Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Book Clubs Rock!

by Deb Baker/Hannah Reed

A while back, I was lucky enough to find a really cool book club. We meet every 6 weeks and, working our way through the alphabet, we take turns picking a book that has been made into a movie. Then we read the book, watch the movie, and meet to discuss both.

We’ve done one round from A to Z and now we are back to A. It’s my turn to pick, so for next month I’ve chosen The Accidental Tourist, written by Anne Tyler, the movie starring William Hurt and Geena Davis. I can’t wait to start the book, which I always read first. Book then movie.

I have grown so much as a reader thanks to this group. Last time, we read a James Bond, You Only Live Twice, and I was happily surprised, as were the other women. We all enjoyed the book, and I will definitely read more by Ian Fleming. Who knew?

Would I have picked it up on my own? Never! That goes for many of the other selections we’d had. A few have been painful struggles to finish, but most have been true treasures.

Are you in a book club? What are you reading? Any past reads that have surprised you?



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

SCANDAL'S Amanda and Devlin Are Out There!

by Maggie Sefton



Since I only have two blog posts scheduled for April because April 1st and 15th
were already taken, please forgive me if I use them both to remind readers and bloggers of my good news. :).   My NEW Historical Mystery set in 1890 Washington, DC is now out on Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook.  SCANDALS, SECRETS, AND MURDER:  The Widow and the Rogue Mysteries.  Trade paper copies should be available by early June from Amazon's CreateSpace.  This is the first book in a series.

I think you folks will enjoy meeting these two lead characters:  Amanda Duncan and Devlin Burke.  SCANDALS has already received two reader reviews---both of them 5 STARS!!   I'm delighted. :).
In case some of you missed the brief descriptions a couple of weeks ago, here they are again.  I hope some of you give Amanda and Devlin a try.  :)


Powerful and corrupt U.S. Senator Horace Chester is stabbed to death in a Murder Bay brothel, wrapped in the arms of his evening’s entertainment.  His assailant escapes into the crush of unwashed bodies filling the streets of 1890 Washington’s notorious red light district---just a few blocks from the President’s  House. 

Amanda Duncan, young Washington widow, tries to ignore the clairvoyant visions that flash  before her eyes.  She couldn’t save her own family, so maybe her visions can help others.  Now, Amanda deliberately treads where no respectable lady would dare.  This latest vision was most troubling.  She saw a man stabbed to death by a shadowy assailant and a young girl screaming.

Devlin Burke, English investor and sometime sleuth, is in Washington on family business and to rescue his nephew Freddie who’s gone bankrupt in one of Sen. Chester’s investment schemes.  In a fit of rage, Freddie attacked Chester in a crowded Capitol Hill hallway only days before the senator’s murder.  Freddie has no alibi and is now the police inspector’s prime suspect.

Devlin and Amanda join forces in a search to find the real killer, which takes them from the Capital’s poshest salons into the crime-infested streets of Murder Bay.  Devlin’s sleuthing instincts and Amanda’s psychic detection lead them ever closer to the truth.  But the closer they approach, the more desperate the killer becomes---and the more dangerous. 








Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Monday Greetings

by Kate Collins


I'm taking a break from the blog to spend time with my family this holiday. This photo is of some of my extended family who are in town for Easter.

I hope all of you had a wonderful weekend.

Blessings on you.

Kate

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The War on ... Wait For It ... HYPHENS!

by Leann

English is one of the most difficult languages to learn for a myriad of
reasons. As a writer, I understand that far better than I once did. Perfecting a manuscript requires a lot of patience and a knowledge of grammar, but also requires knowing when to break the rules. After all, people in conversation, for the most part, do not always create perfect sentences.

But dialogue is a whole other animal. Dialogue is NOT actually how people talk. Dialogue needs to just sound like how people talk while removing all the extraneous ums and ahs and extra words we tend to use when talking to another person. If a dialogue-heavy book used all the words we actually speak, it would be an awfully long book.

Right now I am slogging through the final editing stage of the book that will come out in August. This is NOT a creative process. I do not like it one bit. It requires lots of concentration to make sure every word is there and spelled correctly. There are "rules" about words many of you many not know about. The copy editors and proof readers who "fix" our books must all use the same dictionary and a certain "style manual" that the publisher has chosen. (For me, my first edition of Strunk and White's Elements of Style is enough. I won't say which manual they use, but it's not that one!)

