Share This

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Review: Dead Air by Mary Kennedy

Today I am reviewing a new book out for Cozy mystery fans.  This is a brand new series by Obsidian set in warm and sunny Florida with a radio psycholigist as the main character.  See what you think and leave a comment.

Author: Mary Kennedy

Copyright: 2010 (Obsidian/Signet); 300 pgs.
Series: 1st book in the new Talk Radio Mysteries
Sensuality: mild references

Mystery sub-genre: Cozy
Main Character: Maggie Walsh, recently left a psychologist practice in NY for a radio talk show in Florida – “On The Couch With Maggie Walsh”
Setting: Cypress Grove Florida
Obtained book through: publisher

If you are concerned that the main character being a psychologist would make this more of a clinical mystery or psychological thriller, fear not. This is a light beach read, not heavy in the psychology. The author’s favorite bit of psychology seems to be Freud’s “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

Maggie is still settling into her radio talk show position and the station manager lined up a new age personality “Guru Sanjay” for Maggie to interview. No connection there to psychology, but the station manager thought it would help ratings. When the Guru is later found dead with murder a possibility, the police think Maggie’s roommate, Lark, is the prime suspect. Maggie immediately starts poking around and finds there are plenty of people who would have liked to see the Guru dead. From his ex-wife or current business manager, to the woman who claims the Guru destroyed her daughter, or the people who got devastated by the Guru’s real estate scam there is no shortage of people who despised the man. She soon experiences break-ins and threats to her life to get her to stop her sleuthing.

Maggie’s over-the-top aging B-movie actress mother Lola (who steals every scene with her people reading skills, talk radio flair, undercover capabilities – even hypnosis ability for resurrecting memories) joins Maggie in her sleuthing efforts. She is also aided by the local newspaper reporter sharing information with her in order to clear Lark. A minor character worth mentioning is the talk show producer, Vera Mae who is spunky and quirky.
“So the way I look at it, men are like shoes,” Lola was saying twenty minutes later in her smoky, theatrical voice. “They may look adorable, but if they don’t fit in the beginning, they’ll never fit right. Nothing you do will help. You’ll curse the day you saw them. I’m afraid the only thing to do, sweetie, is to toss them out and find yourself a new pair.” She gave a musical little laugh and paused for a beat. “Does that answer your question, Naomi?”

“It sure does, Miss Lola. Men are like shoes. Gee, I’ve never looked at it quite that way before.”

I bet, I said silently. It was annoying to admit, but all my years of psychological training couldn’t match my mother in action – she was a huge success with the audience. Warm, accessible, and witty, she managed to make an immediate connection with each listener. How did she pull it off?

I was in awe – and green with envy. Maybe it was her acting ability, maybe she was genuinely empathic, but Lola was a hit.

If anyone was measuring her Q score that day, it would have been off the charts.

Meanwhile, my loyal followers were deserting me in droves. After the first few minutes, they didn’t bother directing their questions to me; they turned to Lola for help with their problems.
Although a perfectly wonderful man, Ted, who runs the Seabreeze B&B next door to her condo is actively interested in Maggie, she only seems interested in dark bad boy types. So the serious, tight-lipped investigating detective, Rafe Martino, is the one her pulse races for. I couldn’t help but feel for the nice guy left out in the cold. In fact, when she isn’t poking around asking questions, Maggie can’t seem to stop thinking about the brooding detective and whether he likes her.

The plot was on par for a cozy mystery and the tension was maintained throughout. The story moved along quiet well. The “big reveal” of the murderer was handled nicely with some tense, suspenseful moments. It has plenty to offer the cozy fan and is a nice debut novel.

It is stuffed with pop culture references liberally thrown about (Dr. Phil, Conan O’Brien, Idiot’s Guide, Marge Simpson, IKEA furniture, Patricia Arquette and the show Medium, Starship Enterprise, Celine Dion, John Travolta and the movie Backdraft, Kevin Costner, Rosie O’Donnell, The Sopranos, The Wizard of Oz, Forrest Gump, Woody Allen, Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge, Dunkin Donuts coffee, TV Shows Law and Order and CSI, Coach designer bags, Tommy Bahama clothes, Glenn Close and the movie Fatal Attraction, Billy Joel, Reeboks, Oprah, Gilligan’s Island, Mark Wahlberg, “Photoshopped”, Madonna, Turner Classic Movies, Chunky Monkey ice cream, Clairol Blissfully Blonde hair dye, Sally Hansen Lip Plumpers, Nicole Richie, Lindsay Lohan, Victoria’s Secret, Ricky Martin, The O.C., One Tree Hill, Horatio on CSI Miami, Krispy Kreme donuts, Jay Leno plus many, many more.) I found all the pop culture references too much and distracting after awhile, like a short cut rather than a thoughtful description. That may just bother me and not faze others.

