One Hundred Fifty Years Ago

Lincoln funeral-trainOne hun­dred fifty years ago the coun­try was in mourn­ing. The pres­i­dent, Abra­ham Lin­coln, had been assas­si­nated. His body was taken by train from Wash­ing­ton, D.C. to his home state. There were stops along the way at var­i­ous large cities to accom­mo­date the mourn­ers. The train merely passed through smaller cities.

One such city was Lan­caster, Penn­syl­va­nia. On April 22, 1865, at 2:19 p.m. the train arrived in Lan­caster. In a tes­ta­ment to the uni­ver­sal grief, with only a total city pop­u­la­tion of 17,000 peo­ple, 20,000 peo­ple crowded beside the tracks for a final farewell. On April 21, 2015, my local newspaper’s front page was cov­ered with the story, A NATION MOURNS. A sec­ond arti­cle told the story of the 15-year old boy who was at the the­ater with his father the night Lin­coln was killed.

Route of Lincoln Funeral Train

Route of Lin­coln Funeral Train

Besides that eye-witness report, I learned what local dig­ni­taries were watch­ing, the descrip­tion of the train, and that Lincoln’s son, Cap­tain Robert Lin­coln, was in one of the cars. The cas­ket of Willie, the son who died in 1862, had been dis­in­terred and was in the final car with Lincoln’s cas­ket. He would be buried beside his father.

There were no tweets, no instant mes­sag­ing, no ring­ing cell phones, but the nation heard the news.

Five Stars For THE RAINALDI QUARTET

Rainaldi Quartet coverWish I could give this book six stars! That would be five stars for the story and the sixth star for the phys­i­cal book. Sure, I love to read e-books as well, but I do love to hold a well-designed, superbly crafted trade paper­back, turn the soft pages that lie flat, feel the tex­ture of a lovely cover, and read the unique sans serif type font to fol­low an entranc­ing story.

On to the story. The Rainaldi Quar­tet refers to the four men who meet weekly to play in their home­town of Cre­mona, Italy. Two are luthers (those who make vio­lins) as well as vio­lin play­ers. Rainaldi is one, the other is the nar­ra­tor of the story, Gianni. A priest plays the viola and the younger, chief of police plays the cello. But it is Rainaldi, in good spir­its, who chooses what they will play when the story opens. And it is Rainaldi who is mur­dered late that night.

The plot fol­lows Gianni and the chief of police as they try to deter­mine why their friend was killed, what secret he knew, what papers he had been work­ing on, what amaz­ing event he looked for­ward to. Their search takes them to the Eng­lish coun­try­side, to Venice, and to the ruins of a house burned a cen­tury ago look­ing for doc­u­ments, then look­ing for a rare vio­lin that may or may not exist.

Besides pour­ing over the mys­tery of the book, the reader will absorb bits of his­tory, bits of the mak­ing and restor­ing of rare vio­lins, and espe­cially, the day to day life of an Ital­ian gen­tle­man of a cer­tain age (as they say). Gianni’s mus­ing on his grand­chil­dren vis­it­ing, the chang­ing light on the canals of Venice, and his emo­tions over sud­den death are, sur­pris­ingly, every bit as engross­ing as the search for the per­haps myth­i­cal vio­lin and the rea­son behind murder.

Although this is placed in cur­rent times, his­tory under­lies the plot. And, as an Amer­i­can reader, I mar­vel at fam­i­lies who “remem­ber” ances­tors of a hun­dred or more years ago, and live in the same home, look­ing at the same por­traits on the wall, and may not be all that impressed by the fame of the vio­lin­ist in their fam­ily tree.

 

Indi Authors And Libraries

Most inde­pen­dently pub­lished authors have heard of J. A. Kon­rath. They fol­low his blog and his progress with his inde­pen­dently pub­lished books.  He took his tra­di­tion­ally pub­lished books back from the pub­lisher and suc­cess­fully pub­lished them him­self. Oth­ers joined him. He’s the first true guru to many indi authors.