The trouble began with my book last year. You may not be aware there is a campaign to rid the world of that horrible, detestable hyphen. Here's the problem. I happen to LIKE hyphens. Why? Because I am old school. Rule of thumb was always this: compound words not in the dictionary but "created" by the author to liven things up followed two paths. If the new word created by merging two words not ordinarily found together was an
adjective, it was hyphenated. If it was noun, it was not hyphenated unless it was too long to be easily dissected by the reader.

Here's the example that absolutely threw me for a loop with the last book. In the very first paragraph on the very first page there is a word that I had to find by searching for it because I didn't know what this particular do-hickey was: anti-climbing spikes (and everywhere I found it, the hyphen was included). Those are the thingees on top of security fences. But the proofer took out the hyphen so it became anticlimbing. The last thing in the world a writer wants is for the reader to have to stop and figure out a word. I believe many people would have thought this was a typo even though this is what the newest style manual says is correct. I threw a mini-fit (see, I LOVE hyphens) and got my hyphen back. I do not want to stop the flow of a story over one silly word!

I went on to find quite a few other words in the book where hyphens had been removed. I didn't like it. Now, I am dealing with the same thing for the August release. Could we make English any more difficult to learn? Oh yes we can! And we did. Why, you may be asking? Personally I believe someone desperately wants more Scrabble words.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

It's watermelon time!

by Mary Kennedy
 

I felt so encouraged to find watermelon in the store last week that I just had to write a post about it. They're the round "mini" watermelons and they look delicious. I have one ripening in a brown paper bag on my sun porch right now. It's probably already ripe, but I want to make absolutely sure before I cut into it. (better safe than sorry, to coin a cliché.)


One very popular dish we enjoyed down south was "Watermelon Salad." Once a month, on summer nights, it was "salad night" in Tennessee, and a handful of neighbors (there were six of us) would push some picnic tables together and have a whole meal out of salad and French bread (and yes, some wine and dessert.).  We took turns "hosting" the event and the host would provide wine, soft drinks, sweet tea, loads of baguettes and sour dough bread along with a decadent dessert.  (Coconut cake was a favorite, along with Lane Cake, lemon meringue pie and Key Lime pie.)

The rest of us each brought a salad.  All different salads; pasta salad, potato salad, macaroni salad, Greek salad and three bean salad were staples but we would experiment with more adventurous recipes, too.

                                                        
 
 Oh, and a big crock of homemade pimento cheese spread was always on the table. One of the members always brought that as her "salad" and we loved it.  It was great fun, and I still feel nostalgic about it those long summer evenings surrounded by friends. I collected some wonderful salad recipes in those days. Since almost everyone (but me!) grew fresh vegetables and everything was straight from the garden. Delicious! Seeing the little watermelons in the store brought back happy memories for me. Do certain foods make you feel nostalgic?

by Mary Kennedy

Friday, April 18, 2014

Spring is here! Time to junk

by Lorraine Bartlett / Lorna Barrett / L.L. Bartlett

One of the things I love most about spring is ... yard sale season starts!  I had a booth in an antiques arcade for 12 years and the best part was finding stuff to fill it.  I loved the thrill of the hunt. Just because I no longer have a booth doesn't mean I've lost that desire to keep looking for something fun, useful, or interesting.

Friday evenings Mr. L studies the yard sale list in the local fish wrapper and on Saturday mornings he and I hop in the car, turn on WRMM-101.3 on the radio and listen to Miss Beth and Gary the (supposedly) Happy Pirate.  (Honestly, the man is miserable and is constantly putting down sweet Miss Beth. And he's supposed to be a role model for children?  But I digress.)

You never know what you're going to find on one of these magical mystery tours.  Here are a few of the "treasures" I've picked up.


 This little beauty was a buck. The people having the sale had cleared out the pig sty (yes, they did!) and put their wares up for sale. Out back, was this GIGANTIC pig named Roscoe (and do you think I can find those pictures? Nope). He was quite friendly and seemed to enjoy all the attention from the yard sale customers, and posed for pictures.  They also had a miniature stallion. (He preferred to munch grass than be sociable.)


