The ARCs Are Here!

Murder, by George ARCs

Here they are, the advance copies of Murder, by George (I love mail, particularly when it’s a box of books). Since receiving the ARCs last week, I’ve sent out six copies to cozy bloggers for review, set up an interview with one blogger, and guest posts with two others.

I’ve also been proofreading the book, looking for goofs that weren’t caught during the editing process. It’s amazing how different the story looks when I’m reading it in book form rather than on a laptop screen or on paper printed from the computer. Errors, word usage, and slight inconsistencies pop out.  I’ve found some typos and a few instances where two paragraphs should be combined into one or one paragraph split into two or three. There are also a couple of minor changes I want to make. One change relates to the past history of a new character. The change will make the circumstance in which the character lands more realistic while also making the character more flawed, more human.

I will submit the corrections to Five Star this week and then that’s it, no more tinkering!

Have a great week, everyone, and enjoy tonight’s Super Bowl!

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Bad News/Good News

The last ten days have brought good news and bad news from my publisher, Five Star Publishing.

First, the bad news. After much analysis and reflection, Five Star has made the very difficult decision to stop acquiring mystery titles. They will continue to accept manuscript submissions for their Western and Frontier lines and are one-hundred percent committed to the mysteries they are contracted to publish through March, 2017.

I am very grateful to Five Star for the opportunity to present my writing to readers. Without this terrific company, I might still be daydreaming about being a published author. I’ll always be proud to have been a Five Star author.

This doesn’t mark the end for the Veronica Walsh series and other stories that have yet to emerge from my brain. Once I finish writing Veronica’s third adventure (I’ve fallen behind a bit, I admit), I’ll start the search for a new home for Veronica and her friends. I appreciate your positive thoughts on this effort.

The good news from Five Star, which I received on Friday, is that the advance copies for Murder, by George are on the way! I can’t wait to see the ARCs and distribute them to cozy bloggers, librarians, and bookstore managers.  I understand the importance of book promotion now more than ever and will work hard to spread word of the book’s release far and wide.

Finally, if you were hit by the blizzard that roared up the East coast (fifteen inches of snow fell on my town), I hope you have electrical power, are still talking to the people with whom you were snowbound, and have shoveled out of the mounds of snow without too many aches and pains.

Have a great week, everyone.

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From Resolution To Habit

I’ve read that it takes eighteen days for a behavior to become a habit. Or is it twenty-one days? Whichever it is, if you have been diligent in following your New Year’s resolution(s), you are only hours away from having a shiny new addition to your daily routine.

My main 2016 goal is to throw something out every day. And I don’t mean things that are thrown out in the course of a typical day, like the scrap paper I used to make my shopping list. On day seventeen of the new year, I’m proud to say I’m keeping to my resolution. I don’t know if I’ll come up with 366 items to discard, but I’m going to ride this wave as long as I can.

Since January 1, I’ve tidied two drawers, thrown out a stack of old VHS tapes (am I the only one who still has them?), and started piles of clothes and books to donate to the church thrift shop and the local library. I’ve taken a few trips down memory lane after finding souvenirs from long-ago vacations, letters from pen pals I had when I was in high school, and a box of my college notebooks. Other discoveries make me shake my head.

For example, my recipes’ folders. I’ve amassed quite a collection of recipes from websites, cookbooks, and friends for appetizers, entrées, and desserts. I have repeatedly stuck the sheet of paper I just printed into the folder and never looked at it again. Going through one folder last week, I discovered I had more than a dozen Irish soda bread recipes (for both the inauthentic version that’s loaded with sugar, caraway seeds, and raisins and the traditional soda bread my maternal grandmother learned to bake when she was growing up in Kiltimagh, County Mayo). I kept one recipe and dumped the rest in the garbage can, along with all the recipes for chocolate chip cookies, pound cake, beef bourguignon, and shrimp scampi.

