Monday, May 31, 2010

July's Hot Book Titles

I might not have many July books in my closet, but that doesn't mean there's a dearth of books with July release dates. I'm sure I can entice you with some of these titles.

Susan Wittig Albert kicks off a new series with The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree. Set in Depression-era Alabama, a feisty women of the Darling Dahlias garden club vow to get to the bottom of local mysteries - a collection of sterling silver found buried under the town's famous Cucumber Tree, and a young woman's body found outside of town.

Stork Raving Mad is sure to be a satisfying book for Donna Andrews' fans. Meg and Michael, about to be the parents of twins, host a Spanish playwright. But, soon after the dean of the English department refuses to allow one of Michael's grad students to do his dissertation, the dean is found dead, and Meg's house becomes a crime scene.

Raise your hand if you've been waiting for the next Dave Robicheaux novel. James Lee Burke brings us Glass Rainbow, the eighteenth book in the series. Robicheaux is back in Louisiana, where he becomes entangled in a mystery connecting a series of murders of seven young women in a neighboring parish. Then the prime suspect turns up dead.

On a lighter note, we have Chris Cavender's Pepperoni Pizza Can Be Murder. One again, Eleanor's pizzeria, A Slice of Delight is involved in murder, when the brother of the pizzeria's delivery driver is found in the restaurant. When the driver disappears, Eleanor and her sister investigate.

Parker returns in John Connolly's Whisperers. He's searching for a group of former soldiers whose actions running a smuggling operation have caught the attention of Herod, a man with a taste for the strange, and his shadowy sidekick, The Captain. In order to defeat them, Parker will have to form an alliance with a killer.

In Lisa Gardner's Live to Tell, Sgt. Detective D.D. Warren's new case involves an entire family wiped out in a senseless fit of violence.

Tess Gerritsen will be the guest blogger here on July 15. Let's hope she talks about Ice Cold, with its unusual premise. All of the residents of Kingdom Come, Wyoming seem to have vanished. Maura, a vacationing medical examiner and her traveling companions, trapped there during a storm, find the disappearances troubling, especially when they discover someone dangerous and deadly is watching them.

In David Hagberg's The Cabal, CIA operative Van Buren is killed after meeting with a Washington Post investigative reporter to discuss evidence that a powerful lobbyist has formed a group called the Friday Club, made up of high-level bureaucrats. Van Buren's father-in-law, spy Kirk McGarvey, decides to finish that investigation.

Nothing sounds creepier this summer than Gregg Hurwitz' They're Watching. Patrick's troubles are going to only become worse. His Hollywood dreams have failed, and his marriage is doing the same. He's receiving DVDs showing someone is stalking him and his wife, and they are being recorded, even in their house. But the email that offers to fix everything, is only going to take Patrick into deeper trouble.

When Susie's plastic surgeon husband is found dead in the Upper East Side apartment of a second-rate escort, others think her great marriage was a lie. She'll set out to prove she was right, by taking on everyone from her in-laws to the NYPD and the DA in Susan Isaacs' As Husbands Go.

Iris Johansen teams up with her son Roy again for Shadow Zone. Hannah may have uncovered the truth about the mysterious demise of the ancient underwater city of Marinth, but, when her key piece of information is hijacked, she calls on Kirov, a mysterious, deadly man from her past, for help.

Once you've lived in Florida, it's hard to resist the suspense novels set during a hurricane. In Damaged, Alex Kava's latest, a Category Five hurricane threatens in the Gulf of Mexico when a Coast Guard air crew discovers a cooler floating in the water, a cooler filled with human body parts. Special Agent Maggie O'Dell's investigation shows the man was reported missing weeks earlier in Florida. Now, there's a second killer to be found in the eye of the hurricane.

House Justice is the latest Joe DeMarco thriller by Mike Lawson. DeMarco is the lawyer and troubleshooter for the Speaker of the House. When an American defense contractor is tortured and murdered after a journalist leaks the story, DeMarco is sent to appease her and get her to reveal her source. But, he's not the only one looking.

In Christopher Reich's Rules of Betrayal, Dr. Ransom must unravel the mystery surrounding his wife, a spy who plays by her own rules. What he uncovers is a terrible secret about the 1980 crash of a secret American B-52 in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Even Nora Roberts' latest book is a novel of suspense, The Search. Several years earlier, Fiona survived the clutches of a serial killer. Now, she leads an idyllic life, owner of a dog training school, and romantically involved with a dog's owner. Then, a copycat killer emerges.

Gabriel Allon severed his ties with the Mossad, and retired to the Cornish coast. But, the murder of a fellow art restorer draws him from seclusion and back into danger in Daniel Silva's The Rembrandt Affair.

And, we'll end with a book that isn't a crime novel, Jennifer Weiner's Fly Away Home. A mother and her two grown daughters seek refuge in an old Connecticut beach house as they recover from personal times of crisis, and find the power to move on with their lives.

So, which books do you find enticing? If you're a fan of thrillers and suspense, I'm sure there is a book here by one of your favorites. For those of us who prefer our mysteries on the lighter side, we may have to wait for mid-June, and the latest batch of books from Penguin USA. In the meantime, let me know what books you like from this list. And, what July titles did I miss?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Salon - July Treasures in My Closet

Thank heavens I don't have many July books in my closet. I'll still be catching up with all of the May and June releases. Even so, I'm looking forward to the July releases.

P.C. Doherty is known for his historical mysteries. The Templar kicks off a new series. It's a story that capitalizes on the recent interest in the secret organization. In 1095, Hugh de Payens and Godefroi of St. Omer, the men who will found the Templar Order, along with Hugh's sister, Eleanor, plan to join Count Raymond of Toulouse's army, and march to Jerusalem. It's a story filled with murder and intrigue.

Ann Littlewood's Did Not Survive continues the story of Iris Oakley, a keeper at Finley Memorial Zoo in Vancouver, Washington. Iris is pregnant, and still recovering from her husband's murder, but she has to rescue her boss when he's mauled by a zoo elephant. There are a number of motives to kill the foreman, but the elephant is one of the few that doesn't have one. There's too much turmoil at the zoo, and Iris finds herself drawn into another murder investigation.

The sixth book in the Ike Schwartz series by Frederick Ramsay is The Eye of the Virgin. Sheriff Ike Schwartz thinks two events, a death and a break-in, are somehow connected to an icon, The Virgin of Tenderness. When Callend University, the CIA, and Ike Schwartz are brought together, it's sure to be another topnotch mystery.

Hemlock Lake is an isolated community in the Catskill Mountains, at least until a developer destroys land and forests to build luxury homes. When an arsonist threatens to burn the houses, and crimes escalate, Sergeant Dan Stone is caught between newcomers and long-time residents. With his own painful background, it's not easy for him to deal with the crime. He soon suspects someone he knows might have become a killer in Carolyn J. Rose's Hemlock Lake.

Karen Slaughter brings Grant County, Georgia, coroner Dr. Sara Linton together with Special Agent Will Trent in Broken. When Trent arrives in Grant County, he finds a police department harboring secrets and a coroner that distrusts the police. The thin blue line could be dangerous to Trent, and anyone who tries to cross it.

Chevy Stevens' Still Missing is one of the most talked about debuts this year. Annie O'Sullivan was abducted when she was thirty-two, and held captive in a remote mountain cabin. Annie retells the story of that year in sessions with her psychiatrist, as readers learn about the aftermath of her kidnapping, and her attempt to put her life back together.

So, how many times have you seen pictures of authors previewing Thrillers: 100 Must Reads? David Morrell and Hank Wagner edited this collection, "Today's best thriller writers on one hundred classics of the genre." I'll admit I'm a little skeptical of some of the titles chosen, but I'm going to give the authors a chance to justify their selections. (Is Robinson Crusoe a thriller?) There are selections going as far back as 1500 B.C. It's going to be interesting to see what authors such as Lee Child, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and Jeffery Deaver say about their picks.

Anne Zouroudi's The Messenger of Athens takes readers to the Greek island of Thiminos, where a young woman's battered body is found at the foot of the cliff. Local police quickly call it an accident, but a mysterious stranger, Hermes Diaktoros, shows up, with plans to investigate further. It's a story of dark secrets and lies, corruption and murder. And, who knows how Hermes himself is involved?

Can I tempt you with any of these titles? If not, just wait until tomorrow!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Now You See Her by Merline Lovelace

Dashiell Hammett described his detective Sam Spade as the kind of detective other ones wanted to be, "A hard and shifty fellow, able to take care of himself in any situation, able to get the best of anybody he comes in contact with, whether criminal, innocent by-stander or client." Merline Lovelace's Sam Spade fits that description. But, USAF Lieutenant Samantha Spade is the sleuth in Lovelace's Now You See Her.

