Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Review: Ruffed-Up Murder by Susie Gayle and a frustrating trend in cozies

Will an Sarah live in a small Maine community which they want to stay as it is.  As a result of a loophole in zoning regulations, a man is killed who was selling his land to a Sprawl Mart chain.  

This book was more like an outline of a story to me than a fleshed out book.  The characters have very short interactions and no development.  The basic story is okay and could have been pretty good if it was less superficial.  what was 80 pages should have probably been twice that - with more enriched characters and dialogue.  So that I could like or even dislike then  -- instead of not caring at all.  

I didn't hate the book or anything, I just feel like it will be totally forgotten in a few days.

I am afraid this a trend I am seeing more often these days.  Basic story -- bare bones.  No real surprises or twists or interactions other than a few moments of questions to a few people.  I want authors to write and give us stories where we care what happens.  Not just spin them out every couple months without much development or growth.  There is a huge different between fleshing out a story and throwing in fluff to add words.  I think some authors are afraid of the IDEA of fluff and leave too much out to really give us a well rounded book.

A lot of reviewers will just not review a book they don't care much for, but I think it is important to review what works for US and what doesn't.  I don't want to be cruel -- I support authors and want them to succeed.  I just think this trend is sad.


Monday, June 5, 2017

Guest Blogger - Alice Duncan

It’s June, by gum!

Good grief, the year’s half over. Seems like the older one gets, the faster time flies.

I’ll be in touch with May’s winners of SPIRITS REVIVED individually. And at the end of June, I do believe I’ll be giving away copies of UNSETTLED SPIRITS again because I have lota of copies of that one.

Anyhow, since I just had surgery to repair a piece of personal plumbing, this blog’s not going to be very long, but I had a lot of help and fun collecting its various parts.

It all started when my neighbor brought me a jelly doughnut (because he and his wife know I adore jelly doughnuts, but don’t eat them often because I try to eat healthily – I know, how stuffy, huh?) Anyway, he said he got it “from the bottom of his spleen.” That got me to thinking about some of the sayings I grew up with, and I asked folks on Facebook to lend me some of their remembrances. I’ll start with my own home.

When my dad thought someone was a meanie, he said the person had a scab over his liver. If he thought someone had done something particularly bone-headed, he’d say, “One more brain, and you’d be a halfwit.” My dad and my nephew Stephen were both in the U.S. Navy for eons and of course, for them both, creamed chipped beef on toast was always shit on a shingle. Stephen also mentioned that his mother (my half-sister, by gum) would say something was slick as a fart in a mitten.

My younger grandson, Riki, called Albuquerque “Albu-turkey” for a long, long time before he learned the proper pronunciation (well, the way New Mexicans say it, anyway).

My daughters both called hamburgers “han-gurmers.” Ever since I was given a black dachshund by a friend of mine, my kids said I was Weenie’s (that was the hound’s name) “grammoi.” So I am now Grammoi to my grandsons and both of my great-grandchildren.

My mom’s cousin’s husband, Miles Gilbert, when asked how he felt, would generally say, “Fine as a frog’s hair split four ways.” I’ve heard other people say “Fine as frogs’ hair,” but Miles had his own unique take on the expression.

Here are some other gems folks added to the list:

J.M. Cornwell produced these: Hope the crick don’t rise; lyin’ like a rug (when someone was fibbing); looks like the running gears of a katydid (when someone is skinny); gimlet butt (for someone who doesn’t have big hips); dumb as a box of rocks; a few bricks shy of a load; and a revolving door on her bedroom.

Judy Reutebach recalls her mother telling her “Your face will freeze like that” when she wore an unpleasant expression.

David Bedini’s family’s philosophy was, evidently, “Todays plums are tomorrow’s prunes.”

Vicky Fannin offered this from her dad, Byron: “Never say only and money in the same sentence.”

Carola Dunn’s son used to say donedies for donuts. To him all four-legged animals were “maus” (probably for meow).

Nina Paules’s grandmother, when asked what was for dinner, would say, “Layovers for meddlers.”

Diane Jasperson offered these charmers: Those maniac drivers passed me by like a dirty shirt; as well as: drunk as a skunk; purdier than all get-out; coffee is strong enough to curl your toenails; and does a bear poop in the woods.

