Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Second Sister by Marie Bostwick

Marie Bostwick's latest novel is for those who enjoyed her Cobbled Court Quilt series, or like their stories wrapped up neatly. The Second Sister brings a woman home to the town she fled years earlier.

Lucy Toomey hasn't been home in eight years, despite her older sister's pleas. Oh, she always took Alice someplace warm for Christmas, but Lucy didn't want to return to Nilson's Bay, Wisconsin. And, after her accident years earlier, Alice was only content at home, with her job at the animal shelter, her friends she quilted with, and her drawing. Lucy, on the other hand, was on the verge of moving to Washington, D.C. She's been working with a political candidate for years, and the Governor might be elected President. But, then, Alice unexpectedly dies. When Lucy goes home to make arrangements, she finds Alice has left her their valuable home property, but only if Lucy lives there for eight weeks.

Nilson's Bay is not where Lucy wants to be. She only has memories of making a fool of herself, tragedies, and her father's bitterness and anger. But, forced to stay there a couple months, she tries to overcome her loneliness, and her past. But, it will take some work because the women who became Alice's friends only think of Lucy as the sister who would never come home.

The Second Sister may be wrapped up a little too neatly, with the addition of an unexpected storyline involving Alice, but it's still a satisfying book. Anyone who enjoys novels about sisters, women's support for each other, or finding home, might enjoy Bostwick's latest.

Marie Bostwick's website is www.mariebostwick.com

The Second Sister by Marie Bostwick. Kensington Books. 2015. ISBN 9781617736551 (paperback), 344p.

FTC Full Disclosure - A journal sent a copy of the book for review.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Stephanie Grace Whitson, Author of Daughter of the Regiment

First, I need to apologize to the author. My interview with Stephanie Grace Whitson was scheduled to appear on Friday, March 27, but my notes about it were buried in my vacation notes. I'm sorry.

I do want to share the interview, though, and a chance to win a copy of her book, Daughter of the Regiment. Let me introduce Whitson, and then she can answer my questions.

Stephanie Grace Whtson is the author of over twenty-seven titles. Whitson is a RT Book Reviews Reviewers' Choice Winner and a two-time Christy Award finalist. When she isn't writing, speaking, or trying to keep up with her five grown children and perfect grandchildren, she loves to take long distance rides aboard her Honda Magna motorcycle named Kitty. Her church and the International Quilt Study Center and Museum take up the rest of her free time. She received her Master of Arts degree in history in 2012. Stephanie and her husband reside in southeastern Nebraska.

Thank you, Stephanie, for taking time to answer these questions.

Lesa - Without spoilers, Stephanie, would you summarize Daughter of the Regiment for us?

Stephanie - Daughter of the Regiment introduces readers to two Missouri women who are neighbors in the part of the state known as Little Dixie, but who are at opposite ends of the social spectrum--and on opposite sides of the North/South conflict. 

First, there is Irish immigrant, Maggie Malone, who wants no part of the war. She'd rather let "the Americans" settle their differences. But then Maggie's two brothers join the Union Irish Brigade. When one of their names appears on a list of the wounded after the Battle of Boonville, Maggie heads for the encampment, intent on caring for her brother. When circumstances force her to remain with the brigade, she discovers how capable she is of helping the men she comes to think of as "her boys." A farm woman who'd rather be hunting than cooking, Maggie has decided that she's not the kind of woman a man would court, but Sergeant John Coulter seems determined to convince her otherwise.

Maggie's neighbor, Elizabeth Blair, is the mistress of her brother's plantation (Wildwood Grove) and has learned never to question his decisions. When Walker helps organize the Wildwood Guard for the Confederacy and offers his plantation as the center of operations, Libbie must manage a house with officers in residence and soldiers camped on the lawn. Eventually, she must also decide where her loyalties lie.

When military maneuvers and a subsequent battle bring the Irish Brigade (and Maggie Malone) to Wildwood Grove, Libbie's home is commandeered as a field hospital. Libbie has refused to leave her home. The two women whose brothers have fought on opposite sides of the same battle come face to face while tending the wounded in the aftermath of a battle won by Union troops. 

Lesa - What was your inspiration for the book?

Stephanie - As an amateur historian, I'm always visiting museums, stopping to read historical markers, and reading real history. I began to research the real Daughters of the Regiment many years ago after reading a book about women and the Civil War. When I visited the Oliver Anderson house in Lexington, Missouri, and realized that there were plantations worked by slaves just east of Kansas City, that began my quest to learn how the Civil War impacted that state. (I grew up just across the river from St. Louis, so Missouri history has always interested me.) The more I learned about Missouri in the Civil War, the more I wanted to create a story that would pay tribute to the women who had to cope when war came to their back yard--literally, to their back yard. Missouri was unique in that it was a slave state, but it never seceded from the Union, even though at one time the state had two governments because of the sharp divisions within the borders between Unionists and southern sympathizers. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know.

LesaHow did you research the Civil War details?

Stephanie - First, I needed to narrow my focus so that I wouldn't get bogged down in the vast topic of the Civil War. Focusing on Missouri helped that. The Missouri State Museum in St. Louis had an excellent exhibit on Missouri in the Civil War, and I visited it more than once. I also shopped in the museum gift shop and indulged myself in many of the books there, knowing that a history museum store would be a source of trustworthy scholarship. I also accessed online archives and university publications that addressed the various topics I needed to research. An antique arms expert was kind enough to read the portions of the book that mention weapons. 

LesaWhat are you working on now?

Stephanie - I'm rewriting next year's book, Messenger by Moonlight, set during the days of the Pony Express. As with every project, my admiration for the people who really lived the history has grown by leaps and bounds.

LesaI'm a librarian, and I always end my interviews with the same question. Was there a library or librarian that influenced you? Tell us about it, please.

Stephanie - Oh, my goodness ... yes. My mother taught me to love books, and the library has been a favorite place for me for most of my life. The Bennett Martin Public Library in Lincoln, Nebraska, was an invaluable resource to me long before I began to write fiction. My four children and I spent a lot of time there, and library books were critical in the days when I was home schooling. I began to learn about Nebraska history at the library and can point to some very specific library books as inspiration for some of my novels. When I finally had a story I wanted to try to get published, I went to the library to access the Writer's Market. Archivists at the Nebraska State Historical Society archive have helped me find answers to countless questions and introduced me to people from the past who have also inspired characters for my novels. As I write this post, there is a pile of library books nearby (not overdue yet) that I've accessed to improve Messenger by Moonlight. I'm also grateful for the hard-working librarians here in Nebraska who often invite me to give programs about historical topics for their patrons. Libraries have been so wonderful to encourage me as a writer and to introduce me to their patrons. Lastly, our local libraries are favorite spots for my grown children and their children. It's heartwarming to see the next generation excited to visit the library. 

Lesa - Thank you, Stephanie. For those of us interested in American history, Missouri's history at that time is fascinating.

If you would like to win a copy of Daughter of the Regiment, email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read "Win Daughter of the Regiment." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, April 2 at 6 p.m. CT.

