Thursday, December 16, 2010

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff by Don Bruns (Oceanview)

I forgot this one yesterday when I posted what I've been reading (it was still on my kitchen table).

The author thinks this Florida caper is about stumble bums James Lessor and Skip Moore because they're newly licensed private investigators. Everybody who's ever loved an Old English Sheepdog will quickly realize that it's about Garcia, the Sheepie who works at the petting zoo at a traveling carnival where James and Skip attempt their first professional investigators.

If you're worn out with holiday shopping, cooking, and decorating, spend an evening with these guys. You'll realize you've had a great day after all!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What I've Been Reading & Prizes

You know the old saying, "the hurrider I go, the behinder I get"? Well, that's been my life lately. I may have to go back to work full time to catch up with things! I've been reading, but I just haven't had time to write full reviews. So, I decided to just let you know what books I've enjoyed recently and a couple of sentences about them. Like my life, they're in no particular order.

Set the Night on Fire by Libby Fischer Hellmann (Allium Press of Chicago)
This terrific thriller moves from contemporary Chicago to the one of the City's riotous times—the 1960s. The reader meets a group of the students of that turbulent era, sees the effects of their actions, and learns their motivations, all this woven into a nail-biting story taking place in the present. Allow time to savor this read!

The Cruel Ever After by Ellen Hart (Minotaur)
I've been reading Ellen Hart for nearly 20 years, and she's never told the same story twice! Successful restauranteur Jane Lawless is stunned when a man from her past surfaces into her life. Readers won't be surprised that the man brings with him a trail of murder, kidnapping, and stolen artifacts. Readers will, however, be amazed at the twists and turns they'll make before all is resolved. Don't miss this one!

Murder Your Darlings by J. J. Murphy (Obsidian)
I've always enjoyed writings of Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley and tales of the Algonquin's famed Round Table. So, when I picked up this first in a new series with these literaiti as protagonists, I was delighted. If you like sparkling wit and brilliant repartee, you're likely to enjoy this one.

The Huckleberry Murders by Patrick F. McManus (Simon & Schuster)
Who'd have thought a simple berry-picking outing would lead to murder, Social Security fraud, and illegal aliens? Quick answer: Patrick McManus. Once again Blight County is awash in characters, outrageous schemes, and hilarious adventures. McManus is always good for a belly laugh.

A Stranger in Mayfair by Charles Finch (Minotaur)
Gentleman sleuth Charles Lenox finds it takes all his wits to balance a new marriage and a new seat in Victoria's House of Commons with his successful detective business. His current client, also a House member waffles after requesting Lenox to investigate the murder of a footman. Quite naturally, the strange behavior only increases Lenox's interest in solving the crime.

The Lies That Bind by Kate Carlisle (Obsidian)
The third in the Bibliophle Mystery series is just right for a cozy night by the fireplace—a light mystery, a touch of romance, and a great mixture of characters, some quirky, some not.

The Last Confession by Solomon Jones (Minotaur)
This one's a fast-moving thriller/police procedural about a cop's final three days before retirement, colored by an old case featuring a serial killer who calls himself "the angel of death." Watch out, this one could keep you up at night!

Every Bitter Thing by Leighton Gage (Soho Crime)
When Chief Inspector Mario Silva is called in to investigate the strange murder of the son of Venezuela's Foreign Minister, he has no idea that this will be the first of many nearly identical crimes across Brazil. The thread that ties all the crimes together is both baffling to the police and horrifying to the reader. Enjoy the ride!

You can get a free Kindle download of Leighton Gage's earlier Mario Silva novel, Blood of the Wicked as a free download, free from his publisher.

The Day of Small Things by Vicki Lane (Dell)
Lane's first stand-alone novel explores the early life of Miss Birdie, a character from her Anthony-nominated Appalachian series. Readers get a glimpse of the hardships Miss Birdie will endure when they meet her in the first chapter—at her birth
Black night had come and owls called from the sighing hemlocks as the exhausted woman bent an expressionless face to her red, squalling infant. At last she spoke. "It'll allus be the least un, fer there won't be no more. Reckon that'll do fer a name—call it Least."

Lane writes of the mountain people in a lyrical voice that causes the reader to slow down—and savor the words and the story.

Third Degree by Maggie Barbieri (Minotaur)
Alison Bergeron isn't thinking about bodies when she stops in a coffee shop to get some caffeine resolve before meeting her fiance's parents. Maybe she should have been braver, because just as she enters the shop, two men break into a fight, Alison gets a black eye, and one of the men collapses and dies. Things go from bad to worse before this case is resolved. "Third" is the fifth in the series, and one of the best.

India Black by Carol K. Carr (Berkley Prime Crime)
Reshelve FANNY HILL and MOLL FLANDERs—there's a new bint in town, India Black, consultant to the British Prime Minister on Affairs Foreign and Domestic. The first person sending me an email (mysteryheel at naming another book featuring a bint will win an advance copy of India Black.

FTC Disclaimer - These books were provided by the publisher.

Happy holidays, all!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Contest - Pet Vet Story

Elaine Viets' mystery shopper, Josie Marcus, is dating a hunky young veterinarian. Josie and Ted become even closer in the latest Mystery Shopper novel, An Uplifting Murder. It's a great read, perfect for traditional mystery lovers.

Now, to bring even more interest to the new book, Elaine is sponsoring a "Your Pet Vet Story" contest. Here's her information.
Josie is seriously dating Dr. Ted Scottsmeyer. He's going to be around for at least one more book. I need good vet stories. Tell me about a memorable trip to the vet and you could win a free copy of "An Uplifting Murder" and get your pet's name in my new book. Prefer stories that are not too sad. Click on "contests" at my websiste.

I'm giving away five free copies of "Uplifting."

Remember, books make great gifts, especially when you buy them at an independent bookstore!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Guest Blogger - Krista Davis

In August I had the opportunity to go on one of Molly Weston’s fabulous North Carolina author tours. Along with my Killer Cozy friends, Avery Aames, Riley Adams (Elizabeth Spann Craig), and Ellery Adams, I had a ball. Molly’s interviews and author signings were the highlights of the trip. A warning to authors planning to tour with Molly -- she never asks the same question twice! That fresh, unrehearsed quality is one reason people love her author interviews. You never know what might happen!

Molly denies any domestic diva tendencies, but don’t let her fool you. I know Southern graciousness when I see it. Being a bit of a domestic diva myself, I loved the coziness of Molly’s home. Nestled in trees, it has a huge, wonderful fireplace that made me want to curl up in a cushy chair with one of the hundreds of books lining the shelves.

While we were talking, Molly proudly told me about her daughter Erin’s horticulture business. As part of that business, Erin makes and sells gorgeous Southern Magnolia wreaths at the State Farmer’s Market in Raleigh, North Carolina. We’re talking really beautiful natural wreaths that would make Martha Stewart drool.

If you’re familiar with my books, you know that while I love domestic divas, I also poke a little bit of fun at them. In THE DIVA COOKS A GOOSE, Natasha, one name, please, like Cher, has declared pink and turquoise the new red and green for Christmas decorations. Sophie, who is Natasha’s rival, prefers to keep things simple but lovely. Natasha turns her nose up at Sophie’s traditional pine greenery, and it drives her crazy that their friends always gather in Sophie’s old-fashioned kitchen featuring an ancient stone fireplace.

