Just in time for Halloween!

Judi Lynn

This is the last short story I wrote for October and Halloween this year. Lux has her hands full when she rescues a black cat:



Judi Lynn

Where did the keys to my yellow Bentley get to? Probably in the bottom of my purse. I was digging for them on my way out of the office supply store when I heard a cat yowl behind the building. A loud, panicked screech. It made the hairs on my arms rise. And then silence. Something must have scared it.

I tossed my paper and ink cartridges on the passenger seat when the yowl shrieked again. Nuts! That cat sounded like it was in trouble. I went to see what was happening.

As I rounded the corner of the building, I spotted a teenage boy with a sharp stick poking a black cat. He’d tied its back paw to a…

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Judi Lynn, friend and critique partner, is offering a free chapter of her Muddy River Mystery series today. Since she has generously and repeatedly offered her blog for guest postings for my works, it’s time to repay, and I do so happily.

Muddy River is atmospheric, sometimes grizzly, and full of juicy characters, most especially her H&H, both wicked scary with magical powers. Neither of them mess around when it comes to kicking the butts of the baddies.

Something that has always fascinated me is Judi’s mind. She comes up with some creepy stuff. The contrast to what she puts on the page and what she’s like to be around and have as a friend bears no resemblance. I suppose it’s the same with acting—one doesn’t have to be a murderer to portray a serial killer. Although, I couldn’t look at Mark Harmon for years after he did the Ted Bundy thing. (Insert shiver here.) Time to pick Judi’s brain:

Hope my brain comes up with some decent answers.Great questions, BTW.  Thanks for inviting me to your blog!  I love urban fantasy AND mysteries, so decided to try to combine them in my Muddy River series.

What is it about magic that draws you to write and read about the genre? 

Wow, that’s a good question.  I guess it’s because I always thought that if you had a lot of power, you could do great things.  What I didn’t think about is that, if you have a lot of power and WANT to do great things, someone else has power and uses it for his/her own gain, his own evil purposes.  So then, power just ups the ante between a battle for good vs. evil.  I also am drawn to the idea that humans—us—are afraid of anything that’s different from us.  So that when we are afraid or uncertain, we might become the greatest evil of all.

What about mystery? How old were you when you started reading it?

I didn’t get hooked on mysteries until I found Agatha Christie in high school.  I never read Nancy Drew or mysteries for younger readers.  Still haven’t.  I got hooked on James Fenimore Cooper, James Hilton, and Jane Austen.  But once I found Agatha, I loved how her mind worked.  Then I got hooked on Sherlock Holmes.  I wish I could say I’d read some Dorothy Sayers—only one—but I went from Agatha to Nancy Pickard, M. C. Beaton, Carolyn Hart, and Sharyn McCrumb.

What excites you about characters and plots?

 I love a good who-dunnit and why.  But lots of books have a KIND of mystery in them—an unanswered question to figure out—besides mysteries.  I prefer to follow characters whom I respect and admire. It makes it easier for me to root for them to succeed.  That said, I’ve been known to enjoy a sort of anti-hero occasionally, like Jorg from Prince of Thorns.  He’s the protagonist, and he’s twisted, but everyone else in the time period comes off as MORE twisted, so it’s a matter of degrees.  Jorg seems more noble than anyone around him.  As for plots, because I’m a mystery fan, I really notice them. I don’t mind slow starts.  Let’s face it.  That’s part of writing a cozy.  But I want to know the book’s big question, and then I want everything to eventually move to the answer to that question at the end.  And if you’ve introduced a subplot and forgotten it along the way, that’s a big problem for me.

What makes you impatient with a story that is enough for you to set it aside, unfinished?

I’m pretty patient with fellow writers, but lately, I’ve reached the point that if a story doesn’t hold my interest, I delete it from my Kindle and move on.  I used to feel that I had to finish every book I started.  No more.  I’ve found more mistakes in books than I used to, but when they mount up to too many, I’m done.  And if it feels like the book isn’t going anywhere, that the author padded it to reach a word count, I’m annoyed, too.  And then, in all honesty, I can buy a perfectly good book that just isn’t what I like and quit reading it, even though I know LOTS of other readers will love it.  We all have different tastes.

