This week, it’s my pleasure to welcome back author, Carl Brookins.
Before he became a mystery writer and reviewer, Carl Brookins was a counselor and faculty member at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Brookins and his wife are avid recreational sailors. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.
He writes the sailing adventure series featuring Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney. The third novel is Old Silver. His new private investigator series features Sean NMI Sean, a short P.I. The first is titled The Case of the Greedy Lawyers. Brookins received a liberal arts degree from the University of Minnesota and studied for a MA in Communications at Michigan State University
WHAT’S YOUR AGENDA?
Periodically I read comments on social media regarding suggested or advisable limits on what practicing authors should or should not reveal about their attitudes and feelings regarding politics and religion. Rarely do I see any comments referring to certain other topics as verboten; topics like murder, thievery, assault and other assorted crimes. Not long ago I encountered a relative not seen in a very long time. He came to dinner asking if there were certain forbidden topics we should not raise at the dinner table. I handed him a piece of paper saying, “here’s the list of forbidden topics.” The paper was blank.
Naturally, I prefer rational, informed discussions with only occasional shouting and a general absence of insulting adjectives or personal invective. But friends and relatives should be able to discuss current events and other subjects of deep or casual interest with thought and passion and not have to feel too constrained by social rules which are essentially artificial. One should also be free to write about almost any topic. And, of course, one is free to not read such materials.
So, what about books, novels, short stories and the like? When I began my career as an author of crime fiction, I was informed that we didn’t explore certain controversial topics, religion and politics being among the most prominent. Why not, I wondered?
Because, I was informed, authors who wear a beige cloak of neutrality won’t offend possible readers and thus will be more successful. While I understand that, it seems to me that an author might gain like-minded readers. On the one hand, I do not care for crime fiction which pushes a particular bias. On the other hand, a character may reveal a certain attitude which informs her or his actions in the story. In my case, readers looking for books pushing my biases will be disappointed. I almost never give characters any opportunity to voice political or religious points of view. In the rare instance where that occurs, a character’s personal bias may be in opposition to my own. Readers may infer biases to my characters should they choose to do that. They do so at their own peril. I really don’t even think about what my character’s biases are. Readers have suggested my characters’ biases to me some of which have been surprising.
My detective, Sean Sean, is generally a good guy. If he crosses the line, it is in the pursuit of good, never of evil. But has he broken the law? Indeed. Numerous times, from speeding, leaving the scene of an accident to discharging a firearm inside city limits, shooting the occasional bad guy, making threats, and engaging in burglary, assault and battery. But he has no religious bias other than to be generally skeptical.
Which devolves to the point. I don’t write my fiction to make political or social points or to try to persuade readers to my position. That isn’t my goal. My goal is to entertain, allow a reader to waste a few pleasant moments, perhaps forget pending problems. If you find an agenda or perceive a bias in my novels and stories, that’s on you and that’s OK, as far as I’m concerned.
When ordinary folks gather for a high school class reunion, they don’t expect to become murder targets. In early spring, Jack Marston and his companion Lori Jacobs are still finding their way into their relationship, while Jack is learning more of the idiosyncrasies of his position at City College. A letter arrives with a fateful invitation. Classmates in the town of Riverview are organizing a major reunion of Lori’s high school graduating class. Lori persuades Jack to accompany her on this summer journey into her past. The first evening is well under way when one of Lori’s classmates, is discovered brutally murdered in a field behind the very restaurant where the opening night festivities are going on. In the ensuing investigation, Marston and Lori discover that the small community is not as placid as it appears. They become targets of a vicious group of insiders who will apparently stop at nothing to remain concealed. And meanwhile, who is killing the graduates?
My ✰✰✰✰ Review
The past is always with us and sometimes it comes back, or so Jack Marston finds out when he and his girlfriend, Lori Jacobs, attend her class reunion in the small town of Riverview—a town with secrets galore. He’s anxious to learn more about her past, but he never realizes that delving into it would be deadly. Although Jack is retired from his former job as an investigator for the U.S. Navy, he gets pulled into the inquiries about several murders when Lori insists on finding the answers to why her former classmates are being killed.