Now he’s going a step fur­ther. He has started a pro­gram that’s still in beta form, one to sup­ply e-book man­u­scripts to libraries. It is called EAF-Ebooks Are For­ever. Instead of a library buy­ing a man­u­script for a lim­ited num­ber of bor­rows, it will buy a copy that is good for­ever. (The same way libraries buy phys­i­cal books.) And, just as with phys­i­cal books, the e-book can only be loaned to one per­son at a time. For a pop­u­lar book, a library would buy mul­ti­ple copies, just as they do with phys­i­cal books. Sounds like a good idea to me.

A full-size book would be pur­chased for $7.99, no mat­ter its price on line, even if it is offered for free. It would prob­a­bly already be avail­able for sale every­where, not locked into one venue, such as KDP.

Kon­rath envi­sions even­tu­ally offer­ing every inter­ested inde­pen­dent author’s books to libraries. I’d like to join. I tried, but the site doesn’t seem to be accept­ing other con­trib­u­tors yet. But I’ll watch for any updates. Mean­while, to learn more, click high­lighted words to see Konrath’s blog expla­na­tion. Find EBooks Are For­ever here.

 

Five Stars For THE OTHER WOMAN

The Other WomanThis is an excel­lent week to show­case this favorite book—Hank Phillippi Ryan’s The Other Woman. (See the two rea­sons why at the end of this post.) It’sVolume #1 of the Jane Ryland series. In this book, Jane is a jour­nal­ist out of a job, in dis­grace, and pos­si­bly owing a mil­lion dol­lars for her sup­posed error. The publisher’s blurb includes: “Dirty pol­i­tics, dirty tricks, and a bar­rage of final twists, The Other Woman is the first in an explo­sive new series.”

But let me quote from a few reviews. One said: “Boston news­pa­per reporter Jane Ryland seeks to uncover the iden­tity of the mis­tress of a Sen­ate can­di­date. Her inves­ti­ga­tion inter­sects with the hunt for a pos­si­ble ser­ial killer. The book has all the nec­es­sary com­po­nents for a great mys­tery: mur­ders, sex, scan­dal, gor­geous char­ac­ters, money, privilege.”

Another gives this review: “Oh man, this was a tremen­dously good read. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I LOVE a book that makes me sit up and take notice. The Other Woman did that, and then some. This is a page-turner from the get-go, with pro­tag­o­nists who are flawed but incred­i­bly like­able, try­ing to solve a mys­tery that, believe me, turns into one very cre­ative climax.”

When I first read this book, I com­mented: “There’s the other woman in the red coat, but she’s not the only ‘other’ woman in this engross­ing mystery/thriller. From nuanced char­ac­ters to sur­pris­ing plot twists, this is one good read for anyone.”

Now for Rea­son Num­ber One that this is a good week for this series: After the sec­ond book in the series, The Wrong Girl, won the Agatha for Best Con­tem­po­rary Novel of 2013, the third, Truth Be Told, is up for an Agatha this year as Best Con­tem­po­rary Novel of 2014!
And—Ta Da, Rea­son Num­ber Two that this is a good week to show­case The Other Woman—Click here for a Goodreads give­away going on for this book right now.

Snoop, Student, Writer

I’ve had friends ask, after read­ing one of my books, “Where do you get your ideas?” My hus­band asks, “How do you think all that up?” I’m quite sure every writer gets the same ques­tions. And, like me, the answer might be some­thing like, “I’m not exactly sure,” or pos­si­bly, “Or, here and there.”

writing SnoopyThe true answer is com­pli­cated. It’s a bit like the way I fol­low a recipe when I’m cook­ing. Love the pic­ture that goes with it. Beau­ti­ful. The ingre­di­ents? Oh, sure. Except, I don’t have all of them. In fact, even if I do have an item, I really pre­fer another. I’ll trade off Worster­shire sauce for soy sauce every time. Let’s see, unsalted but­ter? Heck, I have salted. No prob­lem. Broc­coli is just as green as green beans. Recipe calls for veal, but I hap­pen to have pork. Oops, that item is one hus­band doesn’t like—I’ll skip that. I think I’ll serve the dish with noo­dles instead of rice.

You get the idea, right?

