Five Stars for Death By A Dark Horse

8-17 Death by a Dark HorseWhen Thea’s missing horse, Blackie, is found in the pasture with a dead woman, the first thought was that crushed head was caused by Blackie. Thea knows that’s not true, but how did Valerie die?

Was it murder? Who did it? And why? Soon Thea is asking all those questions, but so are the police, and they have more clout.

Death by a Dark Horse is the first in Susan Schreyer’s Thea Campbell series. Blackie is a prominent character in each one. (For a horse lover, how can that be bad?) And, since Thea has a habit of finding danger, and her horse seems to realize that—how can that be bad for a mystery lover?

Let me share some other reviews from Goodreads. “The cleverly titled Death By A Dark Horse has all the trappings of an engaging murder mystery: high stakes, an independent heroine, intimidating goons and a clever villain. All of this is set upon a backdrop of horse-riding and dressage, so right off the bat I can easily recommend this story to horse lovers.”

Another one: “This mystery has enough twists, turns, and interesting characters to keep me reaching for my Kindle every free moment.

“I enjoyed learning interesting tidbits about horses and their care while trying to figure out “whodunit” and why. The protagonist’s characteristics make her someone I will follow into the next book of the series: Levels Of Deception.”

I, too, found this mystery a captivating read. Recommended for horse lovers, mystery lovers, heck, let’s just say for all readers and be done with it! And, I just discovered, right now it’s a free ebook at Amazon.

Discovering Character-And Other Things

I should know Jo, my main character by now—I’ve just completed final edits of the second mystery, plus a short story prequel. But she continues to surprise me. I’ve been resisting.

Why? Hey, she and I started out the same age with the same childhood memories, but our personalities and life experiences are different. Over the years that I wrote and rewrote that first mystery, I aged, while Jo kept getting younger. By the time a small press said, “Is your manuscript still available? We want it,” I was nearly eighty and she was somewhere in her late sixties (never specifically stated).

As I started the sequel, I thought, 61. Yeah, sounds about right. But, as I wrote, I decided, maybe late 50s. That’s old enough to have the history I’d supplied. Some of those memories could be from Grandma, or a parent. Or, she’s into old stuff. Then I added a TV reference I remember watching with my kids. My kids are mostly in their 50s. So I wrote away, deciding she was that age. But, I still  had those ‘old’ references. Jo described herself as old in a variety of ways. I do not think of my 50s daughters as old. They do not look old. Perhaps—I just didn’t think.

Until, I saw an article about Valerie Bertinelli with her cookbook.8-13 Bertinelli cover She’s 55. Yoiks! How can that be? I remember her on TV as a teenager. I’m realizing that fifty is definitely the new thirty. Finally, I have an image of my fifty-something Jo—maybe not a beauty, definitely not a Valerie twin, but certainly not a hag. And a whole new image of my market. And the possible cover. And possibly a redo of the first cover. And, definitely, a redo of Jo’s attitude. She’s been much too laid back about the guy who’d like to know her much better. I mean, let’s have a little chemistry there.

And maybe I’ll try Valerie’s recipes. (I do love to cook!)

 

 

Five Stars for Red Notice

8-10 Red Notice CoverA non-fiction that reads like a thriller? Yep, that’s Red Notice. Before the book begins, the term is explained: “An Interpol Red Notice is the closest instrument to an international arrest warrant in use today.” Any country can issue a red notice, which then goes into the electronic system that is used to verify travelers as they go from one country to another. Almost always, unless the person checking passports is not following procedure, that person is shipped straight to the country they probably want to escape. It’s rare that Interpol fails to comply—which was why some Jews trying to escape Hitler’s Germany were returned. There are other such instances as well.

Bill Browder, the author of Red Notice was speaking in Norway when Russia issued the first one on him. Born in the United States, he lived in London with his Russian wife and his children. But, by then he was no longer running Hermitage Capital Management, the largest foreign investor in Russia. By then, some crooked cops and others had stolen his Russian business he’d downsized in favor of diversification. He survived many legal business deals that were unpopular with Putin. He thought, since he was not Russian, that he was safe. However, he was only safe while his activities were in Putin’s best interest.

I could go on, tell you more of this engrossing, true story, but I don’t want to ruin it for any reader. It’s great as a story. It’s even better as a warning. One of the author’s Russian lawyers was tortured to death because he refused to lie and accuse Browder of trumped up charges. Two of Browder’s lawyers were older. They remembered the Russian mindset and barely managed to escape. The younger lawyer knew he’d done nothing wrong. He knew Russia had no legal reason to arrest him. But, of course, to Putin, legal had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Do read this chilling tale. Then watch the news. You won’t get most of it—the media is too involved in various flashy stories. However, recently I read in The Week Magazine something I saw nowhere else. One night a month or so ago, Russia moved all the boundary signs a mile into Georgia territory. The homeowners now in Russia were upset. A pipeline was now in Russia. Nothing was, or could be done.