The numerous classmates and spouses introduced to Jack once he and Lori were at the reunion were little difficult to remember and keep track of, especially if I had to leave the book and come back to it at another time. However, I must admit that as the story progressed, it got a bit easier when the murder suspects were narrowed down. The interesting thing about this novel is that there are two separate murder mysteries.
Solid personalities, believable dialog, and an interesting story kept me turning the pages.
Come and enjoy a time of conversation with author Carl Brookins as he talks about translating his sailing adventures to fiction and creating fictional characters that feel like old friends. Brookins is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.
We’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.
Today it’s my pleasure to host author, Sue Owens Wright.
Sue Owens Wright is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction. She is an eleven-time finalist for the Maxwell, awarded annually by the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) to the best writer on the subject of dogs. She has twice won the Maxwell Award and earned special recognition from the Humane Society of the United States for her writing. She writes the acclaimed Beanie and Cruiser Mystery Series, including Howling Bloody Murder, Sirius About Murder, Embarking On Murder and Braced For Murder, which is recommended on the American Kennel Club’s list of Best Dog Books.
Her nonfiction books include What’s Your Dog’s IQ?, 150 Activities for Bored Dogs, and People’s Guide to Pets. She has been published in numerous magazines, including Dog Fancy, Mystery Scene, AKC GAZETTE, Fido Friendly, The Bark, and Animal Fair. Her work also appears in several anthologies, including PEN Oakland’s “Fightin’ Words,” along with Norman Mailer and other literary notables. Her newest novel is:
The Secret of Bramble Hill
In April 1946, Tessa Field returns to Bramble Hill in the quaint Cornish seaside town of Covington Haven, England, after learning of her aunt Emily Maxwell’s drowning in a boating accident. The moment Tessa sets foot on the grounds of Bramble Hill, long-dormant psychic powers are stirred in her. Through a series of eerie manifestations and unexplained mishaps, she senses an entity in the house is trying to make contact and reveal dark secrets. Tessa narrowly escapes being trampled by a horse ridden by the handsome aristocrat and writer Peter Tremayne, a childhood friend. Upon their unexpected reunion, Tessa is immediately attracted to him, and he to her. Yet, despite their budding romance, she soon becomes distrustful of his true motives. Convinced that her aunt did not die in an accident but was murdered, Tessa investigates and soon becomes entangled in a web of deception, betrayal, and treachery that threatens her very life.
This story takes place in the 1940s, after the war. Tess is a young expatriate who goes back to England for her aunt’s memorial service and discovers that her aunt’s accidental death has suspicious overtones. In the style of a Gothic romance, there’s the childhood friend who has now grown into a handsome and charming man, ghosts, a pirate’s treasure hidden somewhere in her aunt’s mansion—a house with a long and rumored past. And an untrustworthy new uncle. It’s full of mysticism with a touch of the occult. Because Tess has the gift of “sight” she often finds herself in strange places as if in a dream. This story is told from the third person omniscient point of view, so the reader knows what everyone’s thoughts and intentions are, making it all the more fascinating. I really enjoyed reading this book and had a hard time putting it down. Sit back in a cozy chair with a cup of tea or a glass of wine, and get ready to be taken on a mysterious trip to the past.
Website URL: www.sueowenswright.com
Blog URL: http://dogearedbooks.blogspot.com/
Facebook URL: https://www.facebook.com/sue.o.wright
The Secret of Bramble Hill buy link:
I’m sure Sue would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged AKC Gazette, American Kennel Club, Cornish, cozy mystery, Dog Writer's Association of America, England, ghosts, Manifestations, Pen Oakland's Fightin' Words, Pets, pirate's treasure
This week it’s my pleasure to host author, Judy Alter.
An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter is the author of several fictional biographies of women of the American West. In The Gilded Cage she has turned her attention to the late nineteenth century in her home town, Chicago, to tell the story of the lives of Potter and Cissy Palmer, a high society couple with differing views on philanthropy and workers’ right. She is also the author of six books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series. With the 2014 publication of The Perfect Coed, she introduced the Oak Grove Mysteries.
Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and the WWA Hall of Fame.
