Thursday, October 29, 2009
Nicki Styx was unaware of a heart valve problem until she has a near death experience due to a heart atack. Returning to her job and normal life she finds that the owner of the shop across the street from her vintage clothing store has been murder and her boyfriend arrested for the crime. She sees the dead friend, Caprice, watching the police handle the crime scene. Nicki is quickly being maliciously haunted and blackmailed by Caprice's spirit. In trying to stop the malevant ghost Nicki finds herself hip deep in Jamaican Voodoo.
There are some effectively scary scenes around the voodoo and its lore. For those who don't like bed scenes with your mysteries, this maybe a little too steamy for you - although no graphic detail, the main action is all off page. But there are many sexual references and body parts alluded to. There are also many pop culture references such as music groups (which honestly - some I had never heard of.) Perhaps the author is targeting a closely post teen audience rather than "mature" adults. Sub plots consist of Nicki discovering she may possibly have a twin sister (Nicki was adopted), and a few sideline ghosts asking for her assistance, and her openly gay business partner Evan and his developing new relationship.
Nicki Styx is your classic bad girl who has had a wake-up call with her near death experience (NDE). She is also the kind-hearted-underneath-it-all type inspite of her previous wildness. Her NDE has definitely changed her more than just seeing spirits now. As a main character, she grows on you. Best supporting character goes to her business partner Evan. Evan could very easily have been the stereotypical gay man cliche, but is better defined and just avoids the cliche status. Evan is a dear-heart of a best friend for Nicki.
The strong elements of this book are the romance and the paranormal, the mystery element is not a main story line in truth. At the end you find out who really did kill Caprice, which was easy enough to figure out in the first few chapters because of Caprice's spirit giving it to the reader early on. In any case, if you are looking for a good scary book for halloween - but not too scary with a heaping dose of steam, this is probably for you.
Obtained book through: Library
For your convenience, you may purchase a copy here.
Part of the Book Blog Carnival
See you next Monday for the next Musings post. I wish you many mysterious moments!
Monday, October 26, 2009
Here is how it went:
“All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.
These are the things I learned:
· Share everything.
· Play fair.
· Don't hit people.
· Put things back where you found them.
· Clean up your own mess.
· Don't take things that aren't yours.
· Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
· Wash your hands before you eat.
· Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
· Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
· Take a nap every afternoon.
· When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
· Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
· Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
· And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.”
I believe you and I can come up with the same idea except it is what mystery books teach us about life. I started with a few thoughts to get us started. I know there are plenty of creative readers out there, so show me by helping with this project. If we get enough actual interaction from you the readers, I will put it in a poster form and post it here for all of you to print out.
All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Mystery Novels
Mystery novels give us wisdom for life, insight into our human condition and valuable timeless lessons.
- Pets make us more human
- It is all about your growth as a character...er...person
- There is always another chapter to find the answers
- Interactions with others are what make the story...life interesting
- Truth and justice are never out of style
- Deep down people may not be who you think they are
- Everyone has a back story
- A lot can happen that is invisible to others
- Skeletons always come out of the closet at the worst time
- One person can make a difference
Now add the next line in the comments section. Show me what you can do!
This project relies on reader participation, so give me a line to add. This is a great project for you mystery lovers out there.
Here is the resulting Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned for Mystery Novels. It is 8 X 10 for framing.
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Thursday, October 22, 2009
The story is as much about the dynamics of women's friendships as it is about crime solving and their wiccan faith. In this installment the ladies are particularly challenged when an arsonist sets fires to animal filled buildings - the Fresh Meadow Stables and even an animal shelter. Young native american recurring character Thunder Pony - aka Tip (tracker par excellent) returns as well as Winifred "Freddie" who is a young psychokinetic whiz. The criminal arsonist is one of two men in town, each of which has a champion in the circle that threatens to tear the close friendships apart.
