Too much to do!

It’s a com­mon prob­lem, at least for me. I make plans, sched­ule things — sure I’ll have no prob­lem han­dling it all. Then what hap­pens? I real­ize I have way more than I want to do.

Exer­cise. It’s very good for one, and absolute­ly essen­tial for a writer who spends so much time in front of her com­put­er. There­fore, two morn­ings a week I exer­cise with a class. Great fun, actu­al­ly. Of course, even though it’s only a 45-minute class, it takes me the rest of the morn­ing to actu­al­ly feel like work­ing. Yep, morn­ing gone.

Two morn­ings gone out of a week? No prob­lem. I can han­dle that two-week class on opti­miz­ing Goodreads for authors. Also, I can learn how to post to my mys­tery cri­tique group all over again since we start­ed using Google groups instead of Yahoo groups. (And, that course? Also on a new venue — more to learn.)

Oh, yeah, there’s a few oth­er things. I’m count­ing down the time until my new YA is pub­lished. Work­ing with the artist on the cov­er design now. And, hope­ful­ly those edits I’m doing on the sequel to Yesterday’s Body will be final edits.

Then there’s the arti­cle and the blog post I agreed to do. A month or two ago I spaced them out, too busy in August and Sep­tem­ber. Yep, due this month. Work­ing on it, real­ly I am.

Is there more? Uh-huh. Old­est grand­son get­ting mar­ried. Then the fol­low­ing week youngest daugh­ter and fam­i­ly hav­ing their annu­al, all-day fall par­ty.

I’m sure there’s a book among those I’ve read that would absolute­ly fit this post. But, will I take an after­noon lulling through the shelves, pick­ing the per­fect read to rec­om­mend? Nope, sor­ry, not today. I’m over-sched­uled as it is. I’ll have more time next week — make that next month.

Sailing Blogs to Visit

This week I didn’t post my usu­al arti­cle. Instead, I vis­it­ed Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers with a blog about a sail­ing trip my hus­band and I made in 1989. It was the first big trip we made on our sail­boat. I called it Sail­ing the Dis­mal Swamp Canal to Hur­ri­cane Hugo.

ICW Trip - 1989

ICW Trip — 1989

To see this post, go to this blog site. Of course, with a title that includes a hur­ri­cane name, you might guess what we ran into.

We took many trips between that one and our last big trip some years lat­er. By then we were too old to han­dle lines and dodge swing­ing booms. We had a pow­er cruis­er instead of a sail boat. For that last trip, we were a group of only two boats. I blogged about that last year for Dames of Dia­logue. You can see it at their blog.

Death of a Hot Chick, the mys­tery men­tioned in both blogs was inspired by my sail­ing trips. So too was my ama­teur sleuth, Cyd Den­linger. I blogged about how I chose her before I had a sin­gle book pub­lished. That is on Work­ing Stuffs.

These blog posts, espe­cial­ly the last one I men­tion above, will give you an idea of how a writer’s mind works when she is craft­ing some­one to solve her mys­ter­ies. Enjoy!

Seasonal Thoughts

Sea­son­al? Not as in salt and pep­per or onion flakes. Oh, no. As in, it must be fall because kids went back to school, despite the fact that fall does not offi­cial­ly arrive until lat­er in Sep­tem­ber. So, since it IS fall, Hal­loween must be close behind. How do I know? My local gro­cery store has a full dis­play of Hal­loween Tastykakes. Yum!

Def­i­nite­ly time for spooky thoughts. Ghosts, mag­ic, and spooky para­nor­mal mys­tery books. Yes!

One series of choice for the sea­son is L. L. Bartlett’s Jeff Resnick series. Bartlett (under two oth­er names) writes two of my favorite cozy mys­tery series, but this is more of a psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller. Jeff has dreams, or visions, of mur­der. How spooky is that? The first in the series is Mur­der on the Mind. The newest one, Dark Waters, comes out on Octo­ber 1, 2013.

Anoth­er favorite series is Sofie Kelly’s Mag­i­cal Cats mys­tery series. Are those cats real, ghosts, or what? One that I read is Curios­i­ty Thrilled The Cat. The newest one, Final Cat­call, also comes out Octo­ber 1, 2013.

Soon I hope to announce my newest mys­tery, a spooky young adult titled Cher­ish. There are ghosts, time trav­el, and Hal­loween involved in this one.

