A Five Star Read-Under Any Title

Original Cover

Orig­i­nal Cov­er

The book is the first of the Perse­phone Cole Vin­tage Mys­tery Series tak­ing place in the ear­ly 1940s. The author is Heather Haven. I read this mys­tery a cou­ple of years ago. Was it called Perse­phone Cole and the Hal­loween Curse (the orig­i­nal title) or The Dag­ger Before Me? I don’t remem­ber. Was the cov­er the orig­i­nal one (pic­tured left) or the new one? Think it was the orig­i­nal, but, I read the book on my Kin­dle, so I’m not sure.

As I remem­ber the sto­ry, I like the first cov­er the best. Perse­phone (Per­cy for short) is big and beautiful—extra large size. She’s a sin­gle moth­er, liv­ing with the extend­ed fam­i­ly (space was a prob­lem) and help­ing her father in his detec­tive busi­ness. She’s deter­mined to suc­ceed at her first solo case. It’s in the the­ater, which is an added complication—since she doesn’t know that much about the­ater. But, she’s a good fak­er (she hopes). And so does the reader—pulling for Per­cy with every page.

There are so many great reviews of this title, I’d like to quote from a cou­ple of them:

Second Cover

Sec­ond Cov­er

Per­cy is cer­tain­ly not the stereo­typ­i­cal moth­er of the 1940s. She’s a tough woman with an atti­tude big enough to match her 5’11” frame. She pos­sess­es a sharp mind and an even sharp­er tongue. I love the way she han­dles peo­ple, men in par­tic­u­lar, who doubt her abil­i­ties as a detec­tive. Though she can be brash at times, Per­cy also knows how to turn on the charm when she needs to. I can just as eas­i­ly pic­ture her but­ter­ing up a poten­tial wit­ness with free food or rough­ing up a hos­tile one.

Here’s what anoth­er review­er had to say:

I found Per­cy engag­ing. I liked her mox­ie. Not exact­ly fem­i­nine, peo­ple “often remarked that between her wild hair, thin body, and daffy per­son­al­i­ty, she remind­ed them of a Dan­de­lion caught in a wind­storm.” (I like that word-pic­ture.) Per­cy does things like: “she popped a nut into her mouth and sep­a­rat­ed the meat from the shell with her teeth.” Haven offers delight­ful and “pun­ny” prose: “What col­or the inte­ri­or was sup­posed to be was dif­fi­cult to say. I’m going with drab.” Or how about this one—when Per­cy looks up at a man, we read: “It was nov­el, look­ing up to some­one not stand­ing on a steplad­der.”

And here’s my review:  Perse­phone Cole (Per­cy for short) is a female detec­tive in ear­ly 1940s New York dur­ing World War II. There’s great his­toric atmos­phere (sweaty because it’s a non-air-con­di­tioned heat spell) deal­ing with strange acci­dents in the the­ater dis­trict. She detects under­cov­er as a man­ag­er who doesn’t real­ly know that much about man­ag­ing, but she’s right up there with detect­ing, includ­ing gun-han­dling. The nice­ly con­vo­lut­ed plot kept me guess­ing, and the end­ing was whol­ly sat­is­fy­ing. Def­i­nite­ly rec­om­mend­ed for read­ers of his­toric mys­tery (with sassy women).

I’m won­der­ing, why the title and cov­er change? I under­stand an author wish­ing to present the best face to her read­ers. And, since I do love this series, I hope it was a good choice. But I have to ask, which cov­er and which title do you like?

 

Does My Book Need a Vocabulary List?

5-14 Paper and penOkay, that’s a ques­tion I sel­dom ask myself. I write mys­tery (most­ly) tak­ing place in the cur­rent time, and in the coun­try where my books are sold. I don’t have any char­ac­ters speak­ing a for­eign lan­guage.

