Enjoy some Mayhem & Magic!

Our blog is meant to evoke fun with the magic of myths, folklore, movies and the mayhem of murder and madness. We have to keep it interesting so if you like different genres of movies and books then you're at the right blog. Our authors are a wide range of experts and our readers know what is top of the line in their favorite genres. Sometimes we post recipes that might be fun to try if a culinary author has one in her book that we think is especially yummy or one that Terri and I have created and want to share with you. Enjoy Guest Blogger Alice Duncan's monthly muse on her books and writing mysteries.

Plus you won't want to miss our book reviews, author interviews or our guest bloggers. So grab your favorite beverage then join us for some magic and mayhem! The good news is that you don't have to leave the house or your comfy chair. We have something for everyone's taste and every month we have a different topic for our bloggers: ones we feel that might be useful in your own writing and reader points of view. Not to mention, life in general. So join us and be sure to have a notebook handy as your to-be-read pile will grow as you add books, recipes, movies and t.v. series you won't want to miss. Not to mention folktales, myths or ideas you may wish to explore. Be careful what you wish for because on mayhemandmagic2 you just might find it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

An Interview with Carola Dunn

An Interview by Pamela James

MM: Carola, where do you write your books?

My first I wrote at the kitchen table. I've had dedicated office in the house for decades now. I have a big window looking down the garden and a good view of the bird feeders—without which I might write faster...

MM: Why, when, where and how did you begin writing your books?

I'd had lots of part-time and temp jobs while my son was small and we were moving often. When at last we settled down, in 1979, my (now ex) husband wanted me to get a "proper" job. At the same time, I'd read and reread Georgette Heyer's books so many times I knew what was coming on the next page; I read some  newly published Regencies and decided I could do at least as well, and trying would postpone the job hunt.

I wrote longhand. Having to my surprise actually finished a manuscript, I thought I might as well try to get it published. Once I'd typed it up, I sent out queries with 3 chapters (not the first 3; the how-to book I consulted just said 3 so I picked what I considered the best). A couple of rejections and three requests for the rest of the ms—and I got an offer remarkably quickly.

Having sold one, of course I had to write another... In the end I wrote 32 full-length Regencies and about a dozen novellas, all now available as ebooks. Then I turned to mystery. The Daisy Dalrymple mysteries, set in England in the 1920s, now number 22, and there are 3 Cornish mysteries out.

MM: 2016 is here what are your writing plans?

I finished my 4th Cornish Mystery, Buried in the Country, in December and I've already started on the next Daisy mystery.

MM: On a personal note. Be our tour guide and tell us about the attractions of where you live and why you like living there?

After growing up in England and living in Southern California for many years, I moved to Eugene, Oregon, nearly 25 years ago, the longest I've ever lived anywhere.

Oregon is a beautiful state with a stunning coastline, mountains, rivers, lakes, and high desert all easily accessible from Eugene. Some special places are Crater Lake, Mount Hood, the Columbia Gorge, the Painted Hills, the John Day Fossil Beds, and extraordinary lava formations. Most of the time, though, I'm quite satisfied with my daily walk (with dog) by the Willamette River in Eugene.

It's not true that "old Oregonians never die, they only rust away," but we do have high rainfall in winter. The climate is quite like England's. That's what keeps it so green.

For a mid-size city, Eugene supports an excellent symphony orchestra and classical music station, essentials to my life. The city library is good—another necessity. The presence of the University of Oregon is another plus.

Eugene is a friendly, laid-back place. After 20 years in ever-more-crowded Southern California (and more sun than I, as a redhead, can cope with) , I love it here.

MM: Do you ever binge watch some of your favorite shows, movies or read some of your favorite series? If so which ones do you watch and read?

I don't have a TV so no shows or movies. I like to reread books, especially mysteries, written in the periods I write about. A first reading is for the story and characters. On rereading, I'm more interested in the period details and "zeitgeist", and the way the mystery is constructed.

Apart from those, books I regularly reread are The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Lord of the Rings, and all of Jane Austen.

