The Val & Kit Mystery Series

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Roz Learns There’s No Parking on the Moon

The greatest joy for me while being in lockdown has been “Lockdown School” with my nine-year-old grandniece, Emily. While I’m in my kitchen in Houston, she’s in her living room in Surrey, England—and with the magic of Zoom and a lot of help from Wikipedia—we meet once a week to learn and discuss American History.

Together we have covered a wide range of topics—the original colonies, Pearl Harbor, Native Americans, and the Wright Brothers, to name just a few. Emily was most concerned with the possible danger of quicksand and swarms of wasps on the Oregon Trail. The fate of most of the passengers on the Titanic made her very sad, but she was heartened by the heroics of the Unsinkable Molly Brown.

As for Amelia Earhart, Emily was pretty sure everyone thought she was daft for attempting to fly solo across the Atlantic, but also very brave. And when we discussed Amelia’s ill-fated last flight and the theories of what might have happened, Emily was pretty sure the aviator made it to an island where she married her navigator, Fred Noonan, and lived happily ever after.

Emily is a supersmart kid, funny, and so clever. Her vivid imagination has brought history to life for both of us. I have learned so much. Her impression of Helen Keller grabbing her throat and trying to speak was heart-wrenching. Our lesson this week was on the moon landing, and since she takes copious notes, I asked her to read back to me what she had written. She read: “The third spaceman, Michael Collins, stayed in the spaceship driving round and round, because there is no parking on the moon.”

Well done, Emily. I am so very proud of you.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Roz Wonders: Is Anyone Out There?

This self-quarantine might not be so bad. Patty is back home from her recent gallivanting around the country, and so we are free to continue some serious Skyping without the usual interruptions. I even received an e-mail from my dentist advising that all routine work was canceled. This was like the prison warden telling me I was out on parole, as long as I continued to floss.

Our first Skype began with Patty on her elliptical and me painting my nails. But once we’d hashed out the world’s news as well as our own, we were quickly able to knuckle down and start working.

This quarantine sounded easy. I have many projects around my house that need attention. Baseboards long overdue for painting, and an area in my study that needs to have the wallpaper removed. But staying home isn’t quite the picnic I expected. The painting and wallpaper stripping has not begun in earnest, or in fact, at all. But I have spent a lot of time of time online researching newfangled items for home improvement. Who knew there were so many gadgets to help you paint a straight line? And when did the good old blue tape become green?

As the isolation proceeds, it’s becoming clear that work around the house is going to have to wait, as more important issues surface. Eating, for example. Where did all those food delivery services spring from? And grocery delivery, which sounds complicated to me, but I’m assured is safer than actually going to my store and risking bumping into an eighty-year-old grocery sacker who may have recently spent three weeks in Italy and returned home via Iran.

All news outlets are to be avoided. The last thing I need is a so-called expert on infectious diseases sharing his revelation that drinking bleach will kill any virus. So it’s down to watching TV shows, or rewatching shows I haven’t seen for a while. I thought I only vaguely remembered Downton Abbey, but it turns out I can quote Lady Violet word for word.

So back to the isolation business at hand. I was never aware that I apparently touch my face ten thousand times an hour, so gotta work on that. And wearing surgical gloves to collect my mail only to forget to put them on when I retrieve my Amazon boxes from my front door. This quarantine is no joke and seems to go on forever. I’m worn out from all the things I cannot do.

So now I am ready for day FOUR. Bring it on.

But seriously, we wish all our readers a safe and tolerable—dare we hope enjoyable?—time keeping their social distance. To that end, we offer you a FREE getaway to Door County through March 23 via a download of DEATH IN DOOR COUNTY to your Kindle or Kindle app. Although it’s No. 3 in our Val & Kit Mystery Series, all our books stand alone.

But you do not. We are right here with you, and we’ll all get through this. Maybe we’ll even finish our still-untitled No. 7.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

What Are We Going to Call You?

We are now at an exciting stage in the completion of our next novel, No. 7 in The Val & Kit Mystery Series. First draft done. So it’s time to stop referring to our baby as “the bump” and give it a real name.