If you don't win, you can buy Daughter of the Regiment online from any of these sources.

Indie Bound: http://bit.ly/1zFz8bI

Daughter of the Regiment: A Novel by Stephanie Grace Whitson. Faithwords/Hachette Book Group. ISBN 978-1-4555-2903-2 (paperback), 336p.

Stephanie Grace Whitson's website is http://stephaniewhitson.com

Sunday, March 29, 2015

What Are You Reading?

I was on the road for seven and a half hours yesterday, so didn't have a chance to finish my book. I'm reading The Island of Dr. Libris, the new juvenile book by Chris Grabenstein. I love his children's books. This one is an adventure about a boy, imagination and reading.

Since I didn't have a chance to finish a book, what are you reading this weekend? Here in the Midwest, it's cold. You might as well get comfortable and read. Let us know what book you're enjoying (or not enjoying).

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Carolyn Hart, Annie & Max

Some of you may have seen recent posts in which Carolyn Hart announced that her new Death on Demand mystery, Don't Go Home, would be the last in the series. And, it might not have made us happy, but we could understand why the twenty-fifth book would wrap up the series, while Carolyn devoted time to the adventures of Bailey Ruth. Fortunately for us, Annie and Max had something to say about that. 

Here's the announcement Carolyn Hart sent out.

I penned a Farewell to Death on Demand this spring, but a funny thing happened on the way to Life Without Annie and Max. A knock on my door. There stood Annie, a glint in her steady gray eyes, a determined tilt to her chin. “What are you thinking?” Max was right behind her, his usual easy going smile absent. “No more island sunshine? No alligators basking on a bank? No more laughter?” Annie and Max looked me in the eye and said, “We’re here to stay.” 
    Do I want to see the displays at Death on Demand, catch up on the new mysteries, talk about old favorites? Or drop into Confidential Commissions and have a slice of Barb’s lemon pie?
    Oh, yes. The scent of the ocean, the rattle of magnolia leaves, the grace and elegance of Spanish moss, hot heavy summer days, windy walks on a chilly winter beach, all await on the small sea island of Broward’s Rock. I’ll see everyone again, ebullient Annie, charming Max, curmudgeonly author Emma Clyde, mystery maven Henny Brawley, ditzy mother-in-law Laurel Darling Roethke, intense reporter Marian Kenyon, stalwart police chief Billy Cameron, observant officer Hyla Harrison . . .
    I realized I’d miss them too much. So I changed my mind and hope to write their 26th adventure as soon as Bailey Ruth persuades a lovelorn  ghost to climb the shining stairs to Heaven.
    And now for Annie and Max’s 25th (and continuing) adventure:
     DON’T GO HOME – Annie is hosting a party to celebrate a successful Southern literary icon and island native and his best selling novel, Don’t Go Home. The local newspaper announces that the author intends to reveal the real life island inspirations behind his characters and the dark secrets in their lives. Reporter Marian Kenyon, Annie and Max’s good friend, quarrels bitterly with the author. When his body is found, Annie knows her friend will be a suspect. Despite an array of people who feared the author’s revelations and Annie’s promise to Max that she will steer clear of sleuthing, Annie is drawn into the hunt because the police may close the book on Marian unless Annie finds the truth.

Look for Don't Go Home to be released May 5. I can't wait!

Don't Go Home by Carolyn Hart. Penguin. 2015. ISBN  9780425276549 (hardcover), 272p.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Winners and Ghostly Mysteries

Congratulations to the winners of the latest contest. Charles Finch's The Laws of Murder will go to Susan B. from Shoreline, WA. Murder at Brightwell by Ashley Weaver goes to Tricia J. from Yuba City, CA. The books will go in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I'm giving away two ghostly mysteries. And, considering tomorrow's blog has a message from Carolyn Hart, it's appropriate to start with her book, Ghost Wanted. Bailey Ruth's supervisor is worried about an old friend, The Lady of the Roses, who haunts the college library in Adelaide, Oklahoma. Wiggins sends Bailey Ruth to earth to find out who is ruining his friend's reputation. Once she gets there, she finds herself helping the ghost while also finding the true killer of a security guard. This series is always marked by humor and Bailey Ruth's charming sense of style.

Or, maybe you'd like to meet historic ghosts of the Pony Express riders. Paige Shelton's If Catfish Had Nine Lives was one of my favorites in the Country Cooking School mystery series. And, you don't need to have read previous books. Shelton will skillfully introduce you to Betts Winston, her grandmother, and Betts' ghostly guardian, Jerome. Betts has her hands full in this book when her brother becomes a murder suspect while she's also trying to find out more about the ghost of a Pony Express rider who has unfinished business in Broken Rope, Missouri.

Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read either "Win Ghost Wanted" or "Win If Catfish Had Nine Lives." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, April 2 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Wedding Circle by Ashton Lee

Over the course of Ashton Lee's Cherry Cola Book Club series, librarian Maura Beth Mayhew has come a long way. She's gone from a timid librarian who allowed Councilman Darden Sparks to bully her to an outspoken advocate for the new library that's scheduled to be built in Cherico, Mississippi. Now, it's time for Maura Beth to make changes in her personal life as well, but she'll still have to fight for her happiness in The Wedding Circle.

Maura Beth wants to marry English teacher Jeremy McShay right there in her beloved Cherico, with all of her local friends around her. But, Maura Beth's mother is determined to see her only daughter married in her hometown of New Orleans, in a celebration fit for a socialite. It may break her heart, but Maura Beth may have to use all of the manipulative skills she learned in dealing with Councilman Sparks in order to handle her mother.

Maura Beth isn't the only one, though, to have to deal with family opposition to a relationship. Jeremy knows his sister, Elise, an outspoken professor at the University of Evansville in Indiana, won't come to the wedding.Two seventy-year-olds find their plans thwarted by adult children, while Maura Beth's best friend, Periwinkle Lattimore, has to contend with her ex-husband. In other words, life is normal in Cherico, Mississippi.

The latest Cherry Cola Book Club novel, The Wedding Circle, isn't quite as dramatic as previous books. Instead, it's a charming wedding story that includes recipes. There might have even been a tear or two during the wedding scene. And, the family members introduced in this book are fun, particularly Cudd'n M'Dear. But, there's still tension. And, you can bet Councilman Sparks will still be scheming in the next book in the series. Maura Beth just has a feeling.

Ashton Lee can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ashtonlee.net

The Wedding Circle by Ashton Lee. Kensington Books. 2015. ISBN 9781617733413 (paperback), 242p.

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

As You Wish by Cary Elwes, with Joe Layden

If you recognize the phrase "As You Wish", you've probably seen The Princess Bride at least once, and maybe multiple times. Cary Elwes, who starred in the movie as Westley, farmhand turned pirate, co-authored the New York Times bestseller, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride. And, Elwes' account proves to be as charming as the movie itself.