Murder at Peacock Mansion
Arson, a bad beating, and a recluse who claims someone is trying to kill her all collide in this third Blue Plate Café Mystery with Kate Chambers. Torn between trying to save David Clinkscales, her old boss and new lover, and curiosity about Edith Aldridge’s story of an attempt on her life, Kate has to remind herself she has a café to run. She nurses a morose David, whose spirit has been hurt as badly as his body, and tries to placate Mrs. Aldridge, who was once accused of murdering her husband but acquitted. One by one, Mrs. Aldridge’s stepchildren enter the picture. Is it coincidence that David is Edith Aldridge’s lawyer? Or that she seems to rely heavily on the private investigator David hires? First the peacocks die…and then the people. Everyone is in danger, and no one knows who to suspect.
I love to read cozy mysteries, and I really enjoyed reading this one. Ms. Alter pulls you into the story with her easy writing style. Her characters are believable. The plot is well thought out. Kate, the protagonist, is likable, even though she often comes across as somewhat of a doormat, because she’s always doing favors for demanding and ungrateful people, including her sister, Donna. But there appears to be some guilt there from the way the author weaves backstory into Kate’s thoughts about Donna. Obviously, unfortunate things had happened to her in a previous novel in this series.
The Blue Plate Cafe is your typical small town eating place and the author’s description of the cafe, the town and Peacock Mansion, puts the reader right into the settings. This is a well-paced, easily read cozy with an interesting plot, several twists and an unexpected ending. There’s even a bonus with some delicious down-home recipes. What more could you ask?
Buy link for Murder at Peacock Mansion:
Buy link for The Gilded Cage
Judy and I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.
This week, I’m welcoming author, John Achor to my blog.
The first of John Achor’s three careers spanned twenty years as a U.S. Air Force pilot. He accumulated over 4,000 hours flying planes from Piper Cubs to the military equivalent of the Boeing 707. After the military, he entered the real estate industry. He joined a national real estate franchise as a management consultant working at the regional and national levels. Those positions led him to Phoenix, Arizona, and an affiliation with a major Savings & Loan institution.
In John’s words, “When the Savings and Loan industry melted away like a lump of sugar in hot coffee, I knew it was time to develop a third career.” He became a freelance computer instructor, user-developer, consultant, writer and Community College instructor.
In mid-1999, John moved to Hot Springs Village, Arkansas, where he lived in the piney woods with his wife Pat and their two cats, Lexus and Betsy Ross. As you may know from his latest book or web site; these two cats are no longer with them. Big hole in their lives, but both are waiting for us by The Rainbow Bridge. Their latest move was a recent relocation to the Omaha, Nebraska area where John is busy meeting and greeting new writers, readers and writing groups.
TO OUTLINE OR NOT TO OUTLINE, THAT IS THE QUESTION ,,,
(WITH APOLOGIZES TO THE BARD)
The title of this posting suggests there are two schools for thought regarding the use of outlines for writing ― in my case long fiction mysteries and thrillers. This is another writing subject where the experts disagree. I’ve found many who belong to one camp or the other and suggest they are correct ― meaning the rest of the world is therefore wrong. Back in the day when I was doing consulting work, we defined an expert as anyone with a briefcase who was fifty miles from home.
When speaking to authors, I am willing to share the techniques I use, and some I do not use. I put them forward and always suggest each person select the ones which work for them. I have a big enough ego to think I’m right, and I’ve had enough experience to know what works for me.
So, what’s the answer to the question the title proffers. The answer, for me, is Yes and Yes. The first novel I wrote was a thriller. It popped from my head fully formed ― much as Athena leapt from the head of Zeus, wearing full armor. Always thought that must have been super painful.
My first story came to me with mental details from A to Z ― a beginning, a middle and an end. I began to write (not in one sitting) and didn’t stop until I penned: The End. In those days many agents and publishers wasn’t to see the outline. I could oblige since, after the fact, I went back and created an outline of the story.
The second novel came to me as the germ of an idea. I had a feint idea of a start, but beyond that, it was blank white paper ― a clean uncluttered monitor screen. I began the outline and roughed out the full book chapter by chapter. Having an outline does not mean there is no room for change. Seldom does the full story come out on the computer screen directly from the outline. Yes, I made changes, however the outline was a major contributor to my efforts.
