Monday, September 15, 2014

Beyond the Mystery in Murder the Tey Way

I write mysteries because I love plotting murders, gathering suspects, deciding on methods to kill off my victims. What fun to delve into secrets, create mishaps, and analyze means, motive and opportunity. How satisfying to blend all of these elements into a cohesive story and grand finale where the murderer is revealed. It’s one way of experiencing danger from a safe distance.

As a writer, I also love to explore the larger questions in life, my characters and their relationships with one another. Why do people behave the way they do? What are the consequences of one impulsive action? There are two pairs of sisters in Murder the Tey Way, the second book in my Golden Age of Mystery Book Club Mysteries. How the sisters relate to each other impact on the story. My sleuth, Lexie Driscoll, gets an unexpected visit from her sister, Gayle. The two sisters aren’t close. Gayle is six years younger than Lexie, and they’ve little in common. The morning after Gayle arrives, she discovers a dead man in Lexie’s backyard. Gayle admits she’s running for her life, and Lexie wonders if Gayle has murdered the man, thinking he’s been sent to kill her.

Lexie’s neighbors, Felicity and Corinne Roberts, are an odd pair by anyone’s reckoning. Sweet Felicity is simple-minded and dominated by her older sister, Corinne. Each time Lexie comes to Felicity’s aid, Corinne berates Lexie for interfering in their lives. Lexie and her pal Joy, a former FBI agent, uncover the Roberts’ sisters’ secret past.

The characters in Murder the Tey Way discuss some of Josephine Tey’s wonderful novels. False identities, gender bending, and the psychology of studying faces are some of the subjects that influence Tey’s works. My characters discuss these themes, often wondering if and how they apply to the murders taking place in their own neighborhood. Emotions erupt at meetings, giving Lexie and Joy insight into the book club members’ characters and personalities,
and helps them solve the murders.

What are some of the themes and subjects you write about in your novels?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

What about the Paleo Diet?

by Kaye George

Do you suppose that’s what Neanderthals ate? The Paleo diet does contain lots of protein, but it also includes fresh fruits and vegetables. Neanderthals lived through some extreme cold times and wouldn’t have had ready access to fresh plants year round. The Paleo diet, though, is supposed to be what early Homo sapiens, the hunter gatherers ate. Neanderthals weren’t hunter gatherers! Here’s what I found out when I wrote DEATH IN THE TIME OF ICE.

(This article uses the alternate spelling of Neandertal—not a typo.)

Chapter 17
Question: How do we know what the Neanderthals ate?
Answer: An analysis of the chemicals laid down in Neanderthals' teeth indicates that they ate lots of meat. In fact they were more carnivorous than wolves!

Michael Richards, now at the University of Bradford in England, and his colleagues
recently examined isotopes of carbon (13C) and nitrogen (15N) in 29,000-year-old
Neandertal bones from Vindija cave in Croatia. The relative proportions of these
isotopes in the protein part of human bone, known as collagen, directly reflect their
proportions in the protein of the individual’s diet. Thus, by comparing the isotopic
“signatures” of the Neandertal bones to those of other animals living in the same
environments, the authors were able to determine whether the Neandertals were
deriving the bulk of their protein from plants or from animals.

The analyses show that the Vindija Neandertals had 15N levels comparable to
those seen in northern carnivores such as foxes and wolves, indicating that they
obtained almost all their dietary protein from animal foods. Earlier work hinted that
inefficient foraging might have been a factor in the subsequent demise of the
Neandertals. But Richards and his collaborators argue that in order to consume as
much animal food as they apparently did, the Neandertals had to have been skilled
Scientific American, Special Edition: New Look at Human Evolution, August, 2003, p. 69

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Extreme Unplugging and How I Lived to Tell the Tale

Last month, my husband and I took a road trip to Idaho. 1600 miles in a little over 24 hours on the way out. I was brain dead by the time we reached my mom's house in little Bowmont. After meeting family and spending some time with siblings, we took off for a week in the mountains above Crouch.

No cell reception.

No internet.

No computer as the power drained quickly.

Totally unplugged.

And I liked it. I didn't post to social media. I didn't check my email. I didn't finish the book that's due at the end of September. :)

Instead, I relaxed, took walks, laughed with friends and family, and snapped a lot of pictures.

We played tourist on the the way back home and took a few more days for the return trip.

Are you a fan of unplugging? Or do you like your modern conveniences?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Some Mystery Kind of Pics

Back from the NorthWoods vacation. Power was out for a day here due to a fast storm, so I'm way behind getting everything accomplished. 

Today, I'll leave you with a few Wisconsin pictures to put you in the mood for mystery reading or writing.

Find Morgan Mandel's mysteries and
romances at her Amazon Author Page,
and at her excerpt blog, Morgan's Book Links
Twitter: @MorganMandel

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Holiday? Huh?

by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson
By the time you read this, the Labor Day holiday will be over, and I say thank Goodness!

Whoever started the canard that Holidays were for a holiday, a respite from work? I work harder on a designated Holiday than just about any other day. Like this last weekend – THE EGYPTIAN FILE officially released on the 30th, so there was all the attendant announcement publicity to do.