Although Elwes wrote the book just last year, he relates his feelings as a young, twenty-three-year-old actor, in awe of the team put together in 1986 to film William Goldman's beloved story. Here was a young man, directed by Rob Reiner, who met the author of the book and the script, worked with Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright, Andre the Giant, Billy Crystal, Chris Sarandon. He was in awe of all of the others, a little in love with Robin, who starred as Buttercup, the princess. And, Elwes gathers his memories, and the comments from many of the others who worked on the film with him, including Rob Reiner and William Goldman.

This is truly a book for lovers of The Princess Bride. Elwes takes readers through the entire filming of the movie, from the time he first heard about it through its failure to be marketed well by a studio that didn't know what to do with it. And, he ends with the triumphant twenty-fifth reunion and showing at Lincoln Center. But, it's all those details, including how Elwes and Patinkin had to learn to fight for "The Greatest Swordfight in Modern Times", that brings the filming of the movie to life. And, it's Elwes' joy, shared by the others involved in the film, that sparks the book. Cary Elwes takes readers back to the filming of a beloved movie. The stories, the photos from the filming of the movie, reward the fan.

Rob Reiner, in his Foreword, sums up the film. "Was it a fairy tale? Was it a swashbuckling adventure? Was it a love story? Or was it just a nutty satire? The fact is it was, and is, all of the above." And, Cary Elwes and Joe Layden tell all of those stories in As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from The Making of The Princess Bride.

Here's a note for lovers of books, and The Princess Bride. Remove the cover, and look inside the cover itself. Shepard Fairey's artwork INSIDE the cover is gorgeous.

Anecdote: Last year, I met Cary Elwes at Book Expo America, where he was promoting this book. He was as gracious as you would expect, telling me he liked the spelling of my name. (Had I known his wife's name was Lisa Marie, I would have told him my middle name is Marie as well.) But, the funniest comment of the day caused him to laugh, too, when Kathy Reichs, who followed him on the panel, said fifteen women in the room got up and left after he was done speaking.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes with Joe Layden. Touchstone. 2014. ISBN 9781476764023 (hardcover), 259p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I bought my copy of the book.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A First Date with Death by Diana Orgain

Only a mystery writer would take a reality show, throw in an ex-cop looking to get over a broken heart, and then have her wonder, are the bachelors looking for love, money or murder? Even readers who don't care for reality shows might appreciate Diana Orgain's take on them in the first Love Or Money mystery, A First Date with Death.

After Georgia Thornton was fired from her job as a public information officer with the San Francisco Police Department, and her fiance left her standing at the altar, her best friend, Becca swoops in to offer her a different reality. Quite different. Becca, assistant producer of the show Love or Money, offers her the opportunity to star opposite ten eligible bachelors. Georgia gets to pick one man, hoping for love. If she picks a man who went on the show for money, he walks away with all of it. If she picks a man who went on looking for love, they split the prize money and an exotic vacation. But, before even the first date, bungee jumping, is over, one of the bachelors is critically injured when his gear fails. The "accident" doesn't smell right to ex-cop Georgia. Can it get any worse?

It certainly can. Georgia's ex, the man who left her at the altar, shows up to take the place of the missing bachelor. She knows Paul is undercover, investigating the death, but she's still not happy to have him on the show. And, then another bachelor dies. Georgia's afraid she might be a target. And, she certainly doesn't want the last bachelor standing to be a killer.

A First Date with Death is a fun romp through reality show hell. Georgia suffers with her wardrobe, the early hours, a producer who seems cruel, Paul's presence, and her own fears. At times, she comes across as a little hysterical for an ex-cop, but the reader still roots for her to have a happy ending. And, there's as much emphasis on the men and the budding romance as there is on the mystery.

A First Date with Death launches a new series, and it will be interesting to see where Diana Orgain goes with it. This one is a tongue-in-cheek look at reality shows that aren't what they appear to be. Love or money or murder?

Diana Orgain's website is www.dianaorgain.com

A First Date with Death by Diana Orgain. Berkley Prime Crime. 2015. ISBN 9780425271681 (paperback), 297p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Meow If It's Murder by T.C. LoTempio

Cold cases, cats, and food. T.C. LoTempio hit my interests with the first in her Nick and Nora series, Meow If It's Murder. She brings together a cast of interesting characters, a hint of future romance, and a complex mystery. But, my favorite cast members are Nora Charles, investigative reporter turned sandwich shop owner, and the cat that adopts her, a handsome tuxedo named Nick.

When Nora's mother died, she returned to Cruz, California to take over the family business, a sandwich shop called Hot Bread. But, she can't leave behind her interest in true crime. Although she submitted a few short stories to an online crime magazine, Noir, she would like to write about cold cases. And, she's particularly interested in the death of Lola Grainger, a wealthy socialite who was a customer of Nora's mother. It seems odd that Lola, who feared water, would be found drowned off the family yacht. Everyone warns Nora about involving herself in a case that was ruled accidental death. Even her best friend, Chantal, who claims to be psychic, warns her, saying she sees danger in her future.

Maybe Nora should listen to Chantal. Right after she predicts "a dark handsome stranger" will enter Nora's life, Nick turns up at Nora's door. And, in an odd coincidence, Nora tracks his original owner, a private detective who disappeared while searching for answers to Lola Grainger's death. But, with Nick, it might not be such a coincidence. The cat seems to have an uncanny ability to communicate, to understand how an investigation works, and to offer clues. Nora might not be so far off when she says she has "the world's first psychic cat". It's just too bad the hot new detective in town, Daniel Corleone, doesn't understand Nora as well as Nick does.

I read my cozy mysteries with the understanding that most amateur sleuths would have no reason to get involved in the investigations. It's part of suspending disbelief, and enjoying the story. However, Nora Charles worked as an investigative reporter for years, and the death of a woman her mother liked is a logical first case in her new location. And, of course, she's stubborn and continues to investigate when everyone, including Detective Corleone, warns her away. It's much more logical that she would investigate than the role played by Nick, a cat who is also a detective in his own right.

Meow If It's Murder is an entertaining series debut. Suspend your disbelief, and enjoy the adventures of Nick and Nora. I'm certainly looking forward to their further investigations.

T.C. LoTempio's website is www.tclotempio.com

Meow If It's Murder by T.C. LoTempio. Berkley Prime Crime. 2015. ISBN 9780425270202 (paperback), 296p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

What Are You Reading?

I know you're disappointed. Today is the day that my monthly book chat should appear featuring mysteries from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime and Obsidian, and Jinx. But, Penguin changed warehouses last month, and it doesn't seem as if their mailing list is on track yet. Monday, I'll request the April shipment because it hasn't shown up yet. I'm sorry.

And, let's face it. For those of us who are college basketball fans, Thursday through Sunday this week wasn't exactly reading time. I have a pile of books including  Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell, a novel of the O.K. Corral, and the first mystery in a new series, Meow If It's Murder by T.C. LoTempio.

So, what are you reading? Or, are you totally caught up in March Madness?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

Cynthia Swanson's novel, The Bookseller, is a remarkable debut. The unusual story takes readers back to the early 1960s in a story that can't be called time travel. Dream travel sounds too gimmicky, which this story is not. At times, it reminded me of It's a Wonderful Life, which is even mentioned in the book. It's best to say The Bookseller is an unusual story about a thirty-eight-year-old woman searching for answers in her life.

