BOOK REVIEW: All He Saw Was The Girl by Peter Leonard


Review by Ryder Islington

This is a story about men. McCabe is a scholarship college student who doesn’t care all that much about school. His best friend, Chip, is the son of a U.S. Senator. Chip is also a student. And he’s afraid of his dad. Ray works for the Secret Service and has let his job affect his marriage. Joey is the son of a mafia boss and is having an affair with Ray’s wife. The rest of the men in the story are either cops, mafia big wigs, or mafia wannabes.

The jest of the story is that men want their way and they will use whatever and whomever they need to, to get it.

 I found it lacking in mystery, suspense and thrills. The story is slow. The characters are caricatures, and the plot doesn’t thicken. When McCabe sees a pretty girl, he makes a dumb move. As a result, he is assaulted. He wants to get even. As do all the other men in the story. The theme is definitely Men and Revenge.

While Mr. Leonard is capable of description and dialogue, his other writing skills need some honing. He loves starting multiple sentences with pronouns to the point of distraction, tends to have characters ruminating during action scenes, and has a habit of using incomplete sentences much too often.

 There are people out there who will, undoubtedly, love this book. Bear in mind that mine is just one opinion. I wish Mr. Leonard luck and great success.

BOOK REVIEW: What’s Your Agatha Christie I.Q.? by Kathleen Kaska


Review by Ryder Islington

This is such a fun book! For those of you who are Agatha Christie fans, you’ll really enjoy the quizzes and puzzles. And for mystery writers it’s a great way to learn the basics of writing mysteries through the master mystery writer, Agatha Christie. Ms. Kaska put in a lot of work to make this book fun, interesting and also a great teaching tool. This is a great book for kids as well as adults and for writers as well as readers.

The quizzes include Titles and Plots, Murders, Motives and Victims, Murder Weapons and Victims, First Lines, Last Words,  and quizzes on specific titles from the prolific writer of the mystery genre.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I recommend this book for all lovers of mystery. If you like crossword puzzles, brain exercises, or just the fun of learning facts about one of the foremost authors of the century, pick up a copy of Kathleen Kaska’s What’s Your Agatha Christie I.Q.? 

You can find Kathleen Kaska at kathleenkaskawrites.blogspot.com where you can read about all of her books, including the newest, The Sherlock Holmes Triviology and Quiz Book.

Welcome Guest Blogger Mollie Cox Bryan


 I’m happy to introduce Mollie Cox Bryan as my guest blogger for this week. Mollie has a new book coming out: Scrapbook of Secrets: A Cumberland Creek Mystery. It sounds like a great read and Mollie has agreed to give away a copy to one of the commentors. I hope all of you will enjoy meeting Mollie and  her characters. 

Take it away Mollie!

   

Meet the Women of Cumberland Creek

   My first novel, SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS: A CUMBERLAND CREEK MYSTERY has just been published by Kensington.  With publishing schedules being what they are, as I begin to promote this book, I’m expecting edits on the second book and am in the middle of the first draft of the third in the series. Seriously. Now, when I sit down to write, it feels like I’m visiting old friends. I’d like to introduce them to you. 

   My series revolves around a group of women in a small but growing Southern town. They get together to scrapbook, eat, and as it happens, to solve murders. 

   The story is told from three main characters points of view. They are surrounded by a secondary group of women and men. There’s also a third tier of characters I like to call my “walk-ons.” You’ll have to read the book to meet those folks. In the mean time here’s my three characters. 

Annie

Annie Chamovitz is 36-years-old and has “retired” from the rough and tumble world of Washington, D.C., investigative journalism. She and her husband Mike moved to Cumberland Creek from Bethesda, Md., a tone suburb.  Her family is the only Jewish family in town.  When the book opens, she is a stay-at-home mom to Sam and Ben.  After being in Cumberland Creek about a year, she is finally invited to a weekly scrapbooking crop. She goes to the scrapbook gathering—reluctantly. Visions of frilly stickers and glitter paper dissuade her. Soon, she is part of the group, finding she loves the “puzzle” aspect to scrapbooking.  Soon enough, she also gets sucked back into freelance journalism.