Ahhh...Aunt Sally's mashed potato bowl.  I have no idea if  this bowl ever actually had mashed potatoes in it, or if there ever was an Aunt Sally (I certainly don't have one), but that's what we call it.  I love the decoration on the rim.  We usually use it for popcorn. It cost a quarter.  (Did I mention that I rescue old dishes?)


Aren't these little butterflies sweet?  They came in a box lot for $2. The little glass was from the same lot.

One of my favorite finds was this old telephone.  I keep telling myself I'm going to go to Radio Shack (and since most of them are closing, it had better be soon) and get a new cord so I can actually use it.  (Tricia has one like this sitting on her sales counter in Haven't Got a Clue!)

I call this "Black Beauty"

And of course, I also rescue teacups in need of loving homes.  I've given away quite a few of them on my Dazed and Confused blog on Teacup Tuesdays.


I got this sweet little framed picture of a rose for a buck.  It hangs over my computer monitor.


What do you look for when you go junking?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

When everyday objects attack: beware the Easter bunny





Just so you know, I'm not kidding about the Easter bunny.



Seriously, I’ve had my problems with ordinary objects in the past couple of years.  From time to time, it’s like things around me become possessed.  

For example, there was the toe I injured by dropping my hairbrush on it.  Spectacular bruises too. Or that morning I wrecked my rotator cuff airing out the duvet.  I don’t want to forget when I sprained my ankle doing the dishes. That’s right. 

Last summer my chair – without warning – flipped backwards off the deck, depositing me (still in the chair) on my back in a freshly dug garden bed.  Usually I’m alone in the garden. This time there were five witnesses. 

Not too long ago, I banged up my knee crashing into a seemingly innocent pile of books at the foot of a staircase. Just so you know, a baby gate was also involved. 

And I haven’t even mentioned the drink coaster.

Try getting sympathy for a duvet injury. Or a hairbrush trauma. Or a coaster incision.   I can’t even use them in my fiction because fiction has to make sense. 


But then yesterday’s incident takes the cake. Well, takes the candy.  While trimming the ears of an Easter bunny – they were way too long, trust me – I broke a tooth. Yes, really.  The bunny was made of milk chocolate, soft enough to snap.  What’s the world coming to when you can’t trust the Easter bunny?

At any rate, while everyone else is getting ready for Easter egg hunts and a long weekend, I’ll be sitting in the dentist’s chair hoping my checkbook doesn’t catch fire when I get the bill.  Around here, stranger things have happened. 

Maybe I should have stopped sooner?



 Now I don't trust any of this Easter bunny stuff. I mean, don't these little guys look like they're hatching a plot?







I hope you all have a lovely few days ahead with chocolate and bonnets and all your teeth right where they should be. May the sun shine on all of you and not in a dangerous way.

But why don’t you make me feel better?  Tell me your stories: do you get attacked by ordinary objects too?  How much sympathy do you get? I promise to understand! 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Writing on the Wall: Focusing on Distractions

by Deb Baker/Hannah Reed

Distractions are easy. They come in all kinds of shapes and forms, large and small. Most of the time,
we don’t even realize we’ve been distracted until it’s over, until its sucked away time we could be spending on more important things.

I learned that lesson in church last Sunday. This week is Holy Week. Christians celebrate the events leading up to and including the resurrection of Jesus Christ. My pastor asked us to focus on the real meaning of Holy Week by putting aside the things that distraction us. We were encouraged to come up to the front of the church where glass panels had been erected, pick up a magic marker, and write one distraction that we might work on resisting for a few days so that we could focus more on the true meaning of Holy Week. Parishioners began rising and making their way up.

Well, you know me. Ms. Introvert. I sit way in a corner in the back. I’m an observer, not a participator, so I decided I wasn’t doing it.

Besides, I wasn’t sure what I would write on the wall. But geez, a lot of people were going up. I started to wonder what they were writing, what their distractions were. Hunh. The snoop in me was becoming more powerful than the introvert.

The line at the wall was thinning out. If I didn’t go up and check out the wall now, I’d lose my chance. (It didn’t cross my mind that I could do it after church).

I found myself rising, walking down the aisle, without a clue what I might write, but strangely, I wasn’t concerned. I approached the wall, bent and picked up a marker, scanned the wall. Many had written job, family drama, texting, television, facebook.