When I set this resolution, I thought it would be a difficult task. Instead, it’s wonderfully fulfilling to clear out and clean up. The kitchen cabinet looks so much better now that I’ve thrown out the baggie filled with Box Tops for Education markers meant for a school that closed two years ago, the town bulk pickup schedule from 2014, and the spray nozzle from a since-replaced kitchen faucet. Plus I found house key duplicates I didn’t know we had during my cleaning session.

I’ve learned that I need to be more mindful of what I tuck on the shelf or stash in the closet. I need to ask myself: Will I watch this dvd again? Is this a book I’ll remember and want to re-read? And do I really need this list of military alphabet codes? Because you know, Jeanne, you can find it on the internet anytime you like.

By the way, have you noticed there are now links at the top of this page for pre-ordering Murder, by George? Just asking.

Have a great week, everyone!

 

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What January Doldrums?

Happy New Year! In 2016, I wish you more joy than sorrow, more highs than lows, more smiles than tears, and more credit than debit.

Now we’re in January, a month many don’t particularly like. The excitement of the holidays is over and we have to cope with cold, snowy weather, credit card bills, and the hard reality of resolutions made in the waning, optimistic hours of 2015. You might be asking yourself right about now, “Do I really want to exercise two hours a day and eat more fruit?”

Some folks deal with the January blues by fleeing to Florida, catching up on new movies, or re-decorating their Christmas trees with Valentine hearts. I face January with a smile. I happen to like this month. My mother and brother Bob have their birthdays in the coming days, giving our family a great reason to gather in celebration. The film awards season kicks into high gear with the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild presentations and the Academy Award nominations. A college football champion will be crowned next Monday, and the NFL will hold its playoffs to determine what teams will meet in the Super Bowl.

January also starts a new season of expectation. Whether you’re awaiting a wedding, birth of a baby, graduation, or book publication (Murder, by George begins its trek to bookseller warehouses on May 18!), a flip of the calendar page brings your special event that much closer. January, despite its frigid days and early sunsets, carries within it the promise of wonderful things to come.

Want more? We celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday on the eighteenth. January 13 is May Your Dream Come True Day (start that book you’ve always wanted to write!), Dress Up Your Pet Day happens on the fourteenth (don’t go too crazy with the costumes),  the sixteenth is National Nothing Day (it falls on a Saturday, when many of us are doing nothing anyway), and Spouse’s Day comes on January 26 (how did retailers miss this special day?). If you’re a foodie, enjoy Bean Day (6th), National Popcorn Day (19th), National Buttercrunch Day (20th), National Blonde Brownie Day (22nd), National Pie Day (23rd), and Chocolate Cake Day (27th).

If you’re still not feeling great about January, go back to bed and celebrate the Festival of Sleep Day, happening today.

Have a great week, everyone!

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Christmas Greetings

Holly and Mistletoe

Season’s Greetings!

Before I get to my Christmas post, I have an update on Murder, by George. I received word from Five Star a week ago that they are rescheduling the release of their upcoming titles. The release date for Murder, by George has been moved from January to May 18, 2016. Now instead of having the book to curl up with on a cold winter’s night, it will be the perfect book to bring on your summer vacation!

Christmas Bells Red Ribbon

The wait for Murder, by George will be a bit longer, but the Advent season of waiting will come to an end soon. Where are you in your Christmas preparations? Are you done and enjoying the sights, smells, and tastes of the season? Or are you still running around, searching for a gift for your uncle, buying flour for cookies to be baked, and trying to figure out where you’re going to find the time to bake those cookies?

Baking is one of my favorite Christmas traditions, with the candy cane cookie serving as the official Quigley family holiday treat. My paternal grandmother introduced the family to the cookie, baking it for many years from a Betty Crocker recipe. When she passed away in 1983, I assumed the duty of sifting confectioner’s sugar, crushing candy canes, and dying dough with red food coloring to make the tasty goodies. The cookie distribution has grown from three tins to nine as family scattered from upstate New York to the mountains of Colorado look forward to sinking their teeth into the delicious delight. I don’t leave myself out, always filling a tin with a few dozen to enjoy all the way to the twelfth night of Christmas.

