Thoughts on A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS

Hello, hello!  We’ve reached the last Wednesday in December (the last one of 2017).  Can you believe that?  And that means it’s time for my monthly book review.  For December, I chose a cozy mystery (think along the lines of Murder She Wrote, only this heroine is a young librarian).  I was looking for something light and fun this time, and A Murder for the Books by Victoria Gilbert, which was published on Dec. 22nd, popped up in my recommendations list on NetGalley.  Yes, it’s another advanced reader copy (ARC), so I must thank the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley for giving me access to the ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Now, let’s get on with the actual review.

51dt-gfX8YL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_
An interesting cover, but the more I look at it, the less it fits the book.

A Murder for the Books is the first in a new cozy series collectively known a the Blue Ridge Library Mysteries.  It follows Amy Webber, who has moved in with her elderly aunt Lydia under the guise of taking care of Lydia (who doesn’t really need much in the way of help), but is actually fleeing her old life after making a public scene when she found out her long-term boyfriend had been cheating on her.  She’s gone from being a librarian at a major university to being one at a small town public library.  Plus, she’s self-conscious about her weight and wary of anyone who shows a romantic interest in her.  Cue the entrance of Richard Muir who is a dance instructor at her old university and is new to her little town.  He asks for some help researching an old murder and that’s when they stumble upon a fresh murder and things just get weirder from there.

After the last three ARCs I got turned out to be less than satisfying, I had very low hopes for this book.  But I went into it with an open mind and, to my surprise, I liked it quite a bit.  The characters were relatable (if somewhat over the top occasionally).  And the plot was fun.  It was a little predictable at points, but the main antagonist turned out to be a bit of a surprise.  I figured they were somehow involved, but I didn’t think they’d actually do their own dirty work.  So, it was fun.

97729b971da436e63aa7fffa96aafb99bf6c1a07e41c0735eb372697f71484ba
And they did it.

That being said, I did have one major issue with the plot.  Every time Amy painted herself into a seemingly inescapable corner, instead of finding a logical way out, the author employed a deus ex machina (plot device where something is magically cleared up by the intervention of something random).  A book that’s been lost for years shows up even though they had done a complete inventory of the library earlier that year and no one had found it, another book randomly falls off a shelf at her house… twice, a shadow in the woods spooks the killer into running away, a gust of wind on an otherwise calm day knocks the killer off balance, etc.  These things are explained away as the possible actions of a ghost, which would be fine if this were a paranormal series (I love ghost stories!).  But it’s not.  The whole prospect of ghosts doesn’t even come up until more than halfway through the book, so it feels like a lazy escape method from having to find logical alternatives.

giphy (1)
A little too convenient.

Beyond that, the writing was good.  There was a little too much focus on description.  I didn’t really need to know what every house and garden Amy went in looked like in full detail.  That made it drag a little bit in places.  And there was a lot of hair twirling and similar actions that could’ve been left up to the reader’s imagination.  But none of that detracted from the fun of the story itself, so I’ll let it slide.

Ultimately, I was satisfied with A Murder for the Books.  It was interesting and fun enough that I’ll probably pick up the second book when it’s available.  Hopefully, there won’t be as much deus ex machina in the second one.

starstarstarstarstar outline

Overall, I’d rate it 4 out of 5 stars.  If you’re looking for something nice to snuggle up by the fire with, this one would be a good choice.

Short Stories, Novellas, Or Novels?

Hello, hello!  Last week, I asked a friend to suggest a topic for my next blog post (I’m running low on ideas, so feel free to suggest some topics or ask me questions) and she brought up short stories vs. novellas vs. novels.  She wanted to know my preferences based on being a reader vs. being a writer.  So, I thought I would use today to talk about the lengths of the things I enjoy reading as well as of the things I enjoy writing.  It seemed like a good topic since I haven’t written many writerly ramblings lately.

wordcount
These are the general guidelines.

First, I suppose I’ll approach the topic as a reader.  If I’m looking for something quick to distract me for a short period of time, I love digging into a short story.  But, most of the time, I prefer to read novels.  I like being able to get lost in a new world and getting to know the characters in a way that shorter works don’t allow for.  As far as novellas go, I don’t actively search them out, but I don’t dislike them for any particular reason.  One of my favorite stories is “The Body” by Stephen King, which is a novella in his collection Different Seasons.  Overall, I suppose I’d rank my reading preferences as novels, followed closely by short stories, then the occasional novella.