Your blogs often speak to what you like to read now. What did you like to read as a child?

Oh, boy.  I have to admit, my sisters remember all kinds of things about growing up. I don’t.  I mostly remember teachers I loved, but very few books.  I read a really thick, really big book about a pigeon in third grade.  I know, that doesn’t sound exciting, but it was to me.  I raised pigeons when I was young—homing pigeons and racers.  And this poor pigeon was a homing pigeon who was let loose far from home and had to survive hawks and hunger before he made it back to his owner.  Okay, not many people would buy that today, but it’s stayed with me this long.  I went through a short biography stage and Zane Grey.  For years, I wanted to grow up and be a pioneer.  Oh, Laura Ingalls Wilder probably contributed to that.  I loved her books.  And Charlotte’s Web.  And books about a mouse who was adopted into a family—Stuart Little??  I can’t think of anything else right now.  Oh, in high school, I went through a Georgette Heyer phase, too—part of why I love your Regency Romances written as Julia Donner😊

What are you working on now?

I just turned in my sixth Jazzi Zanders mystery, and now, I’m plotting the 7thbook in the series and bouncing back and forth between plotting a new Lux Mystery—something new I’m trying.

Got a link?

Here’s my Social Media:

My webpage:

Author Bookbub page:

As Judi Lynn:

As Judith Post:

twitter: @judypost


author Facebook page:

And for Tattoos And Portents:

Thanks for coming to my blog! I thought I knew a lot about you and learned more today!!!

M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML






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Having seen numerous versions of Emma, the real draw to the newest was Bill Nighy. I must say right away that he is splendid. With a twitch of his hand or a barely-there shrug, he conveys everything needed to be expressed. He added the right touch of humor, and IMHO, with a subtly that would please Austen. Many of her characters were meant to be whimsically humorous.

Austen’s Miss Woodhouse is not my favorite, since she is pushy, self-serving and proud. In this rendition, my mild aversion to her has been mollified. Anya Taylor-Joy portrays our heroine in a more accessible manner. Paltrow’s take was somewhat whiny, often petulant, rather childish. Taylor-Joy has created an Emma with more depth, a snobbish, self-satisfied busybody, who learns the meaning of true civility. By the end of the film, she is worthy of the excellent Mr. Knightly, who in this film (Johnny Flynn) comes across as too emotional. He’s a joy to watch, certainly, but the character of Mr. Knightly is a gentleman of constraint and superior style. And I didn’t quite understand the purpose of showing his bare backside or having him lying on the floor in despair. Mr. Knightly prostrate with frustration? Surely not.

And the marvelous Brit actors do not disappoint. Oh, the ensemble acting! So many favorites! And every one of them understands Austen’s restrained humor and sly enjoyment of pointing out humanity’s character flaws. Josh O’Connor as Mr. Elton, who gave us an interesting and sympathetic portrayal of Prince Charles in The Crown, embodies hypocrisy in an almost over-the-top performance. Tanya Reynolds as Mrs. Elton is spot-on as the society witch utterly oblivious to her own crass behavior. Miss Bates, (Miranda Hart of Call the Midwife) is the tender-hearted gentle lady of limited means, but generous of soul, who provides the perfect contrast to Emma’s smallness of character and the catalyst for a much-needed learning experience.

The costumes are exquisite. Emma’s wardrobe is extensive. The hats glorious. The houses and locales are lushly represented. The production is of the highest quality. The Brits almost always do it up right, but this is a step above and beyond. There are many reasons to see this movie, but first and foremost, if you are an admirer of Austen, this one should not be missed.

Older DVD Gem:


This totally character-driven story is about previously powerful, retired ad exec Harriet Lauler (Shirley MacLaine), who decides that she wants her obituary written before her death. Unfortunately for her, the person she chooses to write it, Ann Sherman (Amanda Seyfried) has a will as strong as Lauler’s and won’t back down and write flowery drivel. Ann forces Lauler to confront the fact that almost everybody hated, feared, and avoided her. She didn’t merely crack the glass ceiling; she smashed it, which means she stepped on many to get there. In order to get a proper obit that conveys a brilliant legacy, Lauler must start a new direction at the end of her life.

