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This week, it’s my honor to host distinguished author, Dr. Betty Jean Craige.
Betty Jean Craige is University Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature and Director Emerita of the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts at the University of Georgia.
She received her B.A. in Spanish Literature from Pomona College (1968) and her M.A. (1970) and Ph.D. (1974) in Comparative Literature from the University of Washington. She taught at the University of Georgia from 1973 to 2011.
Dr. Craige has published books in the fields of Spanish poetry, modern literature, history of ideas, politics, ecology, and art. She is a scholar, a translator, a teacher, and a novelist.
Dr. Craige was Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Delta Prize for Global Understanding. Most recently she has written a murder mystery titled Downstream, published by Black Opal Books on November 26, 2014.
What inspired you to write this novel?
Let me tell you who inspired me to write Downstream. Novelist Terry Kay, who lives in Athens, Georgia, inspired me. He urged me to write fiction when our local newspaper discontinued my Sunday column, “Cosmo Talks,” about animal cognition. Cosmo is the loquacious African Grey parrot about whom I had written the book Conversations with Cosmo: At Home with an African Grey Parrot (2010).
I retired from the University of Georgia in 2011, after thirty-eight years as a professor of comparative literature and eighteen years director of the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts. For the last ten years I taught a course called “Ecocriticism” in which we studied ideas about nature after Darwin as well as current environmental issues. I became interested in the pharmaceutical pollution of our environment.
So I decided to use fiction to explore the problem of water contamination. I chose to write a murder mystery because I had been reading mysteries since childhood and I thought I could write one that would entertain the reader. Thanks to the web, I have become an expert on murder. But the mystery in my novel is not only about who did the murdering but also what was happening to the people in the town. In Downstream a new estrogen-based longevity drug called Senextra keeps people alive and healthy well into their second century, but it has some environmental side effects. It causes fertility in a couple of post-menopausal women, undescended testicles in dogs, and extra feet in frogs.
How have your personal experiences affected your writing?
During my academic career I wrote a number of books on the history of ideas, including a biography of Eugene Odum, the ecologist who developed the ecosystem concept. The books all focused on the emergence of a holistic way of thinking about our environment and our global society. So when I started writing Downstream I wanted to show that we all live in an interactive whole, in which, for example, the infusion of pharmaceuticals in part of the system affects the whole system. I had originally called my novel “We All Live Downstream,” since we are all using water that has been affected by those humans and animals living upstream.
I set the story in a fictive town named Witherston, in north Georgia, a beautiful part of the country where we can still find wilderness and unpolluted waters. I have spent forty-two years of my life in Athens, Georgia, and have spent many weekends exploring the southern Appalachian mountains.
I live with an American Eskimo Dog named Mary and an African Grey Parrot named Cosmo. I once lived with four American Eskimo Dogs. I do love non-human animals. So in Downstream I gave almost every character a pet or two. One character has a Pacific Parrotlet named Darwin. In my second Witherston mystery, Fairfield’s Auction, I gave that same character an African Grey Parrot named Doolittle. Doolittle is a major character in that novel.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I like the mysteries of Louise Penny, who sets her stories in a rural village in Quebec. Like Louise Penny, I want my readers to get to know and like all the characters of Witherston, and I want my readers to get involved in the solving of the mystery.
I also like the novels and essays of Barbara Kingsolver, whose values I share and whose writing I admire immensely.
What genre of books do you like to read? Do you limit yourself to only the genre that you write yourself?
I like to read mysteries and spy thrillers. I spent my career reading and teaching great literature, so I have been influenced by Western literature from Homer through the present. But in my retirement, I am reading mostly current novels.
I like movies too, especially cerebral thrillers and mysteries. I would love to make a movie as funny as Little Miss Sunshine.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
A friend who read the first draft told me that Downstream was “message heavy.” His wife told me the novel was “preachy.” Ooof. I don’t even go to church, so I don’t know beans about preaching. But their honest criticism made me lighten the environmental message and try to make the novel funnier.
Another friend who read the published book told me that she “couldn’t put it down” and that she “laughed out loud” at some of the scenes. That was encouraging!
What project are you working on now?
I have completed the second novel in the “Witherston Murder Mystery” series. It’s called “Fairfield’s Auction.” And I am working on the third. I am also making a movie of Downstream.
At the celebration of his hundredth birthday, local billionaire Francis Hearty Withers announces to the people gathered on the front lawn of Witherston Baptist Church that he has finalized his will. In it he bequeaths $1 billion to his north Georgia hometown of Witherston and another $1 billion to be divided up equally among the town’s 4,000 residents—in recognition of their support of a Senextra pharmaceutical factory. Senextra is a drug that enables individuals to lead healthy lives well into their second century, but it has some unanticipated consequences.
The group assembled to hear Withers’s announcement do not all applaud. One person carries a sign that says SENEXTRA VIOLATES MOTHER NATURE. Another, KEEP SENEXTRA OUT OF OUR SYSTEM. A third, WE DON’T NEED MORE OLD MEN.
Withers flies into a rage. He vows to change his will and disinherit the community. Two days later he is found dead.
In Betty Jean Craige’s first murder mystery a few humans die in unusual circumstances. (A few others live in unusual circumstances.) Who dunnit?
A Short Excerpt from CHAPTER 1
Friday, May 22, 2015, Labor Day weekend, Witherston, Georgia:
Old Withers is gonna make us all rich!”