My favorite quote from Annie:

“I don’t need my husband’s permission, Detective, just his support. This is the twenty-first century,” she said.

 Vera 

Vera Matthews has just turned forty. She is the owner of the only dancing school in town. She has never quite resolved her longing for the stage. So she delights in changing hair color and make-up palettes. She is married to her college sweetheart, Bill. She grew up in Cumberland Creek, went to college in NYC, and danced professionally for a brief period of time. Because she’s childless, she makes scrapbooks for her students and herself.

My favorite quote from Vera:

“I may be a bitch, but I work too hard for my money to go and have some pop psychologist to charge me to tell me about the psychological aspect to a hobby.  Some people just sap all the fun out of everything,” Vera said, taking a bite of the cake.

Beatrice Matthews

Beatrice Matthews is Vera’s eighty-year-old mother and is not a scrapbooker. She is a quantum physicist and has conversations with her dead husband, who appears in ghost form throughout the book—but only to her. She grew up on Jenkins Mountain, one of the many mountains surrounding the town of Cumberland Creek. At the beginning of the book, Bea is stabbed.

My favorite Beatrice quote: “You’re Daddy bought it for me and taught me how to use it. I feel safe with it here next to me in my nightstand. So over my dead body will I get rid of it.  In fact, you can bury me with my gun in one hand and a book in the other,” Beatrice said.

 

About the Book

Having traded in her career as a successful investigative journalist for the life of a stay-at-home mum in picturesque Cumberland Creek, Virginia, Annie can’t help but feel that something’s missing. But she finds solace in a local “crop circle” of scrapbookers united by chore-shy husbands, demanding children, and occasional fantasies of their former single lives. And when the quiet idyll of their small town is shattered by a young mother’s suicide, they band together to find out what went wrong…Annie resurrects her reporting skills and discovers that Maggie Rae was a closet scrapbooker who left behind more than a few secrets – and perhaps a few enemies. As they sift through Maggie Rae’s mysteriously discarded scrapbooks, Annie and her “crop” sisters begin to suspect that her suicide may have been murder. It seems that something sinister is lurking beneath the town’s beguilingly calm facade – like a killer with unfinished business…

Bio

Mollie Cox Bryan is a food writer and cookbook author with a penchant for murder.  Her stories have many forms: cookbooks, articles, essays, poetry and fiction.  Mollie grew up near Pittsburgh, Pa., and attended Point Park University, where she received a B.A. in Journalism and Communications. Her first real job out of college was as a paste-up artist at a small newspaper, where she was allowed to write “on her own time” and she did.

Mollie moved to the Washington, D.C. area, where she held a number of writing jobs, and has written about a diverse array of subjects, such as construction, mathematics education, and life insurance. While working in the editorial field, Mollie began taking poetry classes at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Md. Soon, she was leading local poetry workshops and was selected to participate in the prestigious Jenny McKean Moore Poetry Workshop. Mollie still writes poetry— not as frequently— and believes that her study of poetry informs all of her writing.

In 1999, shortly after the birth of her first daughter, Emma, Mollie and her husband moved to the Shenandoah Valley of Va., where he took a job at the Frontier Culture Museum and she stayed at home to take care of Emma and start a freelancing career.

Website/blog: Http://www.molliecoxbryan.com

Twitter: @molliecoxbryan

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/molliecoxbryanauthor

Email: molliebryan@comcast.net

 

Published Books

Mrs. Rowe’s Little Book of Southern Pies (Ten Speed/Random House, 2009) The Good Cook Book Club; named one of the best cookbooks of 2009 by Rose Kennedy of All Foods Considered.

