Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wednesday Wanderings

Happy Hanukkah! Today is the beginning of Hanukkah, so for any readers who celebrate it (or any who are looking for more holidays to celebrate for any reason), best wishes of the season.

***

After last week's IWSG post, I'm experimenting with writing more about writing. This is also my chance to lay out my holiday posting schedule, except... I think I'll be posting when I feel like it through the end of the year, with the exception of my #Fi50 post on the 24th, and Flashback Friday on the 29th. Otherwise, you can look for chaos for the next 2 1/2 weeks. I do plan to post Part 2 of my Pismawallops PTA Christmas story on Friday.

As for writing, my mind is full of the question of editing, and our internal editor, the one who has most of us convinced at some point in the life of every book (or at many points) that the book is awful. For me, the only way out of that seems to be to a) let someone else read it and give me honest feedback, and/or b) walk away for weeks or months until I have perspective again.

But what if the gut feeling is right and the book is deeply flawed? I have salvaged one by coming back literally years later and doing a major rewrite. Maybe the toughest test a writer can face is the need to make deep changes in a book you thought was done (thanks, Jemima Pett, for showing by example that this is a genuine option). But unless there is something incurable, I think that it's worth putting in the time (I'm not happy about that thought; I'll do some kicking and screaming and whining if I need to do it, but I think it's right).

I may be in that position with Death By Adverb. I was planning to start advance advertising, even to schedule a release date. But now I'm not so sure. Plans are on hold, including plans to reveal the gorgeous cover Danielle English has made for me. I have reasonable confidence that the book will be finished. I just don't know when. I do know that I have to put in the work it needs, and no release a half-baked story. I also know that if I need to give it space, I have a long backlog of projects I can turn to. One piece might be a mess, but I never run out of things to write.

Watch this space to see what happens next!

Writing is like body-surfing: sometimes you ride the wave, sometimes the wave lands on top of you and you get sand up your swimsuit.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2017
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Mystery Monday: Honey-Baked Homicide by Gayle Leeson

http://www.escapewithdollycas.com

Title: Honey-Baked Homicide
Author: Gayle Leeson
Publisher: Berkley, Dec. 5, 2017. 288 pages, paperback.
Source: Great Escapes Book Tours electronic ARC

Publisher's Blurb: 
The owner of a delightful Southern café tastes the sharp sting of suspicion in this delectable comfort food mystery . . .

It’s fall in Winter Garden, Virginia, and business at Amy Flowers’ Down South Café has never been better. So when struggling beekeeper Stuart Landon asks Amy to sell some of his honey, she’s happy to help. The jars of honey are a sweet success, but their partnership is cut short when Amy discovers Landon’s body outside the café early one morning.

As Amy tries to figure out who could possibly have wanted to harm the unassuming beekeeper, she discovers an ever-expanding list of suspects—and they’re all buzzing mad. She’ll have to use all of her skills—and her Southern charm—to find her way out of this sticky situation…


My Review: 
Honey-Baked Homicide is a good read--a setting that works well, interesting and engaging characters, and a mystery that I didn't solve until the end. I enjoyed the story, and didn't feel like it was odd that the main character was investigating the crime--she had a good reason to care, and wasn't really treading on the toes of the police. I did have a little trouble keeping characters straight, which suggests to me that reading the series in order might help. The book definitely stands alone, but there were some things I felt like I was missing.

My main critique of the book was that there is too much description of food and clothing. That is, of course, a purely subjective critique--a reader more interested in the details of what characters are eating and wearing will probably not notice, or be happy to know what's on the menu at the Down South Café. For me, it was a bit off-putting, though by no means enough to ruin my enjoyment of a quick and pleasant read. On the other hand, I really enjoyed the way Amy talks to her dog as though he can answer--just one of many humorous touches that kept the book moving for me.

My Recommendation:
A good choice for lovers of comfort food! There are several recipes included :)

FTC Disclosure: I received an ARC of Honey-Baked Homicide from Great Escapes Free Book Tours, and received nothing further from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  

About the Author: 

Gayle Leeson is a pseudonym for Gayle Trent. I also write as Amanda Lee. As Gayle Trent, I write the Daphne Martin Cake Mystery series and the Myrtle Crumb Mystery series. As Amanda Lee, I write the Embroidery Mystery series.

The cake decorating series features a heroine who is starting her life over in Southwest Virginia after a nasty divorce. The heroine, Daphne, has returned to her hometown of Brea Ridge to open a cake baking and decorating business and is wrestling with the question of whether or not one can go home again. She enjoys spending time with her sister, nephew, and niece, but she and her mother have a complicated relationship that isn’t always pleasant. Daphne has also reconnected with her high school sweetheart and is pursuing a rekindled romance while desperately trying to put her past behind her.
Kerry Vincent, Hall of Fame Sugar Artist, Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show Director, and Television Personality says the series is “a must read for cake bakers and anyone who has ever spent creative time in the kitchen!”

Says Dean Koontz, #1 New York Times bestselling author, “One day I found myself happily reading . . . mysteries by Gayle Trent. If she can win me over . . . she’s got a great future.”

