Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Texas Author - Amish Mystery

An author acquaintance of mine - Rebecca Russell - knew that I like to read books by Texas authors set in Texas locations with Texas sleuths. She had a suggestion for me. Try reading an Amish mystery written by a Texas author. The name of the Texas author is Linda Castillo and her first book in the Amish mystery series is called Sworn To Silence.

Before I read the book I had some preconceived expectations. The first expectation came from a movie I remember called Fargo. It was in a small town (?) and involved a female police chief - just as I knew this one did. The second expectation came from a movie with Harrison Ford called The Witness. It involved an Amish community.

As I read the book, my expectations were somehow dashed. There were very few similarities between the police chief in Fargo and the police chief in Painters Mill, Ohio. They were both women but other than this they were different. In the movie The Witness, the view of the Amish culture was one of an outsider being thrown into a culture that was almost foreign. But in this book the Amish culture is mostly seen from the eyes of somebody who has been there. At most we only see that it is a different lifestyle.

The police chief in this book is Kate Burkholder. At one time she was a part of the Amish culture but she chose to leave it. She returned to her hometown when she accepted the position as the police chief. She has been back for almost two years when a horrible murder is discovered. This murder seems to be related to a string of murders (and rapes) that happened over 16 years ago. Not only that but it also seems to be related to a horrible experience Kate and her family had 16 years ago. Kate was raped by a man - an Amish man when she was 14 years old. During this nightmare experience, she shot the man. Her father and brother took the body away and buried it. Since the string of murders ended at the same time and the case went cold, she naturally thought this man was the one responsible for them. With the new murder, it brings back those memories and secrets. She is concerned because now she is not sure if the man was actually dead. Will there be more of these murders and should she come clean about her secret?

Is this the kind of book you would enjoy reading? If you like a good mystery I think you would. And as an extra bonus, the second book in the series is expected to be released in June. The title of the new book is Pray For Silence. Sounds promising to me. If you want to check out more info about this author, check out her website at

Friday, May 21, 2010

My Introduction to Sleuth Anne Marshall

I was introduced to the sleuth Anne Marshall through the latest book by author Jackie Fullerton. The title of the book is Revenge Served Cold. This is the second book featuring Anne Marshall and her "investigative teams". The first book in the series is called Piercing The Veil.

Anne works in the courts so she sees all kind of things. Lots of times it is plain boring but sometimes it can be interesting. She also goes to college and is studying to become a lawyer like her late dad. When he was alive, he and she were always close. Their plans had for her to become a lawyer and "team up" with him but he died.

Even though he is dead, she once again teams up with him / his ghost on a case. The case involves the murder of an old friend and colleague of her father. Eliott Spence was murdered and all evidence seems to point to his murder by his wife. Anne's father convinces her that things are too coincidental and that the case should be examined closer by him and her.

Anne also has another "team" that helps her with her investigation. This team includes members of her study group. They helped her with the investigation and when their professor Edward Spense was killed they all kind of expected Anne would get involved with the investigation. Some of them did not want her to but others were willing to assist her in anyway they could. They were always interested in learning what she found out.

In this book she "teams" up with another colleague of her father as well - the lawyer representing the wife accused of murdering her husband. At first he is angry about her involvement in the investigation but he discovers she finds out a lot of things helpful to his case.

There is one other person who supports her - her boyfriend / fiancee. He is a lawyer and is an Assistant District Attorney. Though he is concerned about her safety (she got into serious trouble in the previous book), he supports her in her decisions. He knows when Anne gets something in her head, it is better to support her rather than oppose her.

The story is one of interest and yet it is humorous as well. When her departed dad is around, he is usually smoking his pipe. Even though others do not see or hear him, they usually can smell the smoke and mistakenly think Anne (or somebody else in the vicinity) has been smoking. It is also funny when her father shows up without any warning and causes her to jump.

Now I will not divulge anymore about who the suspects are but will leave that up to you to discover - when you read the book for yourself. Why should you read it? It was a fun and enjoyable read. And to top it off - there is a Texas connection and you know how much I like mysteries involving Texas. OK .... saying there is a Texas connection may be stretching it a bit but I thought it interesting one of the characters talked about wanting to go to Texas.

To learn more about the author you might want to check out her website - Jackie Fullerton .

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Virtual Book Tour Stop - Jeffrey Leever - The University

Welcome to this stop on the virtual book tour for Jeffrey Leever and his book called The University. You can see other stops on this virtual book tour at Jeffrey Leever:Author Book Tour. You can also enter for a signed copy of the book at the link. More information will follow. NOW ON WITH THE REVIEW.

The book opens with a frightened coed in the home of another student - Zach Perry. The coed is attractive and Zach is not sure if the fear she is showing is just a show. It isn't long until he discovers the fear is real. The coed is shot when she looks out the peep hole. He is stunned!!! When he is shot, things go black.

