Back to Reality

I’ve recently gone back to work full-time, and, boy, has that been an adjustment. I’ve done freelance assignments and written fiction for six years, and I haven’t written a word of fiction since taking my job a month ago.

That is not good.

officeI enjoy writing fiction, but it has been years since I’ve come home from putting in eight hours and set down at the computer again. I write or edit most of the day now, and I find myself doing household chores, vegging in front of the TV, or reading. When I was working from home, I was reading an average of three books a week. Gone are the days…

I like to think I’m going through a period of adjustment…and I hope I get adjusted pretty quickly. My writing partner and I have published two books, and recently had Harlequin back out of our deal for a trilogy for their now-defunct e-book line. That has made it difficult to write too, just the sheer sadness of such a loss.Home

What do you do when you motivation has reached an all-time low? I like to put inspirational quotes on the refrigerator and my computer, so I’ll have visual reminders of what it is I want to do.

How about these?

“Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”  Mark Twain

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” Richard Bach

“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”  Phillip Roth

“There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be.”  Doris Lessing

These are good quotes, and I’m feeling more inclined to put fingers to keyboard. I mean, I wrote this, didn’t I? Now all I have to do is read the last chapter I wrote so I can catch up on my fiction.

 

Madam President and Her PI

Don’t you love it when you find a new series you truly enjoy? Not only are you reading something between new releases, you can add a new writer to your list of favorites. I’ve very much enjoying the exploits and investigations  in Joseph Flynn’s Jim McGill series. A former Chicago cop, Jim is now married to the first female president of the United States, and instead of cutting ribbons and organizing luncheons, he is a licensed private investigator, with an office on P Street in Washington, D.C.

McGill1Jim is referred to as The President’s Henchman, which is also the title of the first book. In this one, we’re introduced to the ensemble cast that makes these books so entertaining. In addition to Jim, there’s Patricia Darden Grant, the president, Jim’s ex-wife and three children, along with her new husband, Sweetie, Jim’s longtime partner who now works with him, along with various politicians, Secret Service agents, military personnel, and the president’s staff.

I’ve read the first two books and am deeply into the third book. This series is quickly moving up the list of my favorites. When I finish these books, I plan to check out the two otherMcGill1 series Flynn has. I’m happy as a clam that I found something new to read during one of my lulls. If you love mysteries, I think you’ll enjoy these books too.

Have you found any new authors this summer? Share and we’ll all have plenty to read until the fall releases!

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!

A Day at Henry’s Palace

Neely Powell 2014-31-1Jan Powell and I make up the writing team called Neely Powell. We recently were privileged to go to England together and explore the familiar landmarks while visiting with my son and his family, who live in Weybridge.

Not far from Weybridge is the town of Hampton Court, where the famous Hampton Court Palace, a favorite home away from home for Henry VIII. It’s just ten miles from London and rises up beside the River Thames. Stepping through the gates takes you back in time 500 years. You actually feel the enormity of the history. All of Henry VIII’s wives came here. Henry’s heirs were born here.

HCPalaceThe first thing you notice is the immensity of it. There’s no way you can stand in the grounds and fully comprehend how big the palace is. There’s also no way you can see everything in its mighty walls in just one day, so I’m sharing some of the highlights that we really enjoyed. It was one of 50 or 60 palaces Henry owned, but it was by far his favorite.

You can feel the power still hovering in the corridors. Epic decisions and petty jealousies were familiar guests in the royal bedrooms. The amount of food and wine consumed in one day is staggering. The court required 600,000 gallons of bear every year and around 10,000 gallons of wine. FountainThere is actually a replica of a wine fountain in the courtyard used to provide unending red wine during a peace conference, complete with resident drunkards. A temporary palace made to look like Hampton Court was erected just for the conference, which was called “Field of Cloth of Gold” because of the many gold-plated tents used for housing.

Henry’s life was defined by his lavish lifestyle and preponderance of wealth. When he visited Hampton Court Palace, he had a court of 1,000 people. It’s interesting to note that the Great Hall, where Henry and his court dined was the last medieval great hall built for English royalty. Henry was so anxious to have it done, he made the masons work by candlelight at night.

When we walked down The Gallery outside Henry’s chambers, we hoped for a sighting of the ghost of Catherine Howard. Throughout the day a number of events are portrayed by actors in the palace. We happened upon the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, just outside the king’s court. He confided in us that he had found evidence of the queen’s deceit and had informed the king. However, Henry was reluctant to believe him, and he was distressed. Of course, Henry came to believe the Cardinal, and Catherine was beheaded for adultery while married to the king.

CardinalIt was fascinating to speak with the actor who portrayed the Cardinal. He never dropped character. We felt like a part of the tense drama going on in the palace. As we watched the dialogue between Henry and members of his court, the audience weighed in with their opinions on matters. It was great fun.

Unfortunately, we had to leave the grounds when they were closing for the night. We strolled along the river as we made our way back to the busy 21st street with its traffic and familiar noises.

We finished our day enjoying Sticky Toffee Pudding at a pub across the street from the palace called The Mute Swan, where we promptly began plotting a short story. We are now working on this little murder mystery, which will include a visit to one of Henry VIII’s favorite palaces.

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?

Elvis is in the Building

WebbElvis is back, and he’s on the case. In the seventh book of her series about Elvis the bloodhound, Peggy Webb has another great cozy mystery. Elvis and the Buried Brides has the Valentine girls, Callie and Lovie, getting ready for the big renewal of vows for Callie and Jack.

Elvis is beyond thrilled to know that his human parents are finally getting back together. Though Callie and Jack have been separated for quite awhile, neither of them ever felt motivated enough to sign the divorce papers. However, everything is topsy-turvy when Callie and Lovie don’t show up at the church.

Peggy has another winner with this little book, and there’s a bonus short story included too. Southern humor abounds in this series, and it’s always enjoyable. From Fayrene’s bad case of malapropism to the antics of Callie’s salon customer, these characters become old friends in no time.

Fayrene trots over to me, wearing so many green sequins I’m nearly blinded.

“We’re headed home, Callie, but I want you to know I’ve got everything ready for your wedding deception.”

“I’ve got his favorite German chocolate cake and Jarvetis had such good luck on his hunting trip to Missouri I’m serving peasants under glass.”

Thank goodness I’m not eating a second helping of the red velvet cake Lovie is handing out to department guests, or I might choke to death trying to hold in laughter.

Mama prances up and gives me a big hug. “I’m so happy I’m about to die!”

“Ruby Nell Valentine, wash your mouth out with soap!” Fayrene says. “The mere thought of another death at a wedding makes me want to fall into heart dropsy on my sexual sofa.”

“Flitter, Fayrene. I was just kidding around.” Mama puffs up her hair that doesn’t need a thing, thanks to my expertise with scissors and blow dryer. “What do you think about my hair, Cal?”

“You know perfectly well what I think about your hair, Mama. It’s gorgeous, even if I do say so myself.”

The Valentine ladies are always in a mess, but, thank goodness Elvis is there is sniff out the problem. This book will stand alone, but I think you’ll enjoy it more if you read the entire series.

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!

Pardon the Ravens by Alan Hruska

HruskaIf you’re into legal mysteries, you’ll want to read Pardon the Ravens. Set in the 1961, this book follows an interesting case for young, inexperienced lawyer, Alec Brno. It’s a great recipe for suspense and intrigue: a sadistic mob boss, an abused drug-addicted, a case that’s probably not a winner, and a young attorney in love with the wrong woman.

It’s out today. Check out my review at Criminal Element.

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.