12/8/22 I’m so excited to be joining 149 other vendors at the Auburn Holiday Craft Fair at Auburn High School this Saturday on 12/10, from 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. Drop by and say hello, pick up whichever Jessica Minton mystery is missing from your collection, and ask me about book #4, which I’ll be sending to my publisher this week or next! Two other writers who will be there that you would like are Janet Raye Stevens (romance, mystery, sci-fi/ fantasy) and Jean Grant (romance and historical romance). Books do make the best Christmas presents, so if you have a mystery or romance fan in your life and want an exciting present, with me, Janet, or Jean is where you’ll find it! Click here for more details about the fair. Do drop by. This will be my last writer’s appearance for 2022.
10/30/22 Got your brooms all revved up for tomorrow night? I know that I’m planning some important spooky film watching that day! If you’re looking for some suggestions for classic horror films, check out my blog on the topic at TouchPoint Press. It may be a little late to indulge in the books on which these films are based, but, hey, there’s always next year. Click on “From Paper to the Big Screen.” (scene from The Uninvited)
Here’s some reading that will keep you on the edge of your seat. At the beginning of the month, I read Denis Lehane’s Shutter Island. Great choice. This tale of a 1950s police detective and his partner sent to an asylum on an isolated Boston Harbor island to find a missing inmate is developed with sharp suspense and deftly deployed plot twists. Just when you think you have he story pinned down, there’s a turn in a new direction. And if you love good descriptive writing, Lehane crafts an evocative setting of isolation, stark nature, and eerie edifices, peopled with characters sketched with depth. Another read in tune with the mood of the month was Dorothy MaCardle’s Dark Enchantment. The author of one of the best ghost stories, The Uninvited, MaCardle in this later novel creates a world haunted less by the supernatural than by superstitious, frightened, and twisted people. Set in a mountain village on the coast of France near Italy, this novel brings a young woman to what seems like a simple and peaceful paradise but turns out to be a world where fear of a scarred gypsy woman and that woman’s own bitterness lead to tragedies. The descriptions of the landscape, gorgeous and terrifying, strengthen the atmosphere.
I’ve been especially delighted to enjoy the final release of Janet Raye Stevens’ It’s Been a Long, Long Time – the return of Beryl Blue Time Cop and Sergeant Tom “Sully” Sullivan.” Janet brings her readers an exciting blend of suspense, adventure, romance, and humor – all in a beautifully created 1940s world. Beryl is sent back to 1946 to retrieve a rogue time traveler, one of the original creators of the time traveling technology, who seems to have a connection to her parents’ murder. On top of that, she runs smack dab into Sully, whom she has been trying to avoid since history reports that he died saving her life in that same year. Nevertheless, romance blooms, while Beryl makes several disturbing discoveries about herself and those she trusts, amidst a jewel caper and murder! A fun read! For an interview with Janet, click on “Books and Brew.”
A third book that I enjoyed this month was Robert Mrazek’s The Indomitable Florence Finch. Mrazek’s book relates the story of a Filipina who valiantly and cleverly worked with the resistance in her native Philippines against the occupying Japanese. The author portrays a brave and intelligent woman, as well as the painful truth about the viciousness of the Japanese occupation, the politics and as well as strategizing of the American and Japanese military men and politicians running the Pacific war, and the bravery and suffering of prisoners of war and the Philippine people.
Of course, Yang and I have been enjoying the autumn weather and foliage tremendously. Click here to read about the great time we had on a trip to Lee, Massachusetts for my author event at the town’s library. You’ll also enjoy this blog on our return to Colbrook Reservoir after this year’s drought cleared the waters – a bit. You’ll also enjoy this blog on some local fall beauty, “Autumn in and Around Auburn.” Finally, if you’re still in a Halloween mood, check out the Gothic architecture in “Fairhaven, Fair Gothic.”
Public service for writers and readers? Author Lisa Shea is running work shops on Writing, Publishing, and Marketing on 11/16, 23, 30, and 12/ 7. Click here for more information. The Framingham Public Library will also be running a session on a similar topic: Self-Publishing and Marketing Workshop with Margo Gabriel WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 30, 7PM | ZOOM
Come learn from Margo Gabriel about how to self-publish your work and effectively market yourself! REGISTER.
For readers, on November 9th (6 p.m.), Tom Ingrassia will be at TidePool Books, talking about his book Reflections of a Love Supreme. So, if you’re a Motown fan, Tom has plenty of inside information on the people who made America’s premier purveyors of Soul the tops, so to speak. Give in to the temptation to attend – I promise to stop now.
That’s all for now, folks!
9/24/22 Happy autumn, folks! The weather has suddenly gone crisp, the reds, golds, and oranges of autumn are flaring out amongst green leaves, gorgeous against a pure blue sky. It’s my favorite season. And with the autumn come harvest fairs, where a writer can get out to sell her books, greet old friends, and make new ones. I started my season of harvest fairs at Brookfield Orchards on September 17th. The day was perfect! Bright and sunny, crisp but not cold. I’m happy to say that I sold multiple copies of Bait and Switch to initiate folks into the adventures of Jessica, James, and Dusty. Plenty of other people took my postcard with the QR to Amazon. Might we see a “spike” in sales there?
Anyway, it was fun to meet many new readers and talk about writing with them. So greetings to the new folks who signed up that day – as well as to the folks who signed up at my Lala Books reading. More about that later. Yang enjoyed the day with me, reading a draft of book number four: Shadows of a Dark Past. It was especially fun to be at the fair with fellow authors Janet Raye Stevens (forties mysteries, paranormal mysteries, and romance) and Jean Grant (romance and Scottish historical romance with a splash of mystery and paranormal). I wonder what they’re plotting here, hmmm? If you really want to get the skinny on vending books at a fair/farmers market, be sure to check out Leslie Wheeler’s guest blog “Vendor at the Farmers Market,” where she does a splendid job of recreating the hominess and fun of working in the market/fair scene.
If you want to catch me at one of these markets, I’ll be at the Holden Fair on 10/8, the Spencer Fair on 11/12, and the Auburn Fair on 12/10. You can check my Appearances and Events page for more details. If you want to enjoy the skinny on Always Play the Dark Horse and talk about writing, publishing, and promoting your work, come to my author event at the Lee Public Library in Lee, Mass. On 10/14 (Friday) from 4:00-5:00. I love the give and take with an audience at these events. You can also buy my books at a discount! There are also some events scheduled at NELA (Mystery Making Panel) and a ZOOM panel of “We’re Not Making This Up” through the Hall Memorial Library in Northfield, NH. Again, check the Appearances and Events Page for details.
It would also be fun for you to hear my interview by the charming Barry Eva on “A Book and a Chat.” Click here. We had lots of fun talking about my earliest “masterwork,” the inspiration of the classic films and the actors I cast in my novels, the truth about Dusty, and the latest on my Work in Progress! Check out some of the other interviews, too. You may find some new writers that you like as well!
I’ve got some additional interesting blogs for you. I finally found some time to write up another “Smart-Talking Gals” blog – on one of my favorites, the fiery Susan Hayward. Click here for a read. You can see more on the type of forties film star that inspired my sassy Jessica Minton. I also have blogs on Lucille Ball, Lynn Barry, Claire Trevor, Ella Raines, and Jessica’s inspiration: Joan Bennett. Just click on the name to read about them!
Want to hear how things went at my Lala Books author event? Just swell. I love to talk about the influence of classic noir films on my writing and to answer questions about my novels. It was especially nice to re-connect with old friends. Be sure to check out the store when you’re in the Lowell area for a good read or an interesting event. Anyway, click here for my blog on the evening.
As for interesting events coming up, look no further. If you’re a member of Sisters in Crime you can register for an October 15th ZOOM event with , Lucy Zahray, aka “The Poison Lady” . Click here for more details and to register. Sisters will also be at NELA and the Boston Book Festival, so, you might want to check that out. Yours truly will be in the panel that runs from 3:15-4:15, Mystery Making at NELA on 10/23. On October 19th from 6:00-8:00, there will be a book launch for the anthology Cascades and Currents, put out by the Quabbin Quils writing group at Cidery Pines, 455 Highland Ave, Phillipston, MA. Anyone interested in creating comics and graphic novels? Come to Chris Paniccia’s session (12:15) on October 1st at the Comic Book Fest in Athol, MA (Athol Public Library Conference Room, 568 Main Street, Athol, MA).
Looking for a quick, good read on the WWII years? Check out this NYT article on Maxmillian Lerner, one of the “Richie Boys,” whose wartime espionage helped win the war and whose post-war work helped bring war criminals to justice. Take a look at Richie Boy Secrets , a book by Beverly Driver Eddy, for a more in-depth look.
8/24/22 Hi folks! If you have a chance, listen in to Barry Eva’s radio interview with me tonight on “A Book and a Chat.” Here’s the link. Not convenient? Well, then take a peek at my interview on The Bookshelf Cafe, right here. You’ll find out all about the movies that inspire me, possible spin-offs from my Jessica and James series, and my childhood scary endeavors as a story teller. While you’re there, take a look at some of the other author interviews. You might get some neat ideas for further reading.
Most exciting, if you live in the Lowell area, you can come see me this Friday (8/26), from 7:00-8:00 p.m. at Lala Books at 189 Market Street in Lowell, Mass. I’ll be reading from Always Play the Dark Horse, answering your questions about writing, publishing, and promotion – and, if there’s time, maybe there’ll be a sneak peek at the fourth Minton mystery (work in progress), Shadows of a Dark Past. I’d love to see you!
You’ll be happy to know that Always Play the Dark Horse is now available on Bookshop.org, as well as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.
Don’t forget that Dark Horse in electronic format will be on sale for only $2.99 through August 31st. Save some money! Do some early Christmas shopping!
Some cool in-person events by other authors are also on the horizon. On Monday, August 29th at 6:00 p.m. Faye Wringel will be talking on her new book Gothic Literature and the Supernatural in New England at Otis Library 261 Main St. Norwich, CT 06360. For those in the Worcester area, TidePool Books has a neat autumn schedule coming up: Tom Ingrassia will be talking on each his book One Door Closes on 9/21 at 6:00 and Carol Kaufman and Lauren Sheridan will be discussing their anthology A Plot for any Occasion on 9/15 at 7:00 p.m. Kristen Waters will be presenting on her new critical biography Maria W. Stewart and the Roots of Black Political Thought on 9/28 at 5:30. Click here for details on their presentations.
Finally, here’s an on-class with a series of presentations and workshops for both budding and veteran horror and paranormal writers: “New England Horror Writers Presents the Master Toolbox Workshop Series.” Click here for the details.
And remember, if your library, school, church group, or any kind of organization enjoys talking about mysteries, even participating in creating them, check out the Sisters in Crime New England Speakers Bureau. We have a whole bunch or panels with real-live mystery writers (including yours truly) who would love to come and answer your mystery needs. Here are some of the panels available: Mystery Making, We’re Not Making this Up, The Modern Heroine, Pathways to Publication, Death in Shorts, and Stealing from the Dead. You can even request specific panelists. For details on the reasonable price and set upmaking arrangements, check out this page on the Sisters in Crime New England web site.
8/4/22 Well, folks, I’ve been keeping busy – and will keep on keepin’ on for some time! First of all, how about taking a peek at the new sneak peek of Always Play the Dark Horse on the Dark Horse web page on my web site? It’s an exciting look at how things can go terribly wrong on a romantic excursion to the beach, especially when you’re Jessica Minton and James Crawford. Dusty knew what she was doing when she stayed home!
Like what you read? Well, here’s your chance to find out the rest of the story at a reduced price. I’ve extended the sale on ebook editions of Dark Horse through the month of August. Amazon already has Dark Horse on sale for $2.99 ! A three-dollar savings! Kobo and Nook will sell Dark Horse at that reduced price from August 7th through the 31st! You still have plenty of time to make Dark Horse a fun and suspenseful summer read. Just don’t go to the same beach as Jessica and James did!
I’m happy to say that I’m looking forward to this month’s scheduled appearances. First, I’ll be interviewed Augusat 24th (7-7:30 p.m.) by Barry Evo for his program A Book and a Chat on NewVisions Radio. I’m especially excited about my author event at Lala Boks in Lowell on Market Street on August 26th from 7:00-8:00. Drop in to chat, talk about writing and publishing, and buy a book or two! It’s a wonderful store serving the Lowell community.
I’m also lining up events for the autumn! At this point, I’m booked to be at the Local Authors Bookfair at Brookfield Orchards in North Brookfield, Mass. on September 17th. I’m also scheduled for the Holden Arts and Harvest Fair in Holden on October 8th. I’m working on plans to do author events at the Lee, Mass. and Northfield, Mass public libraries this autumn, as well. I’ll supply more details as my plans firm up.
It’s especially delightful to be able to supply you with two guest blogs today! In “Play It Again . . . And Again” Janet Raye Stevens shares with us the wonderful inspiration she’s found in classic films, most particularly in Casablanca. Some nice kudos for my hero Claude Rains in here! You’ll remember Janet from my reviews of her sci-fi/WWII mysteries A Moment after Dark and Beryl Blue Time Cop. The second blog is from one of my favorite classic 1930s-style writers Julianna Deering (DeAnna Dosson). Her Drew Farthering series recaptures the style of Christie, Allingham, and Sayers with panache and heart. Check out “Who I Am. Why I Write” for her insights into the travails and delights of creative work.
On a related note, you might also enjoy Lisa Lieberman’s blog about the fun of checking out supporting players in Charade. Click here to find the truth about George Kennedy and Ned Glass.
If you’d like some reading suggestions for the summer, aside from Dark Horse, have I got some for you! First, I blew through Leslie Wheeler’s Wolf Bog in two days. This book is one of those conundrums that readers love. The plotting, with more twists and turns than a Berkshire mountain switchback, propels you swiftly toward the finish. Yet the pleasure of reading Leslie’s writing, her characters, setting, and atmosphere, makes you want to savor the novel. You reach the ending satisfied with the resolutions and the revelations of the book’s secrets but you want to get back on the ride again.
I also went back for more helpings of Charlotte Armstrong and Frances Crane recently. Armstrong’s A Little Less than Kind is an interesting take on the Hamlet mythos, updating it to the mid-twentieth century. Here, much like Elmer Rice’s Cue for Passion, the Claudius figure is not such a bad guy and Hamlet really is nuts. It may not be premium Shakespeare, but the book is fine Armstrong. Once more, she effectively explores how the superficiality and materialism of the mid-century has warped human beings and left them unable to connect with one another in a healthy manner. Meanwhile, there’s much to enjoy in Frances Crane’s further adventures of Jean and Pat Abbott, this time back in new Mexico in Horror on the Ruby X. Quite a crew of possible murderers are all stuck in a snowbound ranch house atop a mountain. Interesting, just when you think she’s following the party line against Native Americans, she turns the tables and puts their critics in the doghouse and makes the characters develop some healthy respect. The end seems a bit rushed, but it’s fun getting there. I still miss Pancho and the black cat.
Finally, if you own an independent bookstore or know someone who does, check out the grant available to such bookstore owners from Sisters in Crime: Apply for the We Love Bookstores Award. It is easy to apply for the $500 Sisters in Crime We Love Bookstores award. Winners are selected every other month. Find details and the application here: https://www.sistersincrime.org/page/WeLoveBookstores
Contact Robin Agnew (WLB@SistersinCrime.org) if you have questions about the application process.
Until next time!
7/3/22 Hot summer weather is back, but I’ve been playing it cool in June with some nifty author events. I enjoyed doing a double event with my friend and colleague Leslie Wheeler at the Booklovers’ Gourmet in Webster, MA. Then, a week later, I shared a table with another writing pal, Janet Raye Stevens, at the Summers Reads corner of the Natick Farmers’ Market. If you click here, you can read a fairly short blog that I wrote on both events. Note that, for the Booklovers’ Gourmet event, I wore the same suit and hat that you see me sporting on the backcover of my novels. Just so you know it’s really me!
I’ve scheduled a radio interview on the Barry Eva show, A Book and a Chat, for 8/24 from 7:00-7:30 p.m. I’ll give you more details later on how to tune in. Then, on 8/26, I’ll be doing a reading and signing at Lala Books in Lowell, Mass. from 7:00-8:00. Click here for the specifics on my Appearances and Events page. I’m working on arranging more appearances in July and August, so if you’re looking for a mystery writer for your library or readers’ group, just drop me a line at email@example.com. I am happy to do ZOOM as well as “live” appearances.
You might also want to consider a panel from Sisters in Crime New England, which has many topics that a panel of SinC-NE authors will present for you, live or via ZOOM. Here’s a link for you to check out this opportunity. We always have lots of fun with our audiences.
Since it’s summer, how about some beach, poolside, or ‘neath a shady tree reading suggestions? I recently finished the two published items in Vicky Delany’s new Catskills Summer Resort Series: Deadly Summer Nights and Deadly Director’s Cut. Set in 1953, with a spunky, but not perky, sharp-witted heroine who is trying to make a go of running a summer resort in a man’s world of business – with murders thrown into the mix- these novels do a wonderful job of capturing the ambiance of not only the summer but the food, drinks, clothes, and lifestyle of the time period. Click here for a more detailed review. You’ll love these books. Boy, do they read fast! And don’t forget that nifty bulldog!
I also just finished Murder on the Homefront, Molly Lefebure’s memoirs of her wartime London career as secretary to a leading forensic patholigist. She has a wickedly dry wit, but also a generous understanding of human nature. If you want a sense of life under the blitz and the ways of 1940s detection and forensics, this book will definitely fill you in. A delightful way to do your research! Click here for a more detailed review – and to find out about Lefebure’s various careers!
If you can be a little patient, Leslie Wheeler’s latest in her Berkshire Hilltown Mystery series, Wolf Bog, will be released on July 6th. Once more, Leslie beautifully captures the dark mystery of western Massachusetts to unravel dark secrets hidden in its wilderness. Check out this guest blog where she talks about how actual settings in western Mass. inspired and shaped her tale. Your appetite will be tantalized!
If your taste for elements of the 1940s needs some satiating, check out these links. Dan Gable and the Abletones have posted their schedule of concerts for the summer and part of the autumn. Click here. The Wright Museum in Wolfboro, NH has some interesting exhibits and events that will inform you about aspects of the time on the war front and the home front. Check it out here. Then there’s also the WWII Museum in New Orleans, which offers many exciting and illuminating ZOOM, as well as live, seminars and events. Click here for more information.
Artists Looking out for grants to support your work? Check in here at the Worcester Arts Council for possible support.
I guess that’s all for now. I’ll just leave you with a brief video of an “unbearable” visitor to our yard a week or two back. Thank God we’d brought in the pic-a-nic baskets!
6/3/22 Happy almost summer! The weather certainly seems more summer than spring, doesn’t it? Well, I’m “springing” back into live events. I hope you’ll be able to see me tomorrow (June 4) at Booklovers’ Gourmet in Webster, Mass. You’ll have a double treat when I join Leslie Wheeler to talk about our writing. Leslie has two series, both with intelligent women entangled in mystery in Massachusetts. We’ll be reading and “interviewing” each other about writing. We’d love you to come and join in with questions of your own. We’ll be at Booklovers’ Gourmet from 1:00-3:00, so drop in for fun and books!
Don’t forget to join me and other Sisters and Misters in Crime at the Natick Farmers’ Market for Beach Reads, where you can visit us at our booths and talk to us about our writing, make connections, and pick up some great reading for those summer days in the sun – or even days sitting out some rain indoors (or a dark and stormy night!). Then, I’ll be flying solo at Lala Books in Lowell on Tuesday, 6/14, from 6:30-7:30. Click here for more details on my appearances.
I had a nice time at TidePool Books, reading from all three of my novels and talking about writing with folks. Here’s a shot or two from the day. I got lots of kudos for the outfit.
I have some great reading suggestions for you as well, especially if you’re interested in WWII. Soldat is a memoir, written from the point of view of a German gunnery officer in WWII, Siefried Knappe. It was fascinating and sad to watch how a normally decent person could become swept up in the German conquest of Europe. You see that in a society where children are trained to privilege loyalty and service to the fatherland and brought up to see Germany as the wronged party at the end of WWI, deprived of her own territories, it is easy for them to look at the war not as an act of aggression but of restoring justice. Knappe reflects how normally decent minds have been turned to shift blame outwards with his sadly blaming France for the destruction there for declaring war on Germany – forgetting that France declared war because Germany had attacked her ally Poland. He presents himself with too preoccupied with being a good officer to realize what has happened to this six million Jewish people and other “undesirables” to the Nazis. In one especially glaring example of his tunnel vision, Knappe talks about how he and some of his fellow officers believed that the Allied forces would make peace with Germany as a bulwark against the savage Russians. It’s only when the writer has been sent to prison camp in Russia for four years that he reflects on and understands where he and his country have gone so wrong. The read is fascinating and even troubling when we think of what can happen if certain groups in this country can get away with whitewashing the dark aspects of our history to give coming generations a faux sunny version of American history.
In a similar vein, I found myself reading Robert Harris’s Fatherland. This alternative history is set in Germany 1964, where Germany did not lose the war; hinky politician Joseph Kennedy, Jr. is president of the U.S.; King Edward and Queen Wallis preside in England; and America is supporting the Russians in their guerilla warfare against Germany. The cold war is between the U.S. and Germany, which doesn’t directly control Europe, but those countries won’t buck its policies. Everyone believes that six million Jewish people and others undesirable to the Nazi regime were merely relocated “east.” The main character, Xavier March, is a detective who is far from a revolutionary, but he never really fits the Nazi mold. So, he’s not about to let things slide when high-ranking Nazis who had power since the ’30s and ’40s start to turn up dead, with their deaths being papered over by the Gestapo. With the help of an American reporter, he uncovers that the Gestapo always seems to be hovering around the deaths of these men, and these men all have a certain 1942 meeting at Wannsee in common. It’s a tense and engrossing book as you join March in unraveling the conspiracy and sidestepping death and torture to reveal a truth that will nix an upcoming detente between America and Nazi Germany.
So, after these two books, I needed something soothing – with absolutely NO Nazis in sight. I returned to National Velvet. I haven’t read this book in probably 40 years, at least. Enid Bagnold is a marvelous writer. Yes, it is a horse story. The bond between the outcasts Velvet and Pie is beautifully developed. With Pie and the other hosrese, Bagnold evocatively depicts the the physical and spiritual connection between horse and rider. Yet this book is so much more. Bagnold deftly depicts the earthy practicalities, inconveniences, and delights of working class life of a large family in a small, seaside English village. The toddler Donald is delightfully exasperating and endearing. Velvet is fragile and dreamy yet all steel and determination in following her dream of riding her equine soulmate in the Grand National Steeplechase. Her mother is an especially powerful character. Stolid and pragmatic, she deals with family emergencies and her children’s meltdowns and fancies with earthy practicality. Still, having once swum the English Channel, she silently grasps the value of not only having but achieving a dream to accomplish something great. I highly recommend this wonderful book.
If you want a shorter read to keep you in a springing-into-summer mood, check out my blog here on all the wonderful birds who have been brightening our yard these past three months. Maybe you’ve been seeing some of these beauties returning from the southern climes? Have you seen any special birds that I haven’t listed in my blog? I’d love it if you shared!
5/6/22 Hi Folks! I hope you have time to drop in and say hello when I do a reading and signing at TidePool Books this Sunday, May 8th, from 4:00-5:00 p.m. in Worcester. It’s a nice way to relax after that Mother’s Day brunch or for keeping conversation fun at that Mother’s Day dinner. I’ll be reading from the latest in the Jessica Minton mystery series, Always Play the Dark Horse, and talking about my inspiration for writing, getting published, and promoting that writing. Let the conversation on writing and Jessica and her latest adventures go where your questions lead! Dusty would want you to drop on in!
I have some other appearances coming up in June, so maybe I’ll see you there. I’ll be doing a joint appearance with Leslie Wheeler at Booklovers’ Gourmet on June 4th, from 1:00-3:00 pm and will be at the Natick Farmer’s Market with several other mystery authors on June 11th. I also met with the folks at LaLa Books in Lowell (say that three times fast) and have scheduled a reading and signing for Tuesday, June 14th, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Now, I can say “Hi” to all my Merrimack Valley friends! Hope I can see you at one of these appearances.
In fact, LaLa Books is also now carrying all three Jessica Minton novels: Bait and Switch, Letter from a Dead Man, and Always Play the Dark Horse. If you’re near Lowell, you can drop in and pick up a copy.