From here the story takes a shift. The shooting that took place at the beginning of the book remains a mystery and it seems to be one of those forgotten unsolved mysteries. The story has shifted to two years later. Two friends are expecting to meet another friend and some girls at the university. Brett's friend disappears and it is (pardon the pun) only "by the hair of his chinny chin chin" that he survives the ordeal.

Something is going on at the university and people have been trying to ignore it. Now it cannot be ignored as Brett and others take another look at what is going on there. You would be surprised to see who all is involved (and the connection to the event two years before) - but you have to read it for yourself to find out.

Now you have until noon tomorrow (Wednesday, May 19th) to register to win the signed copy of The University. In order to register using the PIN for Mystery Reader Discussion: 3404 go to Jeffrey Leever:Author Book Tour. For more opportunities to win, visit the other stops on the tour as well.

(For more info about Jeffrey Leever, check out this website -

Thursday, May 13, 2010

May Selection for MRD Group

Here is May's selection for the Firewheel Mall Barnes and Noble Mystery Reading Group - Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith. It was mostly set in the USSR but seemed to end in the USA. I know the book was made into a movie but I have not seen it. As I read it I had a hard time visualizing the movie that was made from it. I think part of the reason is because it was set in the USSR and Chief Inspector Renko was a mystery to me as well. Here was an inspector who had his own share of problems. He had problems in his personal life and problems with his professional life. Hey ..., believe it or not, the Russian was the good guy and the American (Osborne) was a bad guy.

Speaking of problems, it seems they are universal. They are not just American problems. Even back at the time of the book, they were having problems with the changing in the balance of ethnicity in Russia. And just like the USA, they were having problems with bigotry.

But the book also focused on some of the differences - the wealth of the USA. There was a noticeable difference between the number of cars in the USA and the number in Russia. The standard of living was different as well.

This is short and our discussion group was small this month. Part of the comments were that the book was hard to read. We did our usual vote and there were three thumbs up, two thumbs down, and two abstains.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Announcing May 17 Writers' Guild of Texas Meeting

Mark the third Monday of every month for the Writers' Guild of Texas meeting. Meeting at Richardson Public Library.

Monday, 17 May 2010
7-8:30 p.m.
Topic: Method Writing: Using an actor's tools to bring your prose to life
Speaker: Rosemary Clement-Moore

Richardson Public Library
900 Civic Center Dr.
Richardson TX 75080
Basement Room

Have you ever finished reading a book and felt like the heroine was your best friend? Has a hero's fear ever made your heart pound, your hands sweat? Has a setting ever seemed so real that when you look up from the page, you're surprised that you're still in your living room? If you have, chances are that book is on your keeper shelf, and you've recommended it to everyone you know. So, what's the secret to writing such relatable characters and engrossing stories?
Rich and compelling characters, vivid emotion and sensory portrayal and a distinctive 'voice' are common vocabulary for the stage and the page. Learn what tricks from an actor's toolbox can help you write prose that puts the reader right in the character's head, showing (not telling) your story in evocative descriptive detail that will draw readers into your story and keep them enthralled until the last page.
Rosemary Clement-Moore is a native Texan, whose eclectic resume includes jobs as a telephone operator, Chuck E. Cheese costumed character, ranch hand, dog groomer, wedding singer, hair model, actress, stage-hand, director, and playwright.
Rosemary now puts her drama-queen skills to use writing smart, funny supernatural mystery novels including The Splendor Falls and Highway to Hell, Prom Dates from Hell, and Hell Week, three novels featuring teen heroine, snarky Maggie Quinn.

Kat Smith, Membership Chair, is developing a membership directory to help members find members with similar interests, etc. to partner for critique or support. The membership form will provide a clear picture of each member's profile. Take the opportunity to talk to her at the next meeting.

Annual 2010 WGT dues of $20.00 may be paid at meetings, by mail to Writers' Guild of Texas, 6009 W. Parker Road, Suite 149-175, Plano TX 75093, or online at .

All WGT events located at the Richardson Public Library are free and open to the public. For information on the sponsoring organization, visit

Monday, 21 June 2010. Regular meeting. WGT All-Stars' Read In.
Monday, July 19 2010. - Editor, Melissa O'Neal. TBA.
Monday, 16 August 2010. Kay Winzenried: Travel Writing - Opportunities and Realities.
Monday, 20 September 2010. Cindy Vallar: "To Be or Not to Be and Other Editing Quandaries".

Monday, 18 October 2010. Ben Johnson, author of Sam Zell biography.
Saturday, 6 November 2010. Workshop. Suzanne Frank, author of seven novels, including time-travel novel meticulously researched for historical accuracy. Director: Continuing and Professional Education Creative Writing Program, SMU.
Monday, 15 November 2010. Clay Reynolds. TBA

Monday, 20 December 2010. Christmas Party. WGT All-Stars Read In

All Writers' Guild of Texas events held at the Richardson Public Library are free and open to the public. Visit WGT's website: .

