Thursday, November 26, 2015

Review: The London Ritz Book of Afternoon Tea by Helen SImpson

A nice little book celebrating tea and its history.  The Palm Court Tearoom at the Ritz is one of the most famous places to do so.  It features a history of tea and calls it "The Democratic Herb" as it is enjoyed by all classes and most cultures.  It features differences between Winter Teas, High Tea, Afternoon Tea, Pre-Theatre Tea, Nursery Teas and Summer Teas.  It offers many recipes in both metric and Cup measures.  Recipes include traditional savories and sweets and show how they have been updated over time.They include, Crumpets, English Muffins, Shortbread, Scones, Seed Cakes, Madeleines, Eccles Cakes (which I had no idea were illegal in 1650 - imagine going to jail for eating a cake???)Egg  or Cucumber Sandwiches, Scotch Woodcock, English Rabbit and Welsh Rarebit as well.

The book is filled with literary quotes involving tea and lovely illustrations. 

If you love tea, (which I CERTAINLY do!) it is definitely worth checking out!


Review: Deadly Places by Terry Odell

Ed is currently Acting Police Chief in small town Mapleton.  so now he has to juggle a lot of extra duties that he would rather not like a roaming bear and a tabloid style reporter.

The case he is investigating involves the suspicious deaths (likely murders) of Dead Beat Dads and the connection to what seems like an innocuous blog.  As the investigation ramps up, Ed sets himself up as a target and with the help of a crack team of cops, the bait is taken.

I really enjoyed this story.  The cop work was solid and the demands of his position were interesting.  I liked that he was not a lone gun cop - he worked with his team to get deeper into the web.  He was smart and anticipated.  I like smart police stories and this one really worked.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Review: The Asylum by John Harwood

Georgina wakes in an asylum with no memory of the past few weeks having registered under an assumed name with no idea how she got there.  The Doctor tells her she had suffered a seizure the day before and that he has confidence she will regain her memories.  She has him send a telegram to her uncle and is shocked when the response says that Georgina Ferrars is there with him and she is an imposter they had taken in as a guest.

After this revelation, the mystery deepens as she tries to understand what has happened, regain her memories and recover her life.

This was a very eerie, gothic tale.  As a reader, I, like Georgina, wondered what was happening and if, it was a delusion as the doctor insisted.  Her aloneness and fright were palpable at times.

The story unfolds slowly, with the roots of the mystery in the past.  Parts of the story are told in epistolary style with letters from the past helping her fill in the gaps and piece together what had happened. Very engaging.


Friday, November 20, 2015

Magical Arts Friday: An Interview with Julie Kent


By Pamela James

MM: Julie, give us the backstory on how you came to work for the Parsons Library?

JK: I read the advertisement in the paper for this job and decided this was something I had always wanted to do.  I love the books and the people who come into the library. 

MM: Tell us about how your idea for a coloring day at the library came about? 

JK: I read on a Librarian Facebook page that this phenomenon was very popular in a number of libraries in the USA.  Many of the libraries had discovered that patrons really loved being able to come in and just relax.  I talked to Delores and Jean and they agreed with my idea to start this. 

MM: Do the coloring days stay the same? Explain to us how this works for you? 

JK:Currently we are coloring each Wednesday afternoon for an hour.  We tried several time frames for the program and this is our current program.
An hour seems to be enough for most people to get started on a picture.  They take them home to complete. 

MM: Has anyone completed a colored piece?

JK: We have several pictures that were colored and brought back to us to post. We plan on offering holiday inspired pictures to color and then post as a sort of holiday decorations. 

MM: Do you think you will have a coloring contest?

JK:Our plan is to have a coloring competition soon.  We haven’t decided exactly what that will entail so far.  I have been thinking that it might be fun to do this in December.  We haven’t ironed out the details as yet.

MM: As a young adult specialist for the library: what does this entail?

JK: My job has spanned from Young Adult programs to Tech Tip programs for Adults.  My basic duties include purchase of books and movies for YA, and planning monthly programming for YA usually in the form of a movie or craft program.  During the Summer Reading Program, I plan and usually complete the craft programs that are done for that session. We have had beading crafts, origami, made terrariums, duct tape wallets and other craft items.  I am usually at the Reference Desk during the day, checking books in and out and answering questions for patrons. 

MM: What programming do you have planned for the library? 

JK:We often help patrons access their e-books and audio books on tablets and phones by helping them to download the programs and set them up.  In addition we have had programs on the new Sierra program card catalog, Encore, that is used to find, place a hold, and renew books from home on your computer.  We show patrons how to use this program and it gives them a lot of control over their checkouts and can even offer a way to track the books they want to read and the ones they have already read.