LaLa Books also set me on to a new mystery writer: Lisa Bouchard and her Isabella Proctor cozy paranormal series. Isabella is a member of a family of witches living in present-day Portsmouth, NH. The characters are fun, with lots of interesting family dynamics going on. Leaf of Faith (all the titles are smile-inducing puns) starts off the series with Isabella investigating the murder of the woman mentoring her in the creation of potions at the herb shop where Isabella works. Our heroine is a smart young person trying to balance independence with family loyalty, while having to contend with threats from human as well as supernatural sorts – not to mention being conflicted about a romance on the horizon. There’s plenty of humor as well as suspense, and I especially enjoyed Portsmouth native Bouchard’s ability to recreate the ambiance of her home town. I’m looking forward to enjoying more in the series.
Another mystery I recently enjoyed brought me back to one of my new favorites, Charlotte Armstrong. So accomplished in the craft of mystery is Armstrong that she loves playing around with and upending conventions to keep you in guessing. I can’t tell you any details because doing so would blow the wonderful suspense. I’ll only say that just when you think you have the direction of the mystery pinned down, Armstrong turns you ’round and sends you in a new direction – several times! Yet where you end up after your zig-zagging along with the characters is satisfying, leaving you with some worthwhile food for thought. I powered through 169 pages in one whole day, savoring every morsel of prose along the way. Give A Dram of Poison a shot!
A third book well worth the read was the memoir A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska. Edited by Jane Jacobs, Hannah Breece’s story was an eye opener. Breece was sent by the government to teach native peoples and Russian and other Caucasian settlers in Alaska at the beginning of the twentieth century. However, hers is not a tale of bigotry and oppression. There may be a few comments that may smack of beliefs of white superiority predominating our country at the time; however, she clearly demonstrates that she has no intention of “whitizing,” as she puts it, the people she meets.Her words and actions indicate that she has great respect for the intelligence, integrity, hardiness, and other virtues of the native dwellers. Her efforts at “civilizing” through education are to give them the economic, medical, legal, and intellectual tools to be at the mercy of neither the brutality of Alaska’s natural world nor it’s Caucasians’ exploitation, dishonesty, and oppression. Further, the descriptions of the beauty and harshness of Alaskan nature is stunning. To think that this woman managed all this difficulty when she was in her 40s-60s is mind boggling. Check out the book!
Finally, if you’d rather see than read about a mystery, check out the Lyric Stage (Boston) for its production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Murder. Based on the film Kind Hearts and Coronets, the musical hilariously traces poor and cast-off Montagu D’Ysquith Navarro’s quest to even the score with the D’Ysquith family, which disowned his mother, by moving himself from eighth in line to the head of the succession – without waiting for natural causes to clear his path. The dialogue and lyrics are a clever delight. The theatre’s mask and proof of vaccination policies will ease any Covid concerns.
4/11/22 Lots of stuff is new! I had a great time on the Bonnie D. Graham’s podcast Technology Revolution. The other three authors and I had fun talking about all the wonderful innovations for historical research opening up to us through the internet, ancestry services, and educational resources. If you want to see and hear what we had to say, you can check it out on FaceBook or LinkedIn. And how do you like my white straw fedora, a gift from my pal Sonia Cintron-Marrera?
As I revealed in my last announcement, I’m lining lots of appearances for the spring and summer. In addition to Beach Reads Bookfair (Natick) and Booklovers’ Gourmet (Webster), I’ve also set up a reading and signing at TidePool Books in Worcester, MA for May 8th at 4:00-5:00. Make sure to drop in, where we can talk about Dark Horse, writing, publishing, and promoting. I’m also going to work on setting up something in one of the bookstores that I discovered in Lowell, Mass. If you have a local bookstore or library where you’d like to see me, let me know so that I can try to set something up. Check out Appearances and Events to see what I have scheduled and the important details.
You might also enjoy my latest nature blog, “Late Winter Birds, Far and Near.” There are some neat pictures of some old friends and new, of the feathered variety. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen so many Mergansers, Hooded, Red-Breasted, or Common as I have this winter/spring.
If you’d like something meatier, sink your teeth into Lisa Lieberman’s reflections on Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows.” Her blog connects the film to French guilt over Nazi collaboration and abuses of the Algerians seeking indepence – or more, accurately, challenges the lack of guilt. Further, she considers Truffaut’s and Foucault’s connections in reacting to oppressive social surveillance and insistence on compliance. A stimulating read.
Bret Laurie also provides us with another intelligent cinematic study when he reviews Let the Wrong One In. Bret’s knowledge of the vampire/horror genre enables him to give a shrewd take on the deft play on convention of this film. have a read here.
I can tell you about lots of neat opportunities for writers coming up, some are just local, but not all. First, there’s still time to submit your short story for the Al Blanchard Memorial Award, with entry closing on April 30th, 2022. Here are the requirements: story must either be by a New England writer or set in New England; previously unpublished; not more than 5,000 words; may include the genres of mystery, thriller, suspense, caper, and horror – but no torture/killing of children and animals. The prize includes: a $100 cash award; publication in 2022’s Best New England Crime Stories Anthology; free admission to Crime Bake (though you aren’t required to attend; a handsome plaque. Click here for more details.
TouchPoint Press just sent me this call for submission for a horror anthology. Check it out! Nightmares of Strangers Anthology. For this anthology, they’re looking for stories that send a chill down your spine and send your imagination into overdrive, that keep you up at night and leave you shaking — because there’s something terribly wonderful about a good scary story. 3,000 – 7,000 words;
Deadline: May 31 (each year)
Chosen authors will have a short bio included and will receive a complimentary paperback copy of the book. Pays $100 on publication.
Submit a short pitch (50-100 words) and full manuscript to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Horror Anthology ‘Year’ Submission” in the subject line.
This Saturday, 4/16, from 2:00-4:00, Booklovers’ Gourmet in Webster is hosting an open mike poetry event. Join them for their popular monthly round-robin style, open poetry reading in a positive, supportive environment. Bring original pieces to share. Moderated by Robert Eugene Perry. Space is limited. Reserve your spot by email at email@example.com or call 508-949-6232.
Also on April 16th is online Symposium, “Speaking of Women of Color.” Six women authors of diverse origin and culture will be sharing what they write about and how their varied backgrounds led them to pursue writing as a form of self-expression or education. Come hear about the unique challenges they have faced as women of color, and how being a writer has allowed them to illuminate issues of gender, race, and culture. You will come away with not only a better understanding of what motivates them as writers, but how you can use your own experiences to give your writing greater impact and purpose. WHERE: On the internet! You can log in from anywhere. WHEN: April 16, 2022, 4:30-6:00 PM COST: FREE for Members/$15 for nonmembers. Register now to ensure your spot in the class using the “Register Now” button below. You can log in from this site.
Don’t forget about The Maine Crime Wave Conference on June 11th. The Maine Crime Wave celebrates crime, mystery, and suspense novels. The 2022 Maine Crime Wave will be a full day of panels, a keynote talk, book signings, a contest, and much more IN PERSON on the USM Campus in Portland. They are planning for this event to be outdoors under a tent. Among the many bestselling and award-winning authors featured this year are 2022 Maine Crime Master Katherine Hall Page as well as Steve Almond, Frankie Bailey, Paul Doiron, Edwin Hill, Chris Holm, Kathryn Miles, Caitlin Wahrer, James Ziskin, and many more. Click here for more detail, including the full list and schedule of events.
Finally, just for fun, check out Nicole Asselin’s interview here on “Books and the World.” Nicole gives us some insights on writing and publishing, including the age old question: When you write a series how do you write around the awkward question of why does your amateur sleuth keep finding murder victims dropping around her like flies?
Be like Rosalind and Natasha and get out and enjoy the spring! But unlike Natasha, leave that chipmunk alone!
3/12/22 What a great time I had with Kate Flora, Lorraine Sharma Nelson, and Frances McNamara doing the Sisters in Crime panel Making a Mystery at the Westwood Public Library! We had loads of fun taking suggestions from our audience to weave a mystery plot about murder in a bowling alley involving a medium, a forest ranger allergic to bees, and hidden illegitimate children. Most fun, it’s the audience who spur us with their suggestions of names, murder weapons, locales, and motivations. Sisters in Crime has lots of different panels, including this one. If you’re interested in having a panel of Sister or Mister authors come to your library or group to bring you the fun of one of these panels, check out this page of the Sisters in Crime new England website. Oh, and by the way, Yang made the dress I’m wearing.
I’m busy lining up more opportunities for us to connect, on-line or in-person. Wednesday, March 30th I’ll be on the ZOOM program The Technology Revolution: “The Future of Historical Research.” Hosted by Bonnie Graham for 10:45 to 12:00, I’ll be joining fellow authors Ursula Wong, Sandra Smith, and Brad Borkin. Jumping ahead to June 11th, I’ll join many other Sisters and Misters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America at BeachReads at the Natick Farmers Market. Let’s hope it’s a great day so that you can drop by and we can say hello. The following Saturday from 1:00-3:00, the 18th, I’ll be doing a joint reading with Leslie Wheeler at the Booklovers Gourmet. Leslie will be talking about Shuntoll Road and her short story in a collection, with some tantalizing hints about the third entry in her Western Massachusetts series, Wolf Bog, to be released this July 22.
Another book releasing soon is Janet Raye Stevens’ sequel to Beryl Blue Time Cop, Going back to the late 1940s, Beryl has to encounter a now embittered Sully but still save him and the future from more danger. You’ve heard me rave about what a great read this book is earlier in my news letter (11/22/21), so we’re in luck to have more of Beryl’s adventures.
A historical mystery series that is readily available to you in its entirety is Frances McNamara’s Emily Cabot mysteries. In turn-of-the-century Chicago, social scientist Emily Cabot solves mysteries intertwined with historical events and people (with a trip to Woods Hole on the Cape!). I just finished one of the later entries, Death at the Selig Studio, set at one of the filmmaking capitals of 1909 – Chicago! Who knew that city was a center for early filmmaking? Anyway, a film censor is found shot in the head and left on the bed of one of the studio’s sets, with Emily Cabot’s brother hovering around him. As Dr. Cabot tried to unravel the case to clear her brother, I enjoyed exciting twists and turns emerging naturally from the lives of actors, producers, studio owners, and politicians of the era. The first eight books of the series have been reissued by Rudiyat Press. The latest book, Death in a Time of Spanish Flu, will be released in the spring. The nice thing is that you can pick up a book at any point in the series,yet not be lost as to who is who. Here’s a link to learn more.
If you’d like something a little shorter to read, check out my latest blog. I wrote it because people were always telling me that they were fascinated with how I got the details down so vividly when outfitting my 1940s characters. Click on the title if you’re curious about the inspiration and reasoning behind how I garbed Jessica Minton: “How to Outfit the Well-Dressed Mystery Heroine.” Be sure to send me any questions on the outfits or would like me to write about other of the ensembles that Jess and her pals sport. Two short online articles by other authors that might give you a chuckle, inform you, or maybe do both are: “How Non-Librarians Imagine a Librarian’s Workday” and “A Name by any Other Name Would Be a Giant Pain in the …”.
Many of you who love the 1930s-40s are also big Remember WENN fans. Have I got a treat for you! This article tells how the series is being rebroadcast on AMC+ , while, if you click here, you can enjoy a ZOOM reunion of Rupert Holmes and the cast made in February this year! It’s fun and wonderful – plus Holmes reveals the answer to how he would have resolved the last episode’s cliff hangers!
Before I close out, I thought that you’d like to know about upcoming publishing opportunities, workshops, or contests. Crime Spell Books has open submissions for an anthology, Deadly Nightshade. The final submission date is March 31st. Click here for details. For Sisters in Crime NE, Craft Chat meets on 3/23 and will be co-hosted by Linda McHenry and Kate Flora. Click here for details. Thanks to romance writer Jean Grant, I can let you know about a free romance book giveaway contest sponsored by Earlybird Books. Click here for more details.
2/11/22 This year is starting a bit slowly, but I hop to build momentum. I’ll be joining Lorraine Nelson, Kate Flora, and Frances McNamara in the Sisters in Crime panel “Making a Mystery” at the Westwood Public Library, Westwood , Mass. on Tuesday, February 22, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. You can register here. The panel is loads of fun, as the writers and you, the audience, join together to create a mystery. It’s an in-person event, so hope I can see you there!
I’ve also been asked to be a panelist on the Bonnie Graham’s show The Future of Now on internet radio. I’ll be joining several other authors, including Ursula Wong, talking about historical research. Hmm, talking about the future of researching the past. Doesn’t that sound like a conundrum? Anyway, it’s scheduled for March 30th. I’ll have more for you later.
As far as my blogging is concerned, I just did a blog on one of the newest tea rooms at which I’ve dined. Check out my description of a visit Yang and I made to the Open Door Tea, where we went to celebrate my birthday last month. It’s not every day a girl turns 38. Hrumph! Anyway, click here to read the review.
For those of you who are improvers of the breed, or just like horses, I did a recent blog on Always Play the Dark Horse that should be right up your alley – or homestretch, as it were. I’ve been following racing since I was about 10, and many tales of the heroes of the track influenced my creation of Blackie, the equine star in my latest novel. So, if you’d like to see how many of Blackie’s traits and behaviors were inspired by actual race horses, or you just want to read some tales of the turf, check out “The Dark Horses Inspiring Always Play the Dark Horse.”
For reading that’s a bit more intellectually stimulating, check out my friend and fellow author Lisa Lieberman’s critical review of “The Spirit of the Beehive.” Its social and psychological reflection on the film’s exploration of the destruction of human relations through the violence of Fascist takeovers and the resultant suppression of history offers much for us to consider as censorship encroaches on knowledge of history in our own country. Click here.
If you’d like to enjoy what some historical romance and mystery writers have to say about their work, and have some fun in the process, check out the following. On Valentine’s Day Janet Raye Stevens will be on Facebook talking about the fine line between dark suspense and humor in her writing at the Heroines of the Great War Valentine’s Day party. She’d love for you to join her and Suzanne Tierney, Violet Marsh, Caroline Warfield, and Jo-Ann Power. You can find the group from 7-9pm EST here.
I’d also love to let you know about some opportunities for writers, teachers, and students. From Ursula Wong, I got the word about the following workshop: Kris Neri is giving a talk on plotting novels for the Seven Bridge Writers’ Collaborative on 19 February at 10:30. The event is free and on zoom. Register here: February Craft Workshop.
For WWII history students The Billy Michal Student Leadership Award is given annually by the World War II History Museum (New Orleans) to one student from each state and the District of Columbia who demonstrates the American Spirit in their community. Nominees must be in grades 8–12 and should have a strong record of volunteerism, school and/or community activism, or implementing creative solutions to recognized problems. Nominators can be teachers, coaches, clergy or community members. All student nominations must be received by Friday, March 18, 2022. Click here for more details.
1/20/22 Welcome to 2022! I hope your new year has started well. I was blessed with the announcement that Bait and Switch and Letter from a Dead Man were both awarded Recommended Read in the 2022 Author Shout Reader Ready Awards! Bait and Switch had been graced as a finalist for the 2016 Independent Excellence Awards, so now Dead Man doesn’t have to feel left out. I’m waiting to see how Always Play the Dark Horse comes out in competition for this year’s Indie Excellence Awards and the Bookshelf Awards. Wish me luck, won’t you?
If you’re looking for some activities and outlets for your own creativity, consider these. The Booklovers Gourmet has a “call for artists” for its “Winter Vignettes February Group Show.” To submit, email small jpgs of work to be considered by January 25th, including the following details: size, media, title & price, using the submission on the website. Drop off of accepted work:
Friday, January 28th or Saturday, January 29th, 10am-5pm. There is a $10 submission fee due at drop off. NEW THIS YEAR: PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARDS!! Money prizes will be awarded for the top 3 picks voted on by viewers during the month. All work must be for sale. Check with Booklovers Gourmet for additional IMPORTANT details, like submission method, by clicking here.
Does your creativity run to the musical? Well, virtual auditions are underway for the opportunity to join the Worcester State University Chorale this semester! Those interested in auditioning for a part as Bass, Tenor, Alto, or Soprano in this talented and fun a cappella group are invited to email Chorale Director Dr. Christie Nigro to receive an application and submit a recording of a solo – your choice…any style…a capella or accompanied! Interested singers should also submit a recording of the first verse from “The Road Home” in the voice part they are trying out for! The Worcester State Chorale and Chorus’ recent performance of the song is here: https://youtu.be/KBXbkcoA2GM Love to sing? Don’t miss this amazing opportunity! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org by Jan. 24!
Maybe you just want to listen to a lovely chorale? Well, Rosalind and Natasha selected this piece just for you! Click here.
Members of Sisters in Crime will enjoy the upcoming Craft Chat on 1/27. CRAFT CHAT is a monthly program for members who are unpublished in mystery fiction. During each one-hour Zoom meeting, attendees will have the opportunity to chat with at least two published members of SinCNE about the craft of writing mysteries, in any format. Registration is open to all active SinCNE members and is free. Trish Esden (Pat Esden) joins Linda McHenry as co-host this month and the first three topics to be discussed, per the request of last month’s attendees, will be: POV, handling rejection, sharing expertise with others. If you plan to attend and would like an additional topic to be discussed, just shoot Linda an email at email@example.com and she’ll be happy to include it. If they run short of time this month, she’ll add it to the top of the list for the February CRAFT CHAT, which has been scheduled for February 17.
Looking for some good reads? Well, if you’d like something short, succinct, and entertaining, how about three new entries on my web site. Kate Zebrowski, poet and novelists takes her turn on “It’s Your Turn” where she writes about how bards and their ballads have influenced her creative activities. Take a peek and enjoy “The Oral Tradition”! I also put up two new pages. I did a blog on the visit Yang and I did to Silver Sands Beach in Connecticut and the intriguing new birds we saw, one of which I’d never seen before. What was it? Well, you’ll have to read the blog and find out. Speaking of reading, check out the entry I did for Charlotte Armstrong on my Golden Era Mystery Writers. The woman is a true gem! Since publishing that page two whole people, count ’em, went out and got her books. Now, where’s my cut?
And here’s more reading food for thought! I had the pleasure of reading two more of Francis Crane’s Jean and Pat Abbot series. Jeannie, the narrator and her husband, private investigator Pat, seem to stumble into murder and what-not wherever they go. You pick up on some mid-century paternalism therein, but it’s usually undercut by Jeannie’s sassiness and clear-eyed perspective on circumstances and people. In The Daffodil Blonde (1950) I’m happy to report that the smart banter and shrewd insights of Jean Abbott are there for our enjoyment. The characters are interesting and believable, even as the bodies start to pile up. The plot twists along the way may lead you to some false starts, but I did figure out who was behind all the deaths at about the same time Jean’s shrewd insight into human nature allowed her to put two and two together. The descriptions of the Kentucky bluegrass region were evocative, yet they also seemed a bit canned, almost derived from reading other people’s writing. I was also disappointed that though set in the Bluegrass around the time of the Kentucky Derby, no horse played a major role. They were just there as backdrop, like the lush pastures, trees, and antique mansions. Still, I read excitedly to the end.
With The Polkadot Murder (1951), Crane returns to New Mexico, and her feel for landscape and community comes vividly alive! Frances Crane based Santa Maria on Taos, where she lived for many years, so she effectively recreates the beauty and desolation of the desert, the talent and peculiarities of the artistic community, and the lives of hard-working folks. You feel you are part of the gossiping upper classes and the alternate enthusiastic and laconic attitudes of the regular folks. Pat and Jean are the glue holding all together. There are suspects galore for murder, kidnapping, dognapping, romantic tangles, and manipulating medlers. This book is definitely worth the ride. I figured this one out a little earlier than the other one, but I thought the clues were laid out a bit better. My only question is what happened to Jean’s cat Toby and her daxie Pancho?
I guess that’s all for now. Hope you don’t get snowed in – unless you want to be!
12/24/21 A fine Christmas Eve to all of you. Here, in Massachusetts, we seem to be having a white Christmas, after all. As long as icy rain doesn’t wash away the snow! I have a couple of Holiday treats for you. Years ago, a good friend of mine from school forwarded to me a copy of an X-Files “Night Before Christmas.” So, in one of my holiday traditions, I’m putting a link to it right here, just for you. If you really like a dark twist on your Christmas tales, check out this link to Donald Westlake’s “Nackles.” Nackles doesn’t just know who’s naughty not nice, but does something about it. Be sure to scroll down the page to find the short story.
I had a lot of fun doing two holiday fairs in one day on December 11th this year. At the Holiday Marketplace in Holden, I got to see my friends Jean Grant, Tom Ingrassia, and Bill Zoldak, as we made up the author’s corner. Thanks to Debbie Osipov for bringing us together in a cozy room with a fireplace where we saw many a shopper and even old friends. Then, in the evening, I was off to Root and Press Bookstore and Cafe in Worcester, along with historical romance writer Jean Grant, for their Readers and Writers Winter Wonderland. Not only did I chat with Jean, but I saw my chum and former student Joanne Evans, who writes wonderful childrens’s books focusing on creatures that live along the New England shore. I not only sold some books, but did some Christmas shopping myself. And, yes, I admit it: I did a wardrobe change going from one fair to the other. By the way, Root and Press makes the most wonderful Egg Nog Latte! I “borrowed” this image from their FB page.
I also wanted to tell you about another book that I read that I really enjoyed. Janet Raye Stevens released three books simultaneously this month, two of which are set during WWII. I reviewed Beryl Blue Time Cop last email. Now, I’ve had a chance to finish A Moment after Dark, and can tell you how much I enjoyed it. Again, Janet managed to deftly blend scifi/fantasy with the sassy WWII wit, suspense, and romance so typical of the era’s films. You have a young woman with “the sight” who accidentally finds herself seeing the attack on Pearl Harbor not long before it happens. You also have a group of Secret Service Agents dedicated to harnessing the unique powers of special individuals to protect the people of the U.S.A. Unfortunately, in the mix is the group’s former leader, with special powers of his own, who plans to turn this group into a secret weapon for the Nazis. It’s kind of the X-Men meets The X-Files meets All through the Night. Believe it or not, Stevens makes it all work! Click here to order.
Finally, I actually managed to carve out some time to do a blog on a visit Yang and I made to the Riverside Cemetery in Waterbury, Ct. What a wonderfully, gothic place. The grey afternoon we’d picked was certainly the right atmosphere. Ah, and such interesting and unique statuary. Check it out here! There were so many impressive monuments to specific families, I would love to learn more about who some of these folks were and what they did. Let me know if you can fill in any of the gaps.
So here’s hoping that this holiday season finds you happy, healthy, and relaxed. Of course reading Always Play the Dark Horse would help you get there! Best wished from Rosalind and I! Thank heavens for sun porches!
11/22/21 I finished my last “live” reading and signing for the year on 11/13. More about that later. However, I will be doing an exciting ZOOM with Lisa Lieberman and Janet Raye Stevens through the Beamon Memorial Public library on December 6th, starting at 7:00 p.m.: “Writing the War Years.” To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor (the 7th), we three writers of historical mysteries of the war and post war years will be discussing the influence of the war, contemporary popular culture, social issues of the time, and film on our writing. It should be fun to share with the behind the scenes inspirations of how we create and to answer your questions. Please join us. Be sure to register first by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org at least 24 hours prior to this event. We can’t wait to hear from you!
Also, you can meet me, if not hear a reading, when I participate in three Holiday Festivals in December. On December 11th, I’ll be quite the busy beaver, having a table at the Holiday Marketplace at the Holden Senior Center from 10:00 to 3:00. I may not be there all the way up to three o’clock, because I have to hoof it to Worcester for the Readers and Writers Winter Wonderland at the Root and Press in Worcester, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. I get a breather for a week, then I’m at the Local Authors and Poets Bookfair at the Ingalls Library in Rindge, New Hampshire. So, if you’re looking to do some Christmas shopping, these fairs are just the ticket for you – especially if you like to buy books for other people (or yourself!). Check out my Appearances and Events page for more details.
Don’t want to leave the comfort of home but still longing for a Holiday Fair experience? Then check out the St. Nicholas Winter Holiday Fair online at St Matthews Church in Worcester right here. There are lots of great items up for auction: gift certificates, knitted and quilted goods, holiday decorations, food, and gift baskets – including a mystery tea-basket that includes the latest by yours truly, as well as one of Nicole Asselin’s Red Sox mysteries, and one of Carolyn Wilkins’s supernatural mysteries. All profits go to support St. Matthews and its efforts to support people of the Worcester community.
