Two Are Sometimes Better Than One By Maryann Miller

HeadsshotfromCadilacsigningOther than parenting, I can’t think of anything else that is more difficult for two people to share than one writing project.  But when it’s done right, when everything works’ the results are amazing.

 

When I first met Margaret Sutton, and we decided to write a book together, all I could think of was “The Odd Couple.” Not that either of us matched the personality types of Felix and Oscar, but we certainly were as opposite as opposite could get. How could a humor columnist who was known as the Erma Bombeck of Plano, Texas and an entrepreneur whose writing credentials included invoices, business letters, and a single sale to Ellery Queen’s Mystery magazine turn out anything even remotely appealing to fans of hard-boiled crime fiction?

 

Finding our way from that brash beginning to the publication of Doubletake, a police procedural featuring a female homicide detective, was a most interesting journey. I juggled five young children and a weekly deadline at the newspaper. Margaret juggled a manufacturing business and a busy social life. But somehow we made it.

 

The first thing we realized was how much research we needed to do. Collectively, we knew zip about law enforcement – speeding tickets not withstanding – and we had no clue how the criminal mind works. Honest, we didn’t. We were lucky in that we both had connections to people in law enforcement, and those people were happy to help us get it right.  Police officers really do hate it when authors don’t get it right.

 

After an initial period of research and outlining the story, we each chose sections to write. Usually, that was determined by who came up with the original idea for that part of the plot, and I was sometimes amazed at how effortless that process could be. Our plan was to meet once a week and trade chapters. We each would then add our touch to the other’s work, hoping the end result would be a smooth blend.

 

Margaret was the epitome of tact when she read my first attempt to get into the killer’s mind. It was… well, how should I put this…so nice. But what did she expect from a mom? She put the pages down and suggested that perhaps the killer wouldn’t be thinking in terms of “Gosh, Golly, Gee.” Maybe he’d go for something with a little harder edge. When I told her I didn’t know about harder edges, she took me out back and made me use words I’d never even heard before. She made me say them over and over until they could come out without making me stammer or blush.

 

When collaborating, it really helps to have a sense of humor. When egos tended to get a bit sensitive, we found laughing beat arguing and Margaret took that to heart. It became a personal challenge to come up with a bigger and better practical joke to play on me the next time I came to her office to work. Don’t even ask me about the fake puke on the stack of manuscript pages I’d spent weeks typing. (Yes, this all started long before computers and printers.)

 

A writing partnership that is a complement of talents is a real gift. In the two years we worked on Doubletake, I noticed that Margaret’s strengths bolstered my weaknesses and my strengths bolstered hers. Each of us brought something unique and special to the process and, now reading through the book, I’m never sure where one of us left off writing and the other began. I couldn’t look at a chapter and tell you specifically who wrote which section. I may know who started a chapter. Margaret does have a wonderful way of setting up memorable secondary characters-the introduction of the irascible Dr. Davis is uniquely hers-but beyond that, the lines blur; which is a very good thing. Even though quilts play a central part in the plot, I’d hate to think the book resembled one.

 

BOOK BLURB:

Two brutal murders rock the quiet community of Twin Lakes, Texas, and Detective Barbara Hobkins must catch the killer before becoming the target of Doubletake. First published under the pen-name Sutton Miller, the book has been revised and updated and re-released as an e-book and paperback.  “You’ll hate to put this one down until you have read that last word. Highly recommended by a satisfied reader, and I’m looking forward to the next book by this author. Enjoy.” Anne K. Edwards

 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Maryann Miller won her first writing award at age twelve with a short story in the Detroit News Scholastic Writing Awards Contest and continues to garner recognition for her short stories, books, and screenplays. She lives in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas, where she also loves to play on stage.

 

Margaret Sutton has headed several unique businesses in the Dallas area. These included the production of home decorating items and a custom-design carpet sculpting business. Sutton has placed short stories in several mystery magazines such as Ellery Queen Magazine. A resident of Texas, Sutton shares her home with a pet monkey and considers herself  “Willie’s Mom”.