For your convenience, you may purchase your copy here.

Until next Monday, I wish you many mysterious moments.
Bookmark and Share

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Nook eBook Reader and ePublishing

I had held out on the ebook craze until the Nook came along from Barnes and Noble.  I still love an actual physical book in my hands, the entire textile experience adds to my reading enjoyment.  But my current job has me traveling fairly often and I found with the luggage weight restrictions my packing ten or so books was no long practical nor as convenient as I thought.  So I had to admit that for travel an eBook reader would be convenient.  So I was open to the idea, but I read the reviews for the then most popular option, Kindle, and found that if you should upgrade those ebooks you downloaded would not transfer to your new and improved model.  So I waited.

Then the Nook was introduced and has a repository for your library on the Barnes and Noble site so it seemed upgrades would easily have your purchased books transfer to a newer model.  Hmmmm, maybe this was what I was looking for. 

I looked at some of the other features, replaceable battery and the use of SD cards for seemingly unlimited books (more than I could possible fathom) made this a good deal.  Plus it reportedly allows pdf files to be loaded - I haven't done that so I can't swear to it.  I have to try it, but I think it might actually be compatible with my library's ebook system.  Everything was a thumbs up, so I put it on my Xmas wish list and I was gifted one. 

I have the few free books on there like Dracula, Little Women and Pride and Prejudice that come standard and Jeffery Deaver's book the Coffin Dancers that I purchased.  It holds a charge pretty well and so far I am satisfied. knew there had to be a "but", what does this foreshadow for the future of the publishing industy or authors?  Electronic books are much cheaper.  A newly released hardcover sells for around $25 but you can pick it up on the Nook for $10.  So are those hardworking authors that pray for hardcover deals not getting paid as much?  Will traditional publishers continue to make a profit in this electronic world and thus promote authors?  Will brick and mortar book stores start to fade away? What about the multitude of independant book sellers and the great used book store?  You can't sell a used ebook?  How do you promote an ebook - by blog tours rather than book store tours?  While I may have succumbed to the ease and convenience of an ebook reader, I don't want to see brick and mortar stores go away nor traditional publishers.  A book store is a social watering hole of sorts and the more we turn to the impersonal electronics I fear our entire society's social makeup could suffer.

So don't forget your local independant book seller or even that "mom and pop" used book store no matter how cool the ebook technology seems.  There is a vital aspect to the physical book and bookstores that we need to appreciate and encourage.

Please join in on this topic - what are your thoughts?

Until next Thursday and another book review, I wish you many mysterious moments.

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Review: Murder and Sullivan by Sara Hoskinson Frommer

I found this book mixing stage musicals and murder and I just couldn't resist.  Unfortunately I came down with a doosy of a cold while reading it.  I only hope that this review makes sense in my cold-blurry-headed-haze...aaaaachew!

Author: Sara Hoskinson Frommer

Copyright: 1998 (Worldwide Library); 252 pgs.

Series: #3 in Joan Spencer mysteries
Sensuality: N/A
Mystery sub-genre: Cozy
Main Character: Widowed Joan Spencer is director of the Senior Citizens Center and plays the viola
Setting: Oliver Indiana

Obtained book through: Library Find

The story opens with a tornado hitting the small town of Oliver and catching Joan as she was walking home through a park. She spots a young girl who had slipped away from her parents and is able to shield the girl in a creek bed while the tornado blasts through. Joan returns the girl to her family, Judge David Putnam and wife Ellen. Joan later finds Judge and Mrs. Putnam are actors in the play, Ruddigore, she is playing the viola in the symphony for. During an actual performance, and seemingly with the audience as witnesses, the Judge is murdered. Joan and her romance-skittish boyfriend, police detective Fred Lundquist are hard pressed to even figure out how the killer managed the murder without being seen let alone who in the cast did it.

Joan is well developed and shows sympathy and understanding for the new widow, as she had been there herself. I know this sounds so standard in books now, but Joan is an independent woman raising a teenage son and managing quiet well after the death of her minister husband. There are a few books that do an independent woman justice without being over the top or making them man crazy, and this is one of those books. You feel, through the first person narrative, that Joan is realistic and simply a decent woman who cares about people. Her work at the Senior Citizen’s Center showcases just how caring she is as she serves the older citizens.
Joan ran to her, scooped her up, and carried her to the creek.

"It's all right! she screamed.  "We're going to be all right!"  The wind tore the words from her mouth - she couldn't tell whether the child could hear her much less believe her, but the little arms had a stranglehold around her neck.

Don't panic.  Don't scare her even more.

"Here we go!  Hang on!"  With the little girl clinging frantically to her, she dropped to the ground and slid backward down the muddy bank into the creek, all the while watching the funnel cloud reach the ground and advance.  A line of beech and shagbark hickories toppled toward the sycamores.  Then it was too dark to see anything, and the siren was wiped out by an even louder sound.

