Sunday, December 25, 2011

Something for Everyone in 2011

 If you’re looking for a good book, look no further. There’s something here for everyone.
Behind the Redwood Door by John M. Daniel was published in November by Oak Tree Press. It’s the third book in John’s Guy Mallon Mystery Series. The novel takes place on California’s North Coast, in Redwood Country. It’s the story of a newspaper war, a family feud, marijuana traffic and murder. Pint-sized Guy Mallon’s adventures, as he tracks the murder of his friend, take him from the town square to the harbor, to the forest and into the mountains, where he must confront evil in the form of a bully nearly twice his size. 
       William Doonan writes the Henry Grave mystery series. The second novel in the series, Mediterranean Grave, was published by BookYear Mysteries. Henry Grave is a senior investigator for the Association of Cruising Vessel Operators and, at 84 years old, he’s as cunning as he is charming. The novel takes place on a cruise ship anchored off the Greek Island of Thera. An Egyptian federal agent was onboard to guard a valuable Minoan cup but the agent was murdered and the cup was stolen. Henry has been called in to solve the mystery.
Old Murders Never Die by Marja McGraw was published by Wings ePress, Inc. in July. It’s the fifth novel in the Sandi Webster series. Los Angeles P.I. Sandi Webster is in for the adventure of a lifetime when she and her partner, Pete, become stranded in a ghost town inhabited by a mysterious cowboy and haunted by a series of unsolved Old West murders.
 Lesley A. Diehl is the author of Dumpster Dying, the first book in her Big Lake Murder Mystery series, published by Oak Tree Press. Emily Rhodes retires to rural Florida and inadvertently discovers the body of the county’s wealthiest rancher in the Big Lake Country Club dumpster. With her close friend accused of murder, Emily sets aside her grief at her life partner’s death to find the real killer. She underestimates the obstacles rural Florida can set up for a winter visitor and runs afoul of a local judge with his own version of justice, hires a lawyer who works out of a retirement home and flees wild fires hand-in-hand with the man she believes to be the killer.
 Sally Carpenter has written a mystery that all Beatles fans are sure to love. The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper is the first in her Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol series and was published by Oak Tree Press in September. Sandy Fairfax was a 70s teen idol and star of the TV show “Buddy Brave, Boy Sleuth.” Now he’s 38 years old and solving mysteries while he’s making a comeback. When a member of the tribute band is shot at a Beatles fan convention, the boy detective is back in action.
 Fallen From Grace by John R. Lindermuth was published in March as a Wild Oak mystery, a division of Oak Tree Press. As the 19th century winds to a close, Sheriff Sylvester Tilghman of the small Pennsylvania town of Arahpot ponders his biggest problems: finding a new deputy and convincing his true love, Lydia, to marry him. But Arahpot’s usual tranquility is shaken when a stranger is fatally stabbed and then another dies of arsenic poisoning. As he works through an abundance of suspects, Tilghman finds himself in danger. And worse – Lydia is pushing her obnoxious cousin as a candidate for deputy. 
 Where Angels Fear by Sunny Frazier is the second in her Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery Series, published by Oak Tree Press. Amateur astrologer Christy Bristol finds herself on the fringes of Kearny society in California’s Central Valley and a members only sex club as she reluctantly takes on a missing persons case. A prominent business man has disappeared and his wife can’t go to the authorities. Christy’s investigation crosses paths with several homicide cases. Could the cases be connected? Christy goes where angels fear to tread to find the answers.
 Rowena Through the Wall by Melodie Campbell was published by Imajin Books. College professor Rowena Revel has a magical gift with animals and a huge problem. Gorgeous tunic-clad men keep walking through the wall of her classroom and she’s being haunted by sexy dreams in a rugged land. Curious, she checks out the wall and falls through a portal into a savage world where, after years of war, women are scarce. Good thing she has the ability to go back through the wall. Or does she?
 If you like westerns, you'll want to read Escape from the Alamo by Dac Crossley and published by CreateSpace. Remember the Alamo! The defenders fought bravely, to the last man, giving their lives for freedom and the Republic of Texas. But suppose one of those warriors survived the battle? George Hanks, called “Possum,” finds himself confused and alone. He can’t go back to Tennessee because they believe he died at the Alamo. Possum’s journey to manhood takes him through fights with Indians and bandits, arrest and trial and enlistment in the Texas Rangers.
All of these books are available at Enjoy!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Present

