Thursday, July 24, 2014

Have you ever fallen in love with a fictional character?




We definitely have lost our hearts to characters in mysteries and Jordan Bingham, the young sleuth in the  book collector mysteries, is head over heels for Archie Goodwin in The Wolfe Widow,  the third book in the series.  




Sure, she had a bad case for Lord Peter Wimsey in The Sayers Swindle, but he’d be a hundred and fourteen years old now if he was real and there were other impediments to them living happily ever after too. He was married to Harriet Vane for one thing.  


 
But Archie – the right hand man to the great detective Nero Wolfe – remains happily single and very dishy. That’s always such a challenge for a girl carrying a torch. Jordan thinks Rex Stout should have called those books The Archie Goodwin mysteries. 

Never mind, he’s a good role model for Jordan who is the first person in her family to go straight.  Jordan could do worse than imagine what advice Archie would offer after she gets fired and her boss’s book collection is threatened.  Oh yes, and lives are at risk too.  

I found it wonderful to work on this book as one-half of Victoria Abbott (with my daughter) especially as I got to reread so many of the Nero Wolfe books and enjoy the good life in the brownstone and the wit and banter in these mysteries that hold their own with re-reading.  Yes, I still have that crush on Archie Goodwin, although I suppose young Jordan would have a better chance with Archie if he were real.  


Now I’m off reading the Roderick Alleyn stories by Ngaio Marsh for The Marsh Madness, the fourth book collector mystery. I must say, I love my job!  Roderick Alleyn is pretty appealing too, an aristocrat who is also a Scotland Yard detective.  Maybe in the course of research I’ll fall in love again.  But right now, Archie Goodwin’s still my main fictional heartthrob.  

How about you?  Do you ever get a crush on a character from a book?  Let’s hear it. There are no secrets here, my friends.  Mind you,  I am tempted to say that Archie’s taken, but I think he’s still playing the field.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tattoo…sexy or stupid?





I can still remember that phone call from daughter. Guess where I am!

There should be a law against any child anywhere ever starting a conversation with those four words. My son used them when he was in Vegas. Do you know how much trouble there is for a young guy to get into in Vegas! He did it again in New Orleans. Even more trouble there! Any wonder I am totally gray!

But I digress, we’re talking about my daughter and where the heck she was that she shouldn’t have been. This time it was the tattoo parlor...or whatever it’s called!

Sweet Jesus! She was getting a rose tattoo on her back. The back I washed and dried and powdered and put sun block on was now decorated with a tattoo. Would you like to know how nice that didn’t look with a beautiful wedding dress...but I digress again. Kids!

A lot of celebs have tatts. Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Keith Urban and a ton of others. Some are so hot and others what the hell were they thinking!

Tattoos sometimes mark you as part of a club...or a gang. In Iced Chiffon the scum-sucking, no-good, low-rent but to die for handsome Walker Boone has a tatt, a 17. In his pubescent years  Walker Boone was part of the Seventeenth Street gang. Now he’s older, wiser and... well you can take the boy out of the hood but the other way around not so much.

What about the hero in your books? Should he or she have a tattoo? Do you find it sexy? And what about the heroine? Personally I love the hidden tatt where when making love there it is. A little extra zip to an already zippy situation.

Do you have a tatt? Where? Why? Ever want to get it off?

Weigh in on this and I’ll give away two of my romances from my other life as Dianne Castell. Remember to check back to see if you won a book. :-) 


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Storytellers

by Maggie Sefton


Kate's post last week really got me going.  At the end, Kate asked...."Amen?"
You betcha, Kate.  AMEN!!  A resounding Amen.  Since then, both Lorraine and Mary have also posted about writing and writers.

As someone who was "born" a storyteller, that drive to tell your stories is all-consuming at times.  We novelists will do without sleep to write, stay at home when others go out in order to get more words on paper, and will live in more reduced sitations in order to have time to capture those fascinating characters onto the page.

