Thursday, March 31, 2016

A is for APRIL A-TO-Z CHALLENGE MONTH #AtoZChallenge

What is the April A to Z Challenge?
 
The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 4 is “C,” and so on. You can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day.


For this year's challenge, my theme is The Fun in Writing. Each of my 26 posts for April is aimed at illustrating fun parts of an author's day. A writer doesn't only write. Creating a story or an essay requires research, revision, editing, and lots of coffee and chocolate. For me, the chocolate part keeps me going like an energizer hare (although, between hair touch-ups, a more appropriate analogy might be old grey mare!)

*****   *****   *****

One of the most fun things a writer can do is to participate in the annual April A to Z Challenge. You will accomplish a valuable goal. And, as a blogger, you encounter a new writing technique.

By blocking your inner editor, you allow thoughts to rise from your subconscious. You have a plethora of information stored in your mind that has been accumulating since before you were aware of thought processes. Allowing thoughts to flow freely onto the page/computer screen is comparable to opening a water faucet. If you stop in mid-stream, starting to write again becomes more difficult. Thoughts that only started to surface may sink and be lost forever.

As long as you don't obstruct the stream of words, more will come.

This means not editing while you are writing the first draft of your blog post, essay, short story, or novel. The story is in your head. Let it flow onto the page.
 
BUT ... BUT ... aren’t you supposed to
Edit! Edit! Edit!
Isn’t writing all about editing!?
Yes, ULTIMATELY.
But you can’t edit what’s in your head. You need to see it on paper!
 
Writing 26 posts for the month of April is a terrific way to begin writing faster, and an excellent method for developing a new habit, one that will serve you well throughout your writing career.
 
If you want to be a writer, you must write . . . regularly.
The best way to do that is to discover
The Fun in Writing
 
Davy Crochet having fun with April A to Z Blogging Challenge
 

 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

PAYING IT FORWARD: Author and Checker Maven Bob Newell

 
 
 
Not every person who invites me to join a writer's group is a master of his or her own universe. With Bob Newell, however, this is indeed the case. Bob has been blogging about Checkers and strategic checker moves for over a decade. To me, that makes him the master of the game. That he also writes short stories about checker-mysteries truly elevates his status in my eyes.

 
My reasons for thanking Bob in the "Paying It Forward" spotlight today have nothing to do with board games or sly moves, though.
 
When Bob invited me to join Waikiki Word Wranglers, his writer's group, I quickly accepted. How ideal to have local authors help me improve my writing, and in the shadow of Waikiki's iconic landmark Diamond Head, no less.
 
Over the months and years, this group has become 'Ohana, a family. Bob directs the meetings to keep everyone on track, notifying us of time or date changes along the way. For his group, he has chosen authors who write in various genres, are from diverse backgrounds, and hold very definite opinions on life in general.
Courting Jane
by Bob Newell
Available at Amazon

Before I published my latest novel, Bob agreed to do a read-through and offer any ideas for improvement. I was especially grateful for his comments and suggestions. He has a tendency to "tell it like it is." Serious writers know that honesty is the only advice worth receiving during the final editing process of a work-in-progress.

For Bob's expert advice, constant support, and good-hearted laughs over comfort food and drink such as poke (pronounced poe-key; raw ahi fish) bowls and frozen hot chocolate at gatherings around O'ahu, I say Mahalo plenty.


*****     *****     *****

You can visit Bob at:

Blog site: http://www.bobnewell.net/nucleus/checkers.php

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Bob-Newell/e/B01AO5EFVK/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Jane Austen Society, JASNA Hawai'i: http://www.bobnewell.net/nucleus/jasnahawaii.php




Monday, March 28, 2016

THE HANGED MAN'S NOOSE by Judy Penz Sheluk #MysteryReview

A tweet about an interview with editor Lourdes Venard led me to freelance reporter and author Judy Penz Sheluk’s blog site and the discovery of her debut mystery novel, THE HANGED MAN’S NOOSE. These opening lines of the book’s synopsis hooked me:

Journalist Emily Garland lands a plum assignment
as the editor of a niche magazine
 based in Lount’s Landing, a small town named after
a colorful 19th century Canadian traitor.

 

As the novel unfolded, I quickly developed a liking for the protagonist, freelance writer Emily Garland, and felt the tension in her emotional and tentative decision to relocate for a new job assignment. The history of Lount’s Landing is presented with an intrigue that supports the mystery behind events occurring in the small town.
 
