Sunday, January 8, 2017

Something positive for the New Year- good entertainment


Although the previous year had many negative things happen, with some nasty surprises, in one way it was the BEST Year Ever.

Television.

And wow, never thought I’d be saying that. I don’t watch typical network programming, disliking stale dramas, unfunny comedies, modern talent shows and scripted “reality” shows.
So you have to look for the little nuggets of wonderful among mountains of crap. But precious nuggets are there, and so rewarding when you discover them. 

Since personal tastes differ, a number of folks won’t like some of the shows here. Not going to argue the merits, your dislike is for you, and that’s fine. For some of these, I not only found entertainment value, I found some profound messages, and amazing acting as well. So I’m presenting something positive, which we all sure could use. If you haven’t heard of a show or two among these, give them a try. Netflix, Amazon, your local library, whatever, they’re worth tracking down.

Because story matters, and these had good stories that kept me engaged.

First up are the final seasons of two wonderful, deep-thought shows, The Americans and Rectify. Just astonishing presentations, both well worthy of many awards. So sad we won’t have more of these.

Two fun favorites continued on: Game of Thrones and Agents of SHIELD still kept my interest, though some folks love to bash these on occasion. Fantasy in both cases, different time periods.

All the rest were completely new to me.
Stranger Things took the world by storm, and was a good time. Westworld was a chilling view of humanity and AI combined. Ash vs. Evil Dead was just stupid, bloody fun, with lots of laughs.
For culture, Mozart in the Jungle just warms me whenever we watch. They unabashedly love good things, and there’s so much going on, it’s a lovely ensemble.

Now the rest of these are all pretty dark, but oh, so compelling. Jessica Jones takes a Marvel character and makes her interesting, and The Man in the High Castle is adapted from a novel by Philip K. Dick, about an alternate history that is so chilling, and might give us a clue as to what we’re in for the next few years. And Mr. Robot shows us even more of that, bleak and frightening. 

But the topper, scarier than all the rest, is a British show, Black Mirror. Yes, it holds us up to a vision of ourselves sliding down a path to our own particular hells. It’s like crossing The Twilight Zone with modern themes and fads. Will chill you to the bone if you’re paying attention.

One could write a thick book about just this handful of shows, and how they stand head and shoulders above anything the major networks provide, how they perceive story, and what the effects on the viewers might be.

What gems did you find this last year?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Interview With Mystery Writer Barbara Ross

Greetings, All, and Happy Holidays. A holiday treat for you today- a conversation with author Barbara Ross, who pens the popular Maine Clambake mystery series.


Barbara's latest book, Iced Under, debuts TODAY- it's Book 5 in the series.


I've read books in this series, and they're fun and worthwhile. The novels concern the adventures of a family in Maine who run a clambake business, and discover deaths in the course of the unfolding events. Barbara knows her subject, as she's a Maine writer who lives and writes on the coast of that great state.

She's one of the bloggers at the Maine Crime Writers, and with a group of writers of New England-based Cozy mysteries at Wicked Cozy Authors. She's also a member of Sisters in Crime, my favorite mystery writer organization.

Q. So how did this novel come to be? Was it envisioned from the start as a bigger canvas, or did it expand organically out of an idea? Please tell us a bit about the origin.

A. Hi Dale. Thanks for having me. Iced Under is the 5th book in my Maine Clambake Mystery series, and when I started it, I wanted to answer some questions I’d been leading up to throughout the series to date. How did my protagonist Julia Snowden’s mother’s family make their fortune, and how did they lose it? And what happened to Julia’s mother’s cousin Hugh, who disappeared off their island in the 1970s—an event I had referenced way back in Clammed Up, the first book in the series. I also wanted to give the poor residents of Busman’s Harbor, Maine a break, and have the murder take place elsewhere.

I knew the Snowdens had been in the frozen water trade and I had done a lot of research about it. What I didn’t know was whodunit and why.

Q. What do you feel is the main theme(s)?

A.  Iced Under is a book about family—what brings us together, and what blows us apart. And why it’s important to work our way through the hard times.