Now, how about the title of this piece. Yes, it also explains at least one writer’s sys­tem (mine). Maybe snoop is a bit extreme. Let’s say, I dis­cover some­thing that appeals to me. For instance, my YA Cher­ish, began with a road sign. “Sandy Bot­tom Road.” That book def­i­nitely used my recipe-following sys­tem. I’d dis­carded the man­u­script years before, but I started with that and sub­sti­tuted. A skele­ton became a ghost. The girls switched boyfriends. I changed names, dipped into a vari­ety of view­points. I added real his­tory to alter the story. And, I def­i­nitely updated my teens into twenty-first cen­tury kids. Those last two required the stu­dent mode with infor­ma­tion and assis­tance from the inter­net and advice from teens.

Okay, maybe that’s not illus­trat­ing the snoop-student mode of a writer. Snoop: Scan news­pa­pers for some­thing new I can incor­po­rate into a mys­tery. How about the item about a seven-year-old girl who takes fan­tas­tic pho­tographs? Check. Now, here’s an item about Workam­pers, or peo­ple who live in their RV campers but travel around tak­ing short term jobs to sup­port them­selves. They stop to work for a sea­son at theme parks or a few weeks at local cel­e­bra­tions. Check. How about those books I’ve gath­ered dur­ing our sail­ing years at small Chesa­peake Bay towns—books about local his­tory, many men­tion­ing the War of 1812? Check. Okay, now for the study. Read and com­pare those local his­to­ries. Check it out on the inter­net. Study reen­act­ments, his­toric fig­ures’ lives, maps for place­ment of my fic­tional town. That’s the tem­plate for my upcom­ing mys­tery, For­got­ten Body, now await­ing one final run-through, for­mat­ting, and cover.

But I do have a still bet­ter exam­ple of the stu­dent mode for an author. I’m now work­ing on a short story that may turn into a novella. I’m plan­ning to make it per­mafree to inter­est peo­ple in my mys­ter­ies. It’s gotta be good for that. And, I’m strug­gling. But, I’ve found help by read­ing the writ­ing blogs, newslet­ters, books, and mag­a­zines I’ll never aban­don. That’s because, invari­ably, a phrase or sen­tence will spark an idea. Most recently it was part of a sen­tence in R.A. McCormick’s arti­cle in the Sis­ters in Crime Guppy chap­ter newslet­ter, First Draft. Quote, “sur­prise as the story goes in a direc­tion that read­ers don’t expect.” It’s not new infor­ma­tion to me, but those words reminded me—“Hey, that’s what I need!” The other man­u­script help was a guest appear­ance by another Guppy, Kaye George, on B.K. Stevens’ blog, The First Two Pages. Yep, after read­ing Kaye’s clear show and tell of the way she added each ele­ment, I knew what I had to do. Ramp up my begin­ning as well as sur­prise the reader.

So, next time some­one asks me where I get my ideas, what will I answer? “You see, there’s a talk­ing bird—not a par­rot, I’ll have to look that up, and one of those mini-houses I’ve read about that is cramped with one per­son, but I’m putting two in there. And there’s this guy who faked his death and will come back to upset the lady who thought she was a widow about the time she’s get­ting seri­ous about some­one else.” Will that be my answer?

More likely, I’ll reply, “Oh, here and there.”

As a reader, I’d prob­a­bly love to hear more. But, as a writer, do I want to rat­tle on and bore my reader even before the book is out? Hope. How about you?

A New Review For YESTERDAY’S BODY

Okay, I gotta crow!

It’s mighty rare when one’s work is rec­og­nized so beau­ti­fully, and on the same day when I want to remind read­ers that my Goodreads give­away is wind­ing down.

Here’s the full review:

Yesterday's BodyTitle: Yesterday’s Body
Author: Norma Huss
Pub­lisher: Sun­set Cloud Mys­tery
ISBN: 13: 978–1466449350
Genre: Mystery

The next time you see an older woman who looks like she lives on the streets, remem­ber to be nice, she might just be more than she seems. She could be ama­teur sleuth, Jo Durbin, and, if you’ve done any­thing bad, she might be look­ing for you.