A digression - WHY does each book/readers site have different rules on publicity? Different days; different things accepted. Some will accept a post any day; some allow them only on certain days or on one specific day. Some will take only a simple announcement; some want everything – blurb, excerpt, links, cover, websites, everything but your blood type. Some take links, some don't. Some take cover shots, some don't. Some want blurbs, some don't. Some want excerpts, some don't. All seem to want something different in the subject line. Why don't they get together and make one set of rules for all that will be easier for writers and readers both?

Back to holidays. As I said, doing the basic release announcements takes a great deal of time and attention. Plus, The Husband is home, which at the least means more cooking. Plus, we're redoing the garage. The actual hammer-and-nails remodeling is done (thank Goodness, and before there was physical violence) but now we must clean out our various storage rooms and decide what to keep and what to give away. Worse yet, it seems that we each regard our own stuff as precious (mine is mostly antiques, by the way) and the other's as simply stuff, or worse, junk.

My head had barely lifted off the pillow on Saturday before The Husband began prattling about Let's Work On The Garage This Weekend. (When he asked me early in the summer what I wanted for my birthday, I told him two whole weeks in which he neither said nor wrote the word 'garage.' Instead I got a trip to Vegas and a huge kunzite ring. Sigh.) Of course, we were to start working right after I fixed breakfast. Normally cooked breakfasts are reserved for Sundays.

It's late summer in Texas, and ten minutes after dawn the sky is on 'Broil.' Needless to say, our garage is not air-conditioned. Neither are the storage rooms, and neither is our ancient but still (barely) running pickup. I keep telling myself I'd be paying money to use a sauna in some health club to be just as hot. It doesn't help.

The Husband doesn't seem to understand that when I am sitting in a reasonably cool room (who can afford to keep a room truly comfortable with today's abominably astronomical electric rates?) typing on a computer that I am truly working. Believe me, I am. I have blogs to write. I have release publicity to do. I have publicity on previous releases to do. I have future releases to get ready for my formatter and cover artist. And sometime – I don't know really when – I have to write on the next book, whose deadline is galloping steadily closer.

Thank Goodness tomorrow is Tuesday and his job will once more devour The Husband for the better part of the day. Don't get me wrong – I love him, he is the most wonderful man I have ever known and I love being with him, but he does have a fixation. Garage, garage, garage... I'm even coming to hate the sound of the word. I do love being with him. I will love it even more once the garage is finished.

We did work most of the weekend and got a fair amount done. At this rate we should have the job completed just when the weather finally gets cool enough to be outside without my becoming a fountain of perspiration. I do, though, have the dreadful premonition that when that day occurs his repetitive vocabulary will evolve from 'Garage' into 'Yard.' Help me...

Holiday? Phooey.

This fortnight's release is THE EGYPTIAN FILE, a contemporary romantic adventure which takes place in my beloved Egypt. Like THE JERUSALEM CONNECTION, my 30 July release, THE EGYPTIAN FILE is a brand new book, not a backlist rerelease.

I got the idea for THE EGYPTIAN FILE during my last visit to Egypt and it would not leave me alone until I wrote it. Luckily I was blessed with the research help of two good friends, Dr. Stephen Harvey (perhaps the world's most acknowledged authority on Ahmose I) and Dr. Dirk Huyge (Director of the Belgian Archaeological Mission to El Kab). They were both most generous with their time and information, and Dr. Huyge even allowed me to add a tomb to the El Kab site – mainly because things go on in that tomb that should never go on in a real one!

THE EGYPTIAN FILE tells the story of Melissa Warrender, who is sent by a telephone call - which may or may not have come from her dead father - to retrieve a mysterious file in Cairo. Others who are willing to kill for it want the file as well, and Melissa's only ally is a handsome Cairo cabby who may not be what he seems. As they flee across Egypt they know they must translate the cryptic message in the file if they are to survive. An unimaginable treasure is at stake if they can live to find it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

From Camarillo State Hospital to CSU Channel Islands

From Wikipedia:
California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI, CSU Channel Islands, known informally as CI) is a four-year public comprehensive university located outsideCamarillo, California in Ventura County. CI opened in 2002 as the 23rd campus in the California State University system, succeeding the Ventura County branch campus of CSU Northridge. The campus had formerly been the Camarillo State Mental Hospital. It has been and continues to be the setting for numerous television, film and music video productions. CI is located midway between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles in Camarillo, at the intersection of the Oxnard Plain and northern most edge of the Santa Monica Mountain range. While the main campus is not located on the Channel Islands, the university operates a scientific research station on Santa Rosa Island.[5]
Channel Islands offers 53 types of Bachelor's degrees, 3 different Master's degrees, and 6 teaching credentials.[6][7] It does not confer Doctoral degrees. In the Fall of 2012, the university enrolled the largest amount of students in its 10 year history with 4,920 students including undergraduate and postgraduate. Since its establishment, the university has awarded nearly 7,000 degrees