Yummy!

Add batches of chocolate chip cookies and butter cookies to the mix and I’m in the kitchen for hours. That’s plenty of time to indulge in another tradition, the viewing of Christmas movies. I always start with Grumpy Old Men, starring my favorite screen team, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. It might not be considered a holiday film, but the plot takes place during the season, which is enough reason for me to pop it into the dvd player and enjoy. It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, and A Christmas Carol (the George C. Scott adaptation!) are on my must-see list.

A Christmas Carol is also a must-read in the days that lead up to Christmas. The Charles Dickens’ classic is so rich in story, characters, and setting, something different stands out to me each time I read it. If you’ve never read this short story, or if it’s been a few years, I heartily encourage you to set aside some time to spend with Scrooge, the Cratchit family, and the Three Spirits. I also add a helping of humor to my reading list with laugh-out-loud tales of holiday disasters, courtesy of Laurie Notaro’s An Idiot Girl’s Christmas.

Finally, what would the holiday be without fabulous Christmas music? Rosemary Clooney’s version of “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” Doris Day’s “Toyland,” “Christmas Time Is Here Again” from Marty Robbins, and anyone singing “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” are particular favorites of mine. And I’m always ready to sing-along with Mitch Miller and the Gang (“The Twelve Days of Christmas” anyone?), though my family would prefer I keep it to a soft hum.

However you celebrate, may your traditions bring you pleasure this season. Enjoy every moment with your family and friends, savoring old and new traditions with the spirit of the season. I wish you a very happy Christmas!

 

Holly and Mistletoe

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Giving Thanks

autumn leaves

I wish a happy Thanksgiving to all who will be celebrating the holiday tomorrow. I hope you all have a wonderful day, and weekend, sharing joyous moments with your families and friends!

In 1 Thessalonians 5:28, Saint Paul tells us to “in all circumstances give thanks.” The attacks in Paris, Lebanon, and Mali have reminded me that I must be thankful for all life’s moments. My gratitude list is too long to include everything here, but I will write that I am grateful for a wonderful family, kind friends, good health, my church, and the terrific Five Star Publishing.

I am also thankful for all of you who follow this blog and/or my Facebook page. I appreciate your visits here and look forward to sharing the excitement of Murder, by George’s release early next year. Thank you!

Have a beautiful holiday, everyone!

autumn leaves

 

 

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The Fall-Back Hour

Happy November, everyone!

Today many of us are enjoying an extra hour, having moved our clocks from 2 am to 1 am this morning as daylight saving time ended. “Falling back” in November is so much better than “Springing forward” in March, when we gain an hour of sunlight, but lose an hour.

What do you do with this gained hour? Sleep is probably the popular answer, but here are a few ideas to spend those bonus sixty minutes. If you are in Australia, disregard this post, because it’s already tomorrow (to paraphrase the great Charles Schulz).

Write! Yes, I’m spending time today working on the third Veronica Walsh mystery. If you are a writer, you might also have risen from bed early to sit at your computer or with a pen poised over paper to start a new chapter on your latest book.

If you are not an author, you can write a letter to a loved one. Not a text, email, or composition in a Word document! Do it the old-fashioned way, on nice stationery with a ballpoint pen (unless you have a quill and inkwell handy).

Read! Start a new book in your to-read pile, or use the gained hour to finish that 500 page biography you’ve been soldiering through for weeks. I’ll be starting Mike Befeler’s Mystery of the Dinner Playhouse later today.

Walk! Get out and get some fresh air, exercise, and soul-boosting views of the beautiful autumn colors. Roam your neighborhood, checking out what damage the trick-or-treaters did yesterday treading across lawns and racing through leaf piles to add to their bags of yummy goodies. There may also be some discarded bottles or cigarette stubs from that party your neighbor had (and to which you were not invited). You can go by his house and throw a few pebbles at his window, disturbing his attempt to slumber his way through the fall-back hour. Just make sure there’s a nearby tree, SUV, or large dog you can hide behind after you’ve played your post-Halloween mischief.