“I heard he plans to give everybody in Witherston a million dollars!”
“But that’s when he dies. And he looks pretty healthy to me.”
“He turns a hundred today. He’ll be dying soon!”
“Oh my God! Georgia’s beauty queen Rhonda Rather looks pregnant! Isn’t she a bit long in the tooth to be carrying a foal?”
“She must be over fifty! God in Heaven! I didn’t know that Mayor Rather—I’ve always called him Rotund Rather—was such a stud.”
“Dear Rhonda doesn’t want to be pregnant, and her daughter Sandra does. I heard that Sandra and Phil are getting fertility treatments.”
“Faith Folsom has a bulge in her belly too, and she’s older than dirt. Do you all think she’s pregnant?”
“Probably. She doesn’t have the sense God gave geese.”
“Oh but she does.”
“Jesus God, I pray it doesn’t happen to me.”
“Honey, bless your heart and don’t get me wrong but you are way too old, way, way too old! You’re almost old enough to go to Withers Village!”
“But they don’t accept girls there.”
“Lottie, come here! Look at Francis Hearty Withers all dressed up on stage acting holier than the High and Mighty just because he’s going to bless us with his unearned money. He thinks we’ll clap for him when Scorch unveils his statue.”
“Gretchen, did you know he paid Scorch $50,000 to make that statue?”
“I’m not giving Withers a single clap. The old geezer is an environmental criminal. He thinks he can use our town and our creek and our land for his toxin-producing Senextra factory.”
“Who’s that hunk in the blue suit?”
“The man talking to Dr. Folsom? He’s the CEO of BioSenecta, Dr. Martin Payne.”
“Well, good gracious, I’ll be darned! He’s sure easy on the eyes!”
“Francis Hearty Withers talked him into building a Senextra factory here.”
Detective Emma Evelyn Arroyo, “Mev” to her friends, heard these conversations as she walked through the crowd. She was on duty until 5:00, and her assignment was crowd control on the front lawn of Witherston Baptist Church. Rumors abounded that today Witherston’s local billionaire would announce the construction of a pharmaceutical factory on Founding Father’s Creek upstream from Witherston and that Witherston’s KEEP NATURE NATURAL environmentalists would protest. The Witherston Police Department, for which she worked, was on alert.
Mev spotted a group of teenagers wearing KEEP NATURE NATURAL T-shirts.
“Ladies and Gentlemen!” Mayor Rather bellowed into the microphone. “It’s 4:30 and time for a grand and glorious party! We’re here to celebrate the hundredth birthday of Witherston’s most famous citizen, actually Lumpkin County’s most famous citizen, Francis Hearty Withers. Thanks to all you folks for turning out for the occasion. Let’s give a big hand to Mr. Withers, the last of five generations of Withers residing on Founding Father’s Creek.”
Mev was relieved to hear only clapping, polite and restrained as it was. She was too preoccupied with her own immediate problem to share in her fellow Witherstonians’ excitement.
“Fellow citizens, I didn’t hear you. Let’s give a big, big, big hand to—let me drop a hint—Witherston’s most generous benefactor.”
Francis Hearty Withers sat smiling on stage in his navy Armani suit with his aqua Salvatore Ferragamo silk tie, holding his ivory-inlaid mahogany cane. He was flanked on one side by the tall, solemn, well-dressed Dr. Neel Kingfisher, who stood, and on the other by the overall-clad Scorch Ridge, a giant of a man, who also stood.
“Now let us sing ‘Happy Birthday!’”
Mayor Rather led the crowd of some three hundred men, women, and children in a spirited version of the song, which included the second verse usually sung for the very young:
“How old are you?
How old are you?
How old, how old
How old are you?”
Mr. Withers stood up and raised both arms in triumph. “I’m one hundred years old, and going strong!”
Dr. Craige’s website: http://www.bettyjeancraige.com/
Downstream can be purchased on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Downstream-Witherston-Murder-Mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00OSXPV4A/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1425093905&sr=1-1&keywords=Downstream+by+Betty+Jean+Craige
I’m sure Dr. Craige would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.
This week, I’m pleased to welcome back one of my favorite mystery authors, F. M. Meredith.
F.M. Meredith, also known as Marilyn Meredith, is the author of over thirty published novels. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Besides having family members in law enforcement, she lived in a town much like Rocky Bluff with many police families as neighbors.
Who Am I Writing For?
That’s a very good question. The obvious answer would be for the reader. More specifically for the reader who likes mysteries, police procedurals, and books that are a bit more on the side of following clues to solve a case, rather than using modern equipment and forensic science.
The readers I’m writing for are the kind who like to know about the police officers’ private lives and how what goes on at home affects the job—and vice versa. That leads into the fact that I’m writing for those readers who enjoy seeing characters change and grow as a series unfolds.
I’m also writing for those who have become fans of my series. These folks are important to me and I work hard to make each book unique and entertaining.
There is also another person I’m writing for–me.
Yes, you read that correctly, I am writing for me too. I have been compelled to write since I was a kid. I wrote stories, articles for my own magazine that I put out one summer, and plays for the kids in my neighborhood to perform.