Monday, May 10, 2010

Monday Mystery Theme - Texas Revisited

By request, I am revisiting my Texas Theme. Here are authors, sleuths, and places. Yes ... I kind of am hooked on Texas authors and mysteries!!!

Texas Author – Susan Wittig Albert; Texan Sleuth – China Bayles is a former lawyer from Houston, Texas who moves to become a herb shop owner; Texas Location - Pecan Springs.

Texas Author – Jay Brandon; Texan Sleuth – Mark Blackwell is the District Attorney in San Antonio, TX; Texas Location – San Antonio.

Texas Author – Jay Brandon; Texan Sleuth – John Marshall (Lawyer); Texas Location – Green Hills.

Texas Author – Jay Brandon; Texan Sleuth – John Marshall (Criminal Lawyer); Texas Location – San Antonio.

Texas Author – Jay Brandon; Texan Sleuth –Chris Sinclair is a San Antonio District Attorney; Texas Location – San Antonio.

Texas Author – Bill Crider; Texan Sleuth - Dr Sally Good is the Dept Head at Hughes Community College; Texas Location – Hughes, TX.

Texas Author – Bill Crider; Texan Sleuth - Carl Burns is a college professor; Texas Location - Pecan City, TX.

Texas Author – Bill Crider; Texan Sleuth - Truman Smith is a PI; Texas Location - Galveston, TX.

Texas Author – Bill Crider; Texan Sleuth - Dan Rhodes is a Sheriff; Texas location - Blacklin County, TX.

Texas Author – Ben Rehder; Texan Sleuth – John Marlin is a game warden; Texas Location - Blanco County, TX.

Texas Author – Chris Rogers; Texan Sleuth - Dixie Flanagan is a bounty hunter; Texas Location - Houston, TX.

Texas Author – Barbara Burnett Smith; Texan Sleuth - Cassie Fletcher is a radio personality; Texas Location - Austin, TX.

Texas Author – Barbara Burnett Smith; Texan Sleuth - Jolie Wyatt is an aspiring writer and newscast producer; Texas location - Purple Sage, TX.

Texas Author – Barbara Burnett Smith; Texan Sleuth - Kitzi Camden is a retired politician and public speaker trainer; Texas Location - in Camp Green Clover, TX.

Texas Author – Karen MacInerney; Texan Sleuth - Natalie Barnes retired from state job in Texas to buy and operate the Gray Whale Inn; Location - Cranberry Island, Maine.

Texas Author – Leann Sweeney; Texan Sleuth -Abby Rose is a Texas heiress who becomes an adoption PI in the Yellow Rose mystery series; Texas Locations – Houston, Tx.

Texas Author - Leann Sweeney ; Texan Sleuth - Jilian Hart is a widow from Texas who has relocated with her cats to start a new life; Location - South Carolina.

Texas Author – Rick Riordan ; Texan Sleuth - Tres Navarre is a private eye, martial arts master and English Ph.D. in medieval literature; Texas Location - San Antonio, TX.

Texas Author - Cindy Daniel ; Texan Sleuth - Hannah Evans is a divorcee in East Texas determined to make her own way; Texas Location - East Texas.

Texas Author - DR Meredith ; Texas Sleuth - Megan Clark is a reference librarian who belongs to a mystery reading group; Texas Location - Amarillo.

Texas Author - Livia J. Washburn ; Texas Sleuth - Phyllis Newsom is a retired teacher who enjoys cooking; Texas Location - Parker County.

Texas Author - Livia J. Washburn ; Sleuth - Delilah Dickinson has started her on literary travel agency ; Location - Where her Travel Agency goes.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

When is a Game Not A Game?

IMAGINE. You are playing an online game. You have an online piece - an avatar. There are other players in this game but nobody know who the other players are. They only know the other "pieces" in the game. When your piece dies in the game, you are eliminated from it and do not play anymore. Now suppose another player's avatar gives you a warning and you remind yourself you are only playing a game. Then you realize the warning seems to be getting out of the scope of the game - the warning seems to be aimed at you and not your avatar.

This is what happens to Jason Lind in this book - Fortuna by Michael R. Stevens. If you want to know more about the author and his book you might want to check out this web page - .

This book focuses a lot of attention on a popular and addictive online game called Fortuna. The game is set in Renaissance Florence - does this spark your interest? In this game the person interacts with others through his character / avatar. When Jason Lind is introduced to the game he has no clue how much it will affect his life. He is a college student / computer science major who works for a professor at the college.