I once read an article stating there was no such thing as writer’s block. I pondered his premise and came to agree with him. This author said what most of us call writer’s block is simply a point where we don’t know where the story should go from the last words we’ve written … I found that was true for me, and used outlining to continue the story line. I usually find that creating an outline for the next few scenes or chapters breaks the log jam.
Again, these work for me. Skip the outline when everything is a go; use that approach when it will assist and speed up the writing flow. As you can see, I’ve used and skipped outlines as needed, and I suggest every author decide what works for them ― and keep the pencil moving (a phrase Natalie Goldberg introduced in “Writing Down the Bones).
Good muse …
Five-Six Deadly Mix
Casey Fremont has a knack for solving mysteries…
She also has a habit of ending up in danger…and this time both may get her killed!
In FIVE-SIX, DEADLY MIX, Casey Fremont lands in the middle of a combined local police/FBI investigation into fraud and theft at a local hospital. Also, Two women have suspiciously fallen to their deaths before Casey reports for work in her undercover role.
Once again, Casey brings her roommates, Effie Tremayne and Aaron Kincaid, along to lend a hand.
As usual, the rest of Casey’s life is in turmoil as well. Love interests shift and change, someone close to Casey falls ill, and she receives a visit from an uncle she’s not seen in years. This all forces Casey to make decisions that affect her while she edges ever closer to the truth of the hospital case, once more putting that life in deadly peril!
FIVE-SIX, DEADLY MIX is the third Casey Fremont Mystery from Author John Achor! Intrigue and Real life drama collide for Casey once again in this exciting volume of deduction and death! From Pro Se Productions.
Amazon buy link for Five-Six, Deadly Mix:
Amazon buy link for Three-Four, Kill Some More:
Website URL: www.johnachor.com
Blog URL: www.johnachor.wordpress.com
Facebook URL: www.facebook.com/jachor1
John and I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.
Today, I’m hosting author, Nancy Boyarsky.
Nancy Boyarsky was born in Oakland, California. After graduating from U.C. Berkeley, her first job was as an assistant editor in a tiny, long-gone publishing company in San Francisco. She has worked as a writer and editor all of her life.
She is married to former Los Angeles Times City Editor Bill Boyarsky and lives in Los Angeles. She still devotes herself to writing, editing, and reading and has added painting to her list of hobbies. She loves the theater, films and travel, especially to the UK, where her first mystery, The Swap, takes place.
When Nicole Graves arranges a summer-long swap of her Los Angeles condo for a London couple’s house, she thinks it’s the perfect arrangement. She’s always dreamed of seeing the real London; she’s also hopeful the time away with her husband Brad will be good for their troubled marriage.
But things don’t turn out the way Nicole expects: The Londoners fail to arrive in L.A. and appear to be missing. Then people begin following Nicole and making threats, demanding information she doesn’t have. Soon, Nicole realizes she’s in serious trouble–but she can’t get Brad or the police to believe her.
When the confrontations turn deadly, Nicole must either solve the case or become the next victim.
Here is an excerpt:
Afterward, Nicole blamed herself for not sensing something wrong that very first day, when she stepped across the Lowrys’ threshold into their shabby front hall. But what, really, was there to notice, beyond the fact that the house was less than she’d expected? She was too exhausted from the long flight. If she was worried about anything, it was Brad’s silence, the impenetrable gloom that had enveloped him since they’d left L.A.
After a day or two, when she began to suspect she was in danger, it was impossible to get anyone to believe her. By the time the car blew up with that poor man inside, she understood this was no random act of terrorism. They were in serious trouble. Yet try as she might, it was impossible to convince Brad that the car bomb had anything to do with them, or the house swap, or the Lowrys, for that matter.
My ✰✰✰✰✰ Review
I enjoyed reading this novel very much. The story grips you from the very first page and doesn’t let go. With each succeeding page, the underlying tension is there in the words and the actions of the characters. The book was hard to put down and had me reading well into the night, with a well-formulated plot and more than a little romantic suspense. I highly recommend it.
Be sure to catch this brief video of, The Swap, on YouTube:
The Swap is available on Amazon:
Nancy and I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.