Sunday, January 1, 2023

New Year, New Book!

 by Paula Gail Benson

I received the happiest news on New Year’s Eve: Promophobia, a book several years in production was being released! Diane Vallere, while completing her term as Sisters in Crime national President, sought members’ contributions to a book about publicity and using social media. I asked if she would take an article describing how to promote short stories and was delighted when she agreed. Time passed as a publisher was secured. Finally, about a month ago, Diane requested that we update our submissions. The result is a terrific guidebook for marketing crime fiction written by extraordinary authors. Please check it out!

Saturday, December 17, 2022


by Paula Gail Benson

Aoutrow 24-Day Advent Calendar
featured on Amazon

Mom always prepared the wooden Advent calendar, placing unique treats in each drawer.

In the spring, celebrating twenty-five married years, Pop gave Mom a new engagement ring. She removed the original and told me. “Joe, this is for your bride.”

I said, “Keep it for me.”

We lost Mom unexpectedly. Auto accident. With Sheila beside me, I watched Mom’s remains guided into the mausoleum vault.

The holidays approached. Important little things went undone. Regretfully, I lifted the empty Advent calendar, not having the heart to fill it until I heard something rattle in drawer 24. Mom’s engagement ring for Sheila.


This 100 word story is offered as an entry for the annual Advent Ghosts event hosted by Loren Eaton at I Saw Lightning Fall. See the other entries there. Thanks, Loren, for the opportunity! 

Friday, December 9, 2022

Colonel Sanders and Santa?

by Paula Gail Benson

In the 1970s, Takeshi Okawara, who managed Japan’s first KFC, began the “Kentucky for Christmas” campaign after visiting an elementary school dressed as Santa. He realized that Japan did not have established family cultural traditions for celebrating Christmas. In addition, fried chicken is similar to the popular dish of karaage, panko-breaded, deep-fried chicken or fish. Some think chicken also might have been a good substitute for turkey that was not as accessible and drier in taste. KFC offered its Japanese customers a “party barrel” which included chicken, cole slaw, and cake. Although alternatives now exist, KFC remains a holiday favorite.

CNN Travel Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images


Thursday, December 1, 2022

Japanese Christmas Traditions

by Paula Gail Benson

Hoteiosho with good luck fan
Japanese children call the western figure “Santa San” or “Mr. Santa.” With few chimneys for him to enter, they consider him a ghostly presence bringing treats. KFC fried chicken is a preferred Christmastime meal, and often must be pre-ordered to meet the demand. A large, smiling Buddhist figure, Hoteiosho, referred to as a monk and one of the seven good fortune gods, is a gift giver associated with happiness. His name means cloth bag and he is never without his sack, which contains life’s good things. With eyes in front and in back of his head, he observes children’s behavior.

Friday, February 4, 2022

Flag-Maker and Caregiver

From: Mommy Nearest

As she grew older, Betsy Ross took in many family members and offered them a home, including nieces, Betsy’s widowed daughter Clarissa, and Clarissa’s five children. With Clarissa’s help, Betsy continued to work as an upholsterer and flag-maker until she retired at the age of seventy-six and went to live with her daughter Susanna outside Philadelphia. Despite losing her vision, Betsy made the weekly carriage ride into Philadelphia to attend services at the Free Quaker Meeting House. Three years before her death, Betsy was completely blind. She spent the last years of her life with her daughter Jane in Philadelphia.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Three Times a Widow

From Wikimedia Commons
Betsy Ross had three husbands. With John Ross, she opened an upholstery business. Following John’s death, she married, Joseph Ashburn, a seamen whose vessel, The Lion, was captured. After being charged with treason, he died in the Old Mill Prison in Plymouth, England. He and Betsy had two daughters, only one of whom lived to be an adult. A fellow prisoner, John Claypoole, brought Betsy the news of Joseph’s death. John and Betsy married and became members of the Society of Free Quakers, which supported the colonists’ fight against Great Britain. The Claypooles had five daughters, one dying while young.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

A Woman of Mystery

Percy Moran, The Birth of Old Glory (1917). Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

While people know George Washington asked Betsy Ross to sew the first U.S. flag, few are aware of her personal history. Born into a Quaker family, the eighth of seventeen children, Betsy moved to Philadelphia at age three. Following her formal education, she apprenticed to an upholsterer, where she met her first husband, a fellow apprentice and Anglican. Because her family did not approve, they eloped. He died two years later. In 1774, Betsy made bed hangings for George Washington. Finding her both trustworthy and skilled, Washington commissioned her, a childless widow of twenty-four, to make a flag he designed.