Thursday, May 28, 2009

An Interview with Jeff Cohen

Jeff, tell us about the early years of your writing. When was your first book published?

In 2002, about a year and a half after I was finished writing it. It was called FOR WHOM THE MINIVAN ROLLS, but I don't think of it as a novel--I think of it as a screenplay gone horribly wrong. I was convinced I couldn't write something as long as a novel, and had been writing screenplays for years. But this one idea wouldn't cooperate as a script--it wanted to be told in first person narration--so I started writing chapters as an exercise to figure out the screenplay, and six novels later, I haven't written a screenplay in seven years.

How many books have you written?

Books? Altogether? I've ghost written six, I think. I have six mystery novels and two non-fiction books published. I'm writing the first in a new series for 2010, and I have one manuscript I finished that was never published. Yet.

Tell us about your life as an author.

As opposed to what, my life as an astronaut? I don't have a set schedule or anything. I write in between newspaper assignments and grading papers. Whenever I get the chance. Right now, I'm hoping to get in my 1000 words today, but it's not looking good.

What has been your most exciting publishing moment?

Everybody says it's when the first manuscript was accepted. For me, it was twofold: The first time I held a book I had written in my hand, and then, when Larry Gelbart sent a blurb that said my book was "witty." Gelbart is my writing idol--I'm still grinning about it, and it was eight years ago.

Jeff, tell us about your writing schedule.

I have to write so I can get paid. My schedule says the new book will be finished by July 1. Who am I to argue?

Do you have an agent and did you have mentor?

I have an agent now, the lovely and brilliant Christina Hogrebe at the Jane Rotrosen Agency. Christina sold the Double Feature series and the new series (which has yet to be named). For the first three books, I had no agent, because I had never considered the possibility of being a novelist. And I never had a book-writing mentor, because I didn't intend to become an author. Since then, some wonderful authors have helped me along the way, and I'm not supposed to mention them. They say.

Explain to the novice writer who wants to be a mystery author the top three things they should never do in order to become a published author

I couldn't begin to answer that question. Every author's story is so unique that it can't be duplicated. If I say, "never try to get published without an agent," like you're supposed to say, I have to remember that I got published without an agent. But my advice is always: If you can be happy doing something other than writing, if you wouldn't write whether you got published or not, go do something else. This is too hard to do if you're not obsessed.
Favorite movies?
Oh my. There are hundreds. All the comedies I've ever mentioned in a Double Feature book, especially the Marx Brothers classics like HORSE FEATHERS and DUCK SOUP. Certainly some Hitchcock, like NORTH BY NORTHWEST and REAR WINDOW. Mel Brooks: YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, BLAZING SADDLES, THE PRODUCERS (1968). Others: DINER, MY FAVORITE YEAR, CASABLANCA, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, FIELD OF DREAMS, A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, THE STUNT MAN, HOPSCOTCH, GALAXY QUEST... How much time have you got?

Places to vacation:
The only place I've vacationed at more than once (in my adult life) is Disney World, because we had kids. But my favorite vacation ever was Rome. Wow.

Favorite books:
Oh, you're not putting me in THAT trap! I won't mention my favorite mystery authors, because I'll leave some out and they'll be mad. I'll tell you in all honesty that my favorite book ever is GROUCHO, HARPO, CHICO and SOMETIMES ZEPPO, by Joe Adamson. No, I'm not kidding.

When I'm not writing mysteries (I don't "pen" anything), I'm writing something else to pay the rent, procrastinating from writing mysteries, promoting my books or watching the Yankees. Or at least that's what my wife says.

Do you have something to say to your readers?

It's okay. I have both their email addresses.

Where can we find your website?

On the Internet. Oh, okay, it's at and I hope everyone takes a look. I'm told it's very entertaining.

Okay Jeff, here it is and if I've left anything out please add it.

Just that the new book is A NIGHT AT THE OPERATION, and since I'd like to keep writing about Elliot and his band of merry men and women, I'd appreciate it if everyone would go out and buy one. And thanks for inviting me here; it's been great fun.


Review: Prelude to Death by Sharon Zukowski

Genre: Suspens/Mystery Series
(A Blaine Stewart Mystry)
Publisher: Dutton
ISBN: 0-525-94079-0

If you like Sue Grafton you will love Sharon Zukowski she is a P.I. who doesn't leave any scumbag under a rock.