MM: I know you work with a lot of talented ladies. Have any of your coworkers colored a picture?

JK:Several of my co-workers have taken pictures home to complete.  They are some pretty creative people.

MM: Tell us about the different designs and styles you have for patrons to choose from and since this has started what will come next for 2016?

 JK: We have several books that we ordered from Dover Publishing that are adult coloring books.  We also have gotten many pictures from Pinterest and have a coloring account on Pinterest for the Library.

At the coloring sessions, patrons can request a certain subject; today one wanted celestial pictures with the moon and stars, and another one wanted complex pictures of animals: Lions, Elephants and Gorillas. 

MM: Okay now for some fun questions. What is your favorite meal, dessert, books to reread, song, movies and drink?

JK:  I love going out to eat in Joplin at Hu Hot.  This restaurant does stir fry with ingredients that you pick out.  They always have vegetables, lean meat, eggs, and sauces to complete your meal.  This is a buffet-type restaurant so you can go through the line as many times as you want. 

Desserts are really my downfall.  I love chocolate French silk pie, tiramisu, ice cream and cheesecake. That about covers desserts lol.

I have always loved Janet Evanovich books because they are mindless and funny. I am a fan of John Grisham books, J. A. Jance books too.  As far as young adult books, my very favorite is Mike Mullen’s Ash Fall series.  I can re-read them and love them. I also love books that keep me thinking.  Mysteries fit into that category.

I love quiet music: Enya, Native American flute music by Coyote Oldman.  I also love Bruno Mars.  Actually I love most music.  Different genres for different moods.

Currently my favorite movie is Pitch Perfect. I have seen it many times.  I like the music it in.  I also am a fan of The Hunger Games movies, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings movies and of course, Harry Potter movies. 

I love coffee drinks.  I usually have one cup of coffee when I get up in the morning and may have a dessert type coffee when I eat lunch at Remnant Café here in Parsons.  I am fond of the Butter Beer drink (Harry Potter drink). 

MM: If you could sit down with any five authors dead or alive who would they be and what would you want to know?

JK: I really like James Patterson as an author.  I believe he has the whole author thing figured out. He puts out (with another author) a book every month or two.  He also has become a noted children’s author, writing books that young kids and young adults find entertaining.   I think I would just like to spend some time talking about his writing and how he started.  I would love to write a book too so think this might be very helpful.

Janet Evanovich is another author I think would be interesting.  I would be interested in finding out where she got the very funny characters in her Stephanie Plum series.  Do these people really exist ??

Dana Stabenow writes books about Alaska and the Native American tribe members who live there.  I like hearing about the tribal customs and the lifestyle. 

Mike Mullen writes YA books. His series beginning with Ash Fall is a big favorite of mine.  His story begins with the super-volcano in Yellowstone exploding and how the people affected handle the problems that occur.  I really enjoy these books.  They seem very plausible to me and the problems the people face are real.

MM: Lastly, what do you want to say to your patrons about the coloring days?

JK: The Color Your Stress Away program is a lovely way to handle stress.  It is nice we are giving adults permission to color.  Most of them have felt guilty about doing something they may have thought was childish.

JK:  Thanks for giving me an opportunity to tell you about our programs and a bit about myself.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

An Interview with Ritter Ames

By Pamela James

MM2: Ritter, give us the backstory on why you became an author?

RA: It’s probably a story you’ve heard many times, as a young girl everyone asked if I wanted to be a nurse or a teacher, but neither of those occupations appealed to me. I wanted to be a jockey and ride racehorses, but since my dad was 6’3” and my mom 5’7” I figured I was out of luck on that prospect. I loved to read from an early age, however, and self-taught myself to read and write in cursive before I got into kindergarten (then my third grade teacher had the Herculean job of re-teaching me how to write cursive correctly—LOL!). In fourth grade I read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and completely identified with the character of Jo. That was also the first time I realized I could grow up and be a writer. Until that point, I’d honestly never thought about how books came to be—just assumed they were part of the magic of the library. That book was not only an escape into the wonderful world of the March family, but gave me a vocation to shoot for as well.

MM2: How many books have you written?

RA: On the fiction side of things, I’ve completed three books in my Organized Mysteries series, a traditional mystery series set in Vermont and featuring organization expert Kate
McKenzie. In my Bodies of Art series, I’m currently completing the third book in that series which features art recovery expert Laurel Beacham, and is a fast-paced caper/light suspense set in Europe. The Bodies of Art Mysteries was recently contracted by Henery Press, and they will be reissuing the first two under their banner in Feb 2016, with the third coming out next summer. And finally, I have the first of a third series drafted, but not yet revised, as I try to meet my other deadlines in the meantime.