By day, Kitty Miller runs Sisters, the Denver bookstore she owns with her best friend, Frieda. But, just recently, she finds herself living an entirely different life when she sleeps at night. There, she's Katharyn Andersson, married to a wonderful man named Lars. She's a housewife with children, and the bookstore and Frieda are no longer part of her life. Kitty is drawn to Lars, and her life with him. And, each day she finds it more difficult to leave that life behind. But, as she slips deeper and deeper into her alternate life, she discovers problems that aren't evident with one bedtime visit. And, then she discovers the choices she makes in one world changed lives in the other one. There are consequences to even the smallest choices in her life.

Swanson beautifully sets the scene for this book, 1962 and 1963, mentioning books that were popular at the time such as Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes and Cold War novels such as Fail-Safe and Seven Days in May. In fact, the Cold War is there in the background, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the fears around it. And, of course, for 1962-63, the Kennedys, and the clothing women wore to emulate the First Lady. Clothes, music, houses, shopping centers; everything combines to set an appropriate atmosphere for this novel. And, anyone who appreciates books will look for each mention of the books of the period.

It's a story that works because of the time period. Part of the novel involves women's roles in life, whether they choose to marry or have a career, remaining single and "a spinster". There's the struggle of a woman who wants to have everything, a job and a family, and the emotional conflicts that result. There's so much more in the Kitty/Katharyn story, but further discussion would reveal too much about the storyline and Kitty/Katharyn's issues.

Unusual. Unique. Those words describe Cynthia Swanson's excellent story, The Bookseller. It's a solid, fascinating debut.

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson. HarperCollins. 2015. ISBN 9780062333001 (hardcover), 352p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Winners and English Murder Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last giveaway. Austin C. from Evansville, IN and Julia H. from Excelsior, MN won the copies of Charlaine Harris' Midnight Crossroad. The publicist will be sending out the books.

This week, I'm giving away two mysteries set in England. Ashley Weaver's Murder at Brightwell is an Edgar nominee for Best First Novel. It's set in the 1930s. Amory Ames is feeling neglected by her husband, so the wealthy woman agrees to go to a seaside resort with her former fiance, Gil, hoping to persuade his sister not to marry an unpleasant character. When the shifty suitor ends up dead, Gil becomes the primary suspect. And, then Amory's husband shows up, amused by it all.

Or, you could travel back to 1876 with Charles Finch's character, Charles Lenox in The Laws of Murder. Lenox has given up his seat in Parliament to return to his first love, detection. As the months pass, he's not finding work in his new detective agency. But, the death of a friend, a member of Scotland Yard, brings Lenox back into the field where he finds himself in danger.

Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read either "Win Murder at Brightwell" or "Win The Laws of Murder." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end next Thursday, March 26 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Michael Lister, Guest Author

Over the years, I've read several of Michael Lister's John Jordan mysteries. It's good to see that he's finally getting some recognition. Publisher's Weekly recently gave his latest book, Innocent Blood, a starred review. They're also doing a piece on the series in the March 23rd issue.

Innocent Blood starts a new chapter in the John Jordan series, so you can start with that one if you'd like. Here's the trailer for the book, http://youtu.be/q_S5MYa3gYg?list=UUpMeVanur5cg-24YEPV3C5g.

I always found John Jordan intriguing, and his connection with the Atlanta Child Murders is a link to a remembered part of our history. I asked Michael Lister to talk about Jordan, and the books. Thank you, Michael.

A Clerical Detective of a Different Cloth
By Michael Lister

I wanted to write religious and clerical detective mystery novels before I knew anything about G. K. Chesterton or Father Brown. So when I happened upon the 1990 Avenel edition of Father Brown Crime Stories in a dusty old bookstore in Atlanta the year I graduated from theology College and was ordained, it was nothing less than serendipitous. During that momentous year of transition, as I was being born into my adult life, Chesterton in many ways became my literary father and Brown the fictional father to my ecclesiastical sleuth, John Jordan.
It would be the summer of ’94, as I was finishing my graduate degree in theology and about to enter into full-time prison chaplaincy, before I became a writer, and ex-cop, prison chaplain, John Jordan was born (his debut case first appeared in ’97's Power in the Blood). There’s no doubt that the seeds of his birth had been planted in that happy accidental discovery of Chesterton and the epiphany that Father Brown had become for me five years earlier.
I had already conceived the idea for a prison chaplain clerical detective and had been making notes and sketching out scenes when I was offered a job as a prison chaplain with the Florida Department of Corrections. Part of the reason I took the job was to fully immerse myself in an environment and culture few people ever can. For seven years I lived my research, serving as a contract, staff, and eventually senior chaplain at three different correctional facilities in the Florida panhandle. Since leaving chaplaincy to write full-time in 2000, I have continued to work inside prison as a volunteer to, among other things, stay connected to the milieu of my mysteries.
Chesterton didn’t create the detective story. That distinction goes to Edgar Allen Poe, but he did create the clerical detective story. As Poe did for the mystery story, Chesterton established many of the conventions of the ecclesiastical sleuth that I and many other writers still follow today. And just as all mystery writers owe a debt to Poe and Dupin, all clerical detective writers must obey the fifth commandment by honoring their fathers Chesterton and Brown.
There are a number of ways John Jordan differs from Father Brown. Honor my father though I do, like any son I’ve had to find my own way—besides I’ve had many literary fathers, and part of the fun of working in a genre is to play with and against its conventions.
As inspiring and influential as I found Chesterton, I was reading other masters of mystery before I ever encountered him. I owe as much to hard-boiled writers like Hammett, Chandler, and Parker as I do Chesterton, and I knew from the very beginning that my clerical detective would be different. I would introduce a clerical detective into the world of the hard-boiled detective novel, and I felt that making him a prison chaplain was the perfect way to do it.
In addition to marrying the clerical and hard-boiled detective novels, I also wanted to create an almost nonreligious religious sleuth. Part of the tension and conflict of my own experience as a person of faith has always been my aversion to organized religion. Much of the tension has now been resolved since I started writing full-time, but when I was a chaplain it was a paradox that kept me in a predicament, and I wanted to give John Jordan the same uncomfortable conflict.
The irony of The Innocence of Father Brown, the title of this first collection of short stories, is that Father Brown is not innocent at all. Or if he is, it is an innocence not of the mind but of the heart. Innocence does not imply ignorance nor does purity require naiveté. Because of his vocation, Father Brown, like all clerical detectives who have followed him, is in a unique position to understand humanity. “As one knows the crooked track of a snail, I know the crooked track of a man,” he says. As Ellis Peters, creator of Brother Cadfael said, the approach of the religious detective “must rest mainly on the observation of character, which is of far more interest than forensic detail.”
Like Father Brown, Chaplain Jordan is neither naive nor ignorant, but unlike Brown,  Jordan’s insight into human nature doesn’t come from confessions and counseling alone, but from his own experiences. Unlike Chesterton’s cloistered celibate, John Jordan is a man with a past—one that includes violence and failure in the form of a dysfunctional family, a failed marriage, alcoholism, and time spent in law enforcement working the mean streets of Atlanta.
Part of Father Brown’s and Chaplain Jordan’s appeal, and that of other amateur sleuths who are also spiritual leaders, is their moral authority. Though never surprised, they are always outraged by the dark deeds that harm others. Something not just because of their vocation but in their very nature cries out for justice, wants to be the standard God raises up when evil comes in like a flood, wants to set things back in order, reestablish the balance.
But Brown and Jordan aren’t merely out for justice. They’re also ministers who see a crime scene as a mission field. Unlike other detectives, they don’t solve crimes for the sake of ego. It’s not merely a matching of wits, but a mission in which they ensnare the guilty in order to show them a better way—they are not so much bloodhounds as hounds of heaven.
In my first mystery, Power in the Blood, John Jordan witnesses the bloody death of a Potter Correctional Institution inmate, Ike Johnson, and is told, not asked, by his warden to help with the investigation. Outside the prison walls, the ghosts of John’s past haunt the dingy little trailer he now calls home, and though he doesn’t regret having left a large church in Atlanta for Florida’s toughest prison, the loneliness is getting to him and he’s ready for some female company—which arrives by Fed-Ex. As he conducts his first investigation inside PCI, John discovers that in the closed society of captives and captors no action goes unseen, and no one takes kindly to a cop in a collar. Soon his reputation, career, and even his life are at stake.