 

Do You Tweet?

Some days I tweet, some days I don’t. Today, for some reason, I put up several tweets on different subjects. I linked them to my blog, or to an Amazon site. I can’t say if Amazon got any clicks, but my blog got a couple. They were about books—nothing about any of mine, but comments about other books and favorite books. Did a clicker then go to the other books’ Amazon sites, maybe buy a book? I don’t know.

_Fish or Cut Bait coverSpeaking of tweeting, those of us who contributed to the Fish or Cut Bait anthology decided to tweet and retweet other’s promotions. I’ve done so a couple of times. But, there are so many tweets flying by, I haven’t seen any to retweet. (And that’s another thing I’m unable to check for any kind of benefit.)

I like to add pictures to my tweets, a book cover, usually. Does that make a tweet more noticeable? Probably. Or, does the reader just get tired of seeing so many, often the same picture repeatedly? Yeah, I’m sure that happens too.

I’m not all that savvy to use Tweet Deck or any such program. I’ve tried a couple, unsuccessfully. So, I’m not a tweet expert. I tweet in the dark, you might say.

How about you? Shall we just bumble along together?

Five Stars for The Glassblower’s Wife

8-3 Glassblower coverI love an historical mystery. I especially love one that introduces me to history I don’t know in such a thoroughly engrossing way. The Glassblower’s Wife, by Joanna Campbell Slan, is a long short story rather than a full-length novel. But, it packs a wallop! It is an historic tale involving Jewish glass blowers from Italy who took their exceptional craft to France to make the mirrors for the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles. There’s murder, devotion, an excellent plot, and superb writing.

The official blurb states: “When Jewish glassmakers and their families flee the powerful Doge of Venice, the cost of their freedom is three hundred and fifty-seven mirrors–the creation of the magnificent Hall of Mirrors in Versailles. But the Doge sends assassins to pick off the artists, one by one. Can Ruth Telfin, the mute wife of the head glassmaker, save her people?”

I’m not the only reader who commented favorably. One says, “Since this is a short story, I figured it would be a good chance to get a taste of this author’s writing style. I never expected such a powerful story.”

Another said: “I must admit that this type of book isn’t really what I usually pick to read. Having read all of Campbell Slan’s other books, I decided to give it a try. This is a long short story based on historical facts back in the late 1600’s. I really learned a lot from it. She throws in a fictional character that really saves the day at the end. Kudos to Slan for her research and drive to write this book.”

And that’s my focus today—fiction that gives the reader history with a story that not only interests the reader, but opens her eyes to something that really happened, perhaps years, perhaps centuries ago. All too often history is presented as boring, irrelevant, unimportant, or, even as perpetuated untrue myth. One of the websites I researched to follow this story said: “Historians have long repeated that the formula for lead-glass was invented in 1674 by an Englishman, George Ravenscroft. Historians often make a habit of being in error. In this case the error could not be more gross. Ravenscroft was neither an artisan nor an inventor. It is true that Ravenscroft patented the process; it is false that he invented it.”

And, occasionally, textbooks perpetuate myth as well. I remember one such from my own high school years. I certainly know that fiction often plays fast and loose with historic past. No problem, as long as it is understood. Some of my favorite reads are steampunk novels, the ultimate reworked history. But I love the true meaning that often comes through in historical fiction.

A Vacation Visit

7-30 RR 2This week The Grandma Moses of Mystery has grandchildren visiting. (They are much more active than their grandparents, believe me!) One day we spent with the Strasburg Railroad. We rode on the old-fashioned dining car and had a lovely lunch while traveling from Strasburg to Paradise and looking at corn fields and livestock.

 

 

After that, we toured the Railroad Museum, climbed inside a few ancient train cars, read the7-30 museum observationbridge
interesting historical facts, and finally stopped for ice cream cones at the Strasburg Creamery, where they hand dip all your favorite ice creams. A fun (and filling) time was had by all.

Visiting grandchildren make for lovely summer break from writing (and posting informative blogs). What have you done for your summer break?

 

Lois Winston-Guest with A Stitch To Die For

7-27 a_stitch_to_die_forI’m happy to introduce my guest, Lois Winston. Her new book is A Stitch To Die For. (I absolutely love the cover—and the excerpt.) She answered a few of my questions.

I know you write in more than one category. Do you have a preference of one over the others?

I started out writing romantic suspense, but I really found my voice when I switched over to writing humorous first-person novels—initially in chick lit, then in amateur sleuth mysteries. I’m not a funny person by nature. I either forget or mess up the punch line of any joke I’ve ever tried to tell, but I discovered I have a talent for writing funny. Of course, humor is very subjective, so not everyone “gets” my sense of humor, but that’s true of most things in life, isn’t it? Some people “get” you; others don’t.