Samantha is a bit of a rebel, not good at taking orders, which is why she ended up evaluating small projects, doing military testing for DARPA, the Defense Advanced Resarch Projects Agency. Spade's team is stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, where they test odd gizmos and gadgets to determine their military use. And, Sam was doing a little unauthorized testing when she spotted a killer.

She was supposed to be meeting her boyfriend, Border Patrol Agent Jeff Mitchell, but Mitch was held up, so she was playing with set of experimental goggles when she spied a man with a gun hiding behind a van. Despite Samantha's yells, the man shot out a windshield, but the woman driver mowed him down. Everyone thought Army Sergeant Diane Roth was a heroine, but Samantha was suspicious when it turned out Diane knew the man. And, Diane kept a few secrets from the investigators. Maybe Roth shouldn't have tried to hit on Mitch. Lt. Samantha Spade was angry enough to agree to assist in the investigation.

My mind boggled a little at the technical jargon involved in Spade's job testing military equipment, but it's easy to skip the technical stuff. Lovelace's Sam Spade is an energetic, fascinating sleuth. And, Lovelace, who was a career Air Force officer, knows how to ratchet up the action and suspense. If you're looking for a fast-paced, action-packed story, with a tough female sleuth, it's hard to top Now You See Her.

Merline Lovelace's website is

Now You See Her by Merline Lovelace. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2010. ISBN 9780425234761 (paperback), 232p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me the book, in hopes I would review it.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Night of the Living Deed by E.J. Copperman

It's not easy being a divorced mother of a nine-year-old girl. And, it's not easy trying to renovate a Victorian house. Throw in two ghosts, and Alison Kerby isn't having a good October in E.J. Copperman's first Haunted Guesthouse Mystery, Night of the Living Deed.

Alison thought she only had to renovate a house, and she had the skills to do that since her father had taught her handyman skills. But, when a ghost breaks through a plastered wall, Alison is angry at the destruction of the house. And, Maxie, the former owner of the house, is malicious and won't give up until Alison agrees to investigate Maxie's death. She died at the same time as Paul, the private detective she had hired. Unfortunately, their deaths had been ruled suicide at the time, but Maxie and Paul insist they were murdered. Alison isn't interested in playing amateur sleuth. However, when she receives a threatening email, she realizes her safety, and her daughter, Melissa's, may depend on her teaming up with a couple ghosts.

What is it about Alison's new house that attracts so much attention? A land developer wants it. The mayor wants to see it. And, even Melissa's history teacher seems obsessed with the house. And, then there's the person who is terrorizing Alison.

Copperman's Alison Kerby is my kind of amateur sleuth, reluctant. She doesn't like Maxie. She only wants to renovate her house and turn it into a guesthouse on the Jersey Shore. But, if she has to consort with ghosts and pry into secrets in Harbor Haven, she'll do it to protect her daughter. Of course, most nine-year-old girls are wise beyond their years, and Melissa wants in on the action. And, Alison's mother, is much more in tune to the spirits' needs than Alison knows.

Fans of Alice Kimberly's Haunted Bookshop series will enjoy this book. Copperman's first story in this new series is promising with a solid cast of characters, Alison, her mother, her daughter, and the ghosts. Night of the Living Deed is an interesting mystery with some funny situations in the middle of a threatening situation. Don't miss this one. You'll want to meet Alison, Melissa, and, my favorite ghost, Paul.

E.J. Copperman's website is

Night of the Living Deed by E.J. Copperman. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2010. ISBN 9780425235232 (paperback), 325p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The author, and the publisher, sent me copies of this book, hoping I would review it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Winners and Humorous Mystery Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the books by Jenn McKinlay. Sprinkle with Murder will go to Judith L. of Claremont, CA. And, Carolyn F. from Saginaw, MI won the books Jenn wrote as Lucy Lawrence, Stuck on Murder and Cut to the Corpse. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

This week, you have the chance to win one of two humorous mysteries. Revenge for Old Times' Sake is the latest Tracy Eaton mystery by Kris Neri. This fun caper finds Tracy's stuffy husband, Drew, a murder suspect, after he punched his boss in the nose, and the man was later found floating, dead, in the Eatons' pool. It will take Tracy, her over-the-top movie actress mother, and even Drew's uptight mother, to find a way to keep Drew from going to prison. This is an autographed copy.

Or, you could win an ARC of Nancy Martin's Our Lady of Immaculate Deception. This is the first in a new series featuring Roxy Abruzzo, the grandniece of a Pittsburgh Mafia boss. She might be trying to go straight, but one little theft of a statue nobody could possibly want sets off all kinds of fireworks. Wicked humor, a little hot sex, and a few murders. What more do you expect from Nancy Martin?

So, take your pick, Revenge for Old Times' Sake or Our Lady of Immaculate Deception. You can enter to win both books if you'd like, but I need separate entries for each. If you'd like to win one, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read either, Win "Revenge," or Win "Immaculate Deception." Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, June 3 at 6 p.m. PT. The winners will be selected by random number generator. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

The Emperor's Code (The 39 Clues) by Gordon Korman

The hunt for the 39 Clues is coming down towards the end for Dan and Amy Cahill. Gordon Korman tells the story of their hunt in China in book eight in the juvenile series, The Emperor's Code.

It hasn't been easy for Dan and Amy to travel around the world on a mad chase for power and the 39 Clues. They've been accompanied by their au pair, Nellie Gomez, and their cat, Saladin. Now, in China, while visiting the Forbidden City, they find a clue left by the last Emperor, Puyi. But, the two youngsters let their emotions get the best of them. During an argument about their parents, Dan runs away. Before getting far, he's kidnapped by one of the other families in the competition. It will take all of his ingenuity to escape, and then make his way to an unknown meeting place to find Amy.

Korman's addition to the 39 Clues series is a fast-paced, riveting one. With Dan and Amy on separate paths, the author has the opportunity to introduce readers to the Great Wall of China, the terracotta warriors, Mount Everest, and other points of Chinese history and geography. In this story, Dan's adventures are ones that boys will appreciate.

The next two books will bring this series to a close. The 39 Clues have been aimed at an audience of fourth grade and up as they introduce readers to history, geography and famous people. It's been a fun chase, and Korman's contribution, The Emperor's Code, won't disappoint any followers. It's one of the best in the series. The ninth book, Linda Sue Park's Storm Warning, has just been released. Let's hope she can keep up the pace.

Readers can join the hunt at

The Emperor's Code (The 39 Clues Series #8) by Gordon Korman. Scholastic,Inc., ©2010.
ISBN 9780545060486 (hardcover), 176p.

FTC Full Disclosure: Scholastic sent me a copy of the book, in hopes I would review it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bet the House by Richard Roeper

Richard Roeper is probably best known for the eight years he spent as cohost of Ebert & Roeper as they reviewed movies. But, he's had a daily column in the Chicago Sun-Times, and has written seven books. And, he's definitely a gambler, as shown in his latest book, Bet the House: How I Gambled Over a Grand a Day for 30 Days on Sports, Poker, and Games of Chance.

Roeper claims "There are two types of people in this world: gamblers and the sane." And, he points out, "The true national pastimes aren't baseball and football and basketball. The real national pastime is fantasy football. It's March Madness and all those brackets. It's poker and slots and the lottery and craps and blackjack and keno and church raffles and Bingo. It's gambling."

He admits he made his first bet at eleven. He played poker and craps in high school, and enjoyed an instant high when he bet, a kind of euphoria. He loves betting, and is fascinated by the gambling culture, so he decided to spend thirty days betting on as many forms of gambling as he could. Roeper bet on horse races, March Madness, the greyhounds. He bought lottery tickets, played the slots. A great deal of his time was spent on poker, either online or in poker tournaments. And, he made his own rules ahead of time so he could see how he won or lost over those thirty days.

And, he admitted he didn't really learn anything he didn't already know in those thirty days, but he had a great time. Roeper said his book tells of a roller coaster ride through more than a dozen types of gambling, as he explored the culture.

I think it was a little more of a roller coaster for the man going through those thirty days than for the reader. Although I found the first half of the book interesting, after a little while it became repetitious. Roeper's book might have been an exploration, but it felt as if it was exploitation instead. Richard Roeper enjoys gambling, so the book gave him an excuse to spend thirty days gambling. Bet the House was just a little too much of the same idea, gambling over a grand a day, every day.

