Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tributes: Ann Rule, E.L. Doctorow, Terry Pratchett, Colleen McCullough, Jackie Collins, Ruth Rendell

It's that sad time of the year again--saying goodbye to the authors whom I've read and have left us in 2015. For some of these authors I have read only one of their books: The Thorn Birds by the Australian author Colleen McCullough, Loon Lake by E.L. Doctorow and Mort by Terry Pratchett. 

I'm not sure how many of Ann Rule's books I read but I was always intrigued by her research into real life crimes and how she told those stories. Because I'm a fan of the mystery genre, I found her books fascinating in how they related to fictional mystery.

I read Jackie Collins many years ago and was impressed by her knowledge of celebrity lives. She went to California from England to live with her older sister Joan Collins but, after trying acting, she found her calling in writing scandalous, steamy romance novels, which were great fun to read. 

I read McCullough's The Thorn Birds and then watched the mini-series on television, which became the second most watched mini-series (behind Roots). She went on to write more novels.

Doctorow's tale is from the Great Depression when a young man finds himself alone and cold by a railroad track and sees a train go by with intriguing people inside two of the cars. He follows the track to an estate at Loon Lake. 

Terry Pratchett suffered from early onset Alzheimer's Disease, which eventually took his life. Mort, the novel that I read, was a rip-roaring ride of satire through an imaginary flat discworld. In fact, he wrote an entire series titled Discworld. 

Ruth Rendell was or still is one of my favorite authors. I have read quite a few of her Inspector Wexford mysteries. There was only one of her books, Master of the Moor, that I disliked intensely. That one was a standalone, which did not include Wexford. But at least I can look forward to reading many more of her Wexford novels. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Food in Novels?

Since this is the season to eat and be merry and let the diets begin in January, I thought I might mention a criticism I received lately regarding food in one of my novels: Death by Salsa. Of all the things one could criticize me for, I thought that one was weird for this particular book. Granted my characters in most of my books do seem to eat a lot but I had no idea that there are readers who object to it. After all eating is one of the enjoyable perks of life and fictional people should enjoy it as much as “real” people.

But salsa is a central part of the plot of Death by Salsa and the fact that my two heroes spend most of their time looking for the best peppers, it never occurred to me that a reader might object. But object she did and complained about all the eating my characters did.

When I read her critique, I immediately thought of the culinary mysteries that are so popular these days and that many of those authors publish recipes at the end of their books. I also published recipes after each book in my (Human) Zoo Trilogy: The Pig Farm, The Pool Lizards, The Groundhog Lounge. Therefore I had no idea that eating was such a sin in mystery novels.

And then I remembered two of my favorite authors, Dick Francis and Lawrence Sanders, whose main characters actually found time to eat. In fact, Dick Francis gave me the idea for one of my favorite breakfasts: an egg scrambled with mushroom soup on toast. And in the Deadly Sin series by Lawrence Sanders, his protagonist is forever making delicious sounding decadent sandwiches. I have even copied those down and included them in my own personal recipe collection.

So will I let the person who criticized me for having too much food prevent me from feeding my characters in subsequent novels? Of course not. Besides, she (or he?) gave me the idea for this little essay.

Monday, October 26, 2015

My Favorite Things

When it comes to things I enjoy the most, I’ve been told that I’m old-fashioned. What difference does that make? I’m the one enjoying them, not my critics.

Over the years there have been a lot of TV shows that I have liked but none have come close to the enjoyment I’ve had watching Fawlty Towers—over and over again. And I laugh and laugh each time. John Cleese only made twelve episodes but, in my humble opinion, they are twelve episodes of pure hilarious genius.

My favorite movie is Charade starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. I haven’t watched it in a long time but I can’t imagine any movie coming close to the mystery and excitement of that movie, not to mention the fabulous settings. Other favorite movies are The Seven Year Itch starring Tom Ewell and Marilyn Monroe, Local Hero starring Peter Riegert and Burt Lancaster, Bandits starring Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton.

My favorite piece of music is Donna e Mobile from the opera Rigoletto by Verdi. The song has become such a part of our popular culture that nowadays it’s used to promote pizza! Other favorites are Jamaica Farewell as sung by Harry Belafonte, Hey Jude by The Beatles and listening to the Blue Tango played by almost anyone.

