A Scottish Connection

US Womens Golf Leaders

US Womens Golf Leaders

Our local news is all about the US Women’s Open golf tournament at the Lancaster Country Club—just a hop, skip, and jump away from my home. I really should honor that by profiling a golfing mystery that I’ve read. Except—I haven’t read any golfing mysteries. So, what’s my next best idea? Hmmm.

Golf, an ancient game, originated in Scotland, right? And—I do have a book in my favorites file called, ta, da…What Happens In Scotland. No golf anywhere. Not even a mystery. An historic romance, almost a bodice ripper. So not what I usually like. But, I read this book with great pleasure.

7-13 What Happens coverHere is my five star review of What Happens In Scotland: “I absolutely had to get this book after I read a page or two. What’s not to pull a reader in? Lady Georgette finding herself, a respectable young widow, in bed with a stranger. Although this is historic romance, there is definitely an air of mystery. Who is the bounder? How did the lady find herself in the situation, where were her clothes, and why was there broken glass all over the floor?

You’ve got to admit, with a beginning like that, where can the story go? I tell you, it improves! Not only is the action rollicking and filled with peril, the unexpected twists and turns keeps a reader up until the wee hours. I finished this in record time, and wished it had been longer.

Okay, my review doesn’t tell you much. I’ll include the official blurb.

Jennifer McQuiston’s debut historical romance, What Happens in Scotland, is a lively, romantic adventure about a wedding that neither the bride or the groom remembers.

Lady Georgette Thorold has always been wary of marriage, so when she wakes up next to an attractive Scotsman with a wedding ring on her finger, it’s easy to understand why she panics and flees. Convinced that Georgette is a thief, her maybe husband, James McKenzie, searches for her. As both try to recall what happened that fateful night, they begin to realize that their attraction and desire for each other is undeniable. But is it enough?
There are hidden caves and midnight horse rides, if I remember correctly, but nary a golf club in sight.

Terror on the Chesapeake-1813

Rear Admiral Cockburn

Rear Admiral Cockburn

The War of 1812 did not start in earnest for those on Chesapeake Bay until 1813. Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn was given the task: ruin coastal trade, destroy supplies of grain and livestock, and terrorize the population in general. In late April he reached Kent County, Maryland. His force consisted of one 74 (a gun ship), three frigates, two brigs, two schooners, and a number of tenders and barges. The British raided Howell Point and bombarded the land throwing shot as far as a mile from shore. At one farm they robbed a smokehouse, henhouse and sheep pen, and killed cattle. The militia arrived in time to prevent the enemy from carrying off the cattle and to fire at the retreating boats.

The British continued up the bay, lsying waste by plundering Frenchtown, and raiding and burning Havre de Grace.

Cockburn next turned to Georgetown, but he was frustrated by the intricacy of the Sassafrass River. He kidnapped a local resident to act as his pilot and sent word that if the residents didn’t resist, Georgetown would be spared and provisions they took paid for. However the militia, 400 strong, opened fire. When the British advanced, the militia abandoned the fight and melted away. The British torched thirteen dwellings and outbuildings, cobbler’s shop, tavern, a granary and storehouse. However, some homes were saved. (Local legend has it that the British spared several homes due to the actions of  Miss Kitty Knight, a local lady of esteem, who stood up to the British when they were about to burn the home of one of her elderly neighbors. The Kitty Knight house still stands.)

Kitty Knight House today

Kitty Knight House today

As Cockburn and his forces returned to the Chesapeake the news of burning and looting had its effects. Resistance had died. The Brits paid for supplies and returned the pilot to his home. However, they came back in August with a different intent.

This is another blog of my “History of The War of 1812 on Chesapeake Bay” series. Since my next mystery will take place during a reenactment of that war, I’ve discovered many interesting facts I like to share, also, a few facts I thought I knew that weren’t exactly true.

 

 

The Monday Book Blog

Hidden Body 4I’m not here—I wrote this last week. (Hey, a gal has to take time off once in a while.) Actually, other than a few days over the 4th of July, oh, and family visiting the end of July, I’ll be at Camp NaNoWriMo. (That’s a fictional camp, quite proper for one who writes fiction.) I hope to finish writing a short story (that may become a novella if I don’t watch out). I call it Hidden Body, and my big plans are to include it in a book of short stories called—ta da— Hidden Body and Other Short Stories. I even made up a cover. This may not be the cover I eventually use. But, would you buy a book that looked like that? Let’s say, would you download a free book that looked like that? (I hope to make it free.)

My second project for the month is to complete editing Forgotten Body.

Camp NaNo

Camp-Participant-2015-Web-Banner big

I’m busy at Camp NaNo. Picture me sitting around the campfire with my tent buddies, snarfing down S’Mores. Okay, not really. That short story is waiting, as well as editing the new mystery. I’ll let you know how I’m doing next week. (Just started yesterday.)

