Camp NaNo

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I’m busy at Camp NaNo. Pic­ture me sit­ting around the camp­fire with my tent bud­dies, snarf­ing down S’Mores. Okay, not really. That short story is wait­ing, as well as edit­ing the new mys­tery. I’ll let you know how I’m doing next week. (Just started yesterday.)

Camp-s-mores-2Those S’Mores are look­ing good! Maybe just one.

Yum.

Okay, maybe two.

Oh, heck. Can’t leave just one!

Five Stars For Mr. Monk

I loved the TV show—now long gone. It ran from 2002 through 2009. The books with orig­i­nal sto­ries by Lee Gold­berg kept on going after the Monk show ran its course. Then Lee Gold­berg stopped writ­ing them after quite a few, and Hy Con­rad took over. I may have just read the final book of the series, since Mr. Conrad’s fourth book, Mr. Monk and The New Lieu­tenant, is his last one. He hopes some­one else will con­tinue, but when that one was pub­lished this year (2015) no one had yet stepped up.

So, here are my reviews of two of my favorite books—Mr. Monk is Cleaned Out by Lee Gold­berg, and Mr. Monk and The New Lieu­tenant by Hy Conrad.

6-29 Mr Monk 1

6-29 Mr Monk 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My five-star review of the first was short: “I was a big fan of the Monk TV series, and I’m a big fan of Lee Goldberg’s Monk mys­tery series. This book is a neat com­bi­na­tion of Monk, his pho­bias, and up-to-the-minute cur­rent events! And you can just guess Monk’s thoughts about that dog with those irreg­u­lar markings.”

I’ve just fin­ished read­ing the sec­ond book, and it deserves five stars as well. “Mr. Monk does not like Cap­tain Stottlemeyer’s new lieu­tenant. He’s new, for one thing. (Of course, the feel­ing is mutual.) How­ever, he and Natalie try their best. They now have their own detec­tive agency with lit­tle busi­ness. Natalie takes on a divorce case (with­out Mr. Monk’s knowl­edge, and def­i­nitely against his approval). Then there’s the mur­der case that wasn’t—until Monk declared at a man’s funeral that he had been mur­dered. Now they are try­ing to save the Cap­tain with the same symp­toms while track­ing down a miss­ing client. Monk con­vinces Randy Disher to return. With all this going on, it isn’t only Monk’s OCD that con­fuses every­one. This time Stottlemeyer’s life depends on Monk’s success.”

Both authors worked on the Monk TV show. Lee Gold­berg con­tributed to some shows and worked on dif­fer­ent series as well. Hy Con­rad was with the Monk show the whole time. Both authors give the reader the authen­tic “Monk” voice. Gold­berg tends to give him more prob­lems with his mul­ti­ple pho­bias and per­son­al­ity dis­or­ders. Con­rad, writ­ing the sto­ries as Monk begins to improve (slightly) still shows them, but they are pos­si­bly a bit more muted. (One reader’s opin­ion here.) Both authors present a humor­ous as well as nicely con­vo­luted sus­pense­ful story.

I do hope this isn’t the last Monk story.

Dinner In White

Say you want to have a party. Impromptu. Decide on a venue. Give it a name (Blanc Plate sounds nice.) Send out e-mails.

6-24 dinner in whiteBlanc Plate is tomor­row at the base­ball sta­dium, folks. RSVP

Your invi­tees know what to expect. Bring your own meal. Wear white cloth­ing. After all, they may have been one of the 100 who joined the cel­e­bra­tion in 2012, or one of the increas­ing num­bers from 2013 & 2014.

This event actu­ally hap­pened a week or so ago in my home town. It’s based on a sim­i­lar, secre­tive ban­quet on the bridges of Paris called Diner en Blanc. How­ever, invi­ta­tions to the local even are avail­able to any­one who asks. (Of course, you have to know whom to ask. I found out about it the next day from the news­pa­per.) When the 1,000 (free) tick­ets were snatched up, 200 more were added.

Yep, that’s right. Over a thou­sand peo­ple descended on the base­ball field with exactly 29 hours of warn­ing. And—they all wore white. Two young women even donned white wigs. The news­pa­per has many more pho­tos on line. There’s also a one-minute video of the event.

Umm. Let’s see. Next year this time. Maybe a month before the end of June. Yes, they do have the name of the orga­nizer in the paper. What do you think? Should I?

 

 

 

Five Stars For Scout And Ant Farm

Okay, that title is con­fus­ing, right? Totally does not make sense.