Immediately after my fun trip to North Carolina, my copy edits were due for THE DIVA COOKS A GOOSE. As I read, I realized -- oh no! -- I poked fun at Natasha’s magnolia wreaths. Would Molly think I did that to insult her or her daughter? Heaven forbid!

Now, in my defense, I wasn’t making fun of magnolia wreaths. They’re classic Southern Christmas decor. Like a Chanel suit, they never go out of style. Natasha, who loves complicated crafts, paints her magnolia wreaths turquoise and adds glitter. In one notable instance, she pairs giant turquoise magnolia flowers with life-size pink peacocks wearing white wreaths on their necks. Ah, the joys of Christmas decorating! Just this past week I heard that blue is back for Christmas lights. We may see giant turquoise magnolia flowers and pink peacocks yet. Did I mention how much fun it is to write about domestic divas? Especially one like Natasha, who is always trying to outdo everyone else.

Should you have the good fortune to be in the North Carolina State Farmer’s Market in Raleigh this holiday season, look for Erin Weston and her beautiful magnolia wreaths. Tell her Sophie sent you.

Krista Davis writes the Domestic Diva Mystery series. Her first book, THE DIVA RUNS OUT OF THYME was nominated for an Agatha award. THE DIVA COOKS A GOOSE will be in bookstores December 7th. Watch the book trailer at Krista's website or You Tube.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Take Your Child to a Bookstore

Bookstores hold a place in the hearts and times of our community. They are places to discover an author, a story, a life. Nothing affords the conversation and interaction among books and book lovers that a bookstore does. In the future, whether you download your story or pluck a volume off a shelf, a bookstore will be able to accommodate. But in order for bookstores to flourish and thrive, we must expose future generations to the unique pleasures they offer. On December 4th, 2010, take the child in your life to a bookstore. Watch his face light up as you give him free access, not just to a new book, but to tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NEGATIVE IMAGE by Vicki Delany (Poisoned Pen Press)

Mama said there'd be days like this—but she didn't say they'd come in bunches, like bananas.

Bad days really have come in bunches to Trafalgar, British Columbia. A high-rolling fashion photographer is murdered in his hotel room; Sergeant John Winters' wife is accused of the crime; a series of home burglaries is plaguing the town; Constable Molly Smith's father has a serious fall; and, Molly herself is being stalked. Let's not even mention that the RCMP investigator has already made his mind up about the murder.

I was quickly caught up in the small town's troubles and its people. Delany delivers a great story while letting new-to-the-series know enough about each continuing character to become involved immediately. This traditional police procedural is not too graphic for most and edgy enough for all. I look forward to more time with Winters and Smith and their assorted friends, families, co-workers, and the obligatory crooks.

FTC Disclosure - This book was provided by the publisher.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Oops! and another Video link

How like me to post a contest and forget to announce the winner! MommyWantsToRead posted the most identifications of the "King of Kindle" video by Parnell Hall.

If you enjoyed that video, Parnell made an updated version at Bouchercon which you may also enjoy.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

THE SHIFTERS from Alexandra Sokoloff

I got this letter in my email today. Thought I'd pass it along to you!

Dear Readers:

With The Shifters I’ve had the opportunity to write something in a completely different, though parallel, genre from what I usually write. My amazing friend, bestselling paranormal mystery/romance phenomenon Heather Graham, asked me to develop a paranormal trilogy with her and our sister dark suspense author Deborah LeBlanc, and together we spun a story spanning three interconnected books, set in our favorite city, New Orleans, about three extraordinary sisters who must fight to keep the peace between the fractious supernatural communities who live there under the radar.

Fair warning: The Shifters is spooky and suspenseful and colorful but not necessarily as dark as what I usually write. In fact, there may even be that elusive happy ending (note man on cover!). If you’re looking for something bloodier, I hope you’ll check out my latest supernatural crime thriller, Book of Shadows (read on below). But if you’ve been too scared to read my other books (and you know who you are), I think you’ll love The Shifters.

- Alex

Book One is The Keepers, a USA Today bestseller, out now from Harlequin Nocturne. Book Three is The Wolven, coming November 25.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Elaine Viets' Uplifting Contest

Win a shopping spree for your mind or your body to celebrate An Uplifting Murder. Josie Marcus mystery shops a lingerie store in my sixth mystery shopper novel. Enter a drawing to win a $100 gift certificate to the bookstore or the lingerie store of your choice. Gentlemen, we don't discriminate. You can win either the bookstore gift certificate or dazzling under-duds for yourself or the woman of your choice. Just go to, click on "contests" and fill out the form.

The contest is open through Nov. 20

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Calling All British Crime Fans

Kathy Ackley is leading another of her wonderful British crime fiction tours—this time featuring
A tour of Hereford, where you will see the 14th century Mappa Mundi in the cathedral and meet Phil Rickman for lunch

A tour of Shrewsbury, setting for the Brother Cadfael series; lunch with Edward Marston, who will talk about his novels set in the Welsh borders; visits to the abbey of St. Peter & St. Paul and Stokesay Castle, a fortified medieval manor house

An exploration of the villages that inspired Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins series and a walking tour of Ludlow (often called the "prettiest town in England"); tea with Kate Charles in Ludlow; supper and a wine tasting at the Bodenham winery

A visit to Monmouth, on which Andrew Taylor’s Lydmouth series is based; a drive into the Forest of Dean; lunch at the Speech House with Andrew Taylor; visits to Hellens, a 13th c. monastery, and Berkeley Castle

A visit to Hengest Court, home of "Black" Vaughn, which inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles; a drive along the line of Offa’s Dyke to Hay on Wye for free time to explore the bookshops; tea at the Skirrid Inn

Attendance at CrimeFest in Bristol, 19-22 May, with panel sessions, interviews of featured guest authors, book signings, a Gala dinner, and a Sunday buffet dinner

A panoramic coach tour of Bristol and a short guided walk of the city

A day trip to Torquay for a private tour of Greenway, Agatha Christie’s summer home, with Christie expert John Curran as our guide

For more information about he wonderful tour, see Kathy's website.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Macavity Award Winners

Janet Rudolph's Mystery Readers International nominate and vote on these awards (named for the "mystery cat" in T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats) every year. Janet presented the awards at the Thursday evening opening ceremonies at Bouchercon in San Francisco. This years winners—ta da:

Best Mystery Novel: Ken Bruen & Reed Farrel Coleman: Tower (Busted Flush Press)

Best First Mystery Novel: Alan Bradley: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Delacorte)

Best Mystery Nonfiction: P.D. James: Talking about Detective Fiction (Alfred A. Knopf)

Best Mystery Short Story: Hank Phillippi Ryan: "On the House" (Quarry: Crime Stories by New England Writers, Level Best Books)

Sue Feder Historical Mystery: Rebecca Cantrell: A Trace of Smoke (Forge)

If you're looking for new authors these winners are a great place to start! For a great mystery blog, check out Janet's "Mystery Fanfare."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Anthony Winners

Thanks to Janet Rudolph for posting this on "Mystery Fanfare"!

The Anthony Awards, named after writer/critic Anthony Boucher, for whom Bouchercon is also named.

Best Novel: The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny ( Minotaur)

Best First Novel: A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield (Minotaur)

Best Paperback Original: Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley (Touchstone)

Best Short Story: "On the House" by Hank Phillippi Ryan in Quarry: Crime Stories by New England Writers (Level Best Books).