And then there are my favorite books and too many to list but I will mention the ones that have influenced my reading pleasure. I’m not sure how old I was when I first read Huckleberry Finn, probably in the 5th or 6th grade but I know I reread it in Jr. High and high school. A childhood favorite was the original Peter Pan and unlike everyone else, my favorite character in that book was Tiger Lily, simply because she was an Indian. I have no idea how many times I read and reread that book.

Gothic romance beginning with Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier was my reading choice for a while. Then the Regency romances by Georgette Heyer captured my attention.

My Brother Michael introduced me to Mary Stewart and, in a way, changed my life. During my first year of teaching in Las Vegas whenever a new Mary Stewart came out, I would call in sick and read the book. I also discovered Helen MacInnes that year beginning with Decision at Delphi. International intrigue became my favorite reading, especially when a few years later I discovered Robert Ludlum.

And then humor entered into my reading foray: books by P.G. Wodehouse, Carl Hiaasen, Janet Evanovich, Elmore Leonard and Ben Rehder. But there were standalones: Savages by Shirley Conran (hated the ending and not too crazy about the beginning either but loved the pages between); A Cluster of Separate Sparks by Joan Aiken; The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier (I hated the ending of that one also but it influenced my Vv Tiger time travels-still to come). And I loved all of the books by Tony Hillerman.

And there are many more old favorites too numerous to mention here. Besides, I have already blogged about the ladies of the Golden Age of Mystery. I am continuously discovering new favorites but that would be another topic altogether.

And apparently books have always been my favorite things.

Monday, September 28, 2015

“The Characters Take Over”

Many authors say when they start to write a story that the characters take over and dictate what happens. When I first started writing, I thought that sounded ridiculous. I knew what I wanted to write. I even had the last chapter or last paragraph worked out in my mind for many of those stories.

But lo and behold, when I look back on many of my stories, the saying seems to be true. Very seldom do I end up with the story I had in my mind. I don’t know how it happens. I create characters and think I know them but when I get inside their minds, something happens. They become real, living people and don’t act or react the way I thought they would.

One example of this is my short story Nicholas in my booklet The Doorbell Rang. Originally, I had intended for Nicholas to be a rather unlikable guy and my lead female character was going to kill him in the end. That didn’t happen at all. Whether Nicholas turned out to be a likable guy, only readers can decide. But the ending to that story was in my very humble opinion, the best I’ve ever written. In fact, the story I wrote (or rather the characters wrote) bore no resemblance to the story that circulated in my head for years.

In that same booklet, the three other stories also had twists and turns that I had not envisioned when I was planning them. The first story Margarita took root when I was in my twenties after living in Mexico for a couple of years. When I finally wrote it years later, Margarita herself completely fooled me as did characters I hadn’t imagined in the beginning. Over all, the story is one of my favorites out of all I’ve written.

In my first published romance novel, A Caribbean Summer, I daydreamed about that story for years, even before I went to the Caribbean where I lived for four years. Nothing in my life happened that resembled that daydream. But when I started to write it years later, again the characters became real with minds of their own. And I let them dictate to me what was happening.

In The Chameleon Chase I had the beginning worked out but not the rest of the story. Luckily, my characters took over and the book became one of my favorites.

This has happened over and over. But I feel lucky in that my characters seem to be smarter than I am and can create stories better than those in my head.

Monday, August 31, 2015

How do Authors Get Their Titles?

Obviously I can’t speak for anyone else and usually my titles come out of the blue. But sometimes I have a title for a book before I even start writing it. This was the case for my first published book (not the first written), The Pig Farm, also the first book in my (Human) Zoo Trilogy. Not only were no pigs harmed in the writing of this book but no pigs appeared either unless one considers the human kind. But something happened when I lived on a real Caribbean island that gave me the idea and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I also had the titles in mind for the next two books in the trilogy: The Pool Lizards and The Groundhog Lounge. No lizards or groundhogs appeared in those books either but something or someone just happened to inspire those titles.

My first title choice for Amorous Ambush was Airport Ambush but that was a ridiculous choice for a romance novel. And the ambush in the novel was very amorous in my humble opinion.