Since "Power in the Blood," there have been six other books in the series—five other novels and one short story collection.
Now with the release of "Innocent Blood," it's as if the series is re-launching in a way.
"Innocent Blood, which is the first in "The Atlanta Years" series within a series, goes back to John's very first murder investigation and answers lots of questions about his past. It also includes a special Introduction by Michael Connelly, a surprise cameo, and elements of the real life case of the Atlanta Child Murders.
Here's a little about the book:
Every great character has a past.
Few are as entertaining, as thrilling, or as tragic as that of ex-cop turned prison chaplain John Jordan.
When he was twelve years old he came face to face with the man who would be convicted of the Atlanta Child Murders.
Six years later, John returned to Atlanta determined to discover who was truly responsible for all the slaughtered innocents.
But first he must ascertain whether or not LaMarcus Williams belongs on the infamous list of missing and murdered children.
The questions in the case are many, the answers few.
Who Killed LaMarcus Williams? How was he abducted from his own backyard while his mom and sister watched him? Is he a victim of the Atlanta Child Murderer that didn't make the list or is his killer still out there, still operating with impunity?
Experience the events that shaped one of the most unique characters in all of crime fiction.
Accompany John during his first spiritual awakenings, his first battles with alcoholism, his first forays and fallings into love, and his very first murder investigation.
Get answers and gain insight into the investigator, the minister, the man.
See how John Jordan took his first faltering steps toward becoming the man he is today.
Every great character has a past, but it's not often you're allowed to witness it the way you will John Jordan's in the portrait of a detective as a young man that is Innocent Blood.  
Weaving in the real-life case of the Atlanta Child Murders was an amazing experience for me. I find the case as fascinating as John does. And I think it really adds another dimension to the book and the series.
"Innocent Blood" just received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly that said the novel “combines a compelling hero’s spiritual struggle with top-notch whodunit.”
In his introduction of the book, Michael Connelly wrote, “you are in for a great ride with a very assured driver behind the wheel.”
I believe the John Jordan series to be something unusual, and utterly unique—the very definition of novel.
I’m writing about a clerical detective of a different cloth, but with respect for and understanding of Chesterton and all those who have come before me.
I'm so pleased with "Innocent Blood" and how it's being received. I hope you'll give it and the other John Jordan mysteries a try—for, as I think you’ll discover, you don’t have to be particularly religious to enjoy and be inspired by them.  

Michael Lister's website is www.MichaelLister.com

Innocent Blood by Michael Lister. Pulpwood Press. 2015. ISBN 9781888146493 (hardcover), 264p.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Who Do You Trust?

I watched a webinar yesterday, and it led to a question. So, I'm doing a survey here, and I'll answer it as well. Who do you trust for book recommendations? Quick, without thinking. What are your top three sources for book recommendations?

Here are the three people I trust to recommend books that I will probably like. Not always. No source is perfect. But, I picked three people rather than journals or magazines.

1. Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Friend, author, and blogger at Meanderings and Muses. Kaye and I don't always like the same books. I tend to read more cozy mysteries than she does. But, if Kaye recommends a book to me, she's usually right on target. And, at the end of the year, our list of favorite books will include several that are the same.

2. Donna Seaton - Friend and co-worker. Donna's taste is much more literary than mine, but she's often able to spot the book that I'll like.

3. Talia Sherer from Macmillan. Talia is the Library Marketing Director for Macmillan. Her taste is more grisly than mine, but Talia can often pinpoint what I like.

And, I didn't mention my sister, Christie. She doesn't recommend books, but we talk about mysteries and amateur sleuths as if those characters lived next door.

I read book reviews, journals, several blogs, and publicists contact me quite frequently. And, often a publicist will hit the mark with one title or so. But, I'll listen to these three people, and at least check out the book they recommend.

So, take a look at your list. Is there a librarian on there? That's what the webinar was about. Are librarians still a trusted source for book recommendations? Were they trusted sources when you were a child? Do you ask your librarian for recommendations now?

I'm curious. If you answer the question, you don't need to name the person. You can say a friend, my mom, a co-worker, my sister. If it's a blog or a magazine, give it a shout-out. I'd love to know who you trust for book recommendations.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Phantom of the Opera

My friend, Donna, and I went to St.Louis this weekend to see the new production of The Phantom of
Donna Seaton
the Opera
. We were planning to drive over and back on Sunday, but her husband picked up the tab for a hotel. We joked he wanted her out of the house so he could write. But, it was a much more relaxing trip going over the day before.

I can't say enough about The Fox Theatre, known as The Fabulous Fox. It originally opened as a movie theater in January 1929. Private investors bought it in 1981, and restored it to its former glory.

According to the program, "The ornate interior of the Fox has been described as 'Siamese Byzantine'." Between the chandelier, the magnificent decor including the ceiling and the enormous pillars, it's stunning to see. Donna and I saw Celtic Thunder there a month ago. But, it was the perfect venue for The Phantom of the Opera. The sound is wonderful in the theater.

I saw The Phantom of the Opera when I was in New York this last time, and, I love the 25th anniversary dvd starring Ramin Karimloo. But, this is a new production, with new sets and staging. And, I don't think anyone will be disappointed with the new set. The set turns, opens up, and there are multiple gorgeous sets. The turning set actually allows the production to fit on a smaller stage.

Chris Mann who was a finalist on The Voice, was The Phantom. He did an excellent job. Admittedly, his voice wasn't as powerful as some performers, but he made the role his own, playing it as a man who truly suffered and was drained by what he dealt with. The role of Christine Daae was played by Celia Hottenstein for our performance. She couldn't have done a better job.