I keep try­ing to get com­ments active on this post. Maybe this time? Don’t know yet. How­ev­er, com­ments will be open on my Goodreads blog tomor­row.

School is Open — Remember When

Remem­ber when school start­ed the Tues­day or Wednes­day after Labor Day? Remem­ber when you took the kids shop­ping for shoes the week before–so they wouldn’t out­grow their new footwear before school start­ed? Remem­ber when the kids scanned the school lunch menu and decid­ed they pre­ferred a bag lunch from home? And most of all — remem­ber when there were no back­packs that weighed down your child’s young shoul­ders?

Okay, I’m old. Even my kids are old because they can remem­ber it all as well. Now, their kids, that’s a dif­fer­ent sto­ry. They have ipads and smart phones and com­put­ers, as well as books. They might take a class pre­sent­ed on the com­put­er at home. They all return to school in August, some even ear­ly August. (Of course, they do get more or longer vaca­tions dur­ing the year. That may be all to the good, actu­al­ly.) I’ve even read about schools that decide the bag lunch isn’t ade­quate and throw it out. Ah, me. A group of us old ladies got togeth­er a cou­ple of weeks ago and agreed that we wouldn’t want to be rais­ing out chil­dren now.

But, of course, every old gen­er­a­tion looks askance at the young upstarts. Every­thing is new, and they wouldn’t want it any oth­er way. Look at the amaz­ing things our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren are learning–and doing. Even we old fogies are catch­ing up with the times. And, for sure, if our young­sters kept to the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry ways, they’d be com­plete­ly lost in a year or two.

How lost would they be if they start­ed the way I did? Maybe you learned to read from a Dick and Jane book too. I did, and, believe it or not, so did my old­est daugh­ter. I was amazed when she brought her book home to show us. There it was. “See Dick run. See Jane run.” All year long she stud­ied from that book, just as I did. And, at the end of the book and the end of the year came the sto­ry I loved. “Dark Pony.”

So, in hon­or of the past, the book I want to men­tion today is We Play (Read With Dick and Jane) It is even avail­able! (There are oth­ers list­ed, but they are unavail­able.)

I would ask you to add a com­ment, but that isn’t work­ing. Don’t know why. Haven’t fig­ured out how to fix it yet. Hope­ful­ly, next week my com­ments will be back. How­ev­er, you can com­ment on my oth­er pages — don’t know why that is either! You may also vis­it my web­site here. Love to see you.

New Reads — Cozy Mystery and More

I love new books. Scan­ning the cov­er, turn­ing the pages, fol­low­ing line after line of… Okay, I also love new e-books. Let me say, I love the plot, the mys­tery, the char­ac­ters, the whole expe­ri­ence of let­ting myself live anoth­er life for a few min­utes, or a few hours. So, when I hear about a new book writ­ten by one of my favorite authors, I’m ready to eaves­drop on a life that I’ve lived before. And, when I open a book by an author new to me, I’m ready to escape into a new real­i­ty. All this is pre­lude to intro­duc­ing a short list of books new­ly pub­lished, or about to be pub­lished next month. Per­haps some of these will intro­duce you to a delight­ful new read.

The first book on my list is an anthol­o­gy of short sto­ries — The Least He Could Do and eleven oth­er sto­ries. When I asked for titles of new books from my Sis­ters in Crime Gup­py chap­ter, I heard about this from the author of the title sto­ry, “The Least He Could Do,” Lynn Mann. Lynn’s sto­ry is sus­pense (and a good one). The oth­ers are a mix of genre’s, all a bit edgy. Avail­able as e-book.  Ama­zon site here.  Smashword’s site here.

The next three books are all cozy mys­ter­ies from authors with series I know and love. The first is Low­coun­try Bomb­shell by Susan Boy­er. Her first book, Low­coun­try Boil, won the Agatha this year for best new mys­tery, so you know this one will be good. Short intro — Liz Tal­bot thinks she’s seen anoth­er ghost when she meets Cal­ista McQueen. She’s the spit­ting image of Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe. Born pre­cise­ly fifty years after the ill-fat­ed star, Calista’s life has eeri­ly mir­rored the late starlet’s–and she fears the loom­ing anniver­sary of Marilyn’s death will also be hers. With the heat index approach­ing triple dig­its, Liz races to uncov­er a dia­bol­i­cal mur­der plot in time to save not only Calista’s life, but also her own.  Ama­zon site here. Pub­lish­er page here.

