Sunday, October 2, 2011

One Voice Too Many

One Voice Too Many was written by Paul Martin Miller.  It is a psychological thriller - not a typical mystery I usually read.  It was an interesting story. 

The main character was a carpenter named Jeremy Walker who starts his day with an internal conflict about something he has read.  He is on the way to work when he gets caught in a traffic jam. At this point he begins doing something very odd.  He walks away from his truck and seems to wander back in the direction he came - reason unknown.  He seems to be disconnected with the world outside of himself.  Finally, he goes to a restaurant to get something to eat and he seems to have a breakdown.  The police come and end up taking him to a hospital.  They call his ex-wife to let her know what has happened - and since she appears to be the only known family he has.  At this point the focus of the story takes a shift - to explore what has lead up to this point.

The story tells how Jeremy was a lonely man who had been married twice before.  He was divorced from his first wife and he lost his second wife - she presumably was killed in an accident.  The loss of his wife took a toll on his life and was something he found hard to come to grips with.  Eventually he improved outwardly and started functioning in what appeared to be a normal fashion.

Then he meets Macy - a woman he is impressed with.  He enjoys spending time with her and her daughter and they get married.  Things seem to go nice but the story always brings up problems in this relationship.  Jeremy - from Macy's point of view - always seems to hold things back and she kind of resents that.  This is a mechanism that Jeremy has developed from previous experiences and their mariage is a source of internal conflicts for Jeremy.  Some "Voice" occassionally breaks into Jeremy's life and further complicates his life.

Things in Jeremy's view of the relationship seems to shift back and forth.  At times the relationship is a great one and other times it is a disappointing one.  He struggles with loving feelings for Macy and her daughter and feelings of resentment.  During those periods of loneliness, he starts longing for communications from the "Voice". 

The story rotates back and forth between the lives of Jeremy and Macy.  And they end up getting divorced.  But they still have some sort of connection.

Most of the story focuses on what happens before Jeremy has his breakdown.  The story ends up continuing after the breakdown but comes to a quick (and unexplained) end.  Maybe that is just the nature of being a thriller.  For me it was a little disappointing but the story (and it's ending) did make me think.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Returning to Sherlock Holmes

You may have heard it before but I became interested in mysteries when I was an early teen and reading Sherlock Holmes was one of the reasons for this. 

I decided to go back to read some Sherlock Holmes stories and I am reminded why I was so interested in these stories.  You see - I was astonished like Dr Watson by the conclusions Sherlock Holmes could make based on his observation skills. 

He also fascinated me by some of the things he said.  In A Study in Scarlet for example, how he describes a man's brain being like an attic.  It is a practical description about how a smart person only puts useful stuff in his brain rather than filling it with a lot of worthless stuff.  It is a very good explanation.  Funny how we not only put useless stuff in our heads but we also a lots of times keep useless stuff in our attics (or garages, or closets) as well!! 

So going back and rereading Sherlock Holmes is really been a good experience for me.  Are there things you have read years ago and taken the time to go back and reread them later?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Dallas MWASW Sept Workshop AND MORE

September 3rd Workshop: Critiques
For our September workshop, we'll break out into small groupsthat will include at least one experienced writer. Anyoneinterested in a critique should bring 5 copies of any 5 pagesfrom your WIP (work in progress,) which you will readout loud to your group. Some of you will choose to read, others will only critique, but everyone will learn something.
Something extra: Workshop following lunch: Writing 101

Time: 1:00pm-2:00pm Fee: $10.00

The focus of these workshops is the business end of writing; they also act as a fundraiser, since the instructor, our very own LaRee Bryant, has generously volunteered her time and experience.

LaRee is the author of 7 historical novels and 2 non-fiction books, and has recently finished the second book in a new cozy mystery series. She's been a writing teacher and professional editor for over 20 years and has served on the boards of several national and local writers' organizations, overseeing committees such as "Agents Standards of Practice" and "Published Authors Network."

The Dallas MWASW group meets the first Saturday of each month at Texas Land & Cattle, 812 South Central Expressway, Richardson , TX 75080 . Meeting time is 9:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. There is a $5.00 door fee, cash only (fives and ones appreciated!) All who attend are invited to remain for lunch. Contact info:

Sunday, August 21, 2011

White House Chef Mystery Series

I felt it would be interesting to try a new (and different) series for me.  This is a series by Julie Hyzy and the first book in the series is State of the Onion.  I suppose this is what would be classified as a cozy.  It is a fun read and has little to do with politics - otherwise it would not be a fun read.  Kind of what you would expect of a book with this title.  The book has a mystery and includes "recipes" at the end from meals prepared for the White House.  Web page for author July Hyzy.

The story has a major and a minor plot going for it.  The major mystery centers around an attempt of a supposed terrorist to get into the White House to warn the president of something.  In this attempt, one of the White House staff ( a chef) named Olivia Paras gets involved in trying to figure out what is going on.  At the same time she is in the middle of trying to become the major chef on the White House Staff and keeping a semi-secret relationship with a secret service agent moving forward.  But there are conflicts that result from this. 

Not only does she have to be careful not to become dangerously involved in her own investigation, but she has to deal with competition for the Executive Chef position.  A new White House Staff person seems to be doing everything he can to make her look bad and playing up the competition as the logical choice.  Olivia realizes her place in the kitchen is a very integral part of the White House.   Her position may not have anything to do with setting world politics but it does help with the image. 

The main focus of the "political" side of the story is relationships with foreign countries.  Party politics are not a major focus which is good since this is for a fun read.  Check out this book if you are looking for a light, fun read.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Life Imitating Art

Sometimes life imitates art -or- vice versa. 

I saw a video on the internet.  It was about a statue of Marilyn Monroe in Chicago based on that famous scene in the movie The Seven Year Itch.  That brought back some memories.  Now I had not seen the movie - it was made before a similar event happened to me as a boy.  Seeing this video brought back the memories.

I was in elementary school at the time - third grade I think.  As we did at the time, we were outside for recess and it was time to go to the water fountain to get a drink.  Ahead of me was one of the girls in my class who I had a little interest in.  I think she may have been a blond too!!!  She was getting a drink from the faucet when along came a breeze and blew up her dress for a moment.  Yes ... that was an experience for me.  It is not like I really saw anything since she had shorts under her dress but it was definitely something I remember. 

