A Fickle Wind

A Fickle Wind

Author: Elizabeth Bourne

Paperback: 264 pages (also available in e-formats)ficklewind

Publisher: A Fickle Wind (June 24, 2014)

Synposis:

A rags to riches story, chronicled initially through theeyes of a child born into war-torn Britain who refused to accept that thelackluster life she knew would be all she could possibly expect. The escaperoute was via Canada, where the impossible seemed possible and her hopes werenourished and thrived. These were the transitional years, so different from theEngland into which she had been born, and preparing her for what was to come?alife well lived, in the miracle called America.

A page-turning journey with strong characters strewn with joy, sorrow, laughterand tears; a first novel that is compelling to the last sentence.Inspirational: when you don¹t know where to turn and difficult challenges areblown in by a fickle wind, hold on for dear life and you will weather thestorm. You will awaken one morning to an azure, cloudless sky, and a zephyrwill gently stir the leaves and open your heart to a new beginning.

Author Bio:

Elizabeth Bourne left England as a young woman and now divides her time between California and Canada. Travel is still an important priority but she also enjoys participating in family life with her two daughters and her grandchildren. The seed to write was planted many years ago but it was not until recently, when Bourne had the uninterrupted time to devote to it, that she decided to fulfill her long-time ambition to be a writer. This is her debut novel.

Review:

Although I have always been interested in World War II history this is the first novel I’ve read that addressed the story of what happened to the English children who grew up in the shadow of war and its aftermath. It was a part of history I had never even considered before reading A Fickle Wind. This novel has an interesting voice that reads more like a memoir and covers several decades.

Review: The Pieces We Keep

Author Kristina McMorris is an old favorite of mine. She visited Words by Webb with her first two books which I loved — maybe because they both took place during a favorite time period of mine: World War II. Click on the title to read what I have to say about both books and enjoy an interview with Kristina.

Letters from Home

Bridge of Scarlet Leaves

The Pieces We Keep

Author: Kristina McMorriscover_the_pieces_we_keep_01

Paperback: 464 pages (also available in e-formats, audio)

Publisher: Kensington (November 26, 2013)

Synposis:

In this richly emotional novel based on amazing true accounts, Kristina McMorris evokes the depth of a mother’s bond with her child, and the power of personal histories to echo through generations…

Two years have done little to ease veterinarian Audra Hughes’s grief over her husband’s untimely death. Eager for a fresh start, Audra plans to leave Portland for a new job in Philadelphia. Her seven-year-old son, Jack, seems apprehensive about flying–but it’s just the beginning of an anxiety that grows to consume him.

As Jack’s fears continue to surface in recurring and violent nightmares, Audra hardly recognizes the introverted boy he has become. Desperate, she traces snippets of information unearthed in Jack’s dreams, leading her to Sean Malloy, a struggling US Army veteran wounded in Afghanistan. Together they unravel a mystery dating back to World War II, and uncover old family secrets that still have the strength to wound–and perhaps, at last, to heal.

Intricate and beautifully written, The Pieces We Keep illuminates those moments when life asks us to reach beyond what we know and embrace what was once unthinkable. Deftly weaving together past and present, herein lies a story that is at once poignant and thought-provoking, and as unpredictable as the human heart.

Review:

The Pieces We Keep is two stories, one from modern times and one from the World War II era, told in alternating chapters. (Kudos to the publisher for using a different font for each story making it much easier to know instantly “when” you are, even if you’re coming back to reading after a time away from the book). At first, it seems as if these two stories have nothing in common and you’ll wonder why author Kristina McMorris chose to put them in the same book. Then gradually, almost unnoticeably, McMorris weaves the stories to each other like some magical literary knitter. At the end, it’s impossible to understand one without the other. This intertwining aspect alone makes the story worth reading. You’ll find yourself on a never ending cycle of “just one more chapter” as you bounce back and forth between the two worlds, needing just one more chapter to reveal a bit more about how the two worlds are united.

If asked how McMorris told this story, I would say “emotion”. Emotions in this story run the gamut: terror, joy, regret, resignation, anger, hope, confusion, doubt. For me, this was one of McMorris’s strongest gifts, the ability to realistically write all these emotions, so much that you can feel right along with the characters. After this roller coaster of emotions and the hint at the supernatural, the final chapters which wrap up so many questions seem almost like a let down. Of course, like the characters you might find yourself accepting the more logical explanation while wondering… And I love a book that leaves you pondering unanswered questions, don’t you?

I recommend The Pieces We Keep as a great, can’t-stop-reading book. Prepare for a few late night reading sessions.

Review: Mildred Pierce

Mildred Pierce is one of those movies I’ve watched at least a dozen times (every time I stumble across it on the classic movie channel). The Joan Crawford version, not the Kate Winslet miniseries from a few years ago (although I’ll get around to that one eventually). Can you believe, after all that viewing, I didn’t even realize it was origianlly a book? I thought it was just a screenplay someone typed up in a studio bungalow in the 1940s. Color me embarrassed! So when I saw the reissued book (complete with a Kate Winslet cover) I had to snap it up.

Mildred Pierce

Author: mildred pierce20140630-story.html”>James M. Cain

Paperback: 304 pages (also available in hardcover, e-formats and audio)

Publisher: Vintage (1989 — first published in 1941)

Synposis:

Mildred Pierce had gorgeous legs, a way with a skillet, and a bone-deep core of toughness. She used those attributes to survive a divorce and poverty and to claw her way out of the lower middle class. But Mildred also had two weaknesses: a yen for shiftless men, and an unreasoning devotion to a monstrous daughter.

Out of these elements, Cain creates a novel of acute social observation and devastating emotional violence, with a heroine whose ambitions and sufferings are never less than recognizable.

MPmovieReview:

Since I’ve seen the movie I thought when I opened Mildred Pierce I would know just where each page was leading me. Boy, was I wrong. It seems (no surprise) the movie strayed from the original book, although it kept the basics, and several rich characters were left out of the movie version. Am I glad I finally took time to read Mildred Pierce!

James Cain is a descriptive writer, yet he uses descriptions you never would have thought of using before. That makes reading Mildred Pierce a gift. As you read his writing something will hit you over the head and you’ll think “why did no one ever say that before?” With this type of writing each character is firmly set in stone in your mind. They seem so alive! You can hardly believe he’s writing about people that only exist in his mind.

Mildred Pierce (the book and the woman) also keeps you guessing. Which man will win Mildred over? Who will come out on top in the constant battle between Mildred and her daughter? Usually it’s only thrillers that keep me up reading late into the night, promising myself “just one more chapter”. But Mildred Pierce will grab you and won’t let you go until her story is told.

Go Cubbies! Go Margo!

All-Star Game and Break CONTEST and BOOK SALE
Busch Stadium by Phil www.flickr.com
It’s the middle of July. Baseball fans everywhere know that means it’s time for the All-Star Game and short break from regularly scheduled baseball games across the United States. For non-loving baseball peeps, you can just keep on enjoying your summer as you have been: curled up with your favorite book, sipping cold lemonade, and relaxing by the pool. However you want to celebrate this week, please also join in the fun with young adult author Margo L. Dill as she holds a contest and book sale! 
Why during All-Star Game Week?
Great question! Margo’s young adult novel, Caught Between Two Curses (Rocking Horse Publishing, March 2014), is the story of 17-year-old Julie Nigelson, who is cursed. So is her entire family. And it’s not just any-old-regular
curse, either—it’s strangely connected to the famous “Curse of the Billy
Goat” on the Chicago Cubs, hence the All-Star baseball week celebration.