Lit­tle Black Book of Mur­der by Nan­cy Mar­tin is the newest from The Black­bird Sis­ters series, one of my favorites. It stars Nora Black­bird who may have been to the manor borne, but these days mon­ey is so tight, she can’t afford to lose her job as a soci­ety colum­nist. Short Intro — 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. Avail­able in hard­cov­er, e-book, and audio­book.  Ama­zon page here. Author page here.

Rhys Bowen, the author of Heirs and Graces, writes three series that I adore. This title is the lat­est in the Roy­al Spy­ness mys­ter­ies that take place in 1930s Eng­land. Georgie’s posh edu­ca­tion didn’t land her a job, or a hus­band, but it does con­vince Her Majesty the Queen and the Dowa­ger Duchess to enlist her help. Short intro for this his­toric mys­tery — As thir­ty-fifth in line for the throne, Lady Geor­giana Ran­noch may not be the most sophis­ti­cat­ed young woman, but she knows her table man­ners. It’s forks on the left, knives on the right–not in His Majesty’s back… Avail­able in hard­cov­er, e-book, and audio­book. Ama­zon page here. Author page here.

I also have two mys­ter­ies from authors who are new to me. I’m look­ing for­ward to enjoy­ing their new series. Auld Lang Syne is by Judith Ivie. Short intro — This is num­ber six in The Kate Lawrence Mys­ter­ies. It’s almost New Year’s Eve, and Kate finds her­self at her 35th high school reunion, where she is con­front­ed by The Mean Girls, cir­ca 1978. Worse yet, she’s put on a lit­tle weight, and her high school steady is expect­ed to show. Should auld acquain­tance be for­got? If only that were pos­si­ble. Avail­able in paper­back and e-book. Ama­zon site here. Pub­lish­er page here.

The sec­ond of the new-to-me mys­ter­ies is Armed  by Elaine Macko From the cov­er pho­to of a young woman’s arm, I sus­pect this Alex Har­ris series is ‘armed’ with more humor than gun play. Short intro — When Alex Har­ris, own­er of the Always Pre­pared staffing agency, stum­bles over the body of Mrs. Scott, noth­ing will ever be the same. Along with her sis­ter and part­ner, Saman­tha Daniels, and their assis­tant, Mil­lie Chap­man, the Win­ston Churchill-quot­ing, M&M pop­ping Alex probes and plods through clue after clue try­ing to unrav­el secrets before the mur­der­er strikes again and real­ly ruins Christ­mas. Avail­able in paper­back and e-book. Ama­zon site here. Author page here.

What are your favorite cozy mys­tery series? Leave a com­ment and tell me. I’d love to hear about new ones.

Look for my new YA mys­tery soon — pub­li­ca­tion date ten­ta­tive­ly sched­uled for Octo­ber 2013. In the mean­time, the links to my two mys­ter­ies and one true adven­ture non-fic­tion are on my Books page here.

Remembering Mom

Yes­ter­day I read about a woman who just turned 100. It was a love­ly arti­cle in my news­pa­per with a head­line of, “This healthy 100-year-old runs on cof­fee.” She sounds like a humdinger. She likes to sing at home and with the group Sweet Ade­lines. She helps her niece with cross­word puz­zles. She likes to keep busy. “I don’t sit and rock half the day, oh no,” she said.

The lady reminds me of my mom, who lived until May 31st of this year. She was 103. She, too, liked to keep busy. At eigh­teen, Mom was a city girl who mar­ried a rail­road man who turned into a farmer. She fol­lowed her man from Wash­ing­ton to Mis­souri and back to Wash­ing­ton. Dad want­ed home-made bread, so she baked bread. She cooked din­ner for hay­ing crews. And pies. Oh, the pies she baked. In lat­er years a trip to the doc­tor or den­tist was an occa­sion to bake as she always took a pie along.

