Saturday, August 1, 2015

BOTM Guest Post: Ellen Mansoor Collier author of Vamps, Villains, and Vaudeville

      JUST THE FACTS, MA’AM:
TIPS FOR RESEARCHING HISTORICAL NOVELS

                                               By Ellen Mansoor Collier
(Author of  the Jazz Age Mystery Series: FLAPPERS, FLASKS And FOUL PLAY,  BATHING BEAUTIES, BOOZE And BULLETS, GOLD DIGGERS, GAMBLERS And GUNS, and VAMPS, VILLAINS And VAUDEVILLE)


         I’ll admit, I was never much of a history buff in high school or college. What did Ancient Egypt or the Civil War have to do with my daily life of classes, Student Council, football games, parties or dances? Although my mother was a World History teacher, I wasn’t at all interested until I managed an antiques shop after college between journalism jobs.

           My bosses were two antiques dealers and decorators who took me on buying trips and taught me about different styles and period design. Antiques gave me a visual peek into the past: I could see the way people lived, touch their clothing, furniture, understand their habits and trends. Suddenly, for me, history came alive.


          That glimpse led to a fascination with the Roaring Twenties. I loved almost everything about the 1920s:  the style, the carefree spirit, interior design, the flowing flapper clothes and jewelry, the lingo, the music. Not only did the right to vote in 1920 allow women’s emancipation, the “Dry Decade” became an era of invention and innovation, the “flaming youth’s” rebellion against the stuffy old Victorian mores, leading to the giddy excitement of the Jazz Age.

            I tried to convey that sense of freedom and “anything goes” attitude in my soft-boiled Jazz Age mystery series, through the POV of my main character Jasmine (“Jazz”) Cross, a society reporter who longs to cover hard news in a male-dominated world. Her ambition is thwarted by her old-fashioned editors, yet she’s determined to find ways around the newspaper’s rules and restrictions. I created Jazz as a flapper version of real-life Victorian journalist Nellie Bly, and set the novels during Prohibition in 1920s Galveston, Texas, interweaving actual gangsters, events and local landmarks into the plots. 

While researching FLAPPERS, I became intrigued when I found out that Al Capone tried to muscle in on Galveston’s rival gangs, the Beach and Downtown gangs. I included this fun fact in the preface to show the powerful reach and reputation of Galveston’s gangsters, little known outside of Texas.


As a journalist, I prefer reality-based stories because I feel like I’m learning something new while I’m reading and researching. I enjoyed watching old silent movies, period dramas and documentaries, especially noir films featuring gangsters and mobsters, noting the settings (furniture, lamps, clothing, music, etc.) and jotted down expressions and bits of conversation.  (True, I’m guilty of overusing Jazz Age sayings so I included a glossary of slang in the back of my novels.)


Since I wrote about real people, politicians (and gangsters), I had to be careful not to include anything too offensive or incriminating since much of the information was based on legend and largely undocumented.

         What’s interesting is that the gangsters and bootleggers of yesteryear mirror today’s drug dealers, gangs and cartels. Still, I learned a lot about organized crime, politics and Prohibition, and how often their worlds intermingled.

History may repeat itself, but fiction makes it fresh and new. Enjoy!




Friday, July 31, 2015

Review: Drape Expectations by: Karen Rose Smith


Title: Drape Expectations
Author: Karen Rose Smith
Publisher: Kensington Books
Series: Caprice De Luca Mystery #4
Pages: 352
Format: e-book ARC
Source: Great Escapes Book Tour & NetGalley

Description:

These days, home stager Caprice De Luca’s calendar is a full house. Her grandmother’s health is failing, her wayward uncle is stirring the pot, and she’s torn between two equally eligible suitors. With so much drama in her personal life, Caprice is grateful to have Ace Richland, a former 80s rock star, ask her to stage his girlfriend’s house. But Alanna Goodwin is a tough customer who balks at Caprice’s ideas and all but commandeers the staging. Caprice almost isn’t surprised when the snappish Southern belle is strangled to death with a tieback from her tacky velvet drapes. But just as she draws back the curtains on the truth, Caprice realizes she may be next on a murderer’s set list…

My Thoughts: 

This book follows Caprice De Luca as she is staging her friend Ace's girlfriends house, but Alanna is a very difficult person to work with especially with her treatment of her cat.  Caprice ends up walking out on Alanna the next day when she tries to appoligizes Caprice hears things she doesn't think she should be listening to and leaves.  Not long after that she hears from Ace that Alanna is dead?  Did Ace kill her or someone else have more to gain with her death?