Julie must figure out this mystery while her uncle lies in a coma
and her entire love life is in ruins: her boyfriend Gus is pressuring
her to have sex, while her best friend Matt is growing more attractive
to her all the time.
Somehow, Julie must figure out how to save her uncle, her family’s future, and her own love life—and time is running out! 

What have people been saying about Margo’s book?
Here are a few lines from a couple reviews on Amazon.com:
“This book is one of the best I have read in a long time. Once I opened it up I could not stop until I was finished.”  ~Janet Cannon
 “A baseball mystery and a contemporary, heartfelt romance, CAUGHT BETWEEN
TWO CURSES is sure to score big with the young teen audience!” ~Cathy C. Hall

“I definitely recommend this to young adults, but
really any adult because it’s a story that keeps you interested and
will stay with you long after you finish.” ~Amie Merz
Okay, so what is the contest and the sale???
photo by DonkeyHotey flickr.com
Here’s the part you’ve been waiting for.  First the sale: 
The Kindle ebook is…99 cents July 14/15, $1.99 July 16/17, $2.99 July 18/19, and back to $3.99 July 20.
The print copy is for sale ON MARGO’S WEBSITE (http://margodill.com/blog/books/) and is $5.00 off the cover price, so only $6.95 (+$3.00 for shipping and handling). She will autograph it and gift wrap if it’s a gift, plus include a bookmark for free. More details at the link above. (The print version is also on sale for $10.76 (10 % savings) on Amazon.com.) 
 If you are an Amazon Prime Member, you can check out the e-BOOK for free at anytime!
The contest:
Go to the Rafflecopter form below this post–all you need to enter is your name and e-mail, which is how I contact you if you win one of the prizes. Do at least one of the tasks below and then click on the entry button to enter the contest. You can do as many tasks as you want! If you are confused or have any questions, please feel free to e-mail Margo at margo (at) margodill.com. Tasks range from leaving a review of Caught Between Two Curses to announcing the contest and sale on a social media page to uploading a photo of you in baseball gear. See below for more.
Margo L. Dill
The prizes:
One winner with a United States mailing address will win a $25 gift card to either Applebee’s, TGI Fridays, Starbucks, Panera Bread, or Olive Garden (winner’s choice). One runner-up winner will receive a free 3000-word critique from Margo (Editor 911)–this can be anywhere in the world as long as the document is in English. The contest goes from July 14 to July 20. Winners will be announced on July 21! 
What are you waiting for?

So, join in the fun and while you’re entering the contest or buying a sale copy of Caught Between Two Curses, join in a rousing rendition of  “Take me out to the ballgame. Take me out with the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks. I don’t care if I ever get back. . .” 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Portable Writers’ Workshop

Gayle Trent (a.k.a. Amanda Lee) writes three different mystery series: the Cake Decorating Mystery series, the Myrtle Crumb series and the Embroidery series. So far, I read Murder Takes the Cake, Killer Sweet Tooth, When Good Bras Go Bad, Claus of Death and The Quick and the Thread. And her latest in the Embroidery series: Thread End was just released this summer. But Gayle has also released a new type of publication this summer: The Portable Writers’ Workshop.

Author: Gayle Trent portablewriters

E-Book: 115 pages

Publisher: Grace Abraham Publishing (June 26, 2014)

Synposis:

This portable writers’ workshop is designed to give you all the information you’d receive at a regular writers’ workshop without the hassle, inconvenience, and expense. Part one of the workshop is directed at novel writers. I’ve written eight (and counting!) novels in Obsidian’s embroidery mystery series under the pseudonym Amanda Lee. I’ve written four novels in the cake decorating mystery series—two for Bell Bridge Books and two for Simon & Schuster. I’ve written a few standalone novels, and I even had my own publishing company for a few years. While operating the publishing company, I managed to get my mystery imprint’s line featured in Woman’s Day magazine in October of 2005 for a giveaway. Part two is designed for freelance writers. There is a great need for content and a variety of places that hire freelance writers. You might think that a slow economy would make it difficult to find freelance work. In fact, the opposite is true. Some companies downsize and eliminate full-time employees and then hire freelance or independent contractors to work on a project-by-project basis. Part three is a collection of articles I’ve written as features or blog posts, and I thought you might find them helpful.