Blaine Stewart should be planning a trip down the isle, instead she hops a plane to help her brothr Dick who called her with a little problem. His little problem is that he's in jail but the bigger problem is that he is accused of murder. Not just any murder but the murder of his live in girl friend Corrye Edwards. Corrye is Key West's unoffical poet laureate, and Corrye's dead husband was a Cuban Expatriate Artist.
Dick has no alibi for the time that Corrye was murdered, he argued with Corrye shortly before her death, and her last poem "Prelude To Death" clearly points to Dick as a lover who can't be trusted. Blaine meets Dick's lawyer whom at first she doesn't take to but soone he grows on as he doesn't let his wheelchair get in the way of what he must do to take his client from a death penality.
Blaine soon learns that Florida has a sleezy side and that she is being followed by a goverment agent, a couple of local detectives and Dick isn't helping himself as he tells her to go home and let fate take it's course. She knows he didn't do it and will not leave until his name is cleared and the charges are dropped.
The problem she faces is staying alive long enough to clear his name and reveal the real Corrye Edwards because Corrye had a dark side that didn't end with her death.
PRELUDE TO DEATH, is a fight for justice, a family drama and a damned good book. Blaine is gutsy and gets the job done at any cost.
Sharon Zukowski, and writes with an edge, this book is gripping and sassy, a little sexy and a lot breathless. Keep turning the page it gets better and better and you won't want to miss th climax.
Pamela James

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Review - The Victoria Vanishes by Christopher Fowler

Genre: English Mystery
Publisher: Bantam Dell
ISBN: 978-1-60285-378-2

A serial killer is preying on middle-aged women at some of England's best known pubs. When the killer starts leaving clues at the crime scenes, Arthur Bryant and John May of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, start to take this killer personally. Another thing is the unique way he kills his victims. All in a crowded pub and all seem to have a pin prick on their body, first the victim goes numb and then they slumber off to death. A gentle but cunning serial killer and nobody really takes notice of him, as he moves in and out of pubs leaving well placed clues. It takes Arthur Bryant's reconigtion of one victim and remebering that he saw her moments before her murder at a pub that no longer exsists and has been closed for more than eighty years and torn down before everyone realizes just how peculiar these murders really are.
Making matters worse each woman murdered is not what she seems to be and has a lot to hide. The PCU has their own problems because their high up poltical bosses wants to close the unit down. We find that May and Bryant are battling their own personal hell as one who is losing his memory and the other one has mortality issues that are very much pending. Both men are legends in the PCU John May believes in old fashioned police work and he doesn't leave anyone out of an investigation as he dogs his suspects. Arthur Bryant doesn't believe in rules and really doesn't care about politics he wants to know why a serial killer wants to be caught and why the number seven keeps cropping up at every turn.
The whole units back is against the wall they are running out of time and if they don't come up with some answers they may soon find themselves ousted all in the name of progress.
the VICTORIA VANISHES is a mystery so engrossing that I felt like a spell had been cast over me. I couldn't read fast enough and I certainly felt compelled to know what would happen next. I care about May and Bryant, and the PCU more than any mystery I've read in the past two years the characters, setting and plot leaped off the page and into my heart as it did flip flops to a conclusion I NEVER suspected would play out the way it did, pure genius is what the VICTORIA VANISHES portrays.
Christopher Fowler has kicked all modern, traditional mystery authors out of the way and cleared his own path with the most well written, excellent plotted, and time honored mystery of the decade to date. He has written a sure-to-be classic english mystery that has more atmosphere than any London Street, he has mastered the genre and earned his niche in the ranks of the Masters Of Mystery.
Pamela James ( I ususally only give ten stars as my high ranking but this one gets twenty), yes he's that good.

Review: A Fool and His Honey by Charlaine Harris

Publisher: Berley Prime Crime
Series Mystery

Aurora Teagarden is happily married to Martin and even though once in a while she has to attend dinner parties for Martin's business she still makes time for her mother and new step father, working part-time at the library and her life couldn't be better. That is until one afternoon when she finds her handyman dancing naked in her side yard. If this was the craziest thing to happen that day she could probably have managed to not have her life turned upside down.
However, when Martin's niece knocks on her door with a brand new baby in hand, no father on the scene and starts making herself at home the day seems to take on a life of it's own. Then when Martin and Aurora leave Regina and baby Hayden on their own for the evening, upon returning from a very tense dinner party, they find who they believe is Regina's husband with a hatchet in his skull, Regina has disappeared and baby Hayden is now Aurora and Martin's responsibility.
To make matters more complicated they find Rory who is Craig's (Regina's husband's best friend) sacked out on their couch, and Rory isn't talking at least not telling them anything they want to hear since he starts out by saying that Craig and him was just released from jail.
Off to Martin and Regina's hometown they go in search of Regina, and to find the answers to why Craig had to die. But when they arrive and start talking to Regina and Craig's friends and neighbors, Aurora soon learns that nobody knew Regina was pregnant. Aurora is beginning to think that she really is going to have to raise baby Hayden and then when a snowstorm breaks loose and dark family secrets begin to surface life gets less complicated and increasingly deadly. Aurora doesn't have to track a killer the killer finds her and Aurora realizes that in order to survive she has to manipulate a killer at his own game.

A FOOL and HIS HONEY, is a dark cozy that races against time from start to finish and one thing is for certain, nobody comes out a winner in this cozy winter mystery. Beware that it also ends on a sad note but a note of survival. While she fought to save a child by the end of the book she comes out emotionally battered and bruised with wounds that only time will heal.

A FOOL and HIS HONEY by Charlaine Harris, is full of well intentioned surprises and gives new slant to the meaning of the word cozy. Harris has written a plot twist of the first order but a strong heroine emerges. *********
Pamela James

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Guest Blogger - Hank Phillippi Ryan


Is there magic in your life?

I bet there is. But whether you see it depends on where you look. The song you were thinking of--and you turn on the radio, and thats what's playing. The answer you were looking for--in the newspaper article you just happened to read. A name. A thought. An answer.

In our back yard, there's a swimming pool. It's in-ground, and built in the fifties, maybe? (In the winter, it's covered with a black tarp, and fills with snow, then rain). Its lovely and peaceful and surrounded in spring and summer and fall by flowers and graceful trees. And that's magic enough.

But several years ago, on a March afternoon, my husband and I were sitting on the couch--and suddenly heard the strangest sound. A huge splash! We looked at each other, surprised and questioning--and then looked outside.

Paddling on the pool, just as if they belonged there, were two mallards, a male and a female. I got some bread and quietly quietly opened the back door, and fed them. We named them Flo and Eddy. (Which I thought sounded nice and watery.)

The next day they came back. And brought friends. We guess they thorught the tarp-covered pool was a pond. The ducks flew in and out all spring. We fed them, and got to know them.

And then, one almost-summer day, they did not arrive.

I was so sad. (But I knew the pool people were coming soon to open the pool-- they would take off the tarp, put in chlorine, and make it nice for humans, but not so nice for ducks.) So it was time for the ducks to go. How did they know that?)

The next day, one lone female duck, who I recognized as Eddy, came back, swam around a bit, then flew away.

And they never came back.

Summer came, and then the dahlias, and then the leaves turned and the pool closed and we were in the midst of the Boston winter. And March arrived and the ice on the pool started to melt, there was another splash.

The ducks were back.

The same ducks.

And they've been back every year since. Six or seven years in a row.

Is that magic? Or what?

Other magic? How about this:

I was writing the proposals for the fifth and sixth books in the Charlotte McNally series. In book five, tentatively called Show Time, one of the characters is an agent with the Internal Revenue Service. She's a great shot, a master of disguise, (and I can say "she" because the book is far in the future, and you'll forget, right?) deeply undercover and quite an complex character. We'll call her Amanda, for now. Although that's not her real name. (In case you don't forget.)

But someone at my office at Channel 7 said: are there really IRS agents who carry guns? Sure, I said. Absolutely. There's the IRS criminal investigation division.

Amanda exists, I said. Absolutely.

The person shook her head. I don't think so, she said.

The next day, I went to get some coffee from our office coffee maker. You can imagine the scene--there's the coffee pot, and various little packets of sugar and etc, and stirrers, and whever goodies the reporters an producers bring in. Cookies, and donut holes and whatever. But that morning, there was something else. There was a glass coffee mug.

And the mug had an elaborate seal and some words stenciled on it. I picked it up--and it was an official mug from the Internal Revenue Service--Criminal Investigation. I literally looked around, to see if there was someone laughing at me. Had someone heard our coversation? And put the mug there?