As a young wife and mother, my writing tended to be focused on PTA news and plays for my Camp Fire Girls to star in as money-making projects. I did try my hand at a couple of novels, but nothing came of those attempts. I went to college after my 5th child started kindergarten, and did a lot of writing then, but didn’t get back to fiction until I was a grandmother.
Writing is part of me, something that I hope to continue for the rest of my life.
F. M. Meredith aka Marilyn Meredith
College student, Veronica Randall, disappears from her car in her own driveway, everyone in the Rocky Bluff P.D. is looking for her. Detective Milligan and family move into a house that may be haunted. Officer Butler is assigned to train a new hire and faces several major challenges.
Here is a short excerpt from the beginning of, Violent Departures:
The silver Toyota Prius stood empty and idling in the short driveway. The driver’s door gaped open. A plump, and obviously distraught, middle-aged woman ran barefoot down the cement steps of the small older home toward Officer Vaughn Aragon.
He’d responded to a call from the dispatcher about a missing person. Ordinarily, the caller would have been asked to come to the station to file a report, but the circumstances in this case seemed urgent.
“Thank God you’re here. My granddaughter, Veronica, she’s gone.” Gray strands mixed with the woman’s long black hair she’d pulled back and tied with a scarf. “Please find her.” Tears threatened in her dark eyes.
Without touching anything, Aragon poked his head inside the running vehicle. A large purse lay open on the passenger seat, belongings scattered, among them, a cell phone. On the floor lay a multi-colored backpack.
Though blond, Aragon, having grown up in East L.A., spoke fluent Spanish. Because the woman had dark skin and hair, he assumed she was Latina. He introduced himself in English and Spanish, and asked for her name.
She frowned as though his Spanish confused her. “I’m Mrs. Randall.” She added, “And I’m not Mexican. Please, help me find my granddaughter.”
Though flustered by his mistake, Aragon said, “When was the last time you saw her?”
“A few minutes before I called the police. We finished breakfast and she went out the door, on her way to school. She is a student at UCSB. I started to do dishes and then I noticed her car still parked in the driveway. I came out to see what was wrong and found the car like this.” Her voice rose. “She disappeared.”
Contest: Because it has been popular on my other blog tours, once again I’m offering the chance for the person who comments on the most blog posts during this tour to have a character named for him or her in the next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery.
Or if that doesn’t appeal, the person may choose one of the earlier books in the series—either a print book or Kindle copy.
Violent Departures can be purchased at: http://tinyurl.com/jvmubw5
I tackle a hard question tomorrow: What Makes the Rocky Bluff Mystery Series Unique?
NOTE: Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to have a character named after you in Meredith’s next novel. I did. I loved my character and it was a lot of fun to see my name in her last Rocky Bluff mystery, Murder in the Worst Degree.
On my blog this week, I’m happy to welcome back author, Penny Petersen.
Penny Clover Petersen began writing her first novel at fifty-nine on a dare from her husband, Tom. A life-long resident of the Washington DC area, they now reside in Bowie Maryland.
In addition to writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, refurbishing old furniture, collecting stories for the ‘family cookbook’, and savoring new cocktail recipes.
She loves historic homes and is a docent at Riversdale Mansion in Riverdale, MD. Penny is currently at work on her third Daisy&Rose mystery.
Roses Are Dead, My Love
In Roses Are Dead, My Love, my second Daisy&Rose Mystery, sisters Daisy and Rose Forrest find themselves knee deep in the middle of a sinister blackmail scheme. Under the spell of a June heatwave, Old Towne seems to be cursed. Rose is attacked in her own home, and their beloved dog is brutally duct taped and his doghouse goes up in flames. When they find the postmistress bludgeoned to death, the sisters know they have to get to the bottom of it. With their extraordinary mother, Angela, at their side, the ladies take on the hunt for an invaluable baseball card, a malicious prankster, and a blackmailing killer.
Here is a short excerpt:
As Daisy and her mother, Angela, sat in the sunroom eating mushroom and green olive pizza and watching the dogs playing in the yard, Daisy filled her mother’s glass with a frothy orange concoction.
Angela took a sip. “Mmm, very tasty. What did you call this?”
Daisy smiled and said, “I call it a Midnight Marauder. It suits this evening’s plan.”
Angela’s eyes lit up. “What have you got in mind?”
“Well, as I said, I do trust Rose’s instincts about Peter – at least about his not attacking her. And I trust Bill.”
Angela snorted, “You most certainly do not!”
“His police instinct – I trust his police instinct. He’s positive that Peter couldn’t have had time to get back from Baltimore, kill Peggy and return in time for a seven o’clock seminar. Who in God’s name schedules a seminar for seven in the morning after a cocktail party the night before? These academics must be real masochists. But something about that man is strange. Why would he spend so many nights in that bookstore when he has that beautiful house downtown?”
“To be near Rose?”
“He hardly ever sees Rose when he’s there. No, he’s up to something and I want to know what. So, I thought we’d take this excellent opportunity, while he and Rose are both occupied for the entire evening, to check out his attic!”
Angela clapped her hands like a little kid. “Super! I happen to have suitable late night attire right upstairs.”
At eleven, Daisy was standing on a stepstool at the back of her closet pulling out an old tote bag. She checked the contents. WD-40, screwdrivers, kitchen tongs, a large black scarf, and two flashlights were right where she left them after her last midnight caper. She tested the flashlights, replaced the batteries in one of them, and said to Angela, “It’s all good. Let’s go.”
