what I was doing, I looked at the screen.  What if the software was too slow and I lost all of my wonderful words.  Sure enough, the cursor was sitting there and the little green icon was spinning.  Drat!  Then the cursor took off and words appeared in a rush!  There was only one mistake.  Amazing!

I always suspected that my brain worked faster than my fingers and now I have dictation software that works even faster.  My word count output has gone up more than 70%, when I’m not looking at the screen.  I can also edit quickly using the software.

The only problem is that when I’m done with a block of copy, the cursor sits there and blinks.  Do I hear little fingernails tapping along with a private message, “Well?”

For this writer, that’s a wonderful problem to have!

Finding the Character

People ask, “Where do you find a character?”  Sometimes, a character finds the writer.

My co-author Cheril Thomas and I worked very hard to develop multidimensional characters for our mystery serial, Whispers.  We added traits to broaden their personalities during the first 20 episodes of the serial published at

Earlier today, I saw one of our characters walk into a McDonald’s while I was sipping a milkshake.  This surprise of recognition turned into a cold chill of fear.  He wasn’t one of the nice characters in the story.

It was the Man with the Snake Tattoo. snake-tattoo Cropped

He was about 5’10” with dark hair, wearing a baseball cap turned backwards, just like our character.  He had tattoos, just like our character.  He had a motorcycle, just like our character.  He wore a leather vest and when he turned around, the club patch of his motorcycle gang covered the back.  He wore dark jeans and had one of those long heavy chains hanging low on his leg and back up to something hidden in his pocket.  He wiped his face with a black and white bandanna, probably the colors of his club.

Our character isn’t exactly friendly and warm.  You might say he’s a bad guy.  The man I saw today fit that description.  It wasn’t his face, which was nice, even nonthreatening.  It wasn’t how he looked.  It was how he acted.  He didn’t walk into the restaurant.  He swaggered.  Just inside the door, he paused, pushed his dark wraparound glasses up on top of his hat and scanned the restaurant.  Was it his slow, deliberate manner of looking at everybody that made me catch my breath?  Was it the way his eyes narrowed as he looked around?  Was it the way he stood, tense and ready to react in self-defense?  I guess he didn’t perceive a threat, because he walked up to the counter and ordered something to eat.

Other than giving me a very unsettled feeling, this man gave me an idea that we could add to the story.  It was his facial hair.  I guess you could call it a beard, maybe.  It started at the jawline and grew down the neck instead of up on the face.  When he turned in profile, the beard gave him a very aggressive look.

Not wanting to miss this opportunity to show my co-author that one of our characters really exists, I reached into my purse and pulled out my phone.  I know, I know, it wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done.  The temptation was just too great.

I positioned my milkshake cup so I could hide the phone to take a picture.  That’s when I saw four more members of his gang walk in, all of them clad in black leather vests with prominent club patches on their backs.  It was obvious that facial hair worn in that unusual shape was a requirement for membership.

While they were ordering, I focused on my character.  It took three tries, but I got my shot.  It was a little out of focus.  That didn’t matter.  I had my proof.

As I dropped the phone into my purse, three of them came my way, each taking a table near me.

Time to get out.

Do you know the old adage, Be careful what you wish for, because you might get it?

Today, it was, Be careful what you create, because you might meet it one day in a McDonald’s.

Every Mystery Deserves a Mixologist!

Most mystery writers have an editor, proofreader and beta readers.

What we deserve is a mixologist… and I’m pleased to report that the Whispers serial mystery appearing in Attraction Magazine now has its very own mixologist!

Bannings LogoHistoric Banning’s Tavern in Easton, Maryland is the sponsor of Whispers and to celebrate, we all thought it would be fun to come with special cocktails that match up with the main characters in the serial.

If you have special cocktails, you need a mixologist!  So, Banning’s co-owners, Tom and Stephen went to work and the initial results are exciting… as well as delicious!

Whispers Cocktail small


The Whispers logo inspired him to reach for the RumChata, a real cream delicacy.  To connect it to the murder mystery, he added his own secret ingredient for the “blood.”  To say, It’s to die for, isn’t too far from the truth.

Blackberry Margarita Edited

Then, he thought about one of the characters and was inspired to create another tasty concoction:  the Blackberry Margarita!  Isn’t this perfect for libation for a hot summer evening… or a hot character?

Which character?  I can’t tell you whom he had in mind, because we’re going to let the readers decide!

The cocktails will be introduced at a very special Happy Hour on Tuesday, August 25th 5-7!

Readers can vote on which cocktail matches up with which character!

Results will be announced in September.

So, if you’re on the Maryland Eastern Shore in Easton, come and join the fun. I’ll be there with my co-author Cheril Thomas along with our editor Jennifer Latham and publisher Richard Slaughter of Attraction Magazine… and lots of friends and readers.

Come and raise a glass… then stay for dinner!

Banning’s Tavern
42 E Dover St. at Harrison St.
Easton, MD 21601
(410) 822-1733

It’s Official! You can “Name the Pup” Now!

SunsetonCreekIt’s a beautiful spot on the Tred Avon River, right off the Chesapeake Bay. In the Whispers serial mystery, Maggie enjoys beautiful sunsets.  The ripples of salt water gently lap the shoreline. So calming…             But lights and strange sounds wake her in the middle of the night and her place is miles away from the police.


What is out there?  Is that a red light bobbing around in the marsh?

Should she panic? Call the police? No, her friends… and her authors say… what you need is a dog!

So, Maggie is going to adopt a dog from Talbot Humane Society, but she can’t decide on a name.