Donna and I both complain when we go to musicals that the orchestra often drowns out the voices. That wasn't the case here. The orchestra was wonderful, however, we could also hear the singers.

I have a friend who is going to see this production in San Francisco so I won't spoil her enjoyment by telling more about the set, other than to say they did a magnificent job leading down to the labyrinth. But, I will mention one aspect that seemed better in this production than in the earlier one. The scenes in the manager's office when everyone receives notes from The Phantom were designed to be funny in this version. It was much better.

A better production? Not if you've seen The Phantom of the Opera before. But, I say that because there's nothing like the very first time you see it. And, I adore Ramin Karimloo so his portrayal of The Phantom in the anniversary version is special to me. But, the staging of this production is wonderful, and it's equally as powerful with The Phantom who portrays the role differently than I've seen it done. It's a special show. If you love The Phantom of the Opera, or live theater, you should see this production if you have the chance.

Outside The Fox Theatre (picture courtesy of Donna Seaton)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Phantom Weekend

I'm heading to St. Louis today to see Phantom of the Opera at the Fox Theatre. That means travel time on Saturday (no computer), the show on Sunday, and no computer. It also means no reading time, really, until Sunday or Monday evening.

So, as much as I enjoy talking books with all of you, I'm off to the theater, my other great love. Enjoy your weekend, and we'll talk books again on Tuesday. In the meantime, don't forget to enter the giveaway for Charlaine Harris' Midnight Crossroad. Or, if you're a Terry Pratchett fan, go back to my post from Thursday, and comment about his books. I'll always go back and read your comments.

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Winners & A Charlaine Harris Midnight Crossroad Giveaway

Congratulations to Libby D. from Boca Raton, FL who won Spy, Interrupted. Carol W. of Plano, TX won The Bone Orchard, and Cynthia B. from Uxbridge, MA won Booty Bones.

Did you miss Charlaine Harris' Midnight Crossroad when it came out in hardcover? It's now available in mass market paperback. And, I have two copies to give to lucky winners.

If you did miss it, I reviewed the hardcover when it first came out. I'm not the best reviewer of Midnight Crossroad, the first book in Charlaine Harris' new series. 
After starting the first Sookie Stackhouse novel, I never read more in that series. So, I can't tell other readers if any of the characters from that series reappear here. However, I did read every book about Lily Bard, so I recognized her when a character referred to her. But, if you're looking for a comparison to the Sookie books, it won't come from me. I can say I really appreciated the unusual denizens of Midnight, Texas. And, the new resident fits in perfectly.

Manfred Bernardo likes the isolation of the small West Texas town of Midnight. At twenty-two, he's a psychic who spends his time on computers, telling people what they want to hear. He's a little bit charlatan, but he has a gift. And, it seems a few of the other residents have secrets and gifts as well. There are reasons people in Midnight, a town at the crossroads of Witch Light Road and the Davy Highway, don't ask many questions. They don't want to answer them.

The boarded up town does have a pawnshop. Bobo, Manfred's landlord, owns it. He's still in mourning for Aubrey Hamilton, the woman who walked out of the shop one day, and just disappeared. Fiji, the witch down the road, runs a little witchcraft shop. There's a diner and a gas station. Two gay men, Joe and Chuy, run an antiques store and a nail salon. Lemuel is a vampire who runs the pawnshop at night, and has unusual visitors. Who knows what the mysterious Olivia does for a living? The Rev runs a little one-room wedding chapel and a pet cemetery. And, all of them are a little uneasy when two strange men show up in town. When those two men disappear, and others appear to ask questions, the residents of Midnight learn how much they care about each other. And, they learn how far they'll go to protect each other.

Midnight Crossroad is a fascinating novel with unusual characters. It's a book that will challenge readers. What is evil? How can good people do horrible deeds and live with themselves? And, is killing ever justified? And, will a reader feel a little creepy to realize there is something likable about the residents of Midnight, Texas?

Charlaine Harris' new book is a little bit mystery, a little bit horror novel, a little bit paranormal. And, it's a terrific story.

Charlaine Harris' website is www.charlaineharris.com

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris. Ace. 2014. ISBN 9780425263150 (hardcover), 320p.

Would you like a chance to win Midnight Crossroad? Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read "Win Midnight Crossroad." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, March 19 at 6 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sir Terry Pratchett - R.I.P.

I was so sorry to read today about the death of Sir Terry Pratchett. And, I have a close friend who knew him, and introduced me to his books, and to him. And, I know his editor here in the U.S. I'm sure they are mourning the loss of a friend today. He suffered from Alzheimer's in the last few years, however he helped to focus attention on that disease. May he rest in peace.

In Sept. 2009, I was luckyto be able to host him at the Velma Teague Library. I only met him that one time, but I'd like to think he would prefer to be celebrated for his wit and humor than mourned. So, here's the blog post I wrote after hosting him at the library.

What an honor to host Sir Terry Pratchett at the Velma Teague Library! Actually, we expected a large crowd, so the event was held in the Glendale City Council Chambers. People stayed over from the North American Discworld Convention, including men from Switzerland and Mexico. One fan flew in from San Francisco, just for this event. And, one woman drove up from Yuma.

It was definitely a fun program, filled with laughter, beginning with his introduction. After I introduced him as Sir Terry Pratchett, he said that always bothers him to be called Sir Terry in America. Didn't we fight a war not to have to say Sir Terry? Well, actually we fought it because we owed England money, and we didn't want to pay up.

He said, when they call you and say they'd like to knight you, they're very nice about it, saying they would fully appreciate that you might not want to be knighted. But, the family gets to go. He said when he went to be knighted, two burly policemen pulled him over, and told him, park over there, and we'll come get our books signed later. He went with his wife, daughter, and mum. His mum is about the same age and same size as the queen, so they could have swapped places in the dark. They had tea, and then went off with a flunky to go through the whole kneeling bit. It wouldn't be proper to pull the queen over. It was good fun, and she whacked him on the shoulder with a sword.

He said it's nice to be a knight, usually when dealing with bullies. He said we could use a few knights in America, especially when dealing with Homeland Security. He said he hopes that the English Customs men aren't as cheeky to us when we go to England, as Homeland Security was to him. Terry asked, "Do they ever smile?" He said maybe England should send a few over to us to teach them how to smile. He said a couple of them would have made Mr. T run away. He gave his name to one of them, and, when asked, said he was a writer here for a convention. Pratchett said, you don't want to hear customs get on the phone, call someone, and say, "I got him." Another man came over, and said, "I can't make the convention. Would you sign this book for me?" So, after he signed to his "best friend, Stan", Stan went back to his own line. So, there were two lines waiting while Terry Pratchett signed Stan's book. Once Stan had left, "Mr. T" said to Terry, "I need to see your I.D." Even while pulling out his passport, Terry looked at him, and said, "Stan didn't." And, "Mr. T" gave him a little smile.