Come to think of it, I never knew about the movie The Seven Year Itch until much later when another movie came out that played on that same scene - The Woman In Red.

Ahhh MEMORIES.  That is one of the things I enjoy when I read.  You never know until you read something and it brings back memories.  Do you have memories come back when you read?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Observations from "The Rock Hole"

"The Rock Hole: A Red River Mystery" is a new book written by Reavis Z. Wortham.  I have been looking forward to reading this book for several reasons.  First, I like mysteries.  Second, it takes place in and features Texas and Texas characters.  And finally, it is by a local Texas author.  Let me say I was not disappointed by the book.

One of the things I found interesting about the book is the way the author uses an observer to tell the story.  I know there are other instances where this technique is used, like Dr Watson telling about Sherlock Holmes, but I think the author did a great job using a ten year old boy to tell this story.

You see ... this story takes place around 1964 and there were some familiar things about the story.  I was a boy back then too - just a little younger than Top - the boy who has a part in telling the story.  He had asthma and used an inhaler to take medicine when he had an attack.  There were other familiar things about the story as well - like the time era including mentions of the Vietnam War, the Beatles, the theater, and racial tensions - just to name a few.  There were some things I was introduced to.  I was raised in the city and this basically occurred in the country.  But there were some familiar things about the other characters as well.

Top's grandfather reminded me a little of my mom's dad.  There was a similarity between the two - probably because I had a similar view of my grandfather like Top did of his.  My grandfather was not a part time law man like Top's was but his work ethics, family values, and tolerances of others were very similar.

I look forward to reading more by this author.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

"The Rock Hole" Author Signing

I went to the Firewheel Barnes and Noble today.  They had an author signing today - Reavis Wortham is the author of "The Rock Hole: Red River Mystery".  This is the first book and it was released on June 7th of this year according to 

I talked a little with the author and had him sign a copy of his book.  Reavis told me the manuscript for his next book is due in September.

Relatively recent I have started getting ebooks to read and occassionally get the "real" book when there is not an ebook version.  There are several reasons why I have started getting the ebook.  I guess one of the most important reasons is the convenience.  It is relatively easy to get an ebook, they do not require additional book shelves to store, and I can adjust the size of the font for my comfort level. 

I had intended to get "The Rock Hole" in an ebook version but it is not available in the format yet.  But this brings to mind a question - can you get an author signed ebook?  I do not think this is technically available yet either.  Of course you might ask what is the purpose of a book signing?  Well ... one reason is some people collect signed books.  Another reason is people want to meet and talk to the author.  And of course, the author wants to promote his book.  I am sure there are a number of other reasons as well.  Only one of the three reasons I mentioned above really requires a physical book.

I have read the book and will do a post later about it.  Just to let you know, I enjoyed the book and look forward to more by the author.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Why Blog?

Recently a friend who checks out my blog on a regular basis made a comment to me about not seeing any postings since May.  She told me she knows I must be reading and she checks my blog for new reading ideas.  I admitted I am still reading - I have just been too busy to blog.

So the question is ... Why Blog?

If you are looking for THE REASONS to blog, this is not what you are looking for.  Instead these are reasons I blog - and why I need to get back to it.

One of the reasons I blog is because I read.  I started blogging to record my thoughts about what I read.  Of course there is more to it than that.  Sometimes it may be a way of passing information along to others about reading / writing stuff - like the monthly meetings held by the local Mystery Writers Group.  (Incidentally ... I do not consider myself a writer but my interest is as a reader.)  Sometimes I use my blog to communicate with the writers of the books I read and may have an interview in my blog.

I wish I could say the reason I have not been blogging the past two months was because I was on vacation - I WISH!!!  I have been occupied with work.  You know - WORK - the thing we all must do unless we are independently wealthy.  Unfortunately, work has been occupying my thoughts outside of "normal" hours as well.  I know ... I heard from several sources that I need to shut that stuff off when I leave the office - and I try.  And I realize it affects other parts of my life as well - including blogging.  That is one of the reasons I have NOT been blogging.  My mind has been occupied by work.

That brings me to another reason for me TO BLOG.  Blogging is a way for me to redirect my thoughts - a distraction you might say - just like reading can be.  Although I have been reading, I have not been successfully taking my thoughts away from work.  Blogging about what I read provides me with a way to "get away from work".  The last two months I have not allowed myself to do that. 

Funny thing is ... although I have been so preoccupied with work, this is also a reason why I have not been real efficient in work - I have just been getting by.  If I admit it to myself - and I am - taking the time to "get away from work" should help me be more focused when I am at work.  I feel it will although this blog is mostly about work it is NOT really about work - so I feel good.  In case you are wondering, the thing for me about blogging is the thought it takes to do a post.  That is the reason BLOGGING is good.  Now I just have to make sure I keep up the practice.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Another EXTRA at Dallas MWSWA June 4th Workshop


Join us for our June 4th workshop ""Rise out of the Slush Pile" with Steve Miller. Steve is published in multiple genres and also an editor at Lilley Press and MindFlights. When wearing the hat of editor, he slogs through stacks of submissions, which is known in publishing as the "slush pile." He writes a short critique for writers on every manuscript he rejects, and he helps decide which stories to accept. Hear common problems that keep writers from being published, and find out why a few stories with problems do rise above the rest from the slush pile.

The Dallas MWASW group meets the first Saturday of each month at Texas Land & Cattle, 812 South Central Expressway, Richardson , TX 75080 . Meeting time is 9:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. There is a $5.00 door fee, cash only. All who attend are invited to remain for lunch.

Something extra: Workshop following lunch: Writing 101

Time: 1:00pm-2:00pm Fee: $10.00

This workshop will address the needs of our beginner/intermediate writers as well as act as a fundraiser, since the instructor, our very own LaRee Bryant, has generously volunteered her time and experience. This month she will discuss the different types of publishers--from the traditional, to self-publishing and everything in between.