It really is like a freight train, Joan throught in amazement.  Just the way they always said.

At what felt like the last possible moment, she threw herself down over the little body in the creek bed.
The narrative does switch a few times to give us Detective Lundquist’s viewpoint and that is handled well and gives insight into his side of the mystery…and their relationship. Having been burned badly a few times he is taking things real slow with Joan.

There is Joan’s delightful son, Andrew, just in college and shows signs of maturing that pleasantly surprise Joan. Andrew is past the lazy and churlish stage and is helping out around the house and with the elderly neighbor.

I will be honest, I had guessed the culprit but didn’t have the motive down solid – only a vague idea of that. The clues were there but cleverly slipped in and I didn’t get all of them. The ending had a good bit of suspense done well and - without giving anything away - let me just say Joan realistically took care of herself – well done Ms Frommer! Everything was brought to a satisfying end. It is a good cozy mystery with the small town flavor and charming residents. The sprinkling of the Gilbert and Sullivan play and Joan’s playing the Viola added to the story rather than detracted from it. This book has ignited a desire in me to see more of the classic plays.

For your convenience you may purchase your copy here.

Until next Monday, I wish you many mysterious moments.
Bookmark and Share

Monday, January 18, 2010

Author Interview: Julie Hyzy

I am excited to have author Julie Hyzy interview today for you.  She is a fascinating lady who has acted in community theater productions, appeared in television commercials, and crashed a previously all-male fraternity to become one of the first female brothers in Loyola University's Chapter of Delta Sigma Pi. Julie had dreams of becoming a writer, but family, friends, and frat brothers convinced her otherwise. Having held positions as junior officer at a downtown bank, office manager at an architectural firm, and financial advisor at a prestigious wealth management company, she realizes that the business degree was probably a good choice -- but fiction is truly her passion. Now, with some well-earned life experience behind her, she's delighted to finally be able to make writing a priority in her life. (Life details provided from her website.)

I am grateful she is writing full time because I enjoy her books.  You may read the review I did of here second book in her White House Chef series, "Hail to the Chef" here.  I am looking forward to hopefully giving you an advance peak of her new series due out this coming summer 2010.

Do you start your next mystery with the killer, the victim or a plot idea?

I usually start with a plot idea, then decide on the victim, and finally the killer. I've started with the victim a time or two, but I almost always start with the plot. That said, my plots have changed during the writing process and the end story is never exactly as I originally planned.

Do you outline the plot or some variation of that (a little/a lot of detail, a strict 3 act structure etc) before sitting down and writing?

I do outline, but it's not terribly structured. I've tried all sorts of outlining tactics, but the one I'm favoring now involves a main page of ideas, Post-it notes, and a big board. I start with a sheet of paper and put my main character in the center of it, then surround her (almost always a "her") with other characters who will be important to the story. I jot a few notes as to how they all interact. Once that's done, I start imagining how the story starts and how it progresses. That's where the Post-it notes come in. I scribble an idea or two for a scene -- very brief -- and tack it to my board, adjusting as necessary. One idea I have come to love is to have separate Post-it notes labeled with days of the week, for as many days as necessary. I put those up first along the left side of the board (and again, adjust as needed), but this way I can see at a glance if I've included way too much action for a single day. The days-of-the-week has prevented me from double-dipping, too. I did that once. I have a book with two Saturdays. Yikes!

I loved Olivia Paras, what is your process for developing a character? Do you use pictures, a worksheet or just let the character tell you about him/herself as you write?

Thanks so much. I love it when people feel strongly about my characters because I really do. With Olivia, I studied Cristeta Comerford, our *real* first female White House Executive Chef, but I didn't copy her exactly. I just used her as a guide. Usually I don't have a real person to base my characters on, so I free-write and let them talk to me and tell me about how they grew up, what's important to them, and how they came to be important to the story.

How do you find time for writing, what works for you - and do you have anything special you do before writing, particular music or a special room/location that helps you get in the zone and write?

I am so lucky to have a room to write. My family calls it my cave. Every morning, I read the paper, have coffee, check email, and then sit down to write. When there are busy days, or times when I can't carve out my morning that way, I feel it. I love my routine.

When I write, I prefer silence. No music, no background noise. Just the quiet of the house around me. It's lovely.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book?

I tend to write abuot 3 hours per day when I'm not on deadline, and about 8 hours a day when I am. Now, I'm way more leisurely during those 3 hours, which is why I often find myself approaching a deadline and start to get nervous. I've always finished a book with weeks to spare, but I need those weeks for revision, so it's not as though I'm done early. Does that make sense?