Best Critical Non-Fiction: Talking About Detective Fiction by P. D. James (Knopf).

I'll post other winners announced at Bouchercon when I've had a moment to catch my breath!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

FUNDRAISING THE DEAD by Sheila Connolly (Berkley)

The first in her new "museum mystery" series is a winner for Connolly. Nell Pratt is the director of development (read fundraiser) for the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society in Philadelphia which houses treasures of national importance. On the day of the largest-ever fundraising gala, Nell is dismayed when third-generation board member Marty Terwilliger insists on a sit-down meeting to report missing items from a collection recently donated by her family. Nell manages to dismiss Martha physically, but a cloud of worry remains behind. The cloud turns stormy the next day when Nell finds a body. As Nell looks further into Marty's claims, she realizes that the death may not have been an unfortunate accident.

Nell is not perfect, but she's smart. Marty can be annoying, but she's not only smart, but she's related to half of Philidelphia's old guard. Fundraising the Dead promises to be the beginning of a great new series.

FTC Disclosure - This book was provided by the publisher.

A CUP OF JO by Sandra Balzo (Severn House)

Excitement is brewing at Uncommon Grounds—the historic depot site will be a stop on the new commuter route to Milwaukee, and Maggy Thorsen is ready for the coffee shop to become an essential part of the run. To advertise the business, she's commissioned a huge inflatable coffee cup emblazoned with the new logo. Unfortunately, the cup is large enough to hold a body. Once again, Maggy is drawn into a murder investigation that affects her livelihood. Suburban lifestyles, partner switching, and eccentric characters enhance the action. Nothing is predictable in Brookhills, Wisconsin.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Guest Blogger - Vicki Lane

My newest book, The Day of Small Things, is firmly rooted in the beautiful place I call home. Though it’s not another Elizabeth Goodweather book, the setting is very much the same. There’s still a lot to learn about Elizabeth’s Marshall County and its folks, living and dead.

I’ve always enjoyed wandering through old graveyards, reading the headstones and speculating about the lives of those lying there. The fact that a family cemetery borders one of our pastures has allowed me to learn a good bit about my departed neighbors – and to imagine even more.

One of the saddest things about the burying places in our rural western North Carolina county is all the markers for babies – sometimes little more than a rock, or a homemade concrete rectangle.

High infant mortality was a fact of life less than a hundred years ago – a fact of life brought home to me when we first moved to our farm. Our neighbor, a weathered old great-grandfather, took a look at my year-old son.

“Hit’ll make a fine man… if it lives.”

Chilling to me – common sense to my neighbor.

Of course this shows up in my books. And in The Day of Small Things, Miss Birdie has her own special grave yard to visit.

Here’s a scene from the book – set in the graveyard on the hogback ridge. . .

Black clouds is gathering over the old fields and the dark smell of coming rain is growing strong but still I climb, step by slow step, up to the burying ground high on the hogback ridge. …

I gain the ridge and stop to catch my breath and count the familiar markers -- all sorts and all ages sprinkled over the easy crest of the ridge. When I’m rested, I pass by the granite markers, from the last forty or fifty years. They are all right fancy, deep-carved with names, dates, and bible verses. Luther and Cletus and the angels is here – one stone for me and Luther and one for Cletus and the angels. And there’s all the worn-out flowers I come to gather up, some blown and scattered by the wind across the ridge top, some still planted in the dirt of the graves, but faded to ugly now.

I get up this way several times in the year to tend my graves—I’ll clear away the Decoration Day flowers long about August and put sunflowers on each grave – big cheerful things—and though they’re plastic, they look so real I’ve seen the birds light on them. Then come December, I’ll bring poinsettias for Christmas -- red for Cletus and Luther and white for the angels.

I don’t let my family graves look as sorry as some of them up here. But law, so many folks lives away now and can’t get back but once a year for Decoration Day and sometimes, not even that.

The oldest ones are over here up at the top of the ridge – no fancy headstones, just homemade sand concrete markers and these white-painted slabs. The best folks could do, I reckon. Jacob Honeycutt’s stone is leaning some; I’ll ask Bernice’s boy to straighten it when he comes to mow.

There’s many an unmarked grave here too – but those dead lie as quiet as the rest. I’ll give every one of them a flower, come Decoration Day.

The church people sometimes looks at me kindly funny when they sees me go to jabbing them plastic flowers all around in the grass. ‘Birdie, honey,’ one asked, ‘don’t you want me to help you find where your family lays?’

Thought I was growing simple in my old age. But she didn’t mean nothing by it, just trying to be helpful. She don’t know how I can hear those who was laid there. Yes, even though their bodies has gone to earth and their bones has crumbled away, they still whisper to me, thankful to be remembered.


Talking to the dead is just part of it. There’s a lot more to Birdie than we’ve seen before this, and quite a lot her neighbor Elizabeth Goodweather never suspected. The quaint little woman who looks like everyone’s idea of a granny has had a surprising past and she’s not done yet.

No wonder she needed her own book!

Vicki Lane is the author of The Day of Small Things and of the Elizabeth Goodweather Appalachian Mysteries—Signs in the Blood, Art's Blood, Old Wounds, Anthony-nominated In a Dark Season, and Under the Skin (coming from Bantam Dell in 2011.) Vicki draws her inspiration from the rural western NC county where she and her family have lived on a mountainside farm since 1975. Visit Vicki at her daily blog, her website or go HERE to learn more about The Day of Small Things.

LEAVE A COMMENT TO BE ENTERED IN A DRAWING FOR A SIGNED COPY OF THE DAY OF SMALL THINGS!! Check the comments on this post on the 8th for the name of the winner.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

ALL THINGS UNDYING by Marcia Talley (Severn House)

Lucky for me, I got ahold of an early copy of Marcia's terrific new Hannah Ives mystery. I like Hannah nearly as much as I like Marcia, so I'm always glad to give a shout out to the two of them. This morning this letter from Marcia landed in my mailbox. I thought you'd enjoy reading it before you read All Things Undying.

Fall greetings from Annapolis, Maryland!
I’m delighted to announce that the ninth Hannah Ives mystery, All Things Undying, has just been released in the U.S. At the same time, you can buy the previous book in the series, Without a Grave, in trade paper format.

Way back in 1998 when I wrote the first novel in the series, I consciously made Hannah's husband, Paul, a math professor at the U.S. Naval Academy because I knew the Academy had a faculty exchange program with Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, England. I'd have to do research in England, right? Alas, by the time I got around to writing the book that became All Things Undying, the exchange program between the two schools had been discontinued. I'm not easily discouraged, however, so I sent Hannah and Paul back to Dartmouth to visit friends they'd made during an earlier visit.

But, Hannah’s holiday on “the English Riviera” turns topsy-turvy when a stranger stops her on the street to deliver a message from her long-dead mother. Stunned and curious, Hannah’s inquiries lead to a budding friendship with Susan Parker, a popular television medium whose accurate predictions leave fans and critics alike puzzled and intrigued. In spite of her skepticism, Hannah schedules a private reading. But on the morning they are to meet, Susan is struck by a hit-and-run driver.