MM: What is one of your favorite meals and dessert?

Top meal: Indian restaurant buffet. Top dessert: my mother's hazelnut torte, which is a hazelnut meringue sandwiched with raspberries and whipped cream. Neither for frequent consumption!

MM: Do you like to cook or bake?

Not much into cooking. I like baking but do it infrequently as I also like to eat the products.

MM: What is your favorite part of being an author?

Hearing from happy readers! I especially like letters/messages/whatever from people who have found escape from their troubles in my books.

MM: Do you belong to any writer's groups? What are some of your favorite conventions? How about bookstores and places to autograph your books?

I belong to Sisters in Crime. My favourite convention is Left Coast Crime, smaller and friendlier than Bouchercon.

I pretty much stick to the West Coast for signings: Seattle Mystery Bookshop, Mystery Ink, Mysterious Galaxy, and Bob's Beach Books on the Oregon Coast. So many favourites have closed, alas.

MM: What is the strangest writing question you were ever asked?

I don't remember any particularly strange questions. The strangest letter I've ever received was from a woman who was all het up about one of my Regencies, saying she'd never read another because of the degenerate morals of the hero of that book. Further correspondence elicited that she hadn't actually read the book (A Susceptible Gentleman). She was basing her opinion on the description on the back cover, which I hadn't written. Back cover blurbs are notoriously inaccurate and hyped up. At that point I gave up trying to explain.

MM: They say it takes a village to become a published author. Who is in your village?

For the first book, a supportive husband, a friend who offered to type the manuscript, and another friend who had a book about how to submit to publishers and  what to expect of a contract. (I didn't have a typewriter and I'd never taken any creative writing classes nor read any how-to books.)

Since then, I've had loads of help from all sorts of people. I find as soon as I say I'm researching for a mystery/crime fiction, most are happy to answer questions on their area of expertise.

MM: What was your most perfect writing day?

The most perfect day is the day my editor tells me the "delivery and acceptance" cheque is on the way!

MM: Leave us with some words of wisdom by your protagonist?

Both Daisy and Eleanor would say, "If you expect to like the people you meet and treat them that way, most people will turn out to be likable."

Facebook: personal page + Carola Dunn Author, Daisy Dalrymple, Cornish Mysteries, and RegenciesByCarolaDunn.

Review: Wedding Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke

Hannah Swensen is getting married. Hannah thinks that marrying Ross Barton is long overdue since he was her college crush.
Hannah is also going to New York City for the food Channel's Dessert Competition. This is all very exciting and when Ross can join her in New York City she can't think of anything fulfilling and wonderful to happen to her. What's even better is that her little sister Michelle will be joining her as her assistant in the competition.
To top all of this off Hannah's Aunt Nancy knows one of the judges and is quick to give Hannah and Michelle the inside scoop on what he likes and doesn't like in the food and presentation.
Better yet Mike and Norman like Ross and have known him as long as Hannah has known Ross Moishe her cat even loves Ross although everyone knows that Moishe also loves Norman and his cat.
Life couldn't be sweeter and Hannah is finally happy to take her slice of life and happiness.
However sooner rather than later the judge and Chef Hannah was happy to get kudos from is murdered. Michelle finds the body and Hannah knows on many levels and for many reasons she has to solve this murder.
She doesn't want her honeymoon haunted by nightmares and visions of murder.
Everyone in Lake Eden Minnesota knows Hannah can win the competition and solve the murder. She doesn't know how but Hannah is a multitasker and will find a way to solve the murder and whip wonderful desserts.
Did I mention the shows, the wedding and Lake Eden is being taped live?
There is not room for anything to go wrong/.
At least Hannah doesn't have to worry about the wedding, her mother, other sister Andrea, Lisa her business partner and a few close friends are seeing to the wedding. Hannah does have to try on wedding dresses and make time to follow the scent of murder.