The beginning of the film dwells too long on Lauler’s control issues and depression. Hang in there. Once it gets moving, it’s fascinating and goes in unexpected directions. There is so much meat in this story, so much to encourage personal reflection and make us wonder about our own legacies—not for the sake of vanity—but for the sake of self-improvement and finding the best ways to enrich our lives and live each day to its fullest.

On Netflix:

If you don’t mind graphic everything, check out Spenser Confidential. Loads of action, smarty-pants humor, and a guy who just wants to do the right thing. But beware of the girlfriend.


M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML



A Short History Lesson (for me) for the Regency period

What would we do without our writing buddies…can’t imagine.

Judi Lynn

I love Regency romances and mysteries, but I don’t know enough about the history of the period to keep everything straight.  Luckily for me, my good friend M. L. Rigdon (aka Julia Donner) agreed to a Q & A to help promote her latest novel, MORE THAN A MILKMAID.

More than a Milkmaid--Mary Lou

Help me welcome her to my blog.  She’s my critique partner and close friend, and I’m also a huge fan of her writing—and not just because I’m prejudiced. I’m pretty picky about what I consider good writing. Not that anyone would know that. I simply don’t review books I don’t like or admire. And I admire her work. Her latest novel, MORE THAN A MILKMAID, is one of my favorites.

Thanks so much for asking me here today! And yes, you are biased, but for my latest venture into the Regency world, it may have to do with you providing the…

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Lost and Found


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Lately I’d been thinking about a friend I hadn’t heard from in a few years, Allen Etter, artist, teacher, film director, author, and innovative writer of Christian Science Fiction. I don’t know about the genre now, but when Allen wrote Entropy Gate, I’d never read anything like it. As I searched out his website to see if he still taught at the university, I was saddened to learn that he had died, quite young at 52.

Publishers of Christian fiction were not interested when Allen wrote EG. You don’t have to be Christian or interested in science fiction to enjoy Entropy Gate or its sequel, Beyond. He illustrated his own graphic novels with his distinctive graceful/grotesque talent. I always admired his ability to evoke movement in his paintings.

Entropy Gate:


Allen was invested in his faith, his family, and artistry. I admired the way his brain processed art in practical applications. One of his first webpages was of the girl on the cover of Entropy Gate and accessing the site by entering her sparkling green eye.

I remember best the wisdom in Allen’s large, dark eyes, his graceful hands, and his physical presence. At 6’7, he filled up surrounding space but he was never intimidating, more like cuddly. He listened with care and carried with him a quiet, inner burden. I enjoyed talking about fencing, which we both had studied, he being the better fencer.

Allen leaves behind sons and a wife he adored. I am sorry I hadn’t talked to him recently but have his art, books, the appreciation of his encouragement of my beginning efforts. Please check out his works on Amazon and enjoy his many exceptional talents. My glowing reviews were removed when it was discovered that we were friends, but he’s left some of them behind for us to admire. One of my favorites is a rendition of Batman:



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This morning I drove by a man with metal legs. He stood in the freezing cold at an intersection, holding a placard stating that he served as a Marine.

I went to the store, did my shopping and readied some folded bills. I don’t usually hand money to panhandlers, but this was different. He was a veteran.

What is wrong with this nation that we let this happen to our service people? I drove home so furious I was teary-eyed. People are so selfishly tuned-in to their own ideas, frantically looking for validation and opinion confirmation sources and opportunities, that few see the travesty standing on our street corners and living beneath freeway underpasses in cardboard boxes. This goes beyond disgrace; it connotes the worst sort of social and moral corrosion.

Not that many years back, the GOP lead Senate proudly passed a tax break of $269 billion for the rich. That is revolting and in every way appalling. Our service people and their families are struggling, while the rich have no sympathy for the have nots, no respect for the courage and sacrifice of our military.  Those billions were and are needed for the more deserving.