LaRee is the author of 7 historical novels and 2 non-fiction books, and has recently finished the second book in a new cozy mystery series. She's been a writing teacher and professional editor for over 20 years and has served on the boards of several national and local writers' organizations, overseeing committees such as "Agents Standards of Practice" and "Published Authors Network."

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Coming SOON - New Mystery Release by Reavis Wortham

I am discovering all types of people can become writers.  Here is a person I know through work - Reavis Wortham - who has written a new mystery book.  He is retiring from his old "job" and will be spending time with his new "job" as a writer. 

Reavis Z. Wortham Web Link.  There is an interesting trailer for the book on this website you ought to check out.

His book - The Rock Hole: A Red River Mystery - is definitely one I am looking forward to reading.  As you may know, I have a particular fondness for certain types of books.
  1. Mysteries written by Texas authors.
  2. Mysteries located in Texas.
  3. Mysteries featuring Texas characters.
Based on these three points, I suspect this book will be one that I really enjoy. 

GOOD LUCK Reavis with your new book and new career (assuming there will be more to follow).

According to Barnes and Noble, the publish date is June 07, 2011.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Firewheel MRDG reads Devious by Lisa Jackson

WebSite For Lisa Jackson's Devious.

For this month's selection, the group selected Devious by Lisa Jackson.  This is the seventh book in her New Orleans series that features Detectives Rick Bentz and Reuben Montoya.  Tonight four members showed up to discuss the book.

One of the group indicated she has read other books by the author before.  She had enjoyed some of the other books but this book did not compare with the others.  It continues with the two detectives in the series and even seems to continue a serial killer thought to have died in a previous book.  There were just too many unanswered questions left in the story.

The story had some high points but the final straw / thumb vote was four thumbs down.  One person indicated she would try out other books by the author while another person said they might.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Dallas MWASW May Workshop and EXTRA

Join us for our May 7th workshop "Cops Undercover" with Chief Frank McElligott. Currently serving as Chief of Police, Hutchins , TX , Frank McElligott has been in Law Enforcement for 33 years. He has worked in every area, from patrol to Task Force Commander and everything in between. We will be sure and leave plenty of time for questions.

Something extra: Workshop following lunch: Writing 101

Time: 1:00pm-2:00pm Fee: $10.00

This workshop will address the needs of our beginner/intermediate writers as well as act as a fundraiser, since the instructor, our very own LaRee Bryant, has generously volunteered her time and experience. This month she will cover several basic topics, with an emphasis on how to format a manuscript.

LaRee is the author of 7 historical novels and 2 non-fiction books, and has recently finished the second book in a new cozy mystery series. She's been a writing teacher and professional editor for over 20 years and has served on the boards of several national and local writers' organizations, overseeing committees such as "Agents Standards of Practice" and "Published Authors Network."

The Dallas MWASW group meets the first Saturday of each month at Texas Land & Cattle, 812 South Central Expressway, Richardson , TX 75080 . Meeting time is 9:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. There is a $5.00 door fee, cash only. All who attend are invited to remain for lunch.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Three Women Three Mysteries

It has been awhile since I last blogged. I've been a little busy - but I have been reading when I can.

Since I last blogged, I have completed three mysteries by three of the authors I enjoy. Two of the authors are Texas authors - Leann Sweeney and Karen MacInerney. The other author is from Arizona (sometimes California) and her name is J.A. Jance. Each one of these authors have their own style of writing and each has it's own appeal.

Leann Sweeney's latest book is in her Cats in Trouble Mystery Series. The book is called The Cat, the Lady, and the Liar. This is the third book in the series by her and it features Jillian Hart - a widow living in South Carolina. She has her own business in which she makes quilts for cats. As you may realize too, the mystery series has some kind of connection with cats. In this book a valuable cat is found along side of a road and Jillian is asked by the shelter owner to check on the cat's home to see if it would be a good idea to return the cat to the owner. The cat's owner is an elderly rich woman who appears to have some physical problems. Jillian does not get to speak to the woman and is warned by the local police to stay away from her.

Jillian is surprised when the lady shows up at her doorstep late one night in night clothes and tells her somebody is framing her and has been drugging her. The situation becomes complicated when her employee shows up dead at Jillians yard as well and the lady immediately becomes a suspect. Jillian finds it hard to believe the lady is a murderer and she tends to believe somebody has been drugging her. The story is definitely I would recommend reading. It is a cozy mystery and easy to read.

The second book is by Karen MacInerney and is also part of a series - A Gray Whale Inn Mystery. The book title is Berried to the Hilt and is the fourth book in the series. The Gray Whale Inn is located on Cranberry Island and is located in Maine. Natalie Barnes is a retired state worker from Texas who came here to open the inn and operate it. She found it hard coming here and starting the business as an outsider three books back. She is still working on making the business successful and becoming accepted as part of the island community. She as well as the community become excited when they learn that a famous discovery may lie off there shores. And this discovery brings more business to Natalie's floundering business.

It does not help that there is hostile competition between two of her sets of guest over the discovery lying off the coast. It becomes more complicated when one of the guests turns up dead and one of the local men is taken into custody. Natalie is very interested in solving the mystery and finding the real murderer. I enjoyed the Texas connections and the fast moving pace of this - another cozy mystery.

Finally the third mystery was by J.A. Jance and it is also a part of a continuing series - the Ali Reynolds series. It features none other than Ali Reynolds - a former newscaster who got dumped by both her news station and her husband in favor of a younger woman. This is the sixth book in the series and it is called Fatal Error. Ali has moved on from that setback and is remaking her life. She attends a Police Academy to become a part of the local police department but cutbacks take away that opportunity. When a former colleague ends up missing, Ali becomes involved in the search for her. When her missing friend becomes the suspect in a murder, she uses the tools she has and her instincts to investigate and come up with answers.

This book was definitely different from the other two books. As in the other cases , I recommend the books AND the authors.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Firewheel MRD Reads Mind's Eye

The April selection for the Firewheel Mystery Reader Discussion Group was an interesting one. The title of the book is Mind's Eye and it is written by Hakan Nesser. I am not sure who suggested the group read this one but it was an excellent choice.