I remem­ber Mom as the farm wife. One time some ani­mal was killing our free-range chick­ens. Mom sat in the field with a rifle, wait­ing. A fer­al dog arrived and she dropped him with a chick­en in its mouth that ran away. But Mom had an inde­pen­dent streak. One year she decid­ed that, just because Dad was a very active Grange mem­ber, she didn’t have to be. How­ev­er, she missed it and returned. She actu­al­ly lat­er end­ed up as Mas­ter (that’s club pres­i­dent). But that inde­pen­dent streak went one step far­ther. When Dad retired, she did too. No more home-baked bread!

Mom loved to read. I remem­ber when she had a copy of For­ev­er Amber hid­den in her room. (It was the scan­dalous nov­el of the time.) And she wrote. She was my inspi­ra­tion. But while I write mys­ter­ies, she wrote poet­ry. I remem­ber a long saga she could recite and some­times amend­ed. More often she wrote poems as gifts to friends on spe­cial occa­sions. She played the piano. Once she accom­pa­nied the soloist at a wed­ding. She often played piano at Grange meet­ings and when­ev­er any­one want­ed to sing at home.

Mom's 100th Birthday

Mom’s 100th Birth­day

There was a par­ty for Mom’s 100th birth­day where she lived. Since I lived across the con­ti­nent from her, I wasn’t there that day, but my sis­ter-in-law was. Mom received cards and ate cake (hers was sug­ar-free). Mom believed in walk­ing for health. At the farm she mea­sured with a tape mea­sure, then walked that route until her goal was reached. At her assist­ed liv­ing home she walked the length of the hall twice a day. I remem­ber Mom drink­ing cof­fee like the woman in the arti­cle, but her dai­ly reg­i­men includ­ed walk­ing and drink­ing milk. It served her well.

Good bye Mom. We loved you.

I like to include book rec­om­men­da­tions in each post. Two from my library are Miss­ing Mom by Joyce Car­ol Oates and there was an old woman by Hal­lie Ephron. Nei­ther one is a cozy mys­tery. The arti­cle ref­er­enced above can be seen here.

 

Wow! Chefs to World Leaders Eat Here?

Can you believe that chefs to world lead­ers dined in a barn, sit­ting on bench­es at long wood­en tables dec­o­rat­ed with flow­ers in can­ning jars? They ate, and even raved over sim­ple dish­es like sal­ad with red beet eggs, chick­en cro­quettes, pot roast, mashed pota­toes with brown but­ter, suc­co­tash, and fresh rasp­ber­ries. They will take ideas back to their own coun­tries to serve in palaces in Eng­land, Thai­land, Swe­den, and Mona­co. The back-to-nature foods pre­pared in Lan­cast­er Coun­try, Penn­syl­va­nia, and served by Amish women and chil­dren may appear on tables in the White House, and in the homes of world lead­ers from Ger­many, Gabon, Chi­na, France, and many oth­er nations.

It was a meet­ing of the Club des Chefs des Chefs, an exclu­sive group of chefs to world lead­ers. Each year they meet in a dif­fer­ent host coun­try. This year they came to Amer­i­ca and first dined in Wash­ing­ton, Mary­land, and New York before vis­it­ing the barn in East Lam­peter, Penn­syl­va­nia.

My words can’t tell you all there is to this sto­ry. I’ve attached a link of a video and a slide show of the meal in progress, plus the news­pa­per write-up. (It’s here.)

Does this sto­ry that includes the chef to our pres­i­dent make you think of mys­tery books? It does me—but then prac­ti­cal­ly every­thing makes me think of a good mys­tery read. In fact, this arti­cle makes me think of two series, and I just hap­pen to have a few of those books in my library.

You have to know that one series is the White House Chef Mys­ter­ies by Julie Hyzy. When Buf­fa­lo West Wing  was pub­lished in 2011, Olivia Paras is billed was the first female head White House chef. Of course the plot involved a sup­ply of the pres­i­den­tial children’s favorite—spicy Buf­fa­lo wings. And Olivia gets in Dutch because she won’t let the kids touch the wings.

Speak­ing of Dutch, the Amish peo­ple men­tioned in the arti­cle reminds me of more mys­ter­ies. They are the books includ­ed in the Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch series by Tamar Myers. One of her titles is The Crepes of Wrath. Mag­dale­na Yoder dis­cov­ers that a bad batch of crepes can lead to mur­der. There are sev­er­al crepes recipes includ­ed, not one of them is fatal. Mag­dale­na is not Amish, but of anoth­er plain sect. (“Plain” is the term some use, and to the “Eng­lish” as the Amish call oth­ers, “plain” can refer to Amish, Men­non­ite, and oth­ers.)