"A hooded figure slipped silently out of the dark pines and dashed toward the burning stable where horses were screaming in terror. Firefighters, who had just roared into the stable's driveway and were jumping off their trucks, shouted at him but he paid no attention. He ran swiftly and surely, never hesitating even when the heat and acrid odor of the fire hit him in the face. As he sprinted forward, he stripped off his jacket and grabbed one of the hlaters hanging outside the bard door. With the aid of the halter and the jacket as a blindfold, he pulled the first horse he encountered, a trumpeting stallion, out of the stable door to safety. Someone grabbed the horse and led it into a fenced paddock, and the man darted back into the stable. Three times he entered the burning building until the roof collapsed on the remaining animals. When the shrieks and the stench of burning flesh had subsided, Fire Chief Mick Finn wanted to thank the hero who'd rescued three of the eighteen horses being boarded at the stable, but the man had disappeared into the woods from which he'd come."Each Divine Circle story has a humanitarian outreach of the circle (Freddie was one such outreach in book two). This time out the circle takes in a battered woman to nurture and protect her from a sadistic ex-boyfriend. Sylvia was sent to Cassandra by Patty Peacedale - a local pastor's wife and friend of the circle.
Cassandra may have discovered a way to spur her visions on demand, which has been an ongoing problem - now she just has to deal with seeing things she would rather not know. Tragedy will touch a member of the circle in this adventure and tears will flow. As spell wielding believers and passionate women they are tempted more than ever when the tragedy strikes to use their powers towards vengence and the reader feels their ethical struggle acutely.
This novel grabs you, surrounds you with these amazing women and historic Plymouth Massachusets so much you feel they somehow are your personal friends. When you reach the end of the story you feel empty - as if a lifelong friend has gone away. You immediately want to know when you will hear from your friends again (i.e. the next book is released.) This is the true magic of this series and this particular book. The author brings each woman alive, the setting is real in your mind's eye and the danger is palpable. The ending is of both main storylines are concluded to satisfaction. Great read.
My only complaint would be several typos that the editing process missed. I find this a small annoyance compared to the sweeping drama of the book. Give this book a try, I think you will become a Divine Circle fan in short order.
Obtained book through: personal purchase
Until next Monday I wish you many mysterious moments.
Part of the Book Blog Carnival
Monday, October 19, 2009
First I would like to announce the winner of last week's give away:
sarrcbum who left a comment about Agatha Christie and her writing style.
sarrcbum please notify me with your physical address so I can mail the "I Read Banned Books" bracelet to you.
It is easy to write up little Musings for myself, but in the blogoshere it isn't just about the blogger - it is about community. You dear readers are my community that is forming. I desire to provide blog posts that entertain, inspire and inform you. But those are all subjective. I know what may entertain, inspire and inform me - but not you. I need you wonderful readers and diligent followers to share with me.
For today's Musings I want my readers to join in and tell me what content you enjoy the most. What do you look forward to reading about? What would you like to see more of on this blog in keeping with the theme? Here is your chance to help shape this blog to meet your desires. So loosen up those fingers and tell me what would make this a world-class-exciting-must-read-blog for you. Please use the form below to give me your input. I am really looking forward to hearing from YOU.
Until Thursday's book review, I wish you many mysterious moments!
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Lily Ivory feels that she can finally fit in somewhere and conceal her "witchiness" in San Francisco. It is in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of the Bay area that she opens her vintage clothing shop named Aunt Cora’s Closet, outfitting customers both spiritually and stylistically. She has not been in town long when the dark and dangerous Aidan Rhodes, leader in the local magical community, greets her with a housewarming present. Her powerful heriditary witchcraft has been noticed. Lily is not happy to have the attention, even though Aidan is as handsome as he seems dangerous.
An elderly client is murdered and children start disappearing from the Bay Area. Lily has a good idea that the legendary spirit La Llorona is behind it. Lily starts snooping around to confirm her suspicion. She also tries to help Max Carmichael, a myth buster attempting to expose ghost-hunter scam artists. He does not understand her at all, yet she keeps saving him from dangerous situations.
