Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Review of Trudy, Madly, Deeply

It's not often I post a review on my blog. Lately I've had a hard time of finding a book that I want to make time to read. Trudy, Madly, Deeply by Wendy Delaney is such a book.

Once I started reading this mystery about an overweight, 30ish, divorced woman who started her first day on the job with the district attorneys office as a deputy coroner when her real asset was being able to tell when people were lying, I didn't want to stop reading it.

I've known Wendy Delaney for years through RWA(Romance Writers of America). When I saw her at the Left Coast Crime conference and saw her mystery, I had to buy it. Wendy has a great sense of humor and it came through in this book.

If you like Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series you'll love Wendy's Working Stiffs Mystery series. She has the same humorous flair, but her characters are more believable and not so over the top as in the Stephanie Plum books.

As soon as I read the name Detective Steve Sixkiller...she had me. Though there hasn't been any mention to his Native American roots, the last name and now reading about him has me wishing I were Charmaine Digby.

Wendy, you have found a new fan!

Trudy, Madly, Deeply

Human lie detector Charmaine Digby is having a bad year. After eating her way through a divorce, she's out of work and up to her eyeballs in debt. In need of a life makeover Char comes home to the senior citizen haven of Port Merritt, Washington, and is ecstatic when she parlays her eye for lies into a job as the County Coroner's new assistant. But her joy is short-lived when a hunky doctor at the hospital reports the suspicious death of Trudy, Port Merritt's beloved Story Lady. Even more stunning, Trudy isn't the only recent patient whose heart mysteriously stopped.
Is it mad to think that dear old Trudy could be the latest victim of a serial killer? 

With no physical evidence of foul play, Char's on the case, much to the irritation of Detective Steve Sixkiller, who doesn't want her to stick her pretty nose for trouble in his investigation. But she's a woman on a mission to uncover the truth, and she'd better keep her eyes open or the next body on the way to the morgue could be hers....

Monday, June 29, 2015

Monday Mystery Guest Kathleen Kaska

Why I Write Mysteries
Kathleen Kaska
            When I was four years old, I planned my first escape. At the time, my family lived two doors down from my godparents. I loved visiting them. Aunt Henrietta always treated me with cookies. One afternoon, I asked my mom if we could visit and she said, “Later, after you’ve had your nap.” Well, “later” and “nap” didn’t suit me one little bit. I sneaked out into the backyard and scoped the area. I discovered I could duck-walk below the windows to the fence and squeeze through the gate without opening it. I was on Aunt Henrietta’s doorsteps in mere seconds. Before I could say cookie, my mom was at the door. I should have known my aunt, my mother’s sister, would tattle. 
            For the first and only time, for only one time was necessary, I got the “good girl” lecture. That lecture destroyed my sense of adventure, turned me into a shy, quiet kid, and caused me to lose all my self-confidence. Okay, maybe that last statement is an exaggeration, but that’s how I felt. So I worked really hard the rest of my childhood to never disappoint my parents. I never sneaked out of the house again. I never lied to my parents; well, almost never, but you get the idea.
            I honestly believe this is why I became a mystery writer. I live vicariously through my main characters, doing things I’d never have the nerve to do and saying things I’d never say. In “words,” living dangerously.
            I also became a mystery writer because I love reading mysteries. In my younger years I read all fifty-six Sherlock Holmes stories and everything Agatha Christie wrote. I marveled at Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie’s remarkable ability to plot. In college I became hooked on authors like Dashiell Hammett, Mickey Spillane, Rex Stout, and Raymond Chandler, who created hardboiled detectives. Hammett’s Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon and Chandler’s Philip Marlowe in The Lady and the Lake were true inspirations for me. I also enjoy the humor of Elizabeth Peters, Janet Evanovich, and Lisa Lutz. When I started writing mysteries, I wanted to create hardboiled detectives, but I wanted my stories to be light and humorous. And I wanted my protagonist to be a woman. The result was sassy, sexy, twenty-nine-year-old Sydney Lockhart. My series is set in the early 1950s. I chose this decade because it was a pivotal time for women in terms of lifestyle choices. Sydney’s an independent woman, struggling to make it on her own—not an easy task back then. Oh, yes, and she’s very sneaky and lies often.