Years ago, when I still lived in Oxnard, I went to Camarillo State Hospital/Developmental Center several times. When I was working with children with developmental disabilities at a pre-school, I attended some classes on the center's campus.
I also had a Camp Fire Girls group there of grammar school age girls with disabilities. Though the outside of the campus was beautiful with Spanish style buildings and in a beautiful setting surrounded by hills, the inside was not so wonderful. When I went to be with the girls, I was taken to a locked door, put in a small room, the door was locked behind me, the next door unlocked where my girls waited for me, then the person who let me in left and I was locked in. I brought my supplies with me and believe it or not had a great time teaching Camp Fire songs, making crafts, etc. with these young girls. Frankly, I don't remember how I got out, except that someone came and got me--but there was no cell phones in those days and certainly no signaling device in the room. All I remember was the girls and I both had fun.

There are some terrible stories reported about the state hospital back then, particularly the mental health part. However, I had a friend who spent some time there as a patient, and she didn't have anything like what was reported to say about the place.
This past weekend, we made a trip to the town of Camarillo to see relatives and I decided I wanted to see how CSU Channel Islands looked. Wow! What a gorgeous campus.

The bell tower was there back when it was a state hospital.
The new university is beautiful. Most of the buildings are brand new, but it looks like some have been refurbished from the old ones, though I read there are abandoned buildings still there. I did see some old courtyards. 
On line there are some tales of the place being haunted--fun to read about.
Back when it was a state hospital many movies were made there. 
People have written books about what went on there in the areas used for the mentally ill. No wonder Governor Ronald Reagan closed most of these places. Unfortunately, nothing much has replaced them and a good part of our homeless population are the cast-off mentally ill.
When the place was closed, those residents who were developmentally disabled were moved to Porterville Developmental Center and many of the psychiatric technicians relocated to Portervlle and the surrounding areas. Now, most of the residents have been moved into small facilities in the community.
There is a lot of fodder for murder mysteries in the history of Camarillo State Hospital, but I doubt I'll ever write about it.
I am happy to see that they've put that beautiful area to a great use. I suspect that many of the students have no clue about the history of the place--though I understand some are fascinated by all the ghost stories.
Oh, and in case you're wondering about the name of the university, Off the coast of Oxnard and Hueneme, the two beach towns next to Camarillo are the Channel Islands. I can understand why they used that for the name rather than UCSB Camarillo--though that would have made more sense.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Interviewing Pamela Burford

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Pam Burford. I've known Pam for many years. She is a wonderful writer and the founder of the Long Island Romance Writers, of which I am a member.

Tell us where you grew up and the kind of work you did before.
I grew up mostly on Long Island and still live there, which is why it’s been the setting for most of my books. In addition to writing, I have a day job: editor in chief of a nonprofit organization that produces a free audio magazine for people who are blind and print-disabled. It’s an incredibly rewarding job and has also been a wonderful education for my writing career.

Tell us a bit about your previous published novels.
Before Undertaking Irene, which is the first book in my new humorous mystery series, I wrote fourteen works of romantic suspense and contemporary romance.

What made you decide to write mysteries?
I knew I wanted to write a series, and my previous books that included mystery were the most fun to write, so it was an easy decision to make!

Give us a brief summary of your new book.
Jane Delaney, the town’s Death Diva, has been hired to surreptitiously liberate a brooch from the corpse during a wake. Before she can manage it, a mysterious man impersonating a priest beats her to it. Throw in a mysterious death that’s officially chalked up to natural causes, and an orphaned poodle with grooming and neurosis issues, and the game is on!

Why did you decide to publish Undertaking Irene yourself? Are you pleased you’ve gone this route?
I wanted total control over the publishing process. In particular I didn’t want to publish it traditionally, pray that I could live with the publisher’s decisions, and then wait years for the rights to revert to me. Does that make me a control freak? Well…☺

What do you think makes your books and your writing style unique?
For one thing, all of my books include some humor—it’s integral to my personal style. Dark, navel-gazing stories are not my thing! I love to entertain, and I love quirky characters and situations.

What advice would you give new writers?
Join a writers’ organization. Never underestimate the value of networking with, and learning from, your fellow writers.

What do you plan to write next?
Book two of the Jane Delaney mystery series, of course! The working title is Uprooting Ernie.

Who are some of your favorite mystery writers?
Tana French, who writes the Dublin Murder Squad books, is my favorite. I also love the work of Timothy Hallinan and the late Elmore Leonard.

These days writers are expected to market and handle PR for their books. What do you find is the best way to get out the word about your books?

I wish I knew! I use social media, price promotions, and a street team, but I prefer spending my time writing the best books I can. I figure if they’re good enough, the readers will find them.

 In what other genre would you consider writing?
I still love romance, and in fact there’s a romantic subplot in Undertaking Irene which will continue throughout the series. Jane is pulled in two directions between the proverbial Good Boy and Bad Boy. Fun times! I’m having such a great time writing this series, I can’t see doing anything else for the foreseeable future.

Sale links for Undertaking Irene: