Wednesday, March 30, 2011

ANTHEM FOR DOOMED YOUTH by Carola Dunn (Minotaur)

I just had a great visit with amateur sleuth the Hon. Daisy Dalrymple and her husband DCI Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard. While Alex is busy investigating the murders of three men buried in Epping Forest, Daisy is safely out of the way visiting their daughter Belinda at her school. While folks at the Yard are fully convinced there's no way Daisy could possibly intrude on their case, readers won't be at all surprised when she comes upon a body—and since she's already involved, she might as well solve the crime, wouldn't you think?

Dunn weaves the two cases beautifully, leaving cliffhangers every time she switches from one to the other. I found myself reading "just one more chapter" until I wasn't even making excuses.

FTC Disclosure - This book was provided by the publisher.

Mystery Awards Announced at Left Coast Crime

Thanks to Marcia Talley and Kathie Felix for today's post on the Sisters in Crime blog in which they reported some more mystery award winners. I hope you'll check out the blog, but in the meantime, I'll list the awards:
The Lefty - Best humorous mystery novel
Donna Andrews, Stork Raving Mad (Minotaur Books)
Laura DiSilverio, Swift Justice (Minotaur Books/Thomas Dunne Books)
Donna Moore, Old Dogs (Busted Flush Press)
Kris Neri, Revenge for Old Times' Sake (Cherokee McGhee)
J. Michael Orenduff, The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein (Oak Tree Press)

The Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery - Best historical mystery novel, covering events before 1950
Rebecca Cantrell, A Night of Long Knives (Forge Books)
Robert Kresge, Murder for Greenhorns (ABQ Press)
Kelli Stanley, City of Dragons (Minotaur Books)
Jeri Westerson, The Demon's Parchment (Minotaur Books)
Jacqueline Winspear, The Mapping of Love and Death (HarperCollins)

The Hillerman Sky Award - The mystery (short story to novel length) that best captures the landscape of the Southwest
Sandi Ault, Wild Penance (Berkley Hardcover)
Christine Barber, The Bone Fire (Minotaur Books)
Margaret Coel, The Spider's Web (Berkley Hardcover)
Deborah J. Ledford, Snare (Second Wind Publishing)

The Watson - Mystery novel with best sidekick
Sandi Ault, Wild Penance (Berkley Hardcover)
Rachel Brady, Dead Lift (Poisoned Pen Press)
Chris Grabenstein, Rolling Thunder (Pegasus)
Craig Johnson, Junkyard Dogs (Viking)
Spencer Quinn, To Fetch a Thief (Atria)

Congratulations to all nominees, winners, and, especially to readers! More books!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Guest Blogger- SARA ROSETT

Today I'm joined by the delightful Sara Rosett whose new book Mimosas, Mischief and Murder will be on bookstore shelves this week. I'm delighted to welcome Sara to Meritorious Mysteries!

Drawing the Line
by Sara Rosett

When I’m reading fiction I sometimes wonder how much of the story was drawn from the author’s life. If the story has a snarky mother-in-law, did reality inspire the author?

Probably not, if those dedications and acknowledgements hold any truth. You know the ones. They go something like this, “Even though the main character in this book lives next-door to the neighbors-from-hell, my neighbors are the nicest people on earth!”


While I’ve never taken anything from real life and transplanted it into a book, I do take bits and pieces—a mannerism here, a physical description there—and blend those things into my story. While I’ll admit that I have very limited artistic abilities, I think it’s a bit like a painter who layers color onto the canvas, blending shades and texture to create certain effects.

If I start off with an idea or characteristics drawn from real life, those details mutate into something unique to the book as I write. In MIMOSAS, MISCHEIF, AND MURDER, Ellie goes to visit her quirky Southern in-laws and becomes embroiled in a mystery when the patriarch of the family passes away and there are questions about whether the death is natural or not.

When I was plotting out the story, I decided that the local book festival would take place while Ellie was in town. I created a character, an author of a middle grade mystery series, who lived in the same town and signs a copy of one of her books for Ellie’s daughter, Livvy. My real life experience with Accelerated Reading programs (AR) in my kid’s elementary schools inspired the part of the story where Ellie’s daughter is in a reading contest and always has a book with her. The reading competition at my kids’ school was as intense as some Olympic events, so I wanted to put that passion into the story. My kids loved the Magic Tree House books, but I wanted something completely new, so I had my author write The Infinity Mysteries, a series about three friends who solve mysteries using math.

Then I had some fun writing about Ellie’s encounter with the author, Margaret Key. I thought back to the first writer’s conference I attended. I was surprised because so many of the authors looked nothing like their author photos. I fictionalized that incident and incorporated it into MIMOSAS. I made up a physical description of an author who looks like no author I know in real life. In her author photo, Margaret has silky, smooth blonde hair that frames her unlined face. When Ellie meets her, Margaret has slightly frizzy blond curls with dark roots, crows feet, and the beginning of a double chin—no air-brushing or Photoshop!

Since I write about a family with kids there is some crossover between my real life and the fiction I write, but the books are mostly fiction. Rarely do I take an incident and repeat it verbatim in a book. Instead, I try to think back to what it was like when my kids were younger and recapture the feelings I had then—how repetitive the daily routine was at times (the laundry never ends!), the joy of naptime, and the anxiety I felt about raising my kids. I distill those emotions into a few fictional incidents for the books.

There are certain things that are totally off limits. The other day a funny incident occurred in our family that would make wonderful blog material. But I’m not going to write about it because it would embarrass one family member. I won’t fictionalize it and put it in a book either. Keeping things private is almost a foreign concept in today’s tell-all, expose-all world. We have people taking lie detector tests on TV, exposing themselves and their families to pain. And then there’s countless people making fools of themselves on other shows, just for a few minutes in the limelight. I don’t want to regret anything I put in a book.

So many of us share events about our lives on-line through Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Where’s the line privacy line for you? If you’re a writer, how much of real life makes its way into your writing? What won’t you write, blog, or post about?

You can find out more about me and my books at my website. I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, and the Girlfriends Book Club blog.

A shorter version of this post originally ran in the Good Girls Kill blog.

Friday, March 25, 2011

I'm Guest Bogging Today

Head over to the Sisters in Crime blog and visit with me today. Don't let me be lonely!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

CATCH HER IF YOU CAN by Merline Lovelace (Berkley)

Lt. Samantha Spade, USAF is in charge of a small team of civilians and one career sergeant responsible for evaluating inventions for desert warfare. She is a sarcastic, lovable lady who has a tendency to act and then think. In this third episode, she is evaluating a robot dog called Snoopy SNIFER (Self-Nurturing Find and Identfy Robot). The robot leads them to the local bar and trys to climb into a pick-up. The driver of the truck starts shooting at them and the bar owner kills him. Samantha discovers three human heads in a cooler in the pick-up. Once again she is caught up in a criminal investigation, in trouble with the bad guys and with her boss. Her love interest, Border Patrol agent Jeff “Mitch” Mitchell, her ex-husband and his wife (the woman who broke up her marriage) become involved also. The story is fast paced and a very quick read with a lot of twists and turns. Some of the situations are a stretch for the imagination but add humor or interest to the story. As I said in my review of the first two books, I would like to see the members of her research team more involved. Their characters are very interesting and could take this series a long way.

Review by Helen Jones

FTC Disclaimer - This book was provided by the publisher.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Top 'O the Mornin' to You!

It's a lovely St. Patrick's Day here in North Carolina and I've got something lovely to share with you all.

A couple of weeks ago, I requested a review copy of The Pig Did It by a new author to me, Joseph Caldwell. Turns out he's not new at all, I've just missed him. Yesterday, I got an email from his publicist with an attached a video of an interview with New York Times bestselling author Malachy McCourt talking about the way Caldwell "trains his ear on the musical dialects of Western Ireland." I was totally charmed by the video and I look forward to bumping The Pig Did It to the top of my to-be-read pile! I hope you'll enjoy it too!

Happy St. Paddy's Day!


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Walter Mosley at Quail Ridge Books & Music, Raleigh NC

Tomorrow night, March 16, Walter Mosley will talk, answer questions, and sign books at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh's Ridgewood Shopping Center. I'll have the pleasure of escorting him during the day and taking him to a TV taping (more about that and the eventual YouTube listing later).

If you've never heard him speak about his writing, this is a rare opportunity. If you're a writer, you'll be encouraged to hear him talk about his revision process. I once heard him say he'd revised a book 18 times before sending it to his agent!

I'll look forward to seeing you.

WHEN THE THRILL IS GONE by Walter Mosley (Riverhead Books)

Private investigator Leonid McGill has more balls in the air than a troop of jugglers: The economy has hurt his business, his wife is seeing a younger man, his best friend is dying, and his sons are making poor decisions. Is it any wonder he accepts the first job that comes his way? A beautiful woman comes to him with a sad story: She's afraid her billionaire husband is going to kill her. After all, his first wife disappeared off his yacht and his second was killed in a mugging. Naturally, the investigation is the heart of the mystery. As with all Mosley novels, it's well plotted, surprising, and fast paced.

The real joy for me, though, is the incredible deftness with which Mosley depicts his characters—and there are many. Not once did I ever have to flip back to refresh my memory of a even a minor player. Every time I'd see a name, a full-blown image of that person would form in my mind. Even the various scenes were vivid, with few words of description, every word powerful and critical.

If you've never read a Mosley novel, this one's a great opportunity to begin your journey!

FTC Disclaimer - This book was provided by the publisher.