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.

 

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?