They stood at the window and watched Ron Tucker walk his dogs past their house and waited ten minutes until he walked back on his way home. Then Daisy, ‘burglar bag’ over her shoulder, and Angela slipped quietly out of the side door and up the driveway.
Just as they got to the street the door of Clover Tavern opened and a group of people came out laughing and talking loudly as they walked to their cars.
“Rats! Maybe we should wait until the Tavern closes,” whispered Daisy as she backed down the driveway. “People can see Peter’s gate from the Tavern door.”
“Not to worry. We’ll just go around back and hop Mrs. Hudson’s fence. Then we can slip across the street and go down the alley next to Marc’s place. We can sneak into Peter’s yard from the other side. There aren’t any lights back there and nobody can see the back of the book store anyway.”
Daisy was impressed. “You didn’t just think of this, did you, Mother?”
“I like to have contingency plans. When you told me about this evening’s scheme I sort of scouted out all the routes in my head. So let’s go for it. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? If someone stops us, we’ll just say we’re out for a walk.”
Daisy looked at her mother standing in the dark wearing black tennis shoes, black leggings, black gloves, and a black jacket with the hood pulled low over her face. “Somehow, I just don’t think the police would buy that. You look like a second story man.”
“Pish. I just like to dress for the occasion.”
“Exactly my point!”
Roses Are Dead My Love, will be out on May 1st.
Penny and I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.
This week, I’m hosting popular author, Jan Christensen
Jan Christensen grew up in New Jersey. She bounced around the world as an Army wife, and in Texas when her husband retired. After traveling for eleven years in a motorhome, she settled down in the Texas Coastal Bend.
Published novels are: Sara’s Search, Revelations, Organized to Death, Perfect Victim, Blackout, Buried Under Clutter and most recently, A Broken Life. She’s had over sixty short stories appear in various places over the last dozen years. She also writes a series of short stories about Artie, a NY burglar who gets into some very strange situations while on the job.
WHERE DO IDEAS COME FROM?
One of the questions writers often get seems to irritate many: “Where do you get your ideas?” Some writers have snappy answers: “Idea.com.” “The boys in the basement.” “The girls in the attic” (well, that one’s mine—the boys are Stephen King’s).
I don’t mind the question, but I have a really hard time answering it with any finesse. Each story has a different answer. Here are some specifics.
- Ripped from the headlines—my latest published novel, A Broken Life, is about a woman whose identity is stolen, how and why. And Revelations, about a religious cult, after reading about the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, while living just north of there.
- A Whim—no idea at all what to write about. Remembering some ten-minute writing exercises I’ve done with other writers, I decided to pick out an object in my office and start a story. It was going to be a short story. I noticed a camera. And I was off. It became a novel, though, Blackout, about a young girl who lost her memory, but begins to remember it as photographs from her past, and a camera plays an important part in solving the mystery of her mother’s death.
- Quirky Characters–I wanted to do a story with quirky characters and a New York City setting (I grew up in metropolitan New Jersey). It was going to be mainstream, but it morphed into my second try at writing a mystery (first one is still in a drawer). Sara’s Search was published in 2004 by a small press, and after having about thirty short stories published, I felt as if this writing gig was really for me.
- Favorite Reads–Some of my favorite reads are about female private investigators. Naturally, I wanted to write about one myself. Someone with attitude and humor. All I needed was a murder victim. That turned out to be the easy part. Thus was born Perfect Victim.
- My Main Interests–One of my main interests is time management and personal organization. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a personal organizer as a main character? She goes to help people clean up and stumbles upon dead bodies in Organized to Death, Buried Under Clutter, and the upcoming, Cluttered Attic Secrets.
These explain the novels. But there are those published short stories, over sixty of them now. I can’t even remember where all those ideas came from. So, like most writers, I can’t come up with a one-fits-all answer.
What I have concluded about inspiration is that a person has to be open to it. It doesn’t really matter what sparks it, each person will take the same bit of matter, an object, a setting, a person, an event, and make up their own story, each unique with a different slant. Which definitely keeps things interesting, for me, anyway.
Anyone have a great reason for writing a particular story? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
A Broken Life: A Lighter-Side Mystery
While in the middle of investigating a domestic case, Rhode Islander PI Paula Mitchell finds an old friend, ragged and homeless. Paula learns that Martha Hendricks is the victim of identity theft. Three years earlier a woman, with ID confirming her as Martha, was busted on a drug charge. After Martha’s boss found out about it, he fired her. Soon Paula begins to receive threatening phone calls. The doctor Martha worked for is murdered. And Martha disappears–until Paula finds her, beaten and left for dead, in her own backyard. For two days, Martha is unconscious. As Paula investigates further, she learns more about the doctor’s employees, meets Martha’s old boyfriend, and one of her former roommates. Paula’s suspect list grows. When she’s almost run down in a parking lot, her lover pleads with her to stop her investigation. Paula refuses. Not only is Martha in danger, but if Paula doesn’t push harder for answers, she knows she’ll be the next person on the killer’s hit list.
A BROKEN LIFE EXCERPT
I strode into the store. Looked around. The only customer was male, about five-feet eight, with short brown hair, brown eyes and a pointy little nose. My accident-prone tail [from yesterday]. Surprised, I stopped in the doorway, staring . . .