Mrs. Rowe’s Restaurant Cookbook: A Lifetime of Recipes from the Shenandoah Valley (Ten Speed Press, 2006)

Unsilenced: the Spirit of Women, Commune-A-Key, 1999.  A poetry and essay compilation.

Honey, I’m Sorry I Killed Your Aquasaurs (and other short essays on the parenting life) E-book on Amazon. This is a compilation of my newspaper column, Thoroughly Modern Mollie.

A few publications Mollie’s articles are published in:

 Grit, NPR’s Kitchen Window, The Christian Science Monitor, Taste of the South Magazine. Virginia Living. Relish,

Currently, Mollie is a restaurant reviewer for the Daily News Leader, Staunton, Va. and a frequent contributor for the local NPR-affiliate, WVTF.

#Ryder’s Journal–Sunday August 7, 2011


The theme of this journal is the dilemma that authors face after we are published. Our job doubles. Now we have to write and we have to promote.

I received a comment after the first entry, yesterday. The comment was about the fact that, as a writer, of course, we have no choice but to write. And that is true. I am writing this moment, as I create this journal entry. And I wrote earlier as I prepared the article on Writer’s Conferences that will run tomorrow.

But today, I did not work on my WIP. My mind pondered the character sketches of three characters but I didn’t solve the issues involving them. As the Sabbath is set aside for the Father, so Sunday is set aside for family. I over did, as I sometimes do, and now need a break. How tomorrow will work out, only time will tell. I’d like to get a thousand words done tomorrow. We’ll see.

 

#Writer’s Conferences


This article is part of the Rolling Mystery Writers Blog Tour roll for Monday, August 8, 2011.  Today’s subject is Writer’s Conferences. This roll started with KT Wagner’s blog, followed by Mollie Cox Bryan’s blog. Thanks KT for getting us started and Mollie for introducing my blog. We hope that you will take the time today, or this week, to visit each blog on this roll. The list of participants follows my article.

And now, on to my thoughts on Writer’s Conferences

I’ve attended large conferences, and small ones. Both have their positive and negative qualities. Large conferences draw more big names, and have more of a variety of classes. But I found myself frazzled by the end of each day and when it was over I needed a few days to recoup.Though I went home with dozens of business cards, I didn’t really remember anyone, except James Patterson and I’m sure he didn’t remember me. The classes were great, but short and filled with others who had questions, so sometimes I didn’t get to speak.And I spent way too much money.

Then there are the small conferences. They may be a little shorter, have fewer participants and fewer classes, but they have something their big counterparts lack. Here’s a perfect example. A chapter of RWA in Shreveport call themselves the NOLA Stars. They meet once a month, have about twenty-five to thirty members at any one time, and sponsor a great little conference each March called Written In The Stars.

I’ve been an insider at this conference and know for a fact that everyone involved in the planning, teaching, sharing, etc., cares about every participant. We usually limit the participants to one-hundred. The conference starts with a finger-foods tete a tete Friday night. This is where the small conference shines. Editors, agents, and all levels of writers rub elbows, converse, tell jokes, and talk writing. I’ve actually stood talking with Jennifer Blake  as if we were old friends. I’ve gotten advice from multi-selling authors on my WIP. I’ve talked to agents and editors on a personal level.

There is also an awards luncheon where the Suzannah Contestants find out who won, and someone in the business does a little talk on what’s new in the industry, or how they made their start.

The next day is filled with panels of editors and agents who answer questions about their companies/agencies. Then classes start–only a couple, but excellent–usually by names like Jennifer Crusie, JoAnn Rock (a member of NOLA Stars), Debbie Macomber and Judith Ivory, and senior editors from major publishing houses. There are always special teachers who share their experience and knowledge, and enough time to cover a topic thoroughly and get questions answered.

