Friday, February 27, 2015

Scandal in Skibbereen by Sheila Connolly

Sheila Connolly has written several cozy mystery series and this is the second one I've read of the County Cork Mysteries.  (Buried in a Bog was a New York Times bestseller).

From the cover:
Bostonian Maura is beginning to feel settled in her new Irish home, just in time for summer tourist season to bring fresh business to her pub. But the first traveler to arrive is thirsty for more than just a pint of Guinness. Althea Melville is hot on the trail of a long lost Van Dyck painting.

You don't need to read these in order, but I recommend you read Buried in a Bog first because it gives you a lot of information about Irish traditions and in particular about Maura's family and how she came to live in Leap, County Cork. Ms. Connolly takes a lot of her own family history to develop her characters.  She found a pub in Leap called "Connolly's" which she doesn't think has any family connection, but nevertheless became the setting for her mystery series.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

P.D. James Talking About Detective Fiction

I came across this book by P.D. James and was intrigued. P.D. James, you may remember, died last year after a long and prolific career in writing.

Although there wasn't an official detective force in England until one was established in 1842 by the Metropolitan Police, there are many amateur sleuths depicted in mysteries before this time. The Brother Cadfael series comes to mind.
P.D. James mentions many Golden Age detective mystery writers (between WWI and WWII) such as E.C. Bentley who wrote Trent's Last Case, Agatha Christie (Poirot) and Dorothy Sayers.
Most people have heard of Sherlock Holmes written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He used, as his inspiration, Dr. Joseph Bell, a consultant surgeon at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary Hospital.
Later, we have the popular Inspector Morse series by Colin Dexter and Prime Suspect by Linda LaPlante, both of which have been made into television series.
Unlike the British Detective Mysteries that are usually confined to a small area (Miss MarpleInspector Morse) the American Hard Boiled Mysteries  are set in a thriving metropolis which has made Raymond Chandler (The Long Goodbye) and Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon) popular.
And what do all these mystery novels have in common? Usually a motive  resulting from money, lust, loathing or love (avenging someone deeply loved.)

More motives for murder

If you love mysteries, take a look at this book, it will give you lots of ideas for reading detective mysteries by new and old authors. One I'm anxious to look at is a series of Tudor Crime by C.J. Sansom.

Friday, February 20, 2015

City of God by Beverly Swerling

City of God by Beverly Swerling is an amazing look at life in Old New York in the mid-1800s. I'll start off by saying I loved it and this will be going on my list of favorite reads for 2015. I'm always amazed at the research historical novelists go through to produce their stories and Beverly Swerling doesn't hold back. She paints a detailed backdrop for the characters of the Devrey and Turner families.

During the mid-1800s people headed to New York in droves. There were the European Jews which resulted in the construction of twelve synagogues. The Irish crossed the sea hoping for a better life, but most ended up crammed together in the southern section of Manhattan Island (Five Points). They were blamed for diseases that spread through New York and work ads and boarding houses contained the words "No dogs or Irish allowed". Protestant Evangelists held revivals regularly and the first Catholic nuns appeared on the streets rather than behind the cloister walls. Bellevue Hospital  took in the city's poor, but with those in charge skimming money for themselves, little progress was made to improve conditions in the overcrowded and badly run Bellevue hospital. This isn't the first of the series, but I didn't find it necessary to read them in order. I came across this gem at a book sale to benefit our local YMCA. (Note: There are some areas that were a little hard to read, especially about the foot binding of a Chinese woman whose feet were brutally mutilated and bound to stop them from growing. It was thought to be more feminine to have small feet).

From the cover:
The fourth installment in Beverly Swerling's fabulously plotted multigenerational sage of old New York takes the Turner and Devrey families into the clamorous streets of Manhattan on the eve of the nation's searing Civil War. From the hospitals to the bordellos, the gleaming mansions to the teeming slums, and the corrupt councils to the Catholic convents, the city Swerling conjures is rife with romance and intrigue. Heroines and saints, villains and victims, and a vanished New York are made to live again in an intricate tale of old debts and new rivalries.