Deciding to play it cool, I walked farther into the store, picked up a candy bar, a box of doughnuts, and watched the guy out of the corner of my eye. He said something to the cashier, then sauntered toward the door, head down. Maybe he felt me staring, because suddenly he looked up, saw me, and took off. I dashed out after him, the clerk yelling behind me. When I reached for the door handle of the Taurus, I realized I still had the candy and doughnuts in my hand. I heard the other car start up and back away. Throwing the goodies on the ground, I jumped into my car and took off after him, squashing the candy and doughnuts under my wheels.
He drove . . . with me right on his bumper. . . . I managed to stay with him all the way to Springton, and then through several other small towns until we were out in the country. I had memorized his license number by that time, as well as the back of his head.
The sound of a train whistle wailed in the distance. The car ahead slowed down as we approached a crossing. Behind me, I heard another sound–a siren. Lights flashed in my mirror. Thank goodness, I thought, the police. I looked ahead again and saw what the guy was trying to do. He wanted to get through the crossing and have the train block me. Don’t do it, I thought. Remember your luck with the bus. This would be much worse. I wanted to close my eyes, but I couldn’t.
The whistle hooted again, the train almost upon us. The guy made his move, getting through, and I had to stop. I turned around and motioned frantically toward the police car.
But the police officer took his time climbing out, his notebook in hand. He sauntered over to me so slowly that I became impatient and jumped out of the car.
“Hold it right there!” he yelled at me, drawing his weapon.
“Officer,” I shouted, standing still, putting my hands up. “You have to catch that guy.”
As I raised my arms, my jacket pulled away to reveal my gun. Now the officer stopped walking, too. “Use two fingers to take out your weapon,” he said, his voice hoarse, “and place it on the ground.”
“Officer,” I pleaded. “I’m a private detective on a case. We need to catch the man I was following.”
“Yeah, and I’m the Easter Bunny. I’ve heard them all now. Do as I said. Get that weapon on the ground, then turn around and spread-eagle against your vehicle.”
Shaking my head, I used my thumb and forefinger to gingerly lift my gun out of its holster, and bent down a little so I wouldn’t have to drop it far and damage it. After I straightened up, I hugged my Taurus and uncomfortably let the officer search me for more weapons. Did his hands linger a little longer than necessary? It was hard to tell under these circumstances.
“Okay,” he said when satisfied, still shouting over the noise of the train. “Now show me some identification.”
“In my purse,” I said through wooden lips, as I reached inside the car for my bag.
When he saw my PI license his only comment was, “Huh. Well, anyway, you’re under arrest.”
“What for?” I demanded.
“Shoplifting,” he shouted.
The train chugged along until finally the caboose came into view. I gaped at the police officer a moment before collecting what wits I had left. With one final, mournful toot of its horn, the train disappeared around a bend. I looked at the road ahead, and of course, the guy in the car had disappeared. My only real lead in the case.
Here is my review:
Paula Mitchell, PI, is working on a domestic case when she discovers a homeless woman who looks like a fellow classmate from high school. When it turns out to be that person and Paula finds out how she came to be homeless, she takes Martha in and goes after the criminal who has stolen Martha’s identity which happened to be the reason Martha was out on the street.
As Martha’s investigation progresses, her former boss is killed and Paula does interview after interview with the people Martha worked with at the time her identity was stolen, only to come up with no real suspects. By now Paula’s had several threatening phone calls and an attempt on her life. Also, someone has been watching her. But who is he? And why is he hanging around her home?
When Martha is attacked in Paula’s driveway, the case really starts to heat up, especially when Paula’s deaf aunt shows up on her doorstep, adding one more person’s safety she has to worry about.
The characters were well-developed, and the mystery kept me turning pages. I recommend it to any mystery lover.
Learn more about Jan at her website: www.janchristensen.com
Buy links for A Broken Life:
Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-broken-life-jan-christensen/1120729427?ean=9781502974624
Jan and I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.
This week I pleased to host author, EM Kaplan
EM Kaplan is the author of un-cozy, un-culinary Josie Tucker mysteries. The newest snarky mystery, DIM SUM, DEAD SOME, was released in January 2015. She also has written a nascent fantasy/paranormal series, anchored by the novel, Unmasked.
EM Kaplan grew up in a part of Tucson, Arizona where there were no sidewalks. Like a tumbleweed, she roamed from Massachusetts to California to Texas, and is now settled in Woodstock, IL. She’s also been a Girl Scout, trombonist, toilet-cleaner, beginner ninja, hip-hop dancer, and subversive marketeer.
Dim Sum, Dead Some
Ivan Sorokin is missing. Who wants him out of the picture—his wife, his business partner, or the stripper who holds his heart?
Josie Tucker stands on Beach Street with her back to the San Francisco wharf. Above her, the Ghirardelli sign winks in the dusky twilight, seducing her. The ice cream parlor lights beckon like a lactose lothario, a casein casanova, trying hard to woo her. But her heart longs for dumplings, for dim sum.
Dim sum means “heart’s delight.” Imagine nibbling at a savory golden pouch stuffed with delicately seasoned meat. If a lover offers the morsel on the tips of exquisitely lacquered chopsticks late in the morning while reclining on silken cushions…that’s food for the heart.
Chinatown. Dim sum. Murder. Josie’s perfect ingredients for adventure.