Holidays can be emotionally destructive to the depressed and oppressed. I ask that you give whatever you can when you see or hear about a veteran in need. I didn’t care if that Marine was panhandling because he was destitute or just looking for extra cash to buy his kids a gift. I have my legs intact and he has metal ones. He’s given more than enough.





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Knives Out 

Oh, yeah, let’s go there. Saw this last night with a group of friends from my church and we laughed and laughed. It’s the most fun mystery ever! I was too busy enjoying the people on screen to get invested in figuring out the mystery, which becomes clear about three-quarters through. I’m sure my friend and critique partner, Judy (aka Judi Lynn), who writes mysteries, will figure it out much earlier from some obvious clues.

As usual, I’m fascinated with the subtleties. If you look at any of the promo stills, you’ll notice the makeup, obvious shadows and blush under the cheekbones, to give the Thrombey family the look of thinness, a gaunt desperation. This is in contrast to the plump sweetness of the nurse/companion, Marta, in comparison to the Thrombey family of sharks. Everyone in this movies is having so much fun with their delicious characters—so meaty they could be easily be blown over the top—but all are skillfully contained. Or executed. (Couldn’t resist that.)

The house itself is a character. I can’t wait to slap the CD into the player so it can be paused to savor the gorgeousness of the interiors. (Who has a cannon in their drawing room?)

There are so many delightful twists and turns coming constantly and out of nowhere and yet slotted perfectly into the puzzle. Many tongue-in-cheek remarks and inferences are said so quickly they’re easy to miss. Love the detective’s name, Benoit Blanc, who surprisingly plugs in earbuds and sings a Sondheim show tune.

There is so much going on in this movie on so many levels that it’s a viewing that can be enjoyed over and over and will probably become a cult classic. Keep an eye out for Frank Oz and K Callan; as Stanislavski said, “There are no small roles, only small actors.”

Everybody in this is juicy, and I want to grow up to be Jamie Lee Curtis.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

This is nothing like what I expected. The only way I can think to describe this movie is intimate—almost, but not quite, too intimate. I have yet to read the Esquire article on which this film is based but imagine it will be as unique and unexpected as this work is. I was equal parts impressed, moved, humbled, informed, and encouraged.

Special camera work was used to capture what the original TV program looked like. The “Neighborhood” set and formatting was used throughout the filming as a tool to suck the viewer/audience into the world of Fred Rogers and the bitter, emotionally wretched internal life of a journalist (Vogel), who copes with, but has never resolved childhood traumas. When Vogel is assigned the job of writing about a beloved national icon, his wife begs him not to ruin her childhood with one of his typical exposé pieces.

As Tom Hanks said—explaining his POV in an interview—people thought of Rogers as either a saint or a fraud. Vogel leaned more toward the fraud, and after meeting Rogers, ended up bewildered, confused, then disbelieving to the point where he becomes almost obsessed with the need to understand someone who only sees the good in others and him. And the hurt.

What I liked most about this movie is how respectfully Rogers is depicted, not as a saint, but as a person with flaws and problems, while imbued with substantial grace and so much compassion he could cherish everyone as a unique being. On his TV program Rogers never talked about God, and yet he exemplified all that is good about religious belief. He personified true evangelism by extending compassion and kindness. He brought more goodness and light into the world as no present day evangelism or obnoxious evangelists do.  Reverend Fred Rogers saved souls without self-righteous demands to repent or pointing out what is lacking or needs changing.  He lived his beliefs, celebrated differences, and accomplished it while battling his own failings and disappointments.

We can’t all be a Fred Rogers, but we can see this movie and get an idea of where and how to start.


M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML






Ford vs. Ferrari

This is an example of finding it difficult to see the forest for the trees. The exhilaration of being in the driver’s seat through half of the movie tends to distract from the excellent work of the actors. I’m not a racing aficionado/a, but like many, do admire flashy cars and good acting. Plenty of both in this film, but the thrill of the driver’s side view of the racing experience does divert from the craft of the actors. Most car flicks focus on the action to the exclusion of what is involved in the skill needed to survive the race itself. Both the skill and the cars are honored here.