But no one had.

Where did Amanda's mug come from?

You know the answer.


Award-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan is currently on the air at Boston's NBC affiliate, where she's broken big stories for the past 22 years. Her stories have resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in refunds and restitution for consumers.

Along with her 26 EMMYs, Hank’s won also won dozens of other journalism honors. She's been a legislative aide in the United States Senate (working on the Freedom of Information Act) and at Rolling Stone Magazine (working with Hunter S. Thompson).

Her first mysteries, Prime Time (which won the prestigious Agatha Award for Best First Novel of 2007, and was a double RITA nominee for Best First Book and Best Romantic Suspense Novel and a 2007 Reviewers' Choice Award Winner) and Face Time (Book Sense Notable Book), were best sellers. They'll both be re-issued in June and July 2009 as MIRA Books. The next in the series are Air Time (MIRA August 2009) and Drive Time (MIRA February 2010.) Her website is
As an additional treat, Hank has graciously offered a drawing for 5 signed copies of the all-new Prime Time. Winners will be selected randomly from those who comment!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Glenda and have decided to blow the cobwebs off of a book we started coauthoring together four years ago. The book is a fictional mystery and we even though the setting is fictional we have loosely based it in Parsons, Kansas. Now the part of the book where we have one of our protags living and all three protags (have their adjoining businesses) is located downtown.

Last night we decided to revist the shops and upstairs apartments. I must confess I am usually not a law breaker having been raised with a step-father that among other things worked for the KBI and was a police officer. HOWEVER, last night was just too tempting as we took notes on the building and wanted desperately to see the layout of apartments. (Which Glenda assures me this can be handled the legal way), anyway I digress... We walked around to the side entrance of the building and I found an unlocked door (we couldn't help it, I mean if security isn't any better than this what can I say) anyway Glenda and I went in the side door and found the most wonderful murals on the walls. Plenty of locked doors and plenty of room for our imaginations to run amuck. I was in heaven and so desperately wanted to see where the doors would lead us. Of course I didn't break into anything else and when we let ourselves out the same way we came in through the open hallway door then we took a look at the outside (back and side of the building) and after convincing ourselves that we could not climb anything to the top of the building to window peek on what the top floors looked like. We let our fictional voices take over and did plot a way someone get up to the apartment and down.

Isn't mystery writing wonderful and it really was just one big adventure in our minds we have a very clear picture of what we want the outside of our fictional places to be and it definitely was worth our time to enter the forbidden door. Because it opened to door to our fictional adventures and we really love this one city block of quaint buildings. To top off the evening before we drove away we looked up to the one of the apartment windows and there was a cat sitting in the window. How purrrrfect us that for two cozy authors to top off their evening?


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

An Interview with Deb Sharp

M&M: Deb, tell us about your writing schedule.

I wish I could say, ''I'm rigorously disciplined and set my alarm for 5:15 AM each day to write without interruptions for 2 hours.'' Truth is, I have periods of complete slackerhood mixed with ones of frantic writing. I'm grateful for my newspaper background (20 years a reporter; mainly with USA Today) that lets me write quickly, when I need to.

M&M: Tell us about your series and where you got the idea for the series.

I started with Mama, who is the title character in my funny, set-in-Florida Mace Bauer Mystery series. I was doing an exercise always recommended for new writers, looking through the newspaper to see if something would unclog my creative juices (As a former, longtime news reporter, I was having trouble with the notion that I was now free to make things up without getting fired!) I turned a page, and there she was: an older gal, driving a turquoise convertible, mouth open in a full laugh. I immediately thought, ''That woman is 'Mama,' and I'm going to tell where her story goes.''It didn't take me long to realize that Mama, with her sherbet-colored pantsuits, four prior husbands, and outout-sizedrsonality, would need a straight woman foil. A little bit of Mama goes a long way, kind of like in real life. (Just kidding, Mama!) I decided she'd have three daughters (I'm one of three sibs . . . coincidence?), and that the best foil, the one she'd drive the most crazy, would be her sensible middle daughter, Mace (I'm a sensible middle daughter ... coincidence?)I wrote a short story, which became the first book, MAMA DOES TIME (Midnight Ink, Oct. 2008). Second book is up in July, MAMA RIDES SHOTGUN. The third, MAMA GETS HITCHED, will be published in 2010.As for the setting, I'm a Florida native, so I never imagined I'd set it anywhere else (Write what you know, right?) I put it in the rodeo-and-ranches slice of the state because it's an area that hasn't been written about very much, and I'm tired of everyone thinking that Florida is either sexy South Beach or Disney's Mickey Mouse.