Emily’s assignment to expose a real estate developer’s intentions soon serves to introduce several well-developed characters with a kaleidoscope of conflicting personalities. As the vibrant colors of splintered-glass events swirl around the town, in and out of a cozy tavern with its own infamous history, the wounds cut deep.
 
And then, as the expression goes, murder happens.
 
I admit to thinking, more than once while reading The Hanged Man's Noose, “I didn’t see that coming.” Sheluk holds the reader captive with hints of secrets and promises of revelations that, when finally unveiled, do not disappoint.
 
*****     *****     *****
 
You can visit Judy at:
 
 
Twitter: @JudyPenzSheluk https://twitter.com/JudyPenzSheluk
 
 
 

Friday, March 25, 2016

THE PASSION OF ARTEMISIA by Susan Vreeland #FridayReads

After reading and enjoying Girl In Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland, I was eager to read another of her novels.

In The Passion of Artemisia the author expresses with tantalizing narrative the artist Artemisia’s passion for life and for her life’s calling as an artist. Each chapter is written with an intensity that allowed me to savor the fine details along with the broad strokes of the story as it unfolded.

The anguish displayed in the first four chapters created such emotional tension in me that reading became halting as my mind assimilated the injustice in the life of Artemisia.

Artemisia Gentileschi is only one of a few female post-Renaissance painters who achieved fame during her own era. After she is raped by her painting teacher, she is humiliated for being a “loose woman.” When she appears in the papal court to testify against her rapist, her testimony is dismissed. Rather than become involved in a planned marriage, she heads from Rome to Florence where she is befriended by none other than Galileo. But can she reconcile family life, passion, and genius in her lifetime?

For many authors, drawing reaction from the reader, whether favorable or negative, is the purpose of writing. As a reader, my goal is to experience that reaction through the development of characters within a story. While reading The Passion of Artemisia, my reactions to events were immediate, and often my opinions of these events were strong. A novel that can create this type of response from the reader is always a welcome find.
 

Next up for review (in May - after April’s A to Z Challenge) is:
The Litigators by John Grisham
and
American Pain by John Temple

 

 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

WHEN THE PROTAGONIST TAKES OVER - Pepper's Wisconsin Chili

How often have you heard a writer say their protagonist started calling the shots during the writing process of a novel? That the character in question objected when the words felt wrong? Or twisted the plot in a completely different direction, even though the author had outlined the scene or chapter in excruciating detail?

When a writer's subconscious takes over and dictates the next move, chances are it is a sign of a well-developed character.

In the case of my Pepper Bibeau mysteries, the protagonist has even taken over some of my cooking duties. Below is a recipe Pepper developed, with little or no help from me. Chili is one of my favorite meals. And while Pepper leans toward pie whenever possible, it comes as no surprise that she also loves to prepare a kettle of chili for football game week-ends, especially when the snow is deep and the wind chill factor dips below minus 20 degrees in the land known as the frozen tundra.

But chili always tastes great, no matter if Pepper is working in Chicago or Green Bay. Even her home town of Honolulu has famous restaurants noted for their ono (delicious) chili. In Hawaii, though, the chili is served with "two scoops rice."

Pepper's Wisconsin Chili


 
Ingredients:
1 softball-sized sweet onion, chopped fine
1/4 cup walnut oil
3 lbs. 85% lean Ground Round
3 cans chili beans in medium sauce
2 pkgs. chili seasoning mix
2 - 29oz. cans of tomato sauce
1 - 14.5 oz. can of beef broth
3 cups dried macaroni noodles, cooked


Heat oil and add chopped onion, cook until tender.

 

Add Ground Round, and brown the meat in the onion mix.
 
Shake chili seasoning onto the meat; add chili beans with sauce, tomato sauce, and the can of beef broth.
 
Let chili simmer while boiling the macaroni, then add the cooked macaroni to the chili. Continue to simmer for about 30 minutes.
 
Serve with freshly grated Wisconsin cheddar cheese and oyster crackers.
(Salad and Wine optional . . . nah, just kidding, they're necessary!)
 
 




 

These two Pepper Bibeau mysteries
are set in Wisconsin:
 
DEADLY AS NATURE
(Brown County, Wisconsin)
 
and
 
NESHOTO JUNCTION HOMICIDE
(Manitowoc County, Wisconsin)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Warm up with the chili, stay cozy with a soft-boiled mystery!