This book is the first book in a series involving an Inspector Van Veeteran. (Just an observation but his name is close to "veteran" which refers to a person with experience in a particular area.) The book opens with the discovery of a murder - an investigation that will involve the inspector. The person discovering the body is the husband of the victim and he has no recollection of what went on. He is the obvious suspect and is arrested and convicted of the murder. In spite of the arrest and conviction, the inspector has some doubts about the case against the husband and when the husband is murdered in an institution, he turns the investigation up a notch.

One of the things interesting about this story is the title - Mind's Eye - and it's relation to the story. (Or at least my perception of it's relation to the story!) This investigation does not focus on a lot of highly visible clues but instead relies on pieces of information that is "turned over" in the inspector's mind. He kind of refers to this process when talking to his colleague about the case. This was just one of the things that made the book interesting to me.

There were other things the author did that made the story interesting as well. One of the things he did was point out how there was a connection - outside of the case - between one of the investigators(Ruger) and the husband (Mitter) suspected of murdering his wife. Mitter who is a teacher taught Ruger's son in school. This kind of foreshadows some of the other interesting things in the book. Not to give it away but there IS a relationship between the murdered woman and the murderer.

I also thought the author used some interesting ways to describe things - like the thoughts of Mitter about his dead wife. At one point he thoughts were of her in his life like she was a part of a book of his life - a chapter in his life. And this was not totally uncharacteristic of the character who was a teacher.

There was one little clue in the book that was left by Mitter himself before he was murdered that I thought would play a part in solving the case - but it did not. Instead I think it was another interesting tool used by the author. Before he was murdered, Mitter wrote something in a Bible beside his bed in the institution. This was never discovered during the investigation. As a matter of fact, it is never brought back up until after the case has been solved and is over with. Somebody discovers that a name is written in the Bible - the name of the murderer. This is literally done in the last chapter and last page of the book. So what is the significance of this? The only clue I see is where in the Bible the clue / name is written. Was it written there on purpose? Or is this just a tease by the author? READ IT and draw your own conclusions.

Incidentally, I saved the vote by the reading group until the end. The vote was unanimous - 7 thumbs up.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Neighbors Read - Dewey

The local libraries in Sachse and Wylie Texas start a series events called Neighbors Read this coming Saturday (April 9th). These events are centered around the book Dewey: The Small-Town Cat That Touched The World by Vicki Myron and Steve James. These programs / events will go on for six weeks and you can see a list of these at

Now you may be wondering about why I am mentioning this in my blog - a blog usually dedicated to mysteries and such. Well..., one of the themes you will see on my blog is "It's All About Reading"! I read other things besides mysteries and will occasionally blog about them. In this case, I just finished reading the book about Dewey in preparation for my community's participation in these events. As a side note, I must mention I feel it is very important to support the local library.

What I found is that there is more to this book than I expected. You see, I thought this was going to be just a book about a cat - but it was more. Yes, a major part of the story was about THE CAT - Dewey and about how he came to be known as the cat of the Spencer Public Library in Iowa. But it was also a story about a community and it's library as well. The community and the library existed before Dewey came - he helped bring public attention to them. And as communities go, there are so many parts to the community - these were also the focus of the book.

There were definitely parts of the book that we in our community could relate to. Our library has been closed for remodeling that became necessary after some weather related damages. And I know Smith Public Library in Wylie is opening in a new facility as well. Part of the book describes how their library and community went through a remodelling process - and the community was involved. Speaking on behalf of Sachse and it's library, I can say with some pride that the community was also involved in getting our library back up from it's remodelling period.

More than just a focus on the cat, I think the major thing about the book I enjoyed was the inspiration it gives. Remember the phrase I mentioned earlier - it's all about reading! Well..., that is kind of like saying the library is all about books. But the library is more than JUST books - IT IS COMMUNITY!!! And while our library may not have THE CAT, hopefully it will continue to provide and be known for it's "cat" - the services it provides for the community. After all - the library is more than just books!!! Sachse Public Library - CHECK IT OUT!!!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Coming Soon From Ed Lynskey

To start off, Ed Lynskey is an American author who writes crime fiction. I have read one of his previous books Blue Cheer. When I was asked if I wanted the opportunity to read an early release of his book Lake Charles, I said, "Sure!" This book is scheduled to be released in June of this year.

Let me start off by saying this is not a part of the series of the previous book I read - it seems to be a standalone book. There are several characters in this book but the main character is Brendon. In fact the story is pretty much told from his point of view. Just some information about him, he appears to be a young adult recently getting out of high school and he has a twin sister - Edna. He has been raised by his mother - his father left when he was still a toddler. Occasionally, he gets a postcard sent to him from his father in Alaska but it does not say anything. Brendon has a job working at a press - one of only a few of the businesses in this area of Tennessee. He has thoughts of going to Alaska, meeting his dad, and probably going to work in the lumber business with his father.

A couple of things however happen in Brendon's life that puts a grasp on his life. He likes to drink and take drugs. One weekend he gets hooked up with a girl and some of her friends. They go to a concert and do drugs. Afterwards, he goes to a motel with the girl. They continue with the drugs and have some sex before they fall asleep. When he wakes, he discovers the girl has died so he calls the police. He tries to cover up the evidence of the drugs they had been doing but more evidence appears and he gets hauled in for questioning about the murder of the girl. She apparently died from an overdose on PCP which was NOT the drug they were doing. (Oh by the way, the girl is the daughter of a well known lawyer who has political ambitions.)

He is set to be charged with murder and will be going on trial. His mother gets him a lawyer he does not like who gets him out on bail. (This is not the same lawyer who is the father of the dead girl.) Since he got out on bail, he has been having these "dreams" and conversations with the dead girl. He is trying to quit drugs and one of the questions is whether he is having these "dreams" because of the drugs. (Or is this an inherited trait? You will have to read for yourself to see if this is a possibility.)

And if it is gonna "rain", it usually pours!!! Brendon takes a trip with his twin sister and his friend Cobb to the lake - Lake Charles. He and his buddy plan to fish, while his sister plans to ride her jet ski. While there, his sister disappears and they start looking for her. A lot happens - they get shot at, they discover drugs are being grown in the area around the lake, and Brendons' friend Cobb gets killed.

