Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Gothic-Inspired Reads

In honor of Ann Bradstreet's birthday, Playbuzz and Berkley have compiled a list of Gothic-inspired novels, and I am thrilled to be on it!

Friday, May 06, 2016

Female Mystery Writers Create Box Set

Guest Blog by Judy Alter

Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries, the box set, is the creation of Lois Winston, USA Today bestselling author, creator of the Anastasia Pollock Crafting Mysteries and an award-winning author of mystery, romance, romantic suspense, humorous women's fiction, children's chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and as Emma Carlyle. Lois is no stranger to anthology projects—she edited Love, Bake, Write, featuring Brenda Novak and over a hundred other authors, and was a contributor to the anthology Happy Homicides and the box sets Romance Super Bundle I, Romance Bundle II: Second Chances, and Romance Bundle III: Always & Forever.

Sleuthing Women is her most ambitious anthology to date—it brings together the first book of series by nine authors. Lois decided that if she could sell a collection of first books cheaply enough to entice readers, she could get readers hooked on the series and persuaded to read more in each series. Her only stipulation to authors was that a series had to have at least three titles.

My contribution is Skeleton in a Dead Space, the first of six Kelly O’Connell Mysteries. I was inspired, if that’s the word, by a dead space in my own kitchen—a narrow spice cabinet between a deep pantry and a deep oven and storage above and below. I now am pretty sure there’s an old brick chimney behind my dead space—it may be holding the roof up for all I know.

With that idea rattling round in my brain, I noticed a house being remodeled in the nearby Fairmount National Historic District. Suddenly I thought, “There’s a skeleton in a dead space in that house,” and I had my idea for a novel—my first published mystery. The Fairmount Neighborhood in Fort Worth, Texas, is very real, as are several places mentioned—The Old Neighborhood Grill, Nonna Tata, Lili’s Bistro, and others. That’s been fun for local readers, but the actions of this novel never happened, to the best of my knowledge, and the characters are also fictional. This is a work of the imagination, as are all the other books in Sleuthing Women. Hope you enjoy!

Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries is a collection of full-length mysteries featuring murder and assorted mayhem by ten critically acclaimed, award-winning, and bestselling authors. Each novel in the set is the first book in an established multi-book series—a total of over 3,000 pages of reading pleasure for lovers of amateur sleuth, caper, and cozy mysteries, with a combined total of over 1700 reviews on Amazon, averaging 4 stars. Titles include:

 Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, an Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery by Lois Winston—Working mom Anastasia is clueless about her husband’s gambling addiction until he permanently cashes in his chips and her comfortable middle-class life craps out. He leaves her with staggering debt, his communist mother, and a loan shark demanding $50,000. Then she’s accused of murder… 

Murder Among Neighbors, a Kate Austen Suburban Mystery by Jonnie Jacobs — When Kate Austen’s socialite neighbor, Pepper Livingston, is murdered, Kate becomes involved in a sea of steamy secrets that bring her face to face with shocking truths—and handsome detective Michael Stone.

Skeleton in a Dead Space, a Kelly O’Connell Mystery by Judy Alter—Real estate isn’t a dangerous profession until Kelly O’Connell stumbles over a skeleton and runs into serial killers and cold-blooded murderers in a home being renovated in Fort Worth. Kelly barges through life trying to keep from angering her policeman boyfriend Mike and protect her two young daughters.

In for a Penny, a Cleopatra Jones Mystery by Maggie Toussaint—Accountant Cleo faces an unwanted hazard when her golf ball lands on a dead banker. The cops think her BFF shot him, so Cleo sets out to prove them wrong. She ventures into the dating world, wrangles her teens, adopts the victim’s dog, and tries to rein in her mom…until the killer puts a target on Cleo’s back.

The Hydrogen Murder, a Periodic Table Mystery by Camille Minichino—A retired physicist returns to her hometown of Revere, Massachusetts and moves into an apartment above her friends' funeral home. When she signs on to help the Police Department with a science-related homicide, she doesn't realize she may have hundreds of cases ahead of her. Retirement Can Be Murder,

A Baby Boomer Mystery by Susan Santangelo—Carol Andrews dreads her husband Jim’s upcoming retirement more than a root canal without Novocain. She can’t imagine anything worse than having an at-home husband with time on his hands and nothing to fill it—until Jim is suspected of murdering his retirement coach.

 Dead Air, A Talk Radio Mystery by Mary Kennedy—Psychologist Maggie Walsh moves from NY to Florida to become the host of WYME's On the Couch with Maggie Walsh. When her guest, New Age prophet Guru Sanjay Gingii, turns up dead, her new roommate Lark becomes the prime suspect. Maggie must prove Lark innocent while dealing with a killer who needs more than just therapy.

 A Dead Red Cadillac, A Dead Red Mystery by RP Dahlke—When her vintage Cadillac is found tail-fins up in a nearby lake, the police ask aero-ag pilot Lalla Bains why an elderly widowed piano teacher is found strapped in the driver’s seat. Lalla confronts suspects, informants, cross-dressers, drug-running crop dusters, and a crazy Chihuahua on her quest to find the killer.

 Murder is a Family Business, an Alvarez Family Murder Mystery by Heather Haven—Just because a man cheats on his wife and makes Danny DeVito look tall, dark and handsome, is that any reason to kill him? The reluctant and quirky PI, Lee Alvarez, has her work cut out for her when the man is murdered on her watch. Of all the nerve. 

Murder, Honey, a Carol Sabala Mystery by Vinnie Hansen—When the head chef collapses into baker Carol Sabala’s cookie dough, she is thrust into her first murder investigation. Suspects abound at Archibald’s, the swanky Santa Cruz restaurant where Carol works. The head chef cut a swath of people who wanted him dead from ex-lovers to bitter rivals to greedy relatives.