Richard Roeper's website is

Bet the House: How I Gambled Over a Grand a Day for 30 Days on Sports, Poker, and Games of Chance by Richard Roeper. Chicago Review Press, ©2010. ISBN 9781569762479 (hardcover), 272p.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Author Sara Rosett suggested the perfect book to follow up on a Pride and Prejudice marathon. Sara Hale's Austenland gives one member of the Mr. Darcy/Collin Firth fan club the chance of a lifetime.

At thirty-two, Jane Hayes tried to hide her passion for the Pride and Prejudice movie, the BBC double DVD version with Colin Firth. But, when her Aunt Carolyn unearths her hidden copy of the movie, she also digs for Jane's confession. Jane confesses her passion for the story. "Besides being witty and funny and maybe the best novel ever written, it's also the most perfect romance in all of literature and nothing in life can ever measure up, so I spend my life living in its shadow."

But, Aunt Carolyn was pretty shrewd. "Seriously, a thirty-something woman shouldn't be daydreaming about a fictional character in a two-hundred-year-old world to the point where it interfered with her very real and much more important life and relationships. Of course she shouldn't." So, Carolyn gave Jane a first-class planet ticket to England, and a three weeks vacation in Pembrook Park. It would be a complete immersion in the Regency period. And, Jane could decide if she still wanted to look for Mr. Darcy.

And, was Jane's vacation in what she termed Austenland quite what she expected? It took time for her to immerse herself when she found other women hungering for the same love, and actors playing parts they'd played before. And, maybe, in Jane Austen's world, Jane Hayes would find something that she hadn't ever thought about finding, herself.

Shannon Hale has done a masterful job capturing the emotions that cling to Jane Austen's world, and, particularly, that BBC production of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth. She understands the attraction, the fanaticism, and the willingness to get lost and escape, and "This Colin Firth thing." Jane Hayes is funny, witty, and a perfect heroine. Shannon Hale's Austenland is a wonderful sequel to the movie.

(Oh, and Sara? I bought the DVD.)

Shannon Hale's website is

Austenland by Shannon Hale. Bloomsbury USA, ©2007, ISBN 9781596912854 (hardcover), 208p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts

Does anyone do romance any better than Nora Roberts? And, how can you miss with weddings and romance? Savor the Moment, the third book in the Bride Quartet is just as much fun as the previous books in this charming series.

Vows is a wedding and event business, run by four women who have been friends since childhood. Previous books focused on Mackenzie (Mac), the wedding photographer, and Emma, the florist. Now, it's Laurel McBane's turn in the spotlight. Laurel is the one who went to culinary school, and now bakes the gorgeous wedding cakes for the business. But, she went to school only with a loan from Mrs. Grady, the housekeeper for the Browns, the family who owned the house that became Vows when Parker Brown and her brother, Del, inherited it following their parents' death. And, despite her close friendship with Parker, Laurel still harbors feelings of inferiority because of her parents' reputation.

Laurel has also hidden her love for Del. He's been there for years, first as a childhood playmate, then as the steady lawyer for Vows. He's Parker's brother, and the one who views all four women as his sisters. He's protective, but will he ever see Laurel McBane as anything other than one of the group, one of his sisters?

Once again, Roberts brings us a fun romance featuring a group of enchanting, witty friends. Not very realistic, but who wants realism in a charming romance? Laurel and Del's romance brings together two people who've known each other for years. And, their challenge to try dating for thirty days provides betting material for all of their friends.

The final book in the Bride Quartet, Happy Ever After, will be out in November. It will be Parker Brown's romantic story. While anticipating that one, Savor the Moment of the latest treat from Nora Roberts.

Nora Roberts' website is

Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts. Berkley Books, ©2010. ISBN 9780425233689 (paperback), 339p.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Salon - Penguin's Cozy Mysteries for June

It's getting close to the end of the month, so it's time for another Penguin (USA) Book Chat about cozy mysteries. And, if you're looking for the cat, you'll have to wait for the end.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Shoot to Thrill by P.J. Tracy

It's been four years since the last Monkeewrench novel by the mother-daughter team that is P.J. Tracy. But, the minute you pick up Shoot to Thrill, you're back in Minnesota with the police and the Monkeewrench crew.

John Smith, about to retire from the FBI, has gathered a group of hackers together because the FBI needs their help to trace a killer or killers through a sophisticated computer network operating in other countries. Someone is filming murders, and posting them on the Web. The FBI Cyber Crime Unit hasn't been able to determine which murders are actual, and which fake in the number of samples on the Web. But, no one is more skilled at programming and analyzing the web than the Monkeewrench crew. Grace MacBride, Annie Belinsky, Harley Davidson and Roadrunner make up the expert computer team. They all have their idiocyncracies. And, John Smith is assigned to work with them, although Monkeewrench isn't comfortable with the FBI peering over their shoulders.

As Monkeewrench tries to find someone who has killed, and is bragging about it on the Web, their sophisticated searches reveals something even worse. Someone out there is bragging about the next murder. It's up to Monkeewrench, and police departments in multiple states, to prevent the next death.

The Monkeewrench books are always about good and evil, and this time the story focuses on the Web, YouTube, and how anyone can become a celebrity, for all the wrong reasons. And, no one understands that more than the police. This novel skillfully blends the work of a team of computer geniuses with that of the Minneapolis Police Department, in particular the Homicide unit, represented by Detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth. It's their day-to-day investigation, their attention to detail, that meshes brilliantly with the work of the Monkeewrench team.

In the course of this series, Tracy has vividly portrayed all of the members of the Monkeewrench team. Although this is still a story of computers and the link to crime, in Shoot to Thrill, the authors have emphasized the police, Magozzi and Rolseth, along with the FBI agent, John Smith.

Is Shoot to Thrill a police procedural? The details of the police investigation are carefully laid out. Is it a thriller? An expert group races against the clock to prevent the next disaster, knowing the world is watching. In actuality, it's one of the blends that are becoming so popular in crime fiction today. No matter how you label it, Shoot to Thrill is a gripping story with a surprising conclusion. It's just good to have P.J. Tracy and Monkeewrench back.

P.J. Tracy's website is

Shoot to Thrill by P.J. Tracy. G.P. Putnam's Sons, ©2010. ISBN 9780399155208 (hardcover), 308p.

FTC Full Disclosure - library book

Friday, May 21, 2010

Macmillan Night at The Poisoned Pen

On Tuesday, I had the chance to spend the evening with two fun friends from New York, as well as three authors at the Poisoned Pen. The pictures aren't the best, but here are pictures of Talia Sherer and Bobby Brinson. Talia is the Director of Library Marketing for Macmillan. Bobby Brinson is the Senior Marketing Manager for HarperCollins. You haven't lived until you've spent eight hours with the "Talia and Bobby Show." Thanks, Talia and Bobby!

Talia and Bobby both made presentations for Back to the Beach, the annual Readers' Advisory workshop sponsored by MCLC, the Maricopa County Library Council. It's a treat to have them discuss the upcoming books from the publishers they represent. When it was over, I spent two hours visiting with them before we picked author Sandra Dallas up to go to the Poisoned Pen.

Talia didn't plan it, but all three authors appearing at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale were Macmillan authors. Sandra Dallas was there, promoting Whiter Than Snow. Andrew Grant's second David Trevellyan novel is Die Twice. Trevellyan has been called, "James Bond for the 21st century." And, Deborah Coonts' debut novel is Wanna Get Lucky?

Joanne Hamilton-Selway moderated the program, and, after introducing the authors, she asked each author to talk about their latest book. Deborah Coonts said Wanna Get Lucky? is her first novel, a funny mystery. It's set in Las Vegas. She let her son, a fifteen-year-old male, pick where he wanted to live, and he picked Las Vegas. It wasn't because of the women or gambling. He's a golfer, and Deborah followed him to Vegas. And, that's where she found her story, in Vegas. Deborah said she learned all the first names of the Chippendale dancers. She can guarantee she's the only author who submitted receipts to a male strip club to the IRS.

In Vegas, people can enjoy the bright lights, eat, and go to shows. Deborah had a lot of fun creating a major casino, the Babylon. She named rooms such as the Sodom and Gomorrah Room. She created Lucky O'Toole, the chief problem solver at the Babylon. Lucky handles all kinds of trouble. She becomes mixed up in murder when a young girl falls out of the Babylon's helicopter. Deborah said she's presenting the magic of Vegas, her view of it, and she hopes she makes readers laugh.

