Monday, March 29, 2010

Guest Blogger Mary Kennedy

One of the most loyal supporters of my Tuesday guest bloggers has been Mary Kennedy. She started posting even before she told me she was an author! Then, she sent me a personalized copy of Dead Air, the first in her Talk Radio Mystery series. Immediately on the heels of the book, I got a wonderful note from Carolyn Hart about Mary. If you don't want to be behind the curve in the latest hot mystery reading, grab a copy of Dead Air, so you'll be all ready for Reel Murder, which hits the shelves in June.

Lola Wangles a Job
by Mary Kennedy

When I was playing around with ideas for book two in the Talk Radio Mysteries, I suddenly settled on the perfect theme--a movie set murder! What could be better? Lola, Maggie's flamboyant mother, is a marginally employed
actress "of a certain age," as she's fond of saying. She always reminds Maggie that it's not her fault that classically trained actresses are working in obscurity while the Lindsay Lohans and Lauren Conrads dominate the silver screen.

Maggie is thrilled when Lola actually snares a small role in a flick being filmed in south Florida. And Lola wangles a job for Maggie as "script consultant." After all, it's a psychological thriller and Maggie did a lot of forensic work when she was a psychologist back in Manhattan. So now Mother and daughter will be working together side by side on the set.

It's an ideal situation, until the leading lady turns up dead on the beach.

Maggie immediately goes into sleuthing mode. Who would want to kill the drama queen? The simple answer is: everyone! The more Maggie investigates (with the help of hunky detective Rafe Martino) the more she realizes that the suspect list could be in the double digits.

I loved writing this book and I used up all my "true stories" from my days on movie sets. I had a small speaking part in a Robert Wagner film (just enough lines to get my SAG card) so re-living "the old days" was fun and nostalgic for me.

Do you ever feel nostalgic for a certain time in your life that seemed magical and carefree?

Do you ever get a tiny flash of inspiration and it blossoms into a full-blown plot? I think it's a gift when that happens, and I wish it happened more frequently.

Mary Kennedy is a former radio copywriter and the award-winning author of forty novels. She is also a clinical psychologist in private practice and lives on the east coast with her husband and eight eccentric cats. Her novels have appeared on the Barnes and Noble, Publisher's Weekly and BookScan best-seller lists and she has received an award and grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for "artistic excellence in literary fiction."

She hopes you'll visit her website.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

THE FOURTH ASSASSIN by Matt Benyon Rees (Soho Crime)

This is the fourth book in the Omar Yussef series but the first that I have read. Omar is a principle/teacher in a Palestinian refugee camp. He travels to New York for a United Nations conference and a visit with his son Ala. Ala is living in NY with two childhood friends in a large Palestinian community. When he arrives at Ala’s apartment, no one is home, but Omar finds a headless body. He fears it is his son but later his son returns. Ala becomes the main suspect when the other roommate appears to be missing. Omar begins to investigate to clear his son’s name. The murderer has left clues that point to the Assassins, an ancient Shitite sect. Ala and his roommates had a club by that name when they were children. Omar thinks there is either a connection or someone trying to frame his son. There are many shocking surprises as this story develops into an international conspiracy. The author addresses many religious, social, and political issues and misconceptions that are prevalent in the US and the world.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about the Mideast and to be entertained while doing it.

Review by Helen Jones
FTC full disclosure - book provided by the publisher

STORM PEAK by John A. Flanagan (Berkley Trade)

In this new detective series, the author introduces us to former Denver Homicide Detective Jesse Parker, and Steamboat Springs Sheriff Lee Torrens. The recently divorced Parker has returned home to Steamboat Springs after the death of his Denver homicide partner. The sheriff was his high school sweetheart and is still in love with him. A serial killer is stalking the tourists in Steamboat Springs and Jesse is talked into becoming a deputy to help identify and capture the murderer. Jesse’s ex-wife, a TV news reporter, arrives in Steamboat Springs to cover the murders. This creates an interesting triangle while the reader wonders which woman is going to end up with Jesse or which woman will be murdered! The murders are bloody and the killer always seems to be one step ahead of the cops. The book is fast paced and difficult to put down. I am looking forward to the next Jesse Parker story.