The shortest time it ever took me to write an entire novel was about 2 months. But that was for a contest that I decided (last minute) to enter. I didn't win, but the novel seems to have garnered some attention. It isn't published yet, nor is it under contract, but I have hopes.

Mostly, I take about 6 months to write a book, give or take.

How much research goes into your work and do you complete that up front or "just enough" as you go?

For the White House Chef books, and for the upcoming Manor of Murder series, I do a lot of research. I'm constantly on the prowl for information, and I'm always gathering ideas and notes. I have books, DVDs, articles, etc. here that I refer to every day, but I prefer to research certain details as I write. For instance, in one of the WHChef books, Ollie walks through the Palm Room. There are a couple of great paintings in there. I knew where to find that information, so I waited until I was writing that scene to fully explore that room.

I particularly enjoy how you create a sense of place. Setting seems as important as the characters in your mysteries, any tips on conveying a sense of place well?

I think if you "see and smell and feel" a place in your mind as you write, it naturally comes out in the story. What I really enjoy reading and try to write myself - is how a character experiences a place. That is... seeing and feeling it through his/her particular filters. That not only gives you the setting, it helps the reader know the character better too.

Can you recommend a fiction book that provides a great example of the writing craft to dissect and learn from?

So many. Sue Grafton does a great job of providing that "filter" I just mentioned. We see where Kinsey is, but even better, we hear what she's thinking about the setting. I love that. Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER is lush with detail. The first time I read that one I skimmed through the descriptions, only to find out later that I needed to know those details. Wonderful book.

There are so many... it's hard to narrow it down. I think we can learn from every book we read. How to, or how not to...

What are you currently reading?

At the moment, I'm in SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut, THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, and a manuscript from a new writer that is really, really excellent.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I like to act out gestures to "get it right." Sometimes I find it hard to describe exactly the gesture I want, so I act it out repeatedly until I find the words for it. This is why I prefer to write in my cave, and not out in a coffee shop where people might stare ;-)

How did you get your first break towards getting published? Was it sending in a query or meeting an agent at a writing conference etc?

My first professional sale was a short story for an annual Star Trek anthology by Pocket Books. This was a great opportunity for new writers (especially those who were ST fans!) because it was only open to amateurs -- that is, writers who had not had more than 3 professional sales. That meant one could possibly appear in a maximum of three anthologies, which I did. Once I had these sales under my belt, editors and agents were more willing to look at my stuff. As it turns out an editor took my first novel for Five Star, and working with them to get three novels published helped me develop a foothold in the business. I still love writing short stories, though I haven't done so in a while.

Do you participate in a critique group (or have you in the past?) What are the pros and cons of critique groups?

I belonged to a critique group for about 7 or 8 years. I still keep in touch with the group and go to the holiday party, but I've run out of time. It takes about a year to get one's entire novel critiqued in the group, and I'm under contract to write 2 books per year at this point. But I learned a great deal in the time I was participating, and the group is wonderful for providing support and help whenever needed.

I think the pros include having that support and knowing there are others in the same boat. Also, if everybody says, "this scene doesn't work for me," then you can bet that scene doesn't work. The cons include the time participating takes from writing, and also sometimes there are too many opinions. Once in a while, you just have to go with what feels right.

Tell us about your latest book, Eggsecutive Orders out Jan 5 2010. What aspect of the new book did you particularly enjoy? I also noticed a second mystery series - A Manor of Murder, what can you tell us about that?

Eggsecutive Orders is the third White House Chef novel featuring Ollie Paras. This time she faces the worst dinner guest she's ever encountered -- a dead one. When a big shot dies after dining with the president, she's banished from the kitchen until her innocence can be proved. But it's the week before the annual Easter Egg Roll, so tension is very high. In this one we meet Ollie's family and we get to know the kitchen staff a little better. Lots of stuff going on in this one.

Manor of Murder is the series debuting in June, 2010, and the first book is Grace Under Pressure. The books are set in the Eastern United States, at a palatial mansion/museum/tourist attraction, where Grace Wheaton is curator. Well, assistant curator until her boss is found murdered. She steps into his position, not only to help keep the place running, but also to solve his murder. What she doesn't expect is to encounter a personal mystery of her own.

Thanks for asking!


Thank you Julie for such a fantastic interview.  I bet she has a hard time not getting overwhelmed with the research she could do on the White House!  I love her writing quirk too.  I am looking forward to her new series, sounds great with lots of possibilities with the setting.  So dear reader, what do you find interesting in the interview?
Bookmark and Share

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Review: Dial Om For Murder by Diana Killian

Today I am reviewing a recently published book that is only the second in the series.  The Mantra for Murder mystery series has a Yoga studio as a main location, but the story is not overly yoga centered so anyone will enjoy this series.