M&M: How do you plan and plot your books?

I'm a crazy, anal-retentive outliner ... thirty pages for a three-hundred page book. Though I admire those seat-of-the-pants ''My muse must speak to me'' writers, I like to have an idea where I'm going before I start. I come up with the victim first, and go from there. Since the central characters recur, it's always great fun to ''meet'' the new people who will wander into the lives of Mama, Mace, and her sisters.

M&M: How long does it take you to write the book and how many times do you rewrite your books?

I've done three now, and each has taken between 8 months and a year. I know many people advise against rewriting as you go, but I do it. I'm always polishing, because in the newspaper biz, with daily deadlines, you only had so much time for a story, so you'd refine it as much as you could as you wrote. My first draft is in longhand (I know, I know ... dinosaur-woman). Putting it from my notebook to the the computer is the second draft, at which point I usually get feedback from my writers' group, and incorporate that into a third draft. After that, I'll probably do a fourth, hand that in, then take revisions and suggestions from my agent and the Midnight Ink editor, leading up to a fifth.

M&M: Who gave you the best writing advice you ever received and what was it?

Joyce Sweeney, a fantastic poet and writer of young adult novels who leads my writers' group in Fort Lauderdale, told me I didn't have to spell things out in fiction like I did in newspapers, where you tell the readers what you're going to tell them; then you tell them; then you tell them what you just told them. ''Fiction readers are smart,'' Joyce said. "They like to figure things out.''

M&M: Tell us a little about your personal life and where you live?

I live in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with my NBC TV reporter husband, Kerry Sanders. We met in Fort Myers, Fla., on a story, in 1983. We've been married 20 years. No kids; no pets. Had a pair of goldfish once. Ended badly.

M&M: Do you have a favorite charity or cause?

I'm a huge supporter of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and was a classroom mentor for several years with the group in Ft. Lauderdale. After covering hurricanes for USA Today for so many years, I came to admire the Red Cross for their disaster relief efforts. I also lend my support to libraries and literacy programs.

M&M: Do you have a booksigning story to share?

No great signing stories, but I could talk about the time I wrestled Salman Rushdie for the last lemon-poppy seed muffin on the authors' free breakfast bar at the Miami Book Fair. When I figured out it was him, I quickly tried to redeem my rude self: ''Oh, no, Mr. Rushdie!'' I said, as I dropped the muffin back on the platter. "You take it, please!'' I realized later a little scuffle over a muffin probably wasn't a big deal for a guy who'd had an Iranian death fatwa declared against him.

M&M: Who are some of your favorite authors?

I like so many! Authors of light, funny mysteries are my favorites, and all the better if they have a Southern bent, like Carolyn Haines or the late Anne George. A few others I like are Elaine Viets, a fellow Fort Lauderdalean; Nancy Martin, who writes the funny Blackbird Sisters mysteries; and my good friend and fellow former reporter Bob Morris on the testosterone side.

M&M: What would you like to say to your readers?

I'd certainly like to say thanks. I am incredibly grateful -- and humbled -- to find that people are reading my fiction. It's icing (buttercream, with flowers!) on the cake when someone gets in touch to tell me they've had a good laugh with ''Mama.''

M&M: What is your favorite meal, place to vacation and dessert?

My husband and I are huge fans of ethnic foods, everthing from Thai and Indian to Ethiopian and Caribbean. But my favorite meal, as cliche as it sounds, is steak, baked potato, and a wedge of iceberg lettuce with blue cheese vinaigrette. Since my hubby won't eat red meat, I don't get to eat it very often since I can usually only finish about three ounces of steak on my own.Travel: We've been very lucky to visit far-flung places including Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Easter Island. But one of my favorite spots, still, is little Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia. Dessert? Man, that's a hard one. I love ANYTHING chocolate (milk, not dark), and like Mama in my books, I'm a freak for butterscotch pie. But I have to say, as a true-blue south Floridian, Key lime pie is probably my fave.