Review by Helen Jones
FTC full disclosure - book provided by the publisher

SECRETS TO DIE FOR by L. J. Sellers (Echelon Press)

Homicide detective Wade Jackson has a rape and murder of a 20-year-old to solve. His investigation turns up too many suspects and not enough time before another potential victim disappears. I couldn’t put this book down until I reached the shocking ending! While writing a thrilling mystery, Ms Sellers’ explores our attitudes toward some of the social issues we tend to turn a blind eye to such as child abuse and gay relationships.

Review by Helen Jones
FTC full disclosure - book provided by the publisher

RAINING CAT SITTERS AND DOGS by Blaize Clement (Minotaur)

The latest in the Dixie Hemingway series is set  in Dixie's home town. Siesta Key is an upscale topical isle between the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay. The reader can feel the warm topical breezes and hear the Gulf shore waves lapping on the beach near the 1950's home Dixie shares with her firefighter brother Michael and his partner Paco, an undercover police officer.

While at the veterinarian with one of her charges, a very vocal Congo African Grey parrot, Dixie encounters a sobbing teenager and her stepfather. Something just doesn't seem right to Dixie about that relationship. Wanting to help, Dixie suggests that a part time job with Hetty, a service dog trainer, might ease the teenager's unhappiness. Soon afterwards, the surprising return of Dixie's high school BBF throws her into the world of the rich and famous.

Blaize Clement's accurate descriptions of the pets and their behaviors will please animal lovers while adding comic relief  to the story. Complex plot and multi-layered characters all come together for a very satisfying fast-paced mystery. I think this latest book is best enjoyed after reading the others in the series  as it allows you to see Dixie's character grow. It is a series worth your time. Thank you, Ms Clement.

Review by Karen Kiley
FTC full disclosure - book provided by the publisher

THE TEABERRY STRANGLER by Laura Childs (Berkley)

A back alley crawl, charming shops, flickering candles, wind and rain set a delightful background for an unfortunate murder. The owner of The Antiquarian Map Shop is found dead in the alley with historic maps found shredded on her shop floor. Theodosia saw the struggle in the distance and found the body of her friend. Suspects include the boyfriend, the assistant in the shop, someone who wanted the shop or maybe it had something to do with the maps. AlthoughTheodosia is running the busy and successful Indigo Tea Shop she is encouraged by others to investigate the murder in her spare time. She can’t help but ask questions which always gets her in trouble. First strange bones turn up in her backyard then her Jeep is run off the road by some nut case. There were a couple of interesting arrests and then in the lights of the flickering candles on the patio of the Heritage Society the murderer is revealed.

The Teaberry Strangler is a fun mystery, the eleventh in the series. All our favorite characters are back, with Dayton blending wonderful teas, Haley baking delicious treats, Detective Tidwell being his grumpy self, Delaine being impossible, and Earl Gray being loveable. The totally charming Indigo Tea Shop is busy as ever with amazing teas and delicious treats coming out of an impossibly small kitchen. As in Laura Child’s other Tea Shop Murder Mysteries there are rather impossible and dangerous adventures with elegant Charleston in the background.

Pour yourself a cup of tea and enjoy The Teaberry Strangler. Perhaps you would like to try some of the recipes, tea time hints and tea crafting ideas found in the back of the book. Doesn’t Frogmore stew sound intriguing? Or having a special tea or even making your own flavored tea? Scones and Bones is the next in this delightful series.

Reviewed by Jane DeWitt
FTC full disclosure - book provided by the publisher

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Guest Blogger Cricket McRae

Last fall at Bouchercon in Indianapolis, a track was featured which reflected the many mysteries that involve crafts. I already knew how to knit and crochet; I knew I didn't want to get tied up in macrame; but the session on making fizzing bath salts called to me. (You may have heard me mention that I do a lot of reading in the bath tub.) Cricket McRae led this mini workshop, and I had a grand time making the bath salts and a fizzy bath bomb. (More on that at another time!)

I hadn't read Cricket's Home Crafting Mystery Series, but her plan to feature traditional women's work appealed to me and I knew it would to others. Even without reading a single book in the series, I asked Cricket if she'd be willing to guest blog for us. She was gracious in her acceptance. I know you'll enjoy getting to know her today.

First off, thanks for inviting me to guest post, Molly! I've really been looking forward to it.