Lily Ivory is a very powerful witch, but in this story she may be up against something more powerful than her considerable talent and skill. Even though she is resistant to seeking help, will she reach out to her employee’s women’s circle for help…or even Aidan?
To our right, I noticed a red sedan coming down the steep hill. It seemed to be picking up speed, so I hurried a bit to get across the street and urged Maya to do the same.
The car sped up.
We increased our pace and reached the curb on the other side.
Suddently the vehicle swerved to toward us.
I grasped Maya by the arm to get her attention. We broke into a run and leaped over the sidewalk.
The car was still headed straight towards us.
Racing up the short driveway, we ducked into a small alley between the house and its neighbor. A barred metal security gate kept us from going back farther than a few feet. Maya and I plastered ourselves to the wall, huddling in the farthest corner.I classify this new series as paranormal that is a cozy. It is too light and funny for an urban fantasy but has a strong spirits and witches element. There is plenty of humor and Lily is easy to like as she attempts to make real friends and let people into her otherwise isolated life.
The car careened into the metal garage cans, sending the heavy missiles sailing towards us.
A fraction of a second later we heard the terrible screech of steel on concrete as the car itself crashed into the buildings. The force of the impact shook the ground. Part of the nose of the car jutted through the opening between the two houses, coming to a stop a mere two feet from us.
Everything seemed to freeze for a moment...All I could hear was my own ragged breathing, and that of Maya. We were clutching each other, squeezing our eyes shut.
Finally we looked up. The grille of the car was close to us, far too close, trapping us between the walls of the houses and the metal gate at our backs.
We stood, still shaky, to peer inside the car.
There was no driver. No one in the car at all.
Both Aidan and Max are potential love interests for the series and her employees and fellow shop owners In Haight are colorful characters. I felt the story had a strong ending with good drama as Lily and La Llorona face off. The author took a Spanish traditional legend and gave us a sinister evil. San Francisco comes alive, particularly the neighborhood where the children are disappearing. Good pacing, the story kept my interest and I did not want to stop reading it. This was an excellent first book in an exciting new series and I recommend it, and not just for a halloween read. The second installment, The Cast-Off Coven, is scheduled for June 2010 release and I am looking forward to it.
Obtained book through: Personal Purchase
For your convenience you may purchase a copy here.
Check back in on Monday for another Musings and until then I wish you many mysterious moments.
Monday, October 12, 2009
When I first started taking my writing seriously, I began reading many books on writing out there. This was a number of years ago and life put my writing dreams on hold (a nasty divorce and moved several times etc.) But even wayyyyyy back then, one book on writing romances (which was not my genre but had great advice) said to learn from the books you like by picking them apart. It is a different way of looking at the books you love. In that book the aspiring writer was encouraged to do a book report on ten books within your chosen genre in which you included chapter length, openings, chapter transitions, tension between characters and so forth.
I find that I think of a specific author or book as my favorite for specific aspects of writing. For instance, I look to Patricia Cornwell in Potter’s Field for building tension as one I would like to learn from or Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons for pacing lessons (takes place in 24 hours.)
I am opening this up for comment and would greatly like examples of authors/books you find instructive for different aspects of the writing craft. Please share with us what authors and/or books have been examples to you and in which areas (scene construction, openings, character development, plotting, tension, pacing, setting, dialog etc.)
I will do a random drawing from the comments and give away this “I Read Banned Books” stylish bracelet!! Don’t pass on this opportunity to own such a fashion statement jewelry piece. All you have to do is leave a comment sharing your favorite authors with examples of what areas on the writing craft were exemplified (scene construction, openings, character development, plotting, tension, pacing, setting, dialog etc) in that work or writer Open for US, Canadian and UK persons only. This bracelet displays the covers of Huckleberry Finn, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Color Purple, To Kill a Mockingbird and others.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
We are continuing in our October paranormal mysteries to build up to Halloween with this delightful mystery.