When it was Sandra Dallas' turn to discuss her novel, she said Whiter Than Snow definitely wouldn't make readers laugh. In the book, an avalanche sweeps away nine children. Only four live. It's the story of the families in the mining community in Colorado after the avalanche.

With his British accent, Andrew Grant said it's obvious he doesn't have the quintessential American voice. He introduced David Trevellyan, a Lieutenant Commander, and a British Intelligence officer in the Royal Navy in his first book, Even. In the latest book,
Die Twice, Trevellyan is walking back to his hotel in New York City, and sees the body of an old homeless man in an alley. He makes the mistake of going into the alley out of curiosity, and is found with the body, and gets arrested. He's sucked into a world of trouble.

In the next book, he leaves NYC, and ends up in Chicago where the British Consulate gives him another job. Another Royal Navy investigator has disappeared and gone rogue. It's Trevellyan's job to retrieve the secrets he's disappeared with, and take care of the situation.

Joanne asked if they always wanted to be writers. Sandra said she wanted to be a movie star, but, that wasn't meant to be. She said she wanted to write because she thought that was the best way to be rich and famous. She liked writing. She was a reporter, then the first female bureau chief for Business Week, at the time meetings would start with, "Gentlemen, and Sandra." She wrote Western history before turning to fiction.

Dallas said fiction is hard. With nonfiction, the subject matter sells the book, and the writing is just icing. With fiction, the writing is it. It's more stimulating to write fiction, and more lucrative.

Deborah answered that she was always an avid reader. She read, trying to escape an "interesting" childhood. Her mother had forbidden her to ride her bike to the bookstore, so she would ride her bike to her grandmother's, stash it, and ride her broken down pony to the bookstore. The two "ancient women" who ran the bookstore would give her milk and cookies, and let her sit and read whatever she wanted. Coonts said she mentioned this once, and someone said, oh, we know those women. They live across town. Those "ancient women" were probably in their 30s when Deborah was a child.

Coonts said she was in her late 20s when she decided she wanted to write a book, but didn't know what her story would be. It would be over fifteen years later before she found Las Vegas, and her story. Now, she's sold five books in the Lucky O'Toole series, and she still loves words.

Andrew didn't want to write. But, he loved telling stories as a kid, and was even sent to his room for making things up. His parents would take him on long car rides as a kid, and he remembers leaning over the front seat, telling stories. His parents said he would start out with the truth, and then would say, "And then suddenly...," and take off on a flight of fantasy. He learned to get out of a lot of trouble in school by telling outrageous stories.

Andrew majored in English literature, and hated it in school. That was a time period when professors had written on the subjects, and they would get mad if you said something different about what they had written. In 1986, a professor told him not to come back until he apologized. He hasn't. So, he moved to drama.

Then, Grant got sucked into the system, and worked for fifteen years. He couldn't go to the theatre, so he read more. But, it reached the point where he had the itch, and it became more fun to write than read.

Grant worked for a large company, and at one point they offered redundancy pay. he thought it would be good to get paid to leave, but they wouldn't let anyone in his particular department leave. Since they wouldn't pay him to leave, he tried coming up with outrageous ideas in order to get let go, but they just thought he was great for "Thinking outside the box."

On June 30, 2006, he finally quit, giving himself a year to write a book. He finished by June 30, 2007, and had a book deal by February, 2008. But, the publishing world doesn't move as fast as the business world does. It took until May 2009 for his first book, Even, to arrive on shelves. Now, his second book, Die Twice, is out, and there should be one every twelve months.

Sandra Dallas said it was a year and a half from the time her first book was accepted until publication. She had an amazing publisher at Random House, the type of editor that used to work in publishing. He would call, and pull the material out of her. Now, editors acquire property, and an author is only as good as their last book.

Deborah Coonts wrote two full-length manuscripts before one sold. She did get an agent after the second manuscript, though. It took her a while to find her Las Vegas story.

Coonts just wrote the story, and threw out the rules. Finally, she gave Wanna Get Lucky? to a friend who was an agent. One night, the friend decided to start it just before bed, and she was sitting there laughing. Her husband trotted off to bed, and then came back, and asked what she was laughing at. She gave him the first four chapters to read. A little while later, he came back, and asked for four more chapters. They stayed up most of the night reading the book. The next day, the husband, a senior editor at Tor/Forge, called, and said he wanted to buy the book. Tor/Forge is an imprint at Macmillan. Deborah said she's had a wonderful experience. Her editor is old school. He bought a five-book series. She's already written the first three books, and she's working on the fourth. The next book could be out at Christmas, but, probably in February, and then every nine months after. She's doing appearances right now, but she's eager to get home. Since she's doing promotions, she feels as if she used to be a writer.

When asked what their favorite thing about being a writer was, Deborah's answer was funny. She gets to create her fantasies. On a bad day, she can kill someone. If she's feeling lonely, she can create a really great guy.

Sandra answered that it's rewarding to talk to readers. That gives her a sense of satisfaction. Sometimes people tell her, though, that her books gave them courage to change their lives. She's received letters saying your book gave me the courage to leave my marriage. Dallas said that wasn't her intent.

Andrew said his books could only give people the courage to beat someone with a baseball bat. Grant was the first to field the next question about their characters and ideas. He said he can't get the ideas out of his head, and suddenly it all makes sense. He puts four or five of those ideas in a book. He said he had the best job in the world.

Grant then gave credit to Steve Hely's novel, How I Became a Famous Novelist. In it, Hely says you have to know who the bad guy is, what the crime is, and why they're doing it, in order to create a credible villain. A writer has to know the ending, and how the paths of the hero and bad guy crosses. Sometimes those ideas veer off, or there is another stunning idea. Grant said he uses the analogy, it's like driving in fog. You know the beginning and the end, and anything can happen in between.

Sandra said she's taught workshops, and she tells the students the same thing. You know the beginning and end, but subplots and other things happen as you go along. You also get to know your characters as you go along. Dallas' characters become real, and take on a life of their own. They become real people.

Deborah's books are all told in from Lucky's point-of-view, in her voice, so she has to know her. She also knows the ending, but had to rewrite the last scene in the second book, when something changed. Deborah writes the book in first person, and the characters change over the course of the series. She has to know the relationships, and the character arc, so, over the course of the series, she doesn't write herself into a blind alley.

Coonts starts with the murder. She wanted to send an oddsmaker into the shark bay in Mandalay Bay. So, she did research. She asked an employee if the sharks would eat a body if it fell in their pool. The man looked at her funny and asked if he should be calling security, as her son is standing behind her nodding his head. He then said, if the body fell into the pool when the fluorescent lights came on, the sharks would attack it. The fluorescent lights coming on mean feeding time.

They were all asked about their writing schedule, if they have one. Andrew treats writing just like a job. He's part of a production team in the business of producing a book. Everyone, from the agent to the editor, publisher, marketing team, is dependent on what he delivers. So, you don't get writer's block because it's your job to deliver a manuscript.

Deborah sits in a bar, a casino, or Panera Bread with her computer. She soaks up the atmosphere of Las Vegas, and can write anywhere.

Dallas has an office at home. Every day she writes fifty lines. She can only write in her office, while Coonts has a booth in Panera Bread. Deborah listens to music while she works. She puts on her headphones; the staff brings her coffee and takes care of her.

Sandra said she was a reporter for so long that she doesn't get writer's block. There's no such thing as writer's block for a reporter, or you're out of a job. You just write through it.

Deborah gets up, gets fully caffeinated. She goes to the gym to work out, and while others watch TV, she stares at a blank screen. Then, she goes home, and gets more fully caffeinated. Then she sits down at the computer and writes until she has 1500 words for the day.

Deborah and Andrew, who write series, were asked how they keep track of their characters and habits. Coonts responded that she's very visual. She sees the people in her mind. She doesn't take copious notes as some other authors do. Since she's visual, she keeps it in her head. She opens the front door of the Babylon when she opens her computer.

Grant said he's clear about his main characters. He loves reading series, and that's why he wanted to write one. Andrew, whose brother is Lee Child, was asked if he reads his brother's work. He said he only read the first three. Once he decided he wanted to write, he quit reading his work because he easily picks up other people's styles. He can read Shakespeare in the evening, and get up the next morning saying forsooth. That's why he doesn't read fiction while he's writing. He turns to nonfiction then.

They were all asked what they are working on now. Deborah's next book, Lucky Stiff, will probably be out in February. So Damn Lucky, the third book, has been turned in to the publisher. Coonts is working on the fourth book. It involves a World Series of Poker weekend in Vegas. One of the characters is a deaf professional poker player. She was fortunate to meet one. That book is tentatively titled Lucky the Hard Way.