Here is an excerpt from Dim Sum, Dead Some:
“I need you to talk me down from a ledge.” Holding her cell phone to her ear, Josie stood on the sidewalk on Beach Street with her back to the San Francisco wharf. Above her, the bright Ghirardelli lights winked at her in the dusky twilight, seducing her. The sign beckoned to her like a lover, a lactose lothario, a casein Casanova.
She shivered even though the temperature was nearly twenty degrees warmer than at home in Boston. Here, the sun was just now setting, night cloaking the bay in darkness, the lights shining on the water. She could hear the occasional squawk from an ocean bird, the low bellow of a boat horn on the bay. The air smelled like ocean and fish, and Italian food. She wasn’t far from North Beach, and the wind was blowing the aroma of garlic straight to her nose. She sniffed again. Maybe someone nearby was simmering clams in white wine—San Francisco was an olfactory paradise for a food critic. Especially one who couldn’t eat.
Josie’s hooded sweater and denim jacket were doing a good job of keeping out the wind and helping her to blend in with the smattering of tourists trying to be hipsters with their hands in the holes of their sweaters, just like the song. She was seeing a whole lot of funky, knitted caps and ferocious “statement” beards walking around the wharf this evening as she stood blinking at the Ghirardelli sign. She shivered again, not from the cold, but from the fact that she was about to do something very, very bad to her stomach.
On the other end of her phone, her boyfriend Drew said, “Are you anywhere near the Golden Gate Bridge?” His boyfriend status was a recent development for them. They had been long-time friends, college buddies who had recently discovered that they were better off dating. Much, much better off, she thought, her insides doing an unnatural happy wiggle from top to toe. Grouchiness was her natural state, but Josie and Drew were two flavors that perfectly complemented each other. Peaches and cream. Peanut butter and lemon grass. Bacon and beetroot. Bacon and, well, anything.
“Noooo,” she said, not able to keep the rise out of her voice, which made it sound like a question. She noted with amusement that he didn’t sound too worried. He didn’t believe for a second that she would intentionally harm herself. Should she be worried that he wasn’t worried? Maybe it was better not to overthink that one.
Visit her at www.JustTheEmWords.com or write to her at JustTheEmWords@gmail.com.
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This week, I’m pleased to host award-winning author, Jeannette de Beauvoir.
JEANNETTE DE BEAUVOIR is an award-winning author, novelist, and poet whose work has been translated into 12 languages and has appeared in 15 countries. She explores personal and moral questions through historical fiction, mysteries, and mainstream fiction. She grew up in Angers, France, but now divides her time between Cape Cod and Montréal.
The Questions No One Wants To Answer
Most people, I’d guess, read fiction for pleasure and for escapism. We all share the drudgery of getting up in the morning, usually in the same place, and going through the same progression of actions: shower, dress, coffee, feed the cat or the kids, summon energy for the day ahead. And many of us have days that also tend to become rote: work, lunch, work, home. Drop kids off somewhere; pick kids up somewhere. Plan and execute a menu. Clean the house. There’s no question that finding a few hours to curl up and travel vicariously, to live an adventure, to meet fascinating people, is a great way to relieve the pressures of daily life.
And all of that repetitive activity can sometimes keep us from thinking too much about the Greater Questions of Life. We tend to face them only when they’re thrust in front of us: a death in the family, a friend arrested for a criminal activity, the decision to place an elderly relative in a nursing home. And that’s normal, I think: sometimes just getting through the day is enough without pondering life after death, the morality of cheating on income tax, the wrenching decisions made on the behalf of others. At the end of the day, picking up Socrates or Descartes or Kierkegaard to look for answers just isn’t an option.
Normal, yes. Healthy? Maybe not so much. I believe that we do need to think about these things, but maybe the person most likely to lead us there isn’t a philosopher—but a novelist.
It’s not a new idea. Storytelling has always been at the service of philosophy. Stories are used to reinforce cultural norms and principles in nearly every human society… and, often, to keep the monsters at bay. Fairy tales in particular help children explore dark places without any harm to themselves; and there’s a reason why so many of us read murder mysteries, stories with killing at their hearts.
Which is not to say that I begin my novels by asking myself, “hmm, which difficult principle shall I explore today?” Rather, I consider the things that twist my mind, and find a way to talk about them, assuming that if they do that to me they probably do it to other people as well.
Many years ago I picked up a newspaper and read about the arrest of John Demjanjuk, an auto worker accused of war crimes when, as a guard at the Sobibor concentration camp, he’d helped execute 27,900 Jews. What I remember most about the story was the interview with his adult son, who was loudly and constantly protesting his father’s innocence. Well, I thought, of course you would. You’d have to. Who could equate the warm kind father who provided for you and loved you and kept the monsters at bay when you were little—how could you possibly equate that man with someone who could commit war crimes? The mind boggles.
I thought about that man. A lot. About what you’d have to go through to accept that these two sides could live in the same person, a person you loved. And so I wrote a novel called The Illusionist in which my protagonist is called upon to do precisely that.
Because making “the” story into “a” story does two things: it allows us a little distance (it’s happening to the people in the novel, not to us) and it gives us the ability to think through some of these complex moral questions without the necessity of acting on them. Which means, perhaps, that when we are called to act, we’ll have had the luxury of thought already.
