Catching Up on Mystery Reads

headshotJacqueline Vick is the author of over twenty published short stories, novelettes and mystery novels. Her April 2010 article for Fido Friendly Magazine, “Calling Canine Clairvoyants”, led to the first Frankie Chandler Pet Psychic mystery, Barking Mad About Murder. To find out more, visit her website at http://www.jacquelinevick.com.

 

# # #

It is so important for a writer to read. Not only will she keep abreast of what’s out there and (hopefully) enjoy the process, but she can discover new writing styles, get ideas for her books, and even learn new vocabulary words.

When my computer crashed a few weeks ago, I had the time to dig out a few selections from my very large pile of books waiting to be read. It was refreshing, like forgetting to drink water for a while and then experiencing the benefits when you finally do. I was delighted by some of the mysteries I discovered as well as by new novels by authors I’d previously enjoyed. Here’s a sample. Check them out. I think you’ll like them.

Quirky Quiz ShowSally Carpenter put out a post about her new book The Quirky Quiz Show Caper. I saw it on Facebook. (Hint: Don’t be afraid to promote your books, gently, on social media.)  I immediately downloaded a copy, realized I hadn’t read the previous book, and downloaded that one, too. (See? Promotion pays off!)

The thing I love about the Sandy Fairfax mysteries is their light-hearted approach. Sandy is a former teen idol trying to get his lifeCunning Cruise Ship Caper back together at 38 after drying out.  The choices available to him at this point in his career are pretty cheesy, but as grandma used to say, beggars can’t be choosers.

The characters and the dialogue and the situations play out like an old sitcom. That’s the genius of these books. With Carpenter’s knowledge of theater and television, the sets come to life.  Simply put, they are fun, and I can’t wait for the next one.

I have to admit I’ve fallen woefully behind on Diane Vallere’s Samantha Kidd mysteries, so I grabbed a copy of Pearls Gone Wild and dove in, which is kind of like eating dessert before dinner, since I had missed a few books between this, her sixth, and the first book in the series, Designer Dirty Laundry.

Pearls Gone WildI’m glad I did, because I wouldn’t have wanted to miss the excitement. Samantha and Nick Taylor just may move their relationship to a new level, but will the handsome photographer Dante get in the way? And what’s Dante doing hanging around Samantha at Christmas anyway? He’s lending brotherly support to his sister Cat whose husband has just been murdered. Did I mention Cat is eight months pregnant? If you think it sounds like a soap opera, you’re right. Twists and surprises galore but without the annoying “scene hold” before commercial break.

Then, as I was dropping off my batteries at the library for recycling, I thought I would slip inside for a quick peek. Staring at me, front forward on the shelf, was Louis Penny’s How the Light Get’s In.  I grabbed that and two Donna Leon books and, yes, made my reading pile larger, with deadlines.

Cajun Christmas KillingI’ll have to wait until October for the next Ellen Byron novel, A Cajun Christmas Killing, and I’ve been to several bookstores looking for Ashley Weaver’s The Essence of Malice. Ooh! Did I just see an Amory Ames Kindle Single? Another for the pile!the essence of malice

In case you’re worried that I might be crushed by my growing stack of books, I did make headway on the reading pile with a few novels that I had previously downloaded to “give the author a try,” Unfortunately, I was disappointed. I won’t mention them by name because it’s just my opinion and everybody has to start somewhere. I’d hate to have my first book, written before I had gained experience, trashed online.  The point is that authors shouldn’t limit themselves to favorites. When I recognize something I don’t like, it’s a good reminder to keep it out of my own books.

Are there mysteries that you’ve discovered that you love, love, love? Share them in the comments section.

 

 

 

 

 

Moving Among Genres by Linda O. Johnston

lindaphotoLinda O. Johnston, a former lawyer who is now a full-time writer, currently writes one mystery series for Midnight Ink involving dogs: the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries.  She has also written the Superstition Mysteries for Midnight Ink as well as the Pet Rescue Mystery Series, a spinoff from her Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime.  She additionally currently writes for Harlequin Romantic Suspense as well as the Alpha Force paranormal romance miniseries about shapeshifters for Harlequin Nocturne.  Her June release was her 46th published novel, with more to come.

 

* * *

Versatility.  Keeping things fresh.  Using different voices.  Working in different points of view.  Multiple publishers.

Those are some of the good things about writing in multiple genres.

Confusion now and then.  Concern whether readers are focusing on one type of series and not the other(s).  Needing to belong to many different writing organizations rather than just one.

These are some of the not-so-good things about writing in multiple genres.

I should know.  I’ve written in several different genres, often at the same time.

My first published fiction was a short story in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and I won the Robert L. Fish Award for best first short story of the year.  After that, I had several more mystery short stories published, and have had additional ones published over the years.

But then I moved into time travel romance, where I wrote several novels for Dorchester Publishing.  I got my rights back to those stories, which was a good thing since Dorchester went out of business.  But I knew I enjoyed writing paranormal romance.

Next was romantic suspense.  I wrote several novels for Harlequin Intrigue.

From there, I somewhat segued into cozy mysteries, beginning my Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime.  But was I done with romance?  No.  I also wrote some paranormal romances for a different Harlequin line, Nocturne.  That turned into my Alpha Force miniseries for Nocturne, about a covert military unit of shapeshifters, which will be ending next year.  I’ll have one more Alpha Force Nocturne, to be published in November 2018, before the line ends.

Back to cozy mysteries.  My Pet Rescue Mysteries were a spin-off from my Kendra mysteries.  I was definitely hooked on cozies, and when it looked like the Pet Rescue Mysteries were ending, I began writing the Superstition Mysteries for Midnight Ink.  Then, at the same time, I started writing another series for MI: the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries.  They’re continuing, although the Superstition Mysteries aren’t.

But was I giving up on romances?  No.  As I mentioned, I am still writing Nocturnes.  Plus, I went back to romantic suspense, writing for the Harlequin Romantic Suspense line.   I’m also still writing for HRS and will have a new miniseries starting there next March, the K-9 Ranch Rescue series.

Oh, and I haven’t mentioned yet that all the stuff I’m currently writing features dogs.  That gives my books a recurring theme.

So am I confusing you–or my readers?

One way to hopefully avoid readers’ confusion is to use a different pseudonym for each genre, or use your own name for one of them and pseudonyms for the rest.

I’ve never done that.  I’ve been published by different print publishers, sometimes at the same time, and no editor has even suggested it.  And I like the idea of my own name being associated with me and what I write, no matter what it is.

Would I take on a pseudonym someday?  Sure, if it made sense at the time.  But I’m just as happy remaining me.

In fact, that’s the important thing: being happy with what you’re doing.  If you like writing in one genre, that’s fine.  If you like writing in multiple genres, go for it.  If you’re not sure, concentrate on what you like to read–or just start writing and see where it goes.

That’s something I find especially inviting and exciting about being a writer.  There are no restrictions!  And if you’re settled into one or two genres, whether fiction, non-fiction or both, and get an inspiration to go in a different direction, you can always do it!  You may have to rethink the publication process, with traditional publishers that are major or smaller, or go for self-publishing, or both.  Any way you choose is just fine.

Where am I going?  I’ve got some ideas–I always have ideas–and we’ll all just have to wait to see where the next steps lead me.

OH, TO BE IN ENGLAND….by Rosemary Lord

just-rosie-3

Rosemary wrote her first book when she was ten years old – for her little brother. She also illustrated it herself. It was later rejected by Random House!

She has been writing ever since.

The author of Best Sellers Hollywood Then and Now and Los Angeles Then and Now,  English born Rosemary Lord has lived in Hollywood for over 25 years. An actress, a former journalist (interviewing Cary Grant, James Stewart, Tony Hopkins, John Huston amongst others) and a Senior Publicist at Columbia Pictures, she lectures on Hollywood history. Rosemary is currently writing the second in a series of murder mysteries set in the 1920s Jazz Age Hollywood featuring Lottie Topaz, an extra in silent movies.

 

OH, TO BE IN ENGLAND….

… So begins Robert Browning’s poem Home Thoughts From Abroad. Browning extols the wonders of the English countryside and the changing seasons as Spring emerges.

But it’s not the green fields, buttercups and bluebells that I am missing so much lately – although the thought of those always brightens my heart – but I miss the British magazines that I used to read and, indeed, where I was first published as a writer.