Oth­er books, often ones I read, are set in past cen­turies or oth­er coun­tries. They might have a list of names, or words that are unfa­mil­iar. That’s handy. There are oth­er instances that neces­si­tate word lists—often involv­ing unusu­al occu­pa­tions, or even hob­bies. But cozy, or almost cozy mys­ter­ies? Most read­ers know enough of the words used to describe recipes, needle­work, antiques, pets, and the var­i­ous occu­pa­tions of our favorite ama­teur sleuths.

Now, back to my ques­tion. One of my mys­ter­ies involves boat­ing. The fol­low­ing is a para­graph that may have non-boaters think­ing I must have missed a few gram­mar lessons in ele­men­tary school.

The coiled anchor rode smelled musty, even though it was 5-14 anchorcom­plete­ly dry. Lit­tle col­ored plas­tic tags lay, woven into the fiber to mea­sure off the feet as the line payed out. Would I have to remove all that line to see if there was any­thing under­neath? Not tonight. Too much trou­ble. I flashed around the inte­ri­or one last time. There was a small piece of paper stuck low, under a few coils of the rope. I pulled it out.”

Did I mis­spell some­thing? I checked a boat­ing site from the Great Lakes. This is a sen­tence describ­ing how to anchor a boat. “When all the rode has been payed out, gen­tly back down on the anchor to set it in the bot­tom.”

RODE — anchor chain or line (rope) that attach­es the anchor to the boat

TO PAY OUT, or PAYED OUT — to allow the rode to uncoil and leave the anchor lock­er so the anchor is low­ered

Or, is that just too much? Per­son­al­ly, I think so. I don’t mind read­ing a book with a few things I have to infer from con­text. What do you think?

Book Party for THE CLIENT’S WIFE

cover-The Clients Wife2Yes, I went to a book par­ty last week, and I tell you—Thomas Wig­gin knows how to par­ty. Big room with chairs set up—check. A show­ing of a full movie—check. Cook­ies and popcorn—check. Adult beverages—yeah! Cof­fee and tea, sure—but choice of wine as well as mar­ti­nis, both gin and vodka—check! And, icing on the cake—the read­ing of a scene by the author who made it come alive. (After all, he had a long stint as a star­ring actor of both day­time and night­time TV—not to men­tion writ­ing episodes of the day­time dra­ma, then per­form­ing a one-man show he wrote.)

Of course, that’s beside the point. The impor­tant part of a book par­ty author signing 2is the book. And, get­ting a new slant on the where, why, and how of the author’s inspi­ra­tion and car­ry-through of that book.

Thomas Wig­gin was inspired by his par­ents, the Gersh­win music they loved, and the Nick and Nora Charles movies of the 1930s. So how did those things all come togeth­er?

Mr. Wig­gin had an answer for that. In those old movies, Nick and Nora had a son, Nick, Jr. What we didn’t know is that Nick, Jr. was not into the detec­tive scene, but his daugh­ter Emma was. Yes, Emma Charles spent time with her grand­par­ents. She learned to love Gersh­win, inves­ti­ga­tions, and mar­ti­nis. As the book, The Client’s Wife begins, Emma has left her job with the police depart­ment and has begun her own detec­tive agency. All she needs is to find a man who appre­ci­ates the fin­er things of life. Gersh­win, good Eng­lish, and the kind of rela­tion­ship her grand­par­ents had. (All this, of course, while solv­ing crime cas­es.)

I’ve only start­ed read­ing my new, signed copy of The Client’s Wife. It’s head­ing toward my five-star cat­e­go­ry.

 

Battle of St. Leonard Creek — 1814

St Leonards Creek MD mapWhen I think of war in the days of sail­ing ships, I envi­sion bat­tles on the ocean. For the War of 1812, I must include the large estu­ary of Chesa­peake Bay and even deep rivers. But a bat­tle on a creek? Espe­cial­ly a creek that fam­i­ly sail­boats and cruis­ers might anchor in for an overnight ren­dezvous? (More espe­cial­ly, one where my hus­band and I met with oth­er boaters for a friend­ly week­end.) But in June of 1814, it did hap­pen.