 



 

Monday, March 21, 2016

A to Z Theme Reveal Blogfest



For this year's challenge, my theme is The Fun in Writing. Each of my 26 posts for April is aimed at illustrating fun parts of an author's day. A writer doesn't only write. Creating a story or an essay requires research, revision, editing, and lots and lots of coffee and chocolate. For me, the chocolate part keeps me going like an energizer hare...

Luv this colorful bunny crafted by close friend, Kristen.
The multi-hued hare energizes me!
 
 (...although, between hair touch-ups, a more appropriate analogy might be old grey mare!)
 
Yes, I know this doesn't look like a mare, and it's not grey,
but you have to admit, he is really, really cute!
 
You may have noticed the predominance of the color brown in this post.
That's because my mind is always thinking:
 
CHOCOLATE! CHOCOLATE! CHOCOLATE!
 
In one word, my theme is FUN.
What is your theme for April, in one word?
 
Just leave one word below, and I'll visit your site to check out your theme plans.
 
 


Friday, March 18, 2016

SPEAKING IN BONES with Temperance Brennan #FridayReads

Kathy Reichs’ Speaking In Bones is her 2015 novel involving alter ego Temperance Brennan, a forensic anthropologist based in North Carolina and Quebec, Canada. And, of course, the template for the television series, Bones, for which Reichs is writer and advisor and role model.

Brennan's latest case is set in the backwoods, cliffs, and towns spread throughout her home state of North Carolina. The events covered in this story are well-researched: web-sleuthing; religious fanaticism; and personality disorders - specifically DID - dissociative identity disorder.

Once again, Brennan becomes actively involved in the investigation and places herself prominently in harm’s way.

I haven’t watched the television series since Season Four, when they did those really weird things to poor Zak. That’s when the shift occurred and I found Kathy Reichs’ novels more entertaining than the series. Reading her medical thrillers is a cross between experiencing tension-filled entertainment and attending an uncredited college course.

The shorter length of this review is no reflection on the quality of the story’s plot or the writing. I’ve just run out of words. Actually, I’m eager to watch more DVD replays of the (original) X-Files - Mythology Collection. My taste in entertainment reflects multi-levels of weird.
 

Next up for review is:
The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland

 

Friday, March 11, 2016

THE PEARL HARBOR MURDERS #FridayReads

The Pearl Harbor Murders by Max Allan Collins is a novel set in the last few days preceding the Pearl Harbor attack on O‘ahu. Much of the story’s action takes place in Waikiki. The fictionalized protagonists are the world-famous (real life) Edgar Rice Burroughs of Tarzan fame and his son, Hully, who share narrative and investigative roles within this murder mystery.

One of the central figures is a popular singer at a local night club. Her name, Pearl Harada, couldn’t be more apt for this tale leading up to a day that “lives in infamy.”
Woven throughout the story are details of first and second generation (issei and nisei) Japanese immigrants and citizens living in Hawaii, and how their lives were affected by incidents leading up to December 7, 1941. Some of the characters are either composites or pure fiction. Others, along with Edgar Rice Burroughs, are based on persons who played prominently in the making of history.
The author is noted for his historical fiction novels such as Saving Private Ryan, In the Line of Fire, and Air Force One; and his syndicated comic strip, Dick Tracy from 1977 through 1993. His research for this novel fills the narrative with titillating information about O‘ahu in 1941, focusing on A‘ala Market in Chinatown; Fort DeRussy; Aloha Tower; and Kewalo Basin. Also of note are the Halekulani Hotel (the location of the famous ‘House Without a Key’ Restaurant named for the eponymous Charlie Chan novel) and the War Memorial Natatorium.
The story may have fascinated me more as a guided tour of the area, but I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery within the tour, and was pleasantly surprised with the solution. 

Next up for review is:
Speaking In Bones by Kathy Reichs

 

 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

#WriterWednesday - Book Review/Interview: SANDRA NIKOLAI

My guest today is Sandra Nikolai, author of the Megan Scott/Michael Elliott mystery series. Icy Silence is the third novel in this series. I recently received my new e-reader in the mail and this is the first novel I read on it. A great choice.

This is the author's synopsis of the novel:

When ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott agree to speak at an exclusive boarding school, the undisclosed deaths of two students overshadow their agenda. Fear mounts as a powerful ice storm cuts them off from the rest of the world—harboring a potential murderer in their midst.

Without access to outside help, Megan and Michael are forced to rely on their wits. Desperate measures drive them beneath the protective fa├žade of the elite high school in a frantic search for a coldblooded killer. What they discover are secrets more terrifying than anyone could ever expect.