For more New York History take a look at the Bowery Boys Blog

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Self Publishing - Marketing

If you participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and have your first book under your belt or publishing a novel is on your New Year Resolution list, there's lots of information out there to help you get started with publishing and marketing.

Here are a few links I've found:

If your book is edited and ready to go, check out Smashwords Style Guide to see how to format an e-book.

Russell Blake has a wealth of information on how to market your book.

Offer free books to boost sales of your other novels. (This suggestion from Karen Woodard works great if the book is part of a series).

Tips and tricks to Improve Sales by Lindsay Buroker

13 Steps to write a 25 page e-book in 13 hours

Self Publishing Success Stories

J.A. Konrath - Suggestions for E-Book Promotion

Book Covers - interview with Chris Howard

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Ann Summerville Mysteries

I tend to spend more time working on my blog than on my web site (, but I'm often asked for a list of my cozy mysteries. There's a cozy mystery list on my site.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane by Sheila Roberts

The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane by Sheila Roberts is the fifth installment of the Icicle Falls series.

From the cover:
After a fake food poisoning incident in L.A., Bailey Sterling's dreams of becoming a caterer to the stars collapse faster than a souffle. Now Bailey's face is in all the gossip rags and her business is in ruins. But the Sterling women close ranks and bring her back to Icicle Falls, where she'll stay with her sister Cecily.

All goes well between the sisters until Bailey comes up with a new business idea - a tea shop. She's going into partnership with Todd Black who it turns out is the man Cecily's started dating . . .

The title and cover of the book is adorable, and I picked it up because I thought it was a cozy mystery, but it turned out to be a women's fiction/romance which I don't normally read.  I didn't get very far with the story, Cecily's constant reference to her "zing-o-meter" became annoying to me. It does have good reviews on Amazon so if you like romance books you may enjoy it, but I'll stick to  cozy mysteries in the future.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Red Light Cameras

Image result for red light camera billRed light cameras are supposed to prevent accidents, but we all know it's a money making scheme for cities. I heard on the radio this morning that the yellow light where there is a camera has a shortened time before the light turns red compared to traffic lights without cameras. There have also been complaints here in Texas about tickets issued when someone doesn't come to a complete stop before turning right. People have had enough of them and petitions are being presented to do away with the program. Ohio has passed a bill requiring an officer to be present and observe the violation before a citation can be issued. According to an article in the Fort Worth Star Telegram revenue here in Texas was supposed to go to trauma centers, but it was only ear marked for the first year, since then 97 million has been collected but not distributed.
Meanwhile, not all recipients of citations pay the fine. About 40% don't bother and as it's a civil matter a warrant can't be issued and there is little recourse for the city unless they choose to hold up vehicle registrations until the fine is paid (some counties in Dallas are choosing to do this).
What are your thoughts on red light cameras?

The National Motorists Association says red-light cameras don’t boost safety, don’t provide a true witness to the violation and don’t positively identify the motorist. The group says there are better options to keep streets safe.
“Government funds should be used on improving intersections, not on ticket cameras,” according to the Wisconsin-based association. “Even in instances where cameras were shown to decrease certain types of accidents, they increased other accidents.

Read more here:

Friday, February 6, 2015

Death at the Manor by Celina Grace

I came across Death at the Manor (No. 1 in the Asharton Manor series) on Amazon (currently free). Celina Grace writes an interesting story in her novella told from a kitchen maid's point of view. The setting is 1920s England where the staff at the manor house are taught to neither hear nor see anything that transpires among their employers, but Joan Hart quickly discovers that there is something going on in the manor house that she can't turn a blind eye to and she begins her own investigation.