James C. Work said his mom, when entering a dark room, would say, “It's dark as Egypt in there." His father thought she had mistaken "darkest Africa" but was too polite to mention it. James also remembered these: Somebody sure put a burr unner his saddle; don’t know him from Adam’s off ox; and dead as a doornail.

Here are some delights from Charlotte Westbrook McDaniel: So poor you don’t have a pot to piss in; ain’t that a kick in the head; about as useful as teats on a boar (or a boar-hog); It’s fixin’ to come a gully washer (hard rain).

Marcia-Lee Finocchio’s mom used to say she’d do something “after I eat this egg.” Marcia-Lee still doesn’t know quite what it means. Nor do I, but I like it.

Kathryn McIntyre grew up with these: She looks like the wreck of the Hesperus; time to bring out the brass monkeys; there’s frost on the pumpkin; like chasing a fart through a bucket of nails (when something is entirely futile); colder than a well-digger’s shovel.

Vicki Lemonds’ grandmother would say: It’s cold enough to freeze your pockets off and, when something didn’t go as planned, “Must not have been holding my mouth right.” For some reason, that last one really tickles me (editorial comment).

Sue Krekeler recalls hearing: S/he looks like five miles of dirt road (when someone is really tired).

Sherry Davis Fritz’s father would say something was colder than a witch’s tit in a brass bra; and something was “knee high to a tall Indian.” I have to admit I’d never heard that last one. I recall something being “Knee-high to a grasshopper” (editorial comment #2 or 3 or something).

Donna Weatherfield (another intrepid dachshund-rescuer) recalls the following: Hell’s bells and panther pants; Busier than a one-armed paper-hanger; and as nervous as a whore in church.

Debbie Sanders’ husband’s Pawpaw (whoever that was) used to say: Busy as a one-legged man in a butt-kickin contest; if frogs had wings, they wouldn't bump their butts when they hopped. Her mom liked to say: He don't have the brains of a piss ant; she don't know shit from apple butter; and you’d better straighten up and fly right.

Gina Gilmore offered the following: S/he don’t know shit from Shinola; and s/he looks like s/he’s been rode hard and hung up wet.

Susan Eggers grew up with these: Enough blue sky to make a Dutchman’s pants; it looked like the itch (if something looked really bad). I’m extremely partial to the second one (another editorial comment).

Ann Watson Smith’s kids used to say nip-nops for flip-flops and pasghetti for spaghetti. My own kids said the last one (editor again).

Julia Anderson grew up with: Mad as a wet hen; I have so much wind, if I could finger it just right, I could play “God Bless America.” The latter was generally said after a meal containing beans, which “Stretch a meal and also cause gas.”

Debra Iverson recalls people looking as if they’d been drug through a knothole backwards.

Jeanell Buida Bolton recalls hearing Hells bells and little fishes.

Johannah E. Zimmerman (and I, too, actually) recalled people being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Susie Lonsinger remembers, when someone was getting uppity, s/he’d be told to get down off your high horse.

Lea Hood’s dad used to say she and her friends were a bunch of “wild Bohemians” when they were having fun (maybe too much fun).

Tabitha Hall and I remember calling a refrigerator the ice box. Becky Muth recalls the refrigerator always being the Kelvinator.

Thanks, everyone, for your input! I came away from this particular Facebook experiment with a whole bunch of new (to me) colorful expressions to use when life is dull.

If you’d like to enter June’s contest, just send me an email ( and give me your name and home address. If you’d like to be added to my mailing list, you may do so on my web site ( or email me (you won’t be smothered in newsletters, because I only write one blog a month, and that’s an effort). If you’d like to be friends on Facebook, visit my page at

Thank you!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Review: The Golden Peacock by Lauren B Grossman

Rainee is an award winning novelist who has writer's block.  After finding an ID card from the Holocaust museum, she intrigued by a woman who had the same birthday as her and decided to track her down and learn her story.  Jana is a German Jew who fled the Holocaust via the Kindertransport from The Netherlands and was fostered by a family on an English farm.  Rainee meets with her and discovers she has Alzheimers and is in a nursing home.  She then finds out information from the past that endangers them in the present.