I had a great time in my final reading for the year at The Booklovers’ Gourmet Cafe. We had a small and select group we had me answering questions on what films influence my writing, how long does it take to write my novels, how can you manage writing when you work full time, who are the inspirations for my characters, etc. I wore my Ingrid Bergman dress. Why do I call it that? Here’s a picture of a strikingly similar dress Ms. Bergman wore in Notorious. Aside from the belt that would likely impale you if you tried to sit down while wearing it, doesn’t it seem almost a twin to mine?
And doesn’t black and white seem appropriate when I’m talking about mysteries with imagery so heavily influenced by noir cinematography? My thanks to Deb Horan who runs the Booklovers’ Gourmet Cafe. She provided a comfortable area in which to meet, amidst so many great books for sale. And don’t forget to stop by the cafe for a hot drink in this cold weather along with some delicious treats!
If you are looking for some book recommendations in the mystery department, I strongly suggest Kate Zebrowski’s Through a Bakery Window and Janet Raye Stevens’s Beryl Blue, Time Cop. Kate takes you back to turn of the century Spencer, Mass. to put her spin on the events that might have led up to an actual scandalous murder in the town. Death doesn’t arrive until the end, so Kate does a masterful job of laying the groundwork for events through her depcition of class and generational conflicts in the time period. She also does a nice job of giving you a feel for life in the time period, giving her characters believability.
Janet’s first entry in her Beryl Blue series is a nifty treat, as we discover how Beryl came into her career with a fun but exciting flashback into the early forties for the young woman’s coerced first assignment. Writing with a wonderful sense of humor, Janet expertly captures the lingo, clothes (including the agony of wearing a girdle!), mores, and wartime anxieties. It’s fun and enlightening to share with Beryl a modern woman’s discomfort with trying to fit in to a foreign time period – and I’m not just talking about the girdles. The romance involved will also make you smile, while Stevens’s clever trickling out of clues as to whether Beryl will succeed and why she was chosen for this dangerous task keep you reading avidly.
And in case you’d like some quick, fun reading; you’re missing the flames of autumn already; or you’re looking for a setting for a mystery novel, check out my blog on visiting the Heublein Tower on Talcott Mountain in Connecticut. Click here.
Looking for some nifty jazz on the college scene? Check out the WSC Jazz ensemble, performing at Sullivan Auditorium at 3:00 p.m. at Worcester State University. Fascinated by the WWII years? The World War II Museum in New Orleans is offering an on-line MA in WWII studies through Arizona State University. You might want to check it out here to see if it’s worth your while.
10/22/21 The success of Always Play the Dark Horse just keeps rolling along! I had a great day at the Oriol Foundation Harvest Fair where I joined fellow writers Jean Grant, Tom Ingrassia, and Bill Zoldak In the author’s corner. Lots of people picked up their copies of Jessica, James, and Dusty’s latest adventures, while some started off the adventure with my two earlier books: Bait and Switch and Letter from a Dead Man. Thanks to Deb Osipov for this photo.
If you’d like to meet me and hear more about all three books, as well as have me answer your questions on writing, publishing, and promotion, you still have plenty of opportunity. Tomorrow (Saturday, October 23), I’ll be at the Leicester Public Library for a reading, Q & A, and signing. Then, I get a weekend off for Halloween so I can do my trick or treating. Never fear, I’ll be back on November 3rd, also Saturday, for another library reading and talk at the Rogers Free Library in Bristol, RI. On Saturday November 13th, I’ll be at The Book Lovers’ Gourmet. So, please, drop in! I’d love to see you! Here’s a link to my Appearances and Events page for more details.
If you’re looking for some blogs to keep you in the Halloween “spirit,” check out Bret Laurie’s contribution of “It’s Your Turn.” In “Book and Screen: The Haunting of Hill House,” he makes a cogent comparison of Mike Flanagan’s Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House and the Shirley Jackson novel on which it is based. Click here.
I also posted a blog just right for the season. “Forest Hills Cemetery: Touching or Eerie? Both?” takes you on a tour of some of the marvelous sculpture in the Forest Hills Cemetery in Utica, NY. I took these pictures on a trip to the nearby Rome Joan Bennett film festival this past summer. This is the first chance I’ve had to put together a blog on our exploration of the grounds. The timing seems perfect for finally getting that blog posted, doesn’t it? Click here.
Right now, for the Halloween experience, I’m reading the original Dracula (cover, Norton Critical Edition). It’s fast-paced and still eerie after all the times I’ve read and taught the book. It’s the original X-Files, with a band of dedicated “believers” seeking out the truth behind inexplicable evil, using faith (in friendship, mostly) as well as the latest “contemporary” scientific and technological gadgets to help them explain and defend themselves against the hostile unknown. Dr. Van Helsing has several lines that you would swear came straight from Fox Mulder’s mouth. Not that there aren’t more than a few continuity gaffes. And you sometimes wonder if any of the bonehead mistakes made by Dracula’s pursuers are an indication of Stoker’s limitations or of his ironic view of Victorian earnest capability. It’s still a good read.
If you’re looking for suggestions for other “seasonal” reads for October, check these earlier blogs I did on the subject. One is from my web site: “Halloween Reading Treats. ” The other is a guest blog I did for TouchPoint Press: “From Paper to the Big Screen: Author Sharon Healy-Yang Talks Horror Adaptations.”
Finally, if you’d like some live ZOOM Halloween experiences consider Kate Zebrowski’s reading poetry and from her new novel on Spencer, Mass. hauntings, “Through a Bakery Window.” Kate will be ZOOMING through Thirsty Lab, supported by the Worcester County Poetry Association. Date is October 26. You can connect to the ZOOM Registration link here.
If you’re in a more historical mood, check out the Connecticut Historical Society’s ZOOM talk on October 27th at 7:00-8:00 p.m.: Witches in Connecticut. Click here to register.
If you don’t hear from me before 12/31, may you enjoy more treats than tricks!
10/06/21 So much wonderful stuff is new! I’ve been doing loads of appearances to get the word out on Always Play the Dark Horse. I had the official book launch at TidePool Books on 10/2. What a wonderful success! I saw many old friends and made some new ones. People bought the new book, as well as the first two in the series. We had great chats about writing and publishing, as well as the new adventures of Jessica, James, and Dusty. I also had a grand time at the Ingalls Library in Rindge, NH talking about writing and all three of my novels. If you missed the event, you can watch the video that library director Donna Straitiff put up. You get to see a vintage dress and a great hat, too! Click here. Until I listened, I never realized what a strong Merrimack Valley-New England accent I have!
I also had the delightful experience of being on Sarah Smith’s Tea-Time Reading Program on YouTube. We had lots of fun talking about Dark Horse and its inspirations, teaching and writing, and other fun topics. Again, a great hat is displayed atop my head. And Natasha makes a special guest appearance! Click here for the interview/reading. You should also check out some of the other interviews Sarah does with different mystery writers. You can find some great possibilities for new readings and learn a lot about how writers work. If you like the interview you see, please click “like.” It’s thoughtful to show Sarah and her interviewees appreciation!
I had lots of fun on 9/28, when I joined fellow Touchpoint author Kate Zebrowski at the Leicester Harvest Fair. We met lots of people, sold plenty of books, and made connections that have led to more reading/signings. I also bought some pear jam and rhubarb jam! Yum! This Saturday, I’ll be at the Holden Oriol Harvest Fair, where I’ll be joined by other authors, including friends Tom Ingrassia and Jean Grant. Drop by, say hello, buy a book or three.
I have plenty more appearances set up. 10/16 I’m at the library in Bristol, RI; 10/23 I’m at the Leciester Public library; and 11/13 I’m at the Booklovers’ Gourmet. All these events are readings/signings. So, you can not only buy Dark Horse, but we can talk about this and my other books, as well as about writing, publishing, and getting out the word on your own book. I would love to see you! For more details, click here for my Appearances and Events page.
If you’re looking for some seasonal reading and viewing, I have a few treats rather than tricks for you. Check out my blog on the bicycle ride Yang and I took on the Windsor Locks bicycle trail, here. If you’re looking for a movie with style, humor, and chills, find yourself a copy of Ghost Light. It’s a film in which a small playing company in a rural setting puts on a production of Mac, er, the Scottish Play; however, when two of the actors decide to shout the title’s name in the theatre outside the bound of performance, all hell, literally, breaks loose. There’s wit and chills in this eerie tale; the terror lies in the suspense rather than gore. The film was also shot around central Mass. and Concord in the fall. What more can you ask for? Shakespeare, ghosts, and autumn colors!
I also have a few books to recommend. Kate Zebrowski’s Through a Bakery Window releases on 10/20, just in time for the holiday, based on a real murder in central New England in the last century, and that murder’s reverberations. Click here to pre-order.
I also recently finished Fred DeVecca’s The Nutting Girl, another mystery set in Mass., this time Shelburne Falls. DeVecca beautifully captures the setting and rythms of life in the small town, while weaving a mystery that is both philosophical and suspenseful. Just when you think you’ve figured it out, he turns you 90 degrees and you have to ponder all over, along with characters who are humanly flawed but thinking and feeling individuals.
Then, I also returned the the eerieness of Scott Thomas’s collection Midnight in New England. Thomas can evoke the disquieting off-kilter reality of a Lovecraft, but presents his horrors with a subtly and thoughtfulness that evokes the skill of Hawthorne. Most of his stories are set in central and western Mass., deftly capturing the isolation and strangeness of the region. My next Halloween reading will be Dracula. Before there was Scully and Mulder confronting the terrifying invasion of our rational world by the impossible, with turn-of-twenty-first-century technology and knowledge of the arcane, there was that crew of five doing the same with turn-of-the- twentieth-century hot new gizmos like cameras, telephones, dictaphones, shorthand, trains, etc. This time, I don’t have to worry about reading 400 pages in four days so I can teach it!
9/25/21 So many exciting things are new! Tuesday night, I was back at my first in-person Sisters In Crime Panel in two years. I joined sistermystery- writers Kate Flora and Judith McIntosh for the fun “Mystery Making” audience participation presentation at the Athol Public Library. The audience provided us with names, weapons (on paper of course!), settings,and motives for murder, from which we had to weave a complex tale of intrigue, corruption, and, yes, MURDER! Kate was our moderator and Judith our scribe, taking down notes on a HUGE post-it pad on the wall that the whole audience could see. Even as we’d start and stop and start again playing out a tale, we had the audience jumping in with corrections and suggestions. Lots of laughter that night. Loads of fun. I will never be able to get the name “Mrs. Hoogendoogle” out of my head again! And, as you can see from the pictures, we played it safe with social distancing and masks. We speakers did remove our masks for the show, since we were so distanced from the audience, then resumed wearing them for signing books.
I’ve got plenty more appearances lined up for you – with the opportunity for you to hear about or even buy Dark Horse! Saturday, 9/18, I’ll be at the Leicester Harvest Fair from 10:00-2:30, with fellow TouchPoint Press author Catherine Zebrowski. The fair is held right in front of the city hall on a beautiful green. So drop by to chat or buy a book or two. Kate has an intriguing time-slip story Sleepwalking Backwards for sale and can tell you about her new ghostly mystery due out in October! Just in time for Halloween!
If you prefer to hear about Always Play the Dark Horse and my writing and publishing experiences from the comfort of your home, drop in on Sarah Smith’s ZOOM interview with me on Tea Time Readings, from 5-6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, 9/21. Here’s the link. The readings are saved on her YouTube channel, so what you miss you can catch up on later. Be sure to click “like” if you did! In fact, check out some of her other tea time readings with different authors here. They’re really enjoyable and informative.
On Friday, September 24th, I’ll be at the Ingalls Memorial Library in Rindge, NH to do a reading and signing of Dark Horse and the other books. October 2nd, I’ll be signing and selling Dark Horse at the book launch at TidePool Books in Worcester, and on October 16th (Saturday), I’ll be doing a reading and signing at the Rogers Free Library in Bristol, RI. I’m still working on events for November and December. So, please come to see me; I’d love to introduce you to the latest adventures of Jessica and James and Dusty!
For more detail on my appearances, click here.
Joan is excited because, right now, Dark Horse is available on Amazon. Click here. Or you can order through your local bookstore. However, next week I’ll have some copies at TidePool Books. I’m hoping I can place copies at several of the other local independent bookstores starting next week. I’ll let you know as I get the copies placed.
As an FYI, I thought I’d point out that the mansion that was the model for Collinwood on the original Dark Shadows is for sale. If you’ve got an extra thirty-mil hanging around, you might want to put in a bid. Act fast, though; with copies of Dark Horse flying off the shelves, I may be able to put in a bid in any time now! Take a virtual tour of the estate here.
8/25/21 How’s this for what’s new? Always Play the Dark Horse is now available through Amazon in paperback and Kindle format. Click here if you’d like to order now! At the moment, Barnes and Noble and Bookshop.org don’t have it available; however, I will let you know and put a link on my web site as soon as they do. I’m waiting for the copies of Dark Horse that I’ve ordered to arrive. I’ll be selling them at personal appearances or taking them to the same bookstores that carry the first two Jessica Minton novels. So, you can also buy your copy there if you want to support your local bookstore. I can’t tell you how exciting this is for me! I hope you’ll enjoy the latest adventures of Jessica, James, and Dusty!
While you’re waiting, you might want to check out some blogs I’ve done to whet your appetite for the novel. I have one on how I’ve cast some of the roles in the novel, which you can read here. A more recent blog I’ve posted explores how the film noir of 1940s mystery and horror movies influenced my imagination to create the ambience of my novels, with an emphasis on Dark Horse. Click here and enjoy “The Dark Side of the Screen, the Dark Pages of My Novels.”
I’m setting up all kinds of opportunities to connect with you, live and online. On September 14th, I’ll be on the Sisters in Crime-NE panel “Mystery Making” at the Athol Public Library, live. September 24th, I’ll be in Rindge, NH to do a reading and signing for the Ingalls Memorial Library. On Saturday, October 2nd, we’ll have the official booklaunch for Dark Horse at TidePool Books in Worcester. On September 21st, I’ll be doing an interview with Sandra Smith for Upton Public Access. I may be at the Leiscester Harvest Festival on September 18th. I’ve also contacted libraries in Shelbourne Falls and Lowell, Mass. to do readings/signings this fall. Check my web site, Appearances and Events, for details and updates. I’d love to see you and talk with you.
I’ve also added a link to my interview with Chris Upton of The Freethinker’s Corner Bookstore, if you’d like the lowdown on Dark Horse, my writing, and other neat info. You’ll also enjoy the hat!
And, if you’d enjoy something not entirely different, check out these two blogs. Here’s a link to Yang’s and my adventures at the Joan and Constance Bennett film festival at the Capitol Theatre in Rome, NY – including some neat shots of the theatre returned to its original glory. Looking for something more pastoral? Check out my blog on some of my late summer avian visitors, here.
Guess that’s all for now. But that’s a lot! Hope to see you soon! Dusty’s leaping for joy!
8/5/21 I’m excited, counting down to the release of Always Play the Dark Horse on August 24th (fingers crossed). How about you? I’ll be adding some new, related blogs and another sneak peek soon to whet your appetite.
If you’d like some hints from me in person about Jessica, James, and Dusty’s latest adventures, come see me at the Whitinsville (Mass.) Social Library, where I’ll be doing a reading and signing this Saturday (August 7th) from 11:00-12:00. I’m thrilled to be doing my first live appearance since February of 2020! If you haven’t read Bait and Switch or Letter from a Dead Man, here’s your chance to buy a discount priced paperback. We can also talk about writing, publishing, and promoting your own writing. I’m looking forward to seeing you!
If you missed my appearance with three other Sisters in Crime authors on Mystery Making last week, here’s a YouTube link so you can experience the fun. I was delighted to work with my fellow authors to come up with a spy thriller based on audience suggestions. If you want to join in the fun, yourself, sometime, there will be more of this panel and on other topics through Sisters in Crime. Check here for the upcoming schedule. If you’d like to bring one of these panels to your library or other group, click here to contact Leslie Wheeler for details. I also suggest checking out other of the Freethinker’s Corner Bookstore events.
Writers, check out this opportunity. TouchPoint Press has put out a call for Holiday-themed novels and novellas . Here are some details and contact information: Get ready to send us some hot-cocoa drinking, snowman-building, chimney-diving stories that keep everyone cozy during the holidays!
Full-length novels and novellas
Deadline August 31st
Submit a query letter in the body of the email to email@example.com
7/15/21 Here are a few more interesting tidbits for you. I’ll be part of the Sisters in Crime “Mystery Making” Panel on Zoom on Tuesday 7/27 from 7:00-8:30, through The Freethinker’s Corner Bookstore. I’ll be joinin Jolene Grace, S.Lee Manning, and Frances McNamara for a fun evening where you put us to the test creating a mystery from the suggestions YOU give us on victim, suspects, murder weapon, location, motive! It’s pretty creative, sometimes awfully silly, and always loads of fun. One of the best parts is that since it’s on ZOOM, you don’t have to live nearby to join in. You can register from any part of the country. If you’re interested you can register through Facebook or Eventbrite.
On August 7th, from 11:00-12:00, I’ll be reading and signing solo at the the Whitinsville Social Library in Whitinsville, MA. You could get a special “in” on Always Play the Dark Horse, to be realeased 8/24/21. Or you can hear some tips about writing, publishing, and promoting. If you haven’t read the first two books in the series, this is your chance to catch up: Bait and Switch and Letter from a Dead Man. I’d love to see you.
If you check out my latest blogs, there’s more “Casting Characters.” If you click here, you can see how I cast many characters in Dead Man. If you click here, you’ll get a heads up on Always Play the Dark Horse. Maybe this will whet your appetite for Jessica, James, and Dusty’s latest adventure. Drop me a line in “Comments” on what you think about the casting. Any surprises? Any different thoughts on casting? I’d love to hear what you think!
Just a reminder, Letter from a Dead Man will remain on sale for $1.99 on Kindle for July. Bait and Switch has been on sale this month, but that may change. So, if you want an electronic copy of these novels at a discount, now’s your chance!
I have plans for more blogs as well to perk your interest in Dark Horse. I’m also planning another sneak peek in the weeks to come. Don’t forget, I’ll be continuing my “Phaser Carriers of Star Trek” series as well! Here’s a hint as to one person on the next entry: “I’ll take you home, Kathleen.”Is the woman pictured the same character or a hint about a different one? Stay Tuned to find out!
7/1/21 Great things are “what’s new!” Last week, I sent in my corrections on the galleys for Dark Horse – and I got my official release date: August 24th! Fingers crossed that there are no delays. I promise to let you know when pre-order becomes available.
The official book launch date and location is set for TidePool Books in Worcester on Saturday, October 2nd at 1:00. It’s a lovely shop in a great location with plenty of room. Come and help fill it up on that date! I’m also going to be doing some in-person and ZOOM sessions before that, as well. This month, I’ll be doing a Sisters In Crime Mystery Making Panel on July 27th at The Freethinker’s Corner Bookshop. On August 7th, I’m doing a reading and signing at the Whitinsville Social Library and another one on September 24th in Rindge, NH. So, if you want a previews of Dark Horse, make the trip to either place. Dark Horse won’t be for sale on the first date, but you can still buy Bait and Switch or Letter from a Dead Man to get you primed for the third entry in the series. Click here for more details on these appearances and others I’ll be making.
Have you read the first two books in the Jessica Minton series? Last month, I put the Kindle edition of Bait and Switch on sale for $1.99 for June. This month, July, Letter from a Dead Man is now be on sale for $1.99. So, if you or a friend needs a Kindle copy at a great price, here’s your chance!
Here’s some fun news: my publisher has redone the covers of the first two novels slightly to clarify that they are part of a series. She’s also added a feline figure that has gained Dusty’s seal of approval.
To help you get in the dreamy noir mood of Always Play the Dark Horse, I’ve been creating some blogs to pique your interest. I’m starting with a three-part series of blogs on the characters of my novels and how my creation of them has been inspired by actors from some of my favorite noir films-and other surprising sources. I’m starting with some of my “casting choices” for Bait and Switch. Click here for the blog. Next week, I’ll post on the choices for Dead Man. Either that week or the next one, we’ll finally arrive at the inspiration for the players in Always Play the Dark Horse, with some hints as to Jessica and James’s adventures in the newest novel!
Under It’s Your Turn, you will find a guest blog that perfectly fits the mood for noir and classic era horror. Author Michael Samerdyke has pennedf a blog on his favorite filmmaker (maybe mine, as well), Val Lewton. I think you’ll enjoy “The Lewton Legacy.”
If you’re still in a gothic mood, check out Bret Laurie’s incisive review of The Babadook. I’m very proud of Bret. He was a former student, and this spot on essay rev eals why he was one of my best.
Last is another blog that addresses a different one of my interests: Star Trek. I’d spent the last year working my way through the original series; and, in the process, I became intrigued with the background players. Not the Uhuras, Sulus, and Chapels, but the supporting cast supporting the supporting cast. So, here’s a link to the first entry in my planned series: “The Spear, er, Phaser Carriers of Star Trek.” Enjoy Part One to get the lowdown on Dr. M’benga, Mr. Farrell, Lt. Palmer, and the actors who played them.
5/23/21 “What’s New” is a little late this time because of what IS new! Always Play the Dark Horse came back from the editor a few weeks ago with only some minor editing requirements. After some careful review and editing, I’ve returned it to my editor Kim and she has sent it on the Production. This coming week, she’ll be checking out where the book is in the production schedule. So, it looks as if Dark Horse is on its way! I will let you know more on its progress as I get the information.
For now, I will be updating my web site to include Dark Horse, including some blogs on background on the novel and even a sneak peek or two. I’ll let you know as soon as I publish more on my site. For now, if you do have some questions for me, register for the ZOOM interview Chris Upton will be doing with me on Wednesday, May 26, from 7:00-8:30. You can ask questions in chat or by text. For those of you who live far away from me, it might be a nice way to reconnect. I hope I “see” you there. Click here for more information about the event and registering.
I already have some other neat posts on my site. Michael Samerdyke graciously wrote a guest blog on “It’s Your Turn” about the influence 1940s horror filmmaker Val Lewton on his writing: “The Lewton Legacy.” You would enjoy his collection of Lewton-inspired haunting and evocative tale, His Queen of Darkness. Afterwards, you might want to take a peek at my blog, “Hillside Cemetery: A Dunwich Kind of Place,” just to stay in the mood.
Some other reading that might tickle your fancy while you eagerly await the return of Jessica, James, and Dusty includes The Last of Mrs. Summers. Rhys Bowen takes Lady Georgie and her friend Belinda through adventures that are a clever tip of the hat to Rebecca, with some neat unique twists on the original.
I came in on the second of Tessa Arlen’s Poppy Redfern series, Poppy Redfern and the Fatal Flyers. In this WWII-era tale, we get a nifty mystery of sabotage and murder amongst the women flyers of Britain’s Air Transport Auxiliary. Heroine Poppy showing an engaging blend of intelligence, grit, and a human touch of insecurity as she digs in to find the truth while working for the London Crown Film Unit. Of course her partner, an independent Corgi, adds to the fun, with an American flyer adding romance.
Frances Crane’s The Flying Red Horse, brings us back the detecting team of Jean and Pat Abbott for murder among the world of Texas wildcatters. Nice humor, a clever Daxie playing an important role, and tempting hints and clues keep you guessing till the end. There’s a clear evocation of life in the world of self-made millionaires in 1950 Texas.
And if you’re looking for the inside info on mystery writers, check out Leslie Wheeler’s interview on Be My Guest. Also consider checking out Chris Upton’s interviews with many of writers of mystery this month through his Freethinker’s Bookcorner, M(AY) is for Mystery series this month.
3/1/21 Hi folks! It’s the first day of March and I think I can see spring on the horizon! There may still be some snow on the ground, but I can sight buds on the tip tops of trees, and the birds in the woods have started their spring songs! How’s the season coming along where you are?
I’m happy to report that my editor still has Always Play the Dark Horse on the calendar for April. So that month and May, we should be hard at work on revisions. Let’s hope there aren’t many. The cover is already squared away with TouchPoint, so that shouldn’t be a sticking point. I’m hoping for a mid-summer release. Maybe we’ll be able to have in-person readings and signings in the late summer and early fall. Wouldn’t that be great? For those who are further away from me, I’ll still be looking into doing ZOOM gathering so we can all connect. So, keep your fingers crossed all will go smoothly.
