Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Scrambling to Keep Up and Still Relax

Beautiful weather for driving along
 scenic roads from village to village.

We love going through these small
villages.
We arrived in Galicia exactly a week today, in the evening, and have fallen under its spell, as we always do. I'm behind in everything, including a book review I've been promising of an utterly wonderful book, Nancy Herman's, All We Left Behind. Be patient, folks, it's coming.


But it has felt great to just relax after the hectic days leading up to our trip -- the bathroom remodel, putting the house back together before our trip, the book signing at Time Tested Books (a delightful evening), and setting up other book signings after we return. When we got to Galicia, we just gave into the trance of taking long walks and long drives for photo shoots, visiting friends and neighbors. We've been blessed with beautiful sunny days, although it's been a little windy at times, and at times there has been the usual sprinkle of rain. And at this time of year, the countryside abounds with wild broom, whole fields of it.


Add caption
Brilliant yellow sprays of it, everywhere. And on the roadsides, buttercups, Queen Anne's lace, small, magenta thistles, purple foxglove, fields of white daisies, tiny blue forget-me-nots, and rose-colored alfalfa, and the all pervasive greenery.


Cuckoos call, and you see the flash of black and white wings of the magpies. And in Tuiriz, near the church, two stork nests rise atop poles that seem to be their designated area. Originally they built their nest on the church steeple. Meanwhile, nearby, around the corner from our house, Eva's chickens peck the corn she gives them that is responsible for the brilliant gold of their eggs.

Still, around all the tranquility, this is a working vacation for me, and I will be back to work on my cozy mystery re-write starting this afternoon, and a book review will soon follow this post.

Also, please check out Rosi Hollinbeck's interview with me, review of my book, Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, and a giveaway, on her blog, THE WRITE STUFF. In addition to interviews and book reviews of children's books, Rosi provides wonderful links to other blogs sites with information on the writing process, writing career issues, contests, etc. She offers a banquet of information at her site. Go HERE to see what I mean.

But for now, a second cup of coffee, and one last view out the galería window before I get to work.




Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Today I'm at Teresa Cypher's wonderful blog, Dreamers, Lovers, and Star Voyagers, doing a guest post about persistence in her "Tuesday Two Cents' Worth" column.

Teresa's blog has a variety of features, including her Weekend Writing Warriors hop, where writers share 8 sentences of something they've written, published or unpublished. She also provides a great list of writer resources in the margin.


To hop on over and look around, click HERE.


              

Friday, May 1, 2015

Time Tested Books and a Book Signing


Wednesday I had a book signing at my favorite bookstore, Time Tested Books, on 21st Street, between K and L. It's a marvelous place. I have spent hours and hours through the years, browsing the wonderful selections. I never leave a bookstore empty-handed, but I usually leave this one with an armful of books. The owner, Peter Keat, always can find what I'm looking for. His staff, Finian and Mazelle, are the same. All the books are nicely organized, and the atmosphere is gracious. It's a great place for a book lover to hang out. Once my husband even phoned me there, because he knew where I'd be when I didn't come home from one of my walks. (For a sampler of what to find, read some of the reviews on Yelp, HERE. )

So when I learned Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls was going to be published in June, I knew exactly where I wanted to have my book signing. MX Publishing sends exclusive shipments to independent booksellers who give pre-publishing signings. The signing went very well. I'll skip now to pictures of the evening. An evening of great fun, I have to add. It felt like one big party! You can see in the background what a great bookstore this. (Side note: MX specializes in Sherlock Holmes-related books, so if you're a Sherlockian, you can find lots of good reads HERE. )

This is Maddy. She was the perfect Imogene! 
 On the right, (your right) is Maddy Johnson, the actress who started in the trailer everyone liked. In the picture below is her father, Steve Johnson, who put the trailer together. Steve is a magician and has a wonderful magic-and-costume shop in Carmichael, Grand Illusions. Want some magic tricks? Wand a magician at your party? Need a costume? You can learn more about Grand Illusions HERE
And this is her father, Steve Johnson, who made the trailer

Friends and neighbors

Fellow teachers and writers

\
JaNay and Rosi, fellow writers. JaNay
wrote the fantastic PB, Imani's Moon.
Between them, Julie, with whom I
used to teach. Next to Rosi, Bob,
from a former group. In front, one of
my art students, Miranda. 

Nancy, David, & Naomi were in a
former writing group. Nancy is in one
of my current groups. She wrote All
We Left Behind, which I'm reviewing
 next week. Naomi's book, Landfalls,
is coming out in August.


Then there were my super cool
teacher friends from Elder Creek,
where I used to teach.


Next to Rosi, another writing group
member, Paddy, and her two boys.
Super-teacher Julie at the right.
In pink, our fabulous house-sitter, Dana.
She's going to have a little boy, soon.
Next to her, in maroon, Bethany, a school
librarian who's had kind things to say
about Imogene. 


Erica (tallest) and Vanessa
are wonderful artists in my art
class. Sofia is still too young,
but I hope she'll join in the future
Even my dentist came! (green shirt). That was so kind of him.
And Kari (wearing cap; hubby Bill by her side) organized my
school visit to Matsuyama Elementary School, April 17.
That was another wonderful event. The kids were super! 

And there you have it! A wonderful evening, surrounded by books and friends in a wonderful location, with my wonderful husband taking pictures. What more could you ask?

Meanwhile, check out the links above, and come back next week for my review of Nancy Herman's book, All We Left Behind, a deeply moving story about the Donner party, through the eyes of Virginia Reed.

Monday, April 20, 2015

An Interview with Caroline Stellings

Author extraordinaire . . .

I became acquainted with Caroline Stellings through a review I wrote of her book, The Manager, an engrossing tale about boxing with quirky, captivating characters. You can read the review at The Children's Book Review HERE .  The Children's Book Review is an award winning, online, book review site endorsed last year by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.  
          The Manager, published by Cape Breton University Press in 2013, is a young adult novel that won the Hamilton Literary Award for Fiction.  Carolyn Stellings' middle-grade novel The Contest (published in the USA by Seventh Generation) won the ForeWord Book of the Year gold medal in 2010. Her teen mystery, The Scratch on the Ming Vase -- which I'm reading right now and loving -- was published by Second Story Press and was included in the Canadian Children's Book CenCentre's 2013 Spring edition of  Best Books for Kids and Teens . She also writes and illustrates picture books.

Humor and boxing . . .

Anne of Green Gables,
look out!

First in an exciting mystery
series . . .




It’s my pleasure to have this award-winning author as my interview guest today. I’ll get right to it:


EV: Have you always been interested in writing? When did you first get into it seriously?
CS: Well, it was nearly 20 years ago, and I was in a PhD program at McMaster University, but stumbled upon a book about the life of the famous illustrator from Vermont, Tasha Tudor. She, of course, has done numerous stories about her corgies, and I decided then and there to quit the academics and write books about my dogs, which have always been Schipperkes. These are little black sailing dogs from Belgium, and very smart. First, though, I had to learn how to do watercolors.

EV: You write both YA fiction and picture books. Do you favor one of them over the other, or do you enjoy them equally?
CS: I love the picture books because they feature animal characters, not only my Schipperkes, but I have also done a series of mice books, and recently, my book about a fortune-telling cat, Gypsy’s Fortune (published by Peanut Butter Press) was chosen as a Best Bet in Canada, one of the top ten picture books of the year. I think everyone liked the traditional fortune cookie sayings! Novels are more difficult, but I have enjoyed doing a mystery series because I am a big fan of Nancy Drew.

EV: Do you approach the two genres differently? If so, what are some special challenges of each?
CS: The biggest challenge with the picture books, for me, is the art. I was not lucky enough to be born with artistic talent; in fact, it took me years to learn to paint. With the novels, the challenges come at that stage when the publisher assigns an editor. She then goes over the book piece by piece, and there is a lot of re-writing to do. 
          With The Secret of the Golden Flowerthe second book in my Nicki Haddon mystery series, my wonderful editor really worked hard to get it right. Nicki, the main character, is a female Chinese James Bond, and anytime a book has a number of clues, etc. the editing can take almost as much time as writing the book in the first place.

EV: Do you have any favorites among the books you’ve written?
CS: My two Skippers books, Skippers at Cape Spear and Skippers Save the Stone because they are about my dogs.

EV: Can you describe your writing process? Do you plot ahead of time? Become haunted by a theme or idea? Start with a character and then see where that leads?
CS: It usually takes me a few months to decide on my next project. Those are the months when my house is the cleanest, because I find it easier to wash floors than face the blank page. Once an idea hits, then my house isn’t so clean, because I can’t tear myself away from the computer.
         I always seem to know what my ending will be, and then I sketch out a basic plot, and a few sentences for each chapter. This inevitably changes, of course, once the characters start developing minds of their own and bossing me around.
         Sometimes, a book requires research. With The Manager I had to learn about boxing. Even though the book is a comedy, and boxing is just in the background, I still had to know it, right down to the last jab.