Kathleen Kaska is a writer of mysteries, nonfiction, travel articles, and stage plays. When she is not writing, she spends much of her time with her husband traveling the back roads and byways around the country, looking for new venues for her mysteries and bird watching along the Texas coast and beyond. Her latest mystery is Murder at the Driskill (LL-Publications). It was her passion for birds that led to the publication The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story (University Press of Florida).
Murder at the Driskill
            Changes are happening fast and furious for reporter Sydney Lockhart and her detective boyfriend, Ralph Dixon. No sooner than they open their new detective agency, a high-profile case walks through the door. Stringer Maynard, an influential Austin businessman, wants business partner/brother-in-law, Leland Tatum, investigated before Tatum’s campaign for governor begins. Seems Tatum has been keeping company with an avante garde crowd whose activities might jeopardize his chances of winning the election.
            Maynard invites Sydney and Dixon to the famous Driskill Hotel for Tatum’s formal campaign announcement. Before they even meet the candidate, a gunshot sends them hurrying into the next suite where they discover Tatum has been shot and killed. Suddenly their professional services turn to a murder investigation. As the suspect list grows, Sydney acquires an unwanted partner Lydia LaBeau, a twelve-year-old daughter of one of the potential murderers. To assist Sydney in clearing her father’s name, Lydia dresses up like Sherlock Holmes and begins to collect her own bag of evidence. Although much to Sydney’s annoyance, Lydia proves to be the smarter detective.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Salt & Pepper Sunday

Today is my birthday. I wonder if I'll get a new set of salt and pepper shakers from someone?
I received these interesting huggers from my sister-in-law for Christmas the past year. She and her husband travel around on their Harley motorcycles. They been to Galveston and picked these up for me knowing I like unique salt and pepper shakers.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It's Always Hard to Say Good-bye

I've been on the fence for the last two to three years about leaving RWA - Romance Writers of America. They were there for me when I couldn't find a writing group to help me hone my craft.

In the late 1980's and early 1990's I started writing mystery books. I loved Grafton, Christie, Gilman, Francis. Mysteries were all I read and I devoured every book in the library when I discovered a mystery writer I liked.

After reading several of Sue Grafton's books, I decided to try my hand at writing a mystery. I worked on it for a couple of years, writing after the kids went off to school and banging away on an old typewriter I'd scrounged up. Then a relative died and left me some money. Not much but it was enough to buy a "home" computer. I started inputting my story into the computer and when I finished I did what I'd read in the Writer's Digest, go to the library and get their book on agents and editors. I spent hours combing through that tome to find agents to send my manuscript to because I'd tried to contact the mystery organizations to join to learn more about writing mysteries, but they wouldn't allow anyone in unless they had already published a book. How was I to learn what I needed?

I made one of may newbie mistakes. I had an agent write back to me. I was so excited!! He said if I sent him X amount of dollars he'd see if my book was worth representing.  Not having anyone to tell me different I thought this was how it was done. I sent the money and the manuscript. He wrote back saying some good things about the ms but told me mystery books weren't written in first person. I was gobsmacked! I was reading Sue Grafton and it was all in first person. But he was the agent and he would know. I rewrote the whole ms in third person and resent it. All this time I was working on the second book in the series. He replied no I didn't have what it took to be a mystery writer. I was crushed because mystery was what I wanted to write.

But...I'd taken enough community ed and college level writing classes to know I could write in an entertaining fashion. I'd read several Nora Roberts and LaVyrle Spencer books and an article about how romance books were the biggest selling genre. I hadn't read much romance until those two authors, but I decided to try my hand at historical western romance. I wrote the first book. It was about a mountain man in the Blue Mountains and a woman who came by wagon train and was left at the Whitman Mission when she no longer had a husband or belongings left.  Anyway, I still hadn't connected with any other writing groups that worked. I'd tried a local group but they were mostly poets and turned their noses up at my attempt at romance.

