Bone to be Wild by Carolyn Haines

HainesBone to be Wild is the fifteenth book in the Sarah Booth Delaney Mysteries. Sarah Booth’s old friend, Scott Hampton, is bringing his special brand of the blues back to Zinnia in the wonderful old club located at the crossroads of Sawmill and Pentecost roads. It was rumored to be “the location where the devil made more than one bargain for a musician’s soul.” Playin’ the Bones would be the happening place—unless someone kept Scott from fulfilling his dream.

See my full review at Criminal Element. Carolyn Haines is a prolific writer from Mississippi, and her heroine Sarah Booth Delaney is a charming private investigator who doesn’t let her Southern politeness keep her from digging up the truth when it’s needed.

Check out www.criminalelement.com!

Fidelity or Adultery? That is the Question

bed_frameI’ve come to a definite conclusion about the things I read and watch of late.  I find I’ve become increasingly uninterested in plots that include infidelity in a marriage. It seems so easy to me for characters to forget promises they’ve made and loyalty to a spouse to enjoy the secrecy and intrigue of adultery. The marriage bed is no longer sacred.

I know this happens in real life. My husband and I were part of a group of eight couples when we were newlyweds. Before we moved away from our hometown, there was only one other couple besides us still together. Nearly all of these marriages ended with adultery. One husband engaged in a work-place romance. Another friend lost her husband to her best friend. With another, the affair was between two men. I’m not foolish enough to think it never happens, but I am tired of seeing it as a gratuitous sex on the screen and between the pages.

I’ve been wondering if other people feel the same way. One thing I enjoy about murder mysteries is while the crime is often about passion, it can be passion about anything, not just love and sex.

I still enjoy romance novels, and I love the many mystery series I read. While John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport was a real lady’s man when he was single, he hasn’t been unfaithful to Weather since they married. Eve Dallas and Roarke value each other and their commitment too much to consider infidelity. Robert B. Parker’s Spenser adores Susan even though they have never married.

I also know I can choose the “hotness” of the books I read, but I’ve always enjoyed a variety of genres and books. I’m just tired of seeing adultery as a key plot element.

Anybody else thinking this way?

Broken Window by Dorothy H. Hayes

Broken Window by Dorothy H. Hayes, one of our very own, is out today!

Hayes2Reporter Carol Rossi achieved some local notoriety with her last investigative piece for the local newspaper in Wilton, Connecticut. Still, it’s completely unexpected when she’s drawn into a case that has her trolling for information in the streets of New York City.

Kelly Singleton, a recent graduate of Wilton High School, was thrilled to take her friends to see her dorm room at NYU. The girls had begged their parents to let them learn the ins and outs of riding the subway.

However, the young women discover they’re completely out of their element when Kelly vanishes without a trace.

We met Rossi in Dorothy’s first novel, Murder at the P&Z, where she used her investigative skills to look into local politics at the Planning & Zoning Commission. She’s an interesting and innovative amateur detective who loves to rescue animals and is an uncompromising vegan.

Hayes has woven a complicated mystery with this challenging story line, set in steamy New York City in 1984. It’s obvious she did extensive research into the times and issues facing NYC during this critical time.

Check out this trailer for this suspenseful read:

For a chance to win a copy of Broken Window, check out my review at Criminal Element and enter the sweepstakes!

A dogged reporter and a missing teenager lost in a city of millions. It makes for good mystery.

Obsession in Death by J.D. Robb

Stalking has become a reality in our world. There’s even a new TV show called “Stalkers.” ObsessionIt’s the creepiest thing in the world to imagine someone being obsessed with you, with your life, with everything you do.

When Eve Dallas finds a personal message from the killer on the wall at the scene of a homicide, she knows there’s more than murder involved. A pesky defense attorney who had an adversarial relationship with Eve is her victim, and the killer makes it clear the killing was done to settle a score for Eve.

As in most of the books in this series, Obsession in Death has Eve running against this clock to solve a case. Added to the mix this time is a murderer who not only wants to help Eve,  but is obsessed with helping Eve outside the constraints of the law.

With shades of Stephen King’s Misery, Robb scores five stars with this one. I’ve complained about the last two books in the series for their lack of references to the secondary characters. This time, they’re part of the case.

I got caught up in this one and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you haven’t read the series before, you can read this as a standalone, but it’ll be better if you go back to the first one, Naked in Death.

