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!

America At War-1812

My Thurs­day series on the War of 1812 con­tin­ues.

President Madison

Pres­i­dent Madi­son

They called it Pres­i­dent Madison’s War. It was a war to free the impos­si­ble con­di­tions on the Atlantic Ocean—Britain seiz­ing ships and con­script­ing sailors, while both Britain and France declared our ship­ments ille­gal. The coun­try was deep in depres­sion with the Pres­i­dent for­bid­ding trade across the ocean. Although also ille­gal, com­merce con­tin­ued to the north, across the Great Lakes with Cana­da.

But the lack of com­merce and the result­ing Amer­i­can finan­cial depres­sion wasn’t the only rea­son many in the Unit­ed States favored war. Some want­ed to over­come the advan­tage the British had with the Indi­ans who often joined Eng­lish forces against the Unit­ed States. Oth­ers were look­ing to grab land, to add farmable acres, specif­i­cal­ly Cana­da and Flori­da. Thomas Jef­fer­son is said to have remarked that cap­tur­ing Cana­da was, “a mere mat­ter of march­ing.”  There were areas of Cana­da large­ly pop­u­lat­ed by Amer­i­cans. Mean­while, Eng­land believed that Cana­da was ade­quate­ly pro­tect­ed. The Unit­ed States did bat­tle with Cana­di­an and British forces, with vic­to­ries going each way.

One notable Amer­i­can vic­to­ry was at Put-In-Bay when Amer­i­can Com­modore Oliv­er Haz­ard Per­ry turned pos­si­ble defeat into vic­to­ry and cap­tured an entire British fleet. His report became famous. “We have met the ene­my and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.”

Even­tu­al­ly, how­ev­er, the Amer­i­can attack was defeat­ed. The Amer­i­cans in Cana­da didn’t ral­ly around their for­mer coun­try­men. They only want­ed to be left alone. They prob­a­bly num­bered among those who were unit­ed by the Cana­di­an vic­to­ries into the coun­try that, in 2012 cel­e­brat­ed their two hun­dredth anniver­sary of vic­to­ry against their south­ern neigh­bors.

Dur­ing much of 1812, most British ships were too involved fight­ing France to wor­ry about our east coast. The only for­ti­fi­ca­tions on both sides were along our North­ern board­er with Cana­da. Life went on as usu­al on most of the Atlantic coast. Var­i­ous civil­ian mili­tia formed along the water­front and in towns and vil­lages. How­ev­er, no Unit­ed States mil­i­tary forces were placed on Chesa­peake Bay.

Goodreads Giveaway-YESTERDAY’S BODY

I’m sub­sti­tut­ing a bit of news for my usu­al five-star review today. I’m run­ning a Goodreads give­away with Yesterday’s Body, my first pub­lished mys­tery. The event runs from March 17, through April 9, and I’m giv­ing away ten copies. Goodreads give­away link here.

For a brief descrip­tion: Jo Durbin isn’t under 40 or anorex­ic slim. Her face wouldn’t launch a thou­sand ships or even a row­boat. She won­ders, how did she get the job with those beau­ti­ful peo­ple? And, will the police find her fin­ger­prints on the mur­der weapon? Did one of those beau­ti­ful peo­ple she works with kill Francine? Or, will they point to Jo?

Hard to explain that she’s only try­ing to revi­tal­ize a career gone south. Her plan—write a best-sell­er as a bag lady liv­ing on the street. Invent an imag­i­nary cat to fur­ther her image. Col­lect keys that let her into unused stor­age and vacant homes. Get accept­ed by the street peo­ple. Befriend the guy who wants to “save” them all. It seems pos­si­ble. Ignore the carp­ing sis­ter who “knows bet­ter”? That one’s tricky. Elude the killer long enough to solve the crime? You know that’s the killer ques­tion.
“I very much like your voice. You project just the tone and atti­tude I love to read.” Chris Roer­den, Author of Agatha Award-win­ning DON’T MURDER YOUR MYSTERY.
The first edi­tion e-book was a 2011 EPIC final­ist for mystery/suspense.
The sequel, For­got­ten Body, will be pub­lished lat­er this year.

The Forgotten War

This year, 2015, marks the 200th anniver­sary of the last bat­tle of the War of 1812. Note that I didn’t say this is two hun­dred years since the end of the War of 1812, because that offi­cial­ly came on Decem­ber 24, 1814, when The Treaty of Ghent was signed. But that was in Europe, and with­out twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry com­mu­ni­ca­tion, such as cell phones, radio, or even cable mes­sages, the news had to wait until a ship crossed the Atlantic Ocean.

Why am I inter­est­ed in that bit of his­to­ry? My next book revolves around a reen­act­ment of the War of 1812, so I did a bit of research for inci­den­tal com­ments as my char­ac­ters speak. I want­ed to know what was true, although some of my char­ac­ters may not know the real facts. But why did I choose that time to reen­act instead of the more com­mon Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War or the Civ­il War?

That’s anoth­er sto­ry.

My hus­band and I spent a lot of time sail­ing on Chesa­peake Bay. We stopped at var­i­ous ports and I shopped the local gift shops. They always had a book about the local his­to­ry, which includ­ed the War of 1812 and bat­tles on Chesa­peake Bay. I read up on those bat­tles. The burn­ing of Havre de Grace. How the peo­ple of St. Michaels fooled the British. The defeat of Wash­ing­ton, D.C. and the burn­ing of the White House. The suc­cess­ful bat­tle at Bal­ti­more. So I knew when I wrote the next book my char­ac­ter, Jo Durbin would be involved in a reen­act­ment of the For­got­ten War. Of course, there’s a For­got­ten Body.

And, while the sub­ject is fresh in my mind, I’ll spend the next few Thurs­days telling bits of Amer­i­can his­to­ry that changed the lives of our ances­tors (and, even­tu­al­ly, our lives as well).

Why did we go to war with Britain? What hap­pened back in 1803-07? The Unit­ed King­dom (Eng­land) and Napo­lian­ic France went to war against each oth­er. Nei­ther side want­ed Amer­i­can sup­plies to reach the oth­er. They both declared it ille­gal for Amer­i­can ships to deliv­er goods to the oth­er. Which, they fig­ured, made it per­fect­ly okay to seize ships defy­ing their laws. France seized 206 Unit­ed States flag ships, but Eng­land seized 528 Amer­i­can ships. Not only that, but Eng­land seized around 6,000 men from our ships and put them to work on their ships, often claim­ing they were real­ly AWOL from British ships. They also bar­ri­cad­ed Amer­i­can ports.

In 1811, Pres­i­dent Thomas Jef­fer­son decid­ed the only way to solve that Henry Clayprob­lem was to for­bid the Amer­i­can com­pa­nies from ship­ping any­thing any­where. Con­gress agreed. That put the whole coun­try into a finan­cial depres­sion. Not hard to imag­ine what came next. Ful­ly half the old con­gress was vot­ed out. The old guard was replaced by the young War Hawks. Hen­ry Clay became the new Speak­er of the House, a posi­tion, until then mere­ly as a pre­sid­ing offi­cer. Under Hen­ry Clay the office became one of par­ty lead­er­ship, as it is now. (That would be the Demo­c­ra­t­ic- Repub­li­cans, before the par­ty split. The oth­er par­ty was the Fed­er­al­ists.)

So Amer­i­ca went to war against Great Britain. Amer­i­ca was com­plete­ly unpre­pared for war.