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!

Virgil’s Working on Deadline

Deadline by John Sandford is the eighth Virgil Flowers novel, and the quirky detective continues to put the pieces of some truly challenging jigsaw puzzles together. What sets these books apart is Sandford’s trademark humor and interesting police procedures.

51o81BLmPEL._AA160_Virgil is visiting his old friend, Johnson Johnson, who asks a huge favor of the BCA agent. Some scoundrel in the town of Trippton is kidnapping dogs. Though this hardly seems like a case for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Virgil starts investigating with the hope of avoiding trouble from the gun-toting citizens who are searching for their prized hunting dogs and valued pets.

In the midst of this curious investigation (and it is a strange one), Virgil is called in to check out the random murder of a local reporter. Like most of Virgil’s cases, the murder is the tiny tip of an iceberg. Much of what he needs is hidden well below the surface.

I feel Sandford scored another winner with this one. There was lots of humor, some good fight scenes, and an interesting case study. We know who the bad guys are, but it’s interesting to watch Virgil struggle to bring all the pieces of the whole together.

There’s a lot of hillbilly lingo and local slang in this one, but Sanford handled it well. It’s a small town, with small-town problems, and small-town people who think they can get away with, among other things, murder. As always, it has the perfect recipes: secrets, lies, and family squabbles.

Check out Deadline, especially if you’re a dog lover!.

It’s a Mystery!

It’s a wonderful thing that books don’t have calories because I’ve been binge reading like crazy.

SanfordLucas Davenport remains one of my favorite characters so when his books come out, I get them right away. Although it did get some bad reviews, Field of Prey did not disappoint me.

When a young couple finds a great make-out spot, they also find a serial killer’s dump spot. An old cistern contains more bodies than anyone wants to think about in the old water hole. The interesting thing about this book is that Lucas is paired with a lady sheriff who’s determined to use this case a her doorway to more recognition. I don’t think the serial killer was as interesting as watching Lucas find him, but I did enjoy the book.

Harris1Charlaine Harris has turned a different direction since the Sookie Stackhouse books. Midnight Crossroad was a definite turn in another direction. For me, it had an air of Stephen King. It has supernatural characters, but not in the way we’ve come to expect. She did create an interesting bunch of people, and a strange little town. I liked it, but I’m sure I read it with a quizzical expression on my face.

Unlucky 13 features a group of my favorite ladies, the Women’s Murder Club. I’ve read all these books, and I’ve loved following the lives of these women who work in San Francisco and care about one another.

PattersonWhat makes these books good for me is how these women deal with their complicated jobs and their complicated personal lives too. I liked it, but I have to admit, there were too many subplots.

Well, that’s my reviews of beach reads. I read two of these while enjoying Daytona Beach living for a few days. What have your beach reads been this summer?

A TBR Pile, A Must-Read Stack, and, of Course, New Releases

BaconFrancis Bacon said, “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” I completely agree with him. Think for a minute, how many books do you have in progress right now? If you’re like me, it’s probably around five books. While I never look at the end of the book before reading, I have no problem reading several books at once.

I’m listening to Nora Robert’s latest, The Collector, on my iPhone. Frankly, I think listening to a book stretches it out and makes it more fun to read. ICollector only listen when I’m in the car so that limits how often I can get into a book. But it makes it more fun and stretches out the read time. I also listen to books before going to sleep at night. At this time, however, I make sure it’s a book I’ve already read so if I fall asleep with it still going I don’t have to back up to catch what I missed. I’m listening to Fair Game by Patricia Briggs for about the fifth time right now.

I just finished reading The Furies by Mark Alpert for a post onFuries Criminal Element, and I’ve already gotten into another book due out May 6! I read these on my iPad.

I also like to scan the free ebooks every day because that lets me know what’s popular on the market and what’s going on in the paranormal genre, which is the type of books I write. Right now I’m reading  Selkie’s Song by Clare Austin and The Ghost and the Graveyard by Genevieve Jack. I’m reading Elvis and the Bridegroom Stiffs by Peggy Webb on my Kindle!

As you might have guessed, I love to read. I also believe it’s my obligation as a writer to read as much as I can and support my fellow writers.

stack of booksSo what are you reading right now? And admit it, you have more than three books going right now, don’t you?

All She Really Wanted Was a Book!

On Monday, I posted “All He Really Wanted Was a Vacation,” which told about the new Nick Kepler mystery from Jim Winter, Second-Hand Goods. I got some great responses, and I’m happy to announce Gail Farrelly is our winner of her very own copy!

We’ll be sending her an e-book very shortly. Stay tuned to Women of Mystery for other great giveaways!

Happy reading!

My Little Tirade

Enough! I have to say something!