Oh, and the prizes! A table full of books, tea pots, mugs, knick-knacks, do-hickies, and whatchamacallits, sit in the back of the room, waiting to be chosen by someone who has purchased a chance to win. A dollar could get you a great book on writing–or a basket full of a variety of books from different authors. I once won a basket filled with books, mugs, bookmarks, and choclate all from Christine Feehan. Great books. Huge mugs. Wonderful chocolate. Thank you Christine.

There are the individual pitch sessions, where you get five minutes to pitch your book to an editor or agent. And that five minutes it yours. Even if they are not interested in your book, you will learn tons by just getting in there and participating.

Saturday night is the big dinner when you get to sit by the agents, editors, writers, teachers, and all around giving people, who often drink a margarita or two, and enjoy a meal–we have to reserve a whole room at the restaurant for this event.

You can see where my heart lies on this subject. I had great experiences at large conferences, but for me, the less expensive and more personal small conference wins out every time. If you get a chance to attand a writer’s conference, I hope you take advantage of it. Large or small, which ever you choose to attend, it will be well worth it.

I hope this article has been helpful to you, and also that you will visit the other participants on this roll and see what they have to say about Writer’s Conferences. Next on the list is Sara Wisseman’s blog: http://www.sarahwisseman.blogspot.com/ Thanks for visiting.  Come back soon.

KT Wagner http://www.northernlightsgothic.com/blog
Mollie Bryan http://www.molliecoxbryan.com
Ryder Islington http://www.ryderislington.wordpress.com
Sarah Wisseman http://www.sarahwisseman.blogspot.com/
Kathleen Kaska http://www.kathleenkaskawritesblogspot.com

#Ryder’s Journal–Saturday August 6, 2011


I’ve been thinking of how I can manage to blog something everyday and finally came up with a solution. Starting tonight, my plan is to make an entry to my journa every day. The theme of this journal is the dilemma that authors face after we are published. Our job doubles. Now we have to write and we have to promote. 

So for tonight I’m just going to say that on Saturday, I don’t do either. At least not until sundown, when the Sabbath ends. I want these entries to be short enough so that you don’t mind visiting everyday and seeing what it’s like to face both challenges at the same time.

Since I’m working on a #trilogy, and the #first book came out in June of this year, readers will expect the second book next year. The problem is that it took me years to write the first one. Granted, I learned a lot in that process, but that doesn’t make the writing easier. And now I have to #promote book one while I’m writing book two. This is a bit overwhelming.

I used to be able to multi-task, but no more. My mind can only concentrate on one thing at a time. Tonight, I plan to work on the #plot of book two, which for me is a challenge in itself, since plotting is not my strong suit. Since bookstores and newspaper offices are generally closed on the weekend, I can only do #promotion online tomorrow. Or I could write. Whoa is me! What to do. What to do.

Come back tomorrow and see how it goes.

When Did You Know You Were A #Storyteller?


My partners on the Rolling Mystery Blog Tours Ink blog rolls will return Monday on the subject of Writing Conferences. Monday’s roll will start with KT Wagner’s blog at http://www.northernlightsgothic.com/blog and several other bloggers have signed up to join in. Hope you’ll check out the roll on Writing Conferences.

And now, on to my article: When Did You Know You Were A Storyteller?

Growing up, I was like an only child. I had siblings but all were much older than I. Also, we traveled a lot, and I had few opportunities to make friends, so by the time I was four or five, I was making up stories about what I was going to be, what I was going to do, where I was going to go and what I was going to have. I loved to read back then. And I loved to learn. In the grocery stores, instead of begging for candy, I would beg for books.

Oddly, I never had make-believe friends. My stories were all about me and animals, and flights, and hiding, and outsmarting, and finding safety and joy. My stories pretty much disappeared when I married and started having kids. And they didn’t return for many years. I didn’t forget them. But I didn’t tell myself stories anymore, didn’t embelish the ones in my head.

It was when I started getting jobs where there was a lot of down time, that the stories started again. And this time, they were all about other people. Their hopes and dreams. And nightmares. And I began reading again. I was forty-one when I made my first friend. And she’s a reader too. It didn’t take long for me to decide I wanted to entertain her with my writing.