What inspired you to begin your writing career?

As cliché as it sounds, it was a dream. I usually don’t remember my dreams, but one night I experienced a very vivid one that stayed with me. Every night for over a week the dream continued, unfolding like the chapters of a book. I finally decided I needed to write down the story, mostly to get it out of my system. When I had finished, I realized I wanted to keep writing. By the way, that initial story, after years of revisions, became Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, the second book I sold.

Characters and plots—are any of yours based on real people or real situations? Does reality ever spark a creative leap?

Most of my plots are born from actual events I’ve read about in the newspaper or watched on the news. I’m a total news junkie. A Stitch to Die For, my latest Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, incorporates several news stories that have appeared over the past year—swatting incidents that are occurring across the country and a couple of court cases where children died from salt poisoning.

In addition, some of my characters have been based on people I’ve known. Lucille, Anastasia’s communist mother-in-law, is based on my own communist mother-in-law. The woman put me through years of hell. I’m now getting even. Lucille has become the character readers love to hate.

Now let’s talk about your new book, A Stitch To Die For. I love the cover for your new Anastasia Pollack mystery. Will you reveal a bit of a teaser? Or more?

Thanks! I’m really thrilled with the cover, too!

The adventures of reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack continue in A Stitch to Die For, the 5th book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series.

Ever since her husband died and left her in debt equal to the gross national product of Uzbekistan, magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack has stumbled across one dead body after another—but always in work-related settings. When a killer targets the elderly nasty neighbor who lives across the street from her, murder strikes too close to home. Couple that with a series of unsettling events days before Halloween, and Anastasia begins to wonder if someone is sending her a deadly message.

Excerpt:

Two weeks ago my mother, Flora Sudberry Periwinkle Ramirez Scoffield Goldberg O’Keefe, took her sixth trip down the aisle to become Flora Sudberry Periwinkle Ramirez Scoffield Goldberg O’Keefe Tuttnauer. The groom’s daughter was a no-show. At the time of the ceremony her body was being fished out of the Delaware and Raritan Canal in Lambertville, New Jersey.

Ira Pollack, my stepbrother-in-law and the groom’s son-in-law, had just finished a toast to Mama and Lawrence Tuttnauer when two men in dark suits entered the backyard catering tent and headed straight toward him. Given all my dealings with the police over the last few months, I easily made them for detectives, a suspicion confirmed when I spotted them flashing their badges. Ira nodded and followed them out of the tent.

I followed Ira.

He and the two men made their way to the patio at the back of his house. I stopped at the entrance to the tent. The men stood with their backs to me, Ira facing me. From my vantage point I couldn’t hear their words over the conversations and music going on behind me, but I saw the color drain from Ira’s face. He shook his head violently and yelled, “No!” loud enough for me to hear.

I raced across the lawn as fast as I could in three-inch heels. Once at the patio, I placed my hand on Ira’s arm. In a voice that trembled as much as his body, he said, “Cynthia. They found her floating in the canal.”

I gasped, then led Ira over to one of the patio lounge chairs. He collapsed onto the cushion and buried his head in his hands as he choked out huge sobs.

I turned to the detectives, waiting for more of an explanation, but both ignored Ira’s grief to fixate on the party across the lawn. “What’s going on here?” one of them asked.

“A wedding,” I said.

“Whose?”

“Ira’s father-in-law married my mother.”

Both detectives knit their brows together and glared at Ira. “Your wife doesn’t show for her father’s wedding, and you’re not worried?” asked the older and taller of the two men.

Ira tried speaking between sobs. His mouth opened and closed several times, but no words came out. I answered for him. “Cynthia didn’t approve of her father marrying my mother.”

“And you are?” asked the second detective, whipping out a notepad and pencil.

“Anastasia Pollack. I’m also Ira’s stepsister-in-law.”

Both detectives repeated the twin eyebrow knit, but neither said anything. Also, up to this point I had no idea how Cynthia had died, so I asked, “What happened to Cynthia?”

“The medical examiner will have to determine cause of death,” said the older detective. “We’re waiting on an autopsy.”

“Do you suspect foul play?”

“Why would you suggest that?” he asked.

I shrugged. “I can’t imagine how Cynthia would land in the canal on her own. She isn’t…wasn’t the canal-strolling type.” Dirt and extremely expensive designer duds don’t mix.

“What type was she?” asked the younger detective.

Cynthia the Trophy Wife was more the spend-all-day-spending-Ira’s-money type. I thought for a moment, not wanting to say anything that might be misconstrued. If Cynthia hadn’t died of natural causes, Ira would wind up at the top of the suspect list. “I only met her once,” I said, “but I’d describe her as someone more interested in indoor activities than communing with nature.”