None seemed to be my main distraction, although I really love facebook. Plagiarism wasn't going to work, since no way was I about to lie in church.

I raised the marker. And wrote a word.

Internet

Then I hustled back to my corner, thinking, 'Did I really mean the whole Internet?' That one word I'd written sort of surprised me! Back home, the first thing I did was trot straight over to my computer. Where I paused and reconsidered. Why was I logging on? I’d checked my email, favorite websites, etc. before church. I decided not to.

Granted, I’ve been on the Internet in the days since, but for much less time and with much more awareness. 

So I encourage you to do the same. Write your biggest, baddest distraction on a wall. Or better yet, save your wall, and write it in the comment section. By focusing on that distraction for the time it takes to write it down, you might just set yourself free for the things that really count.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The April 2014 Report


* * * * * * * * * *
Welcome to Dru's Cozy Report: April 2014. This month we have four recently released new series for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!



Bloom and Doom by Beverly Allen
Series: Bridal Bouquet Shop #1
Publisher: Berkely Prime Crime
A designer of eye-catching bridal bouquets—many of them based on the Victorian meanings behind each flower — Audrey Bloom is used to celebrations that end with happily ever after. In fact, every couple she’s worked with is still together, living in wedded bliss. But her perfect record is about to be broken.

Her childhood friend Jenny Whitney has reeled in the most eligible bachelor in Ramble, Virginia, and she’s hired Audrey to design the bouquet. But before Jenny can walk down the aisle clutching her blend of anemone, scabious, and pussy willow (a floral disaster in Audrey’s mind), the groom is found dead — sprinkled with bits of a bouquet. This is bad for business — not to mention for Jenny, who has become the prime suspect. So Audrey decides to do a little digging herself, hoping she won’t be the next Ramble resident pushing up daisies.
We are introduced to Audrey and Liv, cousins and co-owners of The Rose in Bloom, a florist shop in small town America. All is good until a broken engagement ends up in murder. When her friend is jailed for the murder, Audrey believing in her innocence, starts looking into who else had a stronger motive and wanted him dead. This was a good read with a comfortable tone and an easy flow. The plot was well-defined and presented plenty of suspects to choose from with plenty of red herrings to keep me turning the pages to see if I honed in on the killer when their identity was revealed. One of the things I enjoyed in reading this light whodunit was how Audrey created bouquets for her customers. This is a great read and I look forward to the next book in this wonderfully charming series.

Visit Beverly Allen at www.barbaraearly.com

Guidebook to Murder by Lynn Cahoon
Series: Tourist Trap #1
Publisher: Kensington
In the gentle coastal town of South Cove, California, all Jill Gardner wants is to keep her store--Coffee, Books, and More--open and running. So why is she caught up in the business of murder?

When Jill's elderly friend, Miss Emily, calls in a fit of pique, she already knows the city council is trying to force Emily to sell her dilapidated old house. But Emily's gumption goes for naught when she dies unexpectedly and leaves the house to Jill--along with all of her problems. . .and her enemies. Convinced her friend was murdered, Jill is finding the list of suspects longer than the list of repairs needed on the house. But Jill is determined to uncover the culprit--especially if it gets her closer to South Cove's finest, Detective Greg King. Problem is, the killer knows she's on the case--and is determined to close the book on Jill permanently.
This was a good read and I love the author’s style, which was warm and friendly. The background setting also gave me a sense of calmness. The tone was comfortable and the pace had a steady flow to it, making it easy to follow the storyline and clues. The author did a great job in tantalizing me with suspects and scenarios that led me to believe I knew who was behind it all, and I was surprised at the revelation. Jill is a great character and I like her determination to find the killer, even when threatened. With a likable supporting cast, that includes her aunt Jackie and hunky Detective King and with engaging conversations, this was very enjoyable and I can’t wait to read the next book in this wonderfully appealing series.

Visit Lynn Cahoon at lynncahoon.wordpress.com

Death on Eat Street by J. J. Cook
Series: Biscuit Bowl Food Truck #1
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
When she’s once again passed over for a promotion at work, Zoe decides to take the big leap and go for her dream. She quits, gives up her fancy digs, and buys a fixer-upper diner in a shady part of town. To keep above water during the renovation, she buys a used food truck to serve the downtown and waterfront of Mobile, Alabama.