I’ll also be part of a Christmas anthology with a terrific group of bestselling mystery authors. The collection, Cozy Holiday Escapes, will be released November 1st, and will include a
story set in my Organized Mysteries series.

MM2: Do you re-read some of your favorite books?

RA: Oh, yes. Especially when I get finished with a deadline and can give myself a couple of months for binge reading. Favorite series to reread are the Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters (actually, anything by the late-great Ms. Peters), the Jackson Brodie series by Kate Atkinson, the Harry Potter series, the Blackbird Sisters series by Nancy Martin, the Aunt Dimity series by Nancy Atherton, and the Thomas Linley series by Elizabeth George. That’s just a few, but I could give you many, many, many more.

MM2: Is there a piece of advice that you would like to share with other writers who want to write a series?

RA: Make sure you start a series bible as soon as you start writing the first book. I can’t begin to say how many times that one item has saved my sanity when writing—and definitely saved time I would have spent searching to find an eye color or the color of a kitchen or a secondary character’s last name in a previous book.

MM2: Take us thru a typical writing day?

RA: I’m up early. I recently lost my 19-year old wonder cat, but through all those years she conditioned me that getting up early is not just for Black Friday sales—it’s something one should do every day unless one wants a feline to walk over one’s head. So, I’m usually up by 5 a.m., and I drink a couple of cups of tea while I get the cobwebs out of my brain and start to think about work.

When the sun comes up I go for a quick walk. I get a lot of plot problems solved this way. If my yellow Lab is feeling active she tags along, but she’s not really a morning dog.

Then, I write until I have at least 3000 words. I usually have a stack of notes I’ve written as an epiphany struck, so I have a good idea each day what I need to be working on in which book. I write very messy outlines ahead of time to keep me on track for the Organized Mysteries, and I have a highly developed story arc created for the Bodies of Art Mysteries, so I make sure I hit the points I need to hit in the right book in the series.

About three p.m. I go outside and play with the dog. She’s been hanging out with the husband all day, clearing up brush (it seems like he’s always doing that or mowing), so she’s usually napping by that point. I wake her with a couple of slices of cheese, and we play fetch until we’re both sick of handling the slobbery ball—LOL!

I go back in and make note of everything I need to do for the next day, so I can just sit down and start working. If I don’t do this I find ways to procrastinate, and my writing schedule doesn’t have room for that.

About five I start dinner. I look to see what’s on television for the evening—if there’s something good, we watch, if not, I usually try to get a little more marketing done (I do marketing off and on all day, which is why I sometimes can’t even get my 3000 word goal written in a day). I also check for voice mails, as I don’t usually answer the phone as I work. This is a Mon. thru Fri. thing—I usually write a bit on the weekend days, but don’t work as much as through the week.

MM2: Where is your favorite place to write?

RA: I’m one of those weird people who can write anywhere. If I have my laptop, I prefer to write at a desk because I tend to get shoulder pain if the height isn’t correct. But I always have pads of paper in my purse/tote, and I can write whole chapters in minutes with just a few index cards if I’m really desperate and an idea hits. For day-to-day stuff, I write in the living room in the morning, because the porches keep the early sun from putting a glare on my screen, and after lunch I move into my office and work there until I have nothing else to say.

MM2: What would your protagonist tell us about you?

RA: I think either Kate or Laurel would say that I truly want the best for everyone—be the people real or fiction. I love having fun in life, and I want everyone to have a blast as well. Also, I think they would say that I read and write for escape, and that would be true, too. While I love my family and my hometown, there are days when I simply want to solve a nice little murder with Kate McKenzie, or globetrot all over Europe looking for art treasures with Laurel Beacham.

MM2: What would your minor characters tell us about you?

RA: That I’m generous about giving them good lines as well—I don’t let the main characters hog all the attention.

MM2: If you were going to win a trip. Where would you like it to be and why?

RA: If I could go anywhere, I would want to go to somewhere around Lake Como in Italy—probably Varenna, Italy.

MM2: As an author what has writing taught you?

RA: That I have to know my project(s) backwards and forwards, and be able to concisely tell what each book is about, because you only have seconds to hook a reader. Also, the more prework I’ve done before I start a book the fast and easier the draft goes. Finally, this is my career, and I’m the CEO, COO, marketing department, and creative professional—if I don’t do all of my jobs, my business cannot thrive. Because one final thing writing has taught me is that I really love seeing my name on the covers of new books, and that cannot happen if I don’t sit down and write.