Recently I spoke to a group of writers— and readers— at a library. A woman asked me why I use colonial home crafts as the backdrop to my murder mysteries. How did I decide on something so obscure? Had I done market research to see what would sell?

Um, no.

First off, I don't know that home crafts are all that obscure. Crafting mysteries abound—knitting, quilting, candle making, glass blowing, pottery, scrap booking, gift baskets, beading, wreath making, needlework, crochet—the list goes on and on, and that's not even touching on the culinary and wine mysteries. People are creative. They like to read about other people who are creative, and maybe even learn something at the same time.

Crafting mysteries are so popular that at Bouchercon last October they organized a venue in which authors of this kind of mystery taught their crafts to attendees. In fact, I met Molly in my class on fizzing bath salts. My protagonist, Sophie Mae Reynolds, has a homemade soap and bath product business, and those salts are one of her products. We had a hoot making the fizzing bath salts into solid bath bombs—some of which became burbling, growing, alien masses.

Still, with all the choices out there, why did I decide on colonial home crafts? I didn't research market share, sales ranking, discern the popularity of crafting mysteries, or try to tap into the Martha Stewart phenomenon.

I wrote what I knew.

See, I'm fascinated by the skills which once were necessary to survival. Pioneer crafts, if you will. If you wanted soap, you had to know how to make it. If you wanted food in the winter you learned how to preserve the summer's harvest. You had to know how to sew, bake, spin, weave, knit and a whole lot more.

After leaving my corporate job at a big software firm, I had an online bath products business much like Sophie Mae's. Every fall you can find me preserving produce from the garden or the farmers market. A spinning wheel sits next to my desk. It was an easy step to incorporate these activities into the mysteries I write about a widow in her mid-thirties who stumbles upon dead bodies and mysterious deaths in the small town of Cadyville, Washington.

The mysteries are contemporary, but the crafts are not. The skills that once were vital, hard work are now more like leisure activities. I blame my own home crafting obsession on early exposure to Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House books, as well as my creative parents. But I suspect the general resurgence of interest in these traditions is related in part to the real food, slow food, and local food movements. It might also be a reaction to an increasingly technical and less hands-on world. Plus, making something useful feels good.

My obsession recently spilled over from the books, and onto my new blog. I post there a bit about writing and mysteries, but also about cooking, gardening, knitting, and the other activities that make up my days.

The fourth Home Crafting Mystery, Something Borrowed, Something Bleu, will be released on July 1. The backdrop to this latest book is, as you've guessed from the title, cheese making. Sophie Mae learns about easy fresh cheese recipes and other milk products while investigating her brother's eighteen-year-old suicide in her home town of Spring Creek, Colorado.

For more about me and my books, please visit my website .

Thursday, March 18, 2010

THE BONE THIEF by Jefferson Bass (William Morrow)

Jefferson Bass (Bill Bass & Jon Jefferson) have a great new forensic thriller in the Body Farm series. The writing team of world-renowned forensic anthropologist, Dr. Bill Bass, founder of the world's first and foremost laboratory devoted to the study of human decomposition and noted journalist Jon Jefferson delve into the chilling world of black market body parts. Having appeared as an expert in three court cases involving stolen body parts, Dr. Bass has a one-of-a-kind perspective about this alarming trend.

The two will appear at Quail Ridge Books and Music in Raleigh Friday night, April 9, at 7:30. I haven't read the book yet, but after seeing the trailer for it, it'll be at the top of my reading pile in a couple of days!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

RED DELICIOUS DEATH by Shelia Connolly (Berkley)

In her third outing, downsized banker Meg Corey is feeling almost at home in her new hometown. She's learning to be an apple farmer, dating a great guy, and working to restore her inherited farmhouse. When her best friend from Boston asks her to help a couple of young chefs find a building suitable for a restaurant, Meg agrees, never thinking she'd soon be facing a contentious town official, a time-consuming search, and a body found face down in a pig wallow.

Meg is a smart, savvy woman who's working hard to fit into her new community—just the kind of protagonist I look for in today's traditional mystery. I look forward to more trips to Granford, Massachusetts!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Guest Blogger Lillian Stewart Carl

Today's guest blogger, Lillian Stewart Carl, comes close to having something for everyone. She says of herself, "Over the years I've been inventing my own genre, mystery/romance with supernatural/ historical/ mythological underpinnings." She categorizes her books as "Mostly Mystery," "Romantic Suspense," Non-Fiction and Collections," "Fantasy Thriller," "Romantic Fantasy," and "Fantasy." She's also written non-fiction. Lillian has traveled extensively in Europe, the Middle East, India, and Japan, and she uses her experiences to bring her books to life.