When you’re in the midst of writing a novel and you’re stuck at page 218, knowing you have a hundred or more pages to fill, writing a 1,000-word article for a magazine is most appealing.

But then too, reading a magazine is appealing, when you don’t have the time or the attention-span to devour a lengthy novel. Problem is that today’s magazines seem so frivolous; filled with glaring advertisements and little or no content.

We writers start young as readers. Growing up in England, we had a wide assortment of children’s magazines and comics to choose from: Twinkle, Mandy, Judy and my favorite, Bunty. Then we progressed to Schoolfriend, Girl and eventually Jackie – the teen magazine. I suppose the names are a give-away, that these were for us girls.

beanoThe boys had more serious comics and magazines such as The Boy’s Own Paper, The Beano, The Dandy. I guess adding a “The” made them more weighty. But then what about Buster, Topper and Beezer? Not so serious-sounding now, eh boys? As they got older, the boys progressed to The Eagle, Valiant, Look and Learn and Tiger. The Eagle was my older brother Ted’s favorite.

The paper-boy would deliver these treasures every Tuesday. They were a main form of entertainment for children until recent years and stemmed from the 19th century “penny-dreadfuls,” that led to the publishing of serial mystery stories such as Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes exploits. The magazines introduced pirate tales and adventures of such legends as highwayman Dick Turpin and detective Sexton Blake.

Scottish publishing house D.C. Thompson Inc, started The Beano and The Dandy in the 1930s. The Beano is still published today.

The Dundee-based D.C. Thompson was my first publisher, when I wrote articles for My Weekly, People’s Friend and ended up having my own column in Jackie Magazine for several years – including my Letter From Hollywood column, once I moved Stateside. They were the nicest people to work for and My Weekly and People’s Friend are still going strong.

I also wrote a lot of pieces for IPC Magazines in London, for their teen magazines petticoatPetticoat, Mirabelle  and New Musical Express, as well as the women’s periodicals Woman and Woman’s Own. IPC (International Publishing Corporation) was founded in 1963, but its’ umbrella group goes back to the 1800s and covered the Suffragette Movement, two World Wars, the Swingin’ 60s and today’s revolutions. Taken over by Time Warner in 2001 and renamed Time Inc.UK in 2014, the groups periodicals include Horse and Hound, Woman’s Weekly, InStyle UK, TV Times, Woman, Country Life, Homes and Gardens and seemingly hundreds more.

But back to the children’s magazines that are so dear to me and others of a certain age. They included cartoon-style comic strip stories, but mostly were filled with how-to articles, history pieces and tales of adventure, romance and mystery – letting imaginations run wild. Yarns of super-heroes, dastardly villains, schoolboys-and-girls-to-the-rescue and hilarious school-days tales of characters like Billy Bunter, filled the boy’s comics. Often very “un-PC” – or un-Politically Correct: Billy Bunter was very overweight and always eating cakes and buns. Not to be outdone, his sister Bessie Bunter turned up in the girls’ magazines, preferring cake to croquet or hockey.

For us girls, there was page after page of  “The Secret Adventures of…” – plucky-heroine stories, romantic tales (often nurses falling for doctors), legends, fairy-tales and Cinderella-finds-her-Prince-Charming stories. There was no noticeable class divide, either. We could all dream of being a ballerina, champion jockey, Olympic medalist, a pilot, hospital-matron or doctor – or a princess. There was usually a moral theme to these, where the baddy gets his or her come-uppance and a good deed gets rewarded. Where honesty and loyalty were the benchmarks for everyone. No wonder our generation grew up to be such virtuous, practically-perfect goddesses!

The backdrop for the girls’ tales were often ballet schools, nursing, Boarding Schools, pony-clubs, gymkhanas, ice-skating – and school-holidays in Scotland or England’s West Country: Devon and Cornwall, home of pirates, smugglers, Agatha Christie and cream-teas.

So, as a writer, this was a great market to get started in and learn one’s trade. The money was pitiful – not that it’s much better today. But there were so many magazines that devoured articles and stories every week, that editors would give unknown writers a chance.

