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?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Guest Post Maya Corrigan

Please welcome today, Maya Corrigan, author of  By Cook or by Crook who has stopped by to answer some questions and tell us a little about her cozy mysteries. (Maya would love to hear from you so please leave comments for her in the comments section)

Tell us a little about BY COOK OR BY CROOK
The first in the Five-Ingredient Mystery series, BY COOK OR BY CROOK, is set in a historic Chesapeake Bay town. The series features a café manager who solves murders with help from her foodie friends and curmudgeonly grandfather. The books include five-ingredient recipes. 

Haunted by the car accident that ended her career as a cookbook publicist, Val Deniston has traded the excitement of New York City for a quieter life. Living with her grandfather in a large Victorian house isn’t glamorous, but she enjoys running the Cool Down Café at the fitness and racket club. After a club patron is murdered, Val cooks up a scheme to find the killer who framed her cousin. While she investigates five suspects and uncovers five key clues, Granddad takes up cooking, creating havoc in the kitchen even when trying recipes that have only five ingredients. But kitchen disasters are the least of Val's problems when a murderer targets her.

Which authors inspire you?
I admire any writer who keeps a long-running mystery series fresh and avoids writing to a formula. Nevada Barr succeeds at it. Her sleuth is a U.S. park ranger who tackles crimes in a different park in each book. A lot of series go stale after a few books because the author is tied to a particular geographic area and to a set of recurring characters. Barr has the same main character and a few recurring ones, but by changing the setting, she injects new characters and gives readers insights into the varied challenges rangers face in parks around the country.

I just finished Lisa Scottoline’s latest book. Her series takes place in a women-only Philadelphia law firm. She has recurring characters, but the point of view varies from book to book. She focuses on different lawyers in different books. We’re familiar with the characters, but they each have unique stories and personalities. Their backgrounds involve them in different types of cases.

I also read Jennifer Crusie’s books. She’s better known for romance than mystery, but her dialogue is so good that I’ve read all her books and reread several, to study her technique.

What are you working on next?
I’ve just started writing the third book in the series. I can’t talk about that because anything I say may not be true by the time I finish it, so I’ll say a little about the second book in the series, Scam Chowder, scheduled for publication June 30, 2015. It focuses on a rampant crime that is underreported and under-prosecuted in our country—frauds against senior citizens. Val’s grandfather has a larger role in this book than in the first one because of the subject matter and because he’s a scene stealer.

Tell us a little about you
Before I took up a life of crime on the page, I taught writing and literature on the college level. I wrote my first novel when I thirteen. It wasn’t a mystery. It was about a group of teenagers who go on a trip in a van across the United States, and have wacky experiences in each location where they stop. After I pecked out each chapter on a manual typewriter, I gave it to my best friend and then I watch her read it. It thrilled me to see her smile and laugh. Knowing I'd created a story that entertained someone made me want to be a writer. I spent a lot of my professional life writing nonfiction, academic papers and technical manuals—decidedly not entertaining, but that’s what people paid me to write. Now I’m delighted to be writing fiction again and hoping that my books are as fun to read as what I wrote when I was thirteen.

What's one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?
Join a critique group, ponder the comments you get, and take what’s useful from them. You’ll also learn a lot about writing by analyzing what other people in the group write. 

What's your favorite season/weather?
Warm and humid, believe it or not. Unfortunately, I can’t have it year-round because I live around Washington, D.C., where there are four seasons. Winter is my least favorite.

Who do you imagine is your reader?
My reader enjoys the puzzle element of a traditional whodunit and does not want a brutally real depiction of violence and crime. The newspaper and 24-hour TV news provide that. My books have no serial killers, terrorists, child molesters, or drug lords. Yet such people have the same motives for murder as our neighbors might have—greed, warped love for a person or a cause, self-protection, and revenge. I can write a realistic mystery by exploring the reasons people resort to violence, but I don’t need to put the blood and gore on the page.   

Where is BY COOK OR BY CROOK available?
BY COOK OR BY CROOK came out as a mass market paperback and an e-book in all formats. A large-print hard back will come out in March. You can buy a paper copy at Barnes & Noble and mystery bookstores. You can also order it from Kensington (the publisher), from Amazon, and from independent bookstores. The ebook is available from the usual vendors.

How can readers find out more about you?
My website,, has more information about the first two books in the series, trivia and quizzes on mysteries, details about the short stories I’ve published, and a complete short story, “Delicious Death,” my first culinary mystery. 

Val parked in front of Nadia’s Cape Cod, bleary-eyed from a late night. Describing and pricing the mouthwatering dishes she could prepare for the club party had taken longer than expected. She walked past Nadia’s Lexus in the driveway and glanced at the bed of river rock where the wood tennis racket had burned. A good rain would wash away any trace of the fire. No rain in today’s forecast though. No cool breeze off the bay either.
The creek behind the house had barely a ripple, and Nadia’s kayak sat motionless next to her dock.

Val climbed the porch steps and rang the bell twice. She pounded on the door. No answer. Nadia wasn’t the type to oversleep or forget an appointment. Unlikely a woman in her forties would have a heart attack, but maybe she’d fallen and hit her head. Val tried the knob. It turned.

She poked her head into the hall. “Nadia?” No answer. “Anybody home?” she shouted up the stairs. Again, only silence.

She walked toward the back of the house, the floorboards creaking with each step. She froze at the entrance to the kitchen.

Nadia lay on the floor. An alabaster doll with open eyes. . .

Thanks for stopping by today, Maya.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Queen's Garden

Did anyone watch The Queen's Garden on PBS? I used to walk by Buckingham Palace on my way to work when I lived in London and could see all the trees behind the Palace walls and often wondered what was behind there. Buckingham Palace Gardens are a lovely oasis in the heart of London.

Buckingham Palace Garden

Friday, January 16, 2015

Foreclosed by Traci Tyne Hilton

Foreclosed by Traci Tyne Hilton is the first in the Mitzi Neuhaus series. It was an enjoyable cozy mystery and gave a little insight into the real estate industry. Foreclosed is currently free for Kindle.

Mitzy Neuhaus is the top selling Realtor in Portland, but even her office is dead in this economy. Foreclosed is the word no homeowner wants to hear and Mitzy is determined to save the incredible mansion on her street from that fate. But with the homeowner desperate to keep Mitzy away from his property and Alonzo, the dangerously hot rival investor trying to snatch it out from under her, Mitzy knows she has to work fast, or the economy won’t be the only thing dead… 

Foreclosed is currently free for Kindle.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Cozy Mystery Giveaway

If you have an e-reader and haven't looked at Smashwords, hop on over and take a look. Their books are available in a multitude of different formats.

High Tide on Smashwords is currently free

High Tide - Lowenna Series

Giovanna Matthews settles happily into the English west country village of Lowenna, but a storm is about to rock her world. Distressing the ladies from the knitting circle, a body drifts in with a high tide. Unconvinced the death is an accident, Gia leaves no pebble unturned while sleuthing her way around the village. Her delving further disrupts village life much to the distress of many villagers who want every rock to stay firmly in place. Meanwhile, her boyfriend, David, has an unwelcome visitor who threatens to unravel the bonds that tie him and Gia. Can Gia solve the mystery and encourage the visitor to leave before her anchor in the 
village is uprooted and she too is cast out to sea? 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Armed and Dangerous by Madison Johns

Armed and Outrageous, Book 1Armed and Dangerous by Madison Johns was different from what I expected and I did find it a bit over the top with two seniors divulging TMI. (It's currently free for Kindle)

From Goodreads: Agnes Barton is not your typical senior citizen living in Tadium, MI, on the shores of Lake Huron. She drives a red hot Mustang, shops at Victoria's Secret, rankles local police officials, and has a knack for sticking her nose where it doesn't belong. 

I wasn't too sure how to write my thoughts on this book. There were some funny moments, but others were too embellished and not like a usual cozy mystery. Below are reviews on Goodreads which I think covers what most reviewers are saying.

Reviews From Goodreads:
1. I wanted to love this book, I really did. And while I found a good portion of it to be humorous, there were also situations that left me wishing I could gouge out my mind's eye. I feel like it had a good plot, but that the story could have been told a bit more concisely. The idea of a senior citizen sleuth with a touch of a wild side was intriguing to me, just for the simple fact that is shows your life doesn't end just because you're getting older. However, I felt that the author went overboard in trying to make Agnes' character edgy. Entertaining for what it was, but I don't foresee myself reading more from this series. 

2. I'm going to stick with this through to the end, but so far I'm not really getting into this. Lots of veering way from the story and a little crass in places. Some of the writing doesn't flow and it is taking away from the mystery for me. However, I am intrigued by the main plot and will stick with it until the end and normally I just stop books I'm not enjoying, so that says something about Agnes and Eleanor and their sleuthing adventures. Compelling ideas, and I love the idea of an older female detective duo, but too much crude humor and disjointed writing for my mystery tastes. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Downton Abbey

I know it's a bit late but as everyone is now watching the next season of Downton Abbey on Sunday evenings I thought I'd share their Christmas video - it's hilarious. (Parts one and two)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Women Who Do Too Much by Anne Wilson Schaef

I received this calendar by Anne Wilson Schaef for Christmas and was interested to read the Saturday page. I do tend to clean my desk and surroundings before I start writing and had thought of it as procrastinating too. But on reflection I prefer to work in an uncluttered area and can begin writing without distractions.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Fort Worth at Christmas

Downtown Fort Worth has changed so much over the years and we now have a square where Main Street used to run through the town. Along with a view of the court house, fountains and a myriad of restaurants, Santa has landed in the middle of the square. The Chisholm Trail mural (depicting when the cattle trail drives came through Fort Worth 1867-1875) stands behind the fountains where there once was a parking lot.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Jubiliation II - The Colors of Christmas

Jubilation II is a fun Christmas program at the African American Jubilee Theatre in Fort Worth. Old Motown songs were sung with the words changed to those of a Christmas theme and old Christmas songs and carols were energetically accompanied with dancing. The Jubilee Theatre is a small and intimate theatre that has been in Fort Worth for over three decades. Apart from the marvelous plays and shows that are put on, you immediately feel a warmth when you walk in. It is obvious that both the staff and actors enjoy welcoming people into their theatre.