I’ll also be joining Lisa Lieberman and Carolyn Wilkins to run two sessions of Jump Start Your Story this month. On March 3, I’ll be at a private workshop at UMass-Dartmouth. On March 13th, we’ll be at the Straw Dogs Literary Guild. Click here for details. Both are ZOOM meetings. These work shops are loads of fun, and, even better, they are free. If you are interested in having your group do Jump Start, you can drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have some nifty new blogs for you to enjoy. If you still want to recall the nicer parts of winter, I did two blogs that you ought to enjoy. The first will appeal to all you birders. It’s called “Winter Birds at Chez Yang.” In it, you’ll find some neat pictures of some of my favorite birds-some cute and one fierce. Click here. The other blog will appeal to the more gothic side of your nature, if you have one. Otherwise, you can still enjoy the statuary and the clear winter skies in “Celtic Crosses, Funerary Statues in a Winter Cemetery.” Click here. I also re-posted my tribute to Joan Bennett and her influence on my writing for her birthday on 2/27. Click here.
More good reading on my site? Dr. MaryLynn Saul, a member of the Worcester State English Department, gives us the latest entry for “It’s Your Turn.” With her blog “For Black History Month-And Every Month,” MaryLynn shares with us how literature by black authors has enriched her understanding and, more importantly, enabled those authors to write themselves back into U.S. history, from which society has tried to erase them. A good read.
You’ll enjoy the profiles of two writers whom I knew as professors when I was in my Ph.D. program at the University of Connecticut. Marilyn Warniak is a poet and Gina Barecca is a maven of women’s humor. Check out what each has to say and what their former students have to say about them. Both have been wonderful mentors to their students, especially the writers.
How about some mystery writers and what they have to say? Ursula Wong had two interviews on local access concerning her writing. One was with Janet Lewis and the other on Booktalk. Lisa Lieberman has an interesting interview by Hank Phillipi Ryan, where you learn about the influence of film noir on her writing and her WinP, a nonfiction book, Flinch , that looks at film noir’s exploration of social turmoil. Though she hasn’t published a mystery yet, Amber Vayo’s article in MS. Magazine certainly hits home on the social issue of “The U.S.’s Maternity Care Consent Problem: Pregnant Women Deserve a Choice.” Amber was a former student and is a present friend. She’s now in a Ph.D. program at UMass-Amhearst, and , yes, this is the same Amber whose A time for Healing I just beta read. I’m very proud of her!
Here are a few contests and opportunities you might want to check into:
1. The award-winning Best New England Crime Stories anthologies will now be published by Crime Spell Books under the editorship of Susan Oleksiw, Ang Pompano, and Leslie Wheeler. Submissions for the 2021 anthology, Bloodroot, will be accepted from January 15 to March 31, 2021.
The anthology is open to all writers who currently live in one of the six New England states, but stories do not need to be set in New England. (The six New England states are Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.) For guidelines, visit www.crimespellbooks.com.
2. The Wild Woman Story Contest: Deadline: March 8 (International Women’s Day) Release: May 1
We are looking for empowering stories with female main characters (written by anyone) that celebrate the Wild Woman: women who are the heroines of their own lives. We want stories about finding the wild, reclaiming the wild, experiencing the wild, being the wild. We especially love stories about the ways women use their power to create and shape the world, and stories about discovering—or remembering—this power in the first place. These can be fiction, nonfiction, or poetry—as usual, if it tells a story, it fits!
Click here for the Guidelines page and to enter.
3. My Publisher TouchPoint Press is offering an interesting opportunity if you’re looking for a good read through the TouchPoint Press Street Team. Every month, you get a FREE book (or books) in return for your review/promotion. You can also interact with authors and have fun!
How about we close with some cool jazz from the Worcester State University Jazz Ensemble in a Zoom concert? Take it away! Mercy, Mercy Mercy!
2/10/21 I’m sorry to start this report out on a sad note. However, those of you who know me well know how much of a Supremes fan I am. If you click here, you will go to my blog on Miss Mary’s passing.
I’ve been given the pleasure to be a beta reader for two friends’ wonderful novels. Amber Vayo has written a well-paced, moving, and thought-provoking novel, A Time for Healing, about a young German girl arriving at Nuremberg for the trials, where she learns her own true identity and that of her father, one of the defendants. Amber has told me she is exploring: when do humans change from being good people who sometimes do bad things to being bad people. Seeing through the eyes of the young girl, we are forced to confront some brutal and stirring questions about morality and integrity. This is going to be a good one.
The other novel that I read was Lisa Boehm’s Ten Rubles, A Novel. It’s a fictionalized memoir based on her own family history that centers on two young women at the turn of the twentieth century who navigate growing up” greenhorns” in Dearborn, MI. One woman, Ruth, emigrates from Russia while the other, Edaline, is born here. Both must deal with creating or finding an identity that doesn’t betray their Russian Jewish heritage, but doesn’t leave them constricted by tradition, while trying to navigate the culture of America. Her characters are lively, human, and intrepid even in their uncertainty. Both Amber and Lisa have a wonderful way with language, so their writing is generally a pleasure to read. These must be published!
Though I don’t have any Sisters in Crime panels or any readings/signings lined up, I will be doing two Jump Start Your Story workshops in March. One is a private workshop, arranged with UMass Dartmouth (3/3). The other we’ll be putting on through Straw Dogs Writers Guild, with a more open registration, on March 13 at 10:30 A.M. Click here if you’re interested in checking it out. The workshop is lots of fun, providing some unique prompts and participant/guide interactions. At least one former participant now has her short story on the way to publication! Contact me if you have a group who might find our workshop interesting.
I’ve done some fun mystery reading since Christmas. From the 1940s, I’ve enjoyed two books by Frances Crane. The mystery is tight, the characters are interesting, and the humor is dryly 1940s. Crane gives us married couple Pat and Jean Abbott who trade quips and make trenchant observations to unravel some complicated mysteries in Murder in Purple Water, The Shocking Pink Hat, and Black Cypress. I love that you get striking descriptions of places, clothing, attitudes, food, and drink from the period, as well-usually with no distraction from the story. However, Purple Water did spend a whole paragraph on how to make the supreme Key Lime pie, a bit much for even someone with my predilection for sweets. Crane also has an interesting take on prejudices of the time. She may have characters express the biases against people of color taken for granted even more so in the ’40s, but they usually fall to really despicable individuals. And, interestingly, when Jean Abbott admits to herself that she prefers “friendly brown faces” to the mysterious, reserved black one of a man of Caribbean descent, the author undercuts that view by having Jean realize the dark man with whom she feels uncomfortable is actually a heroic person of integrity. Of course, would you expect anything less of a woman who was kicked out of Nazi Germany for exposing their prewar, violent anti-Semitism to her news readers back in the States?
I also had fun with some modern writers as well. I finished Helen Heineman’s In England Now That Murder’s There in short order. it’s an exciting mystery that finds English Professor Winnie Burren leading a literary tour of England for an intriguing group, to say the least! One of her members is likely certifiable, and then there’s attempted murder followed by actual murder! Helen has created a fast-paced work with a smart, humorous, and put-upon lead. The descriptions of the Lake Country, London, the Brontes’ Yorkshire, and several other areas with literary connections are spot on. I love description that’s evocative but doesn’t get in the way! And if you’ve ever worked at a college you will nod and say, “Oh, yeah!”
Barbara Struna and Kaye Schmitz gifted me with two mysteries that gave me the best of both worlds! In time slip format, they slide deftly backand forth between the 1940s and the present, gradually drawing you closer to clever conclusions. Both do a great job of evoking the attitudes, ambience, clothes, and excitement of both eras. Both give you characters that you care about. Barbara’s book is The Old Cape Cod Hollywood Secret and Kaye’s is On Deadly Grounds. Kaye had even written the latest guest blog for us, “My Deep, Dark Secret as a Writer: I Feared the Blank Page.” In her fun essay, Kaye takes us on her journey from childhood writer whom life and responsibility pulled away from her calling until a revelation liberated her imagination and set her fearlessly plunging into creating exciting fiction.
I also found the time to write a couple of blogs. Yang and I took a trip a few weeks back to the Hillside Cemetery in North Adams, Mass. The cemetery has an interesting set up, split by a major roadway. I had to break up my essay into two parts, since there was a lot to see and write about. Here’s the first installment: “In the Bleak Midwinter: Hillside Cemetery.”
And you don’t want to miss our trip to the Cape around my birthday for our annual rendezvous with the Eider ducks!
Before I go, here are some interesting opportunities for writers.
SinC Into Great Writing is open for registration. This free for members, $25 for non-members event, will center around the topic SinC Into Great Writing: Reinventing a Writing Career.
For Sisters in Crime Members only is the Pride Award: submissions are open through March 15. Are you, or do you know, an emerging LGBTQIA+ crime writer? Make sure to check out the guidelines for this $2000 award.
February 12/2021: 90 min. live workshop for writers of fiction and memoir. Lisa Kramer: Playwright, teacher, novelist. Registration: $37.00.
Struggling to develop realistic dialogue? Characters flat and underdeveloped Wondering who they really are?
Flesh out your characters. Meet your cast. Using techniques from creative drama and improvisation discover fun ways to develop and strengthen your characters’ voices.
Submit for a Mystery Anthology! The award-winning Best New England Crime Stories anthologies will now be published by Crime Spell Books under the editorship of Susan Oleksiw, Ang Pompano, and Leslie Wheeler. Submissions for the 2021 anthology, Bloodroot, will be accepted from January 15 to March 31, 2021.
The anthology is open to all writers who currently live in one of the six New England states, but stories do not need to be set in New England. (The six New England states are Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.) For guidelines, visit www.crimespellbooks.com.
5. TouchPoint Press
TouchPoint Romance is seeking submissions for clean romance series’ submissions in these genres: West Coast Love, East Coast Love, Southern Love, Love Abroad
For more information, see the TPP Submissions page —http://ow.ly/fT4S50Dp6BY
How about a lovely farewell from Mary Wilson? It’s a sweet so-long to us. She was a lady who enjoyed life. “Here’s to life.”
12/24/2020 I don’t have lot of news for you this Christmas Eve, but here are some fun items to keep in mind. If you like your Christmas on the dark side, check out my two blogs on Holiday Noir. The first one is from 2016 on The Lady in the Lake. The other is a new blog that I just completed yesterday on Beyond Tomorrow. Maybe every Christmas season I’ll do a different noir holiday film. I’m also thinking of Cover-up and Christmas Eve. Have any other suggestions?
I’m also including a link to everyone’s favorite sinister Christmas tale, Donald Westlake’s “Nackles.” My brother told me about this short story when we were kids, so I was always searching for it. If you like rough justice, this is your ticket. A lump of coal is the least of a nasty person’s worries if this tale is true.
Want something not quite so dark, but still keeping the holidays on the eerie side? How about Scully and Mulder’s version of “The Night before Christmas”?
If you’d prefer some upbeat and swinging holiday music, check out Dan Gable and the Abletones’ big band Winter Celebration (requiring a reasonable donation) and his free, streaming swing quartet at Mechanics Hall. If you just want some nifty jazz, try the short Holy Cross Jazz Ensemble, here.
If you’re craving a nifty forties style mystery, Netflix has two more seasons of High Seas available. Cross the Atlantic from Spain to South America on a luxury liner replete with murder, Nazis, romance, swinging music, spot on costuming, and two intrepid mystery-solving sisters. What more could you ask for?
And just to help end the trauma of 2020, here are Natasha and Rosalind wishing you Happy Holidays.
12/08/2020 It’s been more than a month since I reported in. Things have slowed down on the front of doing presentations, even online. I do have a fun opportunity for those of you who need inspiration to get some writing done. I will be joining mystery writers Lisa Lieberman and Carolyn Wilkins in leading a FREE Sisters in Crime, New England workshop, “Jump Start Your Story” on Zoom. It’s presented through the Athol Public library on December 15th at 7:00 p.m. “Jump Start” is a fun endeavor where we give you some unique and intriguing prompts, as well as work with you, to help you come up with a draft of a short story. One writer from an earlier workshop actually produced a piece that will be published! Click here for a link to the library where you can register as well as find a description of the event. If you have a good time, pass the word on to your own library, college, writing group, etc. – it’s a FREE event. If you’re interested in booking us, contact me at email@example.com
Wondering when you’ll get to enjoy the latest adventures of Jessica, James, and Dusty? Well, the latest word from my editor is that she’ll be getting to Always Play the Dark Horse in April 2021. I intend to work as hard and as fast as I can to get the novel in shape once she gets back to me. So, I’m hoping it will be out by early summer! Dark Horse, is set in a hot 1946 July on the Connecticut Long Island coast at a women’s college where we find disappearances, secret passions and identities, murder-and a really neat actual dark horse: perfect reading for the summe. Several of my early readers have told me it makes them want to go to the beach! Maybe next month I’ll post a sneak preview for you. How’s that?
This year, the Holiday Fair at Worcester State University will be virtual. Bait and Switch and Letter from a Dead Man will be for sale there, as well as all kinds of great crafts and other gifts-all on line. It will be a convenient way to do some safe holiday shopping. I’ll let you know more details about time, date, and the link you need as they come to me.
Speaking of shopping, remember that books are the best of gifts. So, I’m re-posting a link here to a Sister-in-Crime blog I did on some local bookstores that can provide you with an opportunity for convenient shopping. These bookstore, as well as those closer to your home, offer you an on-line shopping opportunity to have the books delivered to you. With on-line ordering and mail delivery, you might find some of the bookstores I’ve written about are a great place to shop even if you aren’t from the Worcester area.
If you still would like to remember the vivid colors of fall now that winter is coldly closing in, check out the three blogs that I have done since my last “What’s New.” If you’re in the mood for Gothic with autumnal mellowness, check out “Hope Cemetery.” Maybe you’re not in a full-on Gothic mode, but you’d like to explore a town flooded for a reservoir or nineteenth-century railroad architecture, all wrapped in the colorful hills of Western Massachusetts? Well, check out the Colbrook Reservoir in “Halloween Treat” or the relics of an early railroad wending through the mountains in “Keystone Arch Bridges Trail.”
If you’re up for some holiday swing, have I got two suggestions for you! Dan Gable and the Abletones, his big band orchestra, have filmed a holiday show at Mechanics Hall that you will be able to access as of 12/19/2020 by clicking on this link. The show will also include the vocal trio The Moon Maids and special guests. A donation of your choice is suggested. Here’s a link with a more detailed description. They put on a heck of a show, and if you love swing…Don’t miss out! The Holy Cross Jazz Band now has its winter concert available online. If you want to check out there jazzy grooves, click here. I highly recommend both.
If you’re looking for some more traditional holiday music, there is the Worcester Chorale Virtual Performance on December 15th at 7:00 online. Click here for details. It will also be posted for later viewing if you can’t make the concert. Say, you’re at “Jumpstart Your Story ,” with me. A donation of your choice is requested for the WSU concert. Holy Cross is also live streaming its annual Festival of Lessons and Carols on December 18th at 7:00 p.m. You can connect at this link by clicking on the concert you want.
I guess that’s all for now. Take a tip from Joan Bennett and enjoy the season!
10/30/2020 Boo! Hope this Halloween season is going well for you! I’ve been doing lots to enjoy this fall, especially participating in interesting reading and writing opportunities. I zoomed two Sisters in Crime Panels. The first, “The Modern Heroine” was hosted by A Freethinker’s Corner Bookstore in Dover, NH. I had a ball with mystery writers Sharon Daynard, Jeannette de Beauvoir, and Arlene Kay. If you click here, you can enjoy a recording on YouTube. And, yes, Yang did make the dress I’m wearing. I also did a “Mystery Making” panel at the Groton Public Library. I don’t have a link for a recording, yet, but if I find one I’ll put it in. If you think your library, school, or organization would love to have one of these or another Sisters in Crime panel you can contact Leslie Wheeler at the SinC-NE Speakers Bureau. There is a fee that goes to the authors for the panels.
I also participated in a test run for “Jump Start Your Story,” a writing workshop developed by Lisa Lieberman. Lisa, Carolyn Wilkins, and myself worked with writers in a creative,fun, multi-inspirational, interactive program. For more info on this FREE workshop, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll connect you with Lisa.
I also did a guest blog for TouchPoint Press: “From Paper to the Big Screen: Author Sharon Healy Yang Talks about Horror Adaptations.” I look at three of my favorite horror or suspense novels from the golden age that seem to capture the spirit of Halloween and not only explain what makes them special but how they were adapted to the screen.
You might also find some of my more recent blogs in the Halloween “spirit.” Inspired my October movie watching, I decided to do a comparison of Nick Knight and the series that came out of it, Forever Knight– a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek series about a homicide detective-obviously, he works the night shift. So, check out “Nick Knight Forever.”
Yang and I also did a stroll through St. John’s Cemetery recently, and the gorgeous monuments combined with the autumn colors are just perfect for the season: “An Autumn Walk in Saint John’s Cemetery.” Then there’s “New Hamshire Adventure: Claude Rains, Mt. Roberts, and, the First August Full Moon.” For a less Haunting look at new England’s Autumn Glory, check out “Early Autumn Beauty.”
Finally, I had a chance to enjoy two more mysteries, one a golden age classic and the other a modern mystery treasure. Grey Mask by Patricia Wentworth keeps us going when a young man inadvertently overhears a plot of multiple murders controlled by an international puppet master. She takes us into the post-WWI world of flappers and British aristocrats. Mojo for Murder by Carolyn Wilkins gives us the wonderful Bertie Bigelow, a music professor at a community college in Chicago who must clear her friend from a murder rap for a flamboyant medium. Wilkins’ novel has exciting twists, a main character who wins out sympathy with a good heart, a sharp mind and a delightful network of friends. The novel refreshingly departs from a whitebread view of the world.
I hope you find yourself enjoying more treats than tricks!
9/12/2020 More than a few tid bits for you. Here’s the latest word on Always Play the Dark Horse. My editor has the book scheduled for review in early 2021, so I’m hoping we can get it ready to go for mid to late spring. Keep you fingers crossed. I especially loved developing the relationship between Jessica and James: very romantic with the spice of humor. Liz lends some of her acerbic quips at the beginning, while Rose from Letter from a Dead Man takes over as Jessica’s witty, independent pal. Of course, Dusty is a long for the ride: watch out mice! So, with the disappearance of a professor on the campus where James comes to teach, the reappearance of an old flame of Jessica’s there, and the mysterious appearances of a solitary vet galloping a magnificent black horse along the beach, readers should be in for quite a ride.
Thanks to the wonders of Zoom, if you would like to meet me virtually and ask me about my writing, you can do so on September 19th (Saturday) and October 15th ( Thursday) when I join Sisters in Crime Panels at two different locations. On September 19th, I’m on the Modern Heroine Panel at The Freethinker’s Corner Bookstore with Sharon Daynard, Arlene Kay, and Jeanette de Beuavoir. All three of the other authors are wonderful writers and lively speakers, so I’m sure you find them fun to interact! Click here to get to the events page, then scroll down till you see the description of our event and click on the registration form. It’s FREE!!!!!
The October 15th panel is Mystery Making, through the Groton Public Library. This one had been scheduled earlier as a live panel, but was changed to a Zoom. You can register here. This levent is an absolute blast, where you give the panel basic info like names, settings, methods of murder, and motives and we have to create mystery from that raw material right before your eyes! You have to join! The other panelists are Jolene Grace, Dale Phillips, Clea Simon.
What’s really fun is that you can enjoy these panels without leaving your home, even take that cuppa tea or coffee or that glass of wine and sit in your comfy chair. So friends, even if you live across the country, you can still join in!
If you’re looking for another good mystery read, you must get your hands on (preferably by legal means) Leslie Wheeler’s newest entry in her Berkshire Hilltown Mysteries: Shuntoll Road. Leslie’s novel takes us back to western Mass. and leading character Kathryn Stinson’s new experiences there, of course entangling her with shady real estate development plans; a friend’s unexpectedly traumatic past unraveling the life she’s built: frustrated, twisted passion; and, of course, murder. Leslie beautifully captures the striking natural landscapes of western Massachusets and deftly immerses you in the isolation as well as community bonds of its rural world. A fine regional novel brought to life with suspense and wonderfully developed characters. It’s a pleasure to see how Kathryn interacts with and gradually becomes a part of the believable community binding together the novel’s supporting characters. You’ll also want to read the first book in the series, Rattlesnake Hill. If you want to understand how Leslie develops such fascinating and believable characters, check out the guest blog she was kind enough to do for me: “Listen to Your Characters.”
Finally, if you’re as excited as I am about the coming of autumn, maybe you’d like to read my blog about my adventures in growing one of the most notable symbols of the season: “Tales of a Pumpkin Grower.”
I guess that’s all for the moment. I’m off to take a nap (We had a two hour forest walk this morning). Then, it’s on to typing Shadows of a Dark Past into the computer. Here’s an image that inspired a scene in my story.
7/16/20 I’m still on pins and needles, waiting to hear from my editor about revisions on Always Play the Dark Horse. How about you? Well, here are a few tid bits to whet your appetite for the third in the Jessica Minton series. How about a sneak peek at the cover? Yang designed this one from our discussions and my mock-up. I wanted to capture the dreamy, mysterious nature of a late summer twilight along the shore, spiced with the tension of Jessica’s uneasiness at the appearance of the dark-shrouded horse and rider. Pique your curiosity?
And to tempt you even more, check out my interview on the Sisters in Crime New England web site. There are some fun facts about my research and hints about the exciting content of Jessica’s latest adventures with James Crawford.
As we approach publication, I’ll be updating this web site with sneak peeks and related blogs of fun facts. So stay tuned. Find out about the inspiration(s) for the book’s dark horse!
I’m lining up events connected with the new novel’s release as well for the Fall. Since we don’t know how much will be allowed to go “live,” I’m planning on some virtual appearances. I’ve already been put on the list for another Noir at the Bar appearance. I may be running some virtual book launches, which would allow even people in other parts of the country to join us! I’m also looking into online appearances, live and recorded. I am scheduled for two in-person events, which you can check out on my Appearances and Events Page. I’ll keep you informed on their status in this abruptly changing times.
You might also like to take some virtual nature tours with me. I recently blogged a trip to Connecticut to see Joan Bennett’s final resting place and Gillette Castle. Click here. In addition, you can take a tour of the Gardens of the Yang estate, enjoying both flora and fauna. See video of a catbird taking a bath and an oriole drinking from an orange half – nature’s mimosa!
I recently received a lovely email from author Dwight Kemperer, thanking me for my positive reviews of his two mystery novels involving actors like Lugosi, Rathbone, and Karloff from classic horror films. You can check out the review here. Also, note that Dwight has told me about additional opportunities to enjoy his work: The Vampire’s Tomb Mystery is available on Audible. He has also published three short stories in two anthology books: two in Chillers: Tales Inspired By Classic Horror Films and Bela Lugosi: The Monogramthology, both available at Amazon.com.
If you’re looking for some different and engrossing ways to pass the time during our necessary sheltering in place, I came up with something that I, as a classic movie and mystery buff, enjoy: radio programs from the 30s-50s on cd or online. I recently strained my eyes, so to rest them without being bored I put on some of my cds of Inner Sanctum and Suspense. It really is the theatre of the mind! They’re clever and, yes, “suspenseful”! You also get to hear all kinds of big name stars of the time: Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Claire Trevor, Lynn Bari, Humphrey Bogart, Judy Garland – you name him/her! Of course my favorites to hear are Joan Bennett, Claude Rains, and Ronald Colman. One great site for finding these beauties is Old Time Radio Downloads. Here’s a link to the Suspense catalogue, where you can listen or download an mp3. As a sample here’s a link to Joan Bennett being spunky in “The Statement of Mary Blake.”
Let’s hope my next message will carry an announcement of when Dark Horse is expected out!
6/18/20 Always Play the Dark Horse is still being edited at TouchPoint. I’m waiting to hear back from my editor; but, in the mean time, Yang has been hard at work perfecting the proposed cover. I sketched out a concept and he put his artistic talents to work. I don’t want to post it yet, until I get approval from my publisher. I will tell you that it’s in the same style as the covers of the first two Jessica Minton novels.
If you want to catch my reading from Letter from a Dead Man on Noir at the Bar, click here. I’m at 52.10 on the broadcast, but you should check out the other readers. It was a grand night and you might get ideas for some other noiresque readings. Leslie Wheeler reads an excerpt from her new novel Shuntoll Road, which I’m excitedly waiting to come out. By the way, Yang made the dress that I’m wearing.
Two books I just finished are Lisa Lieberman’s The Glass Forest and Linda Shenton Matchett’s Spies & Sweethearts. In The Glass Forest, Lieberman takes heroine Cara Walden, her husband, and her brother to Viet Nam in 1957, involves them in the filming of The Quiet American, – and dangerously entangles them in the complicated, violent conflicts of C.I.A. and Viet Minh dueling for control of the people and their country. The novel embeds its taut suspense in beautifully recapturing the time, place, and culture. For a pleasurable read that makes you think, buy this book.You can hear Lisa read from her novel on Noir at the Bar here.