Two Interview Questions Relating to Icy Silence

Sandra Nikolai lives in Canada where the winter weather can be a bit unpredictable at times. She mentions on Goodreads that a real ice storm inspired her to write this story. I decided enquiring minds would want to know more so I decided to ask, and Sandra graciously answered.

Without giving away pertinent plot lines, Sandra, can you tell us about your experience with an ice storm and how such weather can be life threatening?

 
SANDRA NIKOLAII’ll never forget the North American Ice Storm of January 1998. It was a system of successive ice storms that hit Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia in Canada, and extended from New York to Maine in the US. Millions of people had no electricity for weeks—some even longer. Tree branches, overhead power lines, and rooftops collapsed under the weight of heavy ice and caused considerable damage. Schools were closed, transport shut down, and people stayed home from work. Major Canadian cities declared a state of emergency, and thousands of military personnel were deployed to help clear debris and restore power at the height of the storm.

Everyone knows that electrical appliances are useless without power. Good thing we’d heeded the government advisory and kept an emergency kit on hand that included candles and matches. We stockpiled bottled water and canned goods that required no heating or cooking, along with a manual can opener. Our wood fireplace in the living room provided the only heat source, so that’s where family members slept. We were lucky that the power outage lasted only a few days in our area. Even so, the whole experience took us back decades when reading by candlelight was the norm!


 
Research is an integral part of writing a convincing story. Again, without divulging strategic plot lines, can you share some of your research avenues for this novel, and your normal process of research before and during the creation of a novel?


SANDRA NIKOLAIAside from researching the ice storm as a backdrop for Icy Silence, I researched several private boarding schools in Canada to help create the elite school setting in my story. I adapted tidbits of information I collected about private school guidelines and etiquette and wove them through the narrative. I also researched old abandoned mines. Yes, mines! I’ll leave this peculiar aspect for readers to discover.

I try to do most of my research for the story beforehand so I don’t interrupt the flow of writing, but sometimes it can’t be helped. I’m always on the lookout for that little extra something to enhance reader experience, especially if it evokes any of the five senses. Since Icy Silence is told in the first person through Megan’s perspective, her thrilling ordeals should impact readers all the more.
Thank you, Sandra, and best of success with your Megan Scott/Michael Elliott mysteries.

***** ***** *****

Posting a review of a book you enjoyed reading is the best compliment you can give to an author about their work. With that in mind, I posted my review of Icy Silence, which follows here, along with Amazon and Goodreads

Icy Silence E-Book Review Title: Chilling Tale of Terror

After reading the first two novels in Sandra Nikolai's Megan Scott/Michael Elliot mystery, I was eager for the publication of the next in the series.  I enjoy following the cases of these two likeable protagonists because they work so well together, without undue friction that often comes from mixing business and personal relationships.

Megan Scott puts a romantic interlude on hold to accompany Michael Elliott on a trip to an exclusive college where he will give a talk on investigative reporting. Without warning, students lives are in danger not only from unexplained human sources but from the dangers of a widespread and extended ice storm. The author presents a consistently suspenseful atmosphere, introducing circumstantial evidence that points to an unresolved event in Megan's past.

Nikolai once again maintains a high level of tension as the story progresses to a final satisfying climax. I am already looking forward to the fourth novel in this mystery series.


***** ***** *****
 
LINKS to Sandra Nikolai:
 

Website: http://sandranikolai.com

Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/Sandra-Nikolai/e/B0087RR4XY/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Twitter: @SandraNikolai


 

Friday, March 4, 2016

#FridayReads THE MESSENGER 26 of 71 Reviews

 
Over the years, I’ve read many of Jan Burke’s Irene Kelly mysteries and always found them suspenseful and entertaining. The Messenger is billed as a supernatural thriller. I decided to step out of my comfort zone to read this novel. (I’ve found that setting a goal of reading 71 books in 12 months gives me the incentive to read a wide variety of genres. )
As always, Burke held my interest with the promise of a good mystery to solve. But she ratcheted up the tension with a new dimension of possibilities.

This story quickly brought to mind a powerful aspect of the Harry Potter novels, that of the young protagonist’s main nemesis and the series’ ultimate villain. Burke expertly weaves into her supernatural tale strands of reality that suggest plausibility requiring little “suspension of disbelief” on the part of the reader.

The back-of-cover synopsis states, “The mystery dates back two centuries, when a wounded British officer exchanged his life to become the messenger, a being who conveys the final thoughts of the dying to their loved ones.”

Even if the paranormal genre is not your usual cup of tea, you may want to venture into the arena for this fun and suspenseful read.