I heard about Fish Trap. It's a large literary week that is held at Wallowa Lake, my stomping grounds, every year. I could stay with my parents and attend a class or two.  I signed up for a class with a New York editor. We all gathered for the class. I looked around the conference table and smiled at the other people. They nodded, some smiled back. The editor asked us to each read the first two pages of our work(that we'd been asked to bring). The first person read.  It was pretty, flowing prose that painted a picture. Nice! The second person read. I didn't understand what they were saying with the long words and staccato sentences. The next person had a story all about a rock. I was getting more and more nervous. These people were all reading literary writing. I had a historical western romance. It was my turn. I started reading and about half way everyone started physically drawing away from me. The editor stopped me and asked if I'd ever heard of RWA. I said no. She told me to see her after the class.

Afterwards, she explained to me about Romance Writers of America. How they help a writer hone their craft, learn the business of writing, and help them succeed in a writing career. She gave me their website.
Janet(the tall woman) who saved me at my first RWA conference brought groupies to a RCRW Reader's Luncheon
I went home looked them up on the computer and joined. This was in June. I received my first RWR- Romance Writers Report- a monthly magazine the organization sends out to members. I saw in the back that they had a conference in Bellevue, Washington in October. I pleaded with my husband that this would be a good place for me to learn more about writing. He agreed I could go. I signed up!

In the RWR were listed contests held by the various RWA chapters across the U.S., Canada, and in Australia.  I sent the love scene of my first romance book to one of the contests. It was a finalist in the contest! I was so excited. I'd found the genre I was supposed to write.

Winning the EPPIE with Salem Chapter members Jim Ciaramitaro, Chis Young, Genene Valleau, and Barbara Ray
I attended the Emerald City Romance Writers conference in October. I was stoked from the contest and ready to learn what I needed to know to continue growing as an author.  The people at the conference were so friendly, helpful, and giving!  I couldn't believe so many writers were so willing to help other writers! I was a bit of a wallflower not knowing a single person and not understanding a lot of the jargon being tossed around. WIP, chapter(I thought they meant in a book not the local chapters), POV. A wonderful lady named Janet took me under her wing and made my first conference special by introducing me to everyone.

A book signing with other RWA members- Lisa Hendrix and Minnette Meador
At the conference, I learned there were two chapters in Oregon- Salem and Portland. I visited the Salem chapter and ended up joining. Chris Young, Genene Valleau, Rosemary Indra, and Chris York were such a welcoming group that I made the trip once a month to the meetings for nearly ten years. The group grew and I made more lasting friends through the Salem Chapter. When the chapter folded I joined the Portland RWA chapter but didn't make it to as many of their meetings.

Book signing at Powell's Books Portland OR with Karen Duvall and Vanessa Gilfoy
I also sent my second historical western romance to more contests. One of those contests I had a judge who explained what I was doing wrong rather than just marking up my entry. She put her email on my entry and I contacted her to thank her for her explanation. We chatted back and forth and discovered she wrote historical western romance and was in need of a person who knew the difference between a hock and a withers on a horse. We forged a wonderful long distance friendship. Because of Nicole D'Areinzo's friendship and pushing me- I became a published author.

I've been published now since 2006, eight years after I joined RWA and nine manuscripts later. Yes, it was my ninth manuscript that I wrote that finally had all the right elements to become published. Since 2006 I've published 20 books. None of this would have been possible without the editor at Fish Trap all those years ago telling me about RWA.

And that is why it is hard to say good-bye to the organization, but I have to use my money and time wisely. I've joined groups specific to the books I write; historical westerns and mystery. Those are my two favorites genres to write and where I need to focus.

One of my favorite events hosted by Rose City RWA the Reader's Luncheon
I didn't renew my dues with the Portland Chapter this month and I won't renew my national dues this summer either. They are an excellent place for a new writer to learn the craft of writing and the business side of writing. I would recommend them to any person writing in any genre. For where I'm at now, I belong to enough online groups and local groups to get the ongoing learning and growth for my writing that I need.

So long, RWA, you were exactly what this writer needed for seventeen years!