I love this series and enjoyed going back to Kismet and learning how everyone was doing including Nana and Caprice's Uncle Dom who appears in this book.  Alot more family dynamics in this book then previous ones and we saw as Caprice dealt with Grant and Seth the two men in her life, and saw where it was headed.  I am so addicted to this series as it offers something others don't that I read.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Cover Reveal: Braking For Bodies by: Duffy Brown

If you are like me and loved Geared For The Grave then I have a feeling you will be like me and can't wait to get your hands on Braking For Bodies.  I am so eager to get my hands on this book as well.  What do you all think about this book think you'll jump to read it?  What do you think at the cover?  Me personally I love the bright colors I think it's looks awesome!!  Feel free to share your thoughts below I look forward to reading them!


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Book Spotlight: Boiled Over by: Barbara Ross

Title: Boiled Over
Author: Barbara Ross
Publisher: Kensington
Series: A Maine Clambake Mystery #2
Pages: 304
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Description:

For Julia Snowden, the Founder’s Day summer celebration in Busman’s Harbor, Maine, means helping her family’s clambake company to prepare an authentic taste of New England seafood. Any Mainer will tell you that a real clambake needs wood for the fire . . . so why is there a foot sticking out of the oven?

The townspeople want to pin the murder of the RV park owner on Cabe Stone, a new employee of the Snowden Family Clambake Company–who bolted from the crime scene and disappeared.

Julia knows having another murder associated with her family’s business is a recipe for disaster . . . but who is the killer? Cooking up a proper investigation doesn’t leave much time for the rest of Julia’s life, and this is one killer who’ll do anything to stop her from digging up clues . . . 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Review - Legend of a Suicide by: David Vann

Title: Legend of a Suicide
Author: David Vann
Publisher: Penguin Books
Pages: 228
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal purchase

Description:

In semiautobiographical stories set largely in David Vann's native Alaska, Legend of a Suicide follows Roy Fenn from his birth on an island at the edge of the Bering Sea to his return thirty years later to confront the turbulent emotions and complex legacy of his father's suicide.
My thoughts:

This is the 3rd book I've read by David Vann: Before Legend of a Suicide, I'd read Dirt and Goat Mountain. The only one I have of his left to read is Caribou Island, and by having read what I did read so far, I can easily say that he keeps surprising me in many ways even though after each one of his books I'd said, "not next time, David."

When I read Dirt , I realized that Vann has led a weird life full of sorrow and painful events. For example, his stepmother's mother shoots her husband first and then herself. Vann's father, too, shoots himself. And then his grandmother's suicide notes are left to Vann. In the thank-yous at the end of Legend of a Suicide, Vann writes, "Last of all, I thank my family because my father's suicide was a very hard thing and these stories have to do with our private lives. Even though the stories are fictional, they also draw from real events. My stepmother Nettie Rose has talked to me about many things over the years and never held back her support. This woman who has been through many deaths in her life has always impressed me with her courage."*

If you start reading the book knowing a little bit about his life story, you can't help but think, "is he writing the truth right about now?" And you keep wondering how much of it is fiction and how much of it is real. While reading, I couldn't help but think that the parts I thought were real are actually fiction, and the parts I thought were fiction are real. I think this also has to do with my having read two of his books previously: Vann draws from the darkest, scariest places inside people that they don't even know are in there or that they could be. This leads me to believe that to dig that deep, he has to have lived some of it.

Because I don't want to ruin the value of surprise if you do end up deciding to read the book, I don't want to get into too much detail. However, I have to say that (and as is obvious from the title of the book) suicide is in the center of the story. Legend of a Suicide made me realize once again that I cannot stand people who only think about themselves, force others to be by their side with mind games so that they won't be alone, are depressed all the time and spread that negative energy around like it wouldn't hurt anyone, can't even try to be happy with the little things in life.

*I have translated this part into English from the Turkish translation so it might not be 100% the same as the original.