It took five years before what I wrote looked like a novel, and five more before I became good at it. Now stories run in my head so fast they sometimes get away from me. There are dozens, maybe hundreds, that percolate in my brain, each taking their turn.

Now it’s all I want to do. Create stories and share them.

James Frey and Dan Brown


I’m am part of a group of mystery writers who have created a rolling mystery blog which consists of several people writing on the same topic and posting our articles on the same day. Today, I’m it. Our strongest blogger has left us for a few weeks to care for his ill mother. We have a few who are re-vampling blogs, a couple on deadline, and some who just don’t have an opinion on this subject. So, for today, this will be the only blog on the roll. Below the following article will be info on the next blog roll.

And now, on to my article:  James Frey And Dan Brown

It used to be that I never thought about questioning what writers did, whether they were operating ethically, being honest. But now I’m a writer and that makes these people related to me, sorta. Not related closely enough for them to share their fortunes. But related closely enough that I could be put in the same catagory as them.

James Frey wrote a memoir, went on the Oprah Show, and made a fortune. Later we learn that his memoir was ’embelished’ with untruths, to make it read better. And then there’s Dan Brown. It’s been said that a couple of men did years of research on the subject of whether or not Jesus was married. They felt they’d proved that point and wrote a book with their theory. And Dan Brown wrote a fictional book on the same subject, which ended up being a break out novel that made millions.

Okay, so here’s what I think. James Frey lied. He got caught. Maybe it hurt his pride, but he seems to have landed on his feet. Did he do wrong? I think so. Memoirs are supposed to be true accounts of a person’s life. He made stuff up. Everyone makes mistakes. In fact, Americans tend to be a rather greedy bunch, and often think that when it comes to success, anything goes. Not all of us, but a good portion. We all deserve a second chance, if we mend our ways and walk the straight and narrow. But I wouldn’t automatically assume that whatever he puts out into the world will be honest, just because we think he’s learned his lesson. That’s another thing about Americans. We don’t assume people are basically good, and will do the right thing. Still, James Frey deserves to make a living, and to go forward with his life. I didn’t read his book. But I might, someday.

And as for Dan Brown? I don’t see that he did anything wrong. Apparently, the men who did the research regarding Jesus and marriage, made their theory public. And Dan Brown used that public knowledge to write a novel. Novelists do that. And if I understand correctly, his book was published at the same time, or very close to the same time, as the other book, the non-fiction book, on the subject. Why wouldn’t he? Isn’t that just called perfect timing? Isn’t that what any novelist would do? He didn’t steal their idea. We don’t own ideas. He didn’t write a non-fiction book on the same subject, claiming he was the one who’d made this ‘discovery’. He simply used public knowledge and his publishing company used the info they had on the original research and the upcoming book.

I’ve seen articles about these two men, separately, and comparing them. Recently. Can we get over it now and get on with our own writing? Can we learn from them, and then let it go? I mean, really! Now I’m even writing about them, and I never really paid much attention to either of them, except to read Dan Brown’s books, which, by the way, I quite enjoyed. And no, I didn’t read the ‘non-fiction’ on the same subject. I don’t happen to agree with the men who wrote that dribble…I mean…that book, and I’m not going to waste my time on it.

Here’s the thing: I’m human. I make mistakes. I make poor choices. I take my licks, learn my lesson, and go on. So did James Frey. And if I find information that has been made public, and find that I can use it to write a great book, I’ll be on it like ants on sugar. So let’s cut out this obsessing over what these two men did and get busy doing our own thing!

Thanks for listening to another rant. On Friday, the Rolling Mystery Blog Tours will return with a roll on When did you know you where a storyteller? We will start right here, on my blog, so please return Friday and see what we have to say on this subject.