The British con­trolled Chesa­peake Bay, allow­ing lit­tle trade with St Leonards battleoth­er coun­tries. In an attempt to open the bay, for­mer pri­va­teer, Com­modore Joshua Bar­ney took his fleet of eigh­teen small gun boats, barges, and sloops down the bay. He was able to harass the British ships, then escape into small­er trib­u­taries. Barney’s Chesa­peake Flotil­la clashed with the British from June sixth to the twen­ty-sixth, end­ing that day where the Patux­ent Riv­er meets the mouth of St. Leonard Creek. (Jef­fer­son Pat­ter­son Park and Muse­um, the unnamed green sec­tion in the cen­ter of the map above. is locat­ed at the site and com­mem­o­rates the bat­tle.)

Dur­ing the ensu­ing bat­tle Bar­ney, with 360 sailors and 120 marines held off an over­whelm­ing force that bet­tered him ten to one. One source says that Pres­i­dent Madi­son, him­self, took con­trol of the land forces when Bar­ney was severe­ly injured. After four hours, beat­en, they retreat­ed. Had they won, they might have pre­vent­ed the burn­ing of Wash­ing­ton.

Note: Jef­fer­son Pat­ter­son Park and Muse­um coop­er­at­ed with a mid­dle school in a UTube video of a pre­sen­ta­tion of Com­modore Barney’s tale of the bat­tle.

Agatha Winners

Hank Phillippi Ryan

Hank Phillip­pi Ryan

For writ­ers of cozy, or almost cozy mys­ter­ies (think Agatha Christie), Mal­ice Domes­tic is the con­fer­ence to inter­act with their read­ers. Of course, the Agatha award—a teapot—is cov­et­ed. I was there in spir­it only. Nat­u­ral­ly, I await­ed the final word from Sat­ur­day night’s award ban­quet. And, I want­ed to see how my picks fared.

Since I men­tioned all short sto­ry authors, I can claim a vic­to­ry for that! (Art Tay­lor won.) I scored again with my write-up of Writes of Pas­sage. It won for best non-fic­tion. I’m won­der­ing, since I was one of those who con­tributed an essay, can I claim one six­ti­eth of an Agatha? (Good ques­tion.) The edi­tor who did claim the teapot, Hank Phillip­pi Ryan, also won for best con­tem­po­rary nov­el. Anoth­er of my favorite authors, Rhys Bowen, won for best his­tor­i­cal nov­el.

This is the offi­cial line-up of Agatha win­ners:

Best children’s / YA: Code Buster’s Club, Cast #4 by Pen­ny Warn­er
Best short sto­ry: The Odds Are Against Us, by Art Tay­lor
Best non­fic­tion: Writes of Pas­sage, edit­ed by Hank Phillip­pi Ryan with Elaine Will Spar­ber
Best first nov­el: Well Read, Then Dead by Ter­rie Far­ley Moran
Best his­tor­i­cal nov­el: Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen
Best con­tem­po­rary nov­el: Truth Be Told by Hank Phillip­pi Ryan
In addi­tion, Cyn­thia Kuhn won the Mal­ice Domes­tic Grant for Unpub­lished Writ­ers.

War of 1812 in St. Michaels

cover-St Michaels bookSt. Michaels, Md. calls itself “The Town That Fooled The British.” Dur­ing the War of 1812, there were as many as six ship­builders in and near St. Michaels. One ship they pro­duced was a fast schooner (lat­er known as the Bal­ti­more clip­per). These ves­sels were well suit­ed for out­run­ning pirates or for­eign naval ves­sels at sea. A mil­i­tary bat­tery was sta­tioned at St. Michaels to pro­tect the town and the ship­yards. On August 10, 1813, the British attacked. How­ev­er, the res­i­dents had turned off any lights in their homes and hung lanterns high in the trees. As a result, most of the can­non balls sailed over and beyond the vil­lage. One house  was hit by a can­non­ball. It went through the roof, and bounced down the stairs next to a child sit­ting there. (She told all about it in lat­er years.) There are oth­er sto­ries of that time in the book—about the women sewing an Amer­i­can flag, about the bat­tle against the mil­i­tary bat­tery, about get­ting infor­ma­tion from a British desert­er, and about a farmer on a near­by island who tried to fool St. Michaels.