Often those short stories developed into books, like the Bunchy, Milly-Molly-Mandy, Marigold books, for readers who grew into Enid Blyton, Noel Streatfield or Nancy Drew fans. My Aunty Marjory gave me Gene Stratton-Porter’s book, A Girl of the Limberlost and Freckles set in the Indiana wetlands. I read Eleanor H. Porter’s Pollyanna, too. (Were they related?) No wonder I ended living in America.

But it wasn’t just the stories we read in those childhood comics and magazines – there were gifts, too, taped to the inside. Perhaps a slim, brightly-colored plastic bangle, a teeny pink lipstick, a plastic ring, a packet of flower seeds for the garden or an envelope of colored sparkly dust for art projects. And the last page of Bunty featured a cut-out doll’s cut-out wardrobe. Such value for money in every edition!

Bunty survived until 2001, Jackie Magazine lasted longer. The Beano lives on.

Today’s magazines for the young seem filled with advertisements and gossip about pop-icons like Justin Bieber.  Not quite the same. Where are the fanciful tales for kids today, taking them to other worlds, other planets, even, to get their imaginations stirring? Harry Potter was the exception, of course. But that was a book – not a comic magazine. Hmmm. Thank goodness we had Bunty, Twinkle, Schoolfriend and Judy….

Methinks I’ll stay with my tales of plucky heroines and lonely ballerinas, thank you very much.

 

Don’t Love Your Characters Too Much

headshot

Jacqueline Vick is the author of over twenty published short stories, novelettes and mystery novels. Her April 2010 article for Fido Friendly Magazine, “Calling Canine Clairvoyants”, led to the first Frankie Chandler Pet Psychic mystery, Barking Mad About Murder. To find out more, visit her website at http://www.jacquelinevick.com.

 

 

I was working on the next Harlow Brothers mystery.  During a scene where older brother Edward gets arrested, I noticed that I was leaving him with his dignity.

What?!

I had a perfect opportunity to make a screamingly funny scene, and I was letting it go because I didn’t want to embarrass Edward.

Like many authors, I love my characters. We spend a lot of time with them, so this is understandable. However, there has to be a line between caring about what happens to them and getting in the way of the story.

I should tell you up front that I will walk away from a movie or TV show if a situation gets too embarrassing. I have a chronic case of empathy, and the character’s humiliation is just too much to bear.  Still, if I want to write the best scene possible, I’ll have to find a way to get past this.

Maybe if I thought of them as little masochists who reveled in embarrassment and shame. The more I pile it on, the happier they are. No, that’s too creepy for me and would lead to a completely different kind of book.

What if I told them to trust me? That no matter how bad it gets, I will pull them out of the mire, clean them up and set them back on their pedestals.

I just don’t know.  Have you ever had this problem? How would you get past this dilemma?  Leave your suggestion in the comments below.

Why Dogs? by Linda O. Johnston

lindaphotoLinda O. Johnston, a former lawyer who is now a full-time writer, writes two mystery series for Midnight Ink involving dogs: the Barkery and Biscuits Mysteries, and the Superstition Mysteries.  She has also written the Pet Rescue Mystery Series, a spinoff from her Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime and additionally currently writes for Harlequin Romantic Suspense as well as the Alpha Force paranormal romance miniseries about shapeshifters for Harlequin Nocturne.  Her June release was her 46th published novel, with more to come.

 

 *  *  *

My turn. 

All my fellow Writers in Residence have been focusing their posts on pets for a while, and there are few subjects of more interest to me than that. 

Why?  I’m a dog lover.  A cynophilist.  All my novels these days feature dogs in one form or another.  In my Harlequin Nocturne paranormal romances, those canines might be shapeshifters or their cover dogs.  In my Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries, they include the protagonist Carrie Kennersly’s dog Biscuit as well as canine customers in her barkery, where she sells dog treats based on healthy recipes she developed as a veterinary technician.  My Superstition Mysteries featured Pluckie, a dog who’s lucky according to superstitions because she’s black and white–and she proves to be lucky in the stories.  And my upcoming K-9 Ranch miniseries for Harlequin Romantic Suspense has a background of many kinds of dog training occurring on that K-9 Ranch.