Review:

Have you ever wanted to pick a successful writer’s brain? The Portable Writers’ Workshop gives you that opportunity (OK, it’s a little one-sided. It’s not like you can actually ask her questions but…). Gayle Trent gives everything she’s got after her experience writing a dozen books. Perhaps the best part of it is the personal touch. Instead of just saying “Do X.” Gayle tells you “Do X. See, here’s where I did it. Get the idea?” For her examples, Gayle uses mostly her writing and ocassionally the writing of others (or tells you who to read to see examples of what she’s encouraging you to do. Reading The Portable Writers’ Workshop will take you from reading as a reader to reading as a writer — you will find yourself dissecting what you read to see what the author did and why — and hopefully applying it to your own writing.

Gayle is strongest when talking about fiction writing but her section on article writing (particularly in how fiction writers can apply it to their life) is also interesting. If you are a beginning writer and want an afternoon’s read to open your eyes to a few things about the world of novel writing, this is the book (e-book) for you.

Princess Elizabeth’s Spy

If you missed my review of the first book in the Maggie Hope series you can catch up here. And this is a perfect time to jump on the “Maggie Hope” bandwagon because Susan is released the fourth book in the series this month: The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent.

Princess Elizabeth’s Spy: Abooks_PES Maggie Hope Mystery

Author: Susan Elia MacNeal

Paperback: 384 pages (also available in e-formats and audio)

Publisher: Bantam (October 16, 2012)

Synposis:

As World War II sweeps the continent and England steels itself against German attack, Maggie Hope, former secretary to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, completes her training to become a spy for MI-5. Spirited, strong-willed, and possessing one of the sharpest minds in government for mathematics and code-breaking, she fully expects to be sent abroad to gather intelligence for the British front. Instead, to her great disappointment, she is dispatched to go undercover at Windsor Castle, where she will tutor the young Princess Elizabeth in math. Yet castle life quickly proves more dangerous—and deadly—than Maggie ever expected. The upstairs-downstairs world at Windsor is thrown into disarray by a shocking murder, which draws Maggie into a vast conspiracy that places the entire royal family in peril. And as she races to save England from a most disturbing fate, Maggie realizes that a quick wit is her best defense, and that the smallest clues can unravel the biggest secrets, even within her own family.

Review:

I have an entire shelf of books that are just World War II related (non-fiction). I also like fiction set in the area as long as it isn’t too cliche (and you know it’s just too easy to slip into that Casablanca mode). So I like World War II novels with a twist. Oooh, does the Maggie Hope series have a twist. A young English girl, who spent her childhood in the United States comes back to good old England just in time to get caught up in a war. Timing is everything, isn’t it? In the first book, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, Maggie starts our as (surprise) a secretary but eventually it becomes clear that her nosiness and smarts might make her better suited for something a little more exciting.

And it looks like she’ll get it in Princess Elizabeth’s Spy…or not. This book gives a great feeling of something bubbling under the perfectly normal surface (or as normal as a country at war can get). Maggie’s not only in a different country but a whole different stratosphere as she rubs elbows with people with titles, castles and elegant pedigrees. I enjoyed that there was more than one puzzle in play for Maggie to wonder about. The first part of the book is a puzzle: trying to figure out who did it (no, I’m not going to tell you what it is) and what’s their motive. Then — bapow! — the action takes up the last third of the book and it is a rollercoaster ride. It’s a great “how are they going to get out of that?” chain of events.

Perhaps the most incredible part of this book was the appearance of Queen Elizabeth. You know her right? The lady with the large boxy pocketbook, the impeccably matching dresses and coats, the ladylike hats? Except she didn’t burst into the world as Queen. At one time she was a child. A child! And that’s who she is in this book. Annoying, endearing, even lovestruck. And it’s an incredible experience to see another facet of this woman we all know playing such an important part in Maggie’s next adventure.