M&M: Leave us with some mysterious words of wisdom and your website addy.

Despite the fact I'm not Nature Girl, I saddled up and camped the week-long Florida Cracker Trail horseback ride as research for MAMA RIDES SHOTGUN. I learned something important out in the wild that has stayed with me since. Now, I'll share that wisdom with you: Never pee when your boots are downhill. My website:

Monday, May 18, 2009

My Library Trip: May 18/09

Just so everyone knows it's summer reading program time and I signed up for it today. Mostly because they are showing Adult Movie Night this summer with some vintage mystey movies. I thought it would be fun to attend. Now here is what I picked up at the library today. FOYLE'S WAR -AMONG THE FEW and FOYLE'S WAR -ALL CLEAR These are both DVD's.

Books" The MURDER at the MURDER at the MIMISA INN by JOAN HESS: (This is a reread that I read in 1999), then I also found a couple of new to me authors. PRELUDE TO DEATH by SHARON ZUKOWSKI this one is not a cozy but still a mystery. This next book caught my attention and I just HAD to have it because well I'm curious. the VICTORIA VANISHES (A Pecuilar Crimes Mystery), now what mystery reader would pass up this crime unit? Then because I love comfort reads I picked up a paperback of IF DEATH EVER SLEPT by REX STOUT and last but never least...ROYAL FLUSH by REX STOUT.

Before this trip I read more up to date newer cozies, mysteries and chick lit, but today I went looking for new to me authors and comfort reads. Not a bad group of books but I still need to find a Jeff Cohen Mystery, the latest Julie Hyzy, Emiliee Richards, the latest Victoria Laurie, Emily Brightwell, and Carola Dunn's latest. I did look for another Kerry Underwood but they didn't have one today.
The interlibrary loan lady wasn't at her desk and so I thought I would call in an interlibrary loan group of books later in the week. I am still looking for mysteries set in WW11 and WW1.....anywho this how I spent my mid-Monday Morning.

Murder Is Served

Review - The Christmas Cookie Murder

ISBN: 978-0-451-22534-4

It all started with the Christmas Cookie Contest and the annual Christmas Cookie exchange. Retired teacher Phyllis Newsom, has whipped up the perfect Christmas Cookie. Her 'Snowflake Shaped Lime Sugar Cookies', so delicate yet so perfect and like the snowflakes of winter each cookie is orginal. She thinks that maybe this year she might win the cookie contest. Although her neighbor Mrs. Simmons has baked some very nice Gingerdoodles for the contest. At any rate it's all harmless fun, fun until Mrs. Simmons is murdered while Phyllis is hosting the neighborhood cookie exchange right next door.
Phyllis is having a nice time visiting with friends and neighbors and goes to Mrs. Simmons to take her some cookies and that is when Mrs. immons tells her that her family has come home for Christmas. Phyllis is happy because Mrs. Simmons doesn't get out much and hardly ever has any company. But later when she returns with a plate of cookies for Mrs. Simmons, Phyllis finds that her neighbor has been murdered and there are lime snowflake cookies everywhere, her friend was strangled by the robe from her bathrobe. Phyllis tries to find a pair of scissors to cut the robe with and soon she falls, but the worst of it is that someone hits her from behind and she can't help her friend.
Soon things turn chaotic and Phyllis spends time in the hospital. Now it's Phyllis's family and friends who are worried about her. Before long it's apparent that Mrs. Simmons was letting her grandson live in the attic upstairs and that he has more worries than Phyllis does, but try as she might Phyllis can't really see him murdering his grandmother. However the rest of Mrs. Simmons family certainly has motive from money to investments. Of course Phyllis can't rule out that Mrs. Simmons sat in the chair by the window and knew everything that went on in the neighborhood which gives her even more suspects.
Phyllis's boarders Eve, Carolyn and Sam all would like Phyllis to turn the other cheek but soon they are embroiled in her cause to find the truth about what happened to dear sweet Mrs. Simmons. So even though there is Christmas Shopping to do, a turkey to bake and plenty of cookies to go around Phyllis puts on her apron and proceeds to turn up the heat to expose one cold blooded killer.