Hannah’s passion to right a wrong soon draws her beneath the surface of the seemingly idyllic community where more than one person has a reason to want Susan dead. Or, does the answer lie in the past, in the final, desperate days of World War Two? Has a disaster that was covered up for decades claimed yet another victim? Did a message from beyond the grave lead Susan Parker to a cold-hearted killer?

"Told in the first person by the likable Hannah, the novel combines present and past effectively, with vivid details of wartime in the English countryside woven throughout the engaging story.” – Booklist.

“Hannah is so endearing that even readers who scoff at second sight will be touched.” – Kirkus.

Click here to visit my website for details!
To launch All Things Undying, I will have several book-signing events. For my hometown friends, please mark your calendars for the Annapolis launch party at 7:00 pm on Thurs., October 7 at the Barnes and Noble in Annapolis Harbour Center. On Friday, October 22, at 7:30 pm, I'll be doing a reading/signing at The Annapolis Bookstore on Maryland Avenue. Be there or be square!

Later in the month, I'll be attending Bouchercon, the world mystery conference, in San Francisco.

If you can’t make a signing, autographed copies can be ordered from a fine Independent Bookstore near you, like my good friends at Mystery Loves Company, Mystery Lovers Bookshop, or The Poisoned Pen. You can also order copies from Barnes & Noble or from You Know Who. All Things Undying, is a first-edition hardcover, so you'll be doing a kind deed for me—and a lot of other people—if you request that your local library order a copy for their mystery collections.

For more information and a complete schedule of events, please visit my website, or drop by my blog, which I update from time to time with news, ruminations and photographs.

And since some of you have asked, allow me to mention that my next Hannah Ives mystery finds Hannah back in her home territory—Annapolis, MD -- with all the usual suspects. In the meantime, to help ease you into a British frame of mind, why not stir up a batch of

Janet's Scones
"Horn Hill House" Dartmouth, Devon

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen
1/2 cup raisins, currents or dried fruit bits
1/2 cup sour cream
1 large egg

Combine dry ingredients. Grate butter into flour mixture on large holes of a box grater, using your fingers to work it in ‘til mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in raisins. In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and egg until smooth. Using your hands, knead sour cream mixture into flour mixture, pressing dough against the bowl until it forms a ball. Turn out on lightly floured board. Pat into a 7- to 8-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. of sugar. Cut into 8 rounds or triangles. Place on a cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake 400˚F ‘til golden, about 15 to 17 minutes. While still warm, split, slather with Devonshire clotted cream and top with strawberry jam.

Enjoy while reading All Things Undying, and know how grateful Hannah and I are for your support.

Fair winds and following seas,

Saturday, October 02, 2010

King of Kindle by Parnell Hall

Great author and overall funny man of mystery has a delightful video on YouTube. I think you'll enjoy it.

Let me know how many other mystery authors you can identify. There's a prize for the one who gets the most named.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Guest Blogger - Carolyn J. Rose

How to Escape the
Muddle in the Middle

by Carolyn J. Rose

Writers get lots of advice—solicited and unsolicited—from family, friends, and other writers. (Okay, on the days my skin is particularly thin it seems more like criticism or fault-finding, but to steer away from that tangent, I’ll call it advice.)

After a while, we learn how to accept those comments without cringing, crying, or clawing out the eyes of the person offering. Eventually we learn how to weed out comments that are irrelevant, mean-spirited, or just not helpful. Then we consider what might be valid, what bits of advice to take.

One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever took was, “Know how your story ends before you begin.”

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

If you know where you’re going, if you’ve figured out the ultimate goal, then all you have to do is blaze a trail from plot point to plot point, from immediate goal to immediate goal, and you’ll arrive at your destination. Right?



Well, in theory.

My problem is that once I leave the inciting incident behind and enter the valley of plot twists, character quirks, and literary re-visioning, it’s easy to lose sight of the path to the ultimate goal and the mountaintop of story resolution. Without that landmark in view, it’s far too easy to wander off into shadowy and uncharted of What-If Woods.

Legend has it that some writers have been lost forever in this forest. They wander in circles, following plot points dropped by other writers, ignoring signal flares sent up by members of their critique groups, huddling at nightfall around a campfire of first drafts, wrapped in a blanket of discarded adjectives and adverbs.

I’ve been deep in that forest, surrounded by ideas sprouting like jungle vines and characters clamoring for larger roles, wishing there was such a thing as a literary GPS.

But while I floundered, I learned some ways to find my way again:

Forget about progress. Stay in one place and think.
Review the immediate goals.
Let your characters lead you
Cast off in a number of directions and compare results
Set a new final destination

Let’s look at the perks, pitfalls, and perils of each method.

Forget about progress. Stay in one place and think.
While taking a few days off from writing to reassess can be healthy for both writer and story, I’ve found that a few days can too quickly become a few weeks. Once I stop keeping that daily appointment with my keyboard, I start making other appointments—with books, bon-bons, friends, fruity drinks, and TV series I’ve cached.

Thinking is good. Overthinking to the point of the paralysis that leads to procrastination is not so good.

Set a time limit on how long you’ll allow your unconscious to work on the problem. Then try another method.

Review the immediate goals.
I call these the IGs to distinguish them from the UGs, the ultimate goals.
There are a lot of IGs on the road to the UGs, IGs created to generate conflict, tension, and suspense. But sometimes the conflict over those IGs can become mundane, irrelevant, and even distracting. A trip into a literary cul de sac isn’t bad, but a full-fledged detour might be catastrophic. So make sure most of your IGs are pointing, if not at the UGs, then in their general direction.

Let your characters lead you.
I might hesitate to admit to a psychologist that I let my characters take the lead, but writers will understand this isn’t a sign of mental imbalance. There comes a point in every book where my fictional friends start to act out their roles on the stage of my dreams. “If you want to take a curtain call in a sequel,” I tell them, “then you’d better come up with some ideas for act two of this drama.”

Usually, they do. The problem is that I have to know who to listen to. Trusting the killer to lead me will result in a far different ending than trusting the detective. And trusting too many of them could take me to a whole new level of lost. So, consider the source(s) before you write more.

Cast off in a number of directions and compare the results.
The strategy here is the same one you employ when you get off a clogged freeway and go miles out of your way just to keep moving.

I put aside my original outline (and, for the record, it’s more of a collection of spotty notes than an outline) and set off on a plot-twist trail to the left, roughing out the possibilities for two or three chapters, possibilities that include the emotions and actions of my characters. Returning to my jumping off point, I then bushwhack to the right.

Sometimes this casting about makes the problems with the first path clear and I race back along it to repair logic holes or add character reaction and thought to make the trail more evident and get the momentum I need to get out of the woods. Sometimes, however, I strike a new trail that’s more promising than the one I first plotted, a trail that will lead to a more satisfying ending.

Being a Virgo, I’m always reluctant to abandon previous plotting or to kill off characters I’d thought would go the distance. But I remind myself that this is fiction—and a first draft at that. I take a deep breath and go for the ultimate solution.

Set a new final destination.
Yes, it’s a last-ditch method, a new ultimate goal, with a new kind of climax, and new resolution for the ending.

In mystery, this usually means deciding that someone else is the killer and/or that a few other someones might be shot, stabbed, strangled, poisoned, pummeled, or pushed off a cliff along the road to resolution.

Have I mentioned that I’m a Virgo? Yes, I see I have. Then you know that the degree of difficulty on this is up there with landing a quadruple axel on the ice rink.