I’ve been watching “True Blood” since the first episode and truly enjoyed the first season, which closely followed book one of the Southern Vampire Series, a.k.a. Sookie Stackhouse Chronicles, books by Charlaine Harris. It was absolutely delightful to see these characters come to life and have Sookie discover the comfort of Bill’s quiet mind.

We’re now well into season five, and I’m severely disappointed . . . again. In pre-show interviews it was said the season would be loosely based on book five. It’s so loose, folks, you can’t even find it in what’s going on now.

I understand that people who haven’t read the books are perfectly happy with the story lines in the show and I think that’s great. But it would be a real treat for all us readers if we could have just a glimpse of the stories we’ve read over and over in the books, especially with the final book coming out next year.

Please don’t think I’m just going to blast the TV show. I really don’t want to. I love Alan Ball and didn’t miss an episode of “Six Feet Under.” I found the characters fascinating and the show’s premise enjoyable. I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen in the funeral home next and the ghostly visits from the father who died in the first episode were wonderful.

Alan Ball is a fantastic writer and does memorable TV shows and movies, but it hurts me every time I watch an episode of “True Blood” because it’s so far away from the books I love. Charlaine Harris has said repeatedly that she doesn’t give advice on the television show and Alan doesn’t tell her what to write in her books. I understand that and appreciate her warm and wonderful attitude. I loved her cameo appearance in the second season at Merlotte’s Bar.

But I would just like to ask Alan Ball to give us one little story line that follows the books. One little tidbit of familiar characters that do what we expect and bring about the magic and romance we love about this series.

I know vampires are a mean sort, but please, do we need to see gallons of blood in every episode? Could we just go back every once in a while to a vampire making tender love to someone he–or she–cares about and just taking a little nibble for, shall we say, added pleasure?

Alan has a done a great job with the vampires, werewolves, and shifters. Using real wolves gave the show a wicked edge and it was delightful to think of Alcide Herveaux in wolf (or manly Joe Manganiello) form. Joe was, I must say, a perfect casting choice, as have been most of the characters. Sookie, Bill, Eric, and Pam looked just as I pictured them. I have to say, Alan was perfect in that aspect.

I know Alan’s leaving after this season, but he will stay on as an advisor to the show’s writers.

So, I’m sending out my plea with sincere, tear-filled eyes: “Please, Mr. Ball and writers of ‘True Blood,’ give us a little of the stories from Charlaine Harris that we love. I’m begging you.”

Thanks for listening to my rant and tell me what your thoughts are about the series.

Once Upon a Time . . .

Many of us were introduced to reading with fairy tales. Little girls with dreams of white knights on beautiful steeds were considered normal. I freely admit that I always loved them and was enchanted when Disney took these beautiful stories and illustrated them so well in film. I’ll give away my age here by remembering that I’d go see these movies for thirty-five cents and loved every minute of them.

What magic is in a story that makes people want to read it for years and years after its release? I read all the Hardy Boys mysteries, and I’m delighted that my grandson enjoys reading them too.

My oldest son had an English teacher who apparently thought the classics should be crammed down the throats of her students at a staggering pace. She had them reading David Copperfield at night and studying Great Expectations during their daily classes. Then they had to study for an exam that covered both books. When I mentioned that I thought this was a bit much considering the kids had six other classes throughout the day, she snapped at me that if she had her way, they’d be reading and studying a new book every week. Needless to say, her methods did not instill a love of the classics in my son. He simply counted the days until he was out of her class.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s vital that students study the masters of great fiction. I can’t imagine my life without reading Lord of the Rings, The Pearl, Animal Farm, or the wonderful short stories of Flannery O’Connor. I have always been an avid reader and didn’t find it a hardship to study literature.

My son, however, struggled because he was always lacking in reading comprehension. We worked on it at home and sometimes I even read his assigned stories out loud to help him understand them better. He always scored well in math, science, vocabulary, and the rest of the achievement tests, but his score was usually lacking in reading comprehension. Though he is a highly successful adult, he still freely admits that he wishes he could read better. Now he gets most of his information from journals and on the Internet and seldom, if ever, picks up a book.

I tried to make a difference for my sons so they would read more. I subscribed to Sports Illustrated and Baseball Digest just so I could get them to read. They may not be able to quote Shakespeare, but they can give you all the stats on their favorite players, which I think takes a lot of reading too.

I enjoy the classics but I admit I don’t read them very often. I’ve usually got a stack of recently released books that I’m working through, and I get email notices when my favorite writers have a book coming out so I don’t miss it.

But I do remember what made them so valuable. I read Little Women and Five Little Peppers so many times my books were worn out. I still occasionally pick them up just to read a passage or two even though I don’t take the time to read the familiar stories from start to finish. I love the books of Agatha Christie and still enjoy Sherlock Holmes.