And one final comment: whoever did the book covers for the Maggie Hope series, LOVE THEM!

Review and Giveaway: The Author Training Manual

The Author Training Manual: Develop Marketable Ideas, Craft Books That Sell, Become the Author Publishers Want, and Self-Publish EffectivelyThe Author Training Manual: Develop Marketable Ideas, Craft Books That Sell, Become the Author Publishers Want, and Self-Publish Effectively
by Nina Amir

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stop by The Muffin to enter to win a copy of The Author Training Manual here.

Last week my husband painted our living room with nary a grumble. How did I manage this miraculous feat?

Well, I promised to go through my bookshelves and weed out some of the books. Like most writers I am slightly addicted to writer how-to books. Reading them, jotting notes in the margins, marking pages with Post-It notes. Because one of those books will contain the magical advice that makes me an award-winning author. Due to the deal I made with my husband I did donate a few of my writer books to a used book sale. But I couldn’t part with Nina Amir’s How to Blog a Book and her latest The Author Training Manual.

One of the best things about The Author Training Manual is that Nina manages to be both friend and teacher. One the one hand she’ll telling you “here are the things I did wrong,” “here are the things I thought” and most importantly, “here are the changes I made.” As I read I’m saying, “OMG, I felt that same way! I did that same thing!” So you look at Nina, now a successful author, and say “Hey, if I do what Nina did I could become a successful author too!”

But Nina isn’t all about being a friend. She’s a tough teacher too (reminds me of a few nuns I had in years past). Happily, The Author Training Manual is very specific. She doesn’t just tell you to check out the competition. She tells you step by step how to do it. Nina doesn’t leave you to your own devices (writers do tend to procrastinate). Set deadlines! Answer these survey questions! Follow this book planning outline. It’s like writer boot camp! Perhaps it is more accurate to call it an author boot camp. The Author Training Manual helps you to plan both how to create the best book possible and how to become the most effective author. It helps you plan in an orderly way while your book is still just an idea. In fact, it way help you decide which of your ideas should become a book.

The Author Training Manual is crammed with extras: planning exercises, sample book proposals, questionaires, and additional reading lists for each chapter. Trust me, The Author Training Manual is one book I will never get rid of–even if my husband promises to paint the entire house!



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Review: The Devil Takes Half

The Devil Takes Half: A Greek Islands Mystery

Author: Leta Serafimdevil_05

Paperback: 256 pages

Publisher: Coffeetown Press (August 1, 2014)

Synposis:

At an archeological dig on the idyllic Greek Island of Chios, a severed hand is found lying in a blood-filled trench. Could it belong to Eleni Argentis, a beautiful archeologist who is also the wealthy daughter of a local ship owner? She and her young assistant, Petros, are both missing.

The chief officer of the local police force, Yiannis Patronas, suspects that Eleni and Petros happened upon something of real value. However, his search turns up nothing but handfuls of broken clay, and then, another body–that of Petros, whose throat has been brutally cut. Body parts belonging to Eleni are left behind on a remote beach, confirming her demise. Then an old priest with a fondness for TV detective shows is attacked and left for dead. The dig site is located near the monastery where he was the only resident.

Patronas interviews Petros’ long-suffering grandmother, his flighty mother and her money-grubbing boyfriend, as well as Eleni’s greedy stepmother and her charming son. He also confronts two archeologists, one British and one American…. If Eleni’s find is, as they insist, worthless, what are these men doing on Chios? Although Patronas has little experience with homicide, he is determined to conquer the evil that threatens this formerly peaceful island.

The Devil Takes Half is Book 1 in the Greek Islands Mystery series.