Little things snag my attention, such as the way Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby held his black hat in a meeting with Ford. There is a unique way in which a freshly blocked or cherished hat is held, the respectful three-fingered grasp of the crown. I recall that I read somewhere that one of Shelby’s hats was used in this movie. It’s subtle finesse that lifts a performance from competent to masterful.

Christian Bale as Ken Miles is his usual brilliant self. Caitriona Balfe is mesmerizing. She can steal a scene with intensity, which she condenses into finer focus in comparison to the often overwrought Claire in Outlander. I appreciate more director James Mangold’s respect for Mollie Miles. The sixties era made the minimization and “slutifiying” of women into an art form. Mangold eschewed that by showing how Mollie supported her husband, knowing full well the extraordinary dangers involved in striving to achieve his dream. Bale enhanced and elevated this in his devotion to Mollie and the sanctity of their relationship. He does so with an easy grace and gentlemanly gift for ensemble. The standout for me was Noah Jupe as Peter Miles, Ken’s son. For a young actor, he is what is sometimes called a natural. It’s exciting to imagine what he has in store for us in the future.

In contrast, there is nothing subtle about corporate America. All of the fawning, attention greedy, viciously envious, childishly entitled, penile-challenged vulgarity was perfectly illustrated in the Ford upper echelon. Having had the unfortunate experience of meeting and interacted this type, I can attest that the depictions in this film are not over the top. The only thing missing was the underlying cruelty of this sort of male. I will not call them men, because they are not.

With nerve-wrenching pacing soothed by interesting introspection and spectacular filming, this is a not-to-be-missed experience. Good performances require a sturdy platform, and the true star of this movie is the innovation and genius of the creation of a dream, bringing an invention to its greatest form—to a level of perfection. Mangold and his team did just that with this movie. 


During the summer, if not in the swimming pool, the library was my go-to place as a girl. I’m not sure how a biography of Harriet Tubman got in the stack of books I lugged home every two weeks, but once I started reading about her, I couldn’t stop. Her courage, unbreakable spirit and dignity in strife haunted my thoughts and made her heroic in a way no other could be. (Maybe with the exception of my sister.) So when I heard about this film, and read that it was a respectful rendering, I couldn’t wait to see it. So not disappointed. Just loved the whole thing, especially the costuming. Attention was paid to historical accuracy with the exception of Gideon Brodess, who was made into a baddie, which is not substantiated, but his mother, Eliza, was a documented horror.

There was some silly talk about using Cynthia Erivo, a British actress, as Tubman. What is that all about? Did anybody gripe about Helen Mirren (British) as Sarah Winchester? There are dozens more examples but that is the only one that comes to mind at the moment. Erivo did a superb job and that was why she was chosen. Perhaps also because she looks a bit like Tubman and is petite.

When I heard that Tubman was to be on the $20 bill, I rejoiced. The face of a murderous, amoral person like Jackson has no place on our currency. He demolished the Seven Nations, stealing their homes and businesses, the same way present day energy companies are doing, confiscating reservations and privately owned farmlands for fracking and building pipelines for oil to be sold to other countries. If Harriet was alive, she’ d be standing in front of the earthmoving machines, like the young man who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square.

Racists now infest the White House. Trump, specifically, has blocked the change of the $20, but some have found a way around it. There is a stamp of Harriet that can cover the face of Jackson, who had welcomed the help of the Cherokee in the battle of New Orleans, then stole their lands and businesses.

I don’t think Harriet wants the recognition, but she would relish the fight. It’s her face that needs to join Washington, Lincoln, Hamilton and Grant. I’m going online to find that dang stamp and slap it on every $20 I come  across. Every time I do it, I’ll think about her courage, her strength and faith, her determination to do what was right and honorable.

See the film. Watch her run for her life, risk everything for others, and exemplify what true heroism is.

M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML





A Yummy Hero

Writers need to stick together. The support of friends is crucial and why my regency series is dedicated to friendship. You are the best!