Hopefully all of us who wish to be authors will be sitting in someone’s library one day gathering dust in the form of a favorite book. With what I have in my house right now I could probably stock the mystery section of a small-town library. But of all the many activities I participate in, reading brings me an absolute sense of pleasure and enjoyment.

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

“It’s so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.

“I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all,” added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

“We’ve got Father and Mother, and each other,” said Beth contentedly from her corner.”

Four comments from four great characters in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Available from the Free Books app for absolutely nothing.

Maybe that’s what I’ll read tonight . . . as soon as I finish the latest Linda Fairstein.

 

Tuesday Twosome

Often in a good novel atmosphere becomes as much as character as the people in the story. Movies and TV shows can add music and background noise, but we don’t have that ability with words on a page. Still, as we all know, it’s possible to use atmosphere to move the story forward and present a real dilemma for our characters.

I’ve just finished Dark Magic by James Swain, and he uses atmosphere beautifully. It’s set in New York City, which seems to be the perfect place for a group of psychics to hold secret meetings to view the future.

Peter Warlock, a magician who performs nightly in his own theater is the central character. While his magician persona is what the public knows best, the five people who meet with him in dark rooms late Friday night know his talents far exceed those of a normal human. With their help, during a strategic séance, he can see what will happen in the future. Peter’s run-in with an evil murderer who wants to wipe out the group of psychics takes him all over the city.

Peter was breathing hard by the time he reached the roof. Raindrops danced off the tar paper in a hypnotic ballet. He went to the edge, and looked straight down. Garrison and his team burst out the front door of the building. The last thing he needed right now was the FBI hunting for him.

Swain has set the stage beautifully here. Peter is running; it’s raining; he’s trying to escape on the roof. Below the good guys are coming after him, but he needs to find the bad guy. Where can he possibly go in the dark, rainy night?

The FBI agents hit the front door hard. They’d be on the roof soon. Peter turned around, and looked for an escape route besides the stairwell. He spotted an old-fashioned fire escape on the other side of the building and hurried toward it. The roof was flat, and ran the length of the building. Many older buildings in the city were designed this way, and had once housed entire tent communities of people too poor to afford apartments, with residents traveling on catwalks from building to building without ever touching the ground below. Peter could feel their presence as he ran; this rooftop had been their home, and for many of their ghosts, it still was.

Swain used this paragraph, a few sentences later to build the atmosphere and give us a little history. I know from personal experience that you can feel the history of the people who used to occupy the spaces in New York. The city definitely has its own heartbeat and carries its ghosts with pride.

Keep atmosphere in mind when writing and remember the little things you can insert to make your reader feel exactly what your character is feeling at the time.

Please share some of your thoughts on atmosphere and maybe some things you’ve been working on lately. In my own writing, I’m in the hills of North Georgia with their beautiful rolling slopes covered with wild flowers in the spring and salted with snow and ice in the winter, giving my story a wonderful atmosphere.

 

 

Tuesday Twosome

I’ve always been amazed at the detail that Sherlock Holmes sees when he recites what led him to a certain conclusion.  He misses nothing. I simply can’t do that. I love to do those hidden object puzzles, and invariably, I’m left with one item I cannot locate within the time limit.

Observing details is always important when writing or reading a mystery. Most authors are very good at foreshadowing or laying down subtle clues within text that may simply describe an everyday moment. Being sure your detective/amateur sleuth has all the information needed to solve the crime is essential in writing a good story.

Note the way Holmes breaks down the little things in this second from The Adventure of the Cardboard Box:

It was a small shed in the narrow garden which ran behind the house. Lestrade went in and brought out a yellow cardboard box, with a piece of brown paper and some string. There was a bench at the end of the path, and we all sat down while Holmes examined, one by one, the articles which Lestrade had handed to him.

“This string is exceedingly interesting,” he remarked, holding it up to the light and sniffing at it. “What do you make of this string, Lestrade?”

“I cannot see the importance,” said Lestrade.

“The importance lies in the fact that the knot is left intact, and that this knot is of a peculiar character.”

“It is very neatly tied. I had already made a note of that effect,” said Lestrade complacently.

Though Lestrade saw nothing of significance, Holmes later explained what he saw:

“The string was of the quality which is used by sail-makers aboard ship, and at once a whiff of the sea was perceptible in our investigation. When I observed that the knot was one which is popular with sailors, that the parcel had been posted at port, and that the male ear was pierced for an earring which is so much more common among sailors than landsmen, I was quite certain that all the actors in the tragedy were to be found among our seafaring classes.”

Holmes so cleverly put it all together and, of course, found the murderer. If you’d like to read this great story, it’s available free on an app called “Free Books” that I have on my iPad. It’s a treasure trove of reading, and I love it.

“Beware of the man who won’t be bothered with details.”   William Feather

Are you a good observer? Can you see the details that others miss?