While I was writing my first group of Twisted Tales (Margarita, Phoebe, City Girl-Country Girl, Nicolas), I hadn’t thought of any particular title for the whole collection. After I read through all four of them, I discovered something repetitious in each of them and, at first, I was dismayed. In each book there was a pivotal scene where the doorbell rang. And then it hit me—that should be the title of the book. Never mind that many authors have used that title but titles can’t be copyrighted. So, for Part One of Twisted Tales (another common title), I titled the little book The Doorbell Rang.

The easiest title was Death by Salsa because it referred to two real life friends who were arguing over who had the hottest salsa. I jokingly said, “I could write a book with the title Death by Salsa.” And I did.

A Caribbean Summer was a fantasy I had before I went to the Caribbean where I lived for four years. Nothing in the book resembled anything that happened to me in real life and I created the fictional island of Palmaltas to replace the island where I had lived.

I can’t remember when I came up with the title The Chameleon Chase. The story began in my mind during the 1980s and 1990s but it was the only title that could fit the story.

And so it goes. I may start with a title already in mind (such as The Pig Farm or Death by Salsa) or eventually discover something that holds the book together (The Doorbell Rang). Sometimes I write a story and still don’t know what the title should be after I have completed it. I wrestled with A Colorado Destiny for a long time before the title jumped out at me.

But titles are important and play a big part in how some readers choose what to read. Many people look at The Pig Farm, The Pool Lizards and The Groundhog Lounge and think they are for children. They aren’t. Yet, those are the only titles that fit the stories.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Boat Owner

This week my son Jaime R. Hernรกndez is my guest blogger. He tells a true story about adventures in boating.

What a day! Where to begin....
My friend Sandra's dad came over with his new chainsaw and cut up all the dead branches from the storm we had last month. I mowed the lawn and restrung his weed eater. Then we worked on the boat and got it going. So our next logical step was to take it out for a test run (keyword here is test). We picked up uncle Bruce and headed for the Wayne B Stevens boat ramp but on our way we decided to get sodas and made the impromptu decision to go to the Curtis Lee Johnson boat ramp off San Juan instead (this will be not so great choice later).
We put the boat in and fired up the engine, no issues, she purred. So we got underway on our "test" run. We were in a no wake zone for a bit and basically trolled to the first bridge. No issues, we were loving the breeze and our drinks. Three old guys on the water living it up. Soon after the first bridge we throttled up a third and worked on trimming out the boat. After the next bridge we turned North and headed towards downtown Jacksonville. At this point we full throttled and did some more trimming. It was a blast! So much fun, I forgot we were TESTING the engine...
Next two bridges were a railroad drawbridge and a busy road near Ortega drawbridge. They lifted the railroad bridge but kept down the one near Ortega because we were small enough that there was no need. We went under, jumped when the cars flew over the metal grate and then opened the throttle wide as we headed towards St Vincents.
It suddenly dawned on me that we were "testing" the engine. A sick feeling came over me so I throttled down and turned the boat about. I said we should head back to the dock. Everyone agreed...
On our way back as we approached the first bridge I had to do circles while the boat ahead of me stopped for the incoming boat. They looked unsure of themselves so I completely understand why the boat ahead of me stopped. After the boat passed, we both continued on our trek back. I kept my distance as to not make a huge wake for the smaller boat ahead.
As we approached the second bridge on our way back I noticed two ladies on paddleboards, one standing and one sitting, trying to traverse the across the river. So I throttled down to kill my wake. I wound up shutting down the engine. And then it happened...
We were dead in the water. I could not restart my engine. The engine temp was increasing. My initial reaction was an overheated engine. So we drifted to let the engine cool. I noticed the current had us, so I broke out the paddle and made my way to an upscale marina. My thought was that we could moor, troubleshoot the engine and get some help if need be.
I soon realized the battery was draining from our troubleshooting and trying to restart the engine. I noticed the sun going down. I researched and found the nearest boat ramps were the original one I set out to and the one we actually used. They were far far away.
So I called SeaTow. WOW are they expensive if you're not a member. $300 and hour and the closest boat was in Julington Creek. There went that idea...
My next thought? Start waving down inbound boaters. You can not imagine how many people would not turn their head in our direction as I waved my hands like a mad man. I could see them looking at my out the corners of their eyes. I was blown away! Over an hour of waving people down.
I see a smaller boat coming down the river, two guys looked like they had been fishing. I start my waving and the younger one turns his head and looks right at me. I holler out "is there ANY chance you could tow us to the San Juan dock?" but he couldn't understand me. He turned to the older fella and then turned back at me. He crawled forward on their boat towards me as to indicate they were going to approach us. As they got in conversation distance I restated my request for help. The older guy said he could take us to the Wayne B Stevens dock. I said THANK YOU LORD, I will take you up on that offer. We threw him the line, made it taut and tied it off to our bow. His boat was small but had just enough horses to pull us all the way. As we got close to the dock about a half hour later I asked them if they had Google Wallet. They both looked at me as if I was speaking Russian. I explained that I wanted to pay them some money for helping us out. I explained how many people had ignored us. They both waved us off and said absolutely not. It was the right thing to do. Yeah I got choked up...
Pete called Sandra  to come get me and drive me back to the Curtis Lee Johnson boat ramp. She asked what happened and after her dad explained she said "bless his heart, he has been trying to get that boat going forever" LOL But to tell you the truth, I actually felt blessed at that moment. The help of these two strangers, Sandra and her daughter dropping everything to come get me. Pete and Uncle Bruce having such an awesome attitude about the whole thing. Bruce said he would do it again in a heart beat. And I would also and you know what? I will. Only this time I will already be a SeaTow member so my tow is free ‪#‎lessonlearned‬