Book Spotlight: Muscled Out by: Barbara Ross

Title: Musseled Out
Author: Barbara Ross
Publisher: Kensington
Series: A Maine Clambake Mystery #3
Pages: 313
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Target

Brief Synopsis:

The busy summer tourist season is winding down in Busman's Harbor, Maine, but Julia Snowden senses trouble simmering for the Snowden Family Clambake Company. Shifty David Thwing - the "Mussel King" of upscale seafood restaurants - is sniffing around town for a new location. But serving iffy clams turns out to be the least of his troubles....

When Thwing is found sleeping with the fishes beneath a local lobsterman's boat, the police quickly finger Julia's brother-in-law, Sonny, as the one who cooked up the crime. Sure, everyone knows Sonny despised the Mussel King...but Julia believes he's innocent. Proving it won't be easy, though. It seems there's a lot more than murder on the menu, and Julia needs to act fast....

Includes traditional Maine clambake recipes! 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Interview: Rich Zahradnik author of Drop Dead Punk



Recently I had time to sit down with Rich Zahradnik and talk to him about his book we welcome him to Community Bookstop!

What genre do you write?

Mysteries in the form of my series the Coleridge Taylor Mysteries. I also just recently finished a middle-grade sci-fi/fantasy called TIMERS. That's with my agent, who will have to find a publisher for it.

What type of characters do you like to write about?

Flawed human beings trying to do the right thing. They don't set out to be heroes but to simply do what needs to get done. And their flaws need to be natural and organic; that is, believable problems that come from their pasts and not a character checklist.

Can you tell us what brought you to write that genre?

I've read crime since the Hardy Boys in sixth grade and was, from that same time, fascinated by TV and movie detectives.

Who influences your writing?

Raymond Chandler, Michael Connelly, Derek Raymond, Georges Simenon, Tony Hillerman, Philip Kerr, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Ray Bradbury, Robert Harris

What type of books do you like to read?

Mysteries, other types of crime fiction, science fiction, fantasy. I read a fair number of books about the craft of writing and about the time period covered in my mystery series. I also read a good many YA and middle-grade stories because I also work in those areas and, to be honest, find those writers tell great tales unencumbered by silly literary concerns.

What do you do when your not writing?

I do all the promotional stuff a writer must do these days to get the word out on his own books. You know, like interviews. :) For the past five years, I've taught elementary kids how to publish newspapers. I've had to stop that because my writing got busy.

if you could take three things to a deserted island what would they be?

A loaded Kindle, a loaded iPod and a solar power charger that would recharge both.

Last Words, now available in paperback and all ebook formats, won honorable mention for mystery in Foreword Reviews' IndieFab Book of the Year Awards.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Review: The Sibylline Oracle by: Delia Colvin

Title: The Sibylline Oracle
Author: Delia Colvin
Publisher: Createspace
Series: The Oracles #1
Pages: 328
Format: e-book
Source: Purchase

Description:

The Sibylline Oracle is the first novel of the addictive Oracles Series that weaves Greek Mythology with the story of an immortal man's
desperate attempts to save his mortal beloved.

Valeria's life in Manhattan had been filled with deep loneliness and a lot of "nothing special". That is, until she's saved by the handsome Alex Morgan and suddenly her world takes a thrilling new turn! But Alex has a chilling secret: Valeria has only days until her life will be tragically ended!

The Oracles-a love more enduring than life...than death...than destiny.

My Thoughts: 

This book follows Alex Morgan who is looking for someone.  It deals with Greek Mythology and specifically Cassandra and Troy.  Alex starts out as a professor in New York who is leaving his students.

Next we meet Valeria who is sad and lonely now that she stopped being a florist and is trying to figure out what to do next when she is saved by Alex and turns her world upside down.  He tells her he needs to take her away and while it doesn't make sense Valeria goes with him.  

There in Italy she learns alot about herself and Alex and what they are.  This story involves love, danger, action and ultimate sacrifices one will do for love.  

I loved this book it took a couple of days to read but everytime I picked it up it was heart wrenching to put it down and not see what was in store next for Alex and Valeria and how they would over come everything.  It is such a page turner and really shows how far someone will go for someone they love.  I loved all the people in it they all added something to the story.  