Spies & Sweethearts is a fast-paced journey into adventure and suspense as O.S.S. agents Emily Strealer and Gerard Lucas parachute into occupied France to spy on the Germans, only to be forced to take it on the lam to try and escape capture by the Nazis. Shenton Matchett blends in humor and romance, as the two characters, in the tradition of 1940s movies, start out at odds, fall in love, but try not to let on to the other. Like movies of the time, you have a plucky heroine a la Pricilla Lane or Anne Shirley and tough on the surface hero in the mode of John Garfield or Dana Andrews, which makes their verbal sparring fun. It’s an exciting romp. The novel’s references to the characters’ spiritual growth is not at all heavy handed, instead, adding to their believability.
Don’t forget to check out Ursula Wong’s guest blog: “The Women We Love to Hate,” where she writes about how certain characters in her Amber Wolf seires fit right in with many a famous villainess in literature and popular writing. Please feel free to make a comment on the page about your own favorite super-villainesses! I made one of my own about the notorious Angelique of Dark Shadows. What do you think? And how do you think my own Mrs. (Alanna) Willmington Tewkesbury would fit in here?
You also might want to check out this link about Mildred Wirt Benson, one of the earliest and best Nancy Drew authors – I don’t think I’m burtsing anyone’s bubble by mentioning that Carolyn Keene was the pen name for many different writers of the series. In the article, my fellow TouchPoint author Jeff Salter takes us further into Benson’s writing background by focusing on the liberated nature of her Penny Parker series in the 1940s. Or if you are more in the mood for viewing than reading, check out this list on Vulture.com (brought you via Sisters in Crime) on Six glamorous lady sleuths!
Seven Bridges Writers Collaborative still has time for you to register for their workshop in screenwriting. But you need to hurry because registration closes on 6/19! Check back with them later to see what they are offering in July. Meanwhile, the Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award entry date closes on June 20th. Sisters in Crime members should check out this page of webinars on writing, publishing, agents, etc. offered by SinC.
I hope my next email has more news of Dark Horse!
5/25/20 I’m not sure how things could get more exciting! TouchPoint Press not only offered me a contract for Always Play the Dark Horse, but for two additional novels for the Jessica Minton series. Is that a kick in the pants or what?! Last fall, I created a rough draft for novel number four, Shadows of a Dark Past, and I have some rough outlines for number six as well. So, it looks as if Jessica, James, Liz, and Dusty will be continuing their adventures. I expect Dark Horse to come out this year, maybe late summer or early fall. We’ll see how the publisher’s schedule works. How about this little blurb to whet your interest? “Dark secrets on a college campus, terrible memories of a World War, and a mysterious man on a dark horse put Jessica and James in the shadow of espionage and murder.”
If you haven’t read Bait and Switch or Letter from a Dead Man, the kindle editions of both are on sale on Amazon through the end of May. Each Kindle edition is for sale at 99 cents – or you could buy two at $1.98 for less than the usual price of one! And don’t forget, for those long drives to look at the scenery while you can’t get out of your car or for a relaxing summer afternoon at home, you can also get the audio version of Bait and Switch through Amazon.
I’ve also had more time of late to do some more blogging. You can check out my guest blog on Sisters in Crime New England, where I write about the value of independent bookstores to readers and writers, especially during the pandemic. It’s important to remember that as much as the indies have given to us as writers and readers, we can now give back to them by supporting them online during this time of shutdowns.
I’ve also done some blogging on the green world around us. My Backyard Birds One and Backyard Birds Two blogs lend you neat pictorial highlights of some of the gorgeous and surprising feathered spring visitors to my feeders. For those of you with a Gothic bent, there’s a blog about the marvelous marble art in the Barre, Vt. Cemetery.
Finally, libraries and bookstores may be closed for in-person readings, panels, and signings, but the internet is picking up the slack until we can all meet face to faced again. One venue is the marvelous Noir at the Bar, where writers with a noir bent will be reading from their latest published works. Yours truly will be joining the show this Wednesday, May 27th, as one of six people. The Program starts at 7:00 p.m., but you need to register in advance. Click here to do so. There’s still time. I promise to wear a neat hat! There’s also an interactive chat feature, so we may be able to exchange a word or two. You may also find some other writers who pique you reading interest! They also have a bookstore link that will enable you to order those books that grabbed you. Best of all, it’s FREE!
And don’t forget, Sisters in Crime National is sponsoring some neat, Free, webinars that are open to both members and non-members. Check it out! I hope the next “What’s New” has more info on the release date of Always Play the Dark Horse.
4/24/20 So, here’s my latest report. You’ll be happy to know that I’ll be sending Always Play the Dark Horse to TouchPoint Press next week – barring anything toward happening. To get you geared up for the newest adventure of Jessica, James, and Dusty, I’ll be creating some blogs to take you into the influences of actual settings, horse racing, films, and even music. Hints as to the adventure? Let’s just say that it’s no day at the beach when the war isn’t yet over for Jessica and James – or Dusty, either. I hope you’ll enjoy the new nemeses I’m going to be introducing! And then, there’s the actual dark horse!
To spark interest in the Jessica Minton series, I’m going to be running a special $1.99 Kindle sale on Bait and Switch through Amazon that will run for all of May. So, if you know any one who wants to start the series, here’s the chance – or maybe you might even want to have an electronic version of your own. I’ll be looking into doing a similar sale on Letter from a Dead Man the following month.
We have a nifty guest blog by my friend Lindsay Downs on his forthcoming mystery thriller A Conspiracy Uncovered. Lindsay writes in the personae of his novel’s narrator to tempt you into reading his historical thriller focusing on the Kennedy assassination. Lindsay shows his versatility by leaving behind his usual genre of Regency mystery and romance to create this fast-paced work.
Two of my friends from the Worcester Shakespeare Club have opened a new bookstore – courageous in these times. Right now, Tidepool Books is open virtually. You can visit and browse online. Eventually, when we can circulate again, they will open their brick and mortar store. So please feel free to support them on line now and in-person when they open.
Even if you are sheltering in place, there are lots of cool links to investigate to keep you hopping with interest for all things writerly, mystery-oriented, or 1940s-jazzed. Click here to check out a future prospect for visiting at 15 Writer’s Residency Programs. A tip of the hat to Ursula Wong for this info.
Linda Shenton Matchett reads from her latest 1940s-era mystery and adventure. Spies and Sweethearts right here.
The World War II Museum of New Orleans is running some fantastic webinars on all kinds of interesting contemporary topics: rationing, school year books, the experiences of Japanese Americans, the lead up to Pearl Harbor. These can initially be watched live, but they also are recorded for you to select what interests you. Click here to see the enormous selection.
Need help with your writing now that you have the time? Sisters in Crime has some wonderful FREE webinars. Click here. And don’t forget about Virtual Noir at the Bar: a night of reading and conversation with Boston-area authors. Click here for details and to register.
Last but not least, if you’re craving some genuine ‘forties swing, click here for Dan Gable and the Abletones juke box!
So, until next time: stay home and stay safe.
3/25/2020 Well, this what’s new may be a bit shorter than usual (your sigh of relief here) because of the biggest “What’s New” of them all. Wisely, all my panels and readings have been cancelled or postponed until later in the year. The Groton “Making a Mystery” has been rescheduled for October 15th. So, check Appearances and Events on this web site for further news.
I’m moving on apace with revisions to Always Play the Dark Horse, Jessica Minton’s third assay into the world of murder, mystery, and danger – thought I was going to write “mayhem, didn’t you? This time, James is back in the picture and playing a major role – very romantic, too. Jessica’s pal Rose Nyquist is also on hand to help unravel the dark secrets of what seems like a quiet little woman’s college on the Long Island Sound. I should be getting a draft to my editor at TouchPoint by the middle of April. As the book moves through production, I hope to give you some tempting sneak peeks!
To get people in a Jessica Minton mood, I’m trying to set up a Kindle sale of Bait and Switch, and maybe even Letter from a Dead Man. I’ll let you know as soon as I can work things out with my publisher.
I have some nifty links for you to check out to help you pass this sheltering in place more pleasantly. If you click on “Sharon and Yang’s Secret Place,” you’ll be treated to a photo essay of our return after 20 years to a favorite spot in nature from our years at UConn. Our guest blogger once more is my friend, novelist, and Vice-Prez of Sisters in Crime-New England, Lisa Lieberman. Her “A Born Writer” is a beautiful and poignant essay on powerful and sometimes painful experience as the well-spring of creativity. For all you film noir addicts, Lisa has also written two fine essays on noir domestic (The Postman Always Rings Twice) and imported (Ossessione). Take a read and be inspired for intriguing cinema to while away our sheltering.
Looking for some exciting reading in the mystery or thriller department? Have I got two neat suggestions for you! Carolyn Willis’s Death at a Seance spellbinds (sorry, I couldn’t resist) with it’s young but intelligent and brave heroine caught up in the mysterious murder of a participant in a spiritualist group’s seance. Carry’s bond to the spiritual world prompts her to predict the killing, a perilous situation for a young black woman caught in 1920s Indiana when crooked police and politicians predominate and the Klan is on the rise. The novel is full of humor, excitement, and an understanding of the human heart.
I also highly recommend Dark Invasion: 1915, by Howard Blum. This book excitingly reveals the little known espionage and terrorist ring that Germany ran during WWI in the United Sates, as well as the shrewd and determined efforts of a special New York City Bomb Squad to discover, thwart, and bring to justice the dark invaders. Blum draws on documents, reports, interviews, histories, and news stories to get inside the heads of participants on both sides of this deadly chess game. His smooth wording and flair for suspense keeps you guessing how it will all turn out.
Writers, since you probably have more time than usual, think about entering whichever of these two contest you’re eligible for. The Al Blanchard Award or Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction for Writers of Color. Click on the links for details.
So, be safe, shelter in place – for everyone’s sake. Working together by protecting each other, we will come out of this mess sooner rather than later. And if you don’t like where you are, be grateful you don’t have to shelter in THIS place – though you can take a free virtual tour on the link above.
2/29/20 So much good news! On the writing front, I finished my first draft of Shadows of a Dark Past and will now go back to polish #3, Always Play the Dark Horse. I’m planning to send a “final” draft to my publisher by the end of March or very early April. Since TouchPoint usually works fast, I expect Dark Horse will come out this year. Care for a tempting little preview? Jessica and James take a “working” vacation at a college on Long Island Sound where they find themselves caught up with an old flame of Jessica’s, a mysterious black horse, a corpse washed up on the beach, James’s secret reason for taking this position, and haunting war memories. Dusty, of course, also makes the journey; and Jessica’s friend Rose Nyquist, from Letter from a Dead Man, plays a prominent role. Hope you’ll enjoy it!
I recently had fun with two Sisters in Crime New England appearances. I joined Ursula Wong, Edwin Hill, and Tilia Klebenov Jacobs for a session of Mystery Making at the Warwick Public Library. We had a wonderful time working with the audience to create a mystery with most unique characters, motivations, and murder weapons. I also had fun at the Cumberland Library Book Fair. Click here for my blog on both.
There are more appearances upcoming. March 16, I’ll be at the Flint Memorial Library in North Reading to host a showing of The Man I Married (1940), a film that raises many telling points about how easy it is for people to be sucked in by Fascism and racism, sadly still relevant. It’s worth seeing, just to catch Joan Bennett kicking Nazis! April 4th I’ll be doing a reading and signing at the Whitinsville Social Library; and on April 16th I’m doing another Mystery Making session at the Groton Public Library. Click here for details on my Appearances and Events Page. Come see me!
Some great blogs await you on my web site. For our winter bird watching tour, check out “Duck, Duck, Horned Grebe-and a Loon!” I also did a birthday tribute to Joan Bennett, explaining how the wit, independence, and humanity she displayed in so many roles inspired my heroine Jessica Minton. You’ll also enjoy the latest “It’s Your Turn,” where Linda Shenton Matchett relates her pleasure in historical research and the myriad interesting opportunities open to writers interested in it. For film noir fans, Lisa Lieberman explores refreshing opportunities to get to know some foreign noir gems with her blogs on Paisà and Bitter Rice.
Interested in getting to know more about mystery writers? Click on the link here for Ursula Wong’s interview about how to create a believable international suspense adventure. Lisa Lieberman and I even make special guest appearances in the essay! Nicole Asselin’s video interview reveals how she created her baseball mystery, Murder at First Pitch.
Looking for some good reading? Keep the Homefires Burning is an exciting continuation of the British Series Homefires, written by the series creator. The novel effectively further develops the tragedies and joys of the British women in a small village as they grow through coping with the war and their own personal issues. Leslie Wheeler’s Murder at Plimouth Plantation is now re-released through Encircle Press. Finally, an extremely moving book that I recently finished is the memoir Colored, of Course by Shirley Carter. Carter’s book movingly captures the experience of growing up a “black Yankee” in Massachusetts. With both humor and a clear eye on injustice, she traces her development through the early mid-20th century to the turn into this century, facing poverty, racism, and sexism to attain great achievements for herself and her children. Because the author is so deft with language, you both admire her strength and you feel the injustice she battled for herself, her family, and other people. I highly recommend her book and wished I’d had a chance to use it when I was still teaching.
Interesting events on the horizon. Maine Crime Wave will be held 6/19-20. Go to their site for details. Finally, on 3/3-3/7, Booklover’s Gourmet is celebrating 25 years and changing location – but just down the street. See about the bookstore’s celebratory activities here.
That’s all for now! I know; it’s more than enough!
1/06/20 Happy New Year! Ring in our new opportunities with Joan Bennett (picture from Kayla Sturm)! I know that I have some great plans for 2020 and some fun stuff for you to enjoy! Hope that you see some scoops here that you will enjoy!
First, I wanted to show you pictures from the Worcester State Holiday Fair. Not even a one-day postponement due to that ice/snow storm could stop us! I had a great time talking to folks from my teaching days (all of six months ago) and meeting new friends. I even made some sales via QR, and folks were asking me about novel #3 in the Jessica Minton series. More on that later. In the future, make sure to visit the fair, held every December. Not only should book #3 be out by the next fair, but you can find all kinds of wonderful crafts from jewelry to pet treats to paintings to kitchen aids – a perfect Christmas shopping opportunity.
I’m working on putting together my spring and summer appearance schedule for 2020. Already, I have a Mystery Making (Sisters in Crime) session scheduled for February 11th in Warwick, RI at the public library. I’ll be working with authors Jeanette de Beauvoir, Tilia Klebenov Jacobs, and YOU! What the heck does that mean? Well, come to the session and join in the fun as we all make a mystery together. On April 4th, I’ll be at the Whitinsville Public Library on my own, and on April 18th I’m involved in another Mystery Making Session at the Groton (Mass.) Public library. Click here to go to Appearances and Events for more details on all these events. I’ll continue to update the site as I add more appearances. As usual, our books will be available for purchase at these events.
I have some neat new blogs for you to enjoy as well! Playwright, director, novelist, and teacher Lisa Kramer gives us a nifty guest blog “For the Love of language: Story Telling in Many Forms.” She takes us in an intriguingly different direction when it comes to getting inside the head of a writer: crafting for performance as well as for the written page. Her essay leads us to explore not only the collaborative nature of creating a play but how, for her, both reading and writing in many forms are an exciting adventure in words “danc[ing] across a page.” Click here. We have upcoming guest blogs by Lisa Lieberman and Linda Shenton Matchett. Check out the other blogs as well, and if you feel you have something to say as a reader or writer that’s appropriate, contact me at email@example.com and perhaps you will be one of my future guest bloggers.
Some wonderful reads to look into as well. Two great new books were released in December, Lisa Lieberman’s The Glass Forest (see 12/06/19 email) and Carolyn Wilkins’s Death at a Seance: A Carrie McFarland Psychic Mystery. Carolyn’s novel is set in 1920 Indiana, where her main character, a young black woman with psychic abilities, finds herself contending not only with murder but the ominous power of the KKK. As Carolyn sums up, her heroine “will have to search for answers in the dark and dangerous world of spiritual frauds, gangsters and con men.” Sounds neat, right? You can meet both Carolyn and Lisa at a Sisters in Crime Mystery Making session at the Somerville Public Library East Branch on Thursday, April 2, 2020 at 7 PM – 8:30 PM. Both Carolyn and Lisa have written delightful and insightful blogs for me on “It’s Your Turn.” You might also want to check out Lisa’s blog on Ladies of Mystery, relating her experience on the high seas sharing her love of film and written noir. Click here. You can also enjoy Lisa Lieberman’s Sisters in Crime interview on The Glass Forest.
Two other books, though not of recent release, that you might enjoy are In the Mountains of Madness: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of H, P. Lovecraft ( W. Scott Poole) and Repeat Performance (William O’Farrell). Scott’s critical bio of Lovecraft is well-researched, logically argued, open-minded, and smoothly written. The prose is generally a smooth read but not dumbed down. He knows all the social and literary criticism and present various sided to the conflicts intelligently. Especially interesting, he delves into the works themselves and their connections to Lovecraft’s life, often challenging unfair, negative views of the women in Lovecraft’s life. Just for fun, you might want to check out the blog I did on two films of Lovecraft’s work made by the HPLHS. Click here.
Repeat Performance, unfortuneatley seems to be out of print. So you’ll probably have to dig through Amazon, Ebay, or used bookstores to find a copy. However, it’s a compelling noir thriller that deftly captures life in the theatre world of New York in the 1940s, while portraying the power of destiny when humans allow their selfishness and overconfidence to drive them. This month, I’ll try to write up a review of the novel for this web site’s Golden Age Mysteries.
Another book I highly recommend is not a mystery, but it’s worth reading just the same, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. This book is based on the actual traveling librarians under the auspices of the WPA who brought books and magazines and scrap books of medicine, cookery, and farming and hunting to people of the backwoods and isolated lands in Kentucky during the 1930s. The central character is a young woman who has suffered prejudice for her blue skin (an actual condition for a group of people), and her experiences reveal not only the suffering and oppressive poverty of the people and times but the innate dignity, compassion, desire to learn, and wisdom of many. It’s a compelling read
With all my writing about Sisters in Crime, you might enjoy also hearing about what it’s like to be a Mistah amongst the Sistahs. Here’s an interview on that very topic with Dale T. Phillips, author of, amongst so much else, the Zack Taylor mystery series.
Finally, if you’re not quite ready for the holiday season to end, check out my two new blogs: ” ‘Twas Two Nights before Christmas” and “Christmas with the Yangs – Human and Feline.” Adieu for now!
12/06/19 This past month has kept me quite busy with appearances and working on novel number four, Shadows of a Dark Past. On November, I talked with Daniel Kellaway’s students at the Rectory School in Putnam, Ct. about writing mystery novels. Daniel had run a fascinating course on the Mystery with his students where they read novels, watched film, and even experimented with the game Clue. I guess I was the show-and-tell portion! Anyway, I had a wonderful time with some bright students and would love to do it again!
Also in November, Lisa Lieberman and I ran the Passport to Adventure/ Jumpstart Your Novel workshop at Worcester Sate University! The students had some really intriguing stories sprout from our fun mix of inspiration that included taro readings, film noir images, unique “souvenirs,” and post cards from exotic locales. Interested in having us run our workshop with your students or writing group? Drop me a line and we’ll see what we might set up – if you’re in the New England area.
I have only one other appearance scheduled for 2019, the Worcester State University Holiday Fair on December 17th from 4:00-7:30. Drop by to chat, buy a book (or two?), and have me sign. Don’t miss the other booths there with all kinds of wonderful crafts – a great chance to chance to do some Christmas shopping.
I have some neat books to recommend as well. I just finished Alan Simpson’s The First Christmas of the War, which beautifully captures the ryhtms of family life in late 1941. His research is thorough and portrayed naturally, as you experience the lives of a family of adults and children navigating first loves, shifts in life as war closes in, and the hopes and fears of those early dark days of the conflict. A historical mystery of a slightly earlier era that I think you might enjoy is Barbara Cleverly’s The Tomb of Zeus. Set in the 1920s amid the archeological digs in Crete, this novel gives you an independent new woman facing the prejudice of a patriarchal old school of archeologists, caught in a prickly but charming romantic duel with a WWI vet/archeologist, and unraveling the mysteries of a modern murder and an ancient tomb.
I’m also looking forward to the release this month of Lisa Leiberman’s The Glass Forest, carrying on the further adventures of her heroine Cara Walden and her husband into late 1950s Viet Nam. Much as in her earlier novels, Lisa’s book is inspired by classic films, this time revisiting and giving new perspectives to The Quiet American. The Kindle edition is on sale now, while the paperback will be available on December 10th.
We also had a new “It’s Your Turn” in November, this one by writer Diane Kane. Diane is the co-editor of and an author in Flash in the Can, a collection of flash fiction. She also has just published on line another fun collection, Flash Memoir and Fiction. Diane’s blog on this sight “The Happy Dance” gives us some practical as well as inspirational guidance to writing and publishing, leading to the joyous terpsichore for which her article is named (say that three times fast!). If you are would like to take a turn on “It’s Your Turn,” and you have an idea for an essay about writing, publishing, or even what you’ve been reading, drop me an email about submitting something to me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to check out the blogs to get a feel for form. Here’s the index.
If you’re in a mood to “swing” into the holidays, 1940s style, here are a couple of suggestions. Check out my blog “Holiday Noir,” where I review Lady in the Lake. I’ll try to find time to review additional noiresque films. Also, Dan Gable and the Abletones have several concerts through New Years that give you a chance to chance to dance or just groove to the holidays in a Big Band way. Check their schedule of events. Plus, they have a new cd of holiday music big band style out now, too, By the Fireside. If I don’t post before the end of the month, enjoy the season!
10/18/19 This fall has and is proving to be exciting for me. First, I’ll tell you where I’m going before I tell you where I’ve been. This weekend, I’m going to be at the Boston Book Festival,right at the Boston Public Library. From 12:00-1:00, I’ll be at the Sisters in Crime New England Booth (#57) with Lisa Lieberman and Sarah Smith. Later, from 3:00-4:00 in the Exchange of the BPL, Lisa and I will be conducting a lively workshop: Jump Start Your Story. It’s lots of fun and a wonderful inspiration to your creativity. Come and join us! Afterwards, at 4:00 in Rabb Hall, we’ll be signing and selling copies of our novels. We’d love to see you!
The next day, Sunday 10/20, Lisa and I will join Jane Haertel in an exciting Sisters in Crime panel at the Brattleboro Literary Festival: “Mystery Making.” We will literally, maybe even literarily, create a mystery before your very eyes and ears – with your challenging inspiration. Curious as to how? Drive up and see. The foliage will make the trip almost as much a treat as our performance!
I also have appearances scheduled through November and early December! On 11/2, I’ll be at the local author’s book fair at the Chelmsford, MA library, and December 11th I’ll be at the Worcester State University Holiday Fair. Click here for my appearances and events schedule, which I update regularly. I’ll have to start scheduling for the spring soon!
I’ve had some fun appearances the past few months as well. I had a great time at A Freethinker’s Corner Bookstore on September 14 in Dover New Hampshire. It’s a lovely store, with a nice selection, including Bait and Switch. I made some nice friends there! Take a drive up in this beautiful fall weather and enjoy the neat town with a stop at this fine bookstore. On September 28th, I had fun at my reading and signing at Root and Press Bookstore Cafe in Worcester, MA. Check out Root and Press for your Christmas shopping (including Bait and Switch and Letter from a Dead Man), or just buy a book to read while you enjoy coffee, tea, sweets, or a tasty lunch!
On October 5th, I joined two of my best buddies at SinC-NE, Lisa Lieberman and Leslie Wheeler, at the Jones Library in Amherst for a panel. Jones Library was the recipient of Sisters in Crime’s award for We Love Our Libraries. We had some exciting discussions with our audience on where we discover our ideas, especially in terms of how our writing finds life and inspiration in what others might consider the dead past. Click here to find out all about the advantages of the We Love Our Libraries program.
Enough about me! If you’re free tonight (10/18) at 6:30-8:00, my friend Tom Ingrassia is giving a talk at Bedlam Books in Worcester (138 Green Street) on his book, Reflections of a Love Supreme. Tom is my favorite expert on all things Motown, having connections with many of the artists. His talks both inform and entertain about the music and its influence on society. So, drop in and have some fun!
There’s also an upcoming Local Author Bookfair at the Rutland Public Library. Kate Zebrowski, poet and author of the mystery/fantasy novel Sleep Walking Backwards will be there, as well as Tom Ingrassia and Jean Grant.