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Life Without Cable TV

Television is my subject this month. Cable TV had been my way of life for many years and I never dreamed I could live without it.
When I moved to Georgia two years ago, I didn't want to pay to watch TV. There were other things I wanted to do, which seemed more valuable such as writing, reading, socializing. My brother who has lived in the state for many years suggested a flatbox antenna. I had no idea what he meant but he set me up with one and, miracle of miracles, it  worked perfectly. 
 But the catch was that the only shows I could get were from the local stations or that was what I thought. But I soon discovered MeTV (Memorable Entertainment Television), which I had seen previously in Texas, and a channel that showed only movies from the past--nothing current. I got the 3 main network programs and thought that was all I needed. Unfortunately PBS was the only local channel that didn't come in clearly and sometimes not at all.
 But then I discovered more channels available showing "oldies but goodies". My first year here I watched the old Hawaii Five-0 during lunch until a year later The Rockford Files replaced it. That was all fine with me. Granted I can't keep up with the latest trends in cable TV and there are some programs I truly miss but I do have other things to do besides watching TV. There were other networks I got for free also such a the CW, ION, Antenna, getTV. All of them showing reruns of both recent or past popular shows and movies.
Recently 4 "new" networks surfaced--all showing golden oldies from the past: Decades and COZI (both a combination of comedies and dramas (some of the dramas are so ridiculous that they are hilarious), LAFF (a combination of past sitcoms and movies--I'm hooked on Spin City right now.) and BUZZR, which shows old game shows such as my favorite nuttiest show of all The Match Game.
But do I watch them all? Good grief no! It's just nice to know that they are there and I can find something entertaining in a free moment especially if I wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep, I can turn on one of the above (especially the game shows of the 1950s and 60s), be entertained for a while until I feel sleepy again.
Works every time.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Who is the Sleuth?

From Merriam-Webster:
Sleuth: Detective; someone who looks for information to solve a crime
Synonyms: dick, gumshoe, investigator, operative, private detective, private eye, private investigator, Sherlock, sleuthhound

Must there be a sleuth in mystery novels? This is something I didn't consider when starting to write mysteries. In fact, I wrote quite a few until I came across a writing group that discussed elderly female sleuths. And suddenly, I realized I didn't have any sleuths at all.

In Who’ll Kill Agnes? Police Chief Donovan is a blithering idiot and his assistant Metson isn’t much better. But Donovan is hell bent in his ways and never follows through on anything. He thinks he knows who the guilty party is and never lets up on it. His wife, however, is the most intelligent character in the novel and has a different take on the title character. 