 

Buy Links for Doubletake

 

 

Paperback  http://www.amazon.com/Doubletake-Maryann-Miller/dp/1495498174/

 

You can find out more about Maryann and her other books at her Amazon Author Page  * Website   * Blog   and follow her on Facebook   and Twitter   Margaret likes to remain more of a mystery.

Auditory Viewpoint by Lillian R. Melendez

Auditory_ViewpointAuditory Viewpoint

By Lillian R. Melendez

ISBN-10: 1612962114

ISBN-13: 978-1612962115Official Picture Lillian R. Melendez

Black Rose

Trade paper, 248 pgs.

$18.95

 

Lillian Melendez’s Auditory Viewpoint is a one-of-a kind mystery for me. I’ve not read any other books that has a blind woman working to solve a mystery. Melendez does it very well, except for one point–her main character seems to lose sight of the goal of solving who is trying to kill her sister! Actually, it seemed to make her much more realistic… Can you imagine being blind and having others feel that you could not take care of yourself? Gloria Rank had proven it to herself and was living alone and apparently doing quite well. She was the older sister of Anna, who seemed to be one of those individuals. So much so that when Anna finds herself in trouble and Gloria wants to help, it created somewhat of an argumentative situation… Sounds pretty realistic, doesn’t it. Except that Gloria had reached “that point” where she knew she had to show her sister and others just how well she could handle even a dangerous situation.

I enjoyed it myself, but others may see her as a domineering woman, which she is not. Gloria knows that there are other senses that humans all have, that we do not use as fully, just because we can see! She was determined to take the time to teach her sister how to better protect herself, even while Anna came across in a condescending manner. A very interesting and brave approach by Melendez because that sometimes makes her two main female characters come across negatively. I’m assuming that my thoughts are correct and I’m applauding the author for taking on this challenge to make it more realistic…If I’m wrong, then probably Gloria’s interpersonal skills need to be worked on if she appears in another novel…LOL

Gloria Rank was co-host for a talk radio program, “The Scope Morning Show” along with John Myers and had earlier met Benjamin Taylor, an information security analyst, who had provided his expertise on a program on identity theft and cybercriminals, plus what you can do if you happen to become a victim.

She had learned enough on that program to automatically think of Ben when her sister called her, distressed, because her identity had apparently been stolen! As the investigation proceeded, the police had found tape of a woman that looked very much like Anna accessing her account. Apparently $12,000 was gone!

But what did that have to do with the dead man found at her door?!!! Police began to suspect that there was actually somebody out there wanting to hurt Anna and they suggested she leave her apartment…

Two learning aspects for readers is, first, from the IT expert on identity theft and other scams, but the more important–or at least just as important–is Gloria’s teaching Anna and also Ben about learning how to more effectively use all of your physical senses… Even smell might be important, right in your home!

Once the police realized that the sisters were doing their own investigation, they tried to make them understand how dangerous it was, but at least they tried to keep in touch as often as possible. And Ben seemed to be making the time away from his own work to go with them–so, of course, he began to take the lessons that Gloria was adamant they learn. Now, admittedly, there were a lot of conversations that were overheard, but overkill might just convince those of you who still believe that there is safety in numbers, like at a mall, well, soon it was apparent that was not true, especially when a little device was added to the criminals’ activities… Don’t know what that is? This might have been created to read ID numbers from boxes to maintain inventory…But what can the criminal minds’ ideas become?

There is a fascinating twist that you should be on the alert for… Two of our characters will be recipients of the activity–acting as a trigger of the same event…One is good; one is evil…or driven to revenge? Once again, a daily occurrence in American lives becomes the basis for criminal action…