This is the fifth in the Bewitching Series with a charming main character named Maggie O'Neill who you could consider an apprentice witch of the Wicca belief system. Maggie is loyal to her friends and tries to be fair and level headed. She is sensible, friendly and a caring person.
"My name is Maggie – Margaret Mary-Catherine O’Neill, actually, but I’m not a formal kind of girl - and one of my personal truths recently discovered is that I am an empath. A bona fide, natural-born intuitive capable of sensing emotion, both past and present, in the air around me. This means that I have a tendency to pick up strong emotional memories that linger near people, places, and things whether those feelings are in the physical world or the world of spirits. Memories perhaps better ignored, or even forgotten. Too bad I didn’t understand all of this sooner. It would have saved me from internalizing a lot of emotional heartache growing up that wasn’t even my own."I feel this a cozy mystery first with a paranormal angle second. Stony Mill Indiana is the small town setting that in past books has highlighted Amish neighbors and rural farm settings. In this book we have a local church carnival to raise money to expand the church as the setting for a murder. A young girl is found murdered on the church grounds not long after Maggie witnessed the victim in a heated argument with her ex boyfriend. Not long afterwards, Maggie discovers that a spirit from the crime scene has followed her home.
This book has the on going dilemma of Maggie dating a local cop while she is clearly attracted to another man with her same spiritual beliefs. In this installment of the series her relationship with the cop, who seems to try to mold her into what he wants, is clearly at a fork in the road. Will Maggie try to stick it out with Tom or will she give into Marcus' charm and never ending interest in her?
He studied me a long, serious moment, searching my face. His directness had always thrown me for a loop, and this moment was no exception. I lowered my gaze, keeping it focused directly on the ground at his feet, so I knew exactly the moment he took that single questioning step towards me. My breathe caught and I instantly backed away. When he didn’t move again, I was forced to bring my gaze up to look into the all-seeing eyes I had been trying to avoid.Cozy mysteries tend to have the family ties that can drive the main character nutty and this book has that. Maggie's mother is the guilt-throwing equivalent of Ray Ramono's mother Marie. Maggie's sister is a spoiled gossip queen and completely self-centered. They are used to good effect as part of Maggie's life complications.
Marcus shook his head again. The smile he wore was just the teensiest bit regretful. “Still scared, Maggie?”
Am I ever. Only of myself, not of you. I shrugged
There’s no need,” he whispered, making sure no one could hear but me. “We’re friends, yes?”
I could barely find my voice. “Always.”
The writing is light and carries you along to the point you feel you are a part of Maggie’s life. As a reader, you will start to route for which guy she should go with and how to deal with her mother or sister.
The mystery takes awhile to warm up through the church carnival, but quickly picks up from there. The climax to the book is nicely done and on par for a cozy. If there were any elements to the book that I would like to see changed it would be that Maggie’s dad and grandfather became a more positive and important characters to balance the mother and sister. Dad and granddad seem under-utilized.
Madelyn Alt weaves an entire experience that draws you in and you don’t want to leave. Where There’s a Witch is a pleasant cozy with great romantic tension, adequate mystery, a sprinkling of tense climax that leaves you wanting another Maggie adventure. Next book in the series is due to be released on April 6, 2010 titled A Witch In Time.
Obtained book through: Personal Purchase
For your convenience, you may purchase this book here.
Be sure to check back in with us next Monday for a give away!!!
Part of the Book Blog Carnival
Sunday, October 4, 2009
For anybody who has been visiting this blog but has not take the opportunity to become a "member" by signing up, please do join. It is very encouraging to see who is following the posts. Please join in and comment on posts. Help build the community in this little corner of the blogosphere. Jump in, the water is fine and no sharks!
Like most things, attitude is so very important. I set my intention - and hopefully my attitude - of being a student again. I wanted to soak up absolutely everything I possibly could. With that said I find discernment is always needed. Does this apply to my writing? To my Genre? To my style? What insight does it give me that I can apply if not literally then conceptually?