Driven?  You bet we are.   We have to be in order to keep writing our stories, even when our daily lives don't cooperate.   I remember telling people how I "created" writing time for myself years and years ago when our family was living in West Lafayette, Indiana, and we had all four kids at home and still in school.  I was trying to balance managing that busy family life with kids from high school to elementary.  There was simply no place during the day to squeeze out writing time, especially since I was also taking beginning classes in grad school.  But the characters in my story kept demanding to have their time on the page.   So-----I did the only thing I could.  I "created" extra time to write.

For a six month period, Three nights out of a week, I would make a small pot of espresso coffee at 10:00pm and drink all three demi-tasse cups of espresso.  That would ensure insomnia until about 2:00am or 3:00am.  Four hours of writing time.   Sound crazy?  Not if you're a novelist who's trying to find time to write.  I was young, healthy and strong and was able to easily live on those days of less sleep.  Plus, I was still doing my usual three-mile running routine every day.  I only did it for six months, long enough to get most of that big book onto the page.  And I was none the worse for wear, believe it or not.   :)

Would I do that now?   Heck, no.   But I still feel that same drive to write.  And lately, my historical characters have been antsy to get back on stage, so I'm finding time for them.  That's probably why Amanda Duncan and Devlin Burke walked onstage a few years ago  and demanded to be on the page. They're the two main characters who work together to solve the murders in the first of my Historical Mysteries-----SCANDALS, SECRETS, AND MURDER:  The Widow and the Rogue Mysteries.

Amanda and Devlin make a great team working together in 1890 Washington, DC.  You can read more about them on my website and see several Five Star reviews on Amazon.  The E-book is available on Amazon and BN.com.   Trade paperback copies are coming soon from Amazon.

Monday, July 21, 2014

DIARY OF A MAD WOMAN



By Kate Collins


If all the diaries I kept for many years of my life were made into a movie, the title would be “DIARY OF A MAD WOMAN.” (My definition of mad would mean angry, not crazy. However, don’t ask my siblings.)

I started writing them a few years after I landed my teaching job as a way to vent my frustrations with a succession of principals who were either clueless or bored and ready to retire. This was in lieu of venting to my first husband, who neither truly listened to my complaints nor offered any helpful suggestions on how to cope. “Just quit then,” was the extent of his counsel.

After a few years, the frustrations of teaching became the frustrations of being unable to conceive, and then the frustrations of trying to raise my children with no help from a husband who still didn’t listen or even participate in our lives.

The diaries ended when the marriage ended. Fortunately, I no longer needed that outlet because I became an author, found the greatest love of my life, and saw my children grow into outstanding young adults.

I still have a small suitcase filled with those tiny journals. One day my kids might like to go back and see a log of their daily accomplishments and funny, endearing moments, which were also recorded. But what is more important for them to see is that nearly all of the worries and frustrations that I poured onto those pages never actually materialized – and trust me, there were many, from health issues to family crises, to career woes.

The lesson to take away is that we worry needlessly 95% of the time. And of the 5% remaining, 3% are beyond our control anyway, so why worry about them?

That leaves 2%. So, in effect, only 2 out of every 100 things churning inside your beleaguered mind and tense tummy are actually worth your concern. But instead of fretting to anyone who will listen, do something. Taking action makes you feel powerful instead of powerless.

After two years of trying to conceive, and being told by a small-minded gynecologist that I just wasn’t meant to get pregnant, I was devastated. I felt totally powerless. So I read everything I could get my hands on, talked to women who’d had problems but had successfully gotten pregnant, got doctor recommendations, and studied how to make my body as healthy and fertile as possible. If that hadn’t worked, I would have adopted. In effect, I took back my power.

My new way of coping with an issue that in the past would have caused sleepless nights is to decide whether it falls into that 95%, 3%, or 2% category. If it’s in the 2%, I will figure out a course of action and do it. Otherwise, what, me worry? I turn my concern over to the Universe, put it out of my mind, and watch for opportunities to arise that will deal with it.

Perfect system? Of course not. My brain is a powerful instrument. It wants to worry. It likes to create drama. That’s what it does best, which is why I can make up stories. But my spirit is stronger. It wants to be happy. It wants to live in the moment and enjoy today, not worry about a future event that probably won’t happen.