Tal­ented author Norma Huss has crafted a fun read that offers a dif­fer­ent kind of sleuth with a very dif­fer­ent back­ground. Life on the streets is a hard way to live and any reader will def­i­nitely won­der how such a per­son, par­tic­u­larly a woman, could have the energy and ambi­tion to inves­ti­gate mur­ders or other crimes.

Join Jo, and her some­time side­kick Sylvie who is also her sis­ter, in track­ing down a killer after she dis­cov­ers a body in a closet with the help of her cat, Clyde, who isn’t all there.

I’m pleased to rec­om­mend Yesterday’s Body as a story any mys­tery fan will enjoy. The char­ac­ters’ var­ied back­grounds blend into a story you won’t want to put down until you find out who the killer is and why they kill. You’ll enjoy meet­ing the real­is­tic char­ac­ters as they cross paths with Jo and your­self. You’ll find you’ve joined Jo in her inves­ti­ga­tion with Clyde and Sylvie and their three­some has become a four­some intent on solv­ing the crimes.

Enjoy the adven­ture. I sure did.

Anne K. Edwards

Now for the Goodreads give­away information—ends April 9, 2015. Giv­ing away ten copies. Sign up here.

Next Mon­day, my five-star review (of other’s books) will be back. And this Thurs­day I’ll have some­thing for both read­ers and writers.

War of 1812 in Havre de Grace

Havre de Grace in 1813

Havre de Grace in 1813

This com­ing sum­mer my new mys­tery, For­got­ten Body, will be released. Since it cen­ters around a reen­act­ment of the War of 1812, I am shar­ing some of my research. What did the area look like? This dio­rama made to rep­re­sent Havre de Grace at the time shows a sparsely set­tled area.

Havre de Grace sits on the shore of the Susque­hanna River in Mary­land. On May 2, 1813, the British under Admi­ral Cock­burn attacked and burned most of the houses in the town. Sev­eral reports from that time tell the story. The Admi­ral planned to bypass Havre de Grace until he saw an Amer­i­can flag fly­ing and some­one shot can­non fire. That was prob­a­bly John O’Neill. He stood his ground, fir­ing until the can­non back­fired on him, forc­ing him to leave. How­ever, he did join oth­ers with their muskets.

O'Neill At The Cannon

O’Neill At The Cannon

The 40 local mili­tia, mostly older men, wisely retreated in the face of an over­whelm­ing force after one was killed. John O’Neill was cap­tured. He was to be exe­cuted the next day, how­ever his 15-year-old daugh­ter rowed out the admiral’s ves­sel to plead for her father’s life. Since she had the papers that proved he was a mil­i­tary offi­cer and not a civil­ian, he was released. The sur­viv­ing arti­cles hint that her comely ways and brav­ery affected the admi­ral. In any event, he gave her his gold-mounted tor­toise­shell snuff box. (Exactly what any teenager would love to have.)

Other sto­ries may not have been authen­ti­cated. One I heard was that the admi­ral declined to burn the home of a widow since she had no hus­band fight­ing against Mother Eng­land. (I must admit, that is the story I used in my upcom­ing mystery.)

Ques­tion: When the entire story is a fab­ri­ca­tion, must the his­tory be absolutely authentic?

My answer: Some­times. If the his­tory is pre­sented as authentic—you bet your life. I’ll make it as authen­tic as I can. If the his­tory is admit­tedly augmented—hey the writer/history doesn’t tell every­thing. And, if the his­tory is pre­sented as a fabrication—go for it! (I under­stand that was the think­ing behind Uni­corn Westerns.)

What is your answer?