Author: Diana Killian

Copyright: Nov 2009 (Berkely); 288 pgs.
Series: #2 in Mantra for Murder Mysteries

Sensuality: Tame
Mystery sub-genre: Cozy
Main Character: A.J. Alexander, recently inherited a Yoga Studio, Sacred Balance
Setting: Stillbrook, a small Northwest New Jersey town

Obtained book through: Library Find

A.J. has two celebrity clients at her yoga studio, Sacred Balance, that test her commitment to a peaceful and serene life. They appear to have personal grudges against each other and it carries into the yoga studio. In the midst of a particularly hectic day, diva actress Nicole insists that A.J. retrieve her left-behind cellular phone and hand deliver it to her house. A.J. reluctantly complies and finds Nicole dead in her home. A.J. insists she is not getting involved - she is absolutely under no circumstances investigating Nicole’s murder.

Then her ex-husband shows up on her doorstep limping and a bump on his head that he won’t explain and pleads for sanctuary and her mother cancels her Egyptian vacation and rushes home to aid A.J. in ferreting out the murderer. She gets dragged into investigating in spite of her good intentions. A.J. gets threats and even her very new relationship with the sheriff is at stake this time. But there is no stopping after the local newspaper calls her “the local Miss Marple” because the murderer has read that article too.

There are only a few people who could have had the time or motive to kill the diva actress so A.J. starts asking questions. It seems as though none of them could have done it, but somebody is lying. There is tension throughout the story with A.J.’s ongoing struggles with the co-manager of the Yoga studio and then complications with her policeman boyfriend over the case.
Stillbrook was the kind of village one might expect to find along the California coast. While it wasn’t precisely an artist’s colony, there was a strong arts and crafts element to the town. In addition to the art galleries and book stores, there were little bakeries and speciality shops. Several museums were within twenty minutes driving time, and the Mauch Chunk Opera House was less than an hour away. In the center of town, cute historic buildings circled and old-fashioned village green with a large pond and a bronze statue of a WWI soldier and a mule.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In her final letter, Aunt Diantha had written: Darling Girl, the blessings that I would bestow upon you are a joyful spirit and a heart at peace. A.J. didn’t know if she had actually achieved a joyful spirit and a heart at peace, but she realized she was coming to terms with the past – and that was a lot right there. Far too many people never had that much.

Though she had to admit, it was easier to hold onto this mildly nostalgic sense of peace and harmony with her mother safely out of the country on an Egyptian cruise, and Andy, A.J.’s ex, in New York, where she never had to see him or deal with his troubling desire to remain friends.
Good solid story with a nice plot that keeps you guessing as information is revealed. Characters are well portrayed and come to life with just the right mix of background data and struggles. A.J.’s mother, Elysia, ignores facts she doesn’t like and as a supporting character is half quirky and half aggravating for a dash of spice. A.J. is an enjoyable main character that most readers can identify with. She is level headed and vulnerable while gutsy. Even the ex-husband Andy adds to the story and shows that A.J.’s heart is in the right place. I actually like the “ex” and I feel Ms. Killian deserves kudos for how carefully this character has been developed

The big reveal was brought about smoothly and logically with the reader side-by-side with A.J. figuring it out. Although the murderer may have been suspected the reader will likely add the last piece at the same time as A.J. does.

I had read the first book in the series, Corpse Pose, but I think this book stands alone fine. I recommend the first book as well. This is a good example of the modern cozy for the reader who enjoys a younger heroine in a contemporary setting. Good story telling with just the right mix of murder plot, suspense, good characters and romantic potential. The book includes directions for the Sun Salutation morning Yoga routine and a healthy recipe.

For your convenience, you may purchase your copy here.

Until next Monday and another author interview, I wish you many mysterious moments.
Bookmark and Share

Monday, January 11, 2010

Author Interview: Camille Minichino

Joining us today is Camille Minichino who wrote the Periodic Tables Mysteries and is currently authoring the Minature Mysteries under the name Margaret Grace.  You may read my review of her book The Oxygen Murder on this site.  She received her Ph.D. in physics from Fordham University, New York City. Her new series, The Miniature Mysteries, is based on her lifelong miniatures hobby. She has had a long career in research, teaching, and writing. She is currently on the faculty of Golden Gate University, San Francisco and on the staff of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Camille is on the Board of the California Writers Club and NorCal Sisters in Crime.

- Do you start your next mystery with the killer, the victim or a plot idea?

When I'm starting a new series, I start with the protagonist. I know who she is and who her friends are -- then, where's the potential for murder?

- Do you outline the plot or some variation of that (a little/a lot of detail, a strict 3 act structure etc) before sitting down and writing?

Every time I get stuck in the middle of a book, I promise myself I'll outline the next one. I'm now working on my 14th book ... still no outlining! I do keep track of things through an Excel spreadsheet, so I know, for example, when I'm 1/3 through my word count and therefore need a particular kind of plot point. Other than that and keeping to my contracted word count, I just write.