Please join me in welcoming Lillian Stewart Carl as she compares her own life as a writer to that of Mr. Earbrass, a writer in another time.

Of Novels, Harps, and the Writing Life

Recently I completed my twentieth novel. (That I keep starting new ones proves the triumph of hope over experience.)

Completing a novel should be a moment of victory. Usually it’s more of a moment of exhaustion. I collapse across the finish line with a whimper, not a bang. When I mentioned my dazed and confused condition to an author-friend, she very kindly sent me a copy of the late Edward Gorey’s The Unstrung Harp; or Mr. Earbrass Writes a Novel.

I’ve always appreciated the mordant wit of Gorey’s illustrations and fictional pieces, such as The Gashlycrumb Tinies and the animated credits for PBS’s Mystery. But this particular work had escaped my attention—which means I had the delight of discovering it at a very appropriate moment.

It’s a very slender volume, with delicious bits of text facing illustrations in Gorey’s whimsical and yet dark style. Mr. Earbrass himself is a stocky, slightly bewildered-looking individual, whose head resembles an upside-down foot extending from his collar—perhaps for those days most writers are all too familiar with, when everything goes topsy-turvy.

As I paged through the book, my chuckles grew into guffaws. Gorey captured all the roller-coaster experience, from exultation to nausea, of writing a novel.

Not that all the details hit home. The scenario plays out in what appear to be the early days of the twentieth century. Mr. Earbrass writes with one of those old-fangled things called a pen, on sheets of paper—there’s not a keyboard in sight, not even that of a (shudder!) manual typewriter.

When he cuts and pastes in revision, he actually cuts and pastes. How quaint! He hand-carries a stack of paper to his publishers’ office, rather than attaching a file and hitting Send. And Mr. Earbrass only writes a novel every other year. Goodness! What luxury!

However, most of what Mr. Earbrass goes through in writing his novel, The Unstrung Harp, is exactly what I’ve gone through—and yet, what I’m usually rather surprised happens. (A slow learner, that’s me.)

He ponders “where the plot is to go, and what is to happen to it upon arrival”. While it’s never explicitly stated that The Unstrung Harp is a mystery, at one point Mr. Earbrass’s characters “are feverishly engaged in wondering whether to have the pond at Disshiver Cottage dragged or not,” which implies a mysterious happening.

With me, the mysterious happening is how I’ll start out with a tempting MacGuffin, like a seventeenth-century charm stone, a bog body, or the Loch Ness monster, only to have to jerk the plot’s leash back into line when it wanders away from my proffered treat and starts sniffing trees in the park. Mr. Earbrass jots down odd bits of description, and tries to track down even odder references (“His mind’s eye sees them quoted on the bottom third of a right-hand page . . .”)

Oh yes. I’ll need my architect hero to say something intelligent about medieval church design—I saw a good layman’s explanation of spandrels and purlins somewhere . . .

You might think the Internet would obviate that desperate scramble through the library shelves, but it doesn’t, not necessarily. There was, for example, the time I searched until my eyes were bepixilated for information about Ann Boleyn’s prayer book, which I knew I had seen in the British Museum, only to come up blank. Probably because, as it turns out, what I saw in the British Museum was Lady Jane Grey’s prayer book.

Mr. Earbrass makes the mistake of re-reading what he’s already written and discovers that it’s dreadful, dreadful, DREADFUL!

Oh my yes. There’s always that spot in the middle of the novel where I think I’d better change the identity of the murder victim, and I haven’t yet decided who the murderer is and therefore have provided every possible suspect with an alibi, and maybe I should move the crime scene from a convent to a brothel—in other words, the story falls apart in my hands like a moth-eaten sweater.

Then the day comes. Mr. Earbrass is finished. He wanders about the house picking up and putting down small objects, thinking vaguely he should be doing something useful. At moments like this, I often find myself wondering what month it is, or being incapable of answering a simple question like, “What do you want for dinner?”

And that’s just the writing. The publishing is another series of sardonic jokes.