MM2: A few fun and easy questions. What is your favorite meal?

RA: I love Japanese food, especially anything cooked teriyaki style. I don’t have a particular favorite meal, but I love all kinds of food when fresh ingredients are used.

MM2: Your favorite place to eat?

RA: Panera Bread—I know, they don’t serve Japanese, but they have so many things I love there, and I can easily meet friends there for a meal or break (since their food appeals to most people) and always leave with a refill of green tea and a great shortbread cookie.

MM2: Your favorite charity?

RA: We give to a lot of charities, but if I had to choose one I would say a homeless mission in our neighboring city. There are just so many people in crisis today, and this shelter has been around as long as I’ve been in this area, so it really understands what the community needs.

MM2: Favorite song, movies?

RA: I love anything by Michael Buble or James Taylor, most things by Van Morrison (especially Moondance) and Colbie Calliat, and bubblegum hits like “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies and “Mmm Bop” by Hanson. And Jimmy Buffet music makes me laugh and feel glad that there is humor in the world.

Favorite movies are pretty much escapes, too. I love Romancing the Stone, and all of the Oceans (11, 12, & 13) movies. My husband told me I had to quit quoting Dead Poets’ Society, but I still do it silently. I fell in love with 30s & 40s movies when I was young, so I still have to go back and watch old Rex Harrison movies like The Ghost & Mrs. Muir and Anna and the King--and I love everything Cary Grant has been in, especially His Girl Friday and Arsenic and Old Lace. I also love the Sherlock Holmes series starring Robert Downey Jr., and any James Bond movie—but particularly if Daniel Craig or Sean Connery stars. If you want to know my guilty pleasure movie, I have to watch American Werewolf in London every couple of years (yes, I just HAVE to!) And my most recent favorite was the newly released The Man from U.N.C.L.E. with Henry Cavill.

MM2: Television series and other shows?

RA: I love really fast dialogue like Aaron Sorkin excels at with the shows he writes and creates. Makes me sit up and pay close attention to everything. I just finished watching The Newsroom on Amazon Prime, because we don’t have HBO so I missed it the first time, and loved the series for the same reason I never missed The West Wing. Current series I never miss are Castle, Grimm, Scorpion, Madam Secretary, New Tricks, Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, and NCIS. Oh, and I can’t wait for The Mysteries of Laura to return to see if they let her move in with the food truck guy, because they really, really should (please don’t let her feel sorry for the injured ex and take him back instead). I also watch a lot of BBC programing on my PBS station, and never miss any Masterpiece programs.

This may sound like a lot of television viewing, but I’ll add here that I rarely watch reruns. The exception to that rule is old Columbo movies and rebroadcasts of the BBC series Sherlock. I enjoy watching repeats of those, but not much else.  

MM2: Do you have any hobbies?

RA: I think reading moved past the hobby stage decades ago, and it’s kind of become an occupation. I’m also pretty good with a camera as long as I don’t have to take pictures of myself. And I’m a badass at Sudoku and Scrabble. Oh, and no one will play any kind of trivia games with me because my brain happily absorbs trivia and pop culture facts like a sponge. In all of those pursuits, I love when I’m able to do them in the company of family and friends. There’s nothing better than sharing activities with people you love.

MM2: Today if there were three of you, what would you have the other two do and what would you do?

RA: I would do all the fun stuff, like writing and hanging out with fun people. I’d convince one of my other selves that she really loves doing all the marketing and business work I have to do as a writer—and I’m very persuasive, so I think that could happen. My third self would be the nurturer, who does the grocery shopping, cooks dinner, cleans the house, does laundry, and makes sure I pay my gas bill on time. I’m highly organized about paying all my other bills, but my natural gas has to be paid a few days earlier than my other utility bills, and I usually remember on the day it’s due—so I either drive 30 miles roundtrip to pay on time or mail it late and pay the penalty (I hate to pay penalties).

MM2: Tell us what you like about living where you live?

RA: Our place makes my husband happy, and keeping him busy and happy gives me more time to write. I’ve moved something like 15 times in my life—twice times with my husband—so early on I told him moving wasn’t something he should look forward to doing. Where we live now is covered with shade trees, has wildlife that comes right to the door—deer, raccoon, possums, neighbors’ cats and dogs, and I have a family of wrens that recently built a nest in the potted philodendron I have on my side porch. So there’s always something to see and sigh over when I need to take a break for any craziness in life.