First, this involves admitting (if only to myself) that I didn’t know how the story would end, that I hadn’t really taken that piece of advice I mentioned earlier. Talk about embarrassment and humiliation.

Second, I have to rearrange all those index cards and sticky notes. Worse, I may have to toss some of them—or at least put them in a box (neatly) for future reference.

But, if I’ve been stuck long enough, the choice is to do all of the above or to shelve the whole book. So, I close the door to my office, throw a small-scale fit, and then get on with it.

What are the ways you get out of What-If Woods when you’re stuck in the middle of a book? Drop by and leave a comment. I’d love to add to my list of possibilities.

For the record, when I began writing Hemlock Lake, a solo project, I had a clear idea of how and where it would end and was able to bushwhack steadily toward that landmark through a series of arsons and murders in a remote community in the Catskill Mountains. When my husband Mike Nettleton and I wrote The Big Grabowski, however, our concept of the ending was, to say the least, vague. We knew only that the killer was one of the many suspects we’d planted in a quirky town on the Oregon Coast. It was only when we were about two-thirds of the way through that we decided for sure that the killer had to be …

Sorry. I’d love to tell you, but my publisher won’t let me.

Carolyn J. Rose grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She teaches novel-writing in Vancouver, Washington, and founded the Vancouver Writers’ Mixers. Her hobbies are reading, gardening, and not cooking. Visit her at Deadly Duos Mysteries.

Friday, September 24, 2010

FATAL UNDERTAKING by Mark de Castrique (Poisoned Pen Press)

Who could stop reading a book that starts with, "You want to borrow a casket?" Part-time funeral director and part-time deputy Barry Clayton is incredulous when Archie Donovan makes his request, but he's won over when Archie explains it's for the Jaycees' haunted house at the Halloween charity event. Few mystery readers will be surprised when a dead man turns up in the coffin. The predictable death is followed by some pretty nifty police work and a lot of national news coverage. The investigation in the seemingly close-knit North Carolina mountain community quickly highlights family feuds, large-scale Christmas tree high jackings, and just enough humor to lighten the occasional dark scenes.

I always enjoy de Castrique's books, and this one rates among his best. Come visit North Carolina. You'll be glad you did!

FTC Disclosure - Book was provided by the publisher

Thursday, September 09, 2010

What I Read on My Summer Vacation

I started back on my monthly talks at the Cary Library today. We take summers off because I'm always busy at the daylily farm and the library is busy with kids out of school. We had a good group of folks ready to get back to talking about mysteries. I shared some of the great books I read while we were on hiatus. If you'd like the handout, click here. Let me know if you share my appreciation for any of these.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Guest Blogger - Lisa Bork

What’s My Brand?

I met Molly Weston at Bouchercon 2009, my first fan conference. On day one, Molly offered her card and snapped my picture during the Author Go-Round, where I gave a spiel about my debut novel, For Better, For Murder: a Broken Vows mystery (an Agatha Award finalist for 2009 Best First Novel). On the last day of the conference, Molly picked up my book during the Book Bazaar. Then she took my picture again.

Don’t ask me what happened to those pictures. Molly may be keeping them for blackmail. [Note from Molly: I don't think I'd make much money as a blackmailer for this photo of Lisa!]

This past May I sat next to Molly during the SinC breakfast at Malice Domestic, where she invited me to guest blog. I accepted, not because I particularly like to blog but because I like Molly. So here I am.

I’ve been thinking about branding lately—and by that I mean setting realistic reader expectations for a mystery series. For Richer, For Danger, the sequel to For Better, For Murder, releases this month. So, what is this brand? Or, after writing four books in this series, how can I prime a reader?

My protagonist, Jolene Asdale, lives in a small, touristy Finger Lakes town. She’s married to Ray Parker, a deputy sheriff. They butt heads, mainly over murder and Jolene’s bipolar sister, Erica.

In For Richer, For Danger, after years of ambivalence about parenthood, Finger Lakes sports car dealer Jolene Asdale is now driven to adopt her foster child, the daughter of fugitive robbery suspects. But some major roadblocks arise, including an open hit-and-run case and a recent murder—with the silent, uncooperative birthmother as the prime suspect.

As for the brand…count on lighthearted, fast-paced escapism. Count on Jolene struggling to "get-in-the-know.” Count on Erica to do the unexpected—more than once. Count on Ray to be smoking hot in his uniform and always “in-the-know.” Count on Jolene’s theatrical mechanic, Cory, to steal the show and make the right choices. Count on a page-turner. Count on an underlying heartwarming love between spouses, sisters, and friends.

And I hope you enjoy reading these books as much as I enjoyed writing them.

So, as an author, is it more fun to write a series with known characters? As a reader, what draws you to a series? What keeps you coming back? Can you immediately tell when a series will become a successful brand?

Want to win a copy of Lisa's For Richer, For Danger? You'll be very lucky if you win! To enter the contest, just email Lisa at with "MM Drawing" on the subject line. Entries should be emailed by midnight Friday, September 10.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

AN IMPARTIAL WITNESS by Charles Todd (William Morrow)

When World War I battleground nurse Bess Crawford is charged with escorting wounded soldiers back to England, she watches one of her charges closely. He's severely burned and requires special attention, so it's easy for her to notice the photograph of his wife pinned to his chest where he can see it often.

Once Bess has turned her responsibilities over to a hospital, she makes her way to London for a respite before going to her parents' home. At Waterloo Station she sees a distraught young woman clinging to an officer who turns and boards his train. Bess is stunned, not because this is an unusual occurrence, but because the woman is the wife of the pilot she's just escorted to London. Bess tries to follow the woman, but she loses her in the crowd. No amateur sleuth can walk away from such a scene—especially when she learns the woman has turned up dead!

During the Great War, there were no forensics, little communication among law enforcement communities, but there was an intrepid nurse with a great deal of curiosity who wanted to put things right. An Impartial Witness is a marvelous addition to this impressive series.

FTC Disclaimer - Book was provided by the publisher.

ROYAL BLOOD by Rhys Bowen (Berkley Prime Crime)

Pack your furs and jewels, Lady Georgiana is going to a royal wedding and you're invited! An old school chum whom Georgie didn't know was a princess has requested that Georgie be a bridesmaid at her wedding—in the family castle in Transylvania. Unwilling to disobey a royal command, Georgie sets out with the unlikeliest maid, a dragon-like chaperone, and the chaperone's paranoid companion. Once ensconced in the castle, a heavy snowfall blocks all roads, providing the perfect background for a locked-room murder. Death isn't the only thing to watch for—the figure Georgie sees scaling the wall outside her window couldn't possibly be a vampire—or could it.

As always, an adventure with Lady Georgiana Rannoch is sheer delight.

FTC Disclaimer—Book provided by the publisher

Thursday, August 12, 2010

SKETCH ME IF YOU CAN by by Sharon Pape (Berkley)

This is a new series with an unusual twist. Sketch artist and deputy sheriff Rory McCain works for the Suffolk County Police Department. Her Uncle Mac, a private investigator, has died suddenly of an apparent heart attack. Uncle Mac left his Victorian home and PI business to Rory. She discovers that Uncle Mac had an unusual partner, Ezekiel Drummond (aka Zeke), a lawman from the 1870’s, who was shot in the back in Mac’s house. Zeke refuses to leave until he finds out who killed him and wants Rory to help him find the killer (even though the killer has to be long dead!). In exchange, he will help her investigate a current murder that was one of Uncle Mac’s cases. This unusual partnership makes for an interesting cozy, at times funny and sad with some suspense and a surprise ending. It will be interesting see how this series develops.