Instead of a formal talk, Terry walked in front of the podium, and said, "You know me and what I do. Ask me a question." After a few gasps that they would actually get to ask him questions, the first one was, "How are you holding up in this heat?" He responded, "You have ferocious heat and ferocious air conditioning. The air in my hotel room didn't need to be that cold. It could be brought down to the temperature of a spring day."

Someone said, "You've always said you have quite a sense of timing. You took a job in a nuclear power plant at the time of Three Mile Island. How's your sense of timing now?" He answered that he's more in control of his own destiny now.

He went on to talk about that. He said tug-of-war is played with a rope. There was a tug of war at Three Mile Island, and the rope broke. Lots of fingers were caught up in that rope. Apart from Chernobyl, the most damage ever was done at Three Mile Island.

Pratchett went on to say, they always say, we're putting in three completely independent fail-safe systems, and they're all a long way apart. However, the cables for all three fail-safe systems go in one cable in one wall.

Terry said a power station is a small town, with its own sewage system. And, naturally, the man sweeping up items there swept three pieces of radioactive iron into the sewage system. So, there's 800,000 gallons of sludge, with a small number of radioactive pieces that can't be seen. So, there's a meeting of the people who know about radioactivity, and the people who know about sewage plants. And, the sewage people say they know sewage, but they're not going to handle it when it's radioactive. And the radioactivity people say they know about radioactivity, but it's the shit that worries us. Terry said he never had to sign anything when he worked in a nuclear power station. How do you find tiny particles in great piles of sludge? Pump it out, and then take it to an enormous coal power station, and feed it carefully in there. Then beep, beep, beep. All three of the pieces were found. They got it 100% right that time. But, weird stuff happened there, including a man who was too radioactive to come in to the power station. He eventually gave his six months notice. Now, he has enough money so he never has to do another honest day's work.

When asked what he was reading, Terry replies, he's been away from books for a few days, but at home, he's reading London Labor and the London Poor. The author was a social reformer. It's set in Georgian England. The Thames was a sewer at the time. And author was appalled by what he found. London was so unbelievably awful that even Morpork was better. At times, soot was London's most valuable export. People used to forge it, fake soot. Chimney sweeps would clean chimneys for free to get soot.

London was actually, people who have jobs, and the underclass, just as right now in England. Everyone was scared, a bit like America right now since you don't have a National Health Service. One accident, and you're in the poorhouse. Charity did not come from the rich, but from the not too poor to the poorer than them. Charity rained from the lower middle class to lower class. Nothing was wasted. House dust was sold for fertilizer because it had human skin in it. Paper was recycled. Metal was valuable. This was just as Queen Victoria was coming to the throne. One thing to say for Prince Albert is that he was a reformer. The River Thames finally gave up, and it made such a great stink that Parliament couldn't sit because of the stench. Then, the English built the best sewer system ever.

Terry was asked how he got into the head of a nine-year-old girl, Tiffany, in his books, since he did it so well. He asked if we had Girl Scouts, Brownies, here. He said he had been contacted by a Brownie troop that wanted to do a spoof for a show. Can we photograph you being kidnapped? They would take that photograph, and use a stand-in to do the rest, since one girl's father looked enough like Pratchett. He said they'd have to film the kidnapping, and he wanted to coordinate it, but they had to bring a rubber chicken. He wanted to have two girls stand behind him as he was signing; then one girl would pick up his hat, and the other would hit him over the head with a rubber chicken. Hit him, and then while he slumped, they were to put his hat back on. The problem was, people saw him signing, and he would have to say, wait, I'm going to be hit by a rubber chicken. He has a plaque now, saying he is a Brownie Guide.

He said, actually, you just watch. He said girls are different, and I just watch and take notice. He could do a monograph on how people clap. An author has to be interested in people. He will talk to anyone who takes the time to talk.

Anything interests him. In Nation, they dipped a womb in a bucket of tar. Only the Royal Navy might have done that. Nation was just channeled. It pured through him.

He said the Victorians never actually covered furniture legs because they were indecent. That was a gag. The mid-Victorian period was a time of "things". People didn't own things before. But, manufacturers were making things, and people wanted as many things as possible. Terry knew a woman who lost her husband, but as he kid, when he went to her house, it was so cluttered with things that Terry thought maybe her husband was in there somewhere.

He leads an inquiring life, and it comes out as a story.

When asked if he was going to incorporate Twitter into any books, he said he doesn't Tweet because he has real flesh and blood friends. He said he was on the Internet about as soon as it was around. Then he asked, "Don't you people want me to write the books?"

A question from the audience began, your books contain a number of moral and ethical dilemmas. Are there any philosophers you admire? Terry Pratchett answered, "Jesus was pretty good." Pratchett said he considers himself a humanist. His god is the god of Carl Sagan and Spinoza. Science is a sacrament. He thinks people should abide by the Golden Rule. Terry said we should close churches, and just put up signs, "God is love. What part of this don't you understand?" He makes up his philosophy as he goes along.

Terry was asked if he had advice for someone going into the priesthood, and the man who asked the question admitted he was thinking of going into the Greek Orthodox priesthood. Terry answered, it's all work and no technique. You don't hear of priests being laid off, but no one is sinning now, so there's not much confession lately. He said one of the long-term triggers for the Industrial Revolution was the closing of monasteries by Henry VII. Craftsmen such as herbalists and carpenters were pushed out into the world. They took apprentices, and those skills were one of the long-term triggers. Pratchett went on to say the priesthood is an interesting job, one of the most interesting, other than his. He asked, Thou Shalt Not Kill should be actually read as Thou Shalt Not Murder, shouldn't it, and the audience member said yes, that's closer to the Hebrew.

Terry said people shouldn't read the Old Testament unprepared, or they come away thinking we're in the hands of a maniac. He said it's actually a guide for getting an argumentative people across the desert, filled with cooking and building tips. He wishes more people would read the New Testament.

When asked who his favorite characters to write about were, Pratchett answered Vimes or Tiffany. But, Tiffany isn't as much fun to write about now that she's older. He said witches were wise women. He knew a nurse once who admitted she had helped people die. She also said she carried shoe boxes with her because she was a nurse/midwife in rural areas with small gene pools, and babies often didn't live. The shoe boxes were just the right size for burials. Granny Weatherwax came from these stories. All those stories are tools for an author. He interviewed an elderly postman, and some of Going Postal came from those stories.

Pratchett said you must be hugely interested in people to be a successful author, and particularly doing what he does.

He said he can remember the '60s, so that means he wasn't there. He was too busy working a job, and trying to have sex. He said those who wanted rock-n-roll and drugs, didn't have sex.

He mentioned his wife, Lady Lynn, who isn't so sure about that title, but it impresses her mum. In his inimitable style, he told of his first date with her. He had no money, but Chinese restaurants were new, so he asked if she wanted to go to one. So, with his lack of money, he couldn't afford to take a taxi all the way from his town to hers, pick her up, and go to dinner, and back. So, he worked it all out. He got dressed up, then put his motorcycle gear on over that. And, it's raining. So, he rode his bike, got off in a farmer's field, dropped the bike, put his motorcycle clothes on top of it, and then ran to her house, just in time to get there when the taxi did, so she thinks he arrived in the taxi. They had a nice meal, and the taxi picks them up. They have a chaste little first date kiss. He pays off the taxi driver, then goes back to the farmer's field, gets into his wet motorcycle gear, and it takes four or five times to start the bike. Then, halfway home, it conks out, and he had to push the bike home.