I page through recipes in mys­tery books and get ideas (I’m often an inno­v­a­tive cook). Both series include recipes. My own mys­ter­ies include peo­ple who love food, love to talk about it, love to pre­pare and eat it, but I haven’t added recipes in the pages of my books. I’ve tried anoth­er approach. I place recipes and pic­tures on my web­site along with an excerpt from the scene that pre­sent­ed the dish. (Those recipes are here.)

Do you like mys­ter­ies that include recipes? I’d love to see your com­ments about food in mys­ter­ies, or your favorite series. (I love to find series new to me!)

The Irish Cop Connection

I like to make con­nec­tions. Some­times the con­nec­tion is between a news­pa­per arti­cle and a sto­ry I’ve read. Some­times it’s between a whis­pered con­fi­dence and a past event. Some­times, such as this time, the con­nec­tion is between two mys­tery series by two dif­fer­ent authors.

Besides the Irish cop con­nec­tion, these series are cozy, his­toric, and by authors I’ve actu­al­ly met! Both series are set in New York at the turn of the century—that’s the ear­ly 1900s, Both have a young woman who helps an Irish cop solve mur­ders. Both include a good bit of accu­rate his­toric detail.

I met Vic­to­ria Thomp­son a few years ago at a con­fer­ence where I bought one of her Gaslight Mys­tery books. I’ve been buy­ing, and read­ing them ever since. How­ev­er, I began read­ing the Mol­ly Mur­phy Mys­ter­ies before I met Rhys Bowen. Okay, I must admit, it was a brief encounter. We rode the same ele­va­tor at the Mal­ice Domes­tic Con­fer­ence this May. I did tell her how much I enjoyed her mys­ter­ies.

Now that I’ve men­tioned the sim­i­lar­i­ties between the two series, let me tell you the dif­fer­ences.

Sarah Brandt, star of the Gaslight Mys­ter­ies, was born to wealth then turned against that lifestyle by becom­ing a mid­wife. She mar­ried and was a young wid­ow when the series begins. Among the real his­toric issues involved in the mys­ter­ies are med­ical prob­lems, includ­ing those of the Irish cop’s deaf son as well as social issues and the pover­ty of so many of New York’s cit­i­zens of the time. One among the con­tin­u­ing char­ac­ters is Sarah’s neigh­bor, an extreme­ly super­sti­tions woman who sees signs of dan­ger if a crow flies by, or almost any­thing else. Sarah has the advan­tage of know­ing the wealthy peo­ple, old friends from her for­mer life, and espe­cial­ly her moth­er to help in learn­ing things that might be clues. The Irish cop, Frank Mal­loy, wel­comes any help Sarah can pro­vide. The two are attract­ed to each oth­er, but so far, have too many oth­er things going on to do much about it.

Mol­ly Mur­phy, the hero­ine of the Mol­ly Mur­phy Mys­ter­ies, arrived in New York from Ire­land, one step ahead of the law that would arrest her for pro­tect­ing her­self. She takes a job at a detec­tive agency. When the detec­tive is killed, she takes over the role of detec­tive. Through­out the series, Mol­ly meets his­toric peo­ple such as Har­ry Hou­di­ni and Nel­lie Bly. Her neigh­bors are two flam­boy­ant women who intro­duce Mol­ly to their well-known friends, so many his­toric events con­tribute to the mys­ter­ies. Daniel Sul­li­van, the Irish cop, does not wel­come help from Mol­ly on his cas­es, nor does he want to hear about her detec­tive work that may be con­nect­ed to his. How­ev­er, their per­son­al rela­tion­ship advances from romance, to dis­tance, to rejec­tion, then back, and to mar­riage.

Do you like to make con­nec­tions such as this? Do you know of any oth­er mys­ter­ies that could be con­nect­ed in some ten­u­ous fash­ion? Let me know below in the com­ments. And, before I leave you, I’d like to give you a cou­ple of links for these two authors and their sites.

Vic­to­ria Thompson’s Ama­zon author page is here. A recent Face­book entry is here. 

Rhys Bowen’s Ama­zon author page is here. Her Twit­ter account is here.