EV: The research really showed. I felt the world of boxing come alive when I read it. What was your inspiration for The Manager?
CS: One hot summer night, when I couldn’t sleep, I watched a movie called The Station Agent starring Peter Dinklage, an achondroplastic dwarf, and a fantastic actor. I fell in love with him, and decided I had to write a YA novel with a dwarf character. I wound up with a female lead, but never stopped thinking about that film. Nothing much happens in that film, but thanks to the superb actors, it haunts you for a long time.

EV: What were some of your favorite books while growing up?
CS; The Wind in the Willows was my favorite illustrated book, and then Nancy Drew when I was a bit older. Later, of course, it was Tasha Tudor’s books, and Corgiville Fair is a masterpiece.

EV: What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
CS: I keep this piece of advice on a sticky note on the front of my computer at all times: SOMEONE MUST WANT SOMETHING ON EVERY PAGE. 

EV: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
CS: 1.) Don’t invent a book, experience a book and then write it.  2.) Don’t tell the reader anything; make the reader feel everything instead.

EV: What are you working on now, or can you say?
CS: I am starting a western, set in 1857 Utah Territory. Because I must learn the time period, speech, clothing, etc. I am taking longer than usual with the preparatory stages, but enjoying it. And I hope to begin editing a novel I have written about Janis Joplin called Saskatoon Blues. She came to Canada just before she died in 1970 to ride the Festival Express, and when the musicians aboard the train ran out of liquor, they made an unscheduled stop in Saskatchewan. That is where my story begins!  There‘s only one problem with writing about Janis Joplin – she steals every scene she is in!

EV: Ah . . . Janis Joplin. I can believe she would. When oldies-but-goodies come on my car's radio, she outshines all the other singers the DJ plays.

Caroline. It’s been such a pleasure to learn more about you and your work. Thank you for sharing all this.

Thank you so much, Elizabeth!

EV: Readers can find more about Caroline Stellings and her books at:





Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Student Art Show - At Last




          I promised pictures of my students' art exhibit, and here they finally are. The exhibit went up March 14th, and it's coming down tomorrow so that I can pass back the art pieces Thursday (our last class this year.) The art club is one of the great joys of my life, and I am especially grateful to the South Natomas Community Center on Truxel (Sacramento) for supporting these classes, and to University Art Store on J and 26th Streets for holding the exhibit this year. We had a little reception on the opening day (punch and cookies) and whole families turned out to see it. The students are normally 8-to-12-year-olds, but this year I had one 7-year-old and two 13-year-olds.    
          Enjoy: (I've only named the artists - all others are "sib", "sis", parent, etc.)

Danielle, Edgar & their father

Claire (center), mother & grandm.

Karla (center) with sib & friend

Yaritza (right) w. mother & sibs.

Antonio (2nd fr.  left) w. parents & sibs.



Kailee (right),  mother & sis

Maya (in red), Ella ( in pink), parents 

Brennan and mother

Angeline (center), parents, sibs,
and grandmother

Savannah (center), mother (right), and
Emily (left) 
Miranda and mother

Madison (2nd from right) and mother
(next to her), grandmother & sib.

Kiley and mother

Ian (left), sis, and father.
(Older sis, Kate, artist, was absent)
Erica (in red), Vanessa (in front of her),
mother (right) grandmother (left) and
youngest sister.
Kiley (left), Emma, (middle),
and Madison (right)


Alyssa and father

Reina (right) sisters and mother

And that's it -- for another year.
I hope you enjoyed
meeting them and
seeing their work.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Police Procedure & Investigation - A Must-Read Handbook for Mystery Writers


This book is part of the
Writer's Digest Howdunit
Series.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve joined Sisters in Crime and the local chapter, Capitol Crimes. The local chapter meets monthly, and each month guest speakers share their expertise in either writing mysteries or being connected in some way to concerns of the mystery writer. One such concern is always whether a writer is presenting crime scenes or police procedures that are accurate. Last month we were fortunate to have Lee Lofland, the author of Police Procedure & Investigation, as our guest speaker, and he addressed those very concerns. 