Of course, that also means you’ll be reading thirty-nine books before you get to this one!

The City of Blood–New Release

BloodAnother complex case for one of my favorite detectives, Chief of Police Nico Sirsky in romantic–and deadly–Paris, France. The City of Blood by Frederique Molay has him dealing with a corpse that has been buried for thirty years while facing his mother’s health crisis.

This case is unusual and fascinating. The famous artist, Samuel Cassian, created art with his famous banquet tableau, which he buried three decades ago to be dug up by archeologists. The site of the famous artwork was once a famous slaughterhouse. The art not only contains the remains of a banquet frozen in time, there’s also a corpse that is possibly the missing son of the artist.

“Cassian was no starving artist, though,” the prosecutor said. “He made a surgeon’s fortune from his pieces. Then he opened pop-up restaurants and organized interactive banquets.”

“In the eighties he got tired of doing the same thing over and over and decided to have a final banquet,” Cohen said. “He wanted his guests to bury the remains, and he planned to have the whole thing dug up years later.”

The excavation had started a few days earlier, when reporters, scientists and artists came together to disinter the fragments. They planned to study the remnants and determine the work’s sustainability. It was nothing less than the first excavation of modern art.

“This is quite a scandal,” the prosecutor said. “Samuel Cassian is a prominent figure. The organizations sponsoring the event are going to go ballistic.”

“We’ll have to get to the bottom of this quickly,” Cohen said.

Time is working against Nico on so many levels it keeps the pace of the book at the breakneck speed. You’re constantly wondering what will happen next.

Once the homicide of the corpse is revealed, Nico and his team are relentless in their pursuit of the murderer. Though they have a body, evidence of murder, and all the elements for a court case, it’s possible the prosecutor’s office will consider it beyond the statute of limitations. While working this case, Nico’s crew is also dealing with a homophobic serial killer who’s cutting a chunk out of the shoulders of his victims.

When Nico’s beloved mother, Anya, is rushed to the hospital, his thoughts and judgements are definitely affected. He finds himself thinking of the old religion he dismissed from his life so many years ago. The introspection and the pressure from the case has Nico thinking about deals with the God he has ignore for so long.

Watching Nico pull the strings of this case together is like almost poetic in its symmetry. His guts lead him in ras directions, but the support of his team and his soulmate, Caroline, help him cope with the stress. As the case is reaching its climax, his mother health crisis becomes critical.

Back in his office, Nico called Caroline. She picked up immediately.

“Any news?” he asked.

“I talked to Dr. Fursac. They took her off sedatives this morning. Anya’s been moving a bit.”

“What does that mean?”

“It’s a good sign. It means she’s waking up. But let’s not jump to conclusions yet. We still have to wait. I’ll call you early this afternoon.”

“Thank you, my love.”

He could almost hear her smiling.

Frederique Molay has a wonderful ability to put in your Paris, make you feel the detectives’ frustration and motivation, and bring it all together for a satisfying ending. All the pieces of the complicated story in place, and you’re ready to go back to beginning and read it again.

The City of Blood is out today. I really enjoy a good mystery with a foreign locale. In light of recent events, it’s good to read a story where the good guys win.

Riding the Roller Coaster

At the end of 2013, my writing partner and I (we write as Neely Powell) were on a high of success. Our first book came out in November 2013, and we had signed a contract for a trilogy with a major romance publisher. The first book came out in March 2014 as part of a new digital venture. We were thrilled. We completed the second book and went through he editing process; it was scheduled for later in the year, and we began work on the third book.

Months passed with no word from our editor. Emails went unanswered or vague references were given for the delays. We began to worry and learned in November that the publishing line was being shut down. We are still waiting to get the rights back and finish the third book. At least if we offer it to someone else, we’ve got two complete and edited manuscripts.

roller coasterAnd so the roller coaster ride of writing continues.

I’ve been through this before. My first book was bought by the second publisher I offered it to, however, they ended up going out of business before it was published. I’m beginning to feel like Jinx, the character in the old Lil’ Abner comic strip who walked around with a cloud above  his head that was always dumping rain on him.

We’re not giving up. My partner and I are looking at agents, other markets, and self-publishing. At this point we have no idea what we’re going to do, but we’ve had contact with other writers in this publishing line that are going through the same thing. Misery loves company.