Interested? Here are the Buy Links:

Judy Alter is an award-winning novelist and the author of six books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, Trouble in a Big Box, Danger Comes Home, Deception in Strange Places, and Desperate for Death. She also writes the Blue Plate Café Mysteries—Murder at the Blue Plate Café, Murder at the Tremont House and the current Murder at Peacock Mansion.

Finally, with the 2014 The Perfect Coed, she introduced the Oak Grove Mysteries. She is also the author of several fictional biographies of women of the American West, including Libby Custer, Jessie Frémont, Wild West Show roper Lucille Mulhall, pioneer physician Georgia Arbuckle Fix (in Mattie), and Etta Place of the Hole in the Wall Gang. Her latest book, just released, is The Gilded Cage, set in late nineteenth-century Chicago.

 Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and the WWA Hall of Fame. Judy is retired as director of TCU Press, the mother of four grown children and the grandmother of seven. She and her dog, Sophie, live in Fort Worth, Texas.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Remembrance of Libraries Past

by Julia Buckley

When I was a kid we had a small town library in a house that was purchased by the library board. Every week or so we would walk a few blocks to this little domicile and browse the shelves for big hardback books (sometimes covered in that lovely library plastic) in our favorite genres. Even then I favored mysteries and romantic suspense novels (Oh, how many Victoria Holts they had on those shelves!), but I loved everything--fiction, young adult, humor, fantasy, romance.

Our book limit per person was ridiculously large, and sometimes we'd walk home with ten or more books apiece. Sometimes we didn't get through them all (we might have started one or two and lost interest, the way we now might do with the Amazon "look inside" feature), but in summer we plowed through a plethora of books. And it was bliss.

I remember the joys, too, of the old-time card catalogs. The way the stiff cards felt when you flipped through them, hunting for treasure. The way the cards smelled--sort of like old books and ink--and the smooth skimming sound the drawers made when you opened or closed them.

See that lovely beauty in the photo? I'm inheriting it from our school library, which is doing away with its old card catalogs. I can name few pieces of furniture that I think are more beautiful than that multi-drawered, wooden wonder that holds all the nostalgia of my library days.

I'm not even sure where I'll put it in my tiny little house, but I will find a spot, because this old card holder and I--we were meant to be together.

What's your favorite memory of your childhood visits to the library?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Visiting with Pat Balester

I recently had a chance to chat about THE BIG CHILI with Patrick Balester. It's always fun to chat with another author!

Interview with Pat Balester

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The World of Raymond Chandler

I was excited to find this book in my box this morning. There are Chandler biographies, of course, but Barry Day has chosen to let Chandler introduce himself to the reader--through words he wrote in letters, in books, in essays. 

I fell in love with Raymond Chandler's writing in college when I took a detective fiction seminar, in which we read The Big Sleep and "Red Wind." But it wasn't until I taught The Long Goodbye that I realized his brilliance.

Chandler himself suggested that dialogue was his strength, and it was--dialogue so true and clever that it stayed with you long after you closed the book. 

My husband and I used to quote a tiny passage of dialogue from The Long Goodbye--an exchange between Marlowe and a gangster named Mendy Menendez. Mendy approaches him, dressed like a card shark but looking a bit more dangerous, and verifies his identity.

"You Marlowe?" 

This tiny exchange captures Marlowe's personality--and the saucy style of the hard-boiled genre which Chandler helped to create.

Chandler's own life sounds as though it had some of the melancholy that the reader can always feel in Marlowe--the lone moralist in the wicked streets of Los Angeles. Much of his joy was derived from what he created at the typewriter, and the joy came from the actual act of creation, not necessarily from the promotion that followed.

I am looking forward to reading this book and re-connecting with the genius that was Chandler.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Juli Zeh's DECOMPRESSION Makes Great Summer Reading

I'm grateful that Anchor Books sent me a review copy of Decompression, Juli Zeh's chilling suspense novel, which won Germany's Thomas Mann Prize and has been translated into English by John Cullen.

Normally I have to throw review copies onto a big pile until I find time to choose one at random, but this one rose to the surface (ironic, perhaps, given that it is all about submerging, both in water and in denial) and I could not resist reading the first few lines. After that I rarely put it down until I was finished.

Zeh's narrator is Sven, a German expatriate who has secluded himself on Lanzarote to teach scuba diving. The island has few people and little vegetation, dominated instead by volcanic rock. This spare landscape seems the perfect place for Sven, who is also rather scant, both in his living and in his narration, and the suspense begins when it is clear that Sven may--or may not--be telling the truth, to the reader or to himself.

The story is continually compelling, but it is not always the plot that drives it, since that was relatively predictable in places. What captures the reader is the power of Zeh's writing, and the profound philosophies that emerge from the thoughts (or sometimes the writings) of her characters.

The theme of escape is layered throughout the novel, starting with Sven's departure from Germany, a country he intends never to revisit. This thought is echoed in a book by one of Sven's guests, a writer named Theodor Hast:
"The tattered sky was hurrying eastward, as though it had something urgent to do there. Emigrate, he thought. But that would make sense only if the country we escape to weren't always and only ourselves."
Journeying means something different to Jola, Theodor's lover and also Sven's guest, whose regular diary entries provide a different perspective from that of her landlord. Her assessment of travel is elemental, profound:
"It's always this way: you travel thousands of miles to sleep less comfortably and understand yourself better."
Gems like these appear throughout the novel, a tribute to Zeh's artistry and to Cullen's precise translation.

Some of the best scenes happen underwater, perhaps the only place that Sven feels truly comfortable, and I certainly enjoyed submerging myself in this book.