Judi Lynn

I read some books and the guy who’s the hero is just plain hot.  And I remember him.  A hot hunk isn’t enough to make me love a book, but let’s face it, it doesn’t hurt.  But M. L. Rigdon has a habit of writing wonderful male characters AND one heck of a good story.  In her newest fantasy, THE GRACARIN, she combines a hero who endeared himself to me the longer I read about him, with a heroine whom I’ve loved since I read about her in the trilogy Seasons of Time.  I love Sorda, and it hurt when she became Lorin’s consort in that series instead of his wife.  But it was so typical of her, content to play second-fiddle in the background.  Until she meets Torak–my heart throb–in The Gracarin.  And oh, how I hope she and Torak end up together.  So, I invited M. L. Rigdon…

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Two Movies in Two Days


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An outer space adventure that is mostly backdrop for wrenching internal struggle. Brad Pitt’s character, Major Roy McBride, has managed childhood issues with controlled avoidance. He’s buried pain so deeply that he’s cut himself off, shut down emotional responses. His success with this is demonstrated in how calm he remains in a terrifying life threatening accident that would make any normal person shriek nonstop or blackout. That neat talent is challenged when everything he’s done to protect himself begins to unravel with the monumental task of saving the world. His father, a brilliant scientist and deified astronaut thought dead, is making mayhem on Neptune.  Son must find trouble-maker dad, save the universe, while his internal self is hanging on by a thread.

Pacing is difficult in space films, mainly because everything is slowed down on screen for the illusion of weightlessness. The action gets slow at times but never drags. It’s appropriate and is helped along by Pitt’s narration throughout the film, a curious then ruthlessly objective dissection of his mental status. His goal of saving the world, saving himself, and confronting his father is pitted against the difficulties and dangers of space travel. I got the feeling Pitt identified with his character on a gut level and liked the whole exploration of outer space versus exploration of emotional inner space theme.

Major Roy McBride is a hero steadfast, quick thinking and relentlessly brave. I see in him NASA’s long list of astronauts, but lacking their corny sense of humor. I also liked the clear-cut screenplay with a definite beginning, sometimes shocking middle segments, and a satisfying conclusion.

Some reviewers are whining about the lack of serious attention to the sacred sci-fi genre. I liked the film because space is used as secondary to Major McBride’s internal odyssey.

And now for something completely different:


So far, there is no way to compete with the Brits when it comes to period film production. What also amazed was getting the extensive cast back to do this film. In an NPR interview, Julian Fellowes expressed his astonishment of the same. Their joy of being together again glows on the screen.

Let’s be real. It took years to develop the history and scope of the Crawley family. To cram that much content into a two-hour film is impossible. Yes, the writing is trite and over-used, with tortuous injections of dues ex machina, but nobody cares. Certainly not the fans of this series. Me included. What we got was exactly what we wanted, the upstairs and downstairs back together again, the elegance of a fading era, the sparkle and beauty of it all. The costuming is so exquisite, down to the matching robin egg green of Dowager Countess Grantham’s satin slippers.

There is also the benefit of income for the repairs that a dwelling like Highclere Castle requires. (The window casement in one of the shots was so badly chipped its condition distracted.) Most of the grand houses are now in the National Trust, given up by families no longer able to financially keep pace with the upkeep. Lady Mary expressed the same worry about staying on at Downton, a reasonable concern.

The present day owner of Highclere, Lord Carnarvon (descendant of the famed King Tutankhamen excavation), gave a candid interview about how much the income for renting out his house for the series was appreciated for a new roof, among other things. Although the age of aristocracy has dwindled to its end, architecture and history must be preserved. Downton Abbey funds have helped greatly with that.

Link to Highclere:

This was the first time in a long, long time that I heard an audience of movie goers clap at the end of a film. It was good to hear and even better to escape from present day crassness into a lovely setting. Nostalgia is a wonderful thing.

Shameless plug portion: The Gracarin, scheduled for release on 10/10/19, is now available  for pre-sale.