This is an informative as well as taunting story that makes readers stop to consider what they can do or learn to be safer. I have only one suggestion to this professional writer…take the time to listen to how people are talking these days–it’s shorter, faster and not grammatical; e.g., very few young people will say, “What is up, brother?” Each of us will probably immediately think of multiple ways that this phrase has been reduced… There is a fine line that writers need to learn and use in today’s world. We talk in contractions, do not say entire words that would occur in formal writing. This book could have been much more exciting, more in line with other thrillers coming out, if, whenever possible, and easily understandable to readers, sentences are not filled with lots of adjectives and other shortcuts that are prevalent in today’s world…This is more important, in my opinion, in mystery, suspense, and thriller genres… Don’t go too far, but a lot of extra words really could have been taken out without hurting the basic story. I would still recommend it because of the unique concept of the story, as well as the information provided. It’s hard to claim this book is not well written, but it is different from Americanized talking… Work to find that balance, and you’ll find there will definitely be a difference in the speed of reading and the ability of readers to more quickly sink into your story…

GABixlerReviews
Book Provided for Review

Review: The Kingdom of Dog by Neil Plakcy

kingdomofdogThe Kingdom of Dog

A Golden Retriever Mystery

Neil S. Plakcy

Kindle Edition – 2011

Reviewed by Patricia E. ReidNeil
Let me introduce myself.  My name is Rochester and I am a Golden Retriever.  For those of you who read about me in the book In Dog We Trust, it is good to see you again.  For those new to Golden Retriever Mysteries, Welcome!

For a little background, I now share a townhouse with Steve Levitan. We enjoy each other’s company and share some wonderful times as well as a few scary adventures. Steve has a full time job as an adjunct in the English Department of Eastern College, his alma mater.  Having a full time job is something new for Steve and me.  Steve got into a little trouble prior to moving here and it has been a struggle to put the past behind him but things seem to be coming together now.

Steve is currently working under Mike MacCormac, the director of alumni relations and Eastern is getting ready to launch a $500 million capital campaign to fund new constructions, scholarships and faculty chairs.   Mike isn’t happy with Joe Dagorian, director of admissions.  Mike has a wealthy alumni targeted for a major gift but Joe is refusing to send an admittance letter to Moran’s son.

The night of the big fund-raiser finally arrives and Steve is busy at the party.  I am resting in Steve’s office when I decide to go wander around outside and that is when I find Joe’s body.  I immediately notify Steve, the police are called and the investigation begins.

Joe thought the money being spent for the party was a waste and could be used to better advantage in other areas.  There were several people at the party who had reason to be happy to be rid of Joe so there was no lack of suspects.

Joe was Steve’s mentor and his friend and Steve was determined to do everything he could to bring the killer to justice.  I was able to be quite a bit of help when I uncovered a few clues and pointed them out to Steve.  Joe’s murder was not the only mystery that was solved in this story.

I think you will like the characters in The Kingdom of Dog and find the story to be a real page-turner.  If you haven’t read In Dog We Trust, try it too.

Review: The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

Weight of BloodThe Weight of Blood 

Laura McHugh

ASIN: B00F8FA30E

Spiegel & Graua_McHugh_Author_Photo_-_credit_Taisia_Gordon

Kindle Edition,  320 pgs

Release date 03/11/14, $10.99

Reviewed by: Gina R. Metz

The Weight of Blood is set in Henbane, Missouri deep in the heart of the Ozarks.  The story begins with Lucy Dane a seventeen year old born and raised in Henbane.  Her friend from down the road, Cheri Stoddard, has been missing for a year and her body has just been found in pieces jammed into an old hollow tree.  Lucy feels guilty that she was not a better friend to Cheri and that she did not try harder to find her or help her when she went missing.  The papers labeled her as “deficient” or “developmentally disabled”.  Kids at school had called her a lot worse things.  Lucy had outgrown her and hadn’t spent much time with her in later years.

Lucy’s Mother, Lila Dane, had come to Henbane not quite a year before Lucy was born.   Lila Dane was from a small town in Iowa and orphaned at twelve.  After struggling through foster care, at eighteen she signs a contract to work for two years in Henbane to try to save money to continue her education.  Henbane does not welcome or accept outsiders easily.  Lila is a beautiful woman and soon rumors are going around the town that she is a witch.  Things do not work out as Lila planned and she disappears when Lucy is only a year old.  It is believed that she committed suicide since all she took with her when she left was a gun but her body is never recovered.