- I loved Gloria Lamerino in the Periodic Table Mysteries (and Gerry Porter in your current Miniature Mysteries), what is your process for developing a character? Do you use pictures, a worksheet or just let the character tell you about him/herself as you write?

Thanks! The main characters are always clear to me, as if they come to me with a story to tell if I'll just listen. For secondary characters, even walk-ons, I associate them with a particular person in real life (mostly for physical attributes) or a celebrity, just to guarantee continuity.

- How do you find time for writing, what works for you - and do you have anything special you do before writing, particular music or a special room/location that helps you get in the zone and write??

I have several "day jobs" -- teaching and editing. I've learned to use time in small increments when that's all that's available to me. If I have only 10 minutes before I have to leave the house, I'll do something on my novel -- a bit of research, a little tweak here or there. It keeps the work at the front of my mind. If I waited for a long stretch of quiet, I'd never accomplish anything. As for space, I have a well-equipped, cluttered office and a chair that's comfortable for hours. It now has duct tape on the back, but I don't dare get a new chair!

- What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book?

When I'm on a tight deadline, I might spend 12 or more hours a day on the book. In general, a book takes about 10 weeks to write (meeting regularly with a critique group), then I send it off to beta readers.

- How much research goes into your work and do you complete that up front or "just enough" as you go?

I research as I go, especially now that the great research tool, the Internet, is in front of me all the time. For the first books, 12 or so years ago, I have large binders of research material. Now I have bookmarks on my toolbar!

- I particularly enjoy how you create a sense of place. Setting seems as important as the characters in your mysteries, any tips on conveying a sense of place well?

My favorite topic! Setting is more than "where." I try to make every metaphor or simile recall the setting. Revere is on the Atlantic Ocean. I don't just say that once, but I use ocean type words all through the book, describing something as wavy, for example, or mentioning a salt breeze, or using grains of sand to describe a texture. The idea is for the reader to be reminded constantly of where we are, what the ambience is, how all the senses are impacted by the place. For Lincoln Point, California, my fictional "miniature" town, I gave the town character by making its citizens Lincoln-o-philes, with Lincoln quotes on public buildings, a reenactment of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and so on. Again, I use metaphors that recall Lincoln, or California. California smells different from Revere!

- Can you recommend a fiction book that provides a great example of the writing craft to dissect and learn from?

Joseph Kanon's "Stardust," or any Joseph Kanon. He's the master of dialogue, for one thing, and for being able to surround a simple mystery story line with rich characters and setting. Study any page from one of his books and it's a crafts class.

- What are you currently reading?

The Best Mystery American Mystery Stories, 2009, ed. by Jeffrey Deaver. I'm studying them also as I write short stories, especially to bring back the periodic table mysteries.

- What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

That I write cozies, but I read DARK: Dexter, Thomas H. Cook, Martin Cruz Smith. I don't like any of the hallmarks of cozy mysteries: pets, kids, plants, really happy endings ...

- How did you get your first break towards getting published? Was it sending in a query or meeting an agent at a writing conference etc?

I sent a cold query to all the A's and B's in Writers Market. My plan was to continue through the alphabet, but I got a taker at A -- Avalon Books. Once I had 2 books with Avalon, a small press, I was able to get an agent.

- Do you participate in a critique group (or have you in the past?) What are the pros and cons of critique groups?

I couldn't do without one! I'm very lucky to have a wonderful core group of critiquers: Peggy Lucke, Jonnie Jacobs, and Rita Lakin. When I have a complete draft (probably fifth or sixth!) I send to about a dozen other readers, some writers, some not, and I pay attention to every bit of feedback. No cons, except it is hard to find the right group, one that's at once supportive and critical, AND not wanting to rewrite your book.

- Tell us about your upcoming book, Monster in Miniature due out April 2010. What aspect of the new book did you particularly enjoy?

Monster in Miniature was such fun because 1) by the fifth book in a series, I really know my characters and can let them go on adventures with some confidence, and 2) the Halloween theme was a natural for a mystery! Without spoiling anything, I'll tell you that a Halloween decoration comes to life, and then death!

THANK YOU Ms. Minichino for such a wonderful interview.  I find it interesting that you enjoy reading dark material yet write cozies.  What I really find fascinating is how she is a physicist, very fact and left brain oriented and yet she does wonderful fiction that is right brain oriented.  I have to agree about finding a really good critique group and thank you for the Joseph Kanon tip.  I had not read any of his but I have him slated in my TBR books now.  So dear readers, what did you find interesting in the interview?
Bookmark and Share

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Review: Avenging Angels

I have reviewed Mary Stanton's second book in the series (read review here), so I am delighted to give you all a sneak peek into the new book due out in February.  Also don't miss the interview with Miss Stanton here.  She is a tallented author spinning an entire alternate reality and accompanying history as the series develops.  I think she is doing a great job creating entertaining paranormal mysteries.