The questions mount up. Is his sister Edna still alive? Why was Cobb killed and who is responsible? How does the dead girl fit into this?

I am not going to tell any more of the story - if you are interested, you need to read it for yourself. I will say I had to read it twice for myself because I wanted to make sure I understood it. Brendon was a hard character to get to understand. Whether it was because of the drug problem he had or whether it was a cultural thing, I am not entirely sure. Of course I think probably some of it 1s also related to the area where it occurred at in the Tennessee mountains. I would be interested in knowing what others think about the book.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Firewheel Mystery Reading Group

I missed out on the last meeting in March but got an update from one of the other member's. Here is what was said about the last two books we reviewed -

We reviewed two selections.

Everyone really enjoyed the “Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie”, our February selection, and it received a resounding six thumbs up. Several were already into reading the second and third books in this series.

The March selection, “The Monkey’s Raincoat”, received mixed reviews, 2 thumbs up and four down. A few expressed the opinion that it was overly violent and old fashion. Not surprising, since it was published in 1992, but a necessity if we plan to start a series with the first one published. Just think, no internet, no cell phones, etc. A very strange world indeed compared with today’s.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pig Is Pigs

OK!!!! I read this strictly for the fun of it. It is NOT a mystery but it was recommended by one of the friendly cashiers at my "local" Firewheel Barnes and Noble. This is a short story I was able to download to my NOOK ant the title is .... Pigs Is Pigs - just like the title of this blog. I know - the title of my blog is unoriginal but it is catchy. It was written by Ellis Parker Butler.

Let me setup the story ... it is hilarious. A man had two guinea pigs shipped in as pets for his son. When he goes to pick them up from the stationmaster, there is a disagreement over the cost of shipping. The man only wants to pay 25 cents apiece - the price for pets. The stationmaster however disagrees and insists on charging the livestock rate - 30 cents apiece because ... "pigs is pigs".

This is good for a laugh and you would be surprised to see what happens. Check it out if you get a chance!!!

Incidentally, Wikipedia says,"The concept obviously had some currency because it also shows up in the famous Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles".

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Introduced to Sleuth Clare Fergusson

Clare Ferguson is one half of the "team" in the Claire Ferguson / Russ Van Alstyne Mystery Series written by Julia Spencer-Fleming
(click here to check out her website). The series consists of 7 books with the latest one - One Was A Soldier - scheduled for release in April. I was fortunate enough to get an early release of book number 7 for my introduction to the series, the sleuth, and the author.

First as an introduction to Clare in this story - she is returning home from a tour in Iraq as a helicopter pilot. She is returning to her old job as a minister in the church. This was a surprise to me as an introduction but it definitely sets well with the story. I have to admit there were plenty of surprises for me in the book.

The other part of the "team" is Russ Van Altsyne. He is the professional in the story - a chief of police. He and Clare have an interesting friendship / relationship. He does not share the same religious convictions Clare has but is more of a man focused in his professional convictions.

Now back to the story. Returning home, Clare becomes involved in a help group for returning service people - as a participant. This group is led by a professional counselor and each participant has problems they need to address - including Clare. The problems range from uncontrollable anger, intense nightmares, infidelity, alcohol and drug abuse, traumatic brain injury, loss of limbs, and regrets. Each person in the group has difficulty facing their demons.

After one member of the group attempts suicide and another member of the group is discovered dead, the group becomes focused on determining why. Chief Van Alstyne (who is not a part of the help group) is convinced the death was a suicide but Clare is not convinced. She and her group are committed to find the answer for their fellow "soldier". Not only is there the death that is being questioned but also the theft of thousands of dollars from the reconstruction in IRAQ.

I do not want to go any further with the story. I will say I had to read the story twice - it certainly had it's moments and was worth it. CHECK IT OUT!!!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

March Workshop For Dallas MWASW


Join us for our March 5th workshop: "Fire and Fiction—part 2." Experienced Fire Scene Investigator Richard Downing will complete his workshop regarding the wide area of basic fire science, fire behavior, investigation and other related topics to help writers better understand and utilize this often misunderstood mix of art and science, and inject a different kind of "heat" into their fiction.

The Dallas MWASW group meets the first Saturday of each month at Texas Land & Cattle, 812 South Central Expressway, Richardson , TX 75080 . Meeting time is 9:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. There is a $5.00 door fee, cash only. All who attend are invited to remain for lunch. Contact info:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Guest Blogger William Topek

One Approach to Writing

There are tons of articles on the internet these days about writing. Some of these articles are interesting, helpful, and well-written. Many are none of the above. The best advice I ever came across about taking advice was a quote from Bruce Lee: “Take what is useful, leave the rest.” Writing is an art, and every individual practitioner is going to have his or her own approach to it. There is no one right way to create art, and you should be especially wary of articles that tell you what you MUST do. All anyone can offer are suggestions, and if a suggestion works for you, by all means use it. If it doesn't, ignore it. Probably the writing tip that I've heard most often over the years is that you MUST write every day. I'm not saying that's bad advice at all, but I don't personally follow it. I write when I want or need to. I don't set word count goals, telling myself I must finish x number of words by the end of my session. Again, this tactic certainly works for some writers. For myself, I'd rather write 100 good words than 1,000 mediocre ones.

Awhile back, I decided to try my hand at writing a novel. I'd written several short stories and a handful of screenplays over the years, along with essays, musings, humorous pieces, etc. When deciding what to write about, I asked myself one and only one question: what would I like to read? I choose screenplay subjects exactly the same way, asking myself: what movie would I like to watch? I never ask myself what's hot now, what's really selling these days, what would best grab the interest of a literary agent or publisher or film producer. My target demographic is, admittedly, fairly exclusive: it consists of me. If you create art to please yourself, you're an artist. If you create art to please others, especially the bean counters of the world, you're a hack.