The story shifts between Lucy, Lila and her friends and family as Lucy tries to discover what happened to Cheri and her Mother.  The Weight of Blood is a fast paced read that reveals the seedier side of life in a small town in a beautiful area.  Nothing is as it appears on the surface.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to other books by Laura McHugh.

Review: Cemetery Whites by Connie Knight

Cemetery Whites CoverCemetery Whites
A Caroline Hargrove Hamilton Mystery
Connie Knight
Maple Creek Media, April 2013
ISBN No.: 9780985967895
Ebook

Henrietta Hargrove Harrell had driven the dirt roads of DeWitt County for her entire eighty-five years.  Professor Thomas Harrison of San Antonio had been told about Henrietta and on his trip to Yorktown he knocked on Henrietta’s door and introduced himself.  The Professor asked Henrietta to drive him to the Hargrove Family Cemetery.  He told her that seeing the graveyard would fit into some historical research of his.  Henrietta, known as Great Aunt Hettie to the Hargrove clan agreed.  But just in case some problem might crop up, Henrietta brought along Dolnny Harrell, her thirty-three year old grandson, as well as a Colt 45 in her purse.

None of the three in Henrietta’s vehicle noticed the little grey car following along behind.  When Henrietta pulled up at the cemetery the grey car parked in some brush to hide.   The Professor stated that he wanted to see some of the graves in the older section of the cemetery, specifically Thomas Watson Hargrove and his wife, Elizabeth Dennison, early settlers to the area.

Henrietta pointed out the grave where a large patch of white Irises known as Cemetery Whites grew.    The trip to the cemetery didn’t end well for the professor or Henrietta or her grandson.

Caroline Hargrove Hamilton has just relocated from Houston, Texas after the death of her husband.  Caroline has moved back to DeWitt County.  She determines while in Yorktown she will study the history of her family and perhaps be able to publish some articles of historical value.

Caroline’s cousin Janet volunteers to chauffer Caroline around and one of the first stops is the cemetery.  Henrietta is nowhere to be seen but the Professor is lying amount the Cemetery Whites.  It appears that the Professor has been shot.

So begins Caroline and Janet’s investigation into the murder as well as learning much about the family history.  The two dug up a lot of the past and learned about new connections to the family that no one had discovered previously.

This was an interesting book and I look forward to Caroline’s future adventures if the series is carried on.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, December 2013.

Website URL: http://www.connieknightbooks.com
Blog URL: http://www.connieknightmysterywriter.com (there’s a Talk to Connie page)
Facebook author page link: http://facebook.com/connie.knight.7169
Twitter link: www.twitter.com/conniejs59
GoodReads link: www.goodreads.com/connie_knight

On the home front – happy birthday to my son

Dave coming home from dialysis

Dave coming home from dialysis

I think it’s probably been too long since I’ve taken a minute to update those of you who’ve been so supportive of my son Dave Jr throughout his illness and recovery. Today’s his 34th birthday and a real reason for us to celebrate as so many of his doctors never thought he’d live this long!

For those of you who don’t know, he’s been diabetic since he was 8, but didn’t control it well during his rebellious teen years and as he grew older, he began to suffer the consequences. In 2007 he moved back home because he kept getting sick to the degree that he was having trouble keeping a job. In 2010, he was in the hospital 7 times, but they couldn’t track the root of the problem. On January 3, 2011 I had to call an ambulance because he was so sick he could no longer stand. They soon discovered he had a staph infection that caused him to go septic. During the next few weeks his kidneys failed, they had to remove his teeth because the infection had lodged in his jawbone and he underwent 15 + surgeries trying to clear the infection from his right kneecap before they finally had to amputate his right leg above the knee. For all of us, it was a nightmare of gigantic proportions and there were many times my husband and I were called to come to the hospital because they didn’t expect him to survive the night.

But fighter that he is, he hung on and just kept breathing. He was released into a specialty rehab hospital in April and came home in May. He was still on so many medications that he could hardly be considered alert and had a hard time participating in the physical therapy he needed to get his muscles functioning again. Little by little, though, he began to recover.