The CHRISTMAS COOKIE KILLER is a sweet mystery readers treat. With a delicately woven plot and deft pen Livia Washburn has given us the best Christmas Present of all Murder With a Twist and characters that will melt your heart, the recipes will melt in your mouth and you'll be waiting for next mouth watering mystery in this series. She knows how to quench your thurst for murder. *********
Pamela James

Friday, May 8, 2009

Malice - the FIrst Sleuth Off

Sleuth Off:
Audience Decides Who’s the Greatest Sleuth of All
Chris Grabenstein — Moderator
Judy Clemens
Jeffrey Cohen
Vincent O’Neil
Hank Phillippi Ryan

Now this was seriously fun!

Our panelists impersonated sleuths and answered questions about their detecting methods to determine the greatest Sleuth of all.

First up was Sherlock Holmes (Jeff) facing off against Nancy Drew (Hank and her lemon bars).
Sherlock won.

More pairings ensued between Miss Marple (Hank), Philip Marlowe (Jeff), Amelia Peabody (Judy) Hercule Poirot (Vincent) and Nero Wolfe (Vincent). Sleuths were eliminated one by one amidst some gut busting laughs until the final sleuth stood alone. Chris kept them in line (well, somewhat anyway)

And the winner was.....

Sherlock Holmes as played by Jeff Cohen.

This is a tradition I hope will continue!


New Mystery Series
(A Bailey Ruth Raeburn Mystery)

Bailey Ruth Raeburn loves to solve mysteries. The fact she is dead and in heaven shouldn't stop her, afterall she can now keep track of the living and the dead. Since Bailey is actually a ghost (not an angel) and when an opening comes up in heaven at the "Good Intentions Office" Bailey Ruth feels she is on the right path and can't wait to get her first assignment.
Bailey Ruth has been assigned to help the pastor's wife in her hometown. Kathleen needs all the help she can get when she finds a corpse on her front porch and knows that everyone will think that her husband did the deadly deed of murder.
With the instruction of Mr. Wiggins (Bailey Ruth's Supervisor ) she soon begins unraveling the clues and is on to solving her first case. Bending the rules is all part of the good intentions part of the plan but never ever break the rules.
One step, one path and one soul at a time Bailey gets to the bottom of the murder.
This mystery series is somewhat a mixture of cozy mystery, inspirational mystery and a touch of a ghost story. Never before have I had such mixed emotions about one of Carolyn's Mysteries and I can't wait to hear the feedback on what others think of the first book in this series. I will have to reread this one to give it a rating. Meanwhile I look forward to your comments and please tell your friends about this new series.

Pamela James

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Death By Water Review

Author-Kerry Greenwood
Hardback Series Mystery
Historical Cozy Series

A succession of jewerly thefts on the P&O Cruise among their first class high society passengers calls for drastic measures.Phryne Fisher is their solution to the problem. Suspecting that a passenger is the culprit they need a high soceity detective to go under cover and mingle her way through the suspect list as effortlessly as one would have one cocktail after another.
Phryne takes along her companion Dora who stitches her way through the cruise and has more common sense in her pinky than most of the passengers have jewerly to be stolen. The S.S. Hinemoa is on it's way toNew Zealand and Phryne is wearing the Great Queen of Sapphires (Mabarani) if ever there was a jewel to be stolen it is this one.
Phryne lunches and has dinner with a group of table mates such as erotic photgrapher, jealous husbands and wives, she gossips with jazz musicans but when the cruise takes a choppy turn with a deadly outcome, Phryne, takes her real shot at finding out who finding our thief and the roaring twenties reveal more than than the current dance.

This is one series that is meant to be unconventional, clever and the cunning plot twist are always welcome. This series has more than just mystery it has historical details that move the plot along and stunning characters. Enthralling and perfectly entertaining DEATH BY WATER will keep you anchored in you seat until the last page is read.
Pamela James-reviewer

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Malice 2009/Economy and Costs

I will post several times on various aspects this week. I love the conference, this was my 4th year. But maybe the last for a while. It almost didn't happen. Not just for me, but for everyone. I didn't even decide to go until late due to the economy and after all, it is a big expense. But even the conference itself almost didn't make it for the same reason. The board ended up having to re-negotiate with the Hotel in order for it to go forward.