MM2: Lastly, create your own writing quote?

RA: “I write mysteries because the genre is my favorite avenue of escape…and because I can kill people and not have to wear orange.” 

Monday, November 16, 2015

An Interview with Nancy Martin

By Pamela James

MM: Nancy, give us the backstory on why, when and how you became a mystery author? 

After college, I became a junior high English teacher for a while, but quickly realized I wasn't cut out for teaching.  (My hat is off to teachers! What a difficult job. I'm much better on my own. Wearing yoga pants.) So I used my maternity leave to try to make it as a writer, and luckily that effort paid off. I started out writing romance novels, but since mysteries are my first reading love, I gradually turned away from sex and started killing people. My dad was a lawyer and my mother was an avid mystery reader, so when I was growing up our dinner conversations were always a little strange.  I'm pleased to report I brought my kids up the same way. Some of my best story ideas have come from my family. Like using a polo mallet to kill somebody.

MM: Where is your favorite place to write?

I wish I could write in a trendy coffee shop or even on a city bus while traveling to a cool day job. But I like quiet, so write in a recliner in my living room. When my attention wanders, I tend to think about re-decorating.

MM: Take us thru a typical writing day?

I should skip this question.  There's no way to make my work day interesting. I go to the gym. I come home to shower and write. My husband comes home at six, when I usually quit. In the evenings I usually read. Sometimes I have lunch with writer friends, which is always a welcome break---and a hoot. I call my mother at 5pm. But to someone looking in, my life probably looks as entertaining as drying paint.

MM: Tell us about where you live? Be our tour guide but the twist for you is tell us thru the eyes of your protagonist? 

Nancy lives in a brick prairie-style house that's 100 years old, with stained glass windows, a temperamental fireplace, creaky hardwood floors and a collection of very pretty plein air landscape paintings on all the walls. But the main thing? There are books everywhere. On shelves, tables, the floor, in baskets, piled beside all the beds. The house is drowning in books!

MM: If you could sit down with five other mystery authors (dead or alive), what would you want to learn from them? What will you discuss with the authors? Would you have a meal, just drinks, host a dinner party or maybe just have a order in relaxed conversation night ? 

Oh, I love dinner parties! We grill steaks or roast a fish, open some bottles of wine and let the conversation roll. If I could choose five mystery authors, I'd pick Agatha Christie, of course (because I want to know what really happened when she disappeared, but also because she came up with the best story twists. How did she do that?)  And Mary Higgins Clark (because she's a great raconteur.) I'd love to meet Mary Stewart, too, who probably inspired me to become a writer, and her way with words was wonderful. My token male might be Lawrence Sanders, who was brilliant with dialogue, and he wrote several series, so he was versatile.  And my last choice would be a current writer friend of mine who's very witty, very smart, but also kind and clever, and I know she'd be a good addition to the table.  (I'm not mentioning her name.  Let's see if she figures it out!)

MM: What are your future writing goals? 

My primary goal is to continue making a living at writing. And I want to keep myself engaged and entertained by whatever I produce. I figure my duty as a writer is foremost to entertain. And I must entertain myself first.

MM: Give us an example of when writing advice worked for you?  

When I was struggling with my first book, my brother-in-law was very helpful. He was a non-fic author and taught at the Columbia School of Journalism. I kept going back to the beginning to re-write and fix all my problems, which meant I wasn't making much forward progress. He urged me to keep writing until I reached the end.  He said I could always fix problems later.  Getting the first draft done was key. He was so right!

MM: Okay fun questions time: What is your favorite song, meal, dessert, place to vacation, top of the list on a place you want to visit? 

Favorite song? Blackbird, of course! (I was listening to the song when I was creating the Blackbird Sisters Mysteries, and a lightbulb went off in my head. The name fit perfectly!) Meal? Anything as long as my kids and grandkids sit at the table. Dessert? Blackberry pie. Place to vacation? Somewhere with a lounge chair and an umbrella, where my husband and I can read.  And maybe snorkle.  Place to visit? My husband and I have started a bucket list, and Pompeii is high on that list. But right now we spend our travel budget on visiting grandkids.  We figure they'll enjoy us until they're about ten, when their own lives kick in. So we're making the most of these years. 

MM: Tell us about your series and definitely your latest book? 