Clean a closet! If you’re really ambitious, you can do some autumn cleaning, clearing out old things that you can toss in the garbage or donate to make room for the stuff you’ll get on Christmas. If you’re not up to facing your double closet, pick a drawer, any drawer, and get to work.

Bake! If you watch The Great British Baking Show (I love this show!), the voice of Sue Perkins is now in your head. You can start getting your holiday-baking muscles in shape by mixing up a batch of oatmeal or chocolate chip cookies. Your house will be filled with a delectable aroma, you will feel great about yourself for making something from scratch, and you’ll have your own delicious treats after giving away candy all day yesterday. Unless you’re me, who only had two trick-or-treaters.

Phone a friend! Call someone you haven’t talked with in a while and catch up on what’s been going on in your lives. Your friend will (hopefully) be happy to hear from you, and the warm glow of friendship will linger for days.

Sleep. If you must.

Have a great week!

 

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Getting Cozy for the Fall

fall wreath

It’s the time of year when we start to enjoy evenings before a crackling fire, put on our sweaters and fleece-lined slippers, and swap cooling drinks for mugs of marshmallow-topped hot cocoa. What is a wonderful accompaniment to all this? A cozy mystery, of course!

You will have to wait until January to read my autumn-set Murder, by George, but there are several cozies available now (or soon!) that are sure to please as the days grow shorter and colder.

First on my list is Sliced Vegetarian by fellow Five Star Publishing author Liesa Malik. The second in the Colorado-based Daisy Arthur series (Faith on the Rocks) centers on the murder of an accountant. When Cissy Melato is found dead in a supermarket bathroom and a special-needs adult is the prime suspect, Daisy slips into sleuth-mode once again to clear the young man’s name. A grocery store isn’t a typical murder site; I’m eager to see how Daisy searches for clues among the broccoli, parsnips, and bok choy.

Other Five Star releases on my reading list are Mike Befeler’s Mystery of the Dinner Playhouse, The Musubi Murder  by Frankie Bow, Stone Cold Case by Catherine Dilts, Annette Mahon’s Slay Bells, and A Pallette for Murder by Vanessa A. Ryan.

I have been a reader of Rosie Genova’s Italian Kitchen Mysteries since its debut (Murder and Marinara). The third book, A Dish Best Served Cold, promises all the elements that have made the series a winner: an intelligent sleuth in Victoria Rienzi, romantic complications, a colorful, intergenerational family, and the Atlantic Ocean. Genova raises the drama by putting the Rienzi family’s Jersey Shore restaurant in the path of a hurricane. This should be good.

As a longtime fan of Karen MacInerney’s Gray Whale Inn cozies, I am excited for her new series, the Dewberry Farm Mysteries, which debuts with Killer Jam. In this Texas-set story, journalist Lucy Resnick’s new life as owner of her grandmother’s farm is disrupted by an oil driller who wants to install a derrick on the property. When the executive is found dead, with a jar of Lucy’s jam at her side, you know whom the police will finger as their prime suspect. I’m looking forward to my visit to Dewberry Farm in Buttercup, TX.

Nancy Atherton’s Aunt Dimity paranormal series is very cozy, with its honey-colored cottage in the Cotswolds setting, quirky village denizens, and well-intentioned, but nosy, protagonist. There are no murders in these stories; sleuth Lori Shepherd investigates puzzles such as a garden well that seems to grant the whispered wishes of villagers, the cause of “accidents” at a Renaissance festival, and the mystery raised by a vampire sighting. Atherton’s latest, Aunt Dimity and the Summer King, brings a threat to Lori’s village of Finch in the form of a real estate developer. Can Lori save her adopted hometown from the spectre of McMansions or is this the end of Finch’s idyllic days?

Want more? I also have Tracy Weber’s A Killer Retreat, Fillet of Murder by Linda S. Reilly, Dead to the Last Drop by Cleo Coyle, and Parnell Hall’s latest, Puzzled Indemnity marked as To Read.