I decided it would be fun to write an old-style detective novel. I'd always loved reading (and watching) works like The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. Images usually come to me first. The private detective invited out to a wealthy man's mansion to discuss a job. The detective chatting it up with the client's beautiful young daughter in an idyllic garden. The hero getting shanghaied out of his office by two goons taking him to see the big boss. The hero tailing persons of interest through local landmarks, getting roughed up in a back alley, being drugged. Snippets of monologue and exchanges of dialogue came to me. The detective's cynical view of people and daily life, witty retorts to threats, lively banter with friends and foes. I started making notes. I came up with a name for the hero (Devlin Caine) and a place for him to work (Kansas City). I picked the opening day of the novel: Monday, October 1, 1934.

Now that I had the time and place, I started what would end up being a considerable amount of research. I flagged websites, stuffed file folders full of printouts, put together a reference manual of local history, important figures of the time, events of the day, maps, price lists, and more. The research would continue throughout my work on the novel, as invariably something would crop up that I needed to know more about. But for now, I was ready to start writing.

Some writers prefer to have a complete, detailed outline of their work first. A treatment or perhaps even a flowchart. Nothing at all wrong with that; we all do it differently. I find it works best for me to jump in and start writing. The first draft is usually the most enjoyable part of the process for me. I have a general idea of the story I want to tell. I know where I want to start, and I may even know where I want to end up. So I sit down at the keyboard and begin. It's fun because I often don't know what's going to happen next. Characters appear as necessary. The story takes unexpected turns and surprises me. In essence, I'm telling myself a story, and having as much fun as I hope the reader ultimately will.

I don't go straight through to the finish in this fashion. I had to stop for more research, even for the first draft. I had to back up, even discard a whole chapter because something I wrote either didn't work or I simply didn't like it. I had to stop and think, a lot. Okay, I know where I want to go, but how do I get there? Along the way, I sent out chapters to trusted friends willing to read first drafts, people who gave me honest feedback, telling me what they did and didn't like, and sometimes offering their own suggestions. Eventually, though, I made it to the end. Now I had a completed first draft to work with, and here is where the real labor began.

If my approach so far sounds a bit more laid back, a bit less disciplined than perhaps a writer should be, I make up for that with rewrites. Yes, rewrites – plural. I do subscribe strongly to the view that writing is rewriting. In my early years, I never had the patience for it. Now a more seasoned and mature writer, I love it. Rewriting to me is like sculpting clay. I have the whole body of material before me, and I can go over every part of it, reshaping, redefining, modeling it until the form is exactly what I'm looking for. I don't just look for typos and grammatical errors; I manually retype every word of the first draft, changing and modifying as I go. I did this probably at least twice with my novel, and that doesn't count specific, targeted, multiple rewrites of certain chapters or sections (I think I spent twenty minutes coming up with twenty different sentences to describe one part of a desk). Yet more research, and a lot more intense, focused thinking. What themes materialized in the first draft? How should they be more strongly developed? What opportunities for foreshadowing did I miss? What clues could be inserted that will make more sense on the second reading? What plot holes appeared that must be filled? What parts are still bugging me because they don't make sense or they're not as clearly and cleanly written as they could be? Oh, and it turns out my original title was too close to some already published works. Have to come up with a new one, a good one, and work that into the narrative.

Yes, it is possible to rewrite too much. I know this because if I haven't done it, I've certainly come close. At some point, you have to stop second-guessing yourself and call it a day, swallowing the bitter pill that your book will never be perfect. Stopping short of going too far relies on constantly asking yourself why. Why should this be changed? How is this change going to make the book better? The only advice here is to stay on a true course. Don't change things to show off your writing skill, or to make your book more appealing to an agent or a publisher or a film producer or some ridiculously artificial target demographic. You serve one and only one master here: the story.

This is how I approached my first novel. There are many different approaches just as good, perhaps better. As I continue to learn, I'll likely modify or even change my approach. The result of all this work was Shadow of a Distant Morning. Right now it's a modest new e-book among hundreds of thousands on the market. I'm happy with it, and so far I haven't had a single reader express disappointment (though I'm prepared for that to happen at some point). I'm satisfied because I know I created a good story and told it well. Whatever happens after this point, well, as Devlin Caine would probably say, “Don't sweat over it. Take a breather, have a drink, get some sleep, and tomorrow be ready to move on. You've got more work headed your way.”

About the author

William Topek is originally from the Midwest, but has lived and worked throughout the United States and overseas. His widely varied career has included active duty service in the U.S. Air Force, teaching in a foreign middle school, and conducting regulatory seminars and security training as an employee of the federal government. He is a graduate of the University of Kansas and received his MBA from Willamette University in Oregon. His interests include film, fiction, history, and the art of storytelling.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

E-Book Review: Shadow of a Distant Morning

E-Books!!! There seem to be a lot of these lately. As a matter of fact, this book was specifically published by an independent publisher who specializes in digital publishing.

Let me tell you a little about the book. The title of the book is Shadow of a Distant Morning. It is the first book by William Topek. It is set in the 30's when gangs / mobs were very common. One of the fictional private investigators of the time was Devlin Caine and he was in Kansas City.

Reading this story was kind of like watching the old Dragnet series. The story was told from the investigators point of view and in my mind the voice telling the story almost sounded like the voice from the old Dragnet series. Oh ... by the way (and just to be clear). I READ this book - not listened to it. The voice was something I imagined in my head. You know how sometimes we get influenced by things in our lives. My perception can be different from yours.

What was our PI's background before he became an independent PI? Well.., during the war he was was involved with messages and coding. After the war he started working for Pinkerton's - an agency well known in the investigative world. He decided he wanted to get out on his own so he started his own small time agency.

Most of his work has been typical small time investigative stuff - tailing spouses suspected of cheating, looking for missing people, and stuff like that. But his life is about to change with his next job. He is asked by a rich business man to get information on a prospective business partner. At first it seems to be a simple job but things do not add up. Why is it the successful business man does not use his own private investigator to do the investigation? And why does the other private investigator end up dead?

There are red flags but the PI Devlin who sometimes likes to be called "DEVIL" gets sucked into continuing to work for the rich business man. You see - there is a young beautiful girl involved as well - the rich man's daughter. Devlin tries to keep things professional but can't help wanting to protect her from things that are happening. Things get pretty mixed up when the guy he was investigating also ends up dead and he is hired to protect the rich man's daughter.