At 20,000 words this was a quick read and kept me engrossed from beginning to end. I can't wait to read more in this series.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird Sequel

Half a century after it was written, the sequel of her famous novel, To Kill a Mockingbird is due to be published this summer. Although Go Set a Watchman was written first and the story in To Kill a Mockingbird was revealed in flashbacks in the first book, Ms. Lee's publisher thought the flashbacks should become a book of its own and the Go Set a Watchman manuscript was discarded and thought to have been destroyed, but found recently among archives. To Kill a Mockingbird continues to have over a million sales each year.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Novels - Word Count and Pages

Reader trends have been changing now more people are reading using e-reader devices. When I first began writing, agents and publishers required a novel with approximately 85,000 words. Unfortunately, what I've found in many books is that the story is padded. Needless information and what is often called data dump gives the reader pages of backstory and history that is unnecessary to enhance the story, but satisfies the publisher (usually not the reader who often skips those pages).
Now many authors are self publishing, they can choose their novel length and word count which is changing from industry standard. Readers are flocking to shorter books that are more than a novella (20,000 to 50,000 words), but less than a novel (50,000 to 110,000 words). Cozy mysteries in particular are more the length of the YA novel (50,000 words or approx. 175 printed pages).
You can read a list of categories and word count here

What are your thoughts on novel length?
Do you prefer to read a story quickly (150-175 pages) or prefer 400+ pages.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Kirking o' the Tartans

Sunday was the first time I'd attended a Kirking o' the Tartans service which seems to have generated not from Scottish Legend but originated after WWII in New York Presbyterian Church, Washington D.C.  as a blessing for Scottish/Americans. However, some think the blessing of the tartans may have resulted from the Act of Prosciption in 1716 which banned the wearing of Scottish Tartans and clansmen smuggled a small piece of tartan into Scottish churches to be blessed.
Regardless, it was a lovely service (accompanied by Scottish bagpipes) at 1st Presbyterian Church of Fort WorthReverend Douglas Stevenson was a guest from Cullen, Scotland where he  preaches at an 800 year old church. My dad was from Scotland and although he's been gone for a number of years, hearing a Scottish accent still brings a tear to my eye.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley

I didn't realize that The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie was part of a series so it's been a few years since I have read a Flavia de Luce mystery. Alan Bradley does a wonderful job at setting the reader down in a 1950s English country village with Flavia de Luce (the chemistry wiz) flying pell mell over the hills and dales on her trusty bike she has named Gladys. The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag involves a puppeteer, his assistant, a young boy who was found hanged and a wild woman living in the woods. As if that isn't enough to keep the reader intrigued, Flavia's two sisters constantly tease and bait her which results in a few chemistry experiments as acts of revenge.

This is a book that I found magnetic from beginning to end and will be added to my list of favorites for 2015.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Boeing Boeing

Boeing Boeing is currently being played at Theatre Arlington. If you were around in the 1960s the title may sound familiar as it was also a movie starring Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis. The original screenplay was written in French but later translated into English and performed in London in 1962. It was listed in the 1991 Guinness Book of World Records as the most performed French play in the world.
The play is comedy farce. A young man (Bernard) in Paris has three fiancees who are flight attendants and manages to keep them all separate by keeping track of their schedules. His moto is "One up, one down and one pending". But when the new planes provide shorter trips and one flight is delayed due to a storm, all three end up in the apartment at the same time. What ensues is hilarious. While Bernard is busy entertaining one fiancee, his friend (Robert) is left to try and keep them all separate. In the mix is a French maid who tries to accommodate meals for the Italian, American and German flight attendants.
Although each of the cast gives an amazing performance, Jerry Downey as Robert is amazing. If this play comes to your area, it's a must see.

Friday, January 23, 2015

January 23rd - National Handwriting Day

Today is National Handwriting Day so find a pen and test your handwriting skills.

You can read more about the history of cursive writing that the Romans first developed, here.

Now I remember why it was such a chore to write with ink - does anyone know how to get black ink
stains from your fingers?