The Embroidery Mystery series features a heroine who recently moved to the Oregon coast to open an embroidery specialty shop. Marcy Singer left her home in San Francisco, along with the humiliation of being left at the altar, in order to move to Tallulah Falls and realize her dream of owning her own shop. She takes along her faithful companion, a one-year-old Irish wolfhound named Angus O’Ruff. She makes many new friends in Tallulah Falls, but she also makes a few enemies. Thankfully, her best friend Sadie MacKenzie and her husband Blake run the coffeehouse right down the street from Marcy’s shop, the Seven-Year Stitch; and Detective Ted Nash always has her back.
Publishers Weekly says, “Fans of the genre will take kindly to Marcy, her Irish wolfhound, Angus O’Ruff, and Tallulah Falls. This is a fast, pleasant read with prose full of pop culture references and, of course, sharp needlework puns.”

Pat Cooper of RT Book Reviews says, “If her debut here is any indication, Lee’s new series is going to be fun, spunky and educational. She smoothly interweaves plot with her character’s personality and charm, while dropping tantalizing hints of stitching projects and their history. Marcy Singer is young, fun, sharp and likable. Readers will be looking forward to her future adventures.” (RT Book Reviews nominated The Quick and the Thread for a 2010 Book Reviewers’ Choice Award in the Amateur Sleuth category)

I live in Virginia with my family, which includes my own “Angus” who is not an Irish wolfhound but a Great Pyrenees who provides plenty of inspiration for the character of Mr. O’Ruff. I’m having a blast writing this new series!

And now--a special interview with author Gayle Leeson.

Hi, Gayle. Thanks for taking time  to answer some questions for our readers! We always like to hear about how writers do their job.
 When did you start writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer, or did you stumble into it later in life?
My parents tell me that almost as soon as I could talk, I started telling them stories that began, "Once uppa time..." So, I guess it was meant to be! LOL!
  
I can relate, and you clearly have gift of story-telling.  Do you draft your books longhand or compose at the keyboard?Oh, my goodness, my process is weird. I'm not sure you could even call it a process. I have to write things out in longhand at first...at least, until I get to know my characters well. And then I type. But I still always set out my chapters in longhand and then type the chapter. Does that make sense? Type a chapter, grab a pen and outline the next chapter; repeat.

Interesting. It makes some sense, though--our minds work differently depending on how we are writing. So,
do you create a detailed outline before you start writing, or… I'm something of a pantsing outliner! I try to get the big picture and then outline the chapters one at a time.

I kind of like that compromise! 
Sometimes writers have to find out about all sorts of odd things. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve had to research for one of your books?I'm not sure it's the weirdest thing off the top of my head, but I recently researched reading tea leaves. I'm not sure it's something I could ever do, but hopefully, I can pretend that one of my characters can.

You have a  number of different themes and careers for your heroines. What is the strangest job you’ve ever held?
The strangest job I ever had was for a small-town attorney. He was so tight that he wouldn't buy a copier, and I had to go down a flight of stairs and up the street to the courthouse whenever I had to make a copy of something! And, of course, they charged him for the copies. In the long run, it would've probably made more financial sense for him to buy a copier, but noooo...

Penny wise, pound foolish! I'll bet you were glad to leave that job. One last question: If there’s a spider in the corner of the room, do you a) panic, b) drop everything until it is removed, or c) hope it will eat the other annoying bugs that get in?
If it's in a far corner of the room, I'll ignore it. If it's in MY corner of the room, I'll speak to it and tell it  that we're good as long as he doesn't drop down on my head or something. One night I was on the porch and saw a massive spiderweb. The spider was sitting there, and I said, "That's a really nice setup you've got there--like a spider mansion or something. You should write SOME DOG in the web for Cooper." And then I laughed. Which is probably how the neighbors know I'm crazy. I attribute talking to weird things like spiders to too much Disney growing up. And, you know, being crazy. LOL!
 
I love it! Thanks for sharing that, and thanks for stopping by to chat with the Ninja Librarian!


Intrigued? Here are the links for more information:

Webpage: http://www.gayleleeson.com http://www.gayletrent.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GayleTrentandAmandaLee/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GayleTrent
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/gayletrent/pins/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gayletrentleeson/
Purchase Links:

And, last but not least, we have a Giveaway! Enter to win a $25 Amazon giftcard!

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Friday, December 8, 2017

Flash Fiction Friday: A Pismwallops PTA Christmas, Part 1

Decided to have some fun as we run up to the holidays (and yes, I will unashamedly say "holidays," because there are a bunch of them and I like to celebrate any that come my way, and encourage others to celebrate any they like). So I dropped in to see how the Pismwallops PTA handles the event. With a fund-raiser bazaar, of course! But nothing ever goes quite according to plan when JJ MacGregor is involved. It's looking like a 2-part story.

A Pismawallops PTA Christmas


“JJ, we need another table for the baked goods!”

“JJ, the tree won’t light up!”