I tried to prepare for this conference. I had my schedule printed out, my clothes set out the night before (did I mention I am a Virgo?) I had business cards printed for each of my works in progress (I am a Schizophrenic author since I am working on a strict non-fiction book and a suspense novel - simultaneously.) Going from left brain non-fiction research and writing to right brain creative writing is challenging! It might explain those tics I have developed!!
At the conference I also wanted to network. I have joined some local writing groups but had not attended any meetings yet. I purposely wanted to meet a few of the people so I would feel more comfortable going to the group meetings. I am happy to report that I met several local authors from the writing organizations I joined and will feel more comfortable attending the meetings now.
Let me give you my report from the fabulous Authorfest 2009 conference. This is a smaller venue than I had attended prior. I like the smaller venue for better participation in questions and discussion.
Nancy Atherton of "Aunt Dimity" fame was a keynote speaker during lunch! I loved her. She shared that she has found success without doing anything the way we are told you must do it. She affirmed that we ultimately all find what works best for us. I really enjoyed getting to chat with her after lunch as well.
"Skips, Lies and Videotapes: How PI's Find the Missing, Nail the Fraudulent and Obtain the Proof" by a current investigator from Denver. Who knew dumpster diving was so fruitful for PIs? Very informative and I won the session raffle and got a free online class with these real life Private Investigators. I will certainly be learning a lot from these people. And to think I almost went to a different session!
One session was on character driven stories versus author driven which brought out the importance of being true to your character. The opposite of character driven is sticking your character in a contrived place or situation that is contrary to your character just to force a plot point. Readers can identify this and will call the writer out on it.
There were two schools of thought represented at the conferece. Marketers at the conference who gave social media sessions stressed blogging, tweeting, facebook, Digg, Stumbleupon etc. daily to get your name out there. But other sessions (usually be published authors) warned of the huge time suck that could be used for writing a really good book. One author was told by a fiction publisher that they wanted to see 1000 blog followers to consider signing up an unproven author. Some interesting facts were mentioned such as Technorati currently states it is tracking over 112.8 million blogs and of those do any author or writing sites even get in the top 100? After all the political, celebrity gossip, blogging tips and technology blogs for Sunday Oct 4 there was not a single author or literary blog in the top 100. The point was made that 112.8 million that just Technorati tracks means there is a massive amount of blogs all trying to grab the attention of the web surfer that the author is competing with that takes a lot of time and energy – which might be better spent in writing a really great book.
I would love for authors to comment on this. How much is too much for social networking to publicize yourself and your book on the web? What is the payoff considering the level of time and energy put into it? Please comment your thoughts and see where the discussion goes.
Until Thursday when I post the next paranormal book review I wish you many mysterious moments.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
The main character Diana, is not just a strong woman who can handle herself; she is a knowledgeable and powerful witch. An old friend of Diana’s on the Dallas police, Mark Valdez, brings Diana to Dallas to assist the police. Detective Valdez suspects a series of cattle mutilations and torture murders are not caused by something or someone of mere mortal status. Diana senses that powerful magic is behind this and teams with the Dallas PD to stop the murders – that are accelerating in violence.
Police procedurals can get gritty and more explicit with details of murders and this is no exception. This presents Diana the witch in a very realistic manner and demonstrates how she and the metaphysical community were repulsed by such violence. Considering the date this was written, pre-Buffy-the-Vampire-slayer or Charmed, it seems critical to have shown the reader she is compassionate and fights to prevent suffering.
The main character’s strong points as I see them are 1) she is confident but knows her limitations well 2) she was realistic with research and interviewing locals 3) she has depth – she is taking care of a friend suffering from AIDS back home and finds a healer whom she sends back to care take him and 4) she was not superwoman. All these points were highlighted due to the police procedural approach.
The plot was handled deftly. The reader has the advantage of knowing more than Diana and Mark as they investigate - such as this all started in Mexico city and involves Aztec mysticism. The investigation takes them across Dallas and the reader finds out more tidbits that add to the tension. The writing is not flowing prose or high literature, it is efficient and streamlined which some like and some don't.