I touch on a similar question in my most recent novel, Asylum. In collusion with the government, the Catholic Church—mostly through its convents—performed cruel and abusive acts on children. My own personal experience of growing up in a convent school could not have been further away from what happened to these orphans: to me, nuns were women who encouraged critical thinking, who loved their charges wholeheartedly, who gave selflessly of themselves in the service of others. To learn that nuns (even if not the same ones) beat children, allowed children to be used for experimentation and consigned to death, did not care for children… this was too much for my heart to bear. And so I allow my protagonist, Martine, to deal with it, and I try to learn—through her—to live with the unsettling contradictions of life.
Storytelling affords us the luxury of dealing with monsters, both internal and external, in a way that defuses their power. The best storytellers reach into the human psyche to find archetypal fears and passions and bring them into the light. Novelist talk of betrayals and murder, of love and loss, of hatred and fear, and as we read their words we’re able to dip our toes into the waters of those Great Questions Of Life, find them cold, squeal a bit and pull the toe back out. Until the next time. And eventually, if we read enough, we’ll start incorporating these personal and moral ambiguities into our understanding of life, of ourselves, and of others.
Will that make us better people? I don’t know. But it will make us people who are more equipped to at least take on the questions when we’re forced to deal with them.
Not to mention giving us a great fictional ride in the meantime!
Martine LeDuc is the director of PR for the mayor’s office in Montreal. When four women are found brutally murdered and shockingly posed on park benches throughout the city over several months, Martine’s boss fears a PR disaster for the still busy tourist season, and Martine is now also tasked with acting as liaison between the mayor and the police department. The women were of varying ages, backgrounds and body types and seemed to have nothing in common. Yet the macabre presentation of their bodies hints at a connection. Martine is paired with a young detective, Julian Fletcher, and together they dig deep into the city’s and the country’s past, only to uncover a dark secret dating back to the 1950s, when orphanages in Montreal and elsewhere were converted to asylums in order to gain more funding. The children were subjected to horrific experiments such as lobotomies, electroshock therapy, and psychotropic medication, and many of them died in the process. The survivors were supposedly compensated for their trauma by the government and the cases seem to have been settled. So who is bearing a grudge now, and why did these four women have to die?
Not until Martine finds herself imprisoned in the terrifying steam tunnels underneath the old asylum does she put the pieces together. And it is almost too late for her…in Jeannette de Beauvoir’s Asylum.
Read more at www.jeannetteauthor.com
Facebook URL: https://www.facebook.com/jeannette.de.Beauvoir
Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/asylum-jeannette-de-beauvoir/1119715822?ean=9781250045393
I’m sure Jeannette would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.
This week, I’m pleased to host author, Marcia Meara.
Marcia Meara lives in central Florida, just north of Orlando, with her husband of 29 years, four cats, and two dachshunds. When not working on her writing or blogs, she spends her time gardening, and enjoying the surprising amount of wildlife that manages to make a home in her suburban yard. At the age of five, Marcia declared she wanted to be an author, and is ecstatic that a mere 65 years later, she is finally pursuing that dream. She has published four books to date, and is currently working on a fifth, the sequel to Swamp Ghosts.
A Boy Named Rabbit
“Evil’s comin’, boy…comin’ fast. Look for the man with eyes like winter skies, and hair like a crow’s wing. He’s the one you gotta find.”
The remote mountain wilderness of North Carolina swallowed up the ten-year-old boy as he made his way down from the primitive camp where his grandparents had kept him hidden all his life. His dying grandmother, gifted with The Sight, set him on a quest to find the Good People, and though he is filled with fear and wary of civilization, Rabbit is determined to keep his promise to her. When he crosses paths with Sarah and MacKenzie Cole, neither their lives, nor his, are ever the same again.
The extraordinary little boy called Rabbit has the power to change the world for everyone he meets, and the resourcefulness to save himself from the one person his grandparents had hoped would never find him. His dangerous and bittersweet journey will touch you in unexpected ways, and once you’ve let Rabbit into your heart, you’ll never forget him.
“Shh, shhh….stop cryin’ now…listen sharp. I gotta tell you the rest…while I can still talk. You hear me? Listen now. Okay?”
Fighting back his tears, Rabbit nodded, and his gran continued, struggling for every word.
“You gotta…leave this mountain…come daylight.”
“No!” Terrified, he shook his head. “No, Gran! Grampa said never leave the mountain! He said people was bad, and I was to stay here, always. Safe from them!”
She patted his hand, catching her breath again. “He’s right about that…and wrong, too. Some people are bad. Your grampa knew…a lotta them kinds. But I was wrong…not to tell you this before, Boy. Some people are good…and kind. You got to…find those people, your new people…the good ones. And you will.”
“How do you know? What if I only find the bad ones, Gran?”
“I know…because I seen it. Look for the man…with eyes like winter skies. I seen him last night.”
“You had a Seein’ Dream?”
“I did. I saw you…with a man with winter blue eyes…an’ hair like…a crow’s wing. He’s the one…you gotta find.”
“Where? Where is he? How far do I gotta go? Can’t you come with me?”
She was wracked with coughing again, fighting for every breath as though it would be her last. “Let me lie down, Boy…just for a minute. Let me lie down…and catch my breath.”
He pulled the covers over her as she closed her eyes and sank back onto the cot.
“I’m not leavin’ you, Gran. I’m not.”