Next in the series:


Monday, July 20, 2015

Book Spotlight: Clammed Up by: Barbara Ross

Title: Clammed Up
Author: Barbara Ross
Publisher: Kensington
Series: A Maine Clambake Mystery #1
Pages: 378
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Brief Synopsis:

Julia Snowden returned to her hometown of Busman’s Harbor, Maine to rescue her family’s struggling clambake business—not to solve crimes. But that was before a catered wedding on picturesque Morrow Island turned into a reception for murder. When the best man’s corpse is found hanging from the grand staircase in the Snowden family mansion, Julia must put the chowder pot on the back burner and join the search for the killer. And with suspicion falling on her old crush, Chris Durand, the recipe for saving her business and salvaging her love life might be one and the same.

Interview: Joyce T. Strand author of The Judge's Story

Interview:  Joyce T. Strand, Author
The Judge’s Story
 
Q: In what genre is The Judge’s Story?

I place The Judge’s Story in the mystery genre, but it is also historical fiction. It is set in a small town in California (Ventura) in 1939 where a Superior Court Judge enlists the help of his colleagues and a precocious teenager to uncover the identity of a murderer. I typically write current-day mysteries set in Silicon Valley or California wine country. This is my first historical mystery, and I enjoyed researching and imagining how it was to solve a crime in 1939. Even though it’s set in a past time period, it is still a mystery.

Q: What inspired you to write it?

Inspiration for The Judge’s Story occurred one day several years ago when I was having lunch with a friend. Knowing that I was an author of mysteries, he said that he had just printed copies for his family of his grandfather’s autobiography dated 1941, which they had discovered in an attic. His grandfather had been a California Superior Court Judge and also a law partner of – “maybe I was familiar with”—Erle Stanley Gardner. Well, of course, I knew the creator of Perry Mason and I’m sure I’ve read every “Case of …” that he ever wrote. Gardner had recommended that my friend’s grandfather write his autobiography because he had such an interesting life.

Well, I was definitely intrigued, and my friend sent me a copy. What an interesting person! He was a hero-judge, supporting current-day causes and the poor. I knew I had to write about him—I didn’t need to repeat his autobiography. What I craved was to write a mystery using his persona as my protagonist. So in between writing my current-day who-done-its, I made time to research the town’s history and created a mystery around the Judge.

Q: How supportive was the setting of a small town in California to tell the story?

I find that setting definitely supports the telling of a mystery. Weaving location and trends of the period into the plot offers the opportunity to develop characters and plot, which was the case in The Judge’s Story. By reading a daily newspaper in 1939, I was able to pull out many incidences and locations that enhance the tale. Ventura, California is a small seaside town just north of Los Angeles. The real Judge lived there, and I used events and places in Ventura and Los Angeles to advance the plot and flesh out the characters. For example, the fictional Judge loves to go for walks on the Ventura pier to listen to and smell the ocean, which helps him think and solve problems. The L.A. drive-in theater offered a unique location to advance the plot with a robbery.

Q: Why do readers care about your characters?

I write for readers who prefer real people who make mistakes, don’t always perform as they should, but eventually do the right thing. Mostly they succeed, but occasionally they do not. As for villains, well, I try not to make them too villainous, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.

 When developing the Judge, I had an advantage given that I based him on a real person—although I hasten to add that most of the events around him in the book are fiction. I used his beliefs, mores, and ethics and some of his biography—but the mystery and all of his friends and colleagues are fictional. Nonetheless, I had quick insight into a real person and could reflect his faults as well as his heroic tendencies.

Many readers find Clara, the 16-year old precocious teenager, almost as compelling a character as the Judge. She is the witness who we learn early in the book is testifying against a 14-year-old boy who participated in a robbery murder. She has strong beliefs, and through the Judge’s tutelage she evolves as someone who makes a difference, although she does trip a few times.

Q: The Judge’s Story involves juveniles and juvenile crime. Did you target youth readers?

Although The Judge’s Story does involve juveniles and juvenile crime I wrote it for adults. The actual Judge and news reports of the 1930s were concerned with juvenile crime, and for the sake of the mystery, I needed to portray that trend and some of its consequences and tragedies.