—Helen Jones

FTC Disclaimer - Book was provided by the publisher

CLOSET CONFIDENTIAL by Mary Jane Maffini (Berkley)

Charlotte Adams goes through life organizing things; after all, it's her business. She knows she's going to have trouble with her latest client: Lorelei Beauchamp is not only one of her mother's long-time friends, she's the image of an international line of cosmetics, and she's just lost her daughter in a tragic accident. Lorelei has the reputation of a diva. Charlotte is prepared for that, but she's totally unprepared for what Lorelei asks her to do: Prove that Anabel's death wasn't an accident—but murder.

I doubt Maffini could write directions for digging a hole without being humorous, but while humor is definitely interspersed, the plotting is crisp, red herrings are genuine, and the characters were realistic.

A BRUSH WITH DEATH by Elizabeth J. Duncan (Minotaur)

Everyone I know was charmed with Duncan's Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery winner The Cold Light of Mourning. I predict they'll be equally delighted with the sequel. Penny Brannigan is now living in the Welsh cottage she inherited from Emma Teasdale and is still cleaning out her friend's things. A packet of letters reveals things about Emma's life which surprise Penny—and cause her to wonder about a 1960's hit and run accident. As Penny investigates, she learns more about her late friend and about the village she now calls home.

Duncan offers a thought-provoking, well presented traditional cozy—and a wonderful look at Wales.

FTC Disclaimer - Book was provided by the publisher

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Guest Blogger - Elizabeth Craig

Protagonist IQ

I came across an interesting article recently on The LA Times blog, that gives White Oleander author Janet Fitchs’ ten rules for writers.  And, don’t worry, it’s not as pushy as some rules articles go (I don’t think writers are great rule-followers to begin with.)

I thought number seven was interesting:

7. Smarten up your protagonist.

Your protagonist is your reader’s portal into the story. The more observant he or she can be, the more vivid will be the world you’re creating. They don’t have to be super-educated, they just have to be mentally active. Keep them looking, thinking, wondering, remembering.

My protagonists are always pretty smart—just because, as a reader, I get frustrated with characters who don’t have original ideas or can’t (or at least try) to think their way out of a bad situation. 

I’m never a fan of the female protagonist who knows there’s a weird sound coming from her basement…while there’s a serial killer who just happens to be on the loose…and goes right down into the basement at three a.m.
But I’m also not a fan of writers who come right out and tell me that the protagonist is smart. That’s one of those things I need to be shown, not told about.  I’m always very suspicious that they’re not as smart as they seem…and look for ways for them to mess up.

I thought Agatha Christie handled Hercule Poirot’s brilliance really well—he would always brag about his “little gray cells,” which would invite other characters to laugh at him a little (and maybe the readers would laugh at him, too)—then he’d solve the case with such genius and explain his deductions with such eloquence, that all faith was restored in the little man. 

I’ve noticed that smart characters share these characteristics
A sense of humor

Good vocabulary

The ability to learn from their mistakes

They usually make sound decisions (or at least not dumb ones) in some area of their life. Some characters have a lower emotional intelligence (they have failed relationships, etc.), but still make good decisions within other aspects of their life.

They’re actively engaged in problem-solving, even if their solutions don’t always work out.

People do have many different gifts. Finding out what specifically our character is good at and then showing them excelling at it is another way to showcase our character’s intelligence.

How smart are your characters? How do you demonstrate it? 

Readers, how smart do you like protagonists to be?

Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin as Riley Adams. The latest is Delicious and Suspicious. She also writes the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink (under her own name), and blogs daily at Mystery Writing Is Murder You can also find her at Mystery Lovers Kitchen. or at 
Twitter: @elizabethscraig

Monday, August 09, 2010

A SPIDER ON THE STAIRS by Cassandra Chan (Minotaur)

It always helps an amateur sleuth to have a connection with a policeman. Philip Bethancourt, a modern dillatante, and Jack Gibbons, a Scotland Yard detective, were classmates at Oxford. Still close friends, the two often collaborate on Jack's investigations. Phillip, who's spending a dreary Christmas at his family home in Yorkshire is delighted when Jack rings up to tell him that he's been assigned a case nearby. The murder of a young girl could be one of the infamous Ashdon serial killings, and Jack must investigate.

The two have plenty to keep them busy, especially when another murder intertwines with the first. Jack follows the tried and true police trail, while Phillip picks up clues from his family, friends, and the country set he's known all his life.

The two good friends work well together in sorting out a tangled web of crime.

FTC Disclosure - Book provided by publisher

Penguin Winners

Thanks to all of you who said happy birthday to Penguin by entering the contest. Most of you replied directly to me by email with addresses. Thanks for making things easy for me.

The winners are from Klamath Falls, Oregon and Athens, Georgia.

I hope to have another contest soon.

Happy reading—and stay cool!

Friday, August 06, 2010

A DEADLY ROW by Casey Mayes (Berkley Prime Crime)

Team up a numbers-whiz puzzle maker and a retired big-city police chief and what do you get? Zach Stone's police consulting business hasn't been as busy as he'd like. Forced into retirement by a bullet to the chest at only 42, he's not nearly as content in the mountain home as Savannah (former high school math teacher and current puzzle designer). A double murder in their former home, Charlotte NC, with clues that indicate the mayor of the city will be the next victim has police puzzled—and the new chief calls Zach back as a consultant with virtually unlimited resources and housing at the luxurious Belmont Hotel. When Zach looks at the police reports, he sees that the clues seem to point to Savannah's line of expertise and the two team up in crime fighting.

Although I'm definitely not a numbers person, I thoroughly enjoyed the process Savannah used in figuring whodunnit! I will watch eagerly for more in this this new "Murder by the Numbers" series!

FTC Disclosure - Book provided by the publisher

SCOOP TO KILL by Wendy Lyn Watson (Obsidian)

Normally, Tally Jones and her cousin Bree wouldn't be guests at the Honor's Day event at the prestigious Dickerson University, but Bree's daughter Alice is a whiz kid ending her freshman year at the local school. Alice's embarrassment at her mother's hot, but unsuitable attire is quickly put on the back burner when she discovers a bludgeoned body. The victim turns out to be a PhD student who's in the midst of suing Alice's favorite (but prickly) professor for sexual harassment. Totally against her will, Tally is drawn into helping the professor—who just happens to be 'way to friendly with one of Tally's ex-boyfriend. Did I say the victim was the nephew of the police detective who is Tally's long-time friend? Town-Gown conflicts are not the least of the trouble in Dalliance TX and Tally still has to find time to keep her old-fashioned ice cream parlor, A-la-mode, running.

PEPPERONI PIZZA CAN BE MURDER by Chris Cavender (Kensington Books)

At almost every mystery convention at least one author will reinforce the adage, "You have to suspend disbelief when reading crime fiction: Amateur sleuths and private detectives don't solve murders."