   In The Groundhog Lounge, Book Three of The Zoo Trilogy, Avery and Pam are sleuths of a sort who try to figure out who the killer is but that’s all they do—just conjecture. In the first two books of the trilogy (The Pig Farm and The Pool Lizards), Avery narrates what he sees going on and misses a lot.

But in my standalone mystery novels, The Chameleon Chase and Death by Salsa, the reader goes along with the story and may (or may not) figure out the plots and whodunits. The private detective in The Chameleon Chase is rather a shady character himself determined to win a big fee. But does he solve the mystery?

 And, should a sleuth always be the main character?

Monday, April 13, 2015

“You should write about…”

These four words can drive a writer crazy or at least, that’s the way I feel about them but I know that the speaker means well and has no idea where/how an author gets ideas. Sometimes the author doesn’t know either.
Stephen King said it best, “…good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”
I have so many ideas already jotted down that I couldn’t possibly live long enough to write them all. And more come to me daily and, truth to be told, nightly—as in the middle of the night. I seldom get up to write them down and I usually forget them by morning. Great literature prizes dissipate with my dreams.
My partial solution to this dilemma is to write as many short stories as I can. Then I must find a theme that links them together in groups and put them in a book. I have started such a theme with my Twisted Tales by one of my alter egos, Lea Chan. I wrote four short stories from ideas I had and discovered that in each of them, I had a scene beginning with the words, “The doorbell rang.” So, I used that as the title of the first of my Twisted Tales. And since I have many more twisted ideas, I will add them but with a different title.
At the moment I am writing romantic short stories from ideas I once had for novels and will put them in one book. All of the stories have connections to the three romance novels I wrote as Tricia Lee, another of my alter egos.
And so it goes. I have plans for many more series such as time travel, the world’s richest person, culinary romances, and on and on. Will I finish them? As I once told my art students, “There’s no such thing as finished.” But alas, I won’t live forever.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Late Bloomer

Recently the show CBS Sunday Morning presented a segment on late bloomers and the things they achieved after the midway point of their lives. Suddenly, I realized I was a late bloomer also!

Although I had always wanted to be a writer, I was discouraged in my early twenties when someone read a rough draft I had written about my college experiences. She said, “This sounds like something a young person would write.” And then she tossed it aside. Now there is nothing wrong about how a young person writes and I shouldn’t have let that comment bother me. But it did. And life itself got in the way. Or at least that’s my excuse. The desire to write was always there but I had to make a living and raise my son.

Then something happened one summer while my son and I were staying in my mother and stepfather’s home on Lake Texoma. Every day I passed a house being built as I drove to college in Denton, Texas where I was studying for certification as an elementary teacher. I was now in my late thirties and had been teaching secondary Spanish and art but I thought having elementary certification would help me get a new job. (It didn’t—I immediately got another position as a Spanish and art teacher in a small town in Texas.)

But when the house was finished, I couldn’t believe how elegant it looked and it must have stayed in my subconscious because I dreamed about it one night a couple of years later.

In that dream I drove up to the porch and rang the doorbell. A very handsome, elegant but sardonic man opened the door. A mysterious woman lurked in the background. And that was all there was to the dream or all that I remembered when I woke up. And then a story about the man and the woman began to form in my mind and I started to write a very rough draft. My son graduated from high school when I was in my mid-forties and I went back to that first draft about the mysterious house and changed the names of the characters to coincide with a second story I had written about Mexico’s Day of the Dead.

I spent all of my fifties as a substitute teacher or part-time teacher writing drafts for six books, including reworking the first one. And finally when I was sixty-three, my first novel was published! Oh, it wasn’t that first one I started about the mysterious house. I didn’t publish it until I was 73 after I had already published 12 books!

So surely that qualifies me as a late bloomer! 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Interview with Ibby Taylor Greer

              My guest this week is writer, editor and artist Ibby Taylor Greer.  I have read three of Ibby's books and have found them to be entertaining, informative and incredibly creative. Welcome, Ibby, and thank you for your insights to reading and writing.

                  1) What kinds of books do you like to read and is there one special book that is your favorite overall? 