The spouse is always the prime suspect, but Ira was no killer. The man didn’t even have the backbone to discipline his bratty kids. If Cynthia had met with foul play, my money was on the pool boy she’d run off with weeks earlier. “Ira, you have to tell the detectives what happened with Cynthia.”

Buy Links  Paperback     Kindle     Nook     iTunes     Kobo     Google Play

(Other books in the series include Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, Death by Killer Mop Doll, Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, Decoupage Can Be Deadly, and three mini-mysteries: Crewel Intentions, Mosaic Mayhem, and Patchwork Peril.)

7-27 lois-winstonBio: USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Visit Lois/Emma at her website and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog. Follow everyone on Tsu, on Pinterest, and on Twitter @anasleuth. Sign up for her newsletter here.

Dressed for Summer Fun

7-23 PicnicThere’s nothing better than a summer picnic, along with a few summer games. It’s time to look in my “many years ago” file. I found a picture from a Sunday School picnic with children dressed to enjoy a lot of fun.

Umm, really? The year was 1908. The children gathered at the church, then marched to the picnic grounds, accompanied by a band. A decorated wagon carried those too young to walk. The activities included a program with drills, music, and addresses by prominent speakers. Finally, a free supper wrapped up the event. But not before the accompanying photo was taken.

Where were the children’s games, the splashing in water, Where7-23 sack race
were the races? I remember those— three-legged race, wheelbarrow race, all number of ways to give the little ones a fun time. And, don’t forget the gunny sack race. (Gotta be dressed just right for that one.)

7-23-Goat race 2Speaking of being dressed just right, and races as well—how about a goat race? Twenty-five years ago, that was on the summer picnic agenda. And of course, the goat had to be dressed for the occasion. (Don’t know if this was the winner, the loser, or just the most photogenic.)

Do you remember school picnics in your past? Maybe there are some in your present and future. (Or, do they still have them?)

Five Stars for A Hostage To Heritage

7-20 Adair coverI can’t believe I haven’t already profiled this book on my Monday book blog. It’s one of my very favorites—not only mystery, but history as well! My comments from Amazon and Goodreads follow.

Suzanne Adair has presented the reading public with another excellent historic mystery adventure. This book is Michael Stoddard’s story. He’s a British officer in America at the time of our Revolution. The earlier books in this series tell the stories of Americans during that time, and a few of the characters appear in all of the books. They, and this one as well, show the conflicting loyalties of people in our past, including the English Michael. Besides that, there’s the main story of a missing young boy and how Michael and his second in command worked toward finding the boy while also following their commanding officer’s orders. I won’t say more, don’t want to ruin the story for anyone.

Highly recommended to lovers of history, and mystery. This book satisfies on every level! It’s a mystery with great characters, solid history, suspense, and emotion. It’s historical fiction with revealing attitudes and war-time danger. It’s a character study with “real” fictional people who had a past and will have a future. It’s romantic suspense with anticipation. And finally, it’s emotion transferred from words on paper (or, in my case, on Kindle) to the reader.

I’ll send you to Suzanne’s Amazon page where all her books are listed (mysteries of our Revolution in the Southern states) and Suzanne’s website and blog. Her blog hosts guest authors with a wide variety of books, often including giveaways. (Always interesting.) 

That Final Edit

Every day when I sit at my computer, I see a clipping I cut out years ago. It’s a picture of a dog and a cat. In these days of viral videos showing animals of all kinds playing with each other, this one typifies the usual belief of dogs and cats as wary enemies. The dog’s head seen from the rear tips ever so slightly toward the cat. The cat gingerly passes the dog while watching for any wayward movements. It’s an illustration from a book for writers, The Pocket Muse. It illustrates the sentence, “Most good stories are about trouble,” and includes a list of troubles.

When I look at that page, even more than trouble, I think, suspense, suspicion, what if…

Today I’m paying special attention to that illustration, since I’m deep into a final edit of a mystery, I know my reader must have that same sense—that something will surely happen, but not in a good way. Will the reader be slightly disoriented, possibly leery of questionable actions, even fearful of what might happen to a character on the next page? Will the reader turn the next page?

Ah, that is the eternal question.

So, even after my manuscript has undergone peer review with a critique group, a full professional edit, and a perusal by a beta reader, I’m going over it again. I’ve noted articles in the recent Writers’ Digest issue on revision, I’m checking my pages for violations of the 24 problems explained in Chris Roerden’s Don’t Murder Your Mystery. (Okay, that one is my Bible.) And, especially, I want to make sure each chapter, each scene, each page entices the reader to eagerly turn the page.

And, if I’m successful, my reader will have a mystery that provides exactly what the reader wants—a good book—a story that satisfies and possibly educates in some small way.