I Have a totally new book coming out in November----MISS RUFFLES INHERITS EVERYTHING isn't part of the Blackbird Sisters Mysteries (which are about a trio of Old Money heiresses in Philadelphia, and the books include vintage clothing and high society mayhem, not to mention a hot Mafia boyfriend.) MISS RUFFLES is a very different--a cozy set in Texas, where my daughter moved. I have come to love Texas---it's so crazy and huge and different from where I live in Pennsylvania! The story is about Honeybelle Hensley, a flamboyant wealthy woman who leaves her forture to her dog.  Which makes the whole town of Mule Stop, Texas, furious. Then the dog gets kidnapped. And Honeybelle's dogsitter, Ohio-born Sunny McKillip, springs into action to find Miss Ruffles. I think readers are going to like Sunny's impressions of Texas as she struggles to understand the the place and the people. The chapter headings were especially fun for me.  I took famous quotes about Texas and the west, and I bet they'll make you laugh. A sign in a boarding house that says, "No boots in the bathtub," for example. MISS RUFFLES has been optioned for TV, so my fingers are crossed they'll be able to cast my various unique characters!

MM: Do you have any television, Netflix series etc...that you binge watch or never miss the show/s?

I never missed Downton Abbey, and now I watch the Poldark series. But I'm a big fan of Frontline and Charlie Rose, too. Not to mention Project Runway and just about anything on HGTV. Oh, and professional bull-riding. (There are lots of reasons why I wrote MISS RUFFLES INHERITS EVERYTHING.) No Game of Thrones for me, sorry to say! I can't stand the gore.

MM: Is there some you would like thank for all they have contributed to your success as an author? Maybe a teacher, family, friend or other people? 

The smartest person I know is my mother. If I have an obscure question about history or culture or politics or what happened when.....I know I can ask her. She's also read just about every mystery ever written, so she's great at plot. I can call her and say, "So I need to kill a grumpy old man. How would I do it?" And in five minutes, she can give me ten ideas. Okay, it's a little weird that I talk about killing people with my mother, but honestly, people talk to her on airplanes and pretty soon they're crying on her shoulder. So she's versatile. And only slightly the inspiration for Honeybelle Hensley.

MM: What do your characters know about you that we the readers do not know about you?  

I write the story first.  Then I go back and make it funny.

MM: Plain and simple what is the one word that describes you? 


MM: Now leave us with the one word that describes your protagonist? 

Sunny McKillip is tender-hearted. Is that one word or two?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Magical Arts Friday - The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, My dad and inspiration

Today I want to talk about Vincent Van Gogh's amazing painting:  The Starry Night.  It was my father's favorite painting and as the anniversary of his death is tomorrow, I have been thinking of him a lot.

I never even knew he loved this painting until I was an adult.  I was surprised, because I always just thought of nature pictures in association with him. It was a whimsical side of my dad and his imagination I didn't know about.  I bought him his own print and a book of Van Gogh's work.

I have to admit, I liked Van Gogh but was never really drawn towards his work until that point.  I wanted to see what my dad saw.  Of course, you can never do that.  Art is a personal experience.  The more I looked, I saw the colors and the swirls and saw why people are drawn into this painting.  There is so much to see in the quiet of the night sky.

I have always been fascinated by Van Gogh himself - not just because of the ear thing - because he was a tormented man trying to express himself in a way that went against artistic traditions of the time.  Considered mad and his art ridiculed, it is terrible to think of how hard it was for him.  I think it was his story that made me see how much Art can be a calling.

Of course, his life has inspired other art as well -- the brilliant film with Kirk Douglas - Lust for Life .  Which of course, also inspired a great soundtrack by Iggy Pop - Lust For Life Soundtrack.  Anthony Quinn won an Oscar for his performance as Paul Gauguin.                                             
Another thing that I really was fascinated by was the book Dear Theo by Irving Stone.  

Which brings me back to The Starry Night.  The painting itself inspired an episode of Doctor Who - Vincent and The Doctor.  Who would have thought?  Vincent plays a pivotal role as he is influenced by a mysterious creature that leads him to paint a version of starry night with
 a Tardis in it. 
 But wait - The Tardis is exploding?

BTW - I have that poster.

So now it has inspired an episode of a widely popular tv show?

If you look on the internet there are tons of images where people have run with their own inspiration from that.  Doctor Who Starry Night/Tardis images. On an on it goes.

My personal favorite was the:
So art inspires more art as well as people like my Dad.  My own Starry Night item is his mousepad which I use every day at work - a constant reminder of Dad.

So, the last thing I want to say was that my Dad's light night was in hospice - the had his bed out on a lanai room.  He loved the out-of-doors.  So when he passed, it was under The Starry Night he loved.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Recipe: Chorizo Stuffed Peppers

Was messing around this week and made these.  Really enjoyed!