I read classic fiction (American, British, European novels, and some poetry, mostly) and contemporary mysteries and thrillers mostly, anymore. As for one favorite, probably a book I always own or have around and read and reread, “Smiley’s People” by John LeCarre. A masterpiece of story, characterization, narrative techniques, and suspense.

2) Who are your favorite authors, past and present?

As for favorite(s), too many to list but here are some I tend to own and reread the most: two of the John Le Carre books, “Smiley’s People” and “Tinker, Tailor,” as being near perfect, well-written spy thrillers. I love the early P.D. James novels, like “Death of an Expert Witness.” I reread DuMaurier for ambiance (“Jamaica Inn”), all the Dick (and now Felix) Francis books because of their independent main characters and how the stories evolve with suspense; I love Rumer Godden’s “An Episode of Sparrows.” I enjoy books set in Britain, and Ireland. Biy I have a few favorite Scandinavian, German, and French novels and memoirs, as well, including Sigfried Lenz’s “The German Lesson,” the Dutch-setting stories for children of Meindert (sp) DeJong; “Eugenie Grandet” by Balzac, all Irish short stories by the whole cast of Irish writers, most of Ann Tyler’s novels. I read everything.

3) Are there any authors who have inspired you to write and, if so, who are they?

            Beatrix Potter, Emily Dickiinson, Mary Stewart, Ann Tyler, Jane Austen, Daphne Du Maurier,          P.D. James, “Carolyn Keene”, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Yeats. Yep, classically educated. 
          I identify especially with Mary Stewart, Daphne du Maurier and P.D. James. I wonder if anyone still reads Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

           4) How do you choose your characters’ names?
Each name has another meaning; once the reader gets into the book(s) they start to see what a name can mean. Example, my character Ann C. Bow, in “Moving Day, A Season of Letters,” is a name that, in French, is ‘an si beau,’ or, “such a beautiful year.” Deliberate. In “Moonshine Corner,” Lacey Brew connects things and stirs up the past and present, “brews” something new; other characters named Glass, See, and Hill all have names that fit their roles in the novel. If “every detail counts” in writing, why not let names count?

5) Are you a plotter or a “pantser”?

                ?  Do not know what that is. I plan a novel out in a loose outline, of events, and then let it      happen.   
              Then I would say you are a little bit of both. Outlining is plotting and a "pantser" is someone who lets the story or characters lead the author.

6) What kind of writing schedule do you have?

When working on my own novel, I write mostly all day. When I edit, I do it from about ten a.m. to 3 p.m. and stop. I am at my best in the mid-morning and early evening. But “life interferes

7) How do you choose your titles? Do you have a title in mind before you start writing or does something occur after you have begun to write or after you have finished?
               Choose the title first.

8) Do you base your characters on real people or are they completely from your imagination?

Both. In “Moving Day,” Ann C. Bow was very loosely based on a delightful neighbor in the apartment building. But she never saw the novel, alas, as she died in 1983 and I wrote it in 1999. In “Moonshine Corner,” I had some character types based on friends, with their permission (partly as a gimmick for selling books!), but all the characters were fictitious.
9) Have you used real life experiences in your fiction or is everything from your imagination?

                  Both, especially relationships. But most of it is pure fiction.

10) When did you realize that you wanted to be a writer ?

                 When I read my first books as a little child, of maybe 5. Beatrix Potter was read to me when I was very young; I still have the books (first editions from early 1900s, and figurines, fairy tales of all kinds, and select Little Golden Books (which I also still have)

           11) What books have you published and where can readers find them?

All my books are available on amazon.com  or directly from me. Check either Ibby Greer, Elizabeth T. Greer, or Ibby Taylor Greer. Address: P.O. Box 4687, Roanoke, VA 24015. etgreer@cox.net. And www.moonshinewidow.com

1. “Moving Day, A Season of Letters,” Brunswick Pub., 1999, an epistolary novel set in Boulder, CO.
2. “Paper Faces, Babyboomer Memoir,” Brunswick Pub. Free verse and photos. 2000.
3. “Moonshine Corner, Keys to Rocky Mount,” time-warp historical novel, ghost novel, and love story. Epilogue of family genealogy and history,  2014.
4. “Thomas Keister Greer: Youth, WWII Marine, Early Legal Career,” written by my late husband and edited and published by me. 2014. Memoir, photos, annotations by me.
5. “Old-Fashioned Stories and Poems, For Children and Everyone.”  2014. Small lyrical poems and art, several stories, including, “The Gingerbread Angel, An After-Christmas Story.”