What mysteries are you looking forward to “falling” into this season? I still have room on my list for more!

Have a great week, everyone!

fall leaves

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Summer Reading Book Report ’15

A happy Labor Day to all in the United States. I hope you are enjoying this unofficial end- of-the-summer weekend.

Back in June, I shared a few of the books I wanted to read over the summer. I got to three of them (Dorothy Parker Drank Here by Ellen Meister and Alexander McCall Smith’s The Novel Habits of Happiness have been moved to the autumn to-read list) and would like to share my thoughts.

I always look forward to the latest from Anne Tyler, with A Spool of Blue Thread no exception. Tyler is a master at writing about a typical family’s life with poignancy and insight. Often, she creates a loveable character who is drifting through life, moving from job to job, and relationship to relationship, without direction. In A Spool of Blue Thread, the Whitshanks are the family and Denny the son meandering in and out of their lives. I hate to write this: The book disappointed me. I skipped over long sections that took readers into the family’s past and found that I didn’t particularly care for any of the characters. Still, I can’t wait for Tyler’s next offering.

Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman received a great deal of attention this summer, with many readers falling at the extremes with their reviews; some loved the book, others hated Lee’s portrayal of the Finch family twenty years after the iconic events of To Kill a Mockingbird. I fall in the middle, neither loving nor hating the work. I found it an interesting, but uneven, read, enjoying some passages and wishing for a quick end to other sections. I think students would benefit from reading Lee’s portrayal of the 1950’s South; it might help them understand the mindset of many opposed to the changes brought on by Supreme Court rulings.

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Anderson Brower was my favorite book of the summer. Brower interviewed dozens of current and former White House staff members, not the people who serve in the president’s administration, but the permanent employees we never see: butlers, housekeepers, chefs, electricians, plumbers, florists. Brower shares their memories here, providing readers with interesting information on the work of the residence staff and tales of presidents, first ladies, and their families. There are no shocking revelations here; the staff holds much respect for the dignity of the presidency. There are entertaining stories on Nancy Reagan’s perfectionism, Lyndon Johnson’s demand for a shower that supplied scorching water with the force of a firehose, and George H.W. Bush’s tradition of playing horseshoes with the staff. There is a humanizing passage on Richard Nixon’s last hours in the White House, and very sad recollections on the days following John Kennedy’s assassination. The people and their recollections stayed with me days after I finished reading Brower’s excellent work.

I’ll finish with another White-House related book that wasn’t on my original list: And the Good News Is . . . : Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side by Dana Perino. Perino, George W. Bush’s press secretary in the last year of his administration, shares with readers personal and professional stories as well as advice to recent graduates (it’s welcome wisdom for those of us who aren’t, too) on how to reach their goals. She reflects on the decisions she made on the twisting path that took her to the podium of the White House briefing room, from what college to attend to moving to England to be with the man she loved. Perino’s you-never-know-where-life-will-take-you experiences prove there just might be a crack in that door you think you’ve shut forever. A very enjoyable, fast read.

What did you read this summer that inspired and entertained you? Please share; I’m always looking for good reading material!

Have a great week, everyone.

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A Sneak Peek at Murder, by George

Happy Sunday! I hope the day is as beautiful where you are as it is here in New York. You can’t do much better than blue skies, warm sunshine, and chirping birds.

I thought it was about time I give you all a peek at Murder, by George (coming in five months!). I’ve selected an excerpt from the story’s first day; the scene is a confrontation that takes place at The Hearth, Barton’s popular restaurant, a few hours after architect Scott Culverson has unwittingly purchased a valuable painting by renowned local artist George Bradshaw. There’s tension in the room when Bradshaw’s family stomps in and orders Scott to hand over the painting. The high drama, complete with a few prima donnas, is like a scene from Veronica’s former soap opera, without the fun or a director yelling “Cut!”

Click on the new page above to read the excerpt. I hope you enjoy it!

Have a great week, everyone!

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