To help, Whispers and Attraction Magazine, along with Whispers sponsor, Historic Banning’s Tavern are asking readers to “Name the Pup” for Maggie. You can submit your suggestions online (details below). At the same time, you can make a donation to help Talbot Humane. The winner will be drawn at the Bark in the Park event in Easton, Maryland on October 10th.

The Whispers LogoThe winning name will first appear in Episode 25 of Whispers on October 13th at . It will be fun to see how the antics of Maggie’s new pet disrupt her life.

Cody Small

No time to pose! Cody sees a squirrel!!

I know it will bring back memories of the first months my black Lab Cody moved in…but that’s for another blog.

I’ve heard a rumor from the publisher and the sponsor that more prizes are coming. More about that later, after I check it out.

Here’s how the process works to “Name the Pup”:

Visit now and click on the Whispers logo in the right corner. The entry information form makes it easy to submit your favorite name(s). If you’d like to make a small donation to Talbot Humane, just click the secure link to PayPal. All proceeds go to Talbot Humane.

Let the crazy fun begin… and maybe that red light in the marsh will disappear!

Like Being in the Newsroom…Again

News Control Room 4Writing the serial novel, Whispers, for Attraction Magazine with the weekly deadlines reminds me of the days when I worked in television and radio newsrooms.

What does a murder mystery set on the Chesapeake Bay’s Eastern Shore have in common with news broadcasts?

Plenty!  Yes, I was surprised, too.

When I first took on the commission to write this serial last March, not a word was written. There was no protagonist.  No murder.  No motive.  My co-author, Cheril Thomas and I had nothing. The project was announced on March 28th and the first episode appeared both in print and online on April 18th.  That’s how fast this whole project came together.

Whispers Episode 12 is a wonderful example of newsroom echoes. (Link below)

Any news story requires context and local color. The same is true with mystery writing. According to our original plan, our characters would visit some of the fun, local events on the Shore as the story unfolded. They sailed in the Cardboard Boat Race in Oxford… and flirted. One bid fast and furiously at the Crumpton antique auctions… as an unsavory character appeared. They watched as the reenactment of the Boston Tea Party in Chestertown… where an argument flared.

A news story is built on the facts, facts that must be checked. When a mystery is using real places and real events, the same rule applies. Since Episode 12 for a visit to another special event, I picked up the phone to be sure all was correct.Question mark

And that’s when the weird coincidences began.

I’m afraid I can’t identify the event or the person(s) involved, but I can tell you about the coincidences:

  • One of the characters came to the Shore from a town on the other side of the Bay Bridge…the same town where one of the key event organizers was born and raised.
  • That character has a certain occupation… the same as the key organizer.
  • A sensitive family connection exists for the character… and the same is true for the organizer.
  • The first name of these two individuals – one fictional, one real  – yes, you guessed it, even their first names are the same!

The organizer said, “People are going to think the character is based on me!”

I can assure you that no Whispers character is based on a real person, living or dead. But, I ask you, what are the chances that fiction should mirror reality like this?Question marks

In the newsroom, the writer checks the facts and edits the story to reflect them. In fiction, the writer knows when the situation is too awkward, and so, deletes the episode and begins again… even when there are only a couple of days before it’s due to post.

That’s when I appreciated my training in the newsroom so many years ago: Write it right and write it fast!

Hope you enjoy the latest episode of Whispers, especially now that you know the story behind the story. Check out Episode 12, in fact all the episodes so far at and click on the Whispers logo in the right corner.The Whispers Logo


WHISPERS Murder Mystery Signs with Sponsor

Bannings LogoHistoric Banning’s Tavern in Easton, Maryland is the new sponsor of Whispers, the mystery serial appearing every Tuesday at  Tom Haschen, an owner of Banning’s closed the deal with a handshake.  “We are pleased to be part of this unusual project.  It should be great fun!”

Cheril and I are thrilled to join with Banning’s in this novel adventure.  It is filled with history and the food is fantastic, a true oasis in the middle of Easton.  And the people are the best—both staff and patrons!  We had our first planning meeting at Banning’s about Whispers, A Maggie Maitland Mystery and it has been the site of many work session and celebratory lunches.

If you know the story behind Banning’s, you’ll appreciate how fitting it is that a mystery serial set on the Mid-shore is anchored in this intriguing place.  Banning’s was named after Jeremiah Banning, local war hero and patriot of the Revolutionary War. The restaurants owners Tom Haschen and Chef Stephen Mangasarian strive to keep our local history alive by providing their guests with interesting facts about the people and events of our area.

Banning’s is more than a history stop on a visit of Talbot County. The tasty menu, craft beer and extensive wine and cocktail lists will delight the most discriminating customer, as will the friendly and comfortable pub atmosphere. Historic Banning’s Tavern is a great place to set a scene in Whispers. The only problem is that when our characters place their orders, the writers get hungry. Good thing Banning’s is close-by. Settle in a booth, sit outside for people-watching or meet friends at the bar and read the latest episode of Whispers while you enjoy an excellent meal, glass of wine or craft beer.

The Whispers LogoWhispers is a murder mystery set on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake.  Many places in the story are real but, of course, none of the characters are based on real people, living … or dead.

Here’s the storyline:

Maggie Maitland, a wholesale antiques buyer and new resident of the Eastern Shore, is still reeling from the sudden death of her husband. Just as she begins her new life, she is thrust into the spotlight as a suspect in the murder of a local dentist – the man she believes killed her husband through carelessness. To clear herself and protect her friends, Maggie must do her own investigation and face the real killer.

Banning’s and Whispers … a great combination!

      Historic Banning’s Tavern is located at 42 East Dover Street in Easton in the Avalon Building, phone number 410-822-1733.  Check out their website: and on Facebook.