I have to say this is a very fun book in the series to read. this has been the book I have waited on and it doesn't disappoint anyone.
So many fun tidbits and I love Hannah's clothes.
If you want a cozy to fit the month of June, a wedding mystery and a culinary delight of a book you can't miss reading this book.
The recipes are to die for and I have to say I am going to try to make a couple of these no fail recipes.
Joanne Fluke knows how to keep me turning the page on murder, mayhem and family.
Reviewed by Pamela James
Library copy --hardback.

Friday, May 20, 2016

An Interview with Miss Willie

Interview with Miss Willie

MM: Willie give us the backstory on when and how you became the Parsons Public Library Children’s Librarian?
WM: I became the Children’s Librarian in October 2008.

MM: What changes have you seen happen in the children’s library through the years?
WM: The children’s room have two internet computers instead of one internet computer in order for the children to use one of the internet computer they and a parent or guardian must first sign an internet agreement. Also have an education game computer and ABC mouse is install on the internet computers. The children or a parent can check out a Launch Pad Tablet that they can only use in the library. The children room has a music keyboard that they can play. The children’s room has a pet bird named Tweety.

MM: What fall events do you have planned for the children?
WM: Children’s Book and Movie Discussion for ages 8 to 11 we just finish The Chronicle of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis. I do some Family Morning Movies for when the children are out of school. Also did easy knitting with straws.

MM: What are some of the most popular children’s books in the different age groups?
WM: Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell
Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne
Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park
Thomas the Train by Awdry
Pinkalicous by Victoria Kann
Anything Star Wars
Look and Find Books

MM: Winter is coming up and I bet you have a lot of good things happening for this winter?
WM: Children’s Book and Movie Discussion for ages 8 to 11 we are going to do Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers, and The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. A new club called Bedtime Math’s Crazy 8s Club that will meet once a week after school there will be two age groups K-2nd and 3rd-5th grade. A new program called 1000 books before kindergarten. Will have a couple of family morning movies for when the children or out of school and also some children crafting programs.

MM: Okay for some fun get to know you questions. What is your favorite meal, movies, dessert, holiday, place to vacation and song/s?
WM: My favorite meal which I don’t get to often is T-bone steak, crab legs, shrimp, bake potato, salad, and Texas toast.
My favorite movies are Magic Mike XXL, The Longest Ride, The Avengers, and watching the Rio movies with my nephew.
My favorite dessert is chocolate cake with peanut butter icing but mostly anything that is chocolate.
My favorite holidays are Christmas and the Fourth of July.
My favorite place to vacation still dreaming of going to Jamaica. Pretty much anywhere I go as long as it’s not in the state of Kansas.
My favorite songs  Still Standing by Monica, Stay Down by Mary J. Blige, Trust and Believe by Keyshia Cole, Successful by Trey Songz, Let Me Love You by Mario, and Suffocate by J. Holiday

MM: Be our tour guide and tell what you like about living in Parsons and southeast Kansas?
WM: Why I like living in Parsons the town is small easy to get around not a lot of traffic and most of all my family is here.

MM: What do you read when you’re not reading young adult or children’s books? As an Adult do you have favorite adult authors whose books you like to read?
WM: No I don’t have a favorite author it just depend on what kind of mood I’m in and what catches my eye at the movement. Right now I’m reading The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Jo Ann Fluke. This is the first book in the Hannah Swenson series that was put up on the Hallmark Movie and Mysteries channel that I start to watch and was unable to watch the rest of the movie so I decide to read the book to see how it ends. So right now I’m hooked on this author and I plan to read the rest of this series.

MM: Do you have some favorite workshops or conferences you like to attend?
WM: I look forward to the summer reading workshops and the summer reading craft workshops these workshops help me to plan my summer reading programs. I enjoy going to workshops and conferences that are gear towards the youth.

MM: Can you share with us some of the themes for 2016?
WM: The 2016 summer reading theme for children is On Your March Get Set Read!

MM: Lastly what are you looking forward to in 2016?
WM: The summer reading program and the Bathtime Math’s Crazy 8’s programs. Mostly just looking forward to have fun with the children and having fun and exciting programs that the children will enjoy.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Jeopardy Blog by Pamela James

If you have not watched Jeopardy this is the week to start tune to this wonderful game show.
This week is "Power Week set in Washington DC" and I thought last week was good with the teachers week. It was also in DC but I digress this week we have had a riot a minute and a lot of knowledge has been passed around.

First we have had Anderson Cooper let me tell you he is so much fun. We have had Louie CK who by the way won last night on the show. There have been CNN Morning Show Hosts, Washington Post Reporters and the ex-republican party chairman etc... that is glad he is the ex-party head.

If you have a teen you should watch this with them. It will be fodder for many discussions and open doors for around the breakfast or supper table.

The categories wonderful there is history, politics, books, novelist, vintage movie characters and movie titles. Science, Math, History, English and Literature. More topics than I have the memory to mention.

Please DVR it or tune in because you won't be sorry and Alex has been thrown in his reaction a few times this week.
Such as when he asked a sports question and one of the contestants said "No we don't do sports, we are the geeks." It was great because she meant it and none of the three knew the answer. Which by the way was Came Newton.

My library trip blog by Pamela James

A few days ago I made a library trip. Here is what I walked away with on this last trip.
1. WDDING CAKE MURDER by Joanne Fluke and this is the book I have been waiting to read. I am not done with the book but the premise is that Hannah is getting married, going to be in a food channel network contest and a whole host of other things are happening it really is a page-turner.
2. THE LAST GOODBYE by Reed Arvin this one is a mainstream legal thriller. I haven't cracked the spine on this one must read faster this week.
3. OFFER OF PROOF by Robert Heilbrun and this is another legal thriller and I have not read it yet....
4. READING UP a STORM by Eva Gates and I am busy reading this one in the library lighthouse series. I love this book and since tornado and storm season is upon us in Kansas this book in the series fits right in with my mood and weather. Not finished with the book but should finish it this week.
5. HOME BY NIGHTFALL BY Charles Finch this is an historical mystery series to die for...and there are not one but two mysteries to solve. one in London and one in the country and a small village so needless to say besides a huge case there is another case that is also turning bigger by the minute. 1876 is going to be a big year for murder just ask Charles Lenox.

I have bought a few other books from the library table but I am giving those as gifts for Birthday and Christmas which means I can't say anything because the person I will give them to is on our blog.

I hope you will add the books I listed to your to-be-read list as I can't believe I hit the jackpot.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

TV Review: The Family

Joan Allen stars as the town Mayor and family Matriarch who is running for state Govenor.  After ten years, their missing son, Adam shows up after escaping his captivity.  The family struggles with the past and present trying to cope with all that has happened amidst a political campaign run by their daughter played wonderfully by Allison Pill.  The series is full of twists, turns, machinations, and betrayals and secrets.  Relationships are tested and the investigation is led by a detective trying to deal with the fact she got it wrong.  Finally, there is the man who spent 10 years in prison played by Andrew McCarthy who returns as a pariah despite having not committed the crime.  I liked the complexities of the characters and the cast was superb together.  (It was funny hearing Rupert Graves with an American accent after Sherlock).  They had me all the way until the end and I was completely satisfied until the last ten minutes with the 'phone call that changed everything'.  At which point I was disgusted and deeply disappointed.  I felt it was completely unnecessary to the story arc and a blatant bid for a second season (which it did NOT get).


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Review: And She Was by Alison Gaylin

Brenna Spector has an unusual neurological syndrome which makes her remember everything.  One of the interesting things about this book, is we get to see a bit of how this works in her internal dialogue.  A disappearing child in the past and woman in the present make a complex investigation for her and Detective Morasco who is working with her.

Her disorder makes it challenging for her in her work and personal life but also makes for an interesting story.

I liked the complexity of the mystery and the characters.


Review: The LaSalle Street Murders by Carol Sissom

I can understand the author's fascination with the case and her interest in investigating it.  That said, her investigation was highly flawed and her reporting very unprofessional.  She says upfront the book is about her and her experience talking with the man she identified as the killer.  The thing is, she had a very weird relationship with him which she says was to draw him out and get more information and maybe a confession from him.  She repeatedly lambastes the DA for not prosecuting but from what she presented in the book, the evidence was mostly hearsay and speculation.  Many wild theories involving Hoffa and the White House sound titillating but don't have proof to back them up.  