I hope you will check out the two latest guest blogs under “It’s Your Turn.” Carolyn Marie Wilkins (author, musician, professor, and medium) leads us through an inspiring family and personal history and how they have shaped her talents as a writer with “Who Done it? The Medium Knows.” Arlene Kay blogs on her latest novel, Homicide by Horse Show, sequel to Death by Dog Show, in “Horsing Around Can Be Fatal.” Once more, Arlene’s humor and eloquence shine through as she lets her main character Persephone Morgan spin the narrative.
Two more reads I recommend are The Birds and the Beasts Were There and Flash in the Can. The first is a memoir by that mordant delver into the dark side of American life, Margaret Millar. Millar’s view is no less clear-eyed in this memoir, but what she has to relate is nowhere near the vicinity of darkness of her mystery writing. Instead, it’s the humorous and genuine story of her becoming an avid birdwatcher – and feeder! Her recounting of the personalities and habits of her subjects, as well as their training her, is a sheer delight. As a bird- watcher and restaurateur myself, I can definitely relate! It’s a great read!
Flash in the Can is a fun anthology of flash fiction collected by Diane Kane and Kathy Chencharik. Some pieces are stronger than others, but all have a neat twist that make neat beach reading – or a nice, quick read on a cozy fall day.
Want some images of nature? Check out my blog on a visit to Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Mass. Click here.
If you’re looking for a good mystery to watch, try High Seas on NetFlix. It’s a Spanish series, Netflix original, set on a luxurious ocean liner crossing from Spain to Brazil in 1940. Two smart and plucky sisters are the main characters, finding themselves entangled in deception, false identities, smuggling, murders, and Nazis! It’s like a 1940s film. I might add that the costumes and sets are on the money. The last of eight episodes to Season One ends with an intriguing cliffhanger about a mysterious S.O.S. and a father who likes to sink his teeth into his problems.
And if you’re craving some 1940s music and dancing, Don’t miss Dan Gable and the Abletones Schedule. The closest upcoming appearance is his High Society Orchestra at Mechanics Hall tomorrow night (10/19) at 7:00-11:00. See the next event here.
Speaking of ballroom dancing, watch Mary Wilson knock the cha-cha out of the ballpark on Dancing with the Stars. Unbelievably. Mary still was eliminated, but look at that girl go! And as she points out, at 75 and 1/2! Go Mary! We’re proud of you!
9/7/19 WoW! It’s almost been two months since I reported in! Time flies unbelievably fast when you retire. I’m almost busier now than when I was teaching full time. It’s only going to get busier this fall! I have seven or eight appearances lined up, with two within the next 1-2 weeks. If you’re in New Hampshire, I’ll be joining Ursula Wong and Amy Ray in a Sisters in Crime Panel: “Path to Publication.” Ursula will be giving you the 411 on her most recent release in the Amber series, Black Amber. We’ll be at A Freethinker’s Corner Bookstore from 2:00-4:00 on Saturday, September 14, 2019. What hat should I go for?
Worcesterites, and those in the vicinity, can see me alone at Root & Press, just two weeks later, on September 28th, from 2:00-3:30. I’ll be doing a reading and signing, with plenty of time for you to ask me questions about writing, publishing, and promotion. As an extra treat, I’ll try to read you a preview from book three in the Jessica Minton series, Always Play the Dark Horse. Come on down! I’d love to see you! And I know you’ll enjoy Rich and Nicole’s wonderful bookstore/cafe! It’s wonderful to support local, small businesses where the people care about their work!
I’m also largely booked up for October and November, with two gigs in one weekend in October. Will I have time to do any leaf peeping. Check out the schedule here.
I’ve been posting some neat goodies on my web site for you as well! If you go to my writers of the Golden Age Page, you’ll see that I’ve added three author reviews: David Goodis, Vera Caspary, and Elizabeth Sanxay Holding. These writers are noir to the nth degree – and will give you something to think about as they draw you into the dark side of the page. Their work also is heavily represented as source material for screen noir. Great inspiration for me in revising Dark Horse and preparing to start Shadows of a Dark Past!
Speaking of writing, retirement has freed me to concentrate on Jessica Minton and her friends. I’ve done a lot of pruning and refining of the third novel, Always Play the Dark Horse. My trusty posse of readers (Ruth, Judy, Kathy, and Yang) are giving me helpful feedback. I want to write the fourth novel this fall, since it set in New England in the autumn. I thought soaking in the actual ambience would inspire me to create evocatively. So, I’ll be looking to submit #3 to my publisher at the very end of 2019 or the very beginning of 2020. But that doesn’t mean I won’t tantalize you with some sneak peeks before!
I also have some wonderful entries in “It’s My Turn”! for your delight. Kathy Healey’s July essay is from a reader’s perspective, and she celebrates the REAL parent of American Gothic, Charles Brockden Brown. Novelist, Musician, and spiritualist Carolyn Wilkins “penned” our August entry, “Who Done it? – The Medium Knows,” in which she reveals how her fascinating personal history and that of spiritualism in America inspires her writing.
In addition to the noir authors I reviewed, I’ve also had the pleasure of some mystery and historical romance. I finished Arlene Kay’s Death by Dog Show and found it a fun romp. You’ll have to think to figure out “who dunnit,” with her humor and plot twists impelling you to find out! We’re in luck, for Arlene has written the forthcoming September blog, “Horsing Around Can Be Fatal!” – a playful essay that will tempt you into purchasing her next Persephone Morgan mystery: Homicide by Horseshow (Due out 10/15/19).
Jean Grant’s A Hundred Breaths is a historical romance that blends in the supernatural, set in the Scottish isles and following the rocky but firmly growing relationship between a Scottish warrior and a mystic healer. Set against the wars between the Scots and the Norsemen, the romance works because Grant peoples her history with believable characters.
I haven’t been spending all my time reading and writing. Yang and I have done lots of bicycle rides and walks. We also had a marvelous day trip to the Wright Museum of World War II in Wolfeboro, NH. Although the museum is packed with wonderful recreations of homefront life as well as war artifacts, it’s doable in one visit. I especially liked the contemporary recreations of a living room, a kitchen, a Five and Dime Store, as well as the arrangement of series of rooms working your way from 1939-1945. The Wright Museum also has wonderful series of lectures and films. I was greatly interested in the display of letters exchanged between actress Donna Reed and servicemen. By the way, Pershing tanks are HUGE.
7/15/19 This summer is moving along excitingly for me. So much to do! If any of you are in North Reading tomorrow, Tuesday, July 16th, I hope you’ll come to the Flint Memorial Public Library at 7:00, as I host a screening of the noir gem, Hollow Triumph (aka The Scar). The film stars Joan Bennett and Paul Henried, with Joan giving a stellar turn as a fast-talking noir gal and Henried reversing expectations by playing a Faustian criminal. It’s a movie with some startling twists – and look for Dragnet’s Jack Webb in a small role as a hit man. Click here for detail on the program.
And please come and see me at Bookstock on Saturday, July 27th from 9-11 and 3-5 at the Sisters in Crime New England booth on the green. In fact, check out all the advantages of joining SinC-NE when you come by. While you’re at it, pick up one or both Jessica Minton mysteries, as well as books by other Sister in Crime authors. Just as important, many of the booths are held by independent publishers and authors, so you may get a chance at publication or at least at finding some great summer reading.
I’ve already confirmed appearances for the fall and I am working on more. Click here for the details. It promises to be a busy autumn!
My “It’s Your Turn!” feature is shaping up nicely over the summer. Like a dope, I forgot to announce Tim Shaw’s blog last month, inspired by his new Chaucer-as-detective mystery. So, click here to read “Adventures in Writing a Historical Novel,” and find out about the mix of fun and hard work in getting it right when you write about characters of eras past. Tim’s A Year at Oxford is now available as an ebook through Amazon. You should also check out his web site, “The Daily Medieval” for some intriguing and informative looks into the people, worldviews, and experiences of life in the Middle Ages.
For the end of July, Kathy Healey is presenting us with a neat study of Charles Brockden Brown, the under-appreciated father of American Gothic, who like many writers in the genres uses psychological horror to unveil the horror of our societies and ourselves. Then, for the end of August, mystery author and spiritual searcher Carolyn Willkins will offer us the intriguing topic of why psychics love a good murder mystery.
I gave my third Jessica Minton novel Always Play the Dark Horse a critical reading and hand-written edit. Now, I have to implement the edits on the computer before turning it over to some of my posse of readers to get suggestions for trimming and maintaining continuity. The novel takes place at a small women’s college on the Connecticut coast of Long Island Sound. We have the strange disappearance of a resident artist, the complication of Jessica’s first boyfriend perhaps making trouble for her, James holding a secret from Jessica about why he chose to come to this place, an actual dark horse ridden by a man with a dark past, and Dusty wreaking homicide on mice. What more can you ask for? I’ll keep you posted!
If you want a little Gothic treat, please check out my two blogs on visits to cemeteries. One is at the Edson Cemetery in Lowell, which features two beautiful striking bronze statues. The second is on the Evergreen Cemetery in Portland, Maine, a Romantically melancholy spot, in the mode of Cambridge’s Mt. Auburn Cemetery.
If you’re looking for a film noir fix and you live within striking distance of Cambridge, MA., take heart! The Brattle Theatre is running a noir film festival on Tuesdays, starting July 30th and running through August 27th. Some of the films include The Woman in the Window, Double Indemnity, Laura, Phantom Lady, Ministry of Fear, and The Mask of Demitrious. There is even a horror noir double feature: Curse of the Cat People (Val Lewton!) and The Uninvited (possibly my favorite ’40s horror film). Click here for details. Maybe I’ll see you there!
Also for film buffs, we should give a tip of the chapeau to Amber Vayo for this link to a story about the real-life immigrants who fled war-destroyed Europe to come here and play the immigrant refugees in Casablanca.
If it’s music of the era that you’re craving, check out the performance schedule of Dan Gable and the Abletones (the best of big bands now going) for the summer and fall. As you can see, many of these concerts are free. And he has a new CD on sale now, too!
That’s all for now. I have to get back to editing.
6/25/19 People told me that when I retired I’d be busier than ever – they weren’t kidding! I just did two readings/signings over the past two weeks, as well as having a table at the Worcester Local Authors Fair in May, all while traveling, gardening, and even finding time to read! I did a blog that reported on both the Authors Fair and my talk/reading and signing at LIRA (Learning in Retirement Association at UMass-Lowell). The local authors fair was fun for giving me a chance to see some old friends and to meet new people. The LIRA appearance was especially meaningful because I graduated from that school back when it was ULowell. So, click here for a blog on the experiences!
I also had an appearance at the Pettee Memorial Library in Willmington, Vt. It was a small group, but the people were wonderful and the library is a gorgeous little architectural gem. I hope to go back after the third novel in the Jessica Minton series comes out – which I promise I am working on revising this summer! When I get a chance to download some pictures from Yang’s iPad, I’ll post some.
Now, I’m looking forward to returning to Vermont for Bookstock in July at Woodstock. I’ll be on duty at the Sisters in Crime booth on the Green Saturday, July 27th from 9-11 and from 3-5 . There will also be plenty of other wonderful Sisters and Misters there over the weekend, so drop by! Click here for a link to Bookstock.
Before Bookstock, you can catch me on July 16th at 7:00 in the North Reading Flint Memorial Library, where I will be hosting a showing of The Scar (1948), aka Hollow Triumph. It’s one of my favorite noirs and stars my girl Joan Bennett, with the wonderful Paul Henried in an uncharacteristically antihero role. The director of photography is John Alton, a man known for his artistry in the chiaroscuro of noir cinematography. Click here for details. I’ll also be discussing the influence of this film on my writing, especially in terms of atmosphere and the “smart-talking gal.” You can watch The Scar/ Hollow Triumph on youTube here.
I’ve also been doing some reviewing and blogging. Check out my two new tea reviews on White Heron Tea and Coffee (click here) and Dobra Tea Room (click here). That visit to Dobra was part of a mini-vacation that Yang and I took to Portland. Click here for the blog. To keep to my Gothic tendencies, I’ll also be doing a blog on Portland’s Evergreen Cemetery, probably later this week. Stay tuned! More locally, I’ve done another blog on the birds that grace our feeders. Click here. Yang dug out his really nice camera and took some beautiful shots, but I haven’t been able to download those yet. So, there will be more to come!
Reading has also joyfully filled much of my time. For those interested in espionage and the war years, I highly recommend Target Tokyo, (Gordon Prange, with Donald Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon), about the Sorge Soviet spy ring that had infiltrated Japan during the 1930s into the mid-forties – almost throughout the entire war. You’d never think that a country as insulated as war-time Japan could be not only penetrated but its politcs and war policies infiltrated and manipulated by Russian espionage – but Sorge and his group were masterful at turning citizens to manipulate a nation to the Soviet Union’s own ends. Gives us food for thought in present times. Prange is especially lauded for his two massive but fascinating historical studies At Dawn We Slept (Pearl Harbor attack) and Miracle at Midway.
In the fiction department, I recommend Linda Shenton Matchett’s historical mystery Under Fire. You have fifth columnists, a feisty heroine, and a deftly captured vision of a small New Hampshire town during the war years. Check out my review here. I also was pleased with Nancy Means Wright’s second entry in her series with eighteenth-century feminist Mary Wollstonecraft as a detective, The Nightmare. Not only does Wright provide a deftly spun, tantalizing mystery, but she seems to get the literary and historical characters right. Right now, I’m working on Dark Passage by David Goodis. This novel is the work on which the Bogart/Bacall film was based. The book is somewhat darker and a bit more twisted than the screen incarnation, but each holds up well in its own medium. I can best compare Goodis’s writing to Cornell Woolrich’s in atmosphere and character, but Goodis’s crafting is tighter and his plots not nearly as drafty with holes.
Last and never least, here are some cool links for your delectation. Scherrie Payne (formerly a Supreme) does a marvelously noir turn singing “The Man That Got Away” in this video. Lisa Lieberman gives us an insightful and enjoyable report on Renoir’s The Crime of Monsieur Lange, a film that manages the impossible melange of being both noir and light-hearted – Go figure! Enjoy the read! If it’s a stage mystery you’re craving, try the Daft Theatre Company’s (Whitinsville) production of Seven Keys to Baldpate – a definitely daft mystery that gives new meaning to the concept of letting your imagination run away with you! The play runs 7/26, 27, 28 and 8/2 &3. Click here for details. If you’re in the mood (so to speak) for women in WWII history (herstory?), go to these links to read an article on the real Rosie the Riveters and on Phillis LaTour Doyle, an actual spy for the allies who worked behind enemy lines in occupied France. Finally, if you want to start the Fourth by swinging on in, don’t miss Dan Gable and the Abletones’ June 28th Independence Day Swing Dance and concert at the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation.
5/12/19 Loads or stuff report! First, I hope you will come see me Sunday, May 19th at the Author Fair/Living Library to be held at the Wesley United Methodist Church in Worcester (114 Main Street). The event runs from 12:30-3:00 p.m. I’ll be one of several authors with whom you can sign up for a one-on-one confab and from whom you can buy books – which we will be delighted to sign for you, or for whomever you’d like to gift your volume. Please come; it promises to be lots of fun and you may get some inspiration or direction for your own writing and publishing endeavors!
I’ll also be speaking at LIRA (Learning in Retirement Association) at UMass Lowell on June 12th. I earned my Bachelors in a double major of English and Secondary Education from what was then the University of Lowell. It will be a wonderful homecoming for me! Then I’ll be speaking at the Pettee Memorial Library in Wilmington, Vermont on June 22nd. A summer weekend in Vermont! Nice right? Then another one in July (27th) at Bookstock in Woodstock. Bookstock has wonderful panels of all kinds of writer, as well as loads of booths from various publishers and organizations where you can buy books, get them signed, and possibly make connections that will help with publishing. Again, it’s a summer weekend in Vermont!
I also finished a fun writing workshop at Worcester State that I did with my pal Lisa Lieberman, fellow mystery writer and Vice Prez of Sisters in Crime New England. It was called “Jump Start a Story” and provided some intriguing prompts for stimulating creativity – nothing you could get arrested for, though. Curious? Click here and peruse the blog on my web site that I did about all the fu we had with participants. We’re quite proud that one of our student participants entered the story he created in the Al Blanchard Short Story Contest. We made enough of a hit that we were invited back by two proffs from the department to run the workshop again in the fall and spring.
I have some other posts on the web site that you might enjoy. While at the Shakespeare Association of America conference in Washington D.C. this April, Yang and I found time to visit two of our favorite tea places: Teaism and Pie Sisters. So, for the reviews, go to My Cuppa, Washington, D.C. right here.
I also completed a blog on some of my avian friends who have trekked back up north or out of the woods to my bird feeders. Click right here. By the way, we are apparently also running a maternity ward in the Rhododendron bush next to the steps of my front porch – as you can see from this photo.
Looking for some interesting reading? Tim Shaw just published the sequel to his first Chaucer-as-detective novel, A Death on Catte Street. Recently released and now available as ebook on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, or Apple’s iBookstore is A Year in Oxford. I haven’t read it yet, but it has been downloaded and I’m looking forward to some sweet medieval summer reading!
Ursula Wong, fellow Sister in Crime, is now releasing her latest, Amber Widow and will be reading and signing on Tuesday, June 11th from 6:30-7:30 at the Gladys Kelly Library in Webster, MA (2 Lake Street). Amber Widow is the latest in Ursula’s Amber Wolf series, which starts with Lithuanian resistance fighters during the Soviet occupation and moves its adventures up through the decades. Sounds like an interesting evening!
How is my writing going? Well, after the dust settles for this, my last semester teaching, I intend to get back to work editing Always Play the Dark Horse this summer. Then, during the fall, I want to complete the first draft of book four in the Jessica Minton series, tentatively titled Shadows of a Dark Past.
If you’re in a particularly noir mood, check out this poetry/music video of “City Noir” by Billy Brandt. A tip of the hat to Charmaine Kinton for sending it my way. If you like your music video noiresque, also check out Scherrie Payne’s “The Man Who Got Away.” Great production by Rick Gianatos. Also, enjoy Carol Chester’s thoughtful “Reflections of a Writing Consultant.” For those of you who have trouble getting your library books back on time, or, on the other hand, worry about lending out your own books, the “How to Protect Your Library with Medieval Book Curses” might prove inspiring.
Lastly, now that summer is here and we may actually get some nice weather for long road trips, keep in mind that Bait and Switch is now an audio book. Aren’t they swell for livening up those long drives? There I go with my shameless self-promotion! Until next time, Adieu!
3/11/19 I’m on my last spring break, so I have time to actually do some writing and reporting – not that I’m still not grading, too! I’m happy to report that I have a speaking engagement lined up on June 22 at the Pettee Memorial Library in Wilimington, Vermont. I also have been asked to speak at the Learning in Retirement Association at UMass Lowell this summer, likely in June or July.
I’ve also had time to do two book reviews under authors for the Golden era, the review I promised in the last news letter on Margaret Millar and another one of Francis Duncan. Enjoy!
I have more than a few tid bits of interest about some of our favorite writers, contests for writing and publication opportunities, and advice for writers. First, check out this article by Philip Eil from The Atlantic on reconciling H.P. Lovecraft’s talent for creating horror with the horror of his racism. Also, if you’re looking for a summer place conducive to literary greatness, peruse this article about Ponden Hall being for sale. Ponden Hall was the home of a wealthy family who were friends with the Brontes and offered the siblings a library replete with books that greatly influenced their writing. I can’t tell you if the books are still there.
If you’re looking for a good mystery read and you love canines, check out Arlene Kay’s latest, Death by Dog Show. I haven’t had a chance to order my copy yet, but I’ll try to get on it this week. Arlene always spins an exciting tale of suspense – and her tangy humor is a treat!
If your looking for advice on writing or opportunities to publish, first check out Lisa Kramer’s newly revised web site. Lisa is a YA author, an educator, and theatre director, to name but a few of her talents. She has lots of wonderful stuff on her site, but you might be especially interested in her services as a book coach. You can work with her on editing, planning, development – all levels of bringing your book to fruition – academic as well as creative projects.
Another creative and talented lady you might enjoy hearing is the warm, vivacious Susaye Greene in this interview. Susaye may be best known as the last member to join the Supremes, but she has a long history of in music working with Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder, not only as a singer but a writer – but she started at a very young age! This lady has to be one of the most positive and encouraging people that I have ever met, yet she is no less insistent on the necessity of discipline and dedicating yourself to your craft. And her interests are not just in the arts. From her interview at the Raw Science Film Festival, you can see that she is full STEAM ahead in promoting science for its creativity, helpfulness, and knowledge expansion. I dare you to feel down after listening to her smart, playful, genuine interview.
Finally, here are some publishing opportunities and contests.
– The Vermont Sci-Fi & Fantasy Expo will be held April 27th – 28th, 2019 at the Champlain Valley Exposition (Fairgrounds). The VT SF&F Expo will host authors, artists, gamers, cosplayers, fan organizations, comic enthusiasts, vehicle displays, prop makers, fight demos, vendors and much more.
– The Iron Horse Literary Review: Iron Horse is accepting submissions for our annual single-author issue.For the 2019 Chapbook Competition, we will select a winning collection of prose, 40 – 56 pages, double-spaced, each story or essay starting on a new page. The winning manuscript will be published in the Fall of 2019 as a separate issue (Volume 21.3). Full-color cover art will reflect the collection’s content and emphasize its title, not the name of Iron Horse. The published collection will look like the single-author book that it is. The winner also receives a $1,000 honorarium and 15 copies. This year’s judge is Lacy Johnson. To learn more about her, visit our website.
– For Sisters In Crime New England Members: SINC’s partner United for Libraries manages a new ALA initiative called Book Club Central. Book Club Central is a new online resource for book clubs and readers featuring book reviews, author interviews, discussion questions and more. Award-winning actor, producer, and avid reader Sarah Jessica Parker is the Honorary Chair of Book Club Central and a passionate advocate for libraries and literacy. You can check out Book Club Central here: http://www.bookclubcentral.org/find-books-for-book-clubs/book-club-choices/If your mystery fits this month’s theme, then please enter our random drawing for an opportunity to have your book featured in the Book Club Central booklist.
2/18/19 I hope you’re enjoying the new year. There’s lots of exciting news to impart! First of all, Bait and Switch is now on audio! I’ve listened to the sample and it’s pretty good. I think you’ll enjoy it on all those long work commutes or field trips – just don’t let the suspense and excitement send you careening off the road! I’m including a link to Amazon here.
Both Bait and Switch and Letter from a Dead Man are also now available through Kobo Books. Click here to order.
Just for fun, you can check out the interview I did for TouchPoint Press by clicking here. Interviewer Amber Bell came up with some intriguing questions. Find out which character I’d like to have as my best pal, with which character I’d most like to switch places, or what the newest adventures of Jessica, James, Dusty, Liz, and the rest of the crew will be.
I was finally able to post a blog for “It’s Your Turn.” Former student and nonfiction writer Carol Chester did a lovely turn on the basics of news writing, drawn from her personal experiences. Click here to enjoy her insights and humor in “Ask Questions; Write a Story.” Also, check out Amber Vayo’s witty, mordant take on the real home front problems revealed when we dig deeper into the new domestic minimalism in “Rebranding the 1950s: Minimalism and Rebranding the Happy Homemaker.”
You may recognize Scherrie Payne as the soulful and sassy voice of the Supremes with Mary Wilson; Cindy Birdsong; and, later,
Susaye Greene. Did you also know that Scherrie is a playwright? Scherrie recently had her play Lady in Waiting produced to much success in Los Angeles. In this Billboard interview, you can hear about her experiences as a writer of plays, screenplays, and fiction. I’m happy to report that Scherrie and I both do our first drafts in long hand! And Scherrie, Susaye Greene, and Joyce Wilson have joined forces in a dreamy, jazzy single that Susaye wrote, “Unconditional Love.” Click here for a listen and here to buy.
Folks who are still students as Worcester State University should be aware that the Kathleen Downey Fiction Contest is up and running. Click here for more information.
In addition, The Ocean State Review is also accepting submissions until April 15th: “We accept unsolicited submissions of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, art, scholarship with a creative bent, and book reviews. All submissions must be in Microsoft Word or a PDF.” Check it out further here.
Interested in a good mystery read? I highly recommend Margaret Millar. I recently finished A Stranger in My Grave – and loved it! Millar is expert at weaving the strands of her plot through the lives of her characters to gradually lead you to a startling reveal. And while she’s doing it, she quietly yet no less strikingly exposes the racism and sexism suffocating life in the early sixties – not entirely different from the 20teens. I want to wait until after I’ve read more of her novels before I write up my review for the web site.
Another book that fascinated me recently was Code Girls by Liza Mundy, which explores the unsung contribution of the women working in cryptanalysis during WWII. Drawing on interviews, news stories, and declassified information, Mundy reveals how brilliant women, deprived of the opportunity to work using their intelligence by pigheaded sexism in the commercial and academic worlds, were able to engage their drive and intellects in cracking enemy codes when war opened the door for them to use their talents. I highly recommend this book. Now if I can just find a way to work this info into one of my novels . . .
For those striving to crafting work to tempt publishers, here’s an interesting article by Robert Delaney on the struggles of recreating a true-life experience with enough excitement to draw in readers – and, especially, publishers: “Translating High Profile Events into Fiction.”
That’s all for now! Hope the snows near you are light and fluffy!
1/5/19 Here’s hoping everyone has a wonderful 2019! I have some fun info to wrap up 2018 and to set us off on a great new year. In December, I had the pleasure of promoting my books at two events. The Holiday Fair at Worcester State University on December 11th gave me a chance to make new friends, sign up more people for the news letter, buy some Christmas presents, and sell some books! I was happy to see that one of our former English majors, now working at WSU, won Bait and Switch in one of the Holiday Fair raffles. Congratulations, Owen!
On December 20th, I did a reading/talk/signing for Letter from a Dead Man and Bait and Switch. The Pollard Memorial Library has a beautiful, welcoming room for readings, with an audience equally warm and welcoming audience. Since I was back in my home town, I had fun talking to new folks about our experiences in Lowell, the city’s fascinating history, and recognizing unexpected connections. Just as fun was getting the support of old friends whom I’ve known since high school days – four or five years ago (ahem!). It was fun to talk about developing characters, researching the time period of the novels, and experiences acting out crucial incidents from the novel in real life to see if they could be done – no, not the murders! I also enjoyed talking about a writer’s life, including finding a publisher and doing promotion to get your work recognized. I like to think that if I can make the way a bit smoother for budding writers, I’m doing my job. By the way, that neat red fedora I’m wearing with my favorite navy pin-striped suit was a gift from my friend MaryLynn Saul. I felt so Rosalind Russell!
You’ll be happy to see that we have a new entry for “It’s Your Turn,” by Mya O’Malley: “Inspiration in Unlikely Places.” I think you’ll enjoy her detailing how certain places that a writer visits can instigate the drive to weave a story that brings into play the magical influences of special surroundings. Mya is a writer of paranormal mysteries and contemporary romance, who is also dipping into YA writing. I’ve read two-thirds of the Maggie/Naomi/Lillie trilogy, enjoying the supernatural twists she’s brought to these mystery/romances. After you read her guest blog, you’ll understand why she so ably creates an evocative sense of place in her novels. I’m currently reviewing a possible post for the end of this month by another writer, so I will get back to you on that later.
I’ve been happy to find time over the break to do some mystery reading rather than writing. I highly recommend Sheila Connolly‘s Murder at the Mansion, the initial entry in her Victorian Village series. It’s a cozy in the best sense, suspenseful and mind-teasing without being stressful. The main character is an intelligent woman who uses wits and professional expertise to solve not only the mystery of a murder but of the history of a beautifully preserved Victorian mansion. Following along her investigations is tricky and fun. And if you find it a treat to tour Victorian houses or just walk through an old part of town delighting in Victorian architecture and letting your imagination spin dreams of past inhabitants, if you have a penchant for uncovering history, this series will be for you.
I also indulged in three other cozies. Marcia Allingham’s The White Cottage Mystery is reviewed on this site under Mysteries of the Golden Age. Next, Francis Duncan’s Murder Has a Motive introduced me to amateur sleuth Mordecai Tremaine working his mental muscles to uncover the serial killer in what had seemed to be a quiet 1940s English village. I’ll have a review posted sometime this month. I’m planning on continuing with this series. Finally, I just finished another of Patricia Wentworth’s: The Benevent Treasure – quiet English village, believable and interesting inhabitants, smart young female lead adrift from family connections – stuck in an ancient edifice riddled with passages controlled by two foreboding, archaic sisters. Did I mention frame-ups, mysterious disappearances as well as appearances, and, of course, MURDER! Maybe it’s not quite so cozy – but a darned good read! Miss Silver pulls it all together at the end for us.
To my fellow delighters in the world of noir, check out this blog on the Deathless Prose site: “How to Be a French Gangster.” We tend to think about the noir anti-heros, whether detectives or criminals, as purely Hollywood creations. However,with an
approach that is both thoughtful and fun, this article reveals how French cinema from the 1930s onward took those figures and recreated them with a Gallic twist that evolved as the country moved from preWWII into the Occupation and on into post war years.
So, till next we meet, enjoy the new year!
12/9/18 Teaching, if not grading, is pretty much done for the semester, so I thought I’d shoot a quick “What’s New” so you wouldn’t think I’d disappeared down the academic rabbit-hole!
Though I haven’t done anything as exciting as hobnob with a Supreme since last we met, I do have some good info for you. First, I wanted to send out a reminder about my two December appearances. On Tuesday, December 11th, I’ll be at the Worcester State University Holiday Fair from 4:30-7:00 p.m., signing and selling copies of Bait and Switch and Letter from a Dead Man. I can’t take credit cards, but I can give you a postcard with my QR, which you can scan on your phone to take you directly to Amazon to order. Drop by and say hello. See what hat I decide to wear! We’ll be in the May Street Building Auditorium on, you guessed it, May Street.
For those of you in the Merrimack Valley, I’ll be appearing at the Pollard Memorial Library, aka the Lowell Public Library, on Thursday, December 21st from 7:00-8:00. I’ll be doing some readings from Letter from a Dead Man and talking about writing and publishing with you – as well as, of course, selling and signing books! There’s going to be a major contingent of Keith Hall gals there, so watch out! Here’s a few of us en masse!
Good news! After a two-month hiatus, “It’s Your Turn” is back with Mya O’Malley, author of tales mysterious, supernatural, and romantic – and she’s a really neat person, too! Mya will treat us to an essay on “Inspiration in Unlikely Places.” I know that as a writer I can relate to that topic! Check out Maya’s web site to see what a versatile and creative writer she is!
If you’re looking for some good reading this holiday season, here are a couple of suggestions. Right now, I’m reading a collection of holiday-themed mysteries: Christmas Stalkings, edited by Charlotte MacLeod. So far, I’ve only read three short stories, but they have been a treat. Charlotte MacLeod’s “Counterfeit Christmas” is a playfully charming academic cozy; Reginald Hill’s “The Running of the Deer” has a nifty English atmosphere with smart and the down-to-earth detective Joe Sixsmith, and Elizabeth Peters’ deadpan delivery of detective cliches with a twist in “Liz Peters, PI” is a hoot and a half. One of my favorite lines is “I’m a mystery writer. It’s a dirty job, and nobody has to do it.” I’m looking forward to the rest of the collection. so far, there’s been a cat in every story. The girls approve. They read themselves to sleep.
And – if you want your holiday reading to scare the pants off of you, try Donald Westlake’s “Nackles.” It gives new meaning to “you better watch out.” Heh, heh, heh.
11/23/18 Whew! it really has been, as Kitty Kallan used to sing, “a long, long time!” I’ve been tremendously busy with my students in what will be my last fall semester teaching, but I have a moment over this Thanksgiving break to catch you up.
First, I wanted to let you know that I have some appearances scheduled for December, and I hope I can get to see you. For the third consecutive year, I will have a table at the Worcester State University Holiday Fair in the May Street Building auditorium, this year on 12/11 from 4:30-7:00 p.m. Drop by and say hello! Buy a book or two. Also, keep in mind that there are loads of crafts and small business tables – you can buy everything from gourmet food to MaryKay to jewelry to clothes to gourmet pet treats – just to name a few possibilities. You can get plenty of Christmas shopping done, I know I have!
Second, I’m excited to tell all my friends in the Merrimack Valley that I’ll be doing a reading and signing at the Pollard Memorial Library in Lowell, MA on Thursday, December 20th, from 7:00-8:00. Come on down and get a tempting peek at my latest novel, Letter from a Dead Man. Hear some reveals about the next two novels in the series: Always Play the Dark Horse and Shadows of a Dark Past! And, of course, I’m always delighted to talk about the process of writing, of finding a publisher, and of promoting your work once you get published. I’ll also have some fun, behind-the-scenes anecdotes about my unique adventures in testing out my heroine’s own adventures.
Third, it’s a date far in the future, but I was able to make arrangements to do a reading at the Pettee Memorial Library in Willmington, Vt for June 22nds, 2019. I’m powerfully dedicated to getting those readings!
Though I’ve been working hard and enjoying my students in Shakespeare and The Supernatural in Literature classes, I haven’t let myself slip when it comes to making appearances connected with my writing. In October, I worked at the Sisters in Crime New England booth at the Boston Book Fair. I had a nice time meeting new sistahs, as we “personned” the booth, and talking to readers and writers who wanted to learn more about our organization or about our own writing.
On November 5th, I joined Sheila Connolly and reconnected with Gina Fava for the Sisters in Crime panel “Using What You Know” at the Waltham Library. The discussions with the audience were exciting, as they peppered us with sharp questions that opened up wonderful interchanges about inspiration, writing, publishing – even finding the time for writing! There is a nice write up of the event by the library, which you can read here. I even am dubbed “quite the dame.” Neat, right? One of my many hats off to Louise Goldstein, the library coordinating who engaged us, organized the event, and contributed quite a few thoughtful questions of her own. Oh, that’s a new hat that I wore for the occasion.
You can also see from my blogs that Yang and I have been busy this past autumn. We completed a “Supreme” triple crown in September by rounding out seeing Scherrie Payne and Susaye Greene in August with an exciting concert by the magnificent Mary Wilson at the Barnstable Center for the Performing Arts in September. As usual, Mary was a powerhouse. A few years may have passed since “Baby Love” cracked the top of the charts, but no one seems to have informed Miss Mary because her energy levels get more powerful every year, and her voice displays inimitable power and artistry. But you can read all about it in my blog: “Supremely Dancing in the Streets: An Afternoon with Martha Reeves and Mary Wilson.” And, staying supreme, I also did a blog reviewing the little known and greatly underappreciated album, Partners, Scherrie Payne and Susaye Greene did after the Supremes broke up. Check it out.
Yang and I also added another photo-essay on our exploratory adventures in Connecticut. In September, we finally got to visit Charles Island, right off the cost of Milford’s Silver Sands Beach. The tombolo connecting the island to the shore is only clear when the tide goes out, and the ocean doesn’t go low enough to make the trek easy or safe, let alone dry,except when the gravitational pulls are particularly strong. In addition, the island is off limits as a bird sanctuary for a biog chunk of the year. So, it took several years for our schedules to coincide with the birds’ and celestial alignments, but we finally made it out there – the wait was worth it. So, click here to find out why.
Finally, here are a few links to articles that writers and readers will find not just enjoyable but useful!
Book Promotions: Sophie Masson’s article is extremely helpful to the writer charged with the main burden of promoting her/his work ¨ What’s Hot and What’s Not.”
Writers’ Conferences Here’s an article listing and describing writers’ conferences by state in the U.S.
Readings for Mystery Aficionados A tip of the hat to Kristin Waters for this web site dedicated to women writers of mysteries: Shedunnit.
Research source This link brings you to an article on African-American women who served in WWII.
9/16/24 Great stuff coming up for you! First of all, this Saturday (9/22) I’ll be doing a reading and signing at Annie’s Bookstop at 65 James Street in Worcester, MA from 1:00-3:00. If you live in the area, I hope you can make it! We can have some great chats about writing and publishing – and I want you to hear the latest from my most recent novel, Letter from a Dead Man. Maybe I”ll even drop some hints about the next Jessica Minton adventure! I’d love to see old friends and make some new ones!
I’m also working on setting up readings/signings at the Pollard Memorial Library in Lowell and the Pettee Memorial Library in Wilmington, Vt. These will probably both be in the spring. This fall/early winter, I’ll be at Barnes and Noble in Hartford at the end of November (just in time for Christmas shopping) and the Worcester State University Christmas Festival on December 11th. More on those appearances later!
I hope that you’ll mosey over to “It’s Your Turn” to peruse Timothy Shaw’s essay: “Everyone Knows Geoffrey Chaucer, Don’t They?” If you love historical mysteries, you’ll enjoy reading about not only Tim’s research but how he takes a seemingly well-known historical figure and digs into the past to create a man rather than a stereotype. I’m reading Tim’s A Death in Catte Street now, and I highly recommend it. Yes, there’s an intriguing mystery, but you can take pleasure in a vibrant and well-researched recreation of a young (20) Geoffrey Chaucer’s world, as well as characters who are human. Tim, indeed, finds a mysterious tale within the strands of actual historical events. If you enjoy writing that is more than just a whodunnit but more of a how did all these events of the time and the twists of human nature conspire to make this happen, you’ll enjoy this tome.
Be sure to check out the other blogs of “It’s Your Turn.” If you enjoy mysteries based on historical settings, you will enjoy Lisa Lieberman’s “Travels with Cara,” for adventures set in the mid-twentieth century. And don’t forget to check out Connie Johnson Hambley’s “Using Your Equestrian Smarts” and Ruth Haber’s “A Good-Natured Plea from a Mystery Reader.”
Also, if you’re in the mood for ancient American ruins, take a peek at my blog on the remains of Hearthstone Castle in Danbury, CT. It’s a melancholy site that just begs to be the setting of a mystery or a tale of hauntings. Hope you enjoy, maybe even visit – but beware the real dangers – tics and poison ivy!
Finally, for fellow X-Files fans, a tip of the fedora to MaryLynn Saul for sending me a link to an article in The Atlantic on the show that is definitely on the money. Read and enjoy!
Hope I get to see some of you on Saturday (9/22) at Annie’s in Worcester!
8/24/18 I have a plenitude of exciting information to share with you in this newsletter! First, I hope you can join me at Annie’s Bookstop at 65 James Street in Worcester, MA, on 9/22/18, from 1:00-3:00 p.m. I’ll be doing a reading and signing for Letter from a Dead Man. I think you’ll enjoy the noir ambience and the sharp 1940s humor of the novel. I’m looking forward to seeing you and sharing all the excitement of the second installment of the Jessica Minton series, where Jess and Liz, with Dusty’s assistance, have to contend with secret identities, a dangerous femme fatale with connections on the dark side, finding stolen jade, and saving someone dear to them from a murder frame. I can’t wait to whet your appetite for Dead Man – or talk with you about writing and publishing. Many friends have gotten good help at these readings in terms of writing and publishing – from me and from one another! We always have a good time. Maybe I’ll also clue you in on some of Jessica’s future adventures.
Do pop over to my web site for award-winning mystery author Connie Hambley Johnson’s guest blog “Using Your Equestrian Smarts to Write Short Stories.” As you know, I’ve highly recommended Connie’s Jessica Trilogy. So, her essay should give you an idea of how she creates her wonderful mysteries. Connie has some spot-on advice concerning how to think about and shape your writing, especially in terms of working with your audience. You’ll really enjoy her equestrian metaphor. Please let us know what you think by giving us comments on the page! Also, if you haven’t already, peruse the essays by author Lisa Lieberman and reader Ruth Haber. You’ll enjoy the insights they offer into the experiences of writers and readers.
My third tidbit might be the most exciting. Last weekend, Yang and I went to Waltham for an appearance, at the free summer concert series, of Scherrie Payne, Susaye Greene (of the Supremes), and Joyce Vincent (of Dawn). It was superb! These gals have glorious voices and loads of energy. What a delight! Scherrie and Susaye were in the last lineup of the Supremes with original member Mary Wilson. When Mary went solo, it was intended that Joyce would join the group, but Motown canceled those plans. Anyway, all three are together now and they sound wonderful! We also got the chance to meet all three ladies after the show. They were so warm and gracious! They even want to read Bait and Switch! Will they have a supreme read? Sorry, couldn’t resist. Anyway, click here for a link to my blog on the evening. I know that I will be gushing, but it was just such a magical experience with three wonderful women. Here’s a link to their FB page.
I have another, maybe less exhilarating but no less enjoyable, blog for you to check out as well. Yang and I had a lovely three-day weekend in Vermont when I went up to work at the Sisters-in-Crime booth at Bookstock, in Woodstock. I had a great Saturday with my sistahs, Leslie Wheeler and Connie Hambley Johnson. On the other days, Yang and I did some bicycling and walking that was lots of fun in lovely summer weather. We even visited the Bridge of Flowers where we were treated to the company of a Hummingbird!
I also created another blog about our fun visit to the Connecticut shore, where we enjoyed beautiful beach-side scenes, lots of birds, and had fantastic lobster rolls at Bill’s Seafood!
Lastly, some reading tips. A belated tip of the hat to Roz Foy for sending me this neat link on forties mystery films. If you love the setting and ambience of Jessica Minton’s adventures, here’s a site that explains the movies that inspire my work. I also finished another novel by Frances Crane, The Indigo Necklace. It’s set in New Orleans during WWII, where Pat Abbott, now in Army Intelligence , is stationed with wife Jean. Once more, Crane gives us a fascinating array of well-developed suspects, some tight plot twists, and two interesting leads. I’m not sure how a native would react to her depiction of New Orleans during the war, but to a non-native’s perception she creates a nice sense of place – always her strong point. Reading Crane is like watching a clever and tight 1940s noir. I have to warn you, one character does drop the N-bomb. However, Crane also makes clear that this character is pretty lowdown.
That’s it for now. School will be starting soon, so I’ve got to get back to my preparations. Hope to see you at Annie’s – and enjoy the blogs!
7/27/18 I hope that I get to see some of you at Bookstock in Woodstock, Vt. this weekend. Now that it’s stopped raining, you can travel up by car rather than ark. With a revised schedule, I will be at the Sisters in Crime Booth from 12-4. Leslie Wheeler, author of Rattlesnake Hill, will be there from 2-4. Yes, you can buy our books, but we all also tell you about all the wonderful benefits for readers and writers who join Sisters in Crime. There will also be other booths from different authors and publishers, so make the rounds. Find some great reading and maybe even greater opportunities for publishing!
I also want to let you know that I will be doing a reading/signing at Annie’s Bookstop in Worcester (65 James Street) on Saturday, September 22, from 1-3. I’d love to see old friends and make new ones. If you missed some of my other area appearances earlier in the year, this is your chance to come in and catch up – and buy books! I’m delighted to share my experience and advice on writing and publishing – and I’d love to hear what YOU have to say on those topics. Dusty wants you to come!
This month’s “It’s Your Turn” is “A Good-Natured Plea from a Mystery Reader,” by a reader of mysteries, my friend and editor before things even get to the publisher: Ruth Haber. Many of you folks know Ruth from her years teaching at Worcester State. Whether or not you know Ruth, you’ll get a kick out of her mischievous take on the problems in probability that sometimes beset mysteries. And, of course, she ends on a playfully positive note. Be sure to comment on the page. You might have similar reading experiences you want to share.
Just for fun, you might want to look at the photo record Dale Phillips made of the Sisters in Crime Bookfair at the Hartford/Uconn Barnes & Noble. Here’s the link to his web page. It looks like we’ll be doing another one in November, just in time for Christmas shopping. I’ll keep you apprised.
Finally, if you liked Dead Man or Bait and Switch, please do a quick review on Amazon or GoodReads. Amazon is especially useful because it can help a writer get promoted on various newsletters. In fact, be sure to write up a review for any writer you enjoyed. We all need all the help we can get!
7/17/18 More fun news! Mark your calendars for the weekend of 7/27-29 for Bookstock in Woodstock, Vermont. I’ll be there from 12-2 p.m (maybe even until 4 p.m.) on Saturday, July 28th, signing and selling Bait and Switch and Letter from a Dead Man. I’ll be happy to chat with you about writing and about Sisters in Crime, the organization whose table will be hosting me with other writers. In fact, Bookstock has loads of writers, publishers, and other types associated with writing at their own booths on the green – not to mention various panels and discussions and readings from writers of all kinds. Finally, Vermont is just gorgeous this time of year (well, any time of year!), so make a weekend of it and have a ball. Dusty will be watching for you! Click here for more information on Bookstock.
I’m also in the process of scheduling a signing and reading at Annie’s Bookstop in Worcester for one of the last two weekends in September. I will also be working on scheduling something for October at the wonderful new bookstore in Cranston, Rhode Islan: Barrington Book. I hope you can come and chat about Dead Man, your writing as well as mine, and buy a book! Get your Christmas shopping done early!
You may have seen that on this web site I had previously posted a bonus selection of material that I was forced to cut from Dead Man due to length and pacing constraints (click here). This week I posted a bonus passage from Bait and Switch that readers have said works well, but just slowed the pace of the novel. I hope you enjoy it – and the original art work by Yang and I. I was the model for the bandaged hand. If that comment doesn’t pique your curiosity, I don’t know what will! Do post your reactions on the comments section of the web page or on the FB posting on my feed. I’d love to know what you think. I’m considering cannibalizing the scene for a later adventure of Jessica and James. Click here.
We’ve already had our first “It’s Your Turn” blog by writer Lisa Lieberman, “Travels with Cara.” Lisa’s blog is an intriguing exploration of how researching the adventures of your character can open up an unexpectedly exciting window into your connection to past history. Our upcoming blog (at the end of the month) will be by a veteran reader of mysteries and former WSU English Proff, Ruth Haber. Ruth is creating a playful open letter to writers on how to avoid eye-rolling missteps and instead to keep readers satisfied and loyal. I know she’s been as good a friend and guide to me as my co-editor, here – and not at all catty!
Ruth has also provided me with a wonderful list of under-noticed female mystery writers from the golden age. Please check this out. I know I will! Click here.
Speaking of golden era-style writings, I recently reviewed a collection called In Sunlight or in Shadow, short stories by various mystery writers inspired by different Edward Hopper paintings. It’s a gem of a collection. Click here to read my review. Let me know what you think. As always, if you would like to recommend a writer from the era or who writes in the style of the era, please let me know!
Finally, if you liked Dead Man or Bait and Switch, please do a quick review on Amazon or GoodReads. Amazon is especially useful because it can help a writer get promoted on various newsletters. In fact, be sure to write up a review for any writer you enjoyed. We all need all the help we can get!
6/26/18 Now that summer’s here, I have much more time to stay in touch. First of all, I’m excited to introduce you to the newest feature on my web site: “It’s Your Turn.” Once a month, I am opening up my site for a guest blog by writers and readers to treat you with the excitement and unique background stories about their writing, what’s exciting in reading, or to share thought-provoking insights into their creations or other writers. This month, we open with Lisa Leiberman, author of All the Wrong Places and Burning Cold, as she recounts how the historical research that undergirds an exciting, realistic novel may unveil a dark past that is no less startling and moving for the writer. So click here to read “Travels with Cara.” Please feel free to post questions for Lisa in the comment section of the web page; she’d love to hear from you. If you have a problem doing so, let me know so I can fix the situation.
If you click here, you can see some of the upcoming bloggers on the site. If you have an interest in submitting a blog, contact me at email@example.com
More big news! Saturday, June 30th, from 12:00 (noon) to 4:00 p.m., I’ll be at the Barnes in Noble (UConn Bookstore) in Hartford, CT for a Sisters In Crime Bookfair. There will be something like 15 mystery authors for you to visit, chat with, listen to speak, and buy signed books from (pardon the dangling prepositions) – including me! If you don’t yet have your copy of Bait and Switch or Letter from a Dead Man, here’s your chance! Dusty says, “It’s never too early to Christmas shop.” Lisa Lieberman, my guest blogger will also be there! Connie Hambley whose books I’ve reviewed for you will also be a participant.
You will also be able to see me at Bookstock this year in Woodstock Vermont: July 28th. I’ll be at the Sisters in Crime Table on the Green from 1-3:00 p.m. It’s a beautiful setting and I’d love to see you and chat with you. Many other wonderful authors from Sisters in Crime will also be there.
I’ve also just finished two fun engagements talking about writing and doing book signings. I had a fun meeting with the Sconeheads book club at my church, St. Matthews in Worcester. It’s a lot of fun to talk about my characters and their adventures with friends and to see that they take the adventures of my creations as much to heart as I do. The general consensus is that James Crawford IS hot stuff. The Sisters in Crime panel at the Uxbridge Library was much more nuts and bolts. I joined Ursula Wong and Jane Haertel to talk with the audience about where our ideas came from, how we organized them into an actual story, how we did research, where we found the time and space to work, how we trained ourselves as writers, and how we finally got published. Ursula writes many types of mysteries but her latest endeavor is the Amber War series, historical suspense set in the Baltic states under Soviet conquest and occupation. Jane writes modern cozies with a strong sense of place in old New England mill towns. If you want to learn more about their writing, come and chat with them at the Hartford Bookfair!