Zoe starts to dish out classic Southern food—but her specialty is her deep-fried biscuit bowls that blow traditional bread bowls away.

After a promising start, things start to go downhill faster than a food truck without brakes. First, someone tries to rob the cash register. Next, Zoe is threatened by the owner of a competing food truck for taking their spot. And when the owner ends up dead inside Zoe’s rolling restaurant, Zoe and her sole employee, Ollie, find themselves hopping out of the frying pan into the fryer. They need to find the real killer, before both of them get burned.
This was a very enjoyable read that introduces Zoe Chase, our spunky heroine, who left her job to start out on her own with her food truck business and along the way, becomes entangle in a murder investigation when she finds a body in her truck. I loved how the author presented this story in a style that was easy to follow. The mystery was good as it quickly became a page-turner for me. Zoe is a lovable character with a heart of gold that cares for her friends and is surrounded by an eclectic cast of characters that includes Ollie, Miguel, Delia and her parents. I look forward to more adventures with Zoe and the gang in this wonderfully terrific new series.

Visit J. J. Cook at www.joyceandjimlavene.com

The Whole Cat and Caboodle by Sofie Ryan
Series: Second Chance Cat #1
Publisher: Obsidian
Sarah Grayson is the happy proprietor of Second Chance, a charming shop in the oceanfront town of North Harbor, Maine. At the shop, she sells used items that she has lovingly refurbished and repurposed. But her favorite pet project so far has been adopting a stray cat she names Elvis.

Elvis has seen nine lives—and then some. The big black cat with a scar across his nose turned up at a local bar when the band was playing the King of Rock and Roll’s music and hopped in Sarah’s truck. Since then, he’s been her constant companion and the furry favorite of everyone who comes into the store.

But when Sarah’s elderly friend Maddie is found with the body of a dead man in her garden, the kindly old lady becomes the prime suspect in the murder. Even Sarah’s old high school flame, investigator Nick Elliot, seems convinced that Maddie was up to no good. So it’s up to Sarah and Elvis to clear her friend’s name and make sure the real murderer doesn’t get a second chance.
I love the comfortable tone in this light-hearted whodunit that flowed easily from chapter to chapter, quickly becoming a page-turner that I did not want to put down. This mystery had a few twists and turns where I thought I had it figured out until that “aha” moment when I knew exactly who the killer was and it was fun watching it all play out. The author did a great job in the presentation of this story pulling me in so that I’m rooting for Sarah and her merry band of sleuths whose age range from teens to the 70s. I like the camaraderie and the dialogue between this group and their interaction amongst the people of North Harbor. This was a wonderful read and I can’t wait for more adventures with Sarah and her friends in the next book in this delightfully charming new series.

Visit Sofie Ryan at www.sofieryan.com

Monday, April 14, 2014

WHEN A NEIGHBOR STEALS


 By Kate Collins

I witnessed something Sunday and now I’m debating what to do about it.  I’d love your input.

There are two new homes under construction near my house, and in front of the homes are stacks of pre-stained lumber and trim. One of these stacks is sitting beside a huge Dumpster, which takes up most of what will be the front yard.

As I was getting ready to leave Sunday around noon, I saw a man from the neighborhood drive a utility cart to the construction site and load up at least a dozen long pieces of lumber and several pieces of trim. He saw me watching him. Then he drove the lumber up the street and around the bend to his house, where he unloaded it in his garage. I was stunned. 

I saw a neighbor friend standing in front of her house across the street from this man, so I pulled in and told her what was happening. She, too, was shocked and suggested I take a photo, so I did.

Dumpster diving is not uncommon in a new development, and I’ve heard that this man has done that several times in the past. But to take something obviously brand new outside the Dumpster? To me, that’s theft.

However, I don’t want to assume. Perhaps he had permission. It’s just difficult to believe that while a house is being constructed, the builder would let someone take new materials for his own use.

Now I’m debating what to do. If I just forget about the situation, that’s complacency. Would I drop it if I saw someone taking things from a neighbor’s garage? No. Do I report him to the builder and be the neighborhood snitch? Do I ask the builder if anyone has permission to take lumber, and if not, then rat the thief out?

What would you do?


p.s. I can see a great mystery plot from this. Body in the Dumpster. Nosy neighbor. Oh yeah, it has all the makings of a new book.