Dallas is working on a generational novel, but said she didn't want to say any more than that, because so often things change. Grant's working on the next David Trevellyan novel. He's in the hospital. After that's done, he'll look for his idea for the next one. Dallas and Grant both said they do clip stories, and take notes for future ideas.

Sandra said she writes fifty lines a day. She edits as she goes along, and then again at the end. Her first novel took her three months. The current one has taken her three years. Deborah edits as she goes as well, and then goes back each day and edits. Andrew agreed with the quote from Nora Roberts that it's easier to fix a bad page than a blank one. But, he tends to get stuck looking for the correct word. He's trying to loosen up, and get more relaxed about writing. He wants to keep moving on, and go back and fix the word later. Deborah said if she knows she needs a better word, she puts it in italics. Since Lucky is known for her comments, Coonts will write, "Lucky says something funny here," and move on. Andrew commented in the type of writing he does, he has to have two things right, guns and cars.

The authors were all asked about the use of social media. Deborah answered that she likes the interaction, but it's time-consuming. How much do you put out on Facebook? She knows people want a sense of the writer. She likes the connection, but she has to write her book, not spend time writing on the Internet. Sandra finds it disconcerting. She spends as much time on promotion as she does on writing, but you have to do it. Andrew said he grew up in England, where they're more reserved and cautious. He finds it hard to use social media. It's just not natural for him.

And, before ending the program, they all fielded a question about writing workshops. Deborah quit after a little while because they wanted to tell her the rules for writing, and she wanted to make her own rules. So, her rule is, go home and write. Don't make a profession of workshops. Sandra never attended workshops, although she has taught some. Andrew said no, he didn't attend any. His first book, Even, contains David's psychological profile. It's actually Andrew's profile; he just changed the name. And, it said he doesn't like rules.

It was a very enjoyable evening for Macmillan Night at The Poisoned Pen. (And, thanks, Talia & Bobby!)

Sandra Dallas' website is

Whiter Than Snow by Sandra Dallas. St. Martin's Press, ©2010. ISBN 9780312600150 (hardcover), 304p.

Deborah Coonts' website is

Wanna Get Lucky? by Deborah Coonts. Tor/Forge. ©2010. ISBN 978-0765325433 (hardcover), 352p.

Andrew Grant's website is

Die Twice by Andrew Grant. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2010. ISBN 9780312540272 (hardcover), 304p.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Winners and a Jenn McKinlay Cozy Contest

I have a number of winners to announce tonight. First, the winner of the Latino Book Month giveaway from Hatchette Book Groups is Debbie F. from Ellicott City, MD. There are two winners of Sara Rosett's Magnolias, Moonlight, and Murder. I'll be sending those books to Joyce K. from La Salle, IL, and Leah J. of Fort Lee, NJ. Mint Juleps, Mayhem, and Murder goes to four winners. Those are Heather C. of Orlando, FL, Beth H. of Newport, KY, Connie H. from Sherman, TX, and Joanne S. Poukeepsie, NY. Congratulations to all of the winners. The Sara Rosett books will go out in the mail tomorrow. Hatchette will send the books to Debbie.

This week, I'm giving away three autographed cozies. Jenn McKinlay has written two books in "A Decoupage Mystery" series, under the name Lucy Lawrence. The first is Stuck on Murder. Brenna Miller is teaching decoupage classes in Morse Point. She's had a hard time making friends, and it doesn't help that the pushy mayor wants her help convincing her landlord, Nate Williams, to sell his lakefront property to land developers. And, when the mayor ends up dead, Nate is blamed. Brenna thinks there's someone else responsible, and she'll prove it.

Someone will win both books in Jenn's Decoupage series. Cut to the Corpse is the second book. Brenna's responsible for preparing decoupage wedding favors for Tara Montgomery's wedding reception. But, the morning after Tara's bridesmaids' party, she's found passed out in the bed of a man she's not engaged to marry. What makes it worse is that he's dead, and Tara is holding the murder weapon. Since Tara remembers nothing, it will take time for Brenna to tear through the gossip, and find the truth.

Under her own name, Jenn McKinlay has kicked off a Cupcake Bakery Mystery series. Sprinkle with Murder introduces Melanie Cooper and Angie DeLaura, owners of the Fairy Tale Cupcakes bakery in Scottsdale, Arizona. Their first big order is for the wedding of their best friend. It's too bad the bride-to-be is bridezilla. The situation grows worse when Melanie finds the body Of bridezilla, and becomes the chief suspect.

So, cupcakes or decoupage? You can enter to win both series if you'd like, but I need separate entries for each. If you'd like to win one, email me at Email me!. If that link doesn't work for you, the email address is: Your subject line should read either, Win "Cupcakes," or Win "Decoupage." Your message should include your mailing address. Entrants only in the U.S., please.

The contest will end Thursday, May 27 at 6 p.m. PT. The winners will be selected by random number generator. The winners will be notified, and the books will go out in the mail on Friday. Good luck!

Sandra Dallas at Back to the Beach

Back to the Beach is an annual Readers' Advisory workshop for librarians, sponsored by the Maricopa County Library Council. Librarians from the state of Arizona gather for a half day workshop to hear publishers' reps talk about forthcoming books, librarians booktalk genre books, and an author. This year, we were fortunate to have Sandra Dallas, author of Whiter Than Snow, as the guest speaker. And, I was very lucky to be able to take Sandra to dinner the night before. So, this is a recap of her appearance at Back to the Beach, along with a thank you. It was a pleasure to spend the evening, and part of an afternoon, with Sandra Dallas.

Dallas told us that she grew up using a branch of the Denver Public Library. When she was in fourth or fifth grade, she passed out at the circulation desk, to find all of the librarians standing around her. To this day, it's one of the highlights of her library experiences.

Sandra Dallas was the first female bureau chief for Business Week. That was back in the days when a meeting was started with, "Gentlemen, and Sandra." She wrote nonfiction books about land use and water policy, and a number of books about the West. When her first book about Western history came out when she was twenty-six, she was called an ingenue. At fifty, when her first novel was published, she was considered a poster girl for AARP.

Sandra said she did try to write fiction earlier. A friend who was a stringer for People met her for lunch, along with another writer for a ski magazine. It was the time when bodice rippers were popular, and they thought they could write one and make some big money. They knew they could do it because they were "real writers," who wrote nonfiction. So, they came up with a plot, and then Sandra created a hero. Since she worked for Business Week, the hero was an entrepreneur. The woman who worked for the ski magazine had a heroine who was skier. And, the woman from People had created a number of odd characters. They decided to include a French count and countess because they'd be able to go to France, and call it research. The three of them met a few times, but they never got around to writing sex scenes.

Laughter followed when Sandra said she remembered trying it once. Then she said, no, she meant trying to write a sex scene. (She is the mother of two.) She said she went into her office and closed the door, so no one could see. And, she typed, "He unbuttoned the top button of her blouse." Then, she stared at the screen, and finally wrote, "The next morning..."

She said she was amazed at how much she liked writing fiction. Her first book, Buster Midnight's Cafe, took only three months to write. But, the one she's working on now has taken her three years.

One question she gets asked frequently is, "Where do you get your ideas?" She said many come from a magical moment, what James Michener called, "An aha moment." With Buster Midnight's Cafe, she was walking between rooms, when the plot, characters, and the opening sentence came to her. And, she had the choice of continuing on to the kitchen to get something to eat, or go back and write. She went back and wrote the first chapter. Everything except that opening sentence was eventually changed.

Sometimes it isn't easy to put those ideas together. With Dallas' book, Alice's Tulips, includes quilting. It's set during the Civil War, and it's written in the form of letters. Dallas' friend, author Diane Mott Davidson suggested she use letters. But, she didn't know how to put it together. She thought she would have a woman come to Denver and write letters home, but Dallas didn't know why she had come to Denver, and what she was doing there. But, one night, she went to dinner with her husband, and said, I'm having trouble with this book, and as she talked, the entire plot spilled out. There's a moral to that story; "It pays to eat red meat."

Sandra had an idea for her current book, Whiter Than Snow, when she was here in Phoenix for the Western Writers of America convention. She said it was so hot here that she actually attended sessions during the convention. She heard someone say a plot brings together a disparate group of people to solve a common problem. And, that comment, in Arizona heat, led to Whiter Than Snow, a novel set in the Colorado high country.