Sev­er­al years ago, when my hus­band and I were sail­ing on Chesapeak Bay Maritime museum2Chesa­peake Bay, we often stopped at St. Michaels and tied up in a slip next to the Chesa­peake Bay Mar­itime Muse­um (shown here). Of course, I shopped for sou­venirs. I pur­chased the book­let shown above. The sto­ry is engross­ing. I vowed to write about the War of 1812 some­day. That day arrived in 2013, and my mys­tery is now fin­ished. It is in the process of cov­er design and man­u­script for­mat­ting, to be pub­lished this sum­mer. So, I haven’t hit exact­ly 200 years from 1813, when the St. Michaels inci­dent occurred, but the war offi­cial­ly end­ed in 2015. Short­ly, For­got­ten Body, the sec­ond in the Jo Durbin Mys­ter­ies, will be pub­lished. It isn’t exact­ly about the war, but it does involve a reen­act­ment of the For­got­ten War of 1812.

 

New Anthology-Fish or Cut Bait

cover-Fish or cut baitFISH OR CUT BAIT was pub­lished this April by Wild­side Press. It’s a col­lec­tion of 22 short sto­ries, each one with a crime and a major deci­sion that affects the out­come. (That’s the fish or cut bait line.) All 22 authors are mem­bers of the Gup­py chap­ter of Sis­ters in Crime. I under­stand this book (the third Gup­py anthol­o­gy) will be avail­able at Mal­ice Domes­tic in May.

I haven’t read this one yet, but I’m sure it will rate five stars. Okay, maybe I’m biased, since my short sto­ry, Herbs To You, is includ­ed. Should I add a teas­er here? Umm—why not?

After twen­ty years of mar­riage, the retired shrimper tells his wife a sto­ry that illus­trates his love—a love that will last ’til he dies.

Fish Or Cut Bait is avail­able at Wild­side Books, Ama­zon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Mil­lion.

One Hundred Fifty Years Ago

Lincoln funeral-trainOne hun­dred fifty years ago the coun­try was in mourn­ing. The pres­i­dent, Abra­ham Lin­coln, had been assas­si­nat­ed. His body was tak­en by train from Wash­ing­ton, D.C. to his home state. There were stops along the way at var­i­ous large cities to accom­mo­date the mourn­ers. The train mere­ly passed through small­er cities.

One such city was Lan­cast­er, Penn­syl­va­nia. On April 22, 1865, at 2:19 p.m. the train arrived in Lan­cast­er. In a tes­ta­ment to the uni­ver­sal grief, with only a total city pop­u­la­tion of 17,000 peo­ple, 20,000 peo­ple crowd­ed beside the tracks for a final farewell. On April 21, 2015, my local newspaper’s front page was cov­ered with the sto­ry, A NATION MOURNS. A sec­ond arti­cle told the sto­ry of the 15-year old boy who was at the the­ater with his father the night Lin­coln was killed.

Route of Lincoln Funeral Train

Route of Lin­coln Funer­al Train

Besides that eye-wit­ness report, I learned what local dig­ni­taries were watch­ing, the descrip­tion of the train, and that Lincoln’s son, Cap­tain Robert Lin­coln, was in one of the cars. The cas­ket of Willie, the son who died in 1862, had been dis­in­terred and was in the final car with Lincoln’s cas­ket. He would be buried beside his father.

There were no tweets, no instant mes­sag­ing, no ring­ing cell phones, but the nation heard the news.