Lee Lofland is a former police detective, and the bad news is that much of what you see on your favorite crime show is misleading and/or inaccurate. His book, on the other hand, is a very thorough coverage of everything an author would want to ask their local police department. Blurbs by best-selling mystery writers (including two of my favorites, Rhys Bowen and Hallie Ephron) give his book high praise, and I was pleased to find that the writing – entertaining and sobering by turns – is always a good read. He presents facts that you really want to know in a way that don’t make your eyes glaze over. A few examples:
The difference between police officers and detectives; how they’re trained; what they do.  
Arrest and search procedures.
The differences between homicide, murder, and manslaughter.
The difference between a crime scene and the scene of the crime.
DNA and fingerprinting
What can send you to prison and what can send you to jail.
A section on different drugs and the effects of each one.
Differences in weapons (with photos) and how they work

The book’s appendices include a glossary of terms, police 10 codes, a drug quantity table, and a federal sentencing table. It isn’t necessary to read this book straight through, chapter by chapter. There’s a thorough index that helps when you just want to look up something useful at that moment in your writing, along with good visual aids (charts, diagrams, photos of tools, etc.) throughout the book. This is a must read for any mystery writer who wants their police procedural scenes to ring with accuracy.

Lee also shared with us the Writers’ Police Academy, held in August in Appleton, Wisconsin. Yes, there really is such a thing. You can register now and have hands on experiences that will enhance your scenes. For more information about what is covered, check out their website HERE  .

Lee’s book is available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon HERE .

You can contact the Lee Lowland at his website, The Graveyard Shift, HERE, and learn even more about police work to enrich your mysteries from his frequent blog posts.  
The author and friendly officer.

A must have book.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Samuel Craddock Mystery Series

Book Three in the series
I’m always looking for new mystery authors. (New to me, that is. Some of my discoveries have actually been publishing for awhile before I’ve discovered their books.) Last spring, when I attended a panel to listen to four mystery authors talk about their writing, one of the authors was Terry Shames. Since then, I’ve had the good fortune to get hooked on her Samuel Craddock series, based in a fictional small Texas town called Jarrett Creek.

I started with book one, A Killing at Cotton Hill, because I like to see how an author jump starts their series. I liked it so much that next I had to read The Last Death of Jack Harbin. I’ve just finished her third in the series, Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek (shown here), and I’m already looking forward to her fourth, A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge, which comes out next month. But you don’t really have to read them in order to enjoy them. Each story is complete in itself and the author deftly slips in back story and characters' gossip and memories so that you feel like you know these people right away.

The main character, Samuel Craddock, a retired police chief, is a widower who lives on a small acreage at the edge of town, and has a kindly affection for his cows. He grew up in Jarrett Creek, but developed a taste for fine art through his deceased wife. As a result, he has an  enviable art collection on his walls, a collection fraught with memory, since he and his wife purchased many of the paintings together.
Craddock is a an affable sleuth, full of homegrown wisdom and sterling character virtues. He can be firm when he needs to be, and while his manner is encouraging and disarming as he makes his enquiries, he doesn’t miss a thing. He often reflects on the other characters' lives, the locals he grew up with. His voice is so authentic, I can almost hear him when I read his narrative (which is in present tense, a tense that works very well in these mysteries).
The cluster of characters Samuel deals with are also three dimensional, with voices of their own, each one a memorable personality. To name a few: Loretta, Craddock’s neighbor and friend who brings him baked goods and gossip almost daily (and tries to pry out of him facts about the current case). Jenny, a lawyer and a good friend with whom Craddock dines out occasionally -- solely for companionship, as he is still grieving his wife.
And, of course, the current police chief, Rodell Skinner: self-important, lazy, spending more time at the bar than the police station. Because of Skinner’s alcohol problems, the townspeople have more confidence in Craddock than in him. Consequently, Samuel is the one they turn to when something goes wrong. In Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek, Skinner’s drying out, so once again Craddock has to solve the case.

The series is set in Jarrett Creek, a marvelously drawn small town with just the beginnings of suburbs. A few farms outside the town. A main street with family businesses. The local high school. The town hall. The café in town, called, appropriately, Town Café. The bank. The various churches. The town jail. I leave these books feeling I know this place. It feels familiar, as if I’ve been there personally, even though the place is a pure work of fiction.


Best of all, these plots are true puzzle mysteries, and Shames weaves the threads of clues back and forth with expertise. As Craddock ruminates on facts he unearths while interviewing people connected to the case, each person becomes a believable suspect until the very end. And the ending is always satisfying, evoking that combined response: “Huh? Oh. Of Course!”

I’ve posted the book cover of Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek, but you can find all of her books on Amazon HERE   

Her Website is  http://www.terryshames.com . If you hurry over and subscribe to her newsletter before Apri1 1, you have a chance to win a  copy of A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge.

You can also visit Terry Shames on Facebook HERE and follow her on Twitter HERE

Terry Shames

Win a copy of this.