Next up for review is:
The Pearl Harbor Murders by Max Allan Collins
 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

#IWSG - 3 Questions I Had to Answer Before . . .



 
The Insecure Writer’s Support Group
 
Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time.

His awesome co-host for March 2 posting of the IWSG are
 
My #IWSG post for March 2016

Before I could think of publishing my next Pepper Bibeau mystery, there were 3 questions I had to answer about my purpose in writing novels.

After writing and publishing three novels in my planned Pepper Bibeau mystery series, I allowed “second thoughts” to erode my confidence in writing a fourth. My marketing for the third novel never really got off the ground. I lost faith in my writing, in the worth of the stories, and in myself as a writer. It was easier to promote authors more imaginative than myself and novels containing "more important" characters than mine. 

A lot of soul-searching followed the publication of my third novel. 
And 3 questions plagued me!

* Why had I chosen to set my stories in the near-past (beginning with the late 60s and early 70s) after reading advice that said such novels didn’t sell? Maybe it would be better to write stories occurring in the present. 

* Why was my protagonist a female with a backstory of service as a nurse in the Vietnam War? I had never been in the military, and current bestselling novels focused on action in Afghanistan or other parts of the Middle East. 

* Why did I think the life of an insurance investigator would play well in the Mystery genre? Such a career could never carry a series (or so I had been informed by a well-meaning publisher.) 

Once I formed concrete questions to get a handle on my concerns, I considered the answers.  For question one, my original plan was to look back on those years in my life when I was too busy to absorb life's pleasures. I relished the research required in developing a character whose story spanned the years missed while I was “too busy living.” Once I indulged that need, I could change direction.

This insight resolved my concerns about why to write something “they” say won’t sell.
I wasn't ready to writing for a specific audience yet.
This decision had also offered me the freedom to write the next novel in the series. 

The answer to the second question, about using a female protagonist with a backstory as a nurse in the Vietnam War, was quickly obvious. The first novel is set in 1968. Nurses returning from field hospitals were expected to resume the life they left as though they had never been gone. Emotions of war were concealed and experiences locked away.
 
I wanted to explore this unrealistic expectation.
 
Unexplained changes in personality, such as nervous reactions or more subdued personality, were treated with the expectation that things would return to "normal" soon. This was the conflicting personality I wanted to portray in my protagonist: someone who was more introverted after the experience of war, having a slight nervousness exhibited by a startle-reflex, but generally happy about life.

Until questioned about my protagonist's career as an insurance investigator, I was convinced this was the perfect job for an amateur sleuth. It took some digging to determine that the objection arose from a misinterpretation of the job responsibilities, due to my less than illustrious descriptions

Having satisfied my concerns over my protagonist's era, career choice, and sex (gender, not proclivity), I am eager to tackle my next Pepper Bibeau mystery.
 
Did you ever have misgivings about your choice of genre, protagonist, or story line?

 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

CONGRATULATIONS-Goodreads Giveaway Winners of Neshoto Junction Homicide

Goodreads offers members the option to give away copies of their published books. During the month of February, I arranged a giveaway of my mystery, Neshoto Junction Homicide, offering three copies of the novel to three winners randomly chosen by Goodreads. The giveaway was open to members of Goodreads in the United States. 545 people entered the giveaway. The three winners were announced on March 1, 2016 and are listed below!

Neshoto Junction Homicide is a soft-boiled mystery featuring protagonist Pepper Bibeau, an insurance investigator. Pepper travels throughout the United States clearing up questionable claims that require personal contact with involved parties. Her unbridled curiosity and tenacity periodically lead to murder.

A synopsis of Neshoto Junction Homicide:
 
 
Within the first hours of a planned fishing trip, Insurance Investigator Pepper Bibeau's vacation turns deadly. Unearthing a killer may depend on her unbridled curiosity, and her ability to stay alive.

A stand-alone novel, Book 4 in the Pepper Bibeau mystery series is set in scenic Wisconsin and deals with controversial topics of the area, including threats to the fishing industry, government intervention, and nuclear power plants.


*****   *****   *****

I thank everyone who expressed an interest in reading this soft-boiled mystery, and offer a hearty
 
CONGRATULATIONS
 
to the winners of Neshoto Junction Homicide.
Copies of the tradebook have been sent to these three winners:


 
Also, I want to thank Goodreads for offering members the opportunity to participate in their Giveaway program.


Please visit me at Goodreads 
  and feel free to check out my Author Page at Amazon