1-2 tbsp olive oil
5 medium bell peppers (In this case I used 4 green and one purple since that is what I had)
2 chorizo (Spanish) sausages cut into chunks
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
1 large portabella mushroom (chopped)
1/2 cup long grain rice
1 Cup chicken stock
salt/pepper to taste
Monterey jack cheese to melt on top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In medium skillet, brown sausage in oil and add onions and portabella to soften.  
Add rice and chicken stock, bring to boil.  Cover and reduce to simmer for 15 minutes or until rice is cooked.

Stuff the peppers with the mixture, top with sprinkling of cheese and put on pepper top.  Cover and bake for 30-40 minutes until pepper is soft

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Review: X by Sue Grafton

Kinsey Millhone is a private detective. The shortage of new clients might be thee reason she believed Teddy Xanakis when Teddy told her a story, the setting of the story started with a wealthy house, Teddy used an ailis name, the house was decorated, she met Kinsey at night. What could be wrong with this story.
She told Kinsey that her ex-husband cheated with her best friend. That their divorce agreement was unacceptable because he got to keep the artwork. There is a painting she wants back and her ex-husband doesn't know that the painting is worth more than he could imagine. The artwork came with the house, sat in the basement for years.
Kinsey takes the case because what the woman really wants is information on a son she gave up for adoption years ago and her ex-husband doesn't even know exsist.
This pulls at Kinsey's heartstrings even if the son is an ex-con.
Something in Kinsey's gut tells her that something isn't right. Soon she starts to find out clue by clue why it's not right.
Then there is Henry her landlord, neighbor and all around best friend. He is digging up his yard because there is a draught and his water bills keep going up. He wants to do his part by conserving water not wasting it. What's more is  the new neighbors are helpless and he has taken them under his wing. Kinsey thinks they are pests an she would love to swat them.
All of this is more than enough to deal with but then there is the past to set straight as Kinsey doesn't need the bad karma. You see one of the partners in firm she started out in has died. The IRS wants the some missing paperwork on an old case.
The widow and Kinsey go through some of the things and Kinsey ends up with an old bankers box that the detective kept for no good reason. In a hidden compartment he has a manila envelope that holds secrets and needs to be returned to the person it was meant for which mean Kinsey follows the past. in doing so she accidentally trips over the present and soon she learns that Ned Lowe, he is a dead woman's husband, he was involved in a lawsuit years ago, what about the picture of a little girl sitting on her mother's lap and what does any of this have to do with a detective they thought committed suicide?
More questions less answers and soon this whodunit turns into a revelation that is coded and needs to be deciphered. Henry gets the honor and loves every minute of it, at least that is truth when he is not worrying about his lawn and the neighbors next door.
Step by step, the pieces begin the fall into place.
Not before Kinsey has a few nightmares and learns more about love, human nature and murder than she ever wanted to know.
X by Sue Grafton is the best one yet and I will say that I was sleep deprived for a few days.
Let's add in this review that if there was a book of Sue's that could be read as a standalone this is the one.
Pamela James I give one *********** out of ten.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

An Interview with Cindy Blackburn


By Pamela James

MM2: Cindy, give is the backstory on how you became an author, why you became an author and a series author?

The first story I wrote was back in second grade, and my teacher read it to the class. But after that I didn't write fiction for many, many decades. I took it up again in my forties during bouts of insomnia, and somewhere along the line Jessie Hewitt popped into my head. I've always loved series! Once I get to know such lovable and quirky characters I don't want to let them go--whether as a reader or a writer.

MM2: Where is your favorite place to write?

I'm sitting here right now! The porch of my tiny shack in Vermont is my favorite spot. But this is only a summer place. Back home in SC, I have a comfy chair that fits both me and my cat. No desks, please.

MM2: Take us thru your writing day?

I like to write first thing in the morning. Then I putter around doing other life stuff in the afternoons, and on ideal writing days I get back to my writing in the evening for an hour or so before bed. I've read that time before falling asleep is a great time to think about your story. Then your subconscious works on it while you sleep. That does seem to work for me!

MM2: What is the best part of writing a series?

Getting to really live with the characters I love so much. I know them so well, when I hear stories or snippets of dialogue in real life, I often think of how my characters will make use of the stuff. It's also WAY less scary and daunting to start a new book with these folks I already know. And lastly, it's SO fun to watch them change and grow and take on lives of their own. For instance in my latest Cue Ball Mystery, Five Spot, Karen Sembler gets herself into a romance. Karen! I had NO idea that would happen until I began writing.