Obviously pizzeria owner Eleanor Swift never went to one of these conferences! Shortly after being held up at gunpoint, after closing A Slice of Delight one evening, part-time waiter and delivery boy is accused of murdering the man whose body is found in the pizzeria's kitchen. Knowing that Greg couldn't have committed the crime, Eleanor and her sister Maddy are determined to find the killer. Unlike the police chief of Timber Ridge NC they don't pin their sights on anyone—they look for motive and opportunity among all their suspects.

Traditional mystery lovers will enjoy spending time with Eleanor and Maddy in the foothills of North Carolina.

FTC Disclosure - This book was provided by the publisher.

Mysteries on September 2010 Indie Next List

Three great mystery authors' novels are on the September 2010 Indie Next List. and they just happen to be three of my favorite writers: Laura Lippman, Charles Todd, and William Kent Kruger. I haven't read any of these books yet, but you can bet I won't be saying that long. Excuse me, I'm off to the bookstore now!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Guest Blogger - Bill Crider

Murder in the Air

Thanks to Molly Weston for inviting me here to Meritorious Mysteries. Can it really have been in 1986 that the first Sheriff Dan Rhodes book was published? How can 24 years go by so fast? Murder in the Air is the eighteenth book in the series about Blacklin County’s sheriff, which comes as a surprise to me. Maybe to others, too. After all, when they’re writing that first book, how many authors really think they’ll still be writing about the same characters nearly 25 years later? Authors with a lot more self-confidence than I have, that’s for sure.

The passage of all that time, which doesn’t actually seem that long to me, reminds me of a couple of questions I’ve been asked once or twice and that I’ve thought about more often than that.

Here’s one. Why hasn’t Sheriff Dan Rhodes aged much since 1986? One answer is that I haven’t aged much since then, either. Not that I like to talk about, that is. Somehow my hair’s gotten a lot thinner and grayer, but that could be some kind of vitamin deficiency, right? Sure it could. And I seem to have developed jowls. I don’t like ‘em, so why should I put the sheriff through it?

The fact is that some writers like to age their characters more or less in real time. Bill Pronzini’s done that with Nameless in his fine private-eye series. And some people like to put their characters through all kinds of terrible experiences. Ken Bruen’s treatment of Jack Taylor springs to mind. I love both those series, but to be honest it never occurred to me to age Sheriff Rhodes or to put him through hell. Some of the books I liked best when I first started reading mysteries many years ago were in Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series. When I started reading that series in the early ‘60s, it had already been going for nearly 30 years. I read a lot of the books one after the other, and Wolfe and Archie didn’t change a bit that I could see. Wolfe always went to the orchid room and refused to leave the Brownstone. He always wore those yellow pyjamas. Archie and Lily went dancing but didn’t marry. Things continued that way right up to the end, and that was just fine with me. It was the same in other books I admired. Matt Helm never did learn to appreciate women in pants. Lew Archer never hooked up with anybody. Neither did the Continental Op. And so on.

I don’t mean to compare my books with any of those, except to say that I’m writing in a well-accepted tradition. Sheriff Rhodes has gotten a little bit older, and he’s married. There have been other little changes. And in fact, while he hasn’t changed, things around him have. The town of Clearview isn’t the same place it was when the series began. Rhodes and the characters have adjusted to those changes and to others, but they’re the same people. They always will be, I think, and I like it that way.

The other question is this: Do I get tired of writing about those same people after all this time? Not at all. I like the people, I like the town, and I have a lot of fun writing the books. While some things don’t change, every book is a new challenge, and every one has a new topic and a different theme. Sure, it’s nice not to have to invent an entirely new setting every time I start a new book, and it’s nice not to have to invent new characters, but I have to keep it fresh somehow for my own sake, not to mention for the readers. It’s not as easy as it might seem. Trust me.

Now, let’s go back to the time I wrote the first book in the series. I had no idea at the time that I’d still be writing about Blacklin County and the sheriff and his friends this many years down the line. For that matter, I never really dreamed I’d sell the first book, much less 18 more. Yes, you read that right. I’ve sold another one, book number 19 in the series. The Wild Hog Murders (that’s the current title, anyway) will be out in 2011. The question now is whether I’ll sell number 20. It’s up to you. Buy my books and keep me in business! As always I thank you for your support.

If you want to learn more about Bill, his books (he' got many outside this series!) and Blacklin County, visit his website. If you've got a question for Bill, please post it in the comments section below.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Survey Finds Mystery Readers Surprisingly Savvy

A recent survey commissioned by mystery writer Elaine Viets showed that 98 percent of mystery readers are “aware the authors receive no royalties when they purchased used books.”

The nationwide survey was conducted by Trigger Advertising Group.

Some 300 readers of Viets’s books responded. Viets writes two bestselling series: the Dead-End Job mysteries and the Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper novels. Both are published by Obsidian, a division of the Penguin Group.

Word of mouth is critical for these mystery readers. They rely on recommendations from “trustworthy friends, renowned authors or magazines.”

The survey also found that the majority of readers bought between 10 and 30 books per year. They bought books for leisure reading year round, but bought slightly more books during the summer.

Trigger Advertising is composed of recent graduates of the world-famous Journalism School at the University of Missouri in Columbia.

When asked where they usually get their novels, those surveyed had the options of chain bookstores, local/specialty bookstores, online (Amazon, eBay), libraries and borrowing from friends. The option most chosen was chain bookstores, with online purchases coming a close second. A hefty 39 percent go to local or specialty bookstores.

Blogs, e-lists and websites play a key role in providing information about the mystery author: 35% first heard about Elaine Viets on the Internet. The other respondents learned about her mysteries through bookstore and library displays, her former newspaper column and word of mouth.

Book buyers had firm opinions about e-books. They believe “e-book prices should be lower than printed versions.” They would “still buy the e-book at the same price as the print version if it was an author he or she already enjoys.”

Elaine Viets’ latest Dead-End Job hardcover, Half-Price Homicide, received a starred review in Publishers Weekly and praise from Marilyn Stasio in The New York Times. Her next Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper novel will be published November 2010.

For more about Elaine and her books, visit her website.

Happy Birthday, Penguin Books!

On Friday, July 30, Penguin books officially turned 75! They're doing all sorts of things to celebrate, including sending a bright-orange Penguin Mobile (an adorable mini-cooper with the Penguin logo) to bookstores all over the US to bring some of their bestselling authors to parties in their hometowns, increase awareness of The Nature Conservancy, and promote literacy. At each event, a set of 75 Penguin Books is donated to a local library or literacy group. Each author is signing the Penguin-mobile as it makes its way across the United States, and the summer’s events will culminate with a party at the New York Public Library in September where Penguin will auction the car with the proceeds going to the New York Public Library. Penguin is also donating sets of books to numerous U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What does this anniversary mean to you? Penguin has sent books to me to give to to two lucky readers of "Meritorious Mysteries." I've got Tana French's Edgar-winning In the Woods and the ever popular Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair. All you have to do to get your name in the pot is either send me an email at mysteryheel @ (with "contest" in the subject line) with your name and mailing address) or post a comment below (if you post anonymously, I won't be able to contact you). The contest will end on Friday, August 6. I'll post the winners' town and state sometime over the weekend.

More about Penguin
Penguin’s founder Allen Lane started the paperback revolution with that little flippant but dignified Penguin (his secretary came up with the name and he sent another colleague off to the zoo to make sketches). One year later, 3 million Penguin paperbacks had been sold. Today, the Penguin imprint alone has over 4000 books in print.