This was a remarkable read, going from Rainee in 1997 and Jana's past as a child.  It involves Nazi hunters and those groups who protect Nazis in hiding.  Very engrossing and emotional.

What happened in the past leads to a whole new future for Jana


Friday, May 19, 2017

Blog: Shows and Movies

I've been watching many great shows this week.

Tonight I watched the movie of Doc Martin. This movie shows how it all came about and why he left London. I rate this an A.

I also watched the mini-series "Decline and Fall".
This has David Suchet in it and is on acorn. I wanted something with humor and it has humor in spades. It's another A movie.

I watched a Monk Marathon which of course is not only entertaining but I can cross stitch while I listen to and watch this series A rating and with this series I find it helps me while I do a lot of stitching.

I enjoyed Criminal Minds Season Finale and I give it a B this time around.
I loved Criminal Minds "Beyond Borders" and it receives an A as does "Call The Midwife and Elementry."

I have plenty more to share with you but we are having storms so tonight I will close with if you binge watch shows I hope the characters stay with you long after the credits roll.

Happy Viewing,

Monday, May 15, 2017

An Interview with Caroline Haines

MM: Your recent book cover is to die for. Tell us about it and your book.

St.Martin's gets the credit for the book cover for STICKS AND BONES and Thomas & Mercer gets the credit for THE HOUSE OF MEMORIES. Their art departments keep coming up with terrific concepts. 
As to the Sarah Booth book, I had this idea for a story about a real Delta b**ch. I've met a few in my day, and Frangelica "Sister" McFee is one. I do want to make a disclaimer here. Vladimir Putin makes an appearance in this story--I thought it was the most ludicrous scenario I could come up with. Just over the top. And I wrote that scene in February of 2016. Lo and behold, November rolls around and guess who is all over the news? Am I psychic or what?

MM: I love this series and want to know if you have any favorite minor characters or guest characters?

This is probably sacrilege, but I secretly hoped Sarah Booth would hook up with Hamilton Garrett. That was my original intent, way back in THEM BONES. But I've learned who Sarah Booth is, and she has control of her romantic fate, not me. I love Millie and Cece and of course Tinkie. Harold has truly grown on me. And Coleman--what can I say? He is a great guy who has also grown in his capability to see who Sarah Booth is and accept her. But Jitty steals my heart every book. She's so BAD, but so protective of Sarah Booth. I wish I had a Jitty.

MM: Do you have a fun story to tell as maybe someone dressed up as some of the characters from your books?

One of my best friends since we were five, Debby Porter Pruett, loves clothes and jewelry and the finer things of life. I've always been a tomboy--I love my farm and the horses and there's just no place for Mani-Peddies and expensive things. (I once had my hair styled very elegantly for a TV appearance but I had to feed the horses before I went. I had so much hairspray going on that some flies got trapped in my hair. Yeah, it's true. My life defies glamour!) But I love my animals more than looking pretty. But back to Debby. The character Jitty is based on Debby. She was always trying to get me to marry well so I could "support her." All of the clothes Jitty wears in THEM BONES came from Debby's college wardrobe. Velveteen hot pants. Yowza! But back then we were really cute.

MM: How many books will you write this year? 

I'll have 3 complete novels out this year )STICKS AND BONES--May, THE HOUSE OF MEMORY--June, and FAMILIAR TROUBLE--July). Two Sarah Booth short stories, and I have an essay in a collection of traditions called A YEAR IN MISSISSIPPI and a reprinted mystery story in BELLES Letters 2, Contemporary stories by Alabama women. I am that lucky person who can claim two states! One of the 3 novels is a brand new romantic mystery featuring Trouble, son of Familiar the black cat detective. It is going to be so much fun!

 MM: 2017 is here so my question is what are you looking forward to this year?

The launch of the Trouble series. Bringing back some of the older FEAR FAMILIAR books. The release of my new books--STICKS AND BONES, and also the second Pluto's Snitch mystery, THE HOUSE OF MEMORIES (I really, really love this series and the chance to write about the past and a few chilling supernatural encounters.)