Agatha Short Story Nominees

Agatha awards, so named for Agatha Christie of mys­tery writ­ing fame, are given every year at the Mal­ice Domes­tic con­fer­ence. One award is given for the top short story pub­lished the pre­vi­ous year. This year’s nom­i­nees are all win­ners, even though only one will receive the tea pot that is the cov­eted prize. Nom­i­nated for Best Short Story are:

The Odds are Against Us” by Art Tay­lor, Ellery Queen Mys­tery Mag­a­zine, Nov. 2014
“Pre­mo­ni­tion” by Art Tay­lor, Chesa­peake Crimes Homi­ci­dal Hol­i­days (Wild­side Press)
“The Shadow Knows” by Barb Goff­man, Chesa­peake Crimes Homi­ci­dal Hol­i­days (Wild­side Press)
“Just Desserts for Johnny” by Edith Maxwell (Kings River Life Mag­a­zine)
“The Bless­ing Witch” by Kathy Lynn Emer­son, Best New Eng­land Crime Sto­ries 2015: Rogue Wave (Level Best Books)

Those who attend Mal­ice Domes­tic this year are in for a dilemma. Which of these excel­lent sto­ries will they vote for? What idea sparked the story? Find that answer on the Wicked Cozy Author blog, Best Short Agatha Nom­i­nees on Ideas. The Writ­ers Who Kill blog asked each writer other ques­tions. How many char­ac­ters? How should they be devel­oped? What comes first, story or theme? Their post is: An Inter­view with the 2014 Agatha Best Short Story Nom­i­nee Authors. They also have links to each story.

Wish I were going to Mal­ice Domes­tic, except, then I’d have to decide which story was best. Quite an impossibility.

(Other links of inter­est are the Mal­ice Domes­tic list of ear­lier short story win­ners and all more recent win­ners.)

 

The Eagle Has Hatched!

I must take a pass on shar­ing my War of 1812 research. Over a month ago I blogged about a pair of eagles on their nest of two eggs. Then we had snow on the first day of spring. How were the eagles faring?

Yes, you see an eagle head.

Yes, you see an eagle head.

This pic­ture might give you a clue. They were keep­ing those eggs warm. (An author­ity answered wor­ried watch­ers, “Notice the snow doesn’t melt over the par­ent. That means his or her feath­ers are keep­ing the body well insulated.”)

Now, this morn­ing our paper had the news—the first egg had hatched! Byeagle feeds baby the time I sat down at my com­puter to write this blog, the sec­ond egg had hatched and the first eaglet had already had its first meal. Fish bits, yum, yum. Mamma (or Papa) had to keep try­ing to con­nect with the tiny wob­bling beak.

Here’s some inter­est­ing arti­cles to read and videos to watch: Arti­cle in this morning’s news­pa­per. Video-first egg hatches. Video-second egg hatches. A first meal.

Five Stars For LITTLE BLACK BOOK OF MURDER

Nancy Martin cover1I’ve read and thor­oughly enjoyed the Black­bird Sis­ters mys­ter­ies by Nancy Mar­tin, but this is my lat­est. (Not hers, but I’m a bit behind.) The three sis­ters make do with­out the money they grew up with (and their par­ents mis­spent before they deserted the crum­bling fam­ily home). Nora tries to keep body and soul together, save the fam­ily estate, and, oh, yes, not marry the man she loves who just hap­pens to be a semi-reformed mob­ster. You see, there’s this thing about any man who mar­ries one of the sis­ters (there have been sev­eral) dying a sud­den and usu­ally dread­ful death.

That is some­thing that runs through all the books. But the sis­ters have a lot more going on. Babies, for one. That’s one sister’s specialty—she’s had many hus­bands. Mys­tery for another. A mys­tery that involves Nora more than any­one. In this book, Nora is sent by the new boss at her news­pa­per to write a pro­file on a bil­lion­aire fash­ion designer at his new high-tech organic farm. Unfor­tu­nately, he is mur­dered before she can com­plete the interview.

To quote from the Goodreads descrip­tion, “If any­thing can bring the blue-blooded Black­bird sis­ters together, it’s a mur­der inves­ti­ga­tion involv­ing high-society events, glam­orous peo­ple, and the dis­ap­pear­ance of a genet­i­cally per­fect pig that may or may not be bask­ing in the sun at Black­bird Farm. They’ll all have to pull together this time, because if Nora can’t bring home the bacon, she might have to exchange her bucolic estate for a cramped walk-up.”

The Black­bird Sis­ters mys­ter­ies are always great reads. I espe­cially liked this one. Lots of fun and fash­ion, mys­tery and dan­ger. Nora and her sis­ters keep me enthralled!