Penguin is hands down the publishing logo most recognized internationally—including the story of Terry Waite, the Anglican clergyman who was held hostage in Beirut. Six months into his captivity, Waite made friends with his jailer, and although they spoke different languages he managed to tell the jailer he wanted a book. He drew an oval, and he drew a penguin, and he said, “find me a book that looks like that, and it will be a good book.” That story says everything about what Penguin stands for around the world.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

No Guest Blogger Today, but…

Our good friend Carolyn Hart sent me a link to a guest blog she's doing today at "Dear Reader." The column is called
"For Love of Cats." I'm sure if you love Carolyn or cats, you'll want to take a look!

Monday, July 26, 2010

HOW TO CRASH A KILLER BASH by Penny Warner (Obsidian)

Events planner Parker Presley is back in another well-intentioned party gone bad. In this outing she's planned a fund-raising event for the deYoung Museum in San Francisco hosted by philanthropist Mary Lee Miller. What could be more relevant for a murder mystery play than the exhibit halls featuring old weapons? Naturally, the setting is too relevant, and the play's victim is murdered for real before the play gets rolling. When Parker's best friend is arrested for murder, Parker must prove once again that the same skill set used for planning events can be used to solve crimes. The Killer Party series is delightful and is a good primer for anyone planning a trip to San Francisco. Enjoy your trip!

FTC Disclaimer - This book was provided by the publisher.

THROUGH THE CRACKS by Barbara Fister (Minotaur)

Former Chicago cop Anni Koskinen has turned her investigating skills to locating missing children and teens. Her newest client, however, wants a missing criminal found—the serial rapist who attacked her more than 20 years ago. She feels her wrongful identification put an innocent man in prison. Anni doesn't want to take the case, but her sense of justice overcomes her own wishes.

Through the Cracks is a hardboiled story with action and sadness. Fister gives readers an authentic look at the backstory of crime, justice, and ambition. She is a writer to watch!

FTC DIsclaimer - This book was provided by the publisher

Guest Blogger - Bill Crider

Texas writer Bill Crider will join us next Tuesday, August 3. His latest book is Murder in the Air, and it's just as great as all the others featuring Sheriff Dan Rhodes. I always enjoy a trip to Blacklin County, Texas.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lipstick Chronicles Expands

Fifteen top-notch authors are joining forces to create a one-of-a-kind blog for book lovers -- and the roster of contributors includes bestselling award winners from across the mystery and women’s fiction genres. The bloggers -- several of whom are New York Times and USA Today bestsellers -- have won every award in the industry: The Edgar, Agatha, Macavity, Anthony, Barry, Dilys, the Canadian Arthur Ellis and the British Dagger.

The bloggers are blockbuster: Brunonia Barry, Diane Chamberlain, Heather Graham, Harley Jane Kozak, Margaret Maron, Nancy Martin, Me, Margie, Louise Penny, Nancy Pickard, Cornelia Read, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Sarah Strohmeyer, Kathy Reschini Sweeney, Elaine Viets and Jacqueline Winspear.

How did it happen? The renowned and successful Lipstick Chronicles -- which just celebrated five years as one of the industry's must-reads -- is now expanding to include different authors to appeal to a broad fiction audience.

Bestselling author Nancy Martin, one of the creators of The Lipstick Chronicles in 2006, says: "Our readers have bonded with the authors, booksellers and fellow fans to create a community of book lovers. Our regulars come every day to be entertained, to exchange ideas, to talk about writing and reading and anything else that’s important to them and to us. We're so excited to expand to include a real Who's Who of the genre."

Five of the original TLC members: Martin, Harley Jane Kozak, Elaine Viets, Sarah Strohmeyer. Kathy Sweeney, and the mysterious (and irreverent) Me, Margie will remain with the new group. Double Agatha-winner Hank Phillippi Ryan joined in 2009.

"Our goal is to help readers find great books," Martin says. "We do that by providing entertaining content every day, written by some of today’s most interesting, thoughtful (and often hilarious) authors. The addition of such bestselling talent will expand and strengthen our community and our reach. And we eagerly look forward to the new friends we’ll make."

For authors, readers and booksellers, The Lipstick Chronicle is part of the daily routine. One never knows what subject will come up – only that both the blog and the comments will be smart and entertaining. The Blog Community at TLC is an interactive bunch with no shortage of topical subjects and clever responses. There is something new every day, and with the addition of new authors and guest bloggers, there is something to talk about 24/7.

Check them out at their website .

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Guest Blogger Meredith Cole

Making It Real and Making It Up

Settings in mystery novels can be divided into two neat categories—those that are written about a real place, and those that are set in a fictitious place. But the division is not as clear-cut as you might think. Some fictitious places are actually real places, only thinly disguised as an imaginary place (here I'm thinking of Ed McBain's "Isola" which is clearly Manhattan). And some real places become fictional places of their own. I doubt if I went to Italy I would really get to see Donna Leon’s Venice.

My books Posed for Murder and Dead in the Water are set in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It's an industrial neighborhood that's never been particularly well-off or beautiful. Williamsburg has been a home for immigrants for 150 years or so, and in the past 30 years it's been home to Hasidic Jews, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Sicilians, and the Polish. In the early 1990's, another group discovered the neighborhood. Attracted by the empty warehouses, cheap rent, and one stop on the subway to Manhattan, artists moved in. They were quickly followed by galleries (more than 37 at one point), music venues, bars, coffee shops and funky boutiques. My amateur sleuth, Lydia McKenzie, is a photographer who longs to hang her work in galleries and give up her day job as an administrative assistant to two private eyes.

But Williamsburg, like every true place, did not stay still or the same. In 2000, the housing boom hit. Landlords began jacking up rents, and building condo buildings on every empty lot. NYU built a dorm for their students. Williamsburg became a tourist destination, and even more restaurants squeezed into storefronts. Artists started moving farther into Brooklyn (or moved away), and the neighborhood continued to evolve.

After 10 years of living in Williamsburg, and setting my books there, I also made the decision to move away. My husband and I had moved there to make our art, but now the rent was no longer cheap. We also wanted to move closer to family. So I started to wonder how my move might affect my third book (tentatively called An Artful Death). When I got stuck on some detail in the first two books, I would go for a walk and observe all the fun and ridiculous sights in my neighborhood and then scribble them down.

But then I realized something important about my Williamsburg. Although the neighborhood in my books is a real place, it is also fictitious. The place in my book is recognizable to anyone who has been there, but it's really more about how the place was 10 years ago when I moved there rather than it is today. I make up the names of the businesses (to protect the innocent) and basically ignore all those condo buildings when it suits me. I also can return (which I did in May of this year) to walk the streets and see how much it has and has not changed. And I can also visit every time I write another book in my Lydia McKenzie series.

Meredith Cole started her career as a screenwriter and filmmaker. She was the winner of the St. Martin’s Press/Malice Domestic competition, and her book Posed for Murder, was published by St. Martin’s Minotaur in 2009. She was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Mystery Novel in 2010. Her second book, Dead in the Water, continues the adventures of photographer and amateur sleuth Lydia McKenzie in Brooklyn. She teaches mystery writing and screenwriting and lives in Virginia. You can visit further with Meredith at her website.