The one thing I know we won’t do is stop writing. Our first book is still available for sale, and we do promote it.

It’s up and down, but it’s what we’ve chosen. How are you feeling about your writing right now?

 

 

A Character by Any Other Name

I don’t know what your process is in naming character, but I put a lot of thought and research into it. I want to be sure my character’s name suits the personality, the family and background, and the growth process during the book. There are some great names from famous mystery writers that I tend to think will always be around.

ThinManNick and Nora Charles were the sophisticated investigators created by Dashill Hammett for his novel, The Thin Man. Who could forget this engaging couple and their adventures? They still show up regularly in crossword puzzles and on the old movie channels. I love their elegance and sharp wit when pursuing mysteries.

 

Agatha Christie has perhaps the most famous amateur sleuths with Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. These mysteries were complicated and often filled with a large cast of characters who were all suspect.

An editor recently asked us to stop giving everyone in our small town names. She said there were too many people who readers needed to identify so we began saying thing like “the man who owned the hardware store” and “the librarian, who had been working in the school system for too many years.” This became a painful process for us because we’d gotten to know the people in the town, and we felt it took away a layer of the story that gave it more warmth.

OrientExpressI think I can safely say that Murder on the Orient Express is my favorite Christie book. It was a compelling story with a lot of double entendres and secrets. Going through the investigative process with Poirot while having everyone trapped on the train was fascinating. I do love that story and am equally fascinated with the movie. The cast was brilliant and gave excellent performances. There were so many characters it’s difficult to name them all here, but they had a connection with the American who was stabbed many, many times during the night on the train. The story unravels slowly and feels you with a strong sense of justice being done.

DeadlineOther characters I’ve appreciated through the years include Hieronymus Bosch, the dedicated LA cop created by Michael Connelly. I also enjoy J.A. Jance’s Joanna Brady and J.P. Beaumont, two very different people who solve crimes in their own way. As I mentioned before, Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers, characters created by John Sandford are two of my absolute favorites. and who can forget Eve Dallas and Roark. I enjoy the futuristic element in these police procedurals.

I could probably go on for hours about great characters names like Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March will always be with me. I also enjoy The Five Little Peppers, and felt their names fit perfectly.

Mysteries will always be popular, and I always think about the name I’m using just in case it ends up being in crossword puzzles and movie references. I want to be sure it will look and sound good.

Share some of your favorite character names! I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

Serialized Crime Fiction: Seven Deaths, One Corpse

The Year I Died Seven Times, serial fiction in 7 installments by Eric BeetnerWriters and publishers have tried to make contemporary fiction serials work, like they did when Conan Doyle and Dickens were writing them, back when people would yell from the dock to ships arriving with new editions of the magazines to get the early word if Little Dorrit was going to be okay. It would seem like modern, short attention spans and episodic TV would make serials a natural (again) for fiction, quick installments delivered in a flash to electronic devices. But in my experience, sometimes they work, and too often, they don’t delight.

I’ve seen e-serials that take too long between installments, aren’t written with hooks in the right places, aren’t priced correctly (for example, ones where all the pieces together cost much more than a comparably-sized novel), and otherwise aren’t really designed to compete or succeed.

However, I just read a crime serial I think worked well: The Year I Died Seven Times, Books #1- #7 by Eric Beetner. (Of course, my disclaimer is that I only began reading at a point when I knew I could read all the pieces. Maybe we should think about releasing serials in more binge-friendly quantities? Is it a serial if they’re released all at once?) Anyway, follow the link above for the entire Fresh Meat post I wrote for Criminal Element:

For the last several years, [Ridley’s] been on disability he doesn’t really need, renting out his medical marijuana card to a stoner pal and dealer, CJ, also selling off his Vicodin so he can couch-surf and exist on takeout…

But that’s Ridley’s existence before Miho Tsukiji, a Japanese girl working on a visa, who he comes to love quickly and dangerously deeply. Maybe the void of any other purpose in his life makes her presence that much more important, and when she suddenly says goodbye and disappears from L.A. without preamble, a terrible need to understand haunts him. In fact, it will kill him. Again and again.

For our purposes here, let’s talk more about the notion of fiction serials. I always advise clients to make dang sure their novel chapters have decent hooks, especially if we’re going to leave that character or situation for a bit. A good hook doesn’t have to be a true cliffhanger, a swinging vine over a chasm, just an intriguing-enough promise of something coming that encourages a reader to keep turning pages and forget the alarm clock. Hooks are the connective tissue that hold a plot-based narrative together, and they’re essential to a serial worth following.