Remember, 95% of what we worry about never happens. I have twenty volumes of diaries to prove it.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Animals are Restless!

by Leann

The stress of one move to South Carolina and now another out of the rent house has been difficult, but now that boxes are being removed from closets and bedrooms, it's taking a toll on my fur babies, too. For the kitties, I can see it in their eyes. Wexford is a scaredy cat anyway, so he tends to hide under the bed,
but even Marlowe is jumpy. And Marlowe is usually pretty darn laid back!

But poor Rosie, the hyper labradoodle. Oh my. She loves her daddy so much and when he drags out stuff and loads it in his truck, it usually means he's off on a trip to hunt or fish. Rosie doesn't like that one bit. This has been a tough place for her to live as it is. Dogs roam the streets during the day and bark every night all night. She's very hyper as it is and this latest household activity has amped her up big time. She watches every move my husband makes, follows him everywhere and races from door to window to door, hoping not to miss a move.

Sometimes we forget that our pets have emotions, too. When I was putting a few boxes in the car, Rosie sneaked out the door and planted herself in my backseat. so bad. I'm a big softie, but that couldn't happen. She is just too wound up to make the drive back and forth and then back and forth again. Her panting and barking in the house is bad enough, but in the car, it's a little distracting.
She wanted to go with me

The good news is, the kitties and Rosie will have a new home very soon, with lots of room to chase each other. The air is so fresh over at the new place--no must, no dust, no mold. And I know with all the windows where they can watch the squirrels and birds and bugs from lots of different places, they will be in pet heaven. It won't be long, I keep telling them. But they are just a tad on edge--and I don't blame them! My husband is, too! But me? I'm just happy.



Saturday, July 19, 2014

ARE WRITERS LIKE SHARKS?

by Mary Kennedy                         
 
One of my friends commented that writers are like sharks, always on the move, because if we ever stopped moving, we would surely die! (actually, that's a common misconception about sharks. There's only one species of shark, "obligate ram ventilators." who will die if they stop moving. The rest can take pit stops to grab a breath.)
 
But back to her theory. When I asked her to explain, she said, "You guys are always thinking, always watching everything, always coming up with characters and plots." She gave a little snort. "And when you're sleeping, you probably dream about books." (I may be mistaken, but I thought she sounded vaguely annoyed with me.)
 
But I have to confess, in many ways, she's right. It's true that our brains are always "engaged," much to the annoyance of our non-writer pals. We never "chill out," we're always thinking, thinking.
                                                      
 If I go to a party--a rare event, I always have deadlines--I try to absorb everything I see, hear and feel. It's all material, after all.  Last week, I saw a girl in tight white dress (if it were any tighter, it would be a tourniquet) and heard her whisper to a friend, "This dress--it was a gift." Really? I am fascinated and wonder who bought it--her hubby, standing at the bar downing a few shooters, her boyfriend, a flashy Lothario chatting up a redhead, or maybe she's lying and she bought it herself? (It's a designer dress, but then, she IS a hedge fund manager.). One look at a dress and my mind scoots down odd passageways. I immediately started thinking about how I could work the "girl in the white dress" into a murder mystery.
                                                         
 
Odd bits of dialogue are always intriguing. I overheard two women talking at Starbucks. One said, "How are Walter and Francesca doing? I heard they were having some problems." Her friend shook her head sadly and replied, "Yeah, it's a shame. Things have never been the same with them--ever since he threw her through that plate glass window." Yowsers. I sipped my Chai tea and moved to another table.
                                                        
 
And it doesn't have to be sights and sounds, even smells can trigger strong memories for us. I love honeysuckle, it always reminds me of "summer nights filled with magic and promise, when everything seems possible." One whiff of honeysuckle and I'm wrapped up in a romance novel in my head.
                                                        
 
Sometimes a sight and smell together can move a writer to tears. I was walking with a friend when we passed a Victorian house surrounded by magnolia bushes. A young girl came out and let the screen door bang behind her. I was shocked when my friend's eyes suddenly got misty.
 