MM2: They say it takes a village to write a book. Who is in your village?

What a great way to put it! My husband John is CRUCIAL to all my writing efforts. I am technically-challenged to put it mildly, and he helps me with all the computer stuff. He also helps me make decisions on marketing and publicity, and he's one of my beta-readers. I can't say enough good things about the Sisters in Crime group I belong to in Greenville, SC, or the Lowcountry Romance Writers of America I used to belong to when I live in Charleston, SC. Other authors are always very supportive.

MM2: I love to ask this question. Past or present what five authors would you like to sit down and share a meal with? What would you like to know from them and what would you tell them?

Wow, this is a hard one. I love Dorothy Sayers, Jane Austin, Barbara Pym, Robert Parker, and Joan Hess. I think they're all very entertaining, and so I think I'd let them talk about whatever popped into their heads. I'd tell them the champagne I was serving was my character Jessie Hewitt's idea!

MM2: Tell us about where you live? Be our tour guide and of course we want to know why you love living there?

I've already mentioned my shack in Vermont. It's on a lake and I live here in the warm weather. I love looking out at the waterfowl and at my flower garden leading to the water! Inside is very rustic. Although I do have electricity and running water ... almost always. In South Carolina I live outside of Greenville in a very cool and spacious condo. The building used to be a highschool so I have high brick walls and many huge sunny windows. No garden, but a balcony with flowers. My writing chair is in the sunniest spot.

MM2: Did you used to have other hobbies?

I used to read a lot more! Now I'm always writing. I like to exercise--yoga, walking, biking, kayaking. And I like to garden.

MM2: Tell us about your family life?

One hubby, one cat, no kids. Things are pretty quiet in our household except for when Betty the cat thinks I've forgotten her dinnertime.

MM2: Okay let's talk about your latest book in the "Cue Ball Series", and what comes next in your writing career?

Five Spot!! The fifth Cue Ball Mystery is now available! Yay! Jessie and Wilson go to a Romance Writer's conference called the Happily Ever After. And take a guess what happens! Oh, and there's that little side story about Karen's romance. Just WAIT till you hear about her first date!

At long last! Jessie Hewitt is about to take her rightful spot in the Hall of Fame. No, not the one for pool sharks. This is the Romance Writers Hall of Fame. Jessie’s so excited she’s even convinced über-hunky cop Wilson Rye to tag along for the induction festivities. But things don’t go exactly as planned. How could a conference called Happily Ever After take such a wrong turn? Take a guess.

What comes next? I'm working on the 2nd Cassie Baxter Mystery called Unexpected. What's unexpected? A five year old boy named Truman steps into her life. Let's just say, Cassie's not a kid-person.

MM2: Here are some fun questions. What is your favorite meal, dessert, song, holiday, place to vacation, way to distress after a long day? Also your favorite television series and movies?

Meal--Pizza and champagne
Dessert--Chocolate ice cream, chocolate anything!
Song--Gosh, I don't think I have one! But like Jessie, I like old fashioned 60's and 70's rock and roll.
Vacation--Anywhere in Europe when I've saved enough pennies and dimes.
TV show=-Big Bang Theory
How to unwind--Big Bang Theory and NCIS repeats, long walks, bike rides, or kayak paddles. And as Jessie does, a glass of champagne at happy hour is always nice!

MM2: What would your characters tell us about you?

That I'm very energetic and hard-working. That I have to do a lot of revising to get them and their stories ju-uust right!

MM2: Lastly, leave us with a quote from one of your characters?

Jessie--"A day without champagne is just plain dumb."

I love this series and hope it continues for a long time to come!

Thanks, Pamela! And thanks for all these thought provoking questions. I hope everyone enjoys Five Spot!

Cindy Blackburn is living the dream! She spends her days sitting around in her pajamas, thinking up unlikely plot twists and ironing out the quirks and kinks of lovable characters. In other words, Cindy's a writer.

When she's not typing on her laptop or feeding her fat cat Betty, Cindy enjoys taking long walks with her cute hubby John. A native Vermonter who hates snow, Cindy divides her time between the south and the north. Most of the year you'll find her in South Carolina. But come summer she'll be on the porch of her lakeside shack in Vermont.

Cindy's favorite travel destinations are all in Europe, her favorite TV show is The Big Bang Theory, her favorite movie is Moonstruck, and her favorite color is orange. Cindy dislikes vacuuming, traffic, and lima beans.

Review: 13 Stolen Girls by Gil Reavill

After an earthquake in LA, Detective Layla Remington finds a large broken barrel with a body inside.  It turns out to be a missing actress...