As a writer, things are a little more complicated.  Let’s look at novels.  I’m still fairly new to this particular form and I’m not entirely comfortable in it.  Though, I will admit, as I work on each new novel, I’m becoming more and more drawn to it.  At first, it felt like I was rambling.  I couldn’t get a grasp on the idea of the slow reveal and how to keep it interesting while my characters were going about their days.  I’m two-thirds of the way through writing my third novel and I’m finally feeling like I might semi know what I’m doing.  So, writing novels is growing on me.

216247_10151632534930520_1496248641_n
Me when I look over my novels.

Short stories, on the other hand, are where I feel most at ease.  I enjoy the conciseness of the short form.  It’s easier to keep track of one or two plots and characters than it is to keep track of a novel full of them.  I’m not constantly stressing because I just know I forgot some minor detail that will inevitably turn into something major.  Don’t get me wrong, I forget stuff in my short stories all the time, but it’s much easier to catch those things when it happens in 20 pages vs. 300 pages.  It’s also much easier to keep the writing motivation going for a week or two instead of three or more months.  Plus, I have a lot of fun with short stories.  That’s why they will always be my favorite to write.

1892-451x600
Well, that was a short story.

Then, there are novellas.  I honestly haven’t ventured into this realm yet.  I stopped working on one of my fetish fairy tales because it was leaving the territory of a short story and becoming a novelette/novella.  I thought maybe it had too much backstory and I needed to cut stuff out.  But recently, I decided to just let it go where it’s going and figure out what to do with it later.  I have at least one other story that needs to be expanded into a novella, so I might try my hand at it one day, but today is not that day.

In the end, I suppose my writing preferences would be ranked short stories, novels, and novellas in a distant third.  What about you?  Do you have a preference when reading vs. when writing?  Is there an equivalent option in your craft if you’re not a writer?  Share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

Looking Forward: 2018 Goals

Howdy, howdy!  A couple of months ago, a friend asked me if I would be interested in creating some writing goals for the new year and sharing them with each other for accountability purposes.  I agreed, because accountability is the best way to motivate me.  So, since we’re (not so) slowly making our way through December, I thought I would go ahead and share them with everyone.  As I’ve probably said before, I don’t care for the idea of making resolutions, because they’re usually vague things (eating healthier, exercising more, going out more, spending less, etc.) that people keep up with for a few days or even weeks then forget.  Goals, on the other hand, tend to be more specific, thus easier to keep track of and definitively complete.  So, here are my writerly goals for 2018.

a97b5a57e4783f1a81aafdab7e4498e2
Pretty much.

1. Finish the first draft of DS1 (code name for my novel-in-progress).  I probably should’ve finished this by the end of December, but I hit a road block and decided to work on my fetish fairy tales for a little while.  I’ll finish the fairy tale I’m working on this week, then get back into DS1.  I should finish that by the end of January/middle of February.

2. Revise LR1 (code name for the shitty first draft of the last novel I wrote).  I’m actually really interested in getting back to this one.  No idea if it’s still as awesome as it felt while I was writing it (first drafts never are), but I’m looking forward to tearing it apart and making it better.  Hopefully revisions won’t take me more than two months, but we’ll see.  I’m not the best at revising things.

front
It’s not wrong.  Though, I’m still using .doc instead of .docx.

3. Revise DS1.  Despite getting a little stuck on this one, I still absolutely love the idea and the characters.  I hope I feel the same way after I finish it.  My biggest problem is that I know the ending, I just don’t know how to elegantly connect it to what I have thus far.  I guess I’ll smash it all together and smooth things out during the revision process!

4. Query 100 agents for LR1 or DS1 depending on which is better.  I’ve decided to put G&G away for a while and focus on the other two novels.  Hopefully one of them will have more appeal for agents.  I can always go back to G&G later, but after 100 rejections, Bailey definitely deserves a nice little break.

5. Write 10 short stories/flash pieces OR 1 new novel.  I really want to use 2018 as the year of revision.  But at the same time, I also want to keep producing new work.  I’m leaning more towards the short stories/flash fiction option because I could take a couple of days off of revision each month to work on something fresh, but like I mentioned above, I don’t really know how long revision will take me.  If it doesn’t take too long, I wouldn’t mind working on another novel.

6. Submit short stories/flash pieces (2+ subs a week).  I admit that I’ve been neglecting my short story submissions this year.  I want to change that in 2018.  Maybe I’ll eventually snag someone’s attention!

542c38f804ca62fd98385151e1b647fb8fe02a81acf76a6a07712df4563d6359.jpg
Maybe.  I doubt it.  Reassurance, please!

And those are my writing goals for 2018.  Do you have any goals for next year yet?  Feel free to share them here or on my social media pages!

Five Gifts For Your Writers

Hello, hello!  It’s December.  That means everyone who didn’t put up their decorations right after Thanksgiving (or even before it) will soon be scrambling to catch up with their holiday check-lists (unless you’re like me and don’t really celebrate anything, then you have nothing to worry about!).  Those check-lists will undoubtedly include doing some gift shopping.  So, I thought I would take a minute to give you a few gift ideas for the writers in your life.

218375-Welcome-December

1. Journals.  Yes, your writer probably has a bunch of empty or half-empty journals and spirals scattered around their writing room.  Don’t be fooled.  It’s never enough.  They are always on the lookout for a new place to jot down ideas and notes.  And it’s easy enough to see what kind they prefer by taking a quick peek in their writing room (if you’re allowed in there).  Some writers prefer simple spirals, some prefer eye catching covers, and others prefer leather-bound journals.  If you know your writer well enough, you’ll find one that speaks to them.

2. A good pair of headphones or earbuds.  Preferably noise cancelling.  Because, even though your writer loves you, sometimes it’s just easier to write when they can drown out the rest of the world.  Plus, if they’re the type who listens to the same playlist on repeat while writing, headphones will give you a break from having to listen to the same song for the hundredth time through the wall.  It’s a twofer!

writers-tears-mini-book-776x1176

3. For your writers who drink, there’s always Writers’ Tears from Walsh Whiskey Distillery.  It’s an Irish whiskey and comes in three varieties.  You can also find the cute little book version pictured above.  I’ve never tried it and I’ve heard varying reviews of the stuff, so I can’t vouch for the taste.  But even if your writer isn’t a whiskey drinker, who wouldn’t want a bottle of this stuff to sit on their desk?  We all need the reminder that our writerly tears are not the only ones being shed.  Because writing is hard.  Plus, we’re always told to write drunk and edit sober!

4. Fancy pens.  Like the journals, your writer probably has a few of these sitting around their workspace unused, but don’t let that deter you.  Writers tend to love pens and quills and all the fancy writing equipment from days of old.  Granted, they probably won’t use them because there’s nothing that writes quite like a cheap BiC, but they sure are pretty to look at.  And those pretty pens help keep the impostor syndrome at bay.  That’s always a plus.

IMG_9920_1024x1024

5. Soap or candles from Whiskey River Soap Co.  Aside from the writer’s block soap, there’s also grammar police soap and soap for introverts.  With such a wide variety sold in a number of places, you’re bound to find the perfect match for your writer.  Also, sometimes your writer needs a reminder to take a break and shower.  After the shower, give them food before they wander back into their own little world.

So, there are a few ideas of gifts for your writers.  Feel free to add your own list here or on my social media pages!

Thoughts on THE CURIOUS AFFAIR OF THE WITCH AT WAYSIDE CROSS

Howdy, howdy!  It’s the last Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time for another book review!  For November, I read The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross by Lisa Tuttle.  It was published on November 28th.   As with my last two reviews, I must thank NetGalley and the publisher, Hydra, for giving me access to an ARC (advanced reader copy) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  So, let’s get on with said review!

51ee3UhYY7L
The cover is interesting.

The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross is the second in Tuttle’s series about detectives Jasper Jesperson and Aphrodite (Di) Lane.  I admit that when I realized this was book two, I bought and read the first.  And I had a lot of the same complaints about both books.  The premise is a fun one, basically being a supernatural version of Sherlock Holmes.  The Witch at Wayside Cross sends our detectives out of London to Aylmerton in search of the story behind Charles Manning, who dropped dead in their front hall after showing up at two in the morning, delirious and babbling about being hunted by witches.  Sounds exciting, right?  Not so much.