One of the things I found really annoying, was her going on the talk show circuit with her theories and stories and then wondering why the DA was so upset.  She also had a childish tantrum when the DA demanded her diaries, but since she had been writing down her conversations with the alleged killer every day, that seems obvious that they would be considered evidence.

Who knows, maybe he was the guy but this book didn't prove it.

On a positive note, it was a very quick read!


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

An Interview with Stuart Jaffe

MM: Stuart give us the backstory on your writing career?
SJ: Wow, that’s a long story. :) I’ve been writing for close to 20 years now. I spent about 10 years writing short stories, built up a healthy resume of publications, got an agent, and started writing novels. Then my career hit a bizarre wall -- well, bizarre for anybody that doesn’t know a writer. My agent took my books to all the majors, usually to an editor fairly high up, and the response always came back -- we love Stuart’s writing, we love his characters and ideas, love his story, love, love, love ... we’re not going to buy it. Ugh! Sadly, I’m not the only writer to experience this. I hit my head against that wall for several years and considered quitting, but then self-publishing became a viable thing, so I thought I’d give it a try. Six years later, I’m having a blast with readers who are excited about my next book and my next one and the one after that! I’ve also published through some small presses, so I guess I’m a hybrid writer. Nobody can guarantee you a successful writing career, but I can guarantee you one thing -- all writing careers are a wild, unexpected ride.

MM: Tell us about your books and genres?

SJ: I write in a variety of sub-genres of science fiction and fantasy. My bestselling series is the Max Porter Paranormal Mysteries which follows a modern man in North Carolina who discovers his office is haunted by the ghost of a 1940s detective. I take real (odd) history of the area and mix it with ghosts, witches, curses and such. The first book (which is free as an ebook) is Southern Bound, and the sixth book, Southern Curses, releases in May!

I also wrote The Malja Chronicles - a post-apocalyptic fantasy in which magic caused the apocalypse. Sort of a Xena meets Mad Max vibe. That was a six-book series that finished up last year.

Now, I’ve started the Nathan K thrillers with the first book Immortal Killers. It’s about a man with the ability to harbor two souls in his body. If he dies, he loses one soul and keeps on going. This gives him a type of immortality which he uses to go walk the Earth and help people. I also have stand-alone novels, short story collections, and a serialized story. I put out 4-5 books a year, so if you like my writing, there’s plenty to enjoy.

MM: Let's talk about your writing schedule?
SJ: I write full time, so my day is usually a mix of writing sessions with book production, promotion, and such. Each writing session can go from 30 minutes to an hour. Oh, and cooking meals, picking up my son from school, laundry, and other normal daily kinds of things. The order of the day is not so important to me. The goal, writing-wise, is word count. On a slow day, I might get 700 - 1000 words of new fiction done. On a good day, I’ll hit 2300+. I’m constantly trying to improve those numbers. It comes with time and practice. Also, we live in the middle of nowhere, so I have long drives to get anyplace. I have an audio recorder that I carry around, so on a long drive, I can get a few hundred words with ease.

MM: Both personally and professionally tell us what you look forward to this year?
SJ: Professionally, I look forward to attempting to write a series that has been in my head for many, many years. It’s the one I’ve kept putting off because I did not think I was ready or capable of making it work. But I know enough now that I think I can do it. I try to make sure that whatever I’m writing, it has some sort of challenge in it that pushes me to grow as a writer. This is going to be a BIG challenge. And yes, I’m being vague about it because it’s way too early to say anything more.  On the personal side, I look forward to gigging with my blues band, The Bootleggers. I play lead guitar and we’ve just started doing gigs. Hopefully, that will continue to grow.