But easier said than done. We need something catchy, something with relevance to our story, and something original.

Actually, it is possible (and not unusual) for two or more books to share the same title, with a few exceptions. Typically, book titles cannot be copyrighted.

But we don’t think a writer should name her latest book, featuring a protagonist having a bad hair day because of inclement weather, Gone With the Wind or Wuthering Heights. Nor do we want to see a novel that centers on fly fishing called Moby Dick or even Catch-22. Seriously, if a writer can’t come up with an original title, who can?

So, we are putting our two heads together, hoping one of them comes up with a title. And nobody better steal it, or we just might call our next book To Catch a Thief.

Has anybody seen a title?

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The First One Hundred: We Gonna Celebrate and Have a Good Time

There’s 100 Years of Solitude (a great book). And 100 (plus one) Dalmatians. Kids nowadays even celebrate the 100th day of school­ (in 100 ways). And now, dear readers, there are 100 posts on our blog.

In our first blog post, BFFs: How We Got Our Start, we introduced ourselves and told how we came to write together. Soon thereafter, we wrote about our process in Inquiring Minds Want to Know: How Do We Write TOGETHER (a topic we are endlessly questioned about, to our great delight; what storyteller doesn’t like to tell her own story?). Along the way, we’ve shared many vignettes about our characters’ lives through the years, from how Val and Kit met as children to what was on Val’s Christmas list in 2014. We’ve also shared important information about our own lives, such as Roz’s adjustment to retiring from the airline industry and Patty’s wardrobe during our Skype sessions.

And now let us make it clear what THIS post is about. First, what it’s not about: it’s not about patting ourselves on the back for having written this many posts (though we are a bit in awe of ourselves). It’s about YOU, and how grateful we are that you visit this site and read our posts. We’re especially grateful for your comments, both public and private. We’re grateful, in other words, to be connecting with YOU. 100%!!

Friday, November 1, 2019

Thanksgiving Dinner 1984

The kitchen was impossible. I could scarcely fix a bowl of cereal, let alone a Thanksgiving dinner for six people. What was I thinking? I vowed that once my husband got a raise in pay, and we could afford to move, I’d never live in such a tiny place again (or consider cereal an evening meal).

“This place is just darling.” My mom was the first to arrive, with my dad in tow and enough food to feed an army.

“Mom, it’s ridiculous. Who lives like this?” I leaned back against the door to let them pass.

“Well, some things are more important than size.” She handed me a Tupperware bowl.

I peeked inside. Something green to match the bowl.

“I don’t smell coffee,” Mom said. “Have you made any?”

“No, Mom, you know I never drink coffee. But I’ll make you a pot now.”

“So David’s parents aren’t here yet.” My mother continued into the so-called dining room, which in fact was a section of the living room, which, in turn, was a section of the kitchen. “Good. Then why don’t you go and change, and I’ll set the table.”

“Change? Mom, this is what I’m wearing. And as for setting the table—”

“Yes, where is the table?”

“David’s borrowing a card table from our neighbor. He’ll be back any minute.”

“You don’t have a table? How do you expect to entertain seven people—”

“We use TV trays mostly—wait, seven?”

“I invited Uncle Oscar. I thought that would be okay. Oh, and he might bring his latest girlfriend. She’s sixty if she’s day. But don’t mention anything.”

“Like what? Like she looks sixty or that Uncle Oscar is a felon.”

“He’s not a felon, Valerie. Vandalism doesn’t really count, and you know he was taking strong medication at the time. Anyway, it was years ago; why must you hold on to everything?”

I noticed that my dad, still standing by the front door, was holding a paper turkey, almost as big as a real one, with a tail made of wilted orange and yellow feathers and missing one googly eye that I had bought at the Halloween store. “I brought this,” he said, by way of explanation. I was touched. I had made Tom the Turkey when I was in grade school and had no idea my parents still had it. The sight of his Sharpie-drawn mouth, unlike any real turkey, cheered me.