6-22 Ant Farm coverLet’s start over. My five-star book today is Ant Farm, a mys­tery that was, only this past week, pub­lished by the Kin­dle Scout pro­gram. The Scout pro­gram is rather new to Ama­zon. It’s a win-win for both writ­ers and read­ers. The writer who enters his or her book sub­mits a com­plete man­u­script and a cover design. The books accepted into the pro­gram are then pre­sented to the voting/reading pub­lic with the cover illus­tra­tion and the novel begin­ning. Both Ama­zon and the author then await the vot­ing, or, as they call it, the nominations.

Vot­ing, you ask? What is this? Who votes? Or, nom­i­na­tions? How and why?

That’s where the reader comes in. You read the offer­ings in a vari­ety of cat­e­gories. Let’s say that you find one begin­ning that makes you say to your­self, “Oh, I’d love to read that book!” Just click the link to nom­i­nate the book. (That’s the vot­ing.) Then sit back and wait for the best part—the e-mail from Ama­zon telling you if the book has been cho­sen for pub­li­ca­tion. If it has? You get an advance copy of the e-book, all for free. Of course, they hope you’ll review it.

The win for the author? Pub­li­ca­tion with an advance, a con­tract, and more author­ity than self-publication. For, after all, Ama­zon hopes to come out ahead as well.

I’ve nom­i­nated four books so far. The first didn’t make it. The sec­ond was Ant Farm. I received my copy long enough before the offi­cial pub­li­ca­tion to allow me to read the book. Loved it. This is what I had to say about it:

This is a Kin­dle Scout book, and, as one who voted for it, I got a free copy before pub­li­ca­tion. And, I’m sooo glad. This is a thriller, but, I’d say, also a more tra­di­tional mys­tery, as it is a puz­zle as well. The puz­zle part is the plot, as nuanced and devi­ous as any reader could hope for. The thriller part is the impend­ing dan­ger involved for the hero, his son, and assorted other char­ac­ters (not to men­tion the vic­tims). The char­ac­ters are a mix of lik­able and some you really hope see their come­up­pance. Of course, first impres­sions can be deceiv­ing. Another thing—the sur­prises never stop! (Be warned.)”

I’ve nom­i­nated two other books as well. The third was accepted, so I’m wait­ing for that free book. The fourth is still await­ing the end of the 30-day nom­i­nat­ing period. (A reader is allowed a total of three books at a time, so I can go back to look for two more.) This is the link to the Kin­dle Scout pro­gram for both read­ers and writ­ers. And, in case you want to read this five-star book, here’s the link for Ant Farm.

 

The Writing Road

I meant to write about the road not taken today, to fret about missed oppor­tu­ni­ties in the past. I won­dered, what would have hap­pened had I taken another road? Some years ago I went, with a group of women, to visit our state house. We were greeted by our new state rep­re­sen­ta­tive, a neigh­bor. When my friend informed him I’d just had a children’s story accepted by a major mag­a­zine, he asked me if I’d like to work for him, cor­re­spond­ing with vot­ers. Although I knew he’d hired another neigh­bor whose spe­cialty was design­ing lovely bou­quets to help him with pub­lic rela­tions, I reminded him it was a children’s mag­a­zine, hardly fare for adults. Some years later, after I started writ­ing mys­ter­ies, I’d think, what if I had taken him up. Just think, I then could have writ­ten mys­ter­ies about the ins and outs of polit­i­cal life, and point to my expe­ri­ence. Per­haps that would have inter­ested agents and pub­lish­ers. And, I might have closed this post with advice for the young—jump at every opportunity.

But, I don’t want to talk about that today. Instead, I like the road I’ve actu­ally taken. Today I real­ized it was only six years ago when, after a few hun­dred agent rejec­tions, despite a few nib­bles along the way, after writ­ing and rewrit­ing sev­eral books, I almost decided to start a blog and give way my old­est, most rewrit­ten man­u­script chap­ter by chap­ter. But first, in June, 2009, I decided to give small pub­lish­ers a try. Finally, I suc­ceeded with the third pub­lisher I con­tacted. And they worked fast. By August they asked to buy it. By Octo­ber 1, it was edited, copy-edited, cover designed with my input, and pub­lished. A few days later, I turned 80. But, with that accep­tance, I felt validated.

The book was lovely. My friends bought it and loved it. How­ever, it didn’t make much of a splash. I’m grate­ful to that small pub­lisher for actu­ally giv­ing me the belief that my writ­ing was of value. But when my two-year con­tract ran out, I didn’t renew it, but took back my rights. With the new ease of self-publishing, I could do just as well on my own. I had another mys­tery ready to pub­lish. Since then I’ve also pub­lished a YA mys­tery and a non-fiction nar­ra­tive of my father’s adven­tures as a young man. I’ve had short mys­ter­ies pub­lished as well. And, I have a sequel of that first mys­tery just about ready to meet its public.