Five Stars For THE RAINALDI QUARTET

Rainaldi Quartet coverWish I could give this book six stars! That would be five stars for the sto­ry and the sixth star for the phys­i­cal book. Sure, I love to read e-books as well, but I do love to hold a well-designed, superbly craft­ed trade paper­back, turn the soft pages that lie flat, feel the tex­ture of a love­ly cov­er, and read the unique sans serif type font to fol­low an entranc­ing sto­ry.

On to the sto­ry. The Rainal­di Quar­tet refers to the four men who meet week­ly to play in their home­town of Cre­mona, Italy. Two are luthers (those who make vio­lins) as well as vio­lin play­ers. Rainal­di is one, the oth­er is the nar­ra­tor of the sto­ry, Gian­ni. A priest plays the vio­la and the younger, chief of police plays the cel­lo. But it is Rainal­di, in good spir­its, who choos­es what they will play when the sto­ry opens. And it is Rainal­di who is mur­dered late that night.

The plot fol­lows Gian­ni and the chief of police as they try to deter­mine why their friend was killed, what secret he knew, what papers he had been work­ing on, what amaz­ing event he looked for­ward to. Their search takes them to the Eng­lish coun­try­side, to Venice, and to the ruins of a house burned a cen­tu­ry ago look­ing for doc­u­ments, then look­ing for a rare vio­lin that may or may not exist.

Besides pour­ing over the mys­tery of the book, the read­er will absorb bits of his­to­ry, bits of the mak­ing and restor­ing of rare vio­lins, and espe­cial­ly, the day to day life of an Ital­ian gen­tle­man of a cer­tain age (as they say). Gianni’s mus­ing on his grand­chil­dren vis­it­ing, the chang­ing light on the canals of Venice, and his emo­tions over sud­den death are, sur­pris­ing­ly, every bit as engross­ing as the search for the per­haps myth­i­cal vio­lin and the rea­son behind mur­der.

Although this is placed in cur­rent times, his­to­ry under­lies the plot. And, as an Amer­i­can read­er, I mar­vel at fam­i­lies who “remem­ber” ances­tors of a hun­dred or more years ago, and live in the same home, look­ing at the same por­traits on the wall, and may not be all that impressed by the fame of the vio­lin­ist in their fam­i­ly tree.

 

Indi Authors And Libraries

Most inde­pen­dent­ly pub­lished authors have heard of J. A. Kon­rath. They fol­low his blog and his progress with his inde­pen­dent­ly pub­lished books.  He took his tra­di­tion­al­ly pub­lished books back from the pub­lish­er and suc­cess­ful­ly pub­lished them him­self. Oth­ers joined him. He’s the first true guru to many indi authors.

Now he’s going a step fur­ther. He has start­ed a pro­gram that’s still in beta form, one to sup­ply e-book man­u­scripts to libraries. It is called EAF-Ebooks Are For­ev­er. Instead of a library buy­ing a man­u­script for a lim­it­ed num­ber of bor­rows, it will buy a copy that is good for­ev­er. (The same way libraries buy phys­i­cal books.) And, just as with phys­i­cal books, the e-book can only be loaned to one per­son at a time. For a pop­u­lar book, a library would buy mul­ti­ple copies, just as they do with phys­i­cal books. Sounds like a good idea to me.

A full-size book would be pur­chased for $7.99, no mat­ter its price on line, even if it is offered for free. It would prob­a­bly already be avail­able for sale every­where, not locked into one venue, such as KDP.

Kon­rath envi­sions even­tu­al­ly offer­ing every inter­est­ed inde­pen­dent author’s books to libraries. I’d like to join. I tried, but the site doesn’t seem to be accept­ing oth­er con­trib­u­tors yet. But I’ll watch for any updates. Mean­while, to learn more, click high­light­ed words to see Konrath’s blog expla­na­tion. Find EBooks Are For­ev­er here.