Review:

Having always wanted to visit Greece, of course I couldn’t resist reading The Devil Takes Half. This was an interesting look at Greece and their unique mindset. It was also fun seeing how the Greeks see foreigners. Patronas wasn’t exactly a bumbling investigator, more like a perfectly competent cop for life in a small Greek village — a village that saw its last murder during World War II. Suddenly he has two possible murders (or maybe just missing person cases) and if that isn’t bad enough there are plenty of foreigners mixed up in the case as well as a confusing archaeological dig. So while he’s trying to figure out who the murderer is, Patronus is also trying to figure out how you go about investigating a murder.

For almost half the book you’ll be wondering what the murderer’s motive is? Why would he or she murder archaeologists at what everyone agrees is a worthless dig? Maybe it isn’t about the dig at all? Maybe it’s personal? This is an enjoyable read, it’s easy to sympathize with Patronus who has assistants that are in turns incompetent and overenthusiastic and in desperation he begins to take advice from detectives on American TV shows. He reminds me of myself when I’m reading a mystery. I have a feeling about what’s going on but I’m not completely sure. As the investigation goes on there is no shortage of suspects (and eventually motives) and it’s a good tale as Patronus unravels the true story hidden on the island of Chios.

The Greek setting gives this book not only an exotic locale but also characters that have a different way of looking at life and often, motives that wouldn’t exist if this happened in…Cleveland. Take a literary visit to Greece. You won’t regret it!

KidLit: Death at Carp High

Death at Carp High

Author: Jeremy Goldbook-cover-3d

Series: Jake Brown Mysteries (the first of six books in the series)

Paperback: 274 pages (also available as an e-book)

Publisher: Carp House Press (April 7, 2014)

Synposis:

Death at Carp High, the first in the six part series, begins at the beach when high school seniors, Jake Brown and his best friend, Dean, spot a body floating beyond the waves while surfing one morning before school. They recognize the corpse and set out to solve how it ended up drowned in the ocean. What starts out as youthful enthusiasm, quickly evolves into something more dangerous. Threats from a beefy football player and a local sheriff, Spanish II, and a decided lack of romance in his life are some of the obstacles Jake will have to overcome. The last problem may be the most pressing. Fortunately, it is the first to be resolved! The story is fast-paced and dialog driven. Perfect for a summer day at the beach or, in case you don t happen to live by the ocean and it s not the middle of July, a comfortable couch, bed, or toilet seat. Keep your eye out for the sequels.

Review:

What would you do if you found a dead body — and you knew him? Well, investigate of course. Which involves all sorts of dangerous and slightly illegal things — just the type of things teenagers love. This was just a great story (should I say stories since author Jeremy Gold did develop some strong sub-plots). Just like teenagers, this book jumps from thing to things. One page the most important thing is finding the killer, the next page we’re on to girls and their mysteries. It lends a very “teenage” feel to the book. This is not a predictable mystery. You’ll be surprised and leave readers thinking “Was that the right thing to do?” A mystery that makes you think! Could a book for teenagers be any better?

Gold’s dialogue (as well as the running commentary in Jake’s head) is very realistic. At times you’ll think it was actually written by a teenage boy! At one point I did check the author bio, thinking Gold would be one of those teenage authors. Happily, the comments about sex, girls, jocks, food and whatnot are balanced by Jake’s obsession with vocab words from his English class. He tries to work them into conversation, or at least uses them in his head, which is a fun way to slip new words into a reader’s brain. But Gold’s grasp on teenager dialogue and how they think will definitely draw readers in.

It was refreshing for me to see a novel for male teenagers that didn’t have to do with sports. Not that I read many novels for male teenagers (I have a soon-to-be male teenager in the house but we aren’t there yet). But perhaps that was the most appealing thing about Death at Carp High: although the main characters are male, I don’t think the audience will be confined to them. Boys and girls (men and women? shouldn’t we have a special word for male and female teenagers?) will both enjoy this book.