Author: Mary Stanton

Copyright: Feb 2010 (Berkley); 304 pgs.
Series: #3 in Beaufort and Company mysteries
Sensuality: N/A

Mystery sub-genre: paranormal cozy
Main Character: Brianna Beaufort, lawyer for both regular court and Celestial Court
Setting: Savannah Georgia

Obtained book through: ARC

The book starts with Brianna at an Estate auction where the spirit of the Russell O’Rourke, who supposedly committed suicide after loosing a fortune, contacts her via a desk up for auction and asks for her help. The majority of the furniture up for auction is being deceptively bought back from the bank (due to a bankruptcy) by the widow of the “suicide” victim, Tully, who seems more interested in starting the Shakespeare Theater that her husband disapproved of than grieving. Before Brianna knows what happened, Mrs. Tully O’Rourke – who never believed it was suicide, has hired her to find out who killed her husband. A former New York police detective who staunchly believes that it was murder is also in town and doggedly investigating too.

There are several suspects for Brianna to investigate including the widow and none of them are obvious killers, but then it wouldn’t be any fun if they gave it up too easily. Soon a second murder takes place and it may have been the killer’s mistake and Brianna’s chance. Sideline plots include Brianna finding out the physical results of her celestial duties, some good and some not so good. Brianna also opens a secondary office to handle her living clients and her newly hired assistant, Mrs Emerald Billingsley, for that office promises to be a delightful addition to the series. The author is doling out details of a celestial world with its own history with tidbits dropped here and there that I gobble up and want more.

She took a breath. “Do you all…I mean…Do you actually need…” She stopped, momentarily flummoxed.

“You’re going to cut our paychecks?” Ron said.

“You’re going to stop payin’ rent? Lavinia said. "Oh my. And the social security doesn’t cover all it should.”

“My sister, Rose, depends upon my contribution to the household,” Petru said heavily….

…I didn’t mean I can’t pay you, I just wondered if you needed…” she trailed off.

“If we spent our off hours on some other plain of existence?” Ron said. “We don’t”

“We have lives of our own, you see,” Petru said.
Nice twist ending which I didn’t see coming, wrap up is good and a solid start of a romantic relationship for Brianna round out the story. I really like the character Striker who is an angelic warrior who makes appearances to protect Brianna (or keep Brianna’s temper from wreaking havoc). I would like to have seen more of him since he is a fascinating secondary character.

This tall, battle-ready member of the Company only showed up when something serious threatened – or when Bree herself was a serious threat to somebody. Bree smiled at him. “If something’s after me right now, they can have me. And I’m too tired to whale on anybody.”

“Maybe you should have had some of Lavinia’s tea.”

Bree raised her eyebrows. “Really? I didn’t think magic potions were part of our arsenal.”

He laughed, “No magic potions. Just a lot of caffeine.” He turned and swept the mist with his gaze, and then he looked under the car. Bree bent and looked under it too. He straightened up and slapped the car roof. "Everything looks okay, get in.”

“All this is waking me up at least.” Bree folded herself into the driver’s seat and looked up at him. “Anything I should know about?”

Guess not. But I am puzzled. Everything is quiet.”

“Too quiet?” Bree said cheekily.

“Yeah.” His coin-colored eyes looked steadily back at her. “Way too quiet.”
More is revealed about the supporting cast of angels at her celestial law firm as well as the rest of Brianna’s family as the series continues, which lends to the sense of actually getting to know them. Brianna’s Savannah is being carefully woven with each book and I look forward to being apart of the developing layered tableau with each novel.

For your convenience, you can preorder your copy here.
Until next Monday and our next author interview, I wish you many mysterious moments.
Bookmark and Share

Monday, January 4, 2010

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival for January 2010

Welcome 2010!  Kicking off the new year on Mysteries and My Musings we have a truly awesome Blog Carnival for you.  Lots of entries and information for you in this one.  Please remember to pass along the news of this blog carnival so it can be a resource for the mystery and crime fiction community.

Police Procedural Book Review

Pudgy Penguin Perusals reviewed the novel Death in the Stocks by Geogette Heyer.

It’s a Crime (Or A Mystery) reviewed the British novel Dead Tomorrow by Peter James.

Tutu’s Two Cents reviewed the novel Fire and Ice by J.A. Jance.

Books ‘N Cooks reviewed the novel The Keepsake by Tess Gerritsen.

KerrieS at Mysteries in Paradise reviewed Death Wore White by Jim Kelly KerrieS says it is "One of the best new British police procedurals I've read for a while."

KerrieS at Mysteries in Paradise reviewed The Serpent Pool by Martin Edwards. She says it is "An excellent new British crime fiction title to look for in February 2010."