Questions for fun:

12) What is your favorite color?
13) Favorite flavor of ice cream?
            Peppermint Stick
14) Favorite cookie and/or candy bar?
            Homemade chocolate-chip, Snickers
15) Favorite movie?
            “Dr. Zhivago” and “Brideshead Revisited” (the BBC series with Jeremy Irons) and "Shakespeare in Love"
16) Favorite TV show?
            “Honeymooners” for dialogue and comedy; “Who Do You Think You Are?” because I am a genealogist
17)  Favorite place to write: a coffee shop; favorite place to read: a library

Thank you, Pat!
And thank you, Ibby, for a most intriguing, interesting and entertaining interview!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Exciting New (to Me) Authors I discovered in 2014

In 2014 I discovered several new authors and I decided I wanted to share my experiences with their books. Not all are new authors just coming out. Some have been around for quite a while but I had never encountered their books before. The following is not a list beginning with the best. It's a list beginning in the order I read these books. Some are books that were recommended by Amazon Kindle Daily Specials or offered as specials by sites such as Bargain Booksy or posted on the Facebook site Saturday Self Promotion Extravaganza for Suspense/Thriller Writers. And one was given to me. But I loved each and everyone.
1. Let Us Prey by Jamie Lee Scott. This is the first novel in the Gotcha Detective Agency series featuring P.I. Mimi Capurro. The story begins with a bang: A headless corpse is found sitting at a table belonging to a world famous novelist. I don't want to give anything away but I will say that there are twists and turns plus a hunky policeman.
2. Just Add Salt by Jinx Schwartz. It's true that I did read the first novel in this series the previous year but this is the one that blew me out of the water. It's a Hetta Coffey adventure with Hetta and her friend Jan heading for Cabo San Lucas in her yacht piloted by a handsome captain named Fabio. I won't give more of the plot except to add that a lonesome whale falls in love with the yacht. For me, the novel was exciting, hilarious and riveting.
3. Death Turns a Trick by Julie Smith. This is a rip-roaring, entertaining Rebecca Schwartz mystery. Rebecca, a lawyer, is friends with a lady named Elena who runs a bordello in San Francisco. As Rebecca tries to help Elena, she herself becomes embroiled in shenanigans at the bordello. When she goes home, she finds a dead prostitute in her apartment. This is a fast-paced story that keeps the reader engrossed as Rebecca races to solve the murder.
4. The Mojito Coast by Richard Helm. This is a thriller set in Cuba just before the revolution led by Castro and Che Guevara. I learned more from this book about that revolution and the evil Batista than I ever did from news sources. Cormac Loame, the hero of the story, returns to Havana to bring back a kidnapped girl. In the process he encounters gangsters, jai-alai players, a world famous author and the woman he loves whom he left behind several years ago. Considering that we are finally beginning to restore ties to Cuba, this was a very timely (and exciting) read.
5. Return of the French Blue by Pamela Boles Eglinski. This is a Cat (short for Catalina) and Bonhomme suspense thriller. Cat, once a CIA agent, is on a mission to redeem her family's priceless blue diamond necklace. French Directorate spy, Nicholas Bonhomme sets up a sting operation using the necklace to catch a terrorist. This is a thrilling, heart pounding, nonstop action thriller with a Mediterranean setting--plus a sexy romantic ending!
6. This next novel (a gift from a relative) is so strange and different I felt I had to mention it: The Bishop of Mars by Steven Charleston. It's a futuristic science fiction novel with religious (but humorous) undertones. Sometime in the faraway future, Earth has deteriorated and is ruled by a criminal class know as The Vegas. Mars is being developed as a new social order run by various religions from the old Earth. Bishop Anthony is sent from Earth to be the Bishop of Mars. The Vegas have other plans as they want to take over the planet. This book has great humor and insights to Earth's major religions.