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5Ws and Review: Elective Procedures

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Elective Procedures

by Merry Jones

on Tour July 2014


Book Details:

Genre: Suspense

Published by: Oceanview

Publication Date: July 1, 2014

Number of Pages: 288

ISBN: 978-1-60809-116-4

Note: Excessive strong language

Purchase Links:

Synopsis:

Elle Harrison has taken a leave of absence to mourn the death of her husband Charlie.

Her friend Becky takes her out to dinner to cheer her up and, on impulse, drags her into a fortune teller’s shop. The fortune teller predicts that Elle will travel and meet a new man. She also says that Elle is surrounded by a dark aura that draws the dead to her.

Elle dismissed the predictions as hogwash. But then her friend Jen takes her, Becky and another friend, Susan, to Mexico where she is getting lost cost cosmetic surgery. Elle is attracted to and asked out by Jen’s surgeon, Alain DuBois. And Elle finds a woman hanging onto the balcony next to hers by her fingertips. Elle tries to save her and fails, almost dying in the process.

All of the fortune teller’s predictions have come true. And, as the week progresses, more of Alain DuBois’ patients are gruesomely killed, Jen is attacked, Elle is nearly murdered, and the spirit of her dead husband Charlie keeps appearing to her.

Who is trying to kill Dr. DuBois’ patients–And why? Who is trying to murder Elle? Why does she keep seeing Charlie–Is she nuts? Or is his spirit really trying to protect her?

ELECTIVE PROCEDURES makes a week in Mexico into a chilling page turner, full of twists and unexpected developments, as well as a face lift or two.

Read an excerpt:

Don’t look down. Don’t look down.

I kept repeating those three syllables, a singsong mantra to steady myself and get through time, pushing through seconds and minutes until it would be afterwards and this nightmare would be over.

Don’t look down.

But I didn’t have to look. I knew what was beneath me. I could picture what was lying six stories down on the concrete beside the kidney shaped swimming pool, near the mouth of the alligator water slide. Under the glowing light of sunrise, I imagined a widening crimson puddle. A clump of arms and legs. A shattered bone protruding through flesh. Tangled hair matted into a cracked skull.

Don’t look down, I said again, and I didn’t. Instead, I aimed my eyes straight ahead focusing not on the brick wall in front of me, but on the air surrounding my head. I stared into it, straining to see my aura, looking for stains, for splotches of darkness. Was it possible to see your own aura? Was there even such a thing? If there was, I couldn’t see it, saw only inches of emptiness between me and the bricks, and, at the periphery of my vision, the railing. For the briefest moment, I had a lapse; I almost turned my head, almost looked down at my hand. Don’t look, I chanted. Don’t look. Looking would mean moving my head. And if I moved it–if I moved anything at all, I’d disrupt my balance and slip, and then, with a thud, there would be two blobs of bones planted beside the pool.

A pelican dive-bombed past me, the rush of air nearly knocking me over. I held my breath, holding steady. I called out again, hoping someone would wake up, but no one came. So I told myself to stay steady and thing of other things. Other times. I stared at the wall and repeated: Don’t look down don’t look down don’t look down.

Author Bio:

Merry Jones has written the Elle Harrison suspense novels (THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE, ELECTIVE PROCEDURES), the Harper Jennings thrillers (SUMMER SESSION, BEHIND THE WALLS, WINTER BREAK, OUTSIDE EDEN, and this fall, IN THE WOODS), the Zoe Hays mysteries (THE NANNY MURDERS, THE RIVER KILLINGS, DEADLY NEIGHBORS, THE BORROWED AND BLUE MURDERS). She has also written humor (including I LOVE HIM, BUT…) and non-fiction (including BIRTHMOTHERS: Women who relinquished babies for adoption tell their stories). Jones taught college creative writing for fifteen years. Her work has been translated into seven languages, and appeared in many magazines, including GLAMOUR. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, The Authors Guild, International Thriller Writers, and The Philadelphia Liars Club. The mother of two grown daughters, she lives outside Philadelphia with her husband.