 I stopped dead in my tracks. "What's wrong?" I asked. She brushed her tears away and said sheepishly, "I know this sounds crazy, but the smell of the magnolia bushes, the front porch, the screen door banging on a summer night, it just all seems so sad."
 
Sad? It turns out that she was flashing back to a memory of herself at age thirteen, spending the summer with her grandmother at the shore. It was happier times for her, and she captured that whole image--and those feelings--in a sort of freeze frame. The image was so vivid and so moving, it was hard to believe that twenty five years had passed. But I knew exactly what she meant, because the same sort of thing has happened to me.
 
Do certain sights/sounds/smells trigger a memory for you? Can a sunset or a summer night bring back a wave of nostalgia? If so, you're probably a writer. Or have the soul of a writer...
 
Mary Kennedy

Friday, July 18, 2014

My New Cozy Series ...

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

Writers write, but not always in a logical sequence.

Before I finished the first Jeff Resnick Mystery, Murder on the Mind, I'd already started Room At The Inn (what later became the third book in the series). Before I'd finished Room At The inn, I was already writing Cheated By Death (#4 in the series). Bound By Suggestion (#5 in the series) was written before Murder On The Mind (#1) ever saw print. (And Murder on the Mind is FREE for all e formats.)  Confused?  Yeah, me, too!

In between all those Jeff books (written under the name L.L. Bartlett), I started writing the Victoria Square Mysteries. A Craft Killing (then called A Matter of Murder, and I still prefer that title) and The Walled Flower were already written (under the name Lorraine Bartlett) before I wrote one word of Murder is Binding (and under another name--Lorna Barrett).

Confused yet?

In the past couple of weeks, I've been working on the first story in a new cozy mystery series that will be called the Lotus Bay Mysteries. The thing is, the idea for it came to me more than nine years ago. Poor Tori Cannon has been toasting her buns on the back burner for all those years! Now, finally, I'm beginning to tell her story. Tori is going to solve a number (and I hope a GREAT number) of crimes with the help of her BFF Kathy Blake. And they've got new friends, too. (I haven't written their parts yet, but I know that Noreen and Anissa will be very important to them WHEN I FINALLY GET TO WRITE THEM).

So, what am I trying to tell you?

I've written a prequel to the Lotus Bay Mysteries, which I've sat on for more than a year because during that time I wrote my short story, Blue Christmas (which I only sat on for about four months), and then Dark Waters (Jeff Resnick #6) and Evolution (a collection of Jeff Resnick short stories which took place BEFORE the first Jeff Resnick Mystery, except -- most of them were written DURING the course of writing the first four books).  Still, Tori kept poking my brain and saying, "Hey, START WRITING ABOUT KATHY AND ME NOW!"

(And what about Sabina, who's been sitting around even LONGER than Tori waiting for her story to be told.  And then there's Lee, a cozy male protagonist (which my 4th agent said would never sell ... but NEVER say NEVER to me).)

So, I'm almost ready to release Tori's and Kathy's first (mini) mystery. It's called PANTY RAID and I hope it will be available by next week. It's currently being copy edited. (Sorry, but it's short, so will only be available in e format.)

So, when will the first book in the Lotus Bay series (in e and print formats) be available?  I'm shooting for early October.

Meanwhile, I've got plans for a new Jeff Resnick short story (the next book is still percolating on the back burner), and a new paranormal series (like Jeff, it'll be edgier than my cozies), and I'm already plotting Booktown #10 (#9 will be published next June ... and oh, poor Tricia ... she needs a break).

Gosh, I feel exhausted just thinking of all the work I need to do in the next few months/years ... but you know what? I anticipate it all being a LOT of FUN, too!  And I hope my readers feel the same way.

I'll be announcing the availability of PANTY RAID next week on my Facebook pages and on my website. Oh, and it will come out under my Lorraine Bartlett name.

Stay tuned!


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Don't Let It In The Door!



From the fevered brain of Mary Jane Maffini aka Victoria Abbott  

 

It came in through the front door and ate our brains. Then another one came and another. No, not aliens. How passĂ©.  I’m talking about mail order catalogs and a few in particular. 
 