So, per­haps I missed an oppor­tu­nity years ago. No mat­ter. I don’t live in the past. I can remem­ber the past, think fondly of what has tran­spired, see my chil­dren and their chil­dren suc­ceed, enjoy life with my hus­band. I also look for­ward to the future and what will transpire.

My path took me down another road. I like this road just fine. How about you and your writ­ing path? Are you happy with the road you’ve taken?

5 Stars for An Error In Judgment

An Error In Judgment-coverThis is the third in the Thea Camp­bell Mys­tery series, but one I espe­cially like.

As one review said, “OK, I was already a fan, so I bought An Error in Judg­ment expect­ing an enter­tain­ing read. I already knew and liked the char­ac­ters and I knew Schreyer deliv­ered a well crafted, well plot­ted mys­tery with lots of twists and turns. No sur­prise that An Error in Judg­ment deliv­ers all of that. What blew me away and made this a must read book is that with this third offer­ing in the Thea Camp­bell series Schreyer deftly moves from tra­di­tional mys­tery to roman­tic thriller and blows the doors off the genre while keep­ing her story real with gen­tly comedic and com­pletely real­isic moments between her lead characters.”

I summed it up this way. “Mys­tery writ­ing and show­ing horses have a lot to do with pac­ing, and this mys­tery with Thea com­bines her busi­ness, her horse Blackie, her boyfriend Paul, and mur­der with unmatched pac­ing. There are moments of ter­ror, moments of ten­der­ness, moments of doubt, and moments of fulfillment—all com­bined to keep the reader eagerly turn­ing the pages.”

Is it pos­si­ble to have a favorite book in a series? Yes, it is. And one reader’s favorite may not be everyone’s favorite, just as no one book or type of book appeals to every reader. I say, “Thank good­ness for that!”

Missing Link-A Prairie Connection

6-11 Chestnut GroveA farm, owned by a waste man­age­ment author­ity can not be good, right?

Well, the obvi­ous is not always what hap­pens. The 170-acre River Hills farm, owned by the Lan­caster County (PA) Solid Waste Man­age­ment Author­ity has become a prairie of sorts. After a three-year, $1.2 mil­lion makeover, native grasses, wild flow­ers, shrubs, and trees have been planted. Wet lands and walk­ing trails have been estab­lished. The area is now a pas­sive recre­ation area that con­nects exist­ing ones in case one wants to hike a con­tin­u­ous six and a half miles.

Our local LNP News­pa­per had the story ear­lier this week. To read the full story and see a video with an overview of the area and a small lake check out their arti­cle. See what time and money can do to con­vert land that first pro­duced corn, then dirt (to cover land­fill), and finally became a nature preserve.

 

Five Stars for A SUMMER IN EUROPE

A Summer in Europe

A Sum­mer in Europe

It’s been three years since I read this book, but I remem­ber it fondly, so obvi­ously, it was mem­o­rable. At the time I reviewed it this way:

This is a sim­ple story told in a won­der­ful and com­plex style. It’s long, but there isn’t an extra word any­where. The author, Mar­i­lyn Brant, leads the reader in a jour­ney through Europe with Gwen­dolyn Reese and a group of Amer­i­can and British tourists. You know how you see descrip­tion of tourist spots and your eyes tend to jump, or glaze over? NOT in this book, because each descrip­tion is so ingrained with emo­tions that the very street (or canal) becomes an inte­gral piece of the story. Now, that’s writ­ing tal­ent! At the bot­tom, it’s a romance, but also a ‘coming-of-age’ (at thirty!). And def­i­nitely a story of adven­ture, mys­tery, every-day-life, age differences—but that’s what I brought to it. Maybe you will bring some­thing else.”

Okay, I loved this book. And so did almost all of those who reviewed it on Goodreads.

One of my favorite reviews starts this way: “Oh this book is like sit­ting in the sun in the mid­dle of a Roman piazza while eat­ing a big scoop of gelato. It’s lovely and some­thing to be savored. Just about the only thing I didn’t like about this book is that Gwen got to go to Europe for a month and I didn’t. Yeah, I’m pretty jeal­ous of this fic­tional character!”

I dis­cov­ered this reviewer is Meg and she’s a book blog­ger. I had to look up her blog. It’s one I want to follow.

Another review by Mere­deth (another book blog­ger) starts this way: a”*yawns and stretches* Sorry, please excuse my sleepi­ness, I’ve just returned from a fan­tas­tic sojourn in Europe and I’m just a teensy bit jet-lagged…

“Dur­ing the sum­mer she turns thirty, Gwen­dolyn Reese – an unso­phis­ti­cated and inhib­ited mid­dle school math teacher that pas­sion­ately loves lis­ten­ing to musi­cal sound­tracks – expects to be try­ing on wed­ding dresses, pick­ing out flow­ers, and plan­ning a wed­ding with her boyfriend of two years. But instead she is being shang­haied by her aunt’s S & M Club (S for Sudoku, M for Mahjongg – had you shocked there for a moment, didn’t I?) to travel on their five week tour of Europe.”
That’s two blogs I want to fol­low. Per­haps you will too.