“As soon as David gets back, he’ll go right in the middle of the table.” I suddenly felt like Thanksgiving in our rabbit hutch might work, despite the cramped room, Tom’s missing eye, and whatever green mushy thing my mother had brought with her. For reassurance, I opened the lid of the green bowl once more, and then quickly closed it, enjoying its familiar and comforting burp.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019


“Do you want me to knit you something, Valerie? Something cheerleadery.”

“Ahh, Mom, please don’t knit me anything. Seriously. I mean it. It’s completely unnecessary.”

“So, that would be a no?”

“Yes. No. Please, I am begging you not to knit me anything.”

It was a moot point, really. If my mom started knitting me something now, whatever it was she had conjured up that was indicative of a Downers Grove High School Trojan cheerleader would most certainly not be finished until at least after Easter. Maybe Christmas of next year.  She was still working on a crocheted afghan for my brother, who I suspected would have long since graduated from college by the time that task was completed.

“Well, okay,” she said. “If that’s what you want.” Did I hear relief in her voice?

“Besides, I don’t even want to be a cheerleader.”

“What are you saying? Of course you do. I’ve got a permanent headache from listening to you and Katherine practicing your cheers. Why would you put in all that hard work and—”

“I never wanted it, Mom. It was Kit’s idea. And I thought she did really good.”

Well, Valerie.”

I waited a minute. Then, “Well what?”

“She did well, not good.”

I sighed. “Okay, well. I just went along to tryouts with her because she was a little nervous to do it alone. But I never in a million years thought they would pick me and not . . .”

“Not her? You got a place on the squad and she didn’t?”

“Mom, you can’t say anything to her. Promise me you won’t. It’s crazy that they didn’t pick her. I’m a million pounds heavier and—”

“You most certainly are not heavier. You are just well-rounded, that’s all. She’s too skinny. And frankly, she’s not what I would call a dancer, whereas you are a natural—”

“I’m going to turn it down, but please promise me you won’t say anything to her.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, is this how it’s going to be with you two? When you’re up for congresswoman or a judgeship or chief of surgery, are you going to back down so you don’t hurt her feelings?”

I was flattered that my mother saw me figuratively reaching such lofty heights. My own ambitions, however, stretched even higher, literally: I wanted to be an air hostess for Pan Am. “Promise me, Mom.”

My mother put her arm around my shoulders. “You are a kind girl, Valerie Caldwell. And a loyal friend. Maybe by next year your pal can fatten herself up a bit and get over her klutzy dance moves. But I promise, I won’t say a word.”

I wasn’t sure, however, that I could trust her.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Labor Day Circa 1971

“Do you have any homework, Valerie?” My mom handed me a bowl of Hamburger Helper. It was Friday night, and we were having a family dinner.

Yes,” I said. “This looks delicious, Mom.”

“Hows school?” My dad used wooden tongs to fill his salad bowl with iceberg lettuce. “Meet any new kids?”

“Yes,” I said, eager to share my recent acquaintance with my family. “There’s a girl called Kit—”

Kit? Like a kitty cat?” my thirteen-year-old brother interrupted, making a cat-purring sound.

“She’s really nice,” I continued, ignoring him. “Her real name is Katherine. And she’s been to New York, and her mother has a mink coat.”

“Well,” my dad said, shaking his head a little and laughing, “if her mother has a mink coat . . .”

“Right,” I agreed with his logic. “And Kit has had horseback-riding lessons, and she can do a pirouette when she skates—”

“She sounds very nice,” my mom said.

“We want to work on our essays together. Can I invite her over?”

“I don’t see why not. What’s the subject?” My mom peered at me over her glass of water.

“The importance of Labor Day,” I said, with great importance. “What do you guys think it is?”

“A tribute to the American workers,” my Dad replied.

“A day to barbecue,” my brother said. “And no school.”

I stirred my Hamburger Helper. “Kit says it’s important because it’s the last day we can wear white.”

My mother looked at me with astonishment. “Valerie, I like the sound of your new friend. I can already tell she’s going to be one of my favorites.”