“No,” she breathed out on a faint sigh. “You can stay a while, yet…but I won’t make it through this night, Little Rabbit…and when I’m gone…promise me you’ll leave …you’ll find the man.”
His tears fell in earnest, and he sobbed in fear. “Aww, Gran, don’t leave me! Please don’t leave me here.”
A Boy Named Rabbit: http://www.amazon.com/Boy-Named-Rabbit-Wake-Robin-Ridge-ebook/dp/B00SQ4PID6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1422239995&sr=8-1&keywords=a+boy+named+rabbit&pebp=1422240002321&peasin=B00SQ4PID6
Boxed Set Books 1 & 2: Wake-Robin Ridge & A Boy Named Rabbit
Summer Magic: Poems of Life & Love
Hunter: Riverbend Book 2 (due out in early fall, 2015)
You can reach Marcia via email at email@example.com
or on the following social media sites:
The Write Stuff: http://marciamearawrites.com/
Bookin’ It: http://marciameara.wordpress.com
Marcia and I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.
This week I am my own guest author, and I’m excited to announce that my very first novel, Romancing a Mystery, has been updated, re-edited and given a different book cover. It’s now available on Amazon Kindle, and in print
Romancing a Mystery is the first novel in my series featuring executive administrative assistant, Charlotte Ross, and her mystery writer friend, Jane Marshall.
In this novel, all Charlotte Ross wanted was a get-away vacation. She hadn’t counted on solving a centuries-old mystery or falling for a handsome aristocrat.
A young woman in her prime, Charlotte is bored living in the small town where she grew up — and is tired of her controlling mother trying to marry her off to the oldest and wealthiest men in town. So when her mystery-loving friend Jane Marshall suggests a driving trip across England, Charlotte eagerly packs her bags. But Charlotte gets more than she bargained for. Just two days in, their car breaks down in a thunderstorm and the ladies take refuge in Blake Hall, an ancient aristocrat’s lair with a long and rumored past. As guests of the British aristocracy, these out-of-place Americans stumble their way through a fox hunt– encounter imagined ghosts–and find a mysterious clue to a centuries-old murder that has remained unsolved–until now, at least.
This lighthearted mystery, influenced by the novels of Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle and Jane Austen, is smart, savvy and at times, warmly romantic.
Here is an excerpt:
A thick blanket of clouds hung low in the sky. The rain had subsided again by the time they reached the tall iron gate, but the trees shuddered as if the violent wind was intent on shaking their branches loose.
After passing through, the gusty wind hurried everyone up the length of the long, circular driveway. Jane, the first to arrive at the front door, rang the bell.
“I hope someone answers the door soon. I can’t stop shaking,” Erin said, breathless.
Charlotte scanned the roiling clouds. The endless wait and the emerging thunderstorm left her sinking neck deep into despondency. Finally, she said what they all had to be thinking. “What if no one lives here?” She trembled at the prospect of having to spend the long, cold night, soaking wet, huddled in the doorway of an old, abandoned house.
“The bell might be out of order.” Jane lifted a large brass door knocker in the shape of a lion’s head and slammed it down against the ornately carved oak door. The wait seemed interminable. She was just about to knock again when the door was slowly opened by a short, elderly man.
“Can I help you?” he asked in a shaky octogenarian voice.
Charlotte started babbling with relief. “May we please use your telephone? I can’t get a cell signal. Our car died on one of the back roads, and now it’s stuck in a ditch of some sort. Can you possibly help us?”
“I’m sorry, miss. But there wouldn’t be any use trying to use the telephone. It’s out of service.”
Jane rolled her eyes. Erin appeared to be crying again, but it was hard for Charlotte to tell if the tears were real or just drops of rain dripping from her face. Her own tears bubbled up from inside, but she swallowed them back as the old man closed the door.
“Please.” She flung herself at the door jamb. “Isn’t there something—anything—you can do for us?”
The wild wind raged as a sudden violent gust ripped the door out of the old man’s hand, forcing it open, and pushing the girls in with it. His gray hair lay plastered against his head, and he grasped the front of his navy blue robe as if it too would be ripped away from him by the wind. “It’s not a fit night out for man nor beast.”
Amazon Print Book: http://tinyurl.com/ocqs9yz
Kindle edition: http://tinyurl.com/q653ksu
Thanks for reading my blog post. I’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.
This week, I’d like to welcome back authors, Anne Rothman Hicks and Kenneth Hicks.
Anne Rothman-Hicks and Kenneth Hicks have been married for a little over forty years and have produced about twenty books and exactly three children so far.
Their most recent novels—including PRAISE HER, PRAISE DIANA (Melange Books 2014)— have been set in New York City, where they have lived for most of their married lives. Anne is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College where, in nineteen sixty-nine, as the fabled Sixties were drawing to a close, she met Ken, who was a student at Haverford College. They don’t like to admit that they met at a college mixer, but there it is!
Their other novels set in New York include MIND ME, MILADY (Barbarian Books 2013) and KATE AND THE KID (Wings ePress 3013) and a middle reader/tween novel, THINGS ARE NOT WHAT THEY SEEM (MuseItUp Publishing 2014). Other of their books include THEFT OF THE SHROUD, a novel; STARFINDER, a non-fiction book about the stars for children; and a series of books on individual names for children (for example Michael’s Book, Elizabeth’s Book, John’s Book, Jennifer’s Book, David’s Book, Amy’s Book.