Camp-s-mores-2Those S’Mores are looking good! Maybe just one.

Yum.

Okay, maybe two.

Oh, heck. Can’t leave just one!

Five Stars For Mr. Monk

I loved the TV show—now long gone. It ran from 2002 through 2009. The books with original stories by Lee Goldberg kept on going after the Monk show ran its course. Then Lee Goldberg stopped writing them after quite a few, and Hy Conrad took over. I may have just read the final book of the series, since Mr. Conrad’s fourth book, Mr. Monk and The New Lieutenant, is his last one. He hopes someone else will continue, but when that one was published this year (2015) no one had yet stepped up.

So, here are my reviews of two of my favorite books—Mr. Monk is Cleaned Out by Lee Goldberg, and Mr. Monk and The New Lieutenant by Hy Conrad.

6-29 Mr Monk 1

6-29 Mr Monk 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My five-star review of the first was short: “I was a big fan of the Monk TV series, and I’m a big fan of Lee Goldberg’s Monk mystery series. This book is a neat combination of Monk, his phobias, and up-to-the-minute current events! And you can just guess Monk’s thoughts about that dog with those irregular markings.”

I’ve just finished reading the second book, and it deserves five stars as well. “Mr. Monk does not like Captain Stottlemeyer’s new lieutenant. He’s new, for one thing. (Of course, the feeling is mutual.) However, he and Natalie try their best. They now have their own detective agency with little business. Natalie takes on a divorce case (without Mr. Monk’s knowledge, and definitely against his approval). Then there’s the murder case that wasn’t—until Monk declared at a man’s funeral that he had been murdered. Now they are trying to save the Captain with the same symptoms while tracking down a missing client. Monk convinces Randy Disher to return. With all this going on, it isn’t only Monk’s OCD that confuses everyone. This time Stottlemeyer’s life depends on Monk’s success.”

Both authors worked on the Monk TV show. Lee Goldberg contributed to some shows and worked on different series as well. Hy Conrad was with the Monk show the whole time. Both authors give the reader the authentic “Monk” voice. Goldberg tends to give him more problems with his multiple phobias and personality disorders. Conrad, writing the stories as Monk begins to improve (slightly) still shows them, but they are possibly a bit more muted. (One reader’s opinion here.) Both authors present a humorous as well as nicely convoluted suspenseful story.

I do hope this isn’t the last Monk story.

Dinner In White

Say you want to have a party. Impromptu. Decide on a venue. Give it a name (Blanc Plate sounds nice.) Send out e-mails.

6-24 dinner in white“Blanc Plate is tomorrow at the baseball stadium, folks. RSVP”

Your invitees know what to expect. Bring your own meal. Wear white clothing. After all, they may have been one of the 100 who joined the celebration in 2012, or one of the increasing numbers from 2013 & 2014.

This event actually happened a week or so ago in my home town. It’s based on a similar, secretive banquet on the bridges of Paris called Diner en Blanc. However, invitations to the local even are available to anyone who asks. (Of course, you have to know whom to ask. I found out about it the next day from the newspaper.) When the 1,000 (free) tickets were snatched up, 200 more were added.

Yep, that’s right. Over a thousand people descended on the baseball field with exactly 29 hours of warning. And—they all wore white. Two young women even donned white wigs. The newspaper has many more photos on line. There’s also a one-minute video of the event.

Umm. Let’s see. Next year this time. Maybe a month before the end of June. Yes, they do have the name of the organizer in the paper. What do you think? Should I?

 

 

 

Five Stars For Scout And Ant Farm

Okay, that title is confusing, right? Totally does not make sense.

6-22 Ant Farm coverLet’s start over. My five-star book today is Ant Farm, a mystery that was, only this past week, published by the Kindle Scout program. The Scout program is rather new to Amazon. It’s a win-win for both writers and readers. The writer who enters his or her book submits a complete manuscript and a cover design. The books accepted into the program are then presented to the voting/reading public with the cover illustration and the novel beginning. Both Amazon and the author then await the voting, or, as they call it, the nominations.

Voting, you ask? What is this? Who votes? Or, nominations? How and why?

That’s where the reader comes in. You read the offerings in a variety of categories. Let’s say that you find one beginning that makes you say to yourself, “Oh, I’d love to read that book!” Just click the link to nominate the book. (That’s the voting.) Then sit back and wait for the best part—the e-mail from Amazon telling you if the book has been chosen for publication. If it has? You get an advance copy of the e-book, all for free. Of course, they hope you’ll review it.

The win for the author? Publication with an advance, a contract, and more authority than self-publication. For, after all, Amazon hopes to come out ahead as well.