I wanted to like the book with its promise of intrigue and witches, but it fell flat with me.  There were at least five suspicious deaths throughout the book and one missing baby.  It was a lot to keep track of, but we weren’t allowed to forget a single detail.  Not because every aspect of each crime was astounding or even memorable, but because everything was explained to us at least three times.  That’s still better than the first book, which explained every detail of the climax five different times.  It was as if Tuttle didn’t trust the reader to understand what was going on the first time around.  I found it a bit off putting in both books.

giphy
Me every time I read a recap of something I just read in this book.

Aside from that, I found myself more interested in the supporting characters than the detectives themselves.  They seemed more well-rounded than both Jesperson and Lane.  This can be risky.  It’s what made me want to keep reading this book, but since none of them seem like they’re going to become recurring characters, it doesn’t give me any incentive to pick up the next book should there be one.

I also found Miss Lane to be kind of dense, which was where a lot of the multiple explanations stemmed from.  For a detective, she has a really hard time putting two and two together.  Considering we’re in her perspective throughout the book, it gets a little tiresome.  It’s like she’s being willfully stupid at times just so Jesperson will have a reason to speak.  For the time period, that kind of behavior is understandable, but she should at least make the obvious connections in her head.  At one point, she basically gives up trying to think and just follows her partner around because all will be explained.  For a story that seems to be trying to say women can do whatever men can do, Miss Lane fails miserably at matching Jesperson’s wit and intelligence.

i0d9q
She really is sometimes.

Beyond all of that, I found the writing to be kind of rambling and there was a lot of focus on unimportant things.  I didn’t particularly care what they were eating as they were discussing the case.  I felt the kidnapped baby arc was thrown in to add an actual paranormal element, but wasn’t exactly important to the main story.  A lot of the story made me feel this way.  I understood why it was there, but it felt like it was there in order to turn a good novella into a mediocre novel.  That’s not the kind of writing I can enjoy.

Ultimately, I kind of wish I hadn’t wasted my time on The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross.  I feel bad for not liking it better, but it wasn’t my cup of tea.  And I won’t be going out of my way to get a sequel should one come out.

starstar outlinestar outlinestar outlinestar outline

Unfortunately, I’d only rate this one a 1 out of 5 stars.  It sounds really cool, but it was poorly executed.  If you want a good story about witches and mystery, this is not the book you’re looking for.

It’s Beginning To Smell Like Thanksgiving

Hello, hello!  So, my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, is this week!  It’s currently Monday and the house smells like cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes.  And the aromas will just keep getting better as the week goes on.  So, in celebration of the season, I thought I would share a couple of recipes with you!  Namely, the cranberry sauce and sweet potato casserole Dad makes.  I know it’s a little late given that Thanksgiving will be tomorrow by the time this posts, but you can always try them next year or for Christmas.

1212a85203e4a69283fa84f269860301--cranberry-orange-relish-liquor-cabinet
Picture stolen from Pinterest.

First up is Cranberry Orange Relish with Bourbon.  It’s a recipe Dad found in the Dallas Morning News a couple of years ago.  He decided to try this one since the chutney recipe he used before had apples, which I’m mildly allergic to, so I couldn’t eat much of it.  He’s tweaked it a little since then by adding walnuts, but here’s the recipe!

CRANBERRY ORANGE RELISH WITH BOURBON

Ingredients:
1 cup bourbon (Dad uses Jack Daniels)

1 orange, zested and supremed (see chef’s note)
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed or from concentrate

Directions:
In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine bourbon and orange zest.  Bring to a boil and simmer, until reduced to a syrup, about 10 minutes.

Add cranberries, orange segments, sugar, and orange juice.  Stir until sugar is dissolved and cranberries pop.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Cover and refrigerate. Makes 8 servings.

Chef’s note:
To supreme orange: Using a sharp knife, cut remaining skin and pith off of the zested orange.  Working over a clean mixing bowl and using a sharp knife, cut out each segment of orange between the membranes.

PER SERVING:
Calories 1,620 (None from fat)
Trace fat (No sat)
No cholesterol
No sodium
Fiber 4 g.
Carbohydrates 276 g.
Protein 3 g.
Sugar 239 g.

1479234862-NF_10pitmasters1AJ
Picture stolen from Google.

Another recent addition to our Thanksgiving line up is Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Streusel Topping.  Dad found this one last year in the Dallas Morning News.  It’s fairly similar to the recipe he had been using, but it has an orange-y flavor that makes it better.  Even I like it, and I’m not a big sweet potato fan.  I know he’s tweaked it, but this is the recipe!

SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE WITH PECAN STREUSEL TOPPING

Ingredients:
5 pounds sweet potatoes, roasted until soft (instructions follow; or substitute two 40-ounce cans sweet potatoes, drained)
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Grated zest from half an orange
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter, cut into cubes
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions:
Heat oven to 350 F.  Butter the inside of a 9×13-inch baking pan.

Scrape flesh from sweet potato into a mixing bowl, or in the bowl of a food processor (work in batches if using a processor).  Mash or puree until smooth.  Add eggs and combine thoroughly.

Add granulated sugar, cream, allspice, and orange zest and mix thoroughly into mashed sweet potatoes.  Transfer sweet potato mixture to prepared pan.

To make the pecan streusel topping:
In the bowl of a food processor, place butter, brown sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, pecans, and vanilla and pulse until mixture is crumbly and looks like small pebbles.

Sprinkle sweet potatoes evenly with streusel topping — it should completely cover sweet potatoes.  Bake for 45 minutes.

Makes 15 servings.

To roast sweet potatoes:
Heat oven to 450 F.  Place whole sweet potatoes on the oven rack and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until tender.

SOURCE:
Adapted from Justin and Diane Fourton, Pecan Lodge

PER SERVING:
Calories 525
Fat 24 g. (11 g. sat)
Cholesterol 92 mg.
Sodium 271 mg.
Fiber 6 g.
Carbohydrates 73 g.
Protein 7 g.

Thanksgiving-2017

What are some recipes you or your loved ones make for the holiday?  Do you tend to stick to the same menu or try to mix it up each year?  Feel free to share here or on my social media pages.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

A to Z: Quotes

Hello, hello!  Today, I thought I would compile a list of quotes from various authors (ranging from A to Z).  Some will be old favorites and others will be new things I find during my searches.  What are some of your favorite writerly quotes or quotes from authors?  Feel free to share here or on my social media pages!

Quotefancy-22200-3840x2160

A. Isaac Asimov: “Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.”

B. Judy Blume: “Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.”

C. Angela Carter: “Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms.”

D. Roald Dahl: “I understand what you’re saying, and your comments are valuable, but I’m gonna ignore your advice.”

E. Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

6813-F-Scott-Fitzgerald-Quote-That-is-part-of-the-beauty-of-all

F. F. Scott Fitzgerald: “That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.”

G. Louise Gluck: “Of two sisters one is always the watcher, one the dancer.”

H. Ernest Hemingway: “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”

I. John Irving: “Your memory is a monster; you forget—it doesn’t. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you—and summons them to your recall with will of its own. You think you have a memory; but it has you!”

J. James Joyce: “History…is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”

gPlealb.png

K. Stephen King: “People think that I must be a very strange person. This is not correct. I have the heart of a small boy. It is in a glass jar on my desk.”

L. H.P. Lovecraft: “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

M. A.A. Milne: “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together, there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart, I’ll always be with you.”

N. Friedrich Nietzsche: “People who comprehend a thing to its very depths rarely stay faithful to it forever. For they have brought its depths into the light of day: and in the depths there is always much that is unpleasant to see.”

O. George Orwell: “Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.”

P. Edgar Allan Poe: “I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.”

Q. Paul Quarrington: “Everybody is damaged goods. Everybody got bumps and dents, ja? But sometimes two people fit together, and the bumps go into the dents, and you have a whole thing like a potato.”

5926-J-K-Rowling-Quote-It-is-impossible-to-live-without-failing-at.jpg

R. J.K. Rowling: “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

S. Maggie Stiefvater: “There are moments that you’ll remember for the rest of your life and there are moments that you think you’ll remember for the rest of your life, and it’s not often they turn out to be the same moment.”

T. J.R.R. Tolkien: “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”

U. John Updike: “The world keeps ending but new people too dumb to know it keep showing up as if the fun’s just started.”

V. Jules Verne: “We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read.”

W. Oscar Wilde: “Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”

X. Xue Xinran: “Everybody says women are like water. I think it’s because water is the source of life, and it adapts itself to its environment. Like women, water also gives of itself wherever it goes to nurture life…”

Y. Jane Yolen: “Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.”

Z. Sarah Zettel: “The true lady treats the whole world as her dance floor…”