My Favorite #Reference Books


This is the third blog of the Rolling Mystery Writer’s Blog Tours roll for Wednesday. The two blogs on this roll before mine were Nancy Lauzon’s and Katherine Wagner’s. If  you haven’t yet visited their blogs, the addresses are below, along with the other blogs featured today on the subject of Reference Books. 

And now, on to my article:

I have a lot of reference books, and I plan to list most of them at the bottom of this article. But I do have a few that I depend on for every novel I write.

First, I have an unabridged dictionary, a thesaurus, Allen’s Synonyms and Antonyms, The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, and Body Language by Fast. I don’t use these every day, but I know I have them, and they are vital on those days when my brain doesn’t function well. I think every writer needs these basic reference books.

Then there are my absolute must have favorites:

1. The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler.  I’m not a good plotter. But this book helps me to create a very nebulous skeleton of a plot. Others take more from it, and learn to plot according to mythic structure.  In addition, it has some great descriptions of mythic character types that help me shape my characters into believeable people. It has great examples, including the break down of several classic films/books to show exactly how the mythic journey works.

2. 45 Master Characters, Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. To really round out those characters of mine, I use this book as well. It explains the mythic models, and adds supporting character types, gives examples of what those characters look like by use of book, TV and movie characters, and shows how characters change, according to their type.

3. The Writer’s Digest Character-Naming Sourcebook by Kenyon, with Blythe and Sweet. A character’s name is important. Both the given name and the family name. They speak to the character’s history and age, and sometimes personality. This book is indespensible.

4.Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. This books helps me take all the information I’ve gathered from the previous three, and create a strong plot and believeable, three dimensional characters. It discusses areas where the writing profession has grown and changed, allowing writers a freer hand in the creation of novels that used to be considered too complicated or out of the acceptable norm for publishers. It teaches advanced plot structures. Can’t do without this one.

5. The Power of Point of View, Make Your Story Come to Life by Alicia Rasley. This book helps me decide who’s pov to write in and what type of pov to use. It’s great for those who want to deepen the experience of the reader, to help the reader really get into the mind of your characters.

6. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, How to edit yourself into print by Renni Browne and Dave King. Once I have that first draft done, this book helps me edit thoroughly. It reminds me of all those things that are so important to the polish and preparation of a manuscript.

These six books sit in a basket beside my desk, within arms length along with a few specialty books on language and mystery writing, which I will list below. The  basket also holds a few gold nuggets, primarily in the form of notes from classes I’ve taken from some of the best writers and teachers I’ve ever known.

Here is an additional list of books that help me on occasion, especially if I’m having issues I can’t solve:

  • The Plot Thickens, 8 Ways To bring Fiction To Life by Noah Lukeman
  • Novelist’s Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes by Raymond Obstfeld
  • Conflict, Action & Suspense by William Noble
  • The Crime Writer’s Reference Guide, 1001 Tips for Writing the Perfect Murder by Martin Roth
  • Cajun Vernacular English: Informal English in French Louisiana by Louisiana English Journal Special Issue 1992
  • Writing Mysteries, A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America

There are writers out there with MFA’s and others with perfect memories, and some that just seem to have so much talent they don’t need guidence. I don’t fit into any of those catagories. I’m, for the most part, self taught when it comes to writing. The simple art of putting sentences together has always come easy to me. Storytelling is one of my natural abilities. But novel writing is a whole other animal that requires a lot more than what I have naturally, or as a result of education. I’ve found that I need a lot of help, and I’ve found that help in the books listed here.

Below is a list of the participants in today’s blog roll, which ends with John Hines. His blog not only has a great article on this subject, but also a plethera of articles, ideas and opinions. Please stop by and check it out. For information on previous blog rolls, see the other articles on this site dated July, 2011 and newer.

Nancy Lauzon–www.chickdickmysteries.com
Katherine Wagner–northernlightsgothic.com/blog
Ryder Islington–www.ryderislington.wordpress.com
John Hines–www.johnhines.com