Whiter Than Snow takes place in April 1920 when an avalanche hits a mining town. Nine kids were buried in the avalanche. Four lived. The book is the story of the families.

Dallas said she writes books about relationships. This one is about the relationship between sisters. It's also about place. Place is her favorite thing to write about. She can go there, and listen, and be in her setting.

There are two sisters in Whiter Than Snow. One loves the mountain town, and can't imagine living elsewhere. The other sister feels trapped, and wants out. There's a woman from Saginaw who becomes the wife of the mine manager. Her family lost their money, and, in 1910, women had no options but to marry. There's a Jewish girl from the lower East Side in New York. Dallas and her daughter visit the Tenement Museum when they go to New York. They have restored apartments there from 1840 and the turn of the century.

Dallas tends to write more about women in her books, but there are two men who are important characters in Whiter Than Snow. One is a black man, born after the Civil War, who does a horrible thing, and strikes a white man and has to flee. According to Dallas, conditions for blacks were often worse after slavery. There were economic reasons for slaveholders to keep their slaves alive. But, after, there was no reason for white men to help blacks. So, often, blacks were taken to court on trumped up charges, and charged with court costs they couldn't pay. Someone would pay the court costs, with the stipulation that the costs would have to be worked off, sometimes for five years.

The other important male character in Whiter Than Snow is a Civil War veteran. She once heard the folk group, Back Porch Majority, sing a song about The Great Sultana. At the end of the Civil War, riverboats were commandeered to carry Union soldiers back up the Mississippi. The Great Sultana was carrying prisoners released from Andersonville. The boat was supposed to carry 376 crew and passengers. There were 2100 on board when the boat blew up. Eighteen hundred died. It was the worst ship disaster in U.S. history. In comparison, 1500 died on the Titanic.

Sandra read us a charming piece her six-year-old grandson wrote to help her with her research on avalanches. She said the title, Whiter Than Snow, comes from Psalm 51, "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." And, then she told us it reminded her of a jingle for detergent, but she didn't have a better title.

With this book, her husband said, "You have sex in it." Sandra said it's sex that your maiden aunt wouldn't object to, but she considered it a major breakthrough.

Dallas is frequently asked if she uses real people in her books. In Tallgrass, she started out by making the mother the voice of conscience, but the father turned into her own father, with his beliefs and behavior. It's the only time she's used a real person. Mattie Spencer, in The Diary of Mattie Spencer, has Dallas' own height, politics, and sense of humor, but she's a nicer person, and has better hair.

Sandra often includes quilting in her novels. When she wrote The Persian Pickle Club, she discovered there are 27 million quilters in the U.S., and they spend $3.3 billion a year. Their second favorite hobby is reading about quilts. Quilting died out during WWII, and skipped a generation. When it was reborn, quilters were often self-taught.

She said writing dialogue is her favorite part of writing. She made the New York Times Best Seller list, and turned seventy this year. So, she's finally making it at the age of seventy. She hopes she knows where to stop. She also received her first hate mail, which she considered another breakthrough. A man wrote and called her queer, a transvestite, and liberal. Dallas commented that one out of three isn't bad.

When you're a friend of a writer, you never know when you'll be involved in a book. Dallas gathers incidents. There's the Seven Wives Inn in St. George, Utah, owned by the great-grandfather of the current owner. When polygamy ended, Benjamin Johnson told his seven wives he could only have one, and he wasn't going to choose; they would have to do that. The wives got together, and all seven turned him down.

Dallas went for a walk, and was sitting on a bench in Las Vegas, New Mexico, one day when a drunk wandered over, and, skipping all of the other benches, sat down by her. After a while, he said, "Nobody's going to mess with you when you're with me."

And, one day, she sat outside at a table in Santa FE, reading the paper when a bum came along. He asked for money, and she ignored him. He asked again, and she ignored him. Finally he said, "Jesus loves you, Snooty Lady." She used that in one of her books.

Dallas ended her Back to the Beach program saying fiction doesn't get any easier. And, now, she spends as much time promoting her books as writing them, through her newsletter, writing guest blogs. It's no longer enough to write the book. Now, the author has to promote them as well.

And, Sandra Dallas did an excellent job promoting her books to a receptive audience of librarians.

Sandra Dallas' website is

Whiter Than Snow by Sandra Dallas. St. Martin's Press, ©2010. ISBN 9780312600150 (hardcover), 304p.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wednesday Tidbits

I know it's an odd day to do catch-up, but I haven't had a chance to finish a book in the last couple days. I'll have a nice wrap-up on Thursday, though, of my week with authors. It's been fun!

Let's start with The Criminal Element. Have you seen this newsletter? I'm copied the weblink for you, and you just have to click on The Criminal Element above, but you might want to subscribe to the newsletter. It's the new informative monthly newsletter from Macmillan publishing. The current issue is an introduction. It talks about spy novels by Olen Steinhauer and Andrew Grant, and features a giveaway by Picador. "This month, Picador is offering the first four internationally bestselling books by Icelandic sensation Arnaldur Indridason." There's an interview with Paul Doiron, author of the debut crime novel, The Poacher's Son. And, John Banville discusses his Benjamin Black books. If you're a fan of crime fiction, you'll want your monthly update at The Criminal Element.

I often include authors here who are sent to me through ReadingGroupGuides. They have an interesting offer for book clubs right now. "Ten years ago this month our boss, Carol Fitzgerald, launched with a goal to connect book groups with books and authors that would make for great conversation --- and move, motivate and inspire them. The website now has more than 11,000 newsletter subscribers, 10,000 registered book groups and 3,000 discussion guides listed. It’s become an online community for more than 185,000 unique visitors each month. Thus, in keeping with the “10 theme,” will be giving away $10,000 in prizes in the 10th Anniversary Contest. To enter to win, groups will be asked to share their "Top 10 Favorite Discussion Books." The prizes will be 50 $200 gift certificates to treat book clubs to a month’s worth of discussion books. Groups also can opt instead to donate books to a school, library or other organization of their choice. Gift certificates will be purchased by The Book Report Network at the bricks and mortar or online store of the winning groups’ choosing. The contest will be open through August 31st . You can find more at:

And, I'll end with the update on Kaye Barley's husband, Donald, because I've heard privately from a number of people. Here's her last good news email.

"The results of the cath test - including a picture - showed a 90% blockage. The
hospital furnished a "before" picture and an "after" picture. The 90% blocked
artery was barely visible. Amazing to see the "after" picture and seeing that
the artery had reappeared all fat and healthy. Lovely.

"Donald is resting easy and Harley and I invite you all to join us in a Happy
Dance of major proportions - stretching from North Carolina to all points
imaginable. We spend one more night in Asheville - Donald at the hospital; me
and Harley at the hotel. We go home to Boone tomorrow.

"So this, I think, will be the final Donald Update mass mailing, and my final
thank you to you all as a group. But - rest assured - I'll be showing up in
your mailbox to respond to all of you who took the time to write. (Don't even
bother writing to say it's not necessary).

"We thank you and we love you.
Kaye and Donald and Harley"

Tomorrow, my author adventures this week.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Top of the Order edited by Sean Manning

I can assure you that I'm not going to read every book I purchased for the library as a memorial to Jim. (For one thing, I bought 20 GED books.) But, I am reading a number of the baseball books, because I always enjoyed reading about the sport. And, Sean Manning's collection, Top of the Order: 25 Writers Pick Their Favorite Baseball Player of All Time, is a thought-provoking, enjoyable sports book.

Baseball fans will understand when Manning says in his introduction, "It's no coincidence that there are twenty-five (players) in total, the same number as an an active roster, nor that Rickey Henderson leads things off and Rivera closes." This is a fascinating collection featuring a variety of authors who select their favorite players. This isn't a collection saying, this is the best player of all-time. It's an idiosyncratic group of opinions and writers. Some of the writers are known for writing about sports, and others are known for other work, such as Laura Lippman, the award-winning mystery author and former journalist. One of the players selected isn't even an actual person.

Knowing so many of Jim's favorite players, it was interesting to read this book, and compare his knowledgeable opinions with that of the writers. He definitely agreed with Lippman that Brooks Robinson was the greatest third baseman. (And, he could recite her Baltimore four.) He would have loved Jonathan Eg's comment about Barry Bonds. "Now, with Bonds, one of the greatest ballplayers of all time struck me as one of the lowest pieces of dung ever scraped from the bottom of a shoe."

This was an outstanding collection of articles. Some stories even made me cry, such as the ones about Kirby Puckett and Jeff Kent. And, I never even liked Jeff Kent! These are thoughtful pieces by writers that truly care about baseball. If you're a fan of the history of the game, the book is a pleasure.