Craney Island — Another War of 1812 Episode

Battle of Craney Island

Bat­tle of Craney Island

In June, 1813, the British were cocky. They had only encoun­tered inef­fec­tive local mili­tia. They had block­aded Chesa­peake Bay and chased the frigate U.S.F. Con­stel­la­tion into Nor­folk, VA. At Craney Island, pro­tect­ing both Hamp­ton Roads and ship­yards at Portsmouth and Nor­folk, VA, was a small mil­i­tary con­tin­gent. In every land bat­tle so far, the Amer­i­cans had run rather than fight over­whelm­ing odds. The British did not expect much opposition.

Instead, they planned to cap­ture the island, con­tinue on to the larger Vir­ginia cities, and cap­ture the stranded frigate. Accord­ing to a lieu­tenant from the Con­stel­la­tion who vis­ited the blockad­ing fleet under a flag of truce, the British offi­cers said they would strike at the ship soon, vow­ing that “they must & will have it!”

USS Constellation-1812

The British became the vic­tims of their own over­ween­ing arro­gance,” says Mary­land his­to­rian Christo­pher T. George, author of “Ter­ror on the Chesa­peake: The War of 1812 on the Bay” and edi­tor of the Jour­nal of the War of 1812.

They thought they were fac­ing ill-trained rus­tics. So they rowed in as if they were just wait­ing to be shot at. They were sit­ting ducks.”

General Robert Taylor

Gen­eral Robert Taylor

As Gen­eral Tay­lor wrote in his let­ter of July 4, 1813, to the Sec­re­tary of War: “The whole force on the island at the time of the attack, con­sisted of 50 rifle­men, 446 infantry of the line, 91 state artillery, and 150 sea­men and marines fur­nished by Capt. Tar­bell. Of these, 43 were on, the sick list.”

He added, “I can­not with­hold my grate­ful acknowl­edg­ments to Com. Cassin, Capt. Tar­bell, and the offi­cers and crew of the Con­stel­la­tion and gun­boats, who have in every instance aided our oper­a­tions with a cor­dial­ity, zeal and abil­ity, not to be surpassed.”

The ship’s crew helped, but as British Napier lamented in his jour­nal, “A sharp can­non­ade from the works on the island cost us 71 men, with­out return­ing a shot.”

The British did not cap­ture the Con­stel­la­tion, and they left the area with­out attack­ing Norfolk.

The reported num­ber of British casu­al­ties var­ied by source. There were approx­i­mately 80 killed, wounded and miss­ing. One barge was cap­tured and at least two more were severely dam­aged. The defend­ers did not suf­fer any casu­al­ties in the first major War of 1812 vic­tory on Chesa­peake Bay.

The British had all the advan­tages. They had the num­bers. They had the fire­power — and they should have won,” said for­mer Vir­ginia War Museum direc­tor John V. Quarstein.

You can’t go visit Craney Island today. It’s not immor­tal­ized by a song like the ‘Star-Spangled Ban­ner,’” he adds.

But the bat­tle there was the first big Amer­i­can vic­tory in a long string of defeats on the Chesa­peake Bay — and it deserves to be bet­ter remembered.”

Five Star Read — THE ANTEATER OF DEATH

Anteater coverNow, you have to admit—The Anteater of Death is an unusual name for a mys­tery story. Okay—crazy! But I truly like it. It’s got a lot going for it.

A. The name attracts atten­tion. (Always good.)

B. The story lives up to the title. (Also good.)

C. The anteater (in a zoo, thank­fully) is not only a sus­pect in mur­der, but has a devoted advo­cate in the hero­ine of the story—Teddy, the ama­teur detective.

This was how I put it a cou­ple of months ago when I read The Anteater of Death:

The plot is full of unex­pected twists, the char­ac­ters are mostly known to eah other (for gen­er­a­tions) and quite indi­vid­ual. The sus­pense is right up there, along with enough humor to fit the title. But there is also sus­pense to keep the reader on the edge of her (or his) seat. The book starts and ends with a chap­ter in the anteater’s viewpoint—quite a bit dif­fer­ent than a human view­point. In between it’s Teddy’s story. She’s related to the wealthy zoo donors and work­ing at the zoo. And yes, there is death. Great story for those look­ing for the unusual sub­ject. Spiced with zoo and ani­mal information.

Right now the Kin­dle ebook is $.99. Betty Webb is the author. She has two other zoo books, and a desert series of mysteries.