The latest to arrive is Hammacher Schlemmer mid-summer supplement. It will take pride of place next to Signals and Lee Valley’s Make Summer Sizzle.

It wasn’t long before my husband stood in the doorway and said, “I have to have this.  Lifetime warranty,”

I gawked at the image. “The Remote Controlled Tarantula? Really?”   Of course, I immediately could see applications for this. Better not to go down that road.  Some people have weak hearts.  Still …
 
I said, “It says indoor use only but I notice they have The Best Nose Hair Trimmer.”

“Very funny, but look at this!” he said, flipping pages with a wild look in his eye. “The Hand Reflexology Massager.”

“Huh. Pricey, but how about The Dance of the Musical Plum Fairy Porcelain Musical Egg? It comes with a certificate of authenticity. Don’t shake your head just because it has a dancing fairy. Maybe we should get The Live Video Camera Drone?” 

He raised an eyebrow. “That drone’s over a thousand dollars. We have to be practical.  The Laser Illuminating Binoculars, now they’d be useful.   You can illuminate objects in the dark over 150 yards away. Quite reasonably priced.

“The neighbors will be thrilled. But hey, there’s The Portable Pet Staircase or Ramp. And The Grill Cleaning Robot plus …” 


We want that portable pet staircase. We're not getting any younger!


And so it will go, until a new catalog comes along. Hours of first-class entertainment.  One of these days we’ll cave yet again and order something.  I am keeping a list of amusing possibilities. There are no tarantulas on it.  

How about you?  Are you a catalog junkie? What’s the weirdest thing you ever bought? Don't hold back!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Great Junk-food Smack-down

Here’s the thing…I love junk food. Refer to it all the time in my books. Reagan loves Snickers, she and Auntie KiKi are always at the Cakery Bakery, and they are always swilling martinis on the front porch and talking murder. Not sure if a martin is junk food or not since it has olives. 



I’ve read the articles, listened to my doc go on and on about nutrition, listened to my kids preach at me about what I should eat but sometimes I just want a real cookie. Or hot dog. Or bag of chips. Not some fat-free, soy-based health food in disguise. Blah!

So at great peril I set out to find the best-tasting genuine junk food. 

After chowing down on 20 packages of goodies (and probably around 10,000 calories), and deciding that picking up extra Zumba classes was worth it I came up with a list.

Doritos! The cheesy chips are a Super Bowl party staple and a solid companion to a PB & J. The classic nacho flavor will forever reign as a snack-time favorite, but the best part is the collection of flavors like Cool Ranch, All Nighter Cheeseburger and Blazin' Buffalo & Ranch.

And then there’s Snickers!!!!! Holy crap! I am such a Snickers fan. It’s the number one candy bar with more than 15 million bars being produced every single day. That's a whole lot of peanuts — 99 tons of them, to be exact. Pass the Snickers!

And then there’s pork rinds. Not my personal fav but hey if it’s junk food I’m a fan. Take the fatty skin of a pig and fry it in yet more fat. The hot-oil bath balloons the rinds to more than five
times their original size. Pork rinds have no carbs and top the charts in protein, making them hardly a junk food in my book.

French Fries! And IMO the best of the best is Mickey-Ds. There's something magical about those golden tubers extending from the bright red McDonald's fry box.

Though cops in particular get a bad rap for their doughnut consumption, this form of fried dough is loved everywhere. Glazed or topped with sugar, sometimes filled with jam or custard, their most iconic shape is the round ring (though the holes themselves are really great). Despite the number of American chains like Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme, Canada actually has more doughnut shops per capita than any other country. Yea, Canada!

Moon Pies! A Southern treat!! They come in chocolate, vanilla and banana, and are such a Southern staple that since 2008, Mobile, Ala., has dropped a 12-ft. mechanical moon pie to ring in the New Year!

There are few experiences more American than finding your fingers covered in sticky orange dust, the inevitable result of a cheesy-puff snack attack. Cheese puffs are a puffed-corn snack that also comes in ball and curls. Most famous are Cheetos featuring Chester Cheetah, the cheesiest cartoon cat of all time.