Devlin is a pretty interesting person but he by no means is the only one. There are several different story lines blended together and it is one book you should not miss.

Incidentally ... one of the bonuses for me was a mention about Texans. Devlin is telling about the best barbecue Kansas City is known for. He goes as far to say it is probably the best in the world - but he adds - you wouldn't say that if a Texan was around. That tickled me a bit because Texans do have a huge pride. I guess I should know - I'm a Texan.

To learn more about:
The author Willian Topek click here
The publisher ireadiwrite Publishing click here

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Reading Lesson

I recently saw a traffic warning sign and took note of it. It caught my attention because I saw it but I did not at first exactly read it word for word. You may have seen it and I will quote it word for word - WHEN FLOODED TURN AROUND DON'T DROWN. When you know word for word what the sign says it certainly makes sense. But as I was driving along (and flooding was not on my mind due to the current conditions), what I read or comprehended were -WHEN FLOODED DON'T TURN AROUND DROWN. That was what caught my attention. So the next time I passed the sign I paid more attention to it and caught the whole message.

So is this something limited to me - only catching a part of the words when I read? I've discovered through conversations with others that this is not unusual. As a matter of fact I have heard similar observations about the SAME sign.

When we read there are different things that affect how and what we read. That probably explains why there are differences in what we read as well.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


If you recall, I recently discovered I could check out eBooks from my library and get them downloaded to my NOOK. SEE

This presents a question - what happens when my checkout period expires? Well ... the checkout period occurred for the book I checked out. Here is the message I got when I tried to open it- The lending period for this eBook has expired. Earlier, I asked the "friendly" nook expert about how to remove stuff from my nook and he explained it had to be done from the computer (in my case a laptop) in order to prevent accidental removal.

So here is what I did in order to remove the book from my "NOOK".

1 - Connected my NOOK to my laptop.

2 - Went to Internet Explorer, found my nook drive, and opened it up.

3 - clicked on the Digital Editions file folder and displayed it's contents.

4 - Right clicked on the book I wanted to delete and selected the Delete option.

5 - Bingo!!!! It was done.

6 - NOW I just want to make sure I properly disconnect my NOOK from my laptop by first closing Windows Explorer so it is still not using my NOOK. Then I go down and left click to safely remove hardware from my laptop. When it tells me it is safe to remove the device from my computer, I disconnect it from my computer.

BUT WAIT!!! I go to My Documents and it is still listed. I'm a little confused. Then I think to myself, maybe I need to turn off the NOOK and turn it back on??? So I do and 'Viola' - the book is gone. "HooRah!!!"

Incidentally (and in case you are interested), here is a link / help about ADOBE Digital Editions Help.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Announcing February Workshop For Dallas MWASW

POSTPONED DUE TO INCLEMENT WEATHER. This speaker will be rescheduled later.


Join us for our February 5th workshop: "Write Like an Expert." Local, award-winning author Richard Abshire will share his methods on how to write like an expert on any subject. (It's easier than you think!)

The Dallas MWASW group meets the first Saturday of each month at Texas Land & Cattle, 812 South Central Expressway, Richardson , TX 75080 . Meeting time is 9:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. There is a $5.00 door fee, cash only (fives or ones greatly appreciated!) All who attend are invited to remain for lunch. Contact info:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Another Nook Bonus

I recently learned of another bonus with my NOOK.

I work in Garland, TX so I am able to be a patron of Nicholson Memorial Library. (Saying I'm a patron is just another way of saying I have a library card.) They have ebooks that can be checked out on your computer as well as other devices. Guess what? The NOOK is another one of those devices that can be used to read those ebooks.

In General, these are the steps needed to "check out" the book on your NOOK (least this is my experience with an Adobe EPUB book).

1 - From the library of downloadable ebooks, check out / download a book in Adobe EPUB format. NOTE: Here are the general requirements: Must have a library card and a PIN to download the book. Must also have Adobe Digital Editions downloaded.

2 - After downloading the ebook to your pc (and remembering where you downloaded it), open Adobe Digital Editions. Click on the Library "menu" and select "Add Item to Library". (In my case, it opened Explorer and I found and selected the file I downloaded.) This added the ebook to my Adobe Digital Editions Library.

NOW comes the "fun part".

3 - If not connected, connect the NOOK to the PC. When it gets connected it shows up as a bookshelf on Adobe digital Editions "by magic". (Yes there are some things you have to do for the magic to work. It starts when you "register" Adobe Digital Editions. You want to be sure to register it with the same name you used to register your NOOK. If I remember correct, part of the process is also selecting "Authorize Computer" from the Library "menu".)

4 - The next part is simple as "dragging" and "dropping" the ebook from the "gallery" to your NOOK bookshelf - and it loads the ebook to your NOOK.

5 - Once done, I closed Adobe Digital Editions to "terminate" the connection from the software and my NOOK. Then I made sure I did a "safe removal" of the NOOK / USB device from my PC before I disconnected it from the computer.

SUCCESS!!! The book was added to "My Documents" on my NOOK!!!! Woo Hoo!!!!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

FOLLOWUP - Interview of Billy Boyle Author

mr - Thanks for responding to my posting about your book Billy Boyle: A World War II Mystery. And I thought your suggestion of a followup Q&A was great. I enjoyed reading the book and sharing it with other members of the Firewheel Mystery Reading Discussion Group. I've read the second book in the series and will be staring the next book in the series - Blood Alone: A World War II Mystery. How many books do you currently have in this series?

JB - There are currently 5 books in the series. They include: Billy Boyle; The First Wave; Blood Alone; Evil for Evil; and Rag and Bone.

mr - When is the next book coming out in this series and what is it's title?

JB - A Mortal Terror will be released on Sept.1, 2011. It is set mainly in Italy, leading up and including the invasion at Anzio. It deals with a search for a sociopathic killer - on the battlefield. It also deals with the issue of combat fatigue, and how the army did and did not address it.

mr - One of the things I like about being in our Mystery Reading Discussion Group is each member takes turns suggesting an author and book to read. This gives us the opportunity to experience an author we may not be accustomed to. This series is definitely the first I have experienced set in the WWII era. What led you to write about this time period?