I’ve nominated four books so far. The first didn’t make it. The second was Ant Farm. I received my copy long enough before the official publication to allow me to read the book. Loved it. This is what I had to say about it:

“This is a Kindle Scout book, and, as one who voted for it, I got a free copy before publication. And, I’m sooo glad. This is a thriller, but, I’d say, also a more traditional mystery, as it is a puzzle as well. The puzzle part is the plot, as nuanced and devious as any reader could hope for. The thriller part is the impending danger involved for the hero, his son, and assorted other characters (not to mention the victims). The characters are a mix of likable and some you really hope see their comeuppance. Of course, first impressions can be deceiving. Another thing—the surprises never stop! (Be warned.)”

I’ve nominated two other books as well. The third was accepted, so I’m waiting for that free book. The fourth is still awaiting the end of the 30-day nominating period. (A reader is allowed a total of three books at a time, so I can go back to look for two more.) This is the link to the Kindle Scout program for both readers and writers. And, in case you want to read this five-star book, here’s the link for Ant Farm.

 

The Writing Road

I meant to write about the road not taken today, to fret about missed opportunities in the past. I wondered, what would have happened had I taken another road? Some years ago I went, with a group of women, to visit our state house. We were greeted by our new state representative, a neighbor. When my friend informed him I’d just had a children’s story accepted by a major magazine, he asked me if I’d like to work for him, corresponding with voters. Although I knew he’d hired another neighbor whose specialty was designing lovely bouquets to help him with public relations, I reminded him it was a children’s magazine, hardly fare for adults. Some years later, after I started writing mysteries, I’d think, what if I had taken him up. Just think, I then could have written mysteries about the ins and outs of political life, and point to my experience. Perhaps that would have interested agents and publishers. And, I might have closed this post with advice for the young—jump at every opportunity.

But, I don’t want to talk about that today. Instead, I like the road I’ve actually taken. Today I realized it was only six years ago when, after a few hundred agent rejections, despite a few nibbles along the way, after writing and rewriting several books, I almost decided to start a blog and give way my oldest, most rewritten manuscript chapter by chapter. But first, in June, 2009, I decided to give small publishers a try. Finally, I succeeded with the third publisher I contacted. And they worked fast. By August they asked to buy it. By October 1, it was edited, copy-edited, cover designed with my input, and published. A few days later, I turned 80. But, with that acceptance, I felt validated.

The book was lovely. My friends bought it and loved it. However, it didn’t make much of a splash. I’m grateful to that small publisher for actually giving me the belief that my writing was of value. But when my two-year contract ran out, I didn’t renew it, but took back my rights. With the new ease of self-publishing, I could do just as well on my own. I had another mystery ready to publish. Since then I’ve also published a YA mystery and a non-fiction narrative of my father’s adventures as a young man. I’ve had short mysteries published as well. And, I have a sequel of that first mystery just about ready to meet its public.

So, perhaps I missed an opportunity years ago. No matter. I don’t live in the past. I can remember the past, think fondly of what has transpired, see my children and their children succeed, enjoy life with my husband. I also look forward to the future and what will transpire.

My path took me down another road. I like this road just fine. How about you and your writing path? Are you happy with the road you’ve taken?

5 Stars for An Error In Judgment

An Error In Judgment-coverThis is the third in the Thea Campbell Mystery series, but one I especially like.

As one review said, “OK, I was already a fan, so I bought An Error in Judgment expecting an entertaining read. I already knew and liked the characters and I knew Schreyer delivered a well crafted, well plotted mystery with lots of twists and turns. No surprise that An Error in Judgment delivers all of that. What blew me away and made this a must read book is that with this third offering in the Thea Campbell series Schreyer deftly moves from traditional mystery to romantic thriller and blows the doors off the genre while keeping her story real with gently comedic and completely realisic moments between her lead characters.”

I summed it up this way. “Mystery writing and showing horses have a lot to do with pacing, and this mystery with Thea combines her business, her horse Blackie, her boyfriend Paul, and murder with unmatched pacing. There are moments of terror, moments of tenderness, moments of doubt, and moments of fulfillment—all combined to keep the reader eagerly turning the pages.”

Is it possible to have a favorite book in a series? Yes, it is. And one reader’s favorite may not be everyone’s favorite, just as no one book or type of book appeals to every reader. I say, “Thank goodness for that!”

Missing Link-A Prairie Connection

6-11 Chestnut GroveA farm, owned by a waste management authority can not be good, right?

Well, the obvious is not always what happens. The 170-acre River Hills farm, owned by the Lancaster County (PA) Solid Waste Management Authority has become a prairie of sorts. After a three-year, $1.2 million makeover, native grasses, wild flowers, shrubs, and trees have been planted. Wet lands and walking trails have been established. The area is now a passive recreation area that connects existing ones in case one wants to hike a continuous six and a half miles.

Our local LNP Newspaper had the story earlier this week. To read the full story and see a video with an overview of the area and a small lake check out their article. See what time and money can do to convert land that first produced corn, then dirt (to cover landfill), and finally became a nature preserve.