Q. Who are your influences and what is it about their work that attracts you?

A. I love long relationships. Nothing makes me happier than to read a mystery and find out there are a dozen more in the series waiting for me to explore. So I love Ruth Rendell’s Wexford novels, P.D. James, Elizabeth George, Deborah Crombie, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Kate Atkinson, Paul Doiron, Craig Johnson, William Kent Krueger. I could go on and on. (And just have.)

I also love authors who treat their characters with kindness and generosity. Alexander McCall Smith and Fannie Flagg come to mind.

Finally, I love short stories—Alice Munro first and always, but many others.

Q. Is storytelling mostly entertainment, or does it serve other functions? Do you have particular goals other than telling a good story?

A. The kinds of mysteries I write, called Cozy mysteries, are intended as escape. I get enough fan e-mails from people who are sitting at a parent’s bedside, or undergoing their own health crisis, balancing a stressful job with a full home life—really all manner of dark and difficult passages—to understand that. And, as Lee Child says, “No one has finished a book they didn’t enjoy since college.”

But by the same token, I once heard Dennis Lehane say there are a hundred hours of police procedurals on television every week. You’re never going to find a plot twist that hasn’t been done. So if you’re going to spend months or years writing a book, make sure it’s “about something.” I firmly agree with that, and I don’t think a book being “about something” interferes with the entertainment value in any way.

Q. If a writer came to you for advice, how would you help?

A. I would say, “Find your tribe.” Find the people like you and the writers like you. Join several writers’ organizations, including at least one in your genre and one in your geography. This will sustain you as you learn to write, and will later turn into the network that teaches you how to find readers. You can go it alone, but it’s like trying to get sober alone. Many have tried and only a tiny fraction have succeeded. The odds are already stacked against you. Why make it harder?

Q. What's the next step in your writing world?

A. Stowed Away, the 6th book in the Maine Clambake Mystery series is due March 1. I have a lot of work to do between now and then.

Q. Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

A. Zsa Zsa Gabor once called me a “blonde bumshell.”

***



Thank you, Barbara. Enjoy your time in Key West!



Readers, look for her work at: www.maineclambakemysteries.com




Saturday, December 3, 2016

Gala Mystery Night 2016

For the fifth year, the biggest and best mystery bookstore north of New York, the New England Mobile Bookfair held a Gala Mystery Night, with top-name mystery authors, many of them NY Times best-sellers. We had authors from all over New England.

Once again, I was a featured author with these literary lights. It's great to be in such good company. Lots of my fellow Sisters in Crime were signing as well.

Thanks to owner Tom Lyons and the hard-working staff (Lisa and Amanda deserve special thanks) who made the night glorious and fun!

To see a writeup and pics of previous year postings of this annual celebration, click here.

 Once again, we had a big crowd of buyers and supporters.

Here's our two biggest supporters- Robin and Steve. They come to chat with the authors and buy a basketful of books. Thank you on behalf of all of us!

 


 Here I am, looking authorly. with Coralie Jensen and Clea Simon

 
Our erstwhile host, Tom Lyons. on the right


Here's author Bruce Robert Coffin, with wife Karen and fan Jay Shepherd
Bruce's debut novel, Among the Shadows, is terrific, and tearing up the charts with richly-deserved sales. And is now on sale on Kindle that is irresistible.
To see an interview with Bruce, click here


Tom strikes a pose with author Ray Daniel
To see an interview with Ray, click here


Superstars of the mystery writing world: Linda Barnes, Kate Flora, and Connie Johnson Hambley
To see an interview with Kate, click here
To see an interview with Connie, click here


Gina Fava with Arlene Kay and Jay
To see an interview with Arlene, click here


Judy Copek, Susan Oleksiw, and Hans Copek


Coralie with a new fan


Ben Coes, a writing star, discovers a wonderful new author (yes, he bought the first book in my Zack Taylor series, A Memory of Grief)...


William Landay, another star (yes, I made him pose with his own books)


Frances MacNamara, who sat next to me


Ray with Joe Finder

 

Linda Barnes gets in the spirit


Gina got her spot placed right under some Adult Books. Ahem... Hi, Mom!


Then it was time to give out the annual Robert B. Parker Award, given each year for outstanding long-term achievement in the mystery world. Here Tom announces this year's winner- Archer Mayor







Here's a previous winner, Linda Barnes, with Tom and the most recent winner


And Connie with her sweetie and Number One Fan



Not pictured were others, who slipped away from the roving camera eye: Michael Urban, Robin Stratton, Steve Ulfelder

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Crime Bake 2016- A Trip to Brigadoon

Writers or fans of mystery fiction should definitely go to the annual Crime Bake mystery conference, hosted in part by the New England chapter of the Sisters in Crime, of which I am a proud member.

Every year is the best yet, and I've been to many. I realized it's a lot like Brigadoon- a transcendent, magical kingdom that suddenly springs up to change lives, and then disappears into the mists of time, leaving only the memories.
Luckily, we only have to wait another year (not 100) for the reappearance, and we have your intrepid reporter to chronicle the latest manifestation.
This is a long post, with many names and links, so if you have a correction, let me know, and I'll make it right. 

Thanks to the New England Mobile Bookfair, the store that handles all sales of panelist author books at the event, Tom Lyons and the gang sold 7 books of mine- even though most authors were restricted to only two titles. 

Plus the new gang of Level Best Books editors were there to sell copies of the latest anthology Windward: Best New England Crime Stories (a steal right now on Kindle, and also out in print).
It has my story Dead Weight in it, and we had a big signing line of authors featured in the collection, and an even longer line of buyers of the collection getting their copies signed.


Here are Sarah Chen and Janet Halpin doing their part


Shawn Reilly Simmons, who had a story in the collection- also one of the editors!



And the always hard-working Kate Flora
To see an interview with Kate, click here

Your conference co-chairs, Sharon Daynard and Ray Daniel
To see an interview with Ray, click here


And with the Guest of Honor, William Kent Krueger
(the moose and flannel theme is in honor of his beloved Minnesota)


Here's Ray in more dapper mode, with Len Rosen and Joseph Finder


And Connie Johnson Hambley, showing Ray the error of his ways...
To see an interview with Connie, click here


 Presenting one of my favorite Maine writers, Bruce Robert Coffin, charming his new fan base. His debut novel, Among the Shadows, is selling like hotcakes, as well it should be.
And to see an interview with Bruce, click here


And the ever-gracious and wonderful Hank Phillippi Ryan, with Vincent O'Neil.


The gang- L to R: Mo Walsh, Eleanor Cawood Jones, Verena Rose, Shawn Reilly Simmons, PeggyMcFarland, Ray, and Bruce.


Barbara Ross with Hank and Len


Allison Keeton made it back this year


Mo and Bruce


Jason Walcutt stares us down






Saturday brought my panel, with Kate Flora as Moderator, and we were talking about Navigating the New Waters of Publishing. The audience seemed to like it, had great questions, and came up afterward to continue the conversation. 




Then I took part in an Agents and Editors Roundtable, where publishing professionals helped folks with their manuscript first page and pitch. I was paired with Alec Shane of Writers House, who was professional, polite, and pretty awesome in his tips and feedback. 




 Then we relaxed a bit, and I saw some lovely folks, The Wicked Cozys (with a few friends).
L to R around the table: Liz Mugavero, Jessie Crockett, Kimberly Gray (another Level Best Editor), Sherry Harris, Barbara Ross, Bill Carito, Kate Cone, Edith Maxwell, Julie Hennrikus, and Sheila Connolly


A T-Rex wandering through...



 Soon it was time for fun, with a party and a banquet, and costumes. 
Here are Rocky and Bullwinkle with Hallie Ephron


To see an interview with Leigh, click here





Our intrepid organizer co-chair


Dancing broke out, instigated (as usual) by Edith. Here she is with Connie and Hallie




We had a selfie station with props, so of course silliness broke out


 It's Robin Stuart, Connie, and Lisa Matthews






And of course we had refreshments afterward, for some time.



It was a wonderful weekend, and we got a parting shot with the moose and some Wicked Cozys on the way out on Sunday


Had so many great chats with people, old friends and new: Steve Ulfelder, Lee McIntyre, Cynthia Hall Koure, Stephen Doyle, Alexa Gordon, Tonya Price, Louisa Clerici, Peggy Gaffney, Emily Ross, Tina deBellegarde, Nancy Marshall, Ken Keoughan, Jill Fletcher, Penny Goetjen, Johnnie Dun, Cheryl Lawton Malone, Mary Feliz, and Vicki Lindem (who had the best line of the weekend!)