MM: A few fun questions: Do you look forward to binge watching any Netflix, acorn or other series on television?

House of Cards is a favorite. I'm ready for more People of Earth, and I hope the Exorcist returns. I really like television and there are fabulous shows available all the time now. I love scary movies and shows. (Stranger Things was great fun.) It's wonderful to be able to watch a show whenever, but I really miss the excitement of being hooked into a show and everyone watches it at the same time and then talks about it. I miss that.

MM: How much of a people watcher are you?

I can entertain myself for hours watching people. I used to play a game with my work-study students. We'd go to lunch and pick out a person and decide who they were, what they did, the details of their lives. Then I would go and ask them. Most of the time they were happy to chat. Once or twice it didn't end pretty! But we had fun anyway.

MM: What is your favorite meal, place to travel, person to travel with and song?

I love anything Southern. I love fried foods but I try not to eat them. Ireland and Nicaragua are the best vacations I've ever had. Both very different but so incredibly wonderful. I've had some wonderful traveling companions who had every right to kill me but didn't. And I am still stuck in the singer/songwriter zone. Jesse Winchester, Townes Van Zandt, Roddy McDowell, Rosanne Cash, Kris Kristofferson. And I love the blues. Man, I love the blues.

MM: Do you have a favorite teacher or someone you would like to give a shout out?

Carolyn Nyman, my mother's best friend, and I am named for her, was my English teacher for 3 years in middle and high school (and no I didn't flunk three grades!). She introduced me to Eudora Welty's writing and it changed my life. Jean Todd Freeman at the University of Southern Mississippi was also fabulous. Sue Walker at the University of South Alabama was a great teacher and a great boss.

MM: I won't ask you to give us favorite authors that you read or binge read their books but I will ask if you have a favorite book from childhood?

The Secret Garden. I loved that story. It has everything a reader could want. Mystery, chills, secrets, characters who find their true hearts. I still love it.

MM: Let's talk about the publishing world and how it has affected you?

I never knew publishing could be so hard. Had I known 35 years ago, I might have taken a different path. Stardust falls on some writers, but most of us slog it out in the trenches everyday, striving for that great sentence or paragraph or scene. I am tougher than I ever knew I could be. And desperation is truly the mother of invention. I've reinvented myself a number of times to stay alive. But I don't regret a moment. Not a single moment.

MM: In closing leave us with some sage words of wisdom from one of your characters? Your website address and anything else you would like us to know.

Writing is solitary work. Sharing a book is such great joy. I thank all of the readers who have recommended my books to others. And just a little shout out to the fine editors I've worked with who made my books so much better. And please, spay and neuter your companion animals. It's important. Donate to programs that do this. The world doesn't have to be so hard for animals. We can make it a whole lot better with only a little bit of effort. Those are my sage words--and any character of mine would say exactly that!


Friday, May 5, 2017

Review: Design for Dying by Renee Patrick

Lillian works in a department store after coming to Hollywood and finding she
really had not talent for acting. A friend of hers is found murdered in clothes stolen from Paramount and Edith Head becomes involved in the investigation as well. Hollywood insanity, gangsters, great clothes, wealthy parties and stars like Bob Hope and Barbara Stanwyck makes appearances.

That - AND the mystery is quite good. Nice balance of Lillian working with the police and Edith. Interesting secrets and characters and most of all - I REALLY like Lillian and her attitude and sleuthing. Definitely deserved the Agatha nomination. It is a fun romp with Old Hollywood Glamour!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Review: Fogged Inn by Barbara Ross

Julia is woken up early by the owner of the Restaurant downstairs to be told there is a dead man in the walk in freezer. Though she had seen the man the prior night, nobody knows who it is or why he died and in the freezer no less. So she starts asking questions and finds a mystery dated years in the past.

This was a nominee for the Agatha, and though it did not win, it is well worth a read. Julia is interesting and it is a works well with the police balance that I liked in my cozy sleuth!


Review: Ruffed-Up Murder by Susie Gayle and a frustrating trend in cozies

Will an Sarah live in a small Maine community which they want to stay as it is.  As a result of a loophole in zoning regulations, a man is...