The problem is, it will likely happen again next year.I am not knocking the board, I AM knocking the Hotel to a degree. The basic problem is last year, the economy seemed fine so it appeared the attendance would be much higher than it turned out to be. By a LOT. The thing is, it caused a big brouhaha and the conference was almost canceled. Nobody was signing up. At almost $300, people DO consider it an extravagance. And you figure, many come from out of town. So there is the registration PLUS hotel (REDUCED rate $139/night -- of course an attendee was telling me that the person who checked in before them got it for $99/night so it appears the hotel COULD have gone lower but didnt). Okay so let's say three nights (THU, FRI, SAT) 153 (with tax) times 3 = 459, so that brings us to 760. Now, you have to add parking. $21/day. First I will say I have NEVER stayed at a hotel where the GUESTS paid for parking. Commuters yes but not those staying there. Even Marriotts - like the Marriott Key Bridge. But fine, they are trying to get their money back however they can. so add on 63 dollars. So now we are at 820 give or take. Now add airfare or gas for travel and you are likely over $1000. Then there is food for non conference meals (lunches etc) and drinks (8.50 for a glass of wine. 11.75 for a vodka tonic....). The number gets higher. Then assuming you want to buy anything from the dealers room (oh like books to get signed by the authors you have come to see....) even bigger totals.So, what do you do? Not easy to say the least. But lower prices mean more people come. But if the hotel wont go lower, then less people do come, and then no malice... And there was cost cutting. smaller rooms. reused tote bags. a very much diminished tea (no sandwiches or pastries and only one cup of tea). Those didnt bother me much except for the sandwiches. Their sandwiches were so good!

But then there were a lot less authors as well. Many of the ones I was used to seeing werent there. It was a shame. Mind you I DID enjoy seeing the ones that were there. But I have to wonder if this is a sign of things to come. At the cost of Malice, an author might very well go for two cheaper conferences. Time will tell. But it is something to really consider.As for me, I will not register early because I might prefer the two cheaper con option next year...

Pamela's May Column


May is the month of Malice Domestic located in Crystal City, Virgina, and we would like to say "Congratulations" to our new winners of 2009. I won't list all of the names here but will say kuddos to Louise Penny who won the 2009 teapot for best mystery, and I will say Gen Malliett won for DEATH Of A COZY WRITER, I hear Elaine Viets was a wonderful Toastmaster.

Terri can fill in the details of Malice.........
Now I have discovered a new to me author. Kerry Greenwood who hails from down under has a wonderful historical cozy mystery series. Phryne Fisher is a roaring twenties sleuth who has manners, beauty but most of all has brains. I would say this series is one of magic and mayhem and should top any cozy historical lovers list. It's not just about the mystery and whodunnit but more about the characters and the lives they lead.
Next up is the topic of Carolyn Hart's third series and this is a new series, first book called GHOST at WORK. I'm not quite sure what I think of this series. You see I thought it was another cozy series but it's only a cozy in a very lukewarm way. It seems heaven's department of good intentions sends Bailey Ruth Raeburn back to her hometown to help a pastor's wife. Kathleen the pastor's wife had found a dead body on her front porch and Bailey must help Kathleen set things to rights. I will be interested to hear what other readers think of this series.
Next up is Diane Mott Davidson's FATALLY FLAKEY and I have to say I am enjoying this culinary mystery. I won't give the plot away but I will say that readers are in for a sweet treat and the setting is "To Die For"...........
So what have I been up to this spring? Soggy weather, watching Perry Mason Movies, looking forward to Mother's Day this Sunday and I'm plugging along writing two books. One traditional cozy mystery titled ONE LITTLE MURDER....this features a bookstore located in a haunted hotel. My second book is SUNFLOWERS about three sisters and how they cope with life, love, careers and family after their father's murder. Both books are set in Kansas.
If all of this isn't enough to keep me pulling my hair out and feeling my age then the next sentence will give you a clue. My oldest grandaughter is graduating from eighth grade on May 7th and along with this I have found another batch of gray hair this week. Nobody prepares you very well for the over fifty decade and I'm pretty sure it's a generational joke that I am not ready to delve into the angst and ploy of this joke. I would much rather read than dye my hair but I am afraid I really don't want batches of gray so dying my hair is a must I'll ignore all other signs of over fifty. Let me just say I know why we have feisty fifty year old women.

Anyway that's my spring and as long as I'm not pushing up daisies I guess I'll close with RAIN DROPS KEEP FALLING ON MY HEAD....remember that song, yeah now try to get it out of your head the rest of the day!

Dark and Stormy Wishes,
Pamela Sue James

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