The viewpoint occasionally would shift to a victim leading up to their murder, but no worries, the actual torture and murder and described only after the fact. Descriptions are not deliberately graphic for horror sake, but just enough to drive home the fact that they are chilling slayings.
The dialog, I felt was believable. Diana’s first meeting with the Dallas Chief of Police:
“Any relation of Mark Twain?” she asked as he released her hand.And now Diana at Mark’s door early morning:
“Somethin’ distant on m’mother’s side; she slapped it on me t’annoy some uppity aunty of hers back East,” the Chief replied with perverse pride. “Well, missy – you bein’ the imported expert, what y’all think?”
“Pardon me, sir,” came a high-pitched, squeaky voice, only partially muffled by having to pass through an inch of wood, “but I’m working my way through Gramarye School, and I wondered if I could interest you in a complete set of translations of the Necronomicon? Bound in genuine simulated humahide with fourteen-karat goldlike tooling? A priceless heirloom designed to be passed down to future generations, should you live so long?”
Less than ten hours ago the owner of that voice had been kneeling at the side of a very mangled corpse, doing a valiant job of not throwing up. Now she was making jokes…Pacing of the story was good as the investigation takes a couple of months, the story would have been rushed otherwise I felt. Tension is built progressively like Hitchcock was known for doing, and in many ways reminds me of the famous director’s signature suspense. The last third of the book I hated to put it down for any reason.
“Not interested.” He opened the door.
Di was leaning up against the doorframe, an impish grin transforming her face to pure gamin. “Well how about some Gargoyle Scout Cookies, then?”
“Only if they have caffeine. Get in here, before my neighbors start to talk.”
She skipped inside and he closed the door behind her. “You mean they don’t talk now?”
“Of course they do – but if wholesome types like you start showing up making me get up early, they just might think I’ve gone respectable.”
“Good God, we can’t have that.”
Di wrenched the door open and closed it quickly behind her, double locking it and throwing the security bolt. She was panting like a greyhound at the end of a race, and with good reason – she’d run the last six blocks to the boardinghouse.
From the moment she’d stepped off the bus she’d known she was in danger. At first she had simply acted normally – except for putting up full and battle-hardened shields. But nothing attacked –What fight scenes or action sequences involve magical battles and are believably handled. Not over done and super witch special effects, but savvy.
Only the feeling of peril had grown, nearer and stronger with every minute, until she had found herself running as fast as she could for the relative safety of the boardinghouse and her tools. She’d hit the door and unlocked it so fast she hardly believed it, and had squirted inside as if she’d been oiled.
She heard a movement behind her and started to spin – then her empathic senses identified Aunt Nita, and she relaxed just a trifle; completing her turn, but without the urgency of self-defense.
Her eyes had already adjusted to the limited light in the hall. It did not surprise her to see Aunt Nita had armed herself with a cleaver.
She cleared her throat. “So you feel it too – “ she said; more of a statement than a question.
There is a scene regarding a past life regression that was quite nicely done in my opinion. That entire sequence could easily have been botched but was in fact one of the richest scenes in the novel for emotion and impact.
The ending was not the standard, and even there contained a touch of reality. The ending is perhaps the only area that, if I had my wish, would have been more the total justice-served ending. I am in no way saying that the ending wasn’t well done. It was a good solid ending.
It was a book that I hated to be done with because I wanted to continue and follow Diana back to Connecticut. The premise of having her assist with a police investigation demonstrated beautifully her awareness of forensic science and respect for the police and their boundaries. It also showed us her true self, for when she is in a strange and unfamiliar city she quickly figures out the bus system and the major players in town.
Overall a great second novel, a refreshing main character and a storyline that still has me mulling over all the scenes. Thank you Mercedes Lackey, is there anyway possible to get you to pick up this series again and write more???
Obtained book through: Library
Part of the Book Blog Carnival