Q: Did you write The Judge’s Story to entertain and/or to deliver a message or educate? 

I wrote The Judge’s Story to entertain, but, quite frankly, the Judge and his friends had much to say about juvenile crime and the merits of rehabilitation versus punishment and the value of reading. Literacy was another trend of the 1930s, and it had to be part of the story. But the messages evolved from the 1930s and from the Judge’s cases and his comments on them. I did not set out to deliver a message or educate.

Q: Was it more difficult to create characters who lived in 1939?

Creating characters in a different time period requires an understanding of what it was like living then. Obviously transportation and communication were different—there were no Cell phones or internet. In fact, many people didn’t have phones at all. But Hollywood was producing movies and cars were becoming more prevalent, resulting in the growth of roads, and air travel was beginning to take shape. So, when creating a 1939 character I had to keep in mind what life was like in a small town in California. This required research, and I was fortunate enough to find the Ventura County Museum with its library and helpful librarians.

But people are people and I found that expressing their feelings, emotions, and motivations were not unlike those of my 21st century characters.

Q: Do you write other mysteries? Are they all historical?

I write current-day who-done-it murder mysteries that typically feature an amateur sleuth who gets herself into lots of predicaments.  In the first three, a public relations executive, Jillian Hillcrest, works at a small biotechnology company in Silicon Valley, encounters murder, and becomes involved in solving the mysteries. Although standalone, the three books include repeat characters, including Jillian’s boss, Brynn Bancroft, who becomes the protagonist in Hilltop Sunset, the first of a trio of mysteries starring her. Brynn evolves from financial executive to winemaker. The second book in this series is scheduled for release in November 2015.

Q: What do you like to do for fun?

I am an avid Broadway musical fan—or any live theater performances—so I attend productions whenever I have the opportunity. I also like to go to live orchestra performances, particularly classical and jazz. And I love to go out to dinner and go wine-tasting.


Title: The Judge’s Story
Published: June 23, 2015
Genre: Historical Mystery

About The Judge’s Story

A Superior Court Judge with a passion for social justice as well as the law strives to discover
the truth behind the mystery of a robbery-murder in a small California town in 1939.

When the Judge hears testimony against a 14-year-old teenager, he realizes that the boy participated in a robbery-murder. However, the accused did not actually pull the trigger. But unless the boy identifies his partner, the Judge must sentence him as a murderer, which would result in prolonged jail time. The Judge’s investigator, along with the precocious 16-year-old girl who identified the boy as one of the thieves, explore different approaches to uncover the murderer. In the backdrop of escalating war in Europe, the financial scarcities of the Great Depression, and the Judge’s caseload, their attempts to find justice for the accused boy and unmask the killer lure the Judge and his friends into sordid criminal activities.

Inspired by a memoir of a real California Superior Court Judge

About Joyce T. Strand

Joyce T. Strand is the author of who-done-it mysteries.

Her newest novel, THE JUDGE’S STORY, published June 23, 2015, is a historical mystery set in a small California town (Ventura) in 1939 and features a California Superior Court Judge.

Her most recent contemporary novel, HILLTOP SUNSET, is the first of a trio featuring protagonist Brynn Bancroft, a financial guru in transition to winemaker from corporate executive. Brynn Bancroft is a minor character in Strand’s novels ON MESSAGE, OPEN MEETINGS, and FAIR DISCLOSURE—three mysteries solved by Jillian Hillcrest, a publicist whose boss was Chief Financial Officer Brynn Bancroft.

Much like her protagonist Jillian Hillcrest, Strand headed corporate communications at several biotech and high-tech companies in California’s Silicon Valley for more than 25 years. Today, in addition to creating mysteries, Strand writes and publishes a blog, Strand’s Simply Tips, is a writer for a regional wine magazine, and is working on the second Brynn Bancroft mystery, to be published in November 2015.

Strand lives with her two cats and collection of cow statuary in Southern California, and seeks out and attends as many Broadway musicals and other stage plays as she can.

Links

Purchase Links for The Judge’s Story

Book and Kindle http://amzn.to/1f3F3QN
Barnes and Noble Nook http://bit.ly/1LWf8os

Author Links:

Barnes and Noble http://bit.ly/1I0rZIL
Twitter: @joycetstrand


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