MM: Be our tour guide and tell us about where you live?
SJ: I live in rural North Carolina. When my family first moved here, we lived in Winston-Salem, the location of the Max Porter books, but my wife always wanted a farm, so once we could afford it, we did it. It’s not a full commercial farm, but rather a hobby farm -- 10 acres with chickens and a horse and plenty of other critters. It’s quiet, mostly, and peaceful. Other than stupid politicians embarrassing our state, I’d say we’re pretty happy here.

MM: What would your characters tell us about you?
SJ: I doubt any writer would want to know the answer to this question. After all, it’s my job to torture my characters as much as possible for your entertainment. The less I hear from my characters on this subject, the better.

MM: Past or present what authors would you like to share a meal and stories with, what would you ask them?
SJ: Robert Heinlein, John Steinbeck, and Stephen King. Heinlein got me interested in reading. Steinbeck got me interested in the art of writing. King showed me how to mix Steinbeck and Heinlein into one. I wouldn’t really have any serious questions. I’d just want to hang with them and soak up the banter.

MM: Okay now let's get to know you a bit more. Are there shows you like to binge watch? Do you reread any books that you have enjoyed in the past? What is your favorite place to vacation, meal, dessert, song, movie and after a long writing day how do you distress?
SJ: We ditched television in favor of Netflix a long time ago. So, in a way, everything is a binge watch: House of Cards, Daredevil, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Attack on Titan, Foyle’s War, I could on and on. Writing full time at home means I get to watch a show during my lunch break. I’ve seen a lot of shows. ;) As for books, I almost never reread. There are already too many books to read in a lifetime, and I want to get in as many as I can. Favorites (well, more accurately, things I like a lot -- I can’t deem any one the absolute favorite): meal -- cheesesteak; dessert -- anything my son bakes (he’s fantastic at it); song -- Axis: Bold as Love by Jimi Hendrix (has one of the best guitar solos ever recorded); movie -- aside from all the usual like Star Wars, The Godfather, Citizen Kane, etc, etc, I’m going to add Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to the list; and vacation -- what’s a vacation?

MM: What would you like to say to your readers?
SJ: I’d like to say what I try to say as much as possible. Thank you. Without readers, none of this amounts to anything. To me, if nobody reads my work, it’s not complete. So, thank you. Always.

MM: What was the best view you ever had and where was it?
SJ: Without a doubt, on my honeymoon. We were cruising through the Greek isles, it was around midnight and I was sitting on the back of the ship in the Mediterranean. On either side of me were two islands with small towns. Lights flickered in and out as they passed behind the trees. It looked like thousands of fireflies in the darkness while all I could hear was the quiet lap of waves against the hull. And I had just gotten married, too. One of the most peaceful times in my life.

MM: in closing if you could pay your writing advice forward to beginners what advice do you have for them?

SJ: The best way to succeed as a writer is to sit down and have a brutally frank and honest talk with yourself. You need to ask yourself what you really want. If you really want fame and fortune, be honest about it. Perhaps you only want to write the fiction you want and don’t care about the reader. Be honest. Because the path to each of these things is different. To earn a living as a writer differs from being a fulltime writer regardless of the money which differs from fame which differs from not caring what you write as long as you make a living writing which differs from ... you get the idea. If at the start, you get a clear idea of what you want, you’ll make better choices for your career. And, of course, never give up.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Good Morning Blog by Pamela James

Good Monday Morning,

I see it didn't show where I thought I posted the last blog "R.I.P. Jim Lavene Blog. My apology for this and I will fix it later.

This morning I wanted to wish you a good morning.

We are going having rain and the storms will be back this morning. Hopefully I m able to get back on here today and tonight. I am not finished with blog posts.

I am reading Mrs. Jefferies Wins The Prize by Emily Brightwell. I am also reading a Monica Ferris book it's in the other room or I would know the title.  I know it's main topic is about a hoarder whose house has a tree that fell on it.

Last night I read, colored and stitched. Actually I stitched all weekend.

Mother's Day I watched HOLMES this has Laura Linney in it. Very touching.
I watched actually re-watched Holmes & Houdini this is a fun series.
Sunday night: Call The Midwife, Wallander and Elementary.

Back to my Vanilla Carmel Coffee.