The galleys, for example, the pages printed in book format, always appear at some inopportune moment, and “at first they look so different he thought they had sent him the wrong ones by mistake.” Then there are galley gremlins, like the one who changed the date of the Armada in The Murder Hole from 1588 to 1688 after I’d checked every word of those galleys and returned them to the publisher.

The cover art usually produces a cry of, “Whatever were they thinking of?” At least I’ve never had a cover like one on a friend’s romance, where the heroine was equipped with three arms. But the cover of one my heroic fantasy novels, instead of evoking Cretan bull dancers, shows a pudgy guy bulldogging a Hereford and begs for the caption, “Hey, sweetie, what’s your sign? I bet you’re a Taurus.”

The reviews squat on Mr. Earbrass’s table in a threatening heap while he tries to distract himself by reading something else. A good thing he didn’t have the cyber-reviews on Google or Amazon, which don’t just prove that one bad review will obliterate five good ones, they will leave the author prostrate on her fainting couch with a cold compress on her brow.

Every now and then Mr. Earbrass gets together with other authors to complain about the unspeakable horror of the literary life, something I do myself—the whine and cheese party is a standard venue. After all, who understand the perils of writing a novel better than another novelist?

And who better to laugh with, not at, Mr. Earbrass?

Lillian Stewart Carl has written multiple novels and multiple short stories in multiple combinations of mystery, romance, and paranormal. Her latest book is The Charm Stone, book four of the Jean Fairbairn/Alasdair Cameron series: Scotland’s finest and America’s exile on the trail of all-too-living legends. Learn more about her and her works at her website.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Guest Blogger Karen E. Olson

Today is the lay down date for Karen's latest "Tattoo Shop" mystery, Pretty in Ink. It's a great series, and I got an early peak at this one because she was coming to North Carolina. You'll enjoy Brett Kavanaugh whether you have tattoos or not! Karen is going to tell you about our first meeting in her blog below.

Please join me in welcoming Karen Olson!

I had a whole blog post written for Molly, but I’ve decided to change it up. Because I’ve just spent the weekend with her and I have to rave about it.

I met Molly briefly at Bouchercon in October. Not long after, I received an email from her asking if I’d want to come to Raleigh, North Carolina for a mini book tour. She’d arrange all the events, I’d just have to show up. Hank Phillippi Ryan and Julie Hyzy would also be included.

I think I hesitated only a nanosecond before I said yes.

I had an ulterior motive: My new tattoo shop mystery Pretty in Ink would be out March 2 (today!), and maybe we’d be able to get some copies early from the publisher to sell at the events.

Having books early was only the first thrill of the weekend. I have never done a tour like this before, staying mostly in my own backyard in Connecticut and doing local events here. Occasionally I’ll head to New York or Boston or Rhode Island, but it’s all within driving distance. And when I do that, it’s pretty much a solo act. I’m there, all by myself, hoping to entertain and entice the audience to buy my books.

I absolutely loved being part of a trio. At Hank's suggestion, Molly called us the Triple Threat Tour, and you couldn’t find three women probably less threatening than us. Hank and Julie are super, so fun and gracious and their books are fantastic. It was also so wonderful to share stories.

Writing can be a lonely business, we sit in our rooms by ourselves spending time with imaginary people. To actually go out in public and dress up (I’m usually writing in sweats and a fleece pullover and a big pair of woolen socks) and meet other writers, booksellers, librarians, and readers is such a treat. The folks Molly introduced us to were all amazing and went out of their way to make us feel welcome.

It was a blast to connect with the real world, not one that’s just in our heads. I was so excited to have the chance to talk about my books, and especially my new one, with new potential readers, to share my enthusiasm for Brett Kavanaugh, my tattoo artist protagonist, and her world in Las Vegas. I spent years writing “what I know” as I penned the Annie Seymour mysteries, set here in my hometown of New Haven and in a newsroom, a place where I spent more than 20 years of my life. The challenge of writing about something completely different has been so liberating for me, and I know it’s clear on the pages of my books that I’m excited about it.

So I’m giving Molly a big shout out Thank You here, and thanks so much for having me here at Meritorious Mysteries on the launch day of Pretty in Ink!


To see more abut Karen and her series (she's also got a terrific Annie Seymour series), visit her website!