Is that all?  Not really.  In my first mystery series, the Kendra Ballantyne Pet-Sitter Mysteries that I wrote for Berkley Prime Crime, Kendra was a lawyer who lived in the Hollywood Hills with her tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Lexie.  At the time, I was a practicing lawyer, and I still live in the Hollywood Hills with my two Cavaliers, although we lost our wonderful Lexie last year.  Unlike Kendra, though, I haven’t tripped over murder victims–except in my mind.  And my second mystery series, the Pet Rescue Mysteries, was a spin-off from the Kendra books. 

So why dogs?  I’m not sure why I started loving them, but I was definitely young.  I convinced my grandfather to buy me my first puppy from a pet store when I was eight years old.  I learned a horrible lesson then about pet stores at the time.  My mother took Cuddles to a vet when I was in school the next day, and learned that the poor pup had distemper.  We returned her to the store and learned that all the dogs there had distemper.  In those days we couldn’t even bring a dog into the house for a three-month quarantine period after that, and I used the time to research breeds.  My next puppy was a Boston Terrier from a qualified breeder, and I had Frisky for quite a while.

Then, years later, on my first trip to London I saw my first Cavalier King Charles Spaniel on a woman’s lap on the Underground.  The rest was my history.  I hunted for a Cavalier puppy when I returned to the States and have been owned by them ever since.  Our current Cavaliers are Mystie, a Blenheim (red and white) and Cari, another tricolor.  Cari’s still a puppy, very cute, very energetic, and very determined to play with Mystie, whether Mystie wants it or not.

Dogs have inspired other aspects of my life, too, and I absolutely love writing about them.  In fact, I’m always dreaming up new story ideas but don’t have time to follow up on all of them. 

Why?  Well, if you’ve ever been leapt on by a puppy who wants nothing but attention and to give you doggy kisses, you know.  If you’ve ever worked with training a dog who really wants to learn what you want so you’ll be happy with him, you know.  If you’ve ever looked into a dog’s eyes and believe you understand what they’re communicating to you, you know.

Will I ever write anything in the future that doesn’t have dogs?  Possibly, but there’d have to be a good reason for it.

For now, dogs rule in my real life–and in my writing.

 

A Monkey’s Tail… by Rosemary Lord

just-rosie-3Rosemary wrote her first book when she was ten years old – for her little brother. She also illustrated it herself. It was later rejected by Random House!

She has been writing ever since.

The author of Best Sellers Hollywood Then and Now and Los Angeles Then and Now,  English born Rosemary Lord has lived in Hollywood for over 25 years. An actress, a former journalist (interviewing Cary Grant, James Stewart, Tony Hopkins, John Huston amongst others) and a Senior Publicist at Columbia Pictures, she lectures on Hollywood history. Rosemary is currently writing the second in a series of murder mysteries set in the 1920s Jazz Age Hollywood featuring Lottie Topaz, an extra in silent movies.

 

*  *  *

 

When it was suggested we bloggers write about our pets, I panicked.

My first reaction was “You must be joking. I am not allowed pets where I live. I am terrified of dogs (a childhood incident – don’t ask…) and I am allergic to cats…” Where does that leave me? Not wishing to be a spoilsport, I had a good, long think. So here goes:

I once had a monkey called Poggy. I was four years old and living with my family on the Mediterranean island of Malta, where my dad was stationed in the navy. I loved Poggy. Poggy was brown and white, with a long tail and red felt feet and paws. He was very cuddly.

But when we returned to live in England, Poggy stayed behind. In readiness for our big move back to England, Poggy was carefully washed, so he would be smart for the journey, and pegged on the washing line to dry. But somehow, with all the turmoil, soggy Poggy was left hanging on the washing-line in the back-garden, next to the well, amidst grapevines in the Mediterranean sunshine. I hope that the family that found Poggy, loved him as much as I did.