So, I'll end on a personal note. Jim's favorite players were from the days of Cincinnati's Big Red Machine. He loved "Charlie Hustle," Pete Rose, because of the intensity with which he played every game. He still thought he belonged in the Hall of Fame. And, he loved Johnny Bench for his career as a catcher, although we understood he wasn't such a great person in reality. My favorite player? Mike Piazza, a catcher I followed from his days with the Dodgers to the end of his career. And, both of us would have picked a manager. No baseball managers were selected in this group, but we would have picked Jim Leyland, since he's a distant cousin of my mother's. We admired him as a manager, laughed at his post-conference interviews since it was so obvious he was uncomfortable doing them, and appreciated the time he took to acknowledge family when we had a chance to meet him.

So, Sean Manning and twenty-four other authors accomplished just what they set out to do with Top of the Order. They told readers about their favorite baseball players, and provoked thought as to who, and why, we would select our favorite players. It's a book for all fans of baseball history.

Top of the Order: 25 Writers Pick Their Favorite Baseball Player ed. by Sean Manning. Da Capo Press, ©2010. ISBN 9780306818554 (paperback), 240p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wanna Get Lucky? by Deborah Coonts

Wanna Get Lucky? Believe me, you will, if you make time to read Deborah Coonts' debut novel, Wanna Get Lucky? It's the sexiest, funniest, caper novel I've read in years; one of the best books I've read this year. Move over Stephanie Plum. Lucky O'Toole is sexy, sarcastic, and she has a brain.

And, she's also having a really bad day. As head of Customer Relations for the Babylon, "an over-the-top mega casino/resort on the Las Vegas strip," she's head troubleshooter. So, when Lyda Sue Stalnaker is on the news, plunging to her death out of the Babylon's helicopter, right into the Pirate's Lagoon in front of the Treasure Island Hotel, Lucky knows her day isn't going to go well. But, it's never just one incident at a time in the casino business. It's a naked man sleeping under a stairwell, the man with a snake in his room, and the regular guest who wrecked one of the hotel's Ferrari. That's just a normal day for Lucky. And, a normal week brings the Adult Film industry's annual banquet at the same time the Trendmakers, a spouse-swapping group is in town for their convention.

But, it isn't so normal when she has to check up on the sexy new security guard with the Texas accent. Something about him seems just a little off. And, the Big Boss' reaction to the helicopter incident seems odd. Lucky O'Toole's instincts for trouble are usually quick. So, why didn't she see it coming when her best friend, Teddie, Las Vegas' star female impersonator, wants more than just friendship? This could be much more than one troubleshooter can handle on her own. It's a good thing Lucky has an interesting group of friends.

Coonts' Lucky O'Toole is a star. She's smart, sarcastic, and uses her sarcasm as a defense mechanism. And, her talent for sexual innuendo is unbeatable. She's loyal to the Babylon and its staff. She would be a wonderful friend, and dangerous enemy. The characters in this book are wonderful, beginning with Lucky, Teddie, to Lucky's assistant, Miss Patterson, and Lucky's mother.

And, then there's Las Vegas itself. Coonts has given us the city in all its over-the-top outrageousness. She's filled the city with outlandish characters, and surprises. Wanna Get Lucky? is the perfect book for the city. It's the perfect book to introduce Lucky O'Toole, and I can't wait to read the next one, Lucky Stiff. Lucky's troubles will be our pleasure, I'm sure.

Deborah Coonts' website is

Wanna Get Lucky? by Deborah Coonts. Tor/Forge. ©2010. ISBN 978-0765325433 (hardcover), 352p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received my ARC from the publisher, in hopes I would review it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday Salon - Kris Neri for Authors @ The Teague

Kris Neri is an author and the owner of The Well-Red Coyote Bookstore in Sedona. Although I was lucky enough to get to take the bookstore owner to lunch, the Velma Teague Library hosted the mystery writer for Authors @ The Teague.

Kris told us the publication gods had smiled on her this year, and she had two books released since last fall. So, she started with the book that is the first in a new series, High Crimes on the Magical Plane. Samantha Brennan is a fake psychic. She's vibrant, and fun, but makes dubious professional choices. She learns about the kidnapping of a movie star, and doesn't know why she's the only one who knows about it. So, she rushes to the FBI, so she can appear to predict the kidnapping. Then, when they find out it really happened, she'll get the media attention she craves, as the psychic who predicted it. But, she runs into an FBI agent who is her exact opposite. Annabelle Haggerty is professional and responsible. Samantha is eccentric, but she wishes people would take her seriously as a psychic. She sees Annabelle as a responsible drone.

Then, for the first time, Samantha gets actual visions. She finds that wonderful and horrible. It's wonderful that she's finally getting her wish, but she finds it horrible that she's experiencing someone else's emotions. That makes for a roller coaster ride. Then, the visions begin to drive the FBI's case. It turns out that Annabelle is everything that Samantha wishes she was; a genuine Celtic goddess. Her ancestors made have moved on, but their descendants live among us. It makes for a strained partnership because they are secretly living the lives the other one wants. Samantha would love to be psychic, and Annabelle would like to be a normal human, but it would be a slap in the face of her ancestors to deny her heritage. They end up on good terms, because they can learn from each other. Samantha can be more responsible, and Annabelle might learn to have a little more fun.

According to Kris, whenever an author writes, something unexpected emerges. This time, it was the part that was the most fun in the book. There were many beings that inhabit the book, from dolphins that can talk to brownies. But, Annabelle's ancestor, Angus, is the most fun. He was the ancient god of love and laughter, and he becomes Samantha's love slave.

Neri said Angus represents how our ideas of beauty change over time. Angus, who is from an earlier age, likes Samantha because she's plump, and he his image of beauty is Rubenesque. He becomes a lounge singer. In the past, it was said that anyone who heard Angus' harp had to continue to listen to him. So, Kris said what would he do in modern times? He would be a lounge singer. He also uses '60s slang.

High Crimes on the Magical Plane was a finalist for the Lefty Award in
2009, the award given for best humorous mystery.

Revenge for Old Times' Sake is the third book in Neri's multi-award nominated series. Tracy Eaton is the daughter of eccentric Hollywood stars, and by the time of this book, a mystery writer. Those who read mysteries with amateur sleuths are willing to accept that real people could solve crimes. But we know they don't do it in real life. Tracy thinks she can because she's a total product of her parents' reality-challenged existence.

Tracy and her over-the-top movie star mother, Martha Collins, were introduced in a short story when Martha was framed for her boy toy's murder. Martha immediately calls on Tracy to obliterate all traces of the murder because she doesn't want her husband to learn of it. That story, "L.A. Justice," went on to win the Derringer Award for best short story. So, Neri gave Tracy and Martha three novels so far.

Tracy is married to a stodgy lawyer. That gives her a sense of stability in her life. But, she's a complex person. She wants stability, but also wants Drew to loosen up. But, then he pops his boss in the nose, and the boss ends up dead in the pool, and Drew is framed for the murder.

Tracy, with her unconventional practices, expects to clear him immediately, but that's BEFORE help arrives. First is her mother, who wants to be an amateur sleuth, like Tracy. Then, there's Drew's mother, Charlotte. She's so rigid with dignity that she can barely function. She shows up to protect him from those crazy women and their antics. The two mothers have never gotten along. They came to blows at the wedding. Until this book, Kris had never told readers why the mothers fought. The third person is Drew's ex-flame who signs on as his defense lawyer. Is she trying to get him back or pay him back?

As Kris said earlier, there's always something unexpected that comes up that's engaging for the author. This time, it was the house in the book. Neri lived in L.A. for years, in Chatsworth, a place that reminds her of Carefree, Arizona, with the boulders. There were horse ranches, and they shot westerns there. Lots of movies stars had country homes there, including Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez. Kris said everything is grist for the mill for an author. She thought that type of neighborhood would be great for Martha's old country home. The house first appears in Dem Bones' Revenge.

In Revenge for Old Times' Sake, the house is a character. Martha designed it, and it reflects her crazy personality. A writer can live out fantasies in books. It's always a challenge to create something from nothing, and have it fit your image, fleshed-out. Neri said she really wanted this house. It's nuts. It has a round room, and two sets of staircases. One side of the house doesn't connect with the other, in case some of Martha's guests weren't speaking. There's no doorbell, but old tunes that play. The tunes seem particularly appropriate. One time it plays the tune from Psycho. One it was Anything Goes. There's a chalkboard room. When Martha owned the house, she put artists in there to let them create. Tracy's mother-in-law is put in that room, and she loves to see the uptight woman coming out trying to brush chalk dust off of herself. Neri said she can live with the house, and let it evolve. The house is the primary place, and the mystery plays out there.