“JJ, the—”

I tuned out the last voice. Arne Hancock always had a crisis for me to fix. I dispatched two kids to get the table Patty Reilly needed for the brownies, and went to help Kitty Padgett with the lights that didn’t light. Kitty’s the PTA president, so she was getting her own share of people demanding instant fixes.

“It’s plugged in?” I asked.

Kitty gave that the eye-roll it deserved, so I added, “In an outlet that actually works?” The Pismawallops High gym needed some upgrades, no question.

“I tried three outlets,” Kitty said. “It’s got to be a burned out bulb.”

I eyed the antique string of lights on our decidedly fake tree. There was no good way to find the defective bulb, unless the principal had someone in detention he really wanted to punish. Each bulb would have to be replaced, one at a time, and the string tested after each one. I made the sort of executive decision expected of a VP, even of a small-town PTA.

“Toss ’em. Buy a new set at McMullens when we get done here, and we can string them in the morning.”

Kitty nodded agreement and we moved on to the next set of crises. Arne was at my shoulder, so this time I had to pay attention.

“Someone has been playing with the hot pads and scrubbers. I left them perfectly arranged, and now look at them!”

I could see his point. The colorful clothes and crocheted plastic pot scrubbers were jumbled in disarray on the table. I thought it looked fine—a cheerful chaos—but Arne liked order.

“I suppose someone must have bumped the table or something,” I said. “It won’t take long to fix it. Get some of the kids to help.”

He pursed his lips and regarded the teens who swarmed over the gym, hanging decorations and creating a joyful chaos. At length he selected Kat and Brian—Kitty’s daughter and my son—and set them to work lining up the handicrafts.

By bedtime, the gym looked pretty good. Swags of greenery covered at least some of the cinder-block walls, and the tables lining those walls were heaped with seasonal goods. Our Holiday Bazaar was as ready as it would ever be, aside from the lights. Arne’s table was a perfect rainbow again, and Patty had the food tables organized with pricing signs to show were everything would go when the goodies rolled in in the morning. A fair number of sealed containers were already in place.

I checked to make sure none of the containers could be opened or nibbled through. We’d been known to have a pest or two in the school. Convinced everything was tight, I doused the lights, the last one out, and locked up.

#

I was the first one back at the gym Saturday morning, with Kitty right behind me hauling new strings of colorful lights. It was two hours until the holiday bazaar opened its doors, and we had some work to do.

I hit the lights, and scanned the room. Everything looked like we’d left it…until my eye reached the hot pads. Arne’s fastidious rainbow had been scrambled into a chaotic swirl once again.

“Oh, no! Arne’s going to have a coronary!”

Kitty, coming up behind me, said, “What?”

I pointed.

“We’ll have to get it back in order, fast.”

“But how could it have happened?” I wanted to know. “I was the last one out. It was fine then, and I locked the door. No one’s been here.” Except someone obviously had been there.

Carlos, the custodian and our PTA secretary, had keys, but he swore he hadn’t been near the place, and I believed him. That left burglars, who I assumed would at least have stolen some brownies, not just messed up one table; students, who would have no way to get in; or ghosts.

“Poltergeist. That has to be it,” I told Kitty.

“The Ghost of Christmas Presents?” she suggested.

“Let’s get these lights strung, then we can do something about the table.”

I checked the other tables, but as far as I could see, no one had touched anything else. I did eye one well-sealed pan of brownies, which seemed to have some scratches on the cover, but nothing had gotten in. We shared a brownie before we started, just to be sure they were okay.

We strung the tree in record time. Expecting volunteers and food donations to begin arriving at any moment, I crossed the room to turn on the music, though I’d been enjoying the silence. Kitty headed for the hot pads.

I was about to flip the switch when Kitty gasped.

“What?” I turned around, not sure what to expect. That talk of ghosts had been a joke, but maybe we were a little jumpy, or just punchy.

Kitty was crouching by the table, hand extended. She made a little kissing noise and said, “Kitty!”

“Why are you calling yourself?” Now I wondered if there’d been something odd in those brownies we’d tested.

“Not me—kitty as in cat.”

“Kat? What’s she doing under there?” And Kat couldn’t hide in that heap of hot pads.

“Not Kat. Cat.”

I still wasn’t getting it, and became convinced the brownies had been laced with something. That would be a fiasco, we’d have to…

“C-A-T. There’s a cat in here!” Kitty was laughing, at the same time as she tried to keep still and not scare the animal.

A little, scared, scrawny kitten crawled out from under the hot pads, where it had obviously made a warm nest for the night. Kitty scooped it up, cuddling it. “Here’s our Christmas ghost!”

“A Christmas present for Arne, for sure,” I laughed. “But how on earth did it get in here?”

“Santa?” Kitty guessed.

“And what do we do with it?”

“Her,” Kitty corrected, having taken a look. “She’s for Arne, of course.”

“You don’t think he’s going to adopt a cat, do you?” I looked at the ruin of his perfect rainbow. “Fussy, tidy people do not like kittens.”

Kitty smiled. “Wait and see.”

###




©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2017
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!