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.

Put-In-Bay Memories

Put-In-Bay, where’s that? It’s in Ohio, on the shore of Lake Erie. And, on September 2, 2013, I hope it will be in the news.

At Put-In-Bay

At Put-In-Bay

The news won’t be that my husband and I spent a couple of days there in 2006. That history is much too recent. True, we docked our boat at Miller Marina. We visited the museum and Perry Memorial where we watched a reenactment of an 1813 battle.(Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me.) We went to DeRivera Park, ate ice cream, bought post cards and mailed them, and rented a golf cart to tour the area. We even celebrated Christmas in July!

But the history for this post goes back a lot farther, back to 1813 with the Battle of Lake Erie. I’ve collected a few links to tell you the story. The first is a link to The Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial celebration. It is being held at Put-In-Bay now, with events through September. The reenactment of the historic battle will take place on September 2, 2013, during the afternoon. It will feature tall ships on Lake Erie, and a lot of enthusiastic reenactors. See the bicentennial site here

There are many YouTube presentations celebrating The Battle of Lake Erie. I’ve selected three to recommend. For a two and a half minute video with song and reenactment photos–including tall ships, see this link For a five-minute musical presentation with historic images, see this link And finally, for the full history told and illustrated with a variety of images, this seventeen-minute presentation will relate the complete history of that battle as well as events before and after. See it at this link

This is the his story of our country two hundred years ago–when it was young. On Lake Erie, they remember this history. Most other parts of the country have no local history to commemorate. The War of 1812 is almost The Forgotten War. It is remembered around Chesapeake Bay, for 1813 is the year the White House was burned and our National Anthem was written. I want to remember it too, with the mystery book I’m completing. It is set at a reenactment of The War of 1812 on Chesapeake Bay. In 1813, during that war, the British under Admiral Cockburn raided, burned, and sometimes even paid for the produce and animals they took to feed their troops. But when the war ended, our country and Great Britain became friends and have remained so to this day. In fact, as the long YouTube link referenced above says, the border between the United States and Canada remains the longest, peaceful boundary between nations anywhere in the world.

A Teenager in 1946?

What would today’s teenager find different in 1946? How would she react if she suddenly found herself in that alien land? That’s the question I had to answer when I wrote Cherish, a mystery for young adults. (It’s now under consideration by a publisher so don’t look for it yet.)

One of the first things a teen might notice is—no seat belts in cars. None, not one. No car seats, no safety air bags, and nobody was in the least concerned about it. They were too excited about any new car, since there had been none during World War II, from the end of 1941 to mid-1945. And some of those new 1946 cars might look suspiciously like those pre-war models. Names of cars one might see were Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge, Lincoln, Mercury, Cadillac, Buick, and Chrysler, but the styles would be different. Then there were other autos no longer being built today. Among them are: DeSoto, Plymouth, Pontiac, and Hudson.

Of course, a teenager would notice the clothing styles right away. No one wore jeans to school. Girls wore skirts or dresses, except possibly on a specially designated casual Friday. Then she could wear nicely tailored wool slacks. Shoes were often saddle shoes or penny loafers. Sweaters were a given. In a large city school, the teen would want a different cashmere sweater for every day of the week. In a small country school, one cotton or plain wool sweater to wear with a skirt, and trade off with a blouse and skirt ensemble or a dress was adequate. Peasant blouses and dresses were quite the rage. And every girl wore bobby sox. For dress-up she wore the newly available nylons and pumps with Cuban heels with her dress. She did wear jeans after school and on weekends. Her jeans had slim legs that she rolled up to just under the knee. There were sometimes regional differences in clothing fads. One was bell-bottom jeans. They mimicked the sailor’s bell-bottom trousers. That craze traveled around the country, often popular in one area and completely out in another.

These are a couple of differences a teen would notice. There would certainly be others. What do you think a teen from 1946 would first notice about the year 2013?