After reading from Revenge for Old Times' Sake, Kris took questions. The first question was about whether she heard the story in her head. She said she sees words and pictures. She said there was a survey, and those authors who hear their characters and see pictures seem to have an easier time. Some writers only hear the words; some only see pictures. She said it's off the subject, but she thinks readers are like that, too, since our brains work in different ways.

There was a question about the cover of High Crimes on the Magical Plane. She answered that she has nothing to do with the covers. She doesn't have an illustrator-type mind. She thought the cover did look like Samantha, and that image, and the fire, are integral to the book. She said she was asked a lot of questions about how she saw Samantha. She said she doesn't see the faces of her characters; they're like mystical images.

Sue Flaig, one of Neri's publishers, was there, and said when they designed the cover of High Crimes on the Magical Plane, they used a stock photo for the woman's figure. They told the audience to make her a little fatter because of Kris' description of her. Kris reminded us that the physical style of women seen as attractive changes. That's why an immortal god found Samantha's Rubenesque figure attractive.

Neri said she's working on two books right now. The sequel to High Crimes on the Magical Plane involves domestic terrorism with magical elements. And, the next book in the Tracy Eaton series takes place at various places along Rt.66.

When asked if her characters are always in her head, she said she's always writing the next book. Since she's written around sixty short stories, she's created a lot of characters. Some of them go away, and her time with them is done. Others stay with her.

Her publisher asked how she handles working on both books at the same time, and how much time she spends on each one. Kris said she doesn't work on them at the same time. She'll work on one for a while, and then the other. One of her books is in the first draft, while she's working on the second draft of the other. Even when she works on nonfiction or a blog piece, she has to get out of one type of writing, and into the other.

One of my favorite elements of Revenge for Old Times' Sake was the used cars, so I asked Kris to talk about them. She said Tracy's mother was from L.A., a company town in many ways. And, many neighbors might be part of the industry, even if they're driving a truck for the movies. People sold junked cars to the movies. They buy them, fix them up, and have a business to sell them for less money than other cars.

Now, Tracy has an old country house, with dirt roads and a big plot of land. So, Martha invested in a car company, and stores all of the cars at the house. It adds to the ambiance. Neri said she doesn't outline, and she doesn't wing it. It's a combination. She added the cars for local color, and then they became important to the story. She introduced them, and now uses them. She said she discovered why she put them there. Then, Kris said no one had asked her about the cars before.

One question was about authors. Who does Kris read? As a bookseller, she reads everything she has enough hours in a day to read. Mysteries are her favorite. She's loved them since she was a kid and read Nancy Drew. She's recently read a number of books by Thomas H. Cook. She read the Stieg Larsson books. Neri's not a big memoir reader. She just finished The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff, since it's about polygamy, and she has a hard time with that. She said she reads a little of everything. But, as a bookseller, she can't always read what she wants, when she wants. She has been pleasantly surprised, though by some of the books.

Neri was also asked if there's much competition in the mystery genre. She said, in one sense, there's competition because people pick one book over another. But, authors actually have no control over what people select. Kris said the authors in the mystery field, and the readers, are some of the nicest, most supportive and most generous people. She said most writers are generous, though, and most don't behave in a competitive manner.

Kris ended the program by discussing CrimeSeen, the Aug. 14 WriteNow! 2010 conference sponsored by the Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Although information can be found at, she mentioned the three authors who are featured. Robin Burcell is a mystery author, a police officer, and an FBI-trained forensic artist. James O. Born is a Special Agent with the Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement, and an award-winning author. Sheila Lowe, a friend of Neri's, is a court-qualified handwriting expert who testifies in forensic cases. The conference, to be held at The Wrigley Mansion, is for writers, people who want to be writers, and, according to Kris, fans of CSI, with the emphasis on CrimeSeen this year.

It was a perfect ending to another Authors @ The Teague program.

Kris Neri's website is

Revenge for Old Times' Sake by Kris Neri. Cherokee McGhee, ©2010. ISBN 9780979969454(paperback), 248p.

High Crimes on the Magical Plane by Kris Neri. Red Coyote Press, ©2009. ISBN 9780976673354 (paperback), 224p.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A request for prayers - Kaye Barley's husband

I'm interrupting the blog for a little while to ask for prayers. If you hang around on DorothyL, or spend much time on mystery blogs, you probably know Kaye Barley from Meanderings and Muses. Kaye lives in Boone, NC with her beloved husband, Donald, and their dog, Harley. Kaye and Donald were just getting ready to leave on vacation, and Donald had a heart attack yesterday. He's in the hospital now in Asheville. Kaye said he's doing better, but I'm asking readers and friends to send their thoughts and prayers. They're a classy couple, and we want to keep Donald around a while.

I'm sure Kaye will appreciate all good thoughts that come their way.

Revenge for Old Times' Sake by Kris Neri

"The Keystone Kops had nothing on us. Nor The Three Stooges. Nor any group of escaped mental patients. Nor...but you get the idea." If you get the idea, you're ready for Kris Neri's latest Tracy Eaton caper, Revenge for Old Times' Sake.

Between Tracy's mother, actress Martha Collins, and the vacuous PR person her mother hired for their tour of the talk shows, mystery author Tracy Eaton had a lot on her mind. It's probably why she never noticed that her lawyer husband, Drew, wasn't acting like his normal staid self. In some ways, she blamed herself when Drew punched a senior partner in the law firm in the nose. But, it was even worse when that same lawyer was floating, dead, in their swimming pool. The following news stories were all about "Murder suspect and celebrity son-in-law, Andrew Eaton."

And, then Tracy's mother-in-law plunged the dagger in by hiring Drew's ex-girlfriend to defend him. It doesn't take much for Martha to convince Tracy that the two of them are Drew's only prayer. And, Tracy doesn't want to admit it to her diva mother, but she might be right when she says, "You're going to be glad you included me in this caper."

It's hard to top horse trailers, clown cars, and bodies in the freezer. Throw in a good mystery, and the latest Tracy Eaton story is a top-notch caper. It truly is a Keystone Kop comedy in Kris Neri's Revenge for Old Times' Sake.

Kris Neri's website is

Revenge for Old Times' Sake by Kris Neri. Cherokee McGhee, ©2010. ISBN 9780979969454(paperback), 248p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The author sent me a copy of the book, in hopes I would review it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mike and Mike's Rules for Sports and Life by Mike Greenberg & Mike Golic

Mike and Mike in the Morning, broadcast on ESPN radio and ESPN2 on TV, is my mother's favorite morning show. She's as big a sports fan as Jim was. So, Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic's book, Mike and Mike's Rules for Sports and Life seemed like a perfect memorial in Jim's memory.

Mike and Mike make their living talking about sports. Their ideas are sometimes provocative, sometimes funny. But, they play off each other perfectly. Golic is the jock; Greenberg the opinionated journalist and fan. Together, they make magic on the radio. The book capitalizes on those long-running jokes and conversations between the two. If you've ever seen or heard the show, you can hear their voices as they "discuss" everything from fans who don't sit down during football games to baseball managers shouldn't wear uniforms.

Greenberg has a few more rules for sports and life and Golic does. Golic is a little more easy-going, and it comes across in the book. Greenberg even has a platform for running for baseball commissioner, and sent Golic a contract to sign before Greenberg would stay overnight one night in Golic's house. It's a funny book, with a great deal of insight into sports. It's filled with photos and funny cartoons of the two men. But, probably my favorite part of the book was the interview with Mike and Mike's wives, asking everything from how they met their husbands to their husbands' addictions.

If you're a sports fan, you've probably heard Mike & Mike in the Morning. Kenny Chesney, who is a big sports fan, sums up the book, and the two men, better than I can. He said, "Both are men who exist for the competition, the love of sports and - honestly - making fun of each other." He went on to say, "Mike and Mike are a couple of buddies who may not agree, but who know how to argue like the best of friends. They're also the kind of people who know all the stats, the players, the history, and the competitive nature of sports. Plus, they have a crazy sense of humor." Mike and Mike's Rules for Sports and Life is a fun book for any sports fan.

Mike and Mike's Rules for Sports and Life by Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic. Random House, ©2010. ISBN 9780345516220 (hardcover), 256p.

FTC Full Disclosure - library book