Well, here we are right smack dab in the middle of the holiday season. The song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” And, in many ways, it is. And, in many ways, it isn’t. The holidays seem to bring our emotions to a head; we feel things more intensely, everything is more pronounced. Add to that the fact that we’re looking at a new year right around the corner, traditionally a time to make New Year’s resolutions, to set goals for the coming year and to re-evaluate our lives. We can spend a lot of time dwelling on the past or worried about the future. So much emotion and introspection!
I was feeling nostalgic the other day so I got the box labeled “Keepsakes” down from my closet shelf. I had mixed emotions as I sorted through the various items because they each evoked a memory. Among other things, there were special birthday and Christmas cards from years gone by, drawings made by my nieces and nephews when they were little (they’re grown now) and ticket stubs from events I’d attended. Although the items represented happy times in my life, I was painfully aware that those times were in the past. Then I saw it: a copy of a short story from a writing class that I took sometime around 1980. It was exactly what I needed to read.
The title of the story is “Later.” It was written by Michael Foster from the omniscient point of view as a flashback and was first published in 1938. I saved the story all these years for a reason: in 1,000 words the author told such a powerful story and conveyed so much emotion that it made a lasting impression on me.
The main character, John Carmody, feels he is too busy to read a story to his little girl, and bitterly regrets his actions after her death. The story begins “It’s queer, the things you remember. When life has crumbled suddenly and left you standing there, alone. It’s not the big important things that you remember when you come to that; not the plans of years, not the love nor the hopes you worked so hard for. It’s the little things that you remember then; the little things you hadn’t noticed at the time. The way a hand touched yours, and you too busy to notice; the hopeful little inflection of a voice you didn’t really bother to listen to . . .”
The moral of the story: appreciate each day and each person in your life. Each day is a gift; that’s why it’s called “The Present.”
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Favorites

Christmas is only two weeks away. The stores are all decorated, radio stations are playing Christmas songs and there are lots of Christmas movies on TV. Some are cute, some funny, some sad, some uplifting. There’s no doubt that it’s a busy and an emotional time of year. It’s also the time of year when, in addition to my regular diet of mystery/suspense novels, I make time to re-read some of my Christmas favorites. I’ve listed a few for those of you who haven’t read them or who are looking for gift ideas.
The Gift by Danielle Steele will bring a tear to your eye and it will also warm your heart. Danielle is famous for writing romance novels but this slim, little book is a departure from her regular genre. If I have to pick a favorite, this is it.
The Angel Doll and the sequel, A Gift of Angels, by Jerry Bledsoe are two more wonderful books. The Angel Doll is set in a North Carolina manufacturing town in the 1950’s. It’s the story of a young boy helping his friend search for a doll to give his sister, who is stricken with polio, for Christmas. To quote the book jacket, “Along the way they learn much about sadness and heartbreak, but most important, they learn about the transformative power of love.”
The Christmas Shoes and the sequel, The Christmas Blessing, by Donna VanLiere are good reads too. In The Christmas Shoes, Robert, an attorney, is so caught up in his quest for success that he’s missing out on the important things in life. A chance meeting with a young boy on Christmas Eve teaches him an important lesson.
Christmas on Jane Street by Billy Romp with Wanda Urbanska is another on my list. This one is all about family and how one person can make a difference in family dynamics and even in the world.
What are your Christmas favorites?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Learning the Hard Way

Why is it that we have to learn so many things in life the hard way? It seems that, so often, we have to make mistakes and go through a lot of anguish and frustration before we get it right. Even worse, sometimes we forget what we’ve learned the hard way and we make the same mistake again. Unfortunately, that’s happened to me a time or two.
Which is why I created my “Things to Always Remember (so I don’t make the same mistakes again)” book. Seriously. It’s a small, hard bound book the size of a diary. In it, I list mistakes I’ve made and don’t want to repeat. Here are a some excerpts from my little book:
·   Never use oven cleaner on anything but the oven. Not on the top of the stove, nowhere else! (I know, that’s what it says on the can.) Nevertheless . . . .
·   Always try on jeans before you buy them. (Saves you standing in a long return line.)
·   Never let anyone work on your computer except a professional or someone you are sure knows what he’s doing. (And don’t take anyone’s word for that; have proof.)
·   Do not paint anything with oil-based paint unless you absolutely have to. (I think this speaks for itself.)
·   Do not take your entire novel to a writers’ conference unless an agent or editor has asked you to do so. (You’ll lug it around all day - for nothing! If someone wants to read it, you can email it to them; that doesn’t weigh anything.)  
·   When making a recipe with potatoes, do not peel them ahead of time and put them in the refrigerator, thinking they’ll stay nice and fresh. (They turn gray.)
·   When you’re putting several strands of lights on your Christmas tree, be sure you’ll end up with prongs to plug in the outlet. (Otherwise, you’ll have to take them all off and start over.)
·   To paint a ceiling, use a regular roller with a long handle, not one with a drip pan. (It nicks the ceiling.) But, maybe that’s just me.
There’s an interesting story behind each one of these entries. I laughed as I typed them, recalling each incident, but I didn’t laugh when they happened. I’m sure, as time goes by, I’ll have more to put in my little book. I try not to make mistakes, especially ones that will cost me time and/or money. But I don’t feel too bad about learning some things the hard way because I’ve never yet heard anyone say, “I learned it the easy way.”