I’m quite good with turtles, though. Or was. My late husband, Rick, taught me to rescue turtles. In Kentucky, over the many years we spent visiting and taking care of his late-mother in the small town, south of Louisville, we frequently encountered turtles ambling across the narrow country lanes. Rick would stop the car and wait. If they didn’t get a move on – before cars or farm vehicles would come barreling down the road from the opposite direction – it became my job to get out of the car and carefully pick up the wandering turtle and place it on the far grass verge, out of harms way. They were often quite mad at me, spitting, wriggling or peeing as I lifted them to safety, before a speeding vehicle could  run them over. Road-kill abounded on those winding trails.

red eared sliderSo did Red-eared Sliders. So-called, because they have a narrow red stripe around their ears. The ‘slider’ bit comes from their ability to slide off rocks and such into the water quickly. Then there’s the common Snapping Turtle. I learned to grab them more towards the back of the shell, because they have longer necks and would, of course, snap at me. Hence the name. They can be vicious little what-nots, craning their necks, trying to reach my fingers and glaring at me as if to say, “Leave me alone, I was on my way to the pond up by the crossroads.”  Mind you, the Alligator Snapping Turtles can be huge, like some prehistoric creation. Their faces look a bit like E.T. on a bad day. My mother-in-law’s doctor had a collection of these in his garden. Some were as big as 75 lbs. Then, of course, there is the  Yellow-Bellied Slider: with a yellow under-belly and sometimes yellow stripes on its’ top shell. Not to be confused with the Eastern River Cooters, who have yellow stripes, too. Here endeth the turtle lesson. See. I used to know my turtles!

Rick was a goodfile00065284551 teacher. He loved all living creatures and had the most amazing knowledge, experience and affinity with them. Turtles and snakes were his favorite. We would go snake hunting, too. That’s when I usually stayed in the car. But sometimes I would have to handle the smaller ones. Or, if he found a large, wriggling snake and didn’t have a big sack to put it in, he would hold it gently out of the car-window with one hand, (careful not to injure the delicate vertebrae) while he drove – very slowly – back to the farm. He often promised (or threatened?) to take me to Death Valley in the summer, in search of the striped Rosy Boa!

Goodness, it’s all coming back to me. Maybe I should think about including some of this herpetological information in my writing. Not sure how ‘Lottie Topaz and the Red- Eared Slider’ would sound…

Pet News by Jacqueline Vick

Since animals have broken loose on the Writers in Residence blog, I thought I would post a part of a newsletter I wrote to introduce the real life pets behind the characters in my novels. I give you, Chauncey. Enjoy!

Chauncy

577d861cd3822ba86c96e42c63007a61“A solid, ginger mutt glanced up from his position on the couch, but he didn’t move his eighty pounds to greet me. I’d rescued Chauncey from a local shelter three months ago. Rescued animals usually brought baggage with them, but Chauncey had an entire set of luggage.”  

Frankie Chandler’s rescued mutt, Chauncy, is the star of her home. He enjoys laying on the furniture, passing wind, and eating. The real-life model for his character is Buster, also known as Buster Brown and Busterlicious.

Buster was rescued from the Castaic Animal Shelter by author Jacqueline Vick, and she was his last shot at a forever home. He’d been adopted and returned twice, which meant three different homes in less than seven months!

His troubled puppyhood, which his current vet believes included abuse, caused him many neuroses, including a fear of loud noises, a fear of riding in the car (sometimes), a fear of walking near the street (which thankfully passed) and an inability to greet other dogs face-to-face (which makes his pet parents want to murder people who let their dogs off leash, free to rush Buster.)

Soon after his arrival at his forever home, Buster entered doggie day care for a few hours each week in order to develop his social skills. He loved playing with every dog, but his favorites were a pair of boxer siblings and a standard poodle named Rocky. He also took an agility class at a local park, but when the trainer parked a jeep nearby in which she had recently transported a mountain lion, he caught a wiff of the scent and that put an end to his classes. His boycott of that particular park is still in force.cone of shame 005

He was 55 pounds at 7 months old, and to his family’s surprise, grew to 82 pounds! They also discovered that Buster had colitis. He’s on a diet that consists mainly of homemade dogfood, and he’s doing just fine! His large size doesn’t make him any less active, and he’s suffered a few minor injuries, which have forced him into the cone-of-shame!

Buster is the proud recipient of the Canine Good Citizenship award, and he hopes to train as a therapy dog when he finally calms down. His other talents include barking at cars and sleepiheadshot and buster 015ng in his appointed chair, but his absolute favorite activity is eating, which caused one trainer to nickname him Bear.

Buster takes his new celebrity status in stride.