When Eric Beetner‘s not writing fiction, he gigs in TV, so it’s not that surprising that he knows how to craft lots of little episodic arcs inside a bigger, series-long one. Happily, this story’s device of the hero continuing to die in some unfortunate new way in each installment kept getting better for me as it went, like a repeated gag that actually gets funnier with each variation, rather than worn out or dull.

To appreciate this story most, I think you have to be able to enjoy the comeuppances and fatal mistakes of lowlifes, of the desperate and foolish. This IS noirish fiction, but with an edgy sense of humor. Imagine some of the gross, un-fixable, but perversely hilarious events in films like Fargo or In Bruges or in an Elmore Leonard novel. If that stuff makes you grin, you’ll get a kick out of this.

But even if you’d just like to see what you think of the pacing and format, because perhaps you’ve considered working on something in a serialized structure, it’s well worth your time to Grab the whole series Now. The publisher, BEAT to a PULP,  is offering All 7 e-installments FREE (40 to 50 pages apiece) on Amazon for a week as of today! Yes, the F-word. Do snatch them up and see what you think!

(And if you enjoy it, you know the score… leave a review! I’ll have mine up in the next day or two.)

What do you think of serial fiction? Are there recent serials you’ve read that you’d recommend?

GGM eBooks Are Coming!

Gabriel García Márquez fans, rejoice!

On October 15, 2014, nine of Nobel laureate García Márquez’s translated works will be available digitally in the United States — for the first time.

Love in the Time of Cholera coverAmong the eBooks being released by Penguin Random House Imprint Vintage Books include Love in the Time of Cholera and Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Read my 2011 post when GGM won his 17-year-long legal battle regarding Chronicle). 

100 yrs of solitude coverNot all of Gabriel García Márquez’s translated works will be available. It doesn’t include English e-book rights for his epic 1967 novel One Hundred Years of Solitude (the rights of the English Language version are held by HarperCollins).

Gabriel García Márquez, the Master of Magic Realism, passed away at age 87 on April 17, 2014, in Mexico City, Mexico.

My fellow blog-mate, Dorothy Hayes, wrote about GGM after his passing, and how he influenced her writing.

The Paris ReviewFor a real treat, check out Peter H. Stone’s interview with Gabriel García Márquez in the Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 69; GGM revealed his inspirations; his influences; his writing schedule; the genesis of all of his writing; and so much more.

Follow me on Twitter @katcop13.

Festive in Death by J.D. Robb Brings Holidays and Homicide Together

FestiveEve and Roark are back and getting ready for the big Christmas party in Festive in Death by J.D. Robb. As always, a homicide disrupts the flow of the holidays, but Eve is determined to solve it and enjoy their special Christmas time together.

I’ve read all of the ..in Death books, and this series is a favorite of mine. I not only loved watching Eve and Roark fall in love and grow together, I thoroughly love the supporting cast that surrounds them. They’ve all become good friends, and I usually buy these books the day they’re released so I can start reading immediately.

I have found, however, the last four books a bit disappointing. They’ve been focused entirely on police procedure and solving the murders. That’s always an important part of these stories, but it was never the most important part.

It’s Christmas time in New York City, and, as always, a homicide paints shades of despair on the tinsel. Personal trainer Trey Zeigler is killed in his own apartment. Eve immediately discovers there’s a array of suspects who hated the man. Not only was he a misogynistic and arrogant, he was possibly involved in shady activities with his clients.

While Eve is pursuing leads, she has to do her Christmas shopping, which she hates, and oversee set up for the big party at home. There are the usual interactions with her partner and others in the police force along with Roark’s majordomo.

So much of this book came across as “tossed in” for lack of better words. I wanted J.D. Robb to go back to making the books as personal as they were procedural, but the personal aspects of this story seemed contrived.

I love the books of Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb. I’ve read all of them, but this one just didn’t hit the spot. Eve didn’t even get into an altercation with anyone, and she hasn’t had a good fight in a while.

I know a writer can’t be at the top of her game all the time, but I think it may be time for a big change in this series to give it a new turn. I won’t stop reading about Eve and Roark, but I do hope Robb brings them back to life with a little more zing.