KerrieS at Mysteries in Paradise reviewed Punter's Luck by Peter Klein. She comments it is a "Debut novel by Australian crime fiction writer: is he Australia's answer to Dick Francis?"

Private Investigator Book Review

Nicole over at Linus's Blanket reviewed what sounds like a fascinating book Locked In by Marcia Muller.

Book Dilettante reviewed the book Blood and Groom by Jill Edmondson.

KerrieS at Mysteries in Paradise reviewed If The Dead Rise Not by Philip Kerr. She says "Crime fiction set in Berlin in 1934. 2009 winner of the Ellis Peters Award for Historical Mystery."

Amateur Sleuth book Review

KerrieS at Mysteries in Paradise reviewed Executive Lunch by Maria E. Schneider. Kerrie says: "This is the first time I have reviewed a book you can only buy as an e-book. crime fiction, with a larger than life heroine Sedona O'Hala, offered the chance to try an executive lifestyle in return for catching some thieves."

Reactions to Reading reviewed U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton.

S. Krishna’s Books reviews the debut book of a new series Murder on the Cliffs by Joanna Challis in which the author Daphne du Maurier is the sleuth.

Writing Advice and Good Books reviewed the novel Deadly Descent by Charlotte Hinger

Book Dilettante reviewed the novel Murder on the Cliff by Stefanie Matteson

Cozy Mystery Book Review

Writers in Residence reviewed the novel Ghost a la Mode by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Okbolover reviewed the book The Tale of Hill Top Farm by Susan Wittig-Albert where the sleuth is children's author Beatrix Potter.

Booking Mama reviewed the book The Body in the Sleigh by Katherine Hall Page.

Book Dilettante did a mini-review of the novel Killer Keepsakes by Jane K. Cleland.

The Mystery Bookshelf reviewed the novel Cockatiel’s At Seven by Donna Andrews.

The Mystery Bookshelf also reviewed the novel The Christmas Cookie Killer by Livia Washburne.

Socrates’ Book Reviews has reviewed The Chocolate Snowman Murders by Joanna Carl.

A Bibliophile’s Bookshelf reviewed the novel The Trouble with Magic by Madelyn Alt.

Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews tackled the Plum Pudding Murder by Joanne Fluke.

Reactions to Reading reviewed the novel Blood in the Cotswald by Rebecca Tope if you are looking for a light English country-side mystery.

Thoughts in Progress reviewed the book Eggs Benedict Arnold by Laura Childs.

The Mystery Bookshelf reviewed the novel Holiday Grind by Cleo Coyle.

Janel’s Jumble reviewed the paranormal cozy Casting Spells by Barbara Breton.

Opinions of a Wolf reviewed the paranormal cozy Truly, Madly by Heather Webber where the main character runs a match-making business.

Socrates’ Book Reviews gives us a review of the novel The Diva Runs Out of Thyme by Krista Davis.

Suspense Fiction Book Review

Reactions to Reading reviewed the novel The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman where a spunky grandmother is an international spy.

S. Krishna’s Books reviewed The Paris Vendetta by Steve Berry.

A Bookworm’s World reviewed True Blue by David Baldacci

Books and Cooks reviewed the intriguing novel The Dirty Secrets Club by Meg Gardiner.

Socrates’ Book Reviews gives us a review on the novel 13 ½ by Nevada Barr.

Steele on Entertainment reviews the novel Prime Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Author Interview

Mysteries and Chitchat have an interesting interview with author Evelyn David (Murder Takes the Cake and Murder Off the Books).

Bestselling and awarding winning author Margaret Maron was interviewed here

Author Mary Staton was interviewed here.

Writing Tips and Advice

Mrs. Laughton at Justice City, USA posted a great listing for crime fiction authors of the Top 50 Cops and Crimefighters on Twitter. This may also be a valuable listing of crime experts for an author to get helpful information from.

Herbert Anderson presents Top 50 Criminal Justice and Criminology Blogs to assist the crime fiction author.

Livia Blackburne gives us Slow Motion Descriptions For Important Moments.

Writers in Residence developed a series of posts (5 thus far) for the author:

Basics Part 1 - Formatting

Part 2 - Openings

Part 3 - Adjectives and Adverbs

Part 4 - Show Don't Tell

Part 5 - Dialog
Nathan Bransford posted All about Writing Contests

~ ~ ~ ~ ~WOW - didn't I tell you we had a phenomenal carnival this month?  ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I hope you got some ideas for new books or authors to read and even some tips and insights for writing.

For more information on the specifics of the Carnival and how to submit your posts go here.
And please help spread the word about this Blog carnival, it is very easy to submit a post to be included.

Until Thursday's next book review I wish you many mysterious moments and a fantastic year ahead.
Bookmark and Share

Related Posts with Thumbnails