Last November, he had a low blood sugar episode that caused another ER visit. He’d apparently been low so long it was hard to revive him. They had to intubate him, then sedate him to keep him from pulling out the tube. When he was awakened from the sedation the next day, he couldn’t remember anything later than 2009. They told us that was not unusual and did all the routine tests to rule out a stroke or other cause. As there was no obvious cause, they presumed his memory would return. Still, the major problem with that was that he didn’t remember the amputation and kept trying to get up and walk, then he’d panic in finding his leg gone and several times fell and hit his head, requiring yet another CT scan to be sure no further damage had been done.

His short term memory seemed to reset whenever he slept, so if we visited, then he took a nap, he didn’t recall that we’d been there. But gradually it began to get better. He was released into a short term rehab facility in December and made great strides there. He still had a lot of things that he didn’t remember but his short term memory was much better and he didn’t have to keep reliving the loss of his leg, which was a huge relief to all of us.

His medicaid funding for the rehab ran out and he came home in February. We were all glad to have him back home, but he soon realized that the home PT wasn’t giving him any progress at all toward getting well enough to get a prosthetic leg, so we talked to a social worker and found another nearby rehab facility to take him in for 6 weeks. He was both apprehensive and excited about going and we took him on the appointed day. Unfortunately, a mistake with his medications that night caused him to arrive at dialysis the next morning unconscious. Once again he was taken to the ER and once again he awoke with no memory of the last several years.

He’s been back in the rehab facility for several weeks and is again making progress in regaining his memory, but it’s been much slower

Dave, Caleb, Josh and Jake at Jake's wedding May 2012

Dave, Caleb, Josh and Jake at Jake’s wedding May 2012

this time and we’re making arrangements to bring him back home. No parent should ever have to go through something like this, but I’m thankful nonetheless. I’ve seen the things he’s had to endure and I honestly don’t know if I could’ve faced them with the same courage and determination that he’s shown. I’m so proud of my son, and of my family and friends for the way they’ve stood by him throughout this ordeal.

I want to thank those of you who have been so kind. Some of you have met him over the years, either when he attended Cluefest with me or when he helped us with one of the Criminal Pursuits conferences. He’s always telling his nurses about the “famous” authors his mom works for (he thinks you’re all famous =) and how he likes to listen to the audio books some of you have written (he also developed glaucoma along the way and can’t read anymore). Those of you who sent cards he still has them in a box of treasures that he keeps.

So on his 34th birthday, I wanted to tell you how he’s doing and to say thank you again for supporting him and for supporting me. I really appreciate you!

Shadowkiller by Wendy Corsi Staub

shadowkillerShadowkiller

Wendy Corsi Staub

Harper, 2013, 432 Pages

ISBN No. 978-0062070326

Wendy Corsi Staub

Wendy Corsi Staub

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid

Shadowkiller ends the trilogy involving the family of Allison Taylor, now Allison MacKenna.  Allison met her husband Mack when she lived in Manhattan and her apartment was across the hall from Mack and his wife.  Mack’s wife was killed in the 9-11 tragedy and Allison’s friend was murdered in their apartment building.

Allison and Mack eventually married and moved to the suburbs but they found that life was not to be smooth for the couple and their family.   Someone is stalking the family and at times even Allison suspects the person causing the problems might be Mack.  Eventually the truth is found out but not before even the children have a very close call.

Life has gone back to normal for the family and Allison has even agreed to make a trip to the Midwest to visit her brother and his wife.  Allison’s father left when she was young and her mother killed herself with liquor and drugs.  It is a very large step for Allison to agree to travel back to the Midwest.

But the MacKenna family aren’t alone on the trip.  Mack’s wife, who was thought to have died in the 9-11 tragedy, is alive and determined to have a show-down with Allison.  The connection between the two women is finally revealed in this exciting conclusion.  With the intervention of Detective Rocko Manzillo, who has knowledge of the MacKenna’s background, Allison might just get out alive.