Also, check out the book reviews I promised last time out of The White Flower and The Big Secret. The first is a rip-snorting adventure with a call to evangelical rebirth. The second details the (mis)adventures of a physicist trying to thread the bureaucracies and special interests of Washington to advise the President not to allow these groups to shut down the discoveries and sharing of scientists. Sounds kind of prescient, huh?
I’m planning to set up some discussion questions for book clubs to use with Bait and Switch. Since you are my readers, I’d like your input. What kind of questions would you like to see me set up for that novel? I want to know!
Finally, in the future I’m going to continue with the bonus postings, this time from Bait and Switch. Look for some passages that I think work well on their own but just slowed down the pace of the novel. Why not give you a treat? Can anyone have too much of James and Jessica? Dusty declares, “No!”
6/14/18 I have plenty of exciting news for you! First of all, be sure to check out a bonus scene I’ve posted on this web site from Letter from a Dead Man. When you’re writing, the original version of your work often has wonderful scenes that you put your heart into crafting, but they just don’t quite fit into the final version. Especially with a mystery, you have to consider if your scene slows down the pace too much or distracts from the suspense. Thus, I had this lovely romantic scene between Jessica and James that just had to go. Ouch! But for those of you who were looking for more James Crawford in the novel, here he is! Enjoy! Please let me know what you think of the scene. I have some that I also had to pull from Bait and Switch, and will probably be posting them, too!
I’m also starting a new feature on the web site that I think you will definitely enjoy, called “Your Turn.” It’s going to be monthly guest blogs by writers and readers of mysteries, romance, supernatural tales, and other related writing. I’ll be starting with an essay by Lisa Lieberman on her Cara Walden series and how its inspiration in film and history took Lisa on a European tour with some surprising, moving revelations. If you enjoy the guest blogs, you could consider contacting me about submitting a relevant one of your own. Do you think I can get her as a guest blogger sometime? We can see which book she’d review.
I’ve also added some Book Club discussion questions to the Letter from a Dead Man page on my web site. Click here. I’m going to my second book club meeting for Dead Man next week. I’m looking forward to it because we had a wonderful time talking about the book at the first one. If you would like to have me join your group for a discussion, I’d be delighted. You can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
These next two months will keep me hopping promoting my books. I’d love to see some of you next week when I join the Sisters in Crime Panel “It’s a Mystery to Me,” from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Uxbridge Public Library on Thursday, June 21. I’m also going to be at the Barnes & Noble Bookfair in Hartford on Saturday, 6/30 from noon-4:00 p.m. Then I’ll be at the Sisters In Crime Booth at Bookstock in Woodstock, Vt. on Saturday, July 28th, from 1:00-3:00. Check out my Appearances and Events Page for more details.
I’ve also posted some neat blogs for those of you who love nature and elegant architecture. Check out Spring Birds Are Back! for some of the beauties I’ve been espying since March and Carven not Craven Images: Providence for some marvels in artistic construction.
Finally, I just finished two interesting books, The White Flower (1927) and The Big Secret (1949), which I will be reviewing on my classic-era mystery page in the next few weeks. I’ll post more about them in my next “What’s New.” The first is a rip-snorting adventure with a call to evangelical rebirth – honest -, and the second details the (mis)adventures of physicist trying to thread the bureaucracies and special interests of Washington to advise the President not to allow these groups to shut down the discoveries and sharing of scientists. Sounds kind of prescient, huh?
I hope you are enjoying your summer – and remember that Bait and Switch and Letter from a Dead Man make great beach reading. Shameless self-promotion here! Dusty whispered in my ear: “Do it!”
5/23/18 Grading is finished and final marks have been submitted, so I’m excited to be enjoying my summer! Lots to write about, too!
First, I want to request that if you’ve read Letter from a Dead Man or Bait and Switch, and liked them, please write a quick review for Amazon. I hate to ask, but reviews get the word out to other readers, so that the audience for Jessica and her pals will grow. Equally important, The Fussy Librarian won’t even consider putting out the word to its myriad readers unless you have at least ten 4-star ratings on Amazon. We small-and independent-press writers need all the help we can get to promote our writings. We don’t have the publicity departments behind us that the big publishers offer. So, if you enjoyed Letter from a Dead Man, Bait and Switch, or the work of other authors, put the word out! We all appreciate it. It would make a sad Rosalind happy.
I’ve been quite busy promoting through panels and discussions of late. Here I am going all smart-talking gal in my vintage, late-1940s, coral suit and straw fedora (a gift from my friend Sonia!). I was heading to Northborough to join two of my favorite people, Leslie Wheeler and Lisa Lieberman, for a Sisters in Crime Panel at the public Library. We had a wonderful time, talking about inspiration for our books from vintage films, writers we admire, and history both world and local; how our characters often resist our direction and rewrite themselves and the book; how we have fun doing research in everything from local tales of tragedy to fashion magazines to learning ethnic cooking to immersing ourselves in newspapers contemporary with our writings! Two of my students, Carol Chester and Joanie Spinazola, made it to the talk – and I could kick myself for not getting a picture with both of them! Carol took this picture for us, so you can see we had a great time – Lisa only looks sad. She was just giving serious thought to something, well, serious. We’re hoping we can team up again. And I can’t stress enough what wonderful books their latest mysteries are: full of believable and intriguing characters, with settings that give you a strong sense of place, and written in prose that’s a pleasure to read. So do check out Rattlesnake Hill (Leslie Wheeler) and Burning Cold (Lisa Lieberman).
If you missed the Northborough appearance, I’ll be signing books this Saturday (5/26) at Barrington Books in Barrington, RI., from 11:30-1:00. Stop by and chat. It’s not a panel, but I’d love to talk about writing and publishing with you! June 21st, I’ll be doing another Sisters in Crime Panel at the Uxbridge Public Library from 6:00-8:00. Then, June 30th, from noon to 4:00 p.m., I’ll be part of a book fair at the Hartford, CT Barnes & Noble. Lisa Lieberman will also be there, along with a plethora of other Sisters in Crime authors. So, I hope I get to see you at one of these events. Click here for more details on my events calendar.
Three other books I want to recommend for your mystery reading pleasure are: The Wake (Connie Johnson Hambly), Farleigh Field (Rhys Bowen), and The Key of Theseus (Michael Royea) The Wake brings Connie’s Jessica trilogy to a close and it’s a hell of a ride: the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics in the ’90s; an international conspiracy woven to ensnare Jessica and destroy the English/Irish peace talks; romantic twists and turns that will give you mental whiplash; and an F.B.I. presence that would give Fox Mulder the willies. This one is great summer reading!
With Farleigh Field, Bowen skips ahead of Georgia Rannoch’s 1930s adventures smack into WWII, when an English soldier falls from the sky into, you guessed it, Farleigh Field – or is he English? And then you have two young people from the area (the vicar’s son and the Farleigh Estate’s second daughter) working for British Intelligence, while the eldest daughter is caught in France and contending with a suspicious Gestapo.You have yourself quite an exciting mix!
Finally, The Key of Theseus is the perfect choice for those who like their mystery/adventure with an archeological flavor. Royea, an archeologist and professor, himself, effectively uses his knowledge to create a believable and interesting grounding for the dangerous misadventures of a hapless aging archeologist who just might be on to the greatest find of his life, as well as professional and personal redemption – if he can just avoid murder, kidnapping, or falling off cliffs, while outwitting duplicitous “allies” and surviving hair-raising Greek driving.
Yang and I also visited Battleship Cove at Fall River, MA. It was thrilling for me to be aboard a ship like one of the ones my Dad served on during WWII. He was on the destroyer Hudson, and he even did picket duty at Okinawa. Here I got to see the type of quarters he would have lived in, the guns he would have been assigned to. Having Yang with me, I could get some technical background on the mechanics of the ship. I promise I’ll do a blog.
We ended the day with tea at Schateȃ in Providence and taking photos of the neat architecture in the capital city. There will be another blog on that, too. School’s out! Yay! Joan Bennett perfectly embodies how I feel!
4/18/18 Whew! A momentary break from grading and traveling, so I can sit down and let you know “what’s new!”
Well, at least it’s not snowing! In fact, look what I photographed growing in my yard! My favorite flowers of early spring: Early Snow Glories! I love the blue/purple petals with the white star in the middle and the yellow! And praise the lord! Six grown up fish (including Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning) survived the winter in our pond along with a baby fish! Not least of all, one of my beloved avian signs of spring is back, my buddy the red-winged black bird. Here’s a picture of a male; there may be more than one that I’ve been seeing, and I even have seen the female. Can Rosebreasted Grosbeaks and Baltimore Orioles be far behind?
Anyway, I’ve been quite busy of late, Please read about the two appearances I did with fellow mystery writers on my blog. One event was a duo performance with the wonderful Lisa Lieberman at Buffalo Street Books, “An Evening of Noir. Dig the cool poster that Lisa’s husband Tim designed – featuring my favorite noir heroine! Also in the blog, an account of the panel I did, “Stealing from the Dead, with Frances McNamara and Steve Liskow.
I have a slew of upcoming appearances booked, including one with Lisa and Leslie Wheeler, two of my best buds and superb mystery writers. We’ll be doing a Sisters-in-Crime panel in Northborough, MA on May 16th (Wednesday) in the town library at 7:00 p.m. I also was able to set up a signing at Barrington Books in Barrington, RI for Saturday, May 26 from 11:30 to 1:00. Check my Appearances and Events page for more details. And if you have a group who would like to book me alone, please drop me a line at email@example.com. Or if you would like to get a Sisters-in-Crime panel, contact Leslie Wheeler here.
For your reading pleasure, also check out the interview with me by Shaymaa Mohamed in the New Worcester Spy. I’m very proud of Shaymaa. She was a delight to have as a student, and I think she put our interview together nicely.
I also had the wonderful experience of attending the Medieval and Renaissance Forum at Keene State University in NH. Meriem Pages and her cohorts do a remarkable job of putting together a conference that is informative and fun. I always love attending because I get to see old friends, make new ones, and actually learn something. I call it “Christmas in April” because like at Christmas, the food is great and you catch up with loved ones! And, of course, Yang once more climbed Mt. Monandnock while I was conferencing!
Once again, if you liked Dead Man or Bait and Switch, please submit a review to Amazon and/or Good Reads and/or Barnes and Noble. We want to spread the good word! Thanks!
3/13/18 Anyone who looks outside the window in the Northeast knows what’s new here in Massachusetts – and why I have a minute to sit down and write up the latest news. No school today – and the reason is abundantly clear if you look at this photo taken as early as 7:00 this morning!
However, I have some exciting tidbits to impart, other than the presence of that icy white blanket outside. I hope some of you can join me, along with my friends and fellow authors Leslie Wheeler and Lisa Lieberman at the Northborough Free Library in Massachusetts on Wednesday of next week (3/21/18). It’s a Sister’s In Crime Panel, “It’s a Mystery to Me,” so we’ll be sharing with you how we craft our tales of suspense. We’ll be sure to give you the lowdown our new books Rattlesnake Hill (Leslie), Burning Cold (Lisa), and Letter from a Dead Man (me). I’m delighted to be in the company of two such fine creators of fiction. If you enjoy writings with a strong atmosphere and sense of place, with believable and human characters, and mysteries that challenge you, you’ll enjoy these three books. Leslie does a striking job of capturing the mystery and isolation, as well as community, of Western, Mass., while Lisa transports you back to the mystery and tension of Old World Europe wrecked by WWII and trampled by Communist oppression and revolution. The library would like attendees to register, but attending is free. Click here for the link to register. So come and stockup on your summer reading
Those of you who are in upstate New York on April 7th, make sure to come join Lisa and I for “An Evening of Noir, from 5:30-6:30 at the Buffalo Street Books, 215 N. Cuyoga Street, Ithaca, NY (Dewitt Mall). Dress up like a character in a noir film and come meet two authors of dark, Hollywood-themed mystery series set in the 1940s and 1950s. Trade trivia about B movie classics, compare notes on stars, and discover some under-appreciated gems.
I also had the pleasure of attending Leslie Wheeler’s talk on her new novel at the Sage-Bushnell Library on March 10th. Talking with an audience who lived in the area where her mystery is set, Leslie spun some fascinating tales about how local legends and history, as well as the stark beauty of this area of western Mass., had inspired her to weave this tale of eeriness and passionate love. I was particularly intrigued by her revelation that this story had originally started as part of a different mystery series, until one of her characters “put her foot down” and refused to carry on the tale, forcing Leslie eventually to devise a new leading character and a whole different series. I understand how she feels; one of my characters told me that dying was not on the agenda – and, what’s more, something of a reform was going to take place!
Finally, for my Rhode Island friends, and Mass. folk who live near the border, I now have copies of Letter from a Dead Man (along with Bait and Switch) on sale at Barrington Books in Barrington, RI. I will be working on setting up a reading or a signing there for the summer or spring. So pop in an support that lovely bookstore (and me, too!).
2/3/18 Exciting news all around! I hope I see some of you this coming Saturday (2/10/18) at Annie’s Bookstop for a reading and signing of Letter from a Dead Man from 1:00-3:00. It’s a great time to come together and not only hear about this book but about my writing process, getting published, and promoting your own work. Last time, lots of old friends re-connected and lots of new friendships were made amongst the audience. So, come on down – and buy some books! We have to keep Natasha and Rosalind in Little Friskies!
If you’re not in the area, you can still hear me talk about Dead Man, Bait and Switch, writing in general, and where I get my ‘40s hats and clothes! I did an interview on public access (Upton) with Jan Lewis on Be My Guest. Note that my wonderful grey and navy suit was copied from a vintage outfit and created by the talented Dr. Yang, my spouse – and if you look really closely, you can see that I’m wearing a lapis lazuli and gold pin that once belonged to my heroine Joan Bennett. Anyway, it was a fun experience. I hope you’ll enjoy watching the interview.
I’m also still keeping up with my local appearances. I had a lot of fun talking to people and reading from Dead Man and Bait and Switch at the Eastford, CT Public Library on January 20th. After my appearance at Annie’s, I have several appointments scheduled in March and April: Northborough, MA Library (3/21); Mrs. Bridges’ Pantry (3/26); Buffalo Street Books, Ithaca, NY (4/7); and Atria Bay Spring Village, Barrington, RI (4/18). This information is posted on my web site’s Appearances and Events Page, which I’ll continue updating as more information comes in. Some of these are panel events and will give you a chance to meet and to talk with Leslie Wheeler (Northborough) and Lisa Lieberman (Northborough and Ithaca) about their new books. Here’s a picture of Leslie and Lisa joining me at my booklaunch at The Booklovers’ gourmet.
And if you would like me to come and talk to your reading group or library, please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, you can also book me, as well as other mystery writers, if you’re looking for a panel, through the Sisters in Crime-New England Speakers Bureau.
Just as exciting, I’ve entered Letter from a Dead Man in two writing awards competitions: the National Indie Excellence Awards and the Independent Publishers Awards. I’m considering the Chanticleer Mystery Awards, as well. So, wish me luck!
I’ve also posted a new blog and a new tea review – not easy now that I’m back in school. If you like winter birdwatching, check out my blog on all the neat feathered critters Yang and I saw at the Cape a few weeks back. Just today Yang and I visited Schastea tea room and had a great experience. Check out my review here.
Take care everyone! Dusty worries.
1/3/18 Hi folks! Despite the big freeze here in new England, 2018 may be starting off well for Dead Man! I’ve entered the cover on Author Shout’s cover wars, so it would be great if you good give me a vote (or two – you can vote more than once every 24 hours.), A hearty thanks to everyone who has done so so far!
If you can, please post a review of Dead Man on Amazon. You can also cut and paste to Barnes & Noble and Good Reads. I’d so appreciate your doing so. We need to get the word out!
This month alone, I have some exciting plans to promote the book. I will be taping an an interview with Jan Lewis for Upton Public Access TV on 1/11 – I’ll let you know when it broadcasts and makes it to Youtube. I’ll also be doing a reading and signing at the Eastford Public Library in Eastford Ct. on 1/10/18.
In addition, Dead Man is now in four independent bookstores, along with Bait and Switch: Annie’s Bookstop (Worcester, MA), The Booklovers’ Gourmet (Webster, MA), Mrs. Bridge’s Pantry ( Woodstock, Ct.), and Mystery on Main Street (Brattleboro, VT). I know I’ve talked quite a bit about Annie’s and the Booklovers’ Gourmet, so I thought I’d fill you in about what’s special about the other two venues.
Mrs. Bridges is a delightful tea room in the rolling green hills of Ct., in a cozy, old fashioned, wood-frame building. They have a tremendous variety of wonderful teas (some of which you can buy to take home!) and yummy sandwiches, soups, salads, and desserts – including absolutely wonderful scones. And the prices are extremely reasonable. It’s the perfect place to read Bait and Switch or Dead Man while sipping a warming cup of tea in this chill New England winter. To top it off, all the people who work there are a complete delight, a pleasure to get to know!
Mystery on Main Street is a wonderful treasure in Brattleboro. The store is filled with mystery, suspense, and horror tales from all eras. You can find the newest releases as well as reprints of hard to find classics. It’s my go-to place for a Patricia Wentworth fix! It’s also where I got my copy of Midnight Fires (Nancy Means Wright), the first in the marvelous Mary Wollstonecraft mystery series. The proprietor, David, is a friendly, humorous chap with whom it’s lots of fun to talk movie and print mysteries – and if you have a question or a search, he’s the guy to ask. Then, right next door, is a bakery where you can take your stack of purchases and settle in with a hot chai, cappuccino, cider, or what-have- you and a yummy sandwich or pastry, while you read away – with an occasional glance out the window at the river and mountains surrounding the valley.
So, get yourself snug and warm with tea, coffee, cider or brandy as one companion – and a good mystery as the other – preferably a mystery starring Dusty. Can you resist this face?
12/26/17 Happy Boxing Day to all! I hope you had a fun Christmas yesterday. We were snowed in, but it was cozy watching old movies and The Vicar of Dibley Christmas episodes with a cat in our laps! And I have loads of great news to tell you. You might want to check out the update in the Worcester State University newsletter about Dead Man‘s booklaunch at The Booklovers’ Gourmet. Click here.
I also have some great upcoming readings and signings in the next three months. So far, I’m scheduled at the Eastford Library (Eastford, Ct) on 1/20/18 at 11:00; at Annie’s Bookstop in Worcester on 2/10/18 from 1:00-3:00; and at the Northborough Free Library (Northborough, MA) on 3/21 at 7:00. The Northborough event is a Sisters in Crime Panel, where I’ll be joining two of my favorite authors and good friends Lisa Lieberman and Leslie Wheeler. Both Leslie and Lisa have new books out, which I’ve written about in prior newsletters. You can check out details on these events on my Appearances and Events Page.
Dead Man is entered in an upcoming bout of Authorshout’s Cover Wars. Starting 12/31, you can go here to vote. You can vote as many times as you want, as long as it’s not more than once in 24 hours. So, get ready to vote Dead Man into the winner’s circle! It’s what Dusty would want.
I also have some pictures from my participation in the WSU Holiday Party and Fair. I had my own table right by the door as people came in. So, as you can see, I took great care in setting up my table just so, so that both Bait and Switch and Letter from a Dead Man would get the best exposure. I was delighted that readers of Bait and Switch were excited that the sequel, Dead Man, was now available. It was quite interesting to me that I am still making quite a few sales of Bait and Switch. I guess I’m luring in some new fans! It was also a lot of fun to see people I hadn’t seen in some time and to catch up with them. I particularly got a kick out of the fact that the person who won the auction for Dead Man is a friend who is a member of my church. As you can see, I’m quite proud of the set up I had for my books. And that color-block vintage-style suit was actually made for me by Yang! This was a great opportunity provided by the school for me as well as many others at WSU who have valuable crafts to share. My hat’s off to Mary Dillon for doing such a wonderful job arranging the day – and that’s quite a declaration coming from me.
And for those of you who are academically minded, don’t forget that the Undergraduate Shakespeare Conference will be held at Fitchburg State University on April 28th, 2018. Click here for more details. Also worth noting, whether you’re a teacher or a student, the 39th Medieval and Renaissance Forum will be held at Keene State University in New Hampshire on April 13-14, 2018. Click here for details.
11/27/17 Plenty to tell you! The booklaunch at The Booklovers’ Gourmet went great! With a pumpkin latte to keep my throat soothed, I had quite an afternoon, talking about Letter from a Dead Man and writing in general. Fellow “Sisters in Crime” Lisa Lieberman and Leslie Wheeler were on hand to share intriguing stories about crafting a mystery. So, check out my blog here.
I have more upcoming commitments, including a signing at the Worcester State Holiday Fair on Monday, December 18th at Worcester State University and talking to the Eastford, CT. library group on January 20th. See Appearances and Events. I’m still working on trying to set something up at Annie’s Bookstop in Worcester. If you have a reading group or your library might like to have me come talk, please contact me at email@example.com or contact the Speakers Bureau at Sisters in Crime-New England.
Check out Connie Hambley Johnson’s profile of me on her site Out of the Fog. Also, make sure to peruse the rest of the site for great ideas on writing, publishing, marketing and promotion, and all kinds of neat stuff! You’ll enjoy it! Connie is also another Sistah (in Crime). She’s a wonderful writer and a good person to know. Like Lisa and Leslie, she’s given me a lot of good advice and support. If you love mysteries (writing or reading ’em), join up with Sisters in Crime and SinC-New England.
I’m also scheduled to do an interview on a local TV station in Upton with Jan Lewis. I’ll be interviewed on Jan. 11th, but I don’t know yet if the broadcast will be the same day. I’ll let you know.
I just finished Lisa Lieberman’s book, Burning Cold and can’t recommend it enough! Set in Hungary in 1956, during the revolt from Russia, the mystery vividly recreates the tensions and paranoia of the time and place. Amidst the treachery of a country physically and spiritually shattered by WWII, Russian oppression, and years of ethnic strife, the heroine, her husband, and her brother race against time to rescue the siblings’ newly revealed half brother before the Soviets roll back in and seal off the country for decades. It’s a great read! The first book in this series, All the Wrong Places, also wonderful, is currently on sale through Amazon.
Finally, don’t forget to check out my second blog on our visit to the Lowell Cemetery. I had time to do some research, so I have some nifty background information (and links to sources) on the history of many of the striking monuments.
So, I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. You can see that my husband and his nephew enjoyed the turkey. Those were drumsticks they’re holding. Looks like piranha got at those turkey legs!
I think Rosalind and Natasha got fed pretty nicely, too. A turkey overdose really takes it out on a feline, doesn’t it?
11/13/17 Lots of excitement! I hope that you’ll join me for the official booklaunch of Letter from a Dead Man at The Booklovers’ Gourmet in Webster, MA this Saturday (11/18) from 2:00-4:00. I’ll be doing some readings from Dead Man and talking with you about creating the book, Bait and Switch, and writing and publishing in general. I’m really excited about seeing you all and sharing the latest on my new book! It’s great to catch up with old friends. Can’t wait to see you there! I’ll also have copies of Bait and Switch as well as Dead Man. So settle in with something warm to drink and something tasty to munch on at The Booklovers’ Gourmet with me.
I’ve also done some other appearances this fall. On October 14, I was at the Storrs Library in Longmeadow with another Sisters in Crime author, talking about publishing with a small press or as an independent. Then, on October 22nd, it was up to Burlington, Vt. for NELA (New England Library Association), representing Sisters in Crime with Connie Johnson Hambley and Julia Hoover. By the way, I have Connie’s newly released conclusion to the Jessica trilogy, The Promise. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but since The Troubles was so good, I’m looking forward to it!
On our way up to NELA, we paid a visit to the grave of my favorite actor, Claude Rains, who’s buried in the Sandwich area. Check out my blog on the trip – and enjoy some beautiful fall foliage while you’re at it!
I also did a blog on a trip to the Lowell Cemetery. It won’t be hard to guess where that is! This cemetery is in the Romantic style, following the design of Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA. I have some wonderful photographs of the autumn colors and truly unique monuments. In fact, I got so many photos that I’ll have to do a second photo-essay. I’ll try to get that done before the end of the week, so check back.
And if you want to enjoy more New England foliage, check my blog on a bicycle ride on the rail trail from Pittsfield to Adams, MA. Some gorgeous images for you! It will be a nice antidote to the browns, greys, and maroons of November.