JB - As a baby boomer, I grew up with the constant question - what did your dad do in the war? It was so much a part of my childhood that it always seemed close to me. I've always had an interest in history and mysteries, so it seemed like a natural combination. When I started writing the series, there were not many historical mystery series set within WWII - that that now has changed.

mr - One of the things I like to do when reading is getting to know the character. I really like how you have presented the main character - Billy Boyle as well as some of the other characters like Kaz and Daphne. One of our group was a little disappointed that Daphne was killed off. Where do you get the ideas for your characters?

JB - I often get that reaction about Daphne. I think part of that is due to the fact that I didn't plan for her death, so I developed her perhaps more fully than I would have if I knew she was 'expendable'. I realized partway through the manuscript that someone close to Billy had to die to make thing more personal for him (remember the story of his rescue of a girl from a burning home - he didn't think it heroic because he knew her). At first it was going to be Kaz, but then I decided Billy needed a sidekick, and a woman would not always be able to go with him on battlefield assignments. So, poor Daphne was chosen. As to where they come from - 90% my imagination, 10% bits and pieces of people I know. I enjoy creating secondary characters, and I know many readers have come to treasure Billy and the friends he's surrounded himself with.

mr - I understand you were a librarian. I have a deep appreciation of librarians. Did being a librarian play a part in how you got into writing?

JB - No, not directly. But being a library user has definitely. We have a small public library in town and they do a great job of getting me all sorts of odd books on inter-library loan for historical research.

mr - Have you written any other books?

JB - Yes - there are two unpublished works. "On Desperate Ground" is a WWII thriller and "Souvenier" is a study of an American soldier adapting to civilian life after WWII.

mr - I am a reader and as you may be able to tell, I like to read mysteries. I especially like mysteries set in Texas - an area I am familiar with but I have started to appreciate mysteries set in other places (and times) as well. What kind of books do you read? And do you have a favorite author?

JB - That's a tough one, because so much of my reading is taken up with research, which leaves me little time for pleasure reading - an odd situation for a librarian/writer! But I recently discovered, as part of my research on the current manuscript, an autobiography by Sterling Hayden - "Wanderer". Hayden was a reluctant actor, and preferred sailing and adventure to Hollywood. He served in the OSS in Italy and Yugoslavia (that's the connection) during the war, and his book is quite well done. A unique character, one of a kind.

JB - As for mysteries, the first ones I read were by Arthur Conan Doyle and Dorothy L. Sayers. For contemporary stuff, I have great admiration for Robert B. Parker. Even though his work became a bit repetitive, he made concise dialog and narrative look simple - which is not the case at all. I think his stature will grow even more now that he's gone.

mr - Is there anything else you would like to share with me and the readers of my blog?

JB - I've attached the cover art, just received, for A Mortal Terror. One of the best yet!

JB - Now, back to work on the manuscript for Death's Door - the 2012 release.

mr - Thanks again for the time you've taken to answer my questions. As you can see, I used the cover art for your new book as part of this post. I will check out more of your books.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Reading and Old Friends

"Old friends?" you say. Yes - not literally but figuratively. Let me explain. Jack Reacher is a fictional character in a series written by Lee Child. It has been a little while since I last read one of the books with him in it - that is how I became acquainted with him. So when I picked up and started reading 61 Hours, as I was reading the book I had a feeling of seeing an old friend again.

If you know anything about Jack Reacher though you would probably consider it somewhat unlikely about being an "old friend". Why? Because Jack Reacher has been a transient since he left the military and does not settle in any one place long enough to develop lasting relationships. He is pretty much a loner.

But being a reader, you sometimes develop kind of a relationship with some of the characters you read about. That is why I consider Jack Reacher as an "old friend".

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

MRD Reads Billy Boyle a WWII Mystery

The January selection for our Mystery Reading Discussion Group at Firewheel Barnes and Noble for January was by a new author for our group. The author is James R. Benn and he is not really a new author but was new to most of us. The book we read was the first book in the series and it is called Billy Boyle: A World War II Mystery.

There were 5 of us in attendance for the discussion and the vote was three liked the book, one was undecided, and one did not particularly care for it. Incidentally, another member who did not attend tonight indicated she liked the book as well - even though one of the characters she enjoyed was murdered in the book.

Billy Boyle just recently became a detective in the Boston Police Department. With the entrance of the US into the war, he manages to get sent to England to be a part of General Eisenhower's / Uncle Ike's staff. As a new and inexperienced detective, he is a little surprised when he is tasked to find a traitor in the war. On top of that he gets pulled into the investigation of the death of a foreign government official. He has to learn first hand how to conduct an investigation.

This was a very interesting story and I enjoyed the time period (and location) it was set in. Incidentally, I also read the next book in the series as well. It was called The First Wave. I know there are other books in the series by the author as well. If you want to learn more about the author, you might want to check out his website at I will be looking forward to reading other books by the author.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Richard Mabry and Robert Whitlow

I tried some new authors out - Richard Mabry and Robert Whitlow.

I discovered Richard Mabry who has a medical background first. His books are centered in one of the places I like best - Texas. I read two of his books - Code Blue and Medical Error. They are part of a series called Prescription for Trouble. At first I did not know what to expect. I learned they are typically referred to as Christian Fiction and there was some evidence in the stories. These were not hardcore Christian books - by this I mean it does not push the Bible down your throat. I would call them good presentation of moral lessons. On top of them occurring in Texas, there was also a suspense / mystery feel to the books - and this is one of the types of books I like to read. They were the kind of stories that are clean - the type I know my mother appreciates. Incidentally..., I have no problem reading them either.

The other author I read - Robert Whitlow has a background in law and the book I read is called Deeper Water. It is part of a series called the Tides of Truth. I discovered this was another book that falls under the classification of Christian Fiction. It was apparent this was written by a different author than the other two book I mentioned earlier. There was more "preaching" in this book but it did not ruin the story. As in the other two books, there was a good moral presentation and it also had a suspense / mystery feel to it. Again, I know this is the kind of book my mom would like to read and I have no qualms about reading these types of books every once in a while. It provides a nice change.