Review:

Have you ever met someone and had a feeling about them? You’re not sure what exactly you don’t like about them but there it is…this feeling. Merry Jones does a fabulous job of doing this with her characters. You can “meet’ someone and almost instantly have this bad feeling about them. Of course, since there is a murder you immediately want to think they’ve the murderer but that isn’t always the case. But it is a great way of keeping you off balance and wanting to keep reading.

Elle Harrison and her band of girlfriends are very realistic. They are in turn: maternal, selfish, nosy, romantic, catty, brave, loyal and just plain annoyed with each other. I feel like the gang was really fleshed out in this book and were given the chance to show their personalities.

Of course on the other hand we have Elle’s vision of her dead husband Charlie. I must confess that normally I don’t like ghosts, talking cats or any other paranormal type crimesolvers. But Charlie is growing on me. He made an appearance — such as it was — in The Trouble with Charlie which I reviewed here. If you like solving mysteries you’ll enjoy Elective Procedures.

5Ws with Merry Jones:

WHEN
When did you realize you wanted to write books?

I’ve always known. I began writing stories at the age of four or five, as soon as I learned how to print. I didn’t know that I’d achieve it, but my goal was always to write books. It was never a question.

WHY
Why do you have so many different mystery series? So many authors create one set of characters and write a dozen or more books that revolve around those characters. But you have three different series! Do you enjoy the flexibility of working with so many different characters?

I do enjoy hanging out with the different characters. As I get to know them, they become more real, more part of my life. And because they are so different, they allow me to place a wide variety of plots in a wide variety of settings. By the way, some of the characters overlap: Susan Cummings and Nick Stiles from the Zoe Hayes books reappear in the Elle Harrison books.

As to why I have several series, the answer is that I didn’t plan it. The first series, the Zoe Hayes mysteries, was a victim of the 2008 economic recession. My publisher abruptly cut most of its mid-list writers, and I—or should I say Zoe– became a casualty of that. So, without a publisher for that series, I wrote new books on spec, hoping my agent could place them with new publishers. SUMMER SESSION, the first Harper Jennings thriller went to Severn House, and THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE, the first Elle Harrison novel, went to Oceanview. So the answer is that I started each without knowing how many I’d write, or that they would turn into series. I was just trying to keep working.

WHERE
Where will Elle and her merry (and often grumpy) gang of girlfriends head for the next book? Back to their hometown of Philly or another exotic locale? Why did you choose to set this book in Mexico?

I think that mystery/suspense writers look for plot ideas and potential settings everywhere we go, whatever we’re doing. I set ELECTIVE PROCEDURES in the Puerto Vallarta area because it made such a vivid impression on me when I was there on vacation. The festival of the Virgin of Guadeloupe, in particular, was starkly beautiful, people all dressed up, parading, holding candles, singing through the narrow streets all night. And lots of images stuck with me—pelicans dive bombing past my hotel room windows. People boogie boarding on the waves. The long, often empty, uninterrupted stretches of sandy beach. For me, placing crimes in a seemingly joyful or restful place is compelling. It’s the contrast between the surface and the sinister undercurrent makes for tension, showing that things aren’t always as they seem, or that evil can lurk in unlikely places.

As to where the gang will go next? Not sure. Depends where I want to vacation….

WHAT
What is the most difficult/rewarding thing about writing?

For me, the best parts are those magical moments when the writing takes off on its own, when I feel that I’m merely writing down words and phrases and events that “come to me.” When I see the threads of the book all coming together. When a rhythm carries me along with it. Of course, it’s incredibly rewarding to hear that readers are satisfied or that publishers want another book. All of it is amazing.

WHO
Who is your favorite mystery writer?

Sorry. Can’t even give you a name, or even a short list. I simply don’t have a favorite. I read suspense and thrillers like popcorn, devour them.

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