Of course there is the all-time fav junk food…cookies and chocolate chip is the king of cookies…or Oreo! Bring on the milk!

As much as we love it, pepperoni pizza is junk. Delicious, greasy, gooey junk. The grain is enriched, the cheese is piled on and the meat is highly processed. It's easy to see how pizza takes a turn from health food to junk food. But hey, I’m so not complaining.  A beer and pepperoni pizza! Bring it on.

Okay, these are my favs…what’s yours? When you gotta have junk what do you splurge on? Let me know and I’ll draw two names from the answers and give away two of my romance books. Please check back to see if you are a winner. 

Off to Zumba! Oink!
Hugs, Duffy

Duffy Brown
Consignment Shop Mysteries
            Iced Chiffon
            Killer in Crinolines
            Pearls and Poison 3/14
Cycle Path mysteries
            Geared for the Grave 12/14








Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Subject: The July 2014 Report


* * * * * * * * * *
Welcome to Dru's Cozy Report: July 2014. This month is a short one with only one recently released new series for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!



Ill-Gotten Panes by Jennifer McAndrews
Series: Stained-Glass #1
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
After a banking scandal loses Georgia her job and fiancĂ©, she decides that a change of scenery will help piece her life back together. But escaping to her grandfather’s house in the old-fashioned, brick-making Hudson River hamlet of Wenwood, New York, turns out to be less relaxing than she expects. Not only is the close-knit community on edge about their beloved brickworks being turned into a marina to draw in tourists, one of those most opposed to the project winds up dead—cracked over the head with a famous Wenwood brick.

Georgia wouldn’t be broken up over the news except for the fact that the main suspect is the deceased’s biggest adversary—her grandfather. Now, to remove the stain from her grandy’s record, Georgia will have to figure out who in town was willing to kill to keep the renovation project alive, before someone else is permanently cut out of the picture.
This evenly paced light fare with a comfortable tone and chapters that flowed easily from one scene to the next culminated in a good mystery that kept me going until the end. The author did a great job in moving the story forward as I had to know what happens next. With a list of suspects who could have done the deed, it was fun watching it all fall into places with hints here and there that kept me on my toes as to the identity of the killer. With endearing characters that I wanted to embrace, the author created a solid plot that was likable and I can’t wait to see what further adventure awaits Georgia and her friends in Wenwood, NY in this pleasantly appealing debut series.

Visit Jennifer at jennifermcandrews.com

Monday, July 14, 2014

ENTERTAINED WITH A STORY

By Kate Collins

I received this letter from my childhood friend Candace last week that I decided to share with you because it almost brought me to tears.

Here’s her letter:

“There was an article in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal that caught my attention. It was by Robert A. Iger, CEO of Walt Disney Company, and talked about leisure time. Walt Disney was quoted and I thought of you..

`As Walt also predicted, people's need to be entertained with storytelling has endured; We gravitate to the universal stories that bind us-tales of adventure, heroism and love, tales that provide comfort and escape. Great storytelling still remains the bedrock of great entertainment.’

And although Walt Disney made that statement in 1956, Mr Iger concludes that he `share(s) Walt Disney's optimism and his belief that whatever lies ahead, it will be defined by great storytelling. Just like it has always been.’

Looks like you have an enduring skill, there, Kate... a job security that is defined by the human race... the need for love, adventure, escape, heroism, comfort...  You are on top of it, girl!”

Xoxo
Candace

I am so appreciative of Candace’s kind words. Love, adventure, escape, heroism and comfort, along with a dose of comedy, is exactly what Abby Knight and the Flower Shop Mysteries are all about.

I’ve always believed that stories help us navigate the rough waters of life, showing us how others have coped with every problem known to mankind and survived (for the most part.) Stories give us guidelines for how to live better lives. Stories inspire us to take up swords against injustice. Stories ask us to suspend belief in order to make a larger point. Stories provide a haven away from the stresses of our lives where we can laugh and cheer, safe in the knowledge that everything will turn out all right. (At least in most books.)
And I firmly believe Robert Iger had it right – that no matter where the future takes us, and no matter what form it comes in, there will always be a need for a story.

Amen?