When asked if Mr. Dibbler, who can sell anything to anybody is based on an actual person, Terry said as a boy he would accompany his Granny to street markets, and they were full of Dibblers, who were selling cheap crockery, "Cutting-Me-Own-Throat" to sell it. He listens to language, how people speak.

When a man died, he was lying in his coffin and people came in to have a glass of sherry, and greet the widow. The man had been on holiday, and dropped dead at his door. Terry's Granny said, "Well, he looks well." And, the answer was, "Yes, undertaker's done good."

One question concerned the editing of his American books. Pratchett said it's been better in recent years. At times, he's argued with his editors, such as when Mister should be spelled out. John Wayne never said, go for your gun M-R.

Terry reminded the audience he has Alzheimer's. He said he will not die of Alzheimer's, but he doesn't like the term assisted suicide. As a journalist, he's seen suicides, such as a woman throwing herself from a bridge. But, he's been writing and making arrangements. In his mind, that doesn't fit the frame of suicide. It's adult homo sapiens looking the inevitable in the face, and making sensible decisions.

He had problems with his books, up until the '90s, when two publishers collided, and suddenly he had an editor who knew his name, and liked his stuff, and a publicist who felt the same. Up until then, his books were poorly published and publicized. Because of the changes in wording for American books, when he would come to the United States, fans would have U.K. hardcovers semi-legally in the U.S. But, in the
'90s, the language was allowed to stand. He said he doesn't put a lot of odd language in the books, because Morpork wouldn't come out right. But, when told Webster's wouldn't allow it, he tells them what they could do with Webster's. But, for his children's books, for American kids, it's sensible to have American usage.

Pratchett was asked if he has plans for another Night Watch book. He said he's been feeling chipper, and has a dictation machine in his office. Fortunately, the people who built it are nerdy and Discworld fans. He's dictated more than 10,000 words of a book. He's speeding along with it. They dumped Discworld books into the memory of the machine, and it knows how words should sound. So, if it doesn't recognize a word, he asks for the Spellbox, and he can choose which one is correct. It's going faster than a keyboard.

He told the audience he has a rare disease. He has a large brain, which is unusual, with lots of brain cells. But, it upsets him that so many of those brain cells are used up by lyrics from '60s advertisements. Terry said we should disinvent television. He feels it's the sole excuse for what's going wrong with civilization. Babies are put in front of TV to amuse them.

But, he said the best thing you can do for a child is develop their vocabulary. The more words you know, the more articulate you can be. The better you can express yourself, the happier you are. He said kids love semi-made-up Scottish language in his books. He combines Gaelic and Glaswegian slang, and kids think it's dirty words. Kids are built to be learning.

In his new book, Unseen Academicals, Glenda is uneducated, but she taught herself to read. She reads cheap novels, but she's never heard words spoken, and doesn't know exactly what words are or how to say them, words such as boudoir or reticule. So, when a woman asks her to join her in her boudoir, and she sees forty people there, she's relieved because she didn't know what a boudoir was. Pratchett said education advances through women. They read, and shared, cheap novels. Then, they taught their daughters to read. Mothers made sure their daughters, and some sons, were literate.

So, someone asked Terry what he read as a child, and he said, nothing. He said reading was associated with pain. He had to learn words in school. He said when he was eight or nine years old, his uncle gave him a copy of The Wind in the Willows, and he was reading it in London. All the way home, he was reading it by streetlights. He was hooked by the time he got home. By the next week, he was a member of his local library, and helping the librarians on Saturday. He read children's books and adult books at the same time, with no distinction. School didn't show him reading pleasure; it was a chore. His mother did bribe him to read, offering 6 pence a page.

When asked if he and Neil Gaiman would write another book together, like Good Omens, he said neither wants to do another. He said, "He does his thing, and I do mine." He said then it was easy for two guys. Now, it would be problematical. He said it's not likely they'd do another because there is no obvious reason to do it.

Pratchett was asked if there's anything that appeals to him about America or anything that annoys him. He said Americans don't despair easily. He said people in Europe, and, particularly, England, are cynical. He loved the way we celebrated our new President, although we all know how we'll feel in a few years. He thinks America is the last best hope for mankind, because we have so many examples of mankind. Every individual person is important in America. G.K. Chesteron said, "I pity the man who believes in socialism because he believes in something that doesn't believe in him."

An audience member asked if he had plans for someone to continue Discworld after his death. Terry responded that his daughter, Rhianna Pratchett, is as sharp as a tack. She's a writer of computer games. She and his publicist will have the responsibility for Discworld. But, there's no hard and fast decision, because would she do it because of the money, or because she wanted to? He said he'll be dead, so he won't be a major player in the decision. But, he's renewing copyrights, and it would be nice if things happened. He said his daughter could do it if she wanted; she has talent. But, it's her life, and he won't put his hand on it beyond the grave.

When asked if he had the chance to see the Grand Canyon, he said not on this trip. But he went to Tombstone, and had a good guide, author Emma Bull. He said he didn't know that, basically, the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral took place in a place the size of a phone booth. He said Wyatt Earp died in 1929, but England thinks it was in the 1880s. Pratchett said history is closer than people think. In the science of Discworld, grandfathers is a way of measuring time. Fifty years is a grandfather. Actually, measured that way, the pyramids are not that far back.

Terry Pratchett said it's far too dangerous living here on earth. There have been a number of times that life forms have been destroyed from space. He'd advise us to get off the planet as soon as possible. A Mars or moon colony would be fail safe.

He was asked if he has a recurring theme in his books, and he answered, "Smart is better than dumb." He said another book helps his characters in every book. His characters share the way he thinks of things.

He ended by telling about his books made into movies. He likes the small company that made them, because he could tell them things needed to be changed. So, after Hogfather, he had lots of leftover plastic teeth. So, he took them with him to a conference in Australia.

Pratchett said he likes Australia. Every Englishman feels at home in Australia. He never felt at home in America. But, Australia was colonized by Cockneys.

So, he went through Customs in Australia, and had the plastic teeth with him. He was asked if he had any animal products, and he said no. So, the woman at Customs asked him what he had in his suitcase, and he said, lots of plastic teeth. When asked why, he said, "I don't think it's any of your business," an answer he knows he couldn't have given in the U.S. She said, OK. And, then he asked if she wanted to know about the black box marked "Death". In it, was a statue of Death. Then, he asked her if it was the strangest luggage she'd seen all day. She said, yes, but it was only 10:30, and the the Japanese were coming next.

Thank you to Sir Terry Pratchett, the North American Discworld Convention, the Poisoned Pen Bookstore, and the staff and volunteers from the Velma Teague Library who made this a very special event for visitors from around the world.

Sir Terry Pratchett's website is http://www.terrypratchett.co.uk