The story starts with the warning that Jason gets. Then is shifts back in time - right before he gets involved in the game and moves forward. It introduces us to Jason as a "person" and how he becomes involved in the game.

Now ... there are apparent warning signs about the game that should make one think twice about getting involved. One of these warning signs is that you have to put in your SS to join the game. Also there seems to be a lot of money involved in getting into the game. But this does not stop Jason from getting into the game.

As he gets more into the game other things in his life start to suffer - his studies, his job, and his finances. The costs he racks up playing the game drains his pocketbook and he needs a huge sum of money to continue to play the game. Almost sounds typical to any obsession - doesn't it.

Finally, Jason quits school and his campus job to get a job working for his dad's old company. This is when we fall back some more in time - to when his dad was "still" alive. He was an important part to this computer company. (By the way, Jason goes by his mother's last name. His father's last name is Fibonacci. Does that say anything to you?) Well, before he became involved with the company, he was a distinguished professor at Jason's university. He left the university and helped build the company into the giant it had become.

We learn his father gets somewhat disillusioned with how the "company" is progressing. He takes some steps to meet the goals set by his partners so they can make more money. At the same time he builds in a mechanism that will siphon off some of the funds. In order to do this he has to make some other alliances to keep his family safe. His "life" ends when he has an "accident" in a new expensive car he got from the company partners in appreciation for the work he has done to get them a larger money stream.

Finally the story shifts back to when Jason is working for his dad's old company. He has been given the job to check out the computer system his dad built. Nobody else has been able to fix a problem it has. As he looks into it, he realizes his father built in some mechanisms to prevent disclosure and removal of his fixes. He also realizes what this mechanism is doing.

Now ... to tell anymore of the story would not do it any justice. There would be so much you would miss. And of course there would be things you might pick up on that I did not. That is one of the fun things about being a reader - you experience things from your own personal view. SO CHECK IT OUT!!!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Killing of Mindi Quintana, by Jeffrey A. Cohen—An excerpt

The Killing of Mindi Quintana, by Jeffrey A. Cohen—An excerpt

The following is an excerpt from my new Philadelphia-set legal thriller, The Killing of Mindi Quintana. The scene takes place after Mindi’s murder, at the tail end of reporter Manny Sykes’s jailhouse interview with Freddy Builder, the accused. The crime was brutal, sensational and newsworthy. Media coverage of Freddy, a formerly obscure department store manager, is captivating the city. And Freddy is blossoming in the light and heat of public fascination. A new celebrity murderer is taking the stage—and rising to his role.

Excerpted from Chapter 16:

Freddy moved so that his back was against the cool wall again. He relaxed against it, enjoying the contrast to the overly heated cell while he listened to himself answer the reporter’s question, and his next and next, until he was sure the sun must be up though it was dim as ever where they were.
He sensed the reactions his answers engendered and knew they didn’t depend on Sykes’s belief in their truthfulness. In fact, Freddy was sure that much of what he said Sykes didn’t believe at all. Freddy didn’t need him to.
Because despite the dispassionate questioning, the crime Sykes had already written about was the alleged passionate one of a lover, a roar of revenge against beauty’s rejection, the explosion of an artist in corporate-American bondage. The buds of it all were in his stories so far. They were there in his hinting that Mindi was promiscuous. In his repetitious allusion to her father’s criminality. In the unquestioning acceptance of Freddy as blossoming writer. In his rendering of Chanet’s and the sympathetic credence given Freddy’s hatred of the store.
“To feel that much!” seemed to seep from the pauses in Freddy’s reconstructions, as Manny pointed and Freddy watered the buds. “Enough to kill her!” It obviously fascinated him. It fascinated them both.
And Manny would have had to admit, had he been privy to Freddy’s thinking, that he did see his stories in epic terms, and that when he didn’t, he figured out how to. It was how he made sense of things, how he knew he’d gotten them right. It was when the elements fell into place, and he knew he’d seen all the way through. It was how he had gained a readership and professional acclaim. How he got to the truth, since all truth was epic.
For both of them now, as they talked through the night, the antihero emerged further and was a type of tragic hero nonetheless. The type Manny appreciated and wrote about, and the type, without realizing it before, Freddy had known how to be.
He remembered thinking in the store that when he made it into gear he would know what to do. That he would be witty for reporters, pensive when appropriate, insightful always, and clever sometimes—and he was. That when people cared what he thought, he would think great things—and it was true. That when they came to him, he would know what to say—and he did. That when there was no question of his stature, they would admire his work. And he was sure now they would. He would be accepted as a writer now. He was sure of it.
Two weeks ago, Manfred R. Sykes would have sneered at a man forced to live his life in a department store. Now he was squinting in the dark hoping Freddy wouldn’t throw him out.

© Jeffrey A. Cohen 2010

For more information or to contact Jeffrey A. Cohen, author of The Killing of Mindi Quintana: