Happy (Early) Holidays

Making Spirits Bright, an anthology I contributed to a few seasons ago, is part of a Kobo buy-2-get-1 free deal for the next week. The novella I wrote for it is a sequel to Miss You Most of All. So if you’ve read that book and you’re curious about what happens to the characters, “Runaway Christmas” gives you a Christmas-themed glimpse into their lives.

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Mel Blank‘Tis the season for sharing favorites. My TBR pile is one “Best Books of 2015” list from dooming me to an eternity of catch-up reading. It’s devilish the way these favorite lists tantalize me to hit the Buy button just when I’m supposed to be shopping for others.

Holiday shopping always reminds me of one favorite of mine: Jack Benny’s Christmas episode, “Jack Goes Christmas Shopping,” featuring the usual gang, plus Mel Blanc playing a clerk who’s emotionally invested in his wrapping skills.

Hello, September.

Summer was great. I had tons of time to read and work on a fun new writing project. I edited a little. I traveled to Vancouver for a week and remembered how much I love the West Coast. My sister Suzanne adopted a puppy named Ethel (see banner). All good.

 

But I’m always glad to break out the long sleeves again and welcome autumn. To me, it always seems like the real new year. It’s when I take stock, make resolutions and new schedules.  It’s been decades since I’ve been in school—I’d be a forty-fourth grader this fall—but I still feel as though September is the time to start afresh.

 

Bonus: the trees in my city put on a pretty good show this time of year.

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Happy Victoria Day!

It’s a long weekend here in Canada, which always seems to mark the beginning of summer for us. By coincidence, the ebook for the women’s fiction novella anthology Summer Days is being discounted most everywhere ebooks are sold. The book’s headliner is Lisa Jackson, but it also features the wonderful Mary Carter and Holly Chamberlin. I’m in there, too, feeling fortunate to be in such great company.

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Special April Deal

The ebook of Life is Sweet is being discounted at $2.99 at all the usual retailers all through the month of April! You can find it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.

Just for fun, and because it looks so springy, here’s the large-print cover of the book that I discovered last week. Life is sweet large print

Don’t tell me later


Waiting for WednesdayHere I am, halfway through Nicci French’s Frieda Klein mystery series—I just finished Waiting for Wednesday—and I can’t resist the need to vent. This husband-and-wife team has written some of my favorite single-title suspense books. I’ve been addicted to them since my sister brought back a copy of Beneath the Skin from a trip to England.

But…Frieda. Frieda, Frieda. Frieda Klein is an interesting anchor for a mystery series. She’s a psychiatrist who desperately needs to spend some quality time on an analyst’s couch herself. She blunders into murders, her solve rate is 120%, and she’s stalked by a serial killer the police refuse to believe is still alive. She’s also blessed with an interesting posse of friends, relatives, and love interests who are devoted to her despite the fact that Frieda rarely answers her phone or returns email messages. (More on this below.) I imagine she’s as frustrating to know as she is to read about. Yet here I am, drumming my fingers impatiently for the chance to read the upcoming Thursday’s Children.

The most frustrating thing about these books? The authors’ reliance on withholding information. This is one of Tuesday's Gonemy biggest pet peeves as a reader. Whenever I read the words “I can’t explain/talk/go into that now,” I start to twitch. Unless the character truly means she can’t. For example, if she knows the murderer is listening in. Or if a flight attendant is shouting at her to turn off her cellphone. Under those circumstances, okay. But this usually isn’t the case with Frieda and company. The authors spin the plot out by having characters not respond to each other, or put off responding. Two characters will be on the phone, a great way to convey information, but they’ll put off exchanging key information until they can meet in a cafe, or at the office. By the end of Waiting for Wednesday, this was starting to give me fits. I don’t know about you, but if I were dashing off to confront a serial killer and I called my friend to let her know what I was up to, I’d go ahead and ID the killer in a message instead of telling my friend to meet me later for tea so I could give her the news.

But if I were about to rush off to confront a serial killer, I hope I’d have someone to call besides Frieda Klein, because Frieda never answers the phone.

I’m still addicted to this series. I just hope that sometime between Thursday and Sunday, Frieda gets psychological help and communications counseling.

Anyone else reading the Frieda Klein series, or another good series? What are your reading pet peeves?Blue Monday

Julia’s books

My sister Julia died earlier this month. That’s probably the hardest sentence I’ve ever had to type. Julia was my first best friend, my confidante, my cowriter of two books, my go-to person whenever I didn’t know how to cope with something. I need her now to cope with this. I’m still trying to come to grips. Last week my other sister, Suzie, and I were at Julia’s house, packing away her things, which was a heartbreaking task. The only thing that made it easier was the friends and neighbors who came by to help. And the fact that Austin is such a friendly place. I felt surrounded by kindness.

But it was still difficult to go through that house. Every possession I boxed up felt like a goodbye. Especially the books. A bookworm her entire life, Julia had books in every room. She was a detective fiction nut and owned complete collections of Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and so many others. PG Woodhouse had a good showing on her shelves, of course. (We spent part of the week searching for a good home for Jeeves, her dog.) I pulled down shelves and shelves of Georgette Heyer, Joan Smith, and Mary Jo Putney. Classic fiction. Historical fiction. Movie star autobiographies, which Julia and I devoured and swapped.

Julia was the first person I knew who wanted to be an author. When they were in elementary school, she and Suzie spent weekends closeted in a room co-writing stories on loose-leaf paper, fictional accounts of Julia, her friends, and a school suck-up named Fink von Stink, complete with illustrations. A large purple binder of the stories was on Julia’s shelves last week, too, and reading them with an editorial eye, I found them surprisingly fluid and well-written, and hilariously stupid.

So many books reminded me of the author manias that Julia passed on to me: Barbara Pym, Heyer, and British suspense writers like Nicci French and Val McDermid. A few were the authors that I had recommended to her, such as Robertson Davies, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and Kate Atkinson. We both liked Rona Jaffe, so I understood completely when I pulled not one but two copies of Class Reunion off a shelf.

Reading is a passive, solitary activity, but Julia could be passionate and opinionated about stories. We argued over endings, and whether an author had flubbed it in the last chapter. Clearing out the bookshelves, I was reminded of the time we’d brought the same Anne Tyler book on a plane ride and had almost spent part of our vacation not speaking to each other over a disagreement about it. (Don’t ask.) I also remembered an afternoon when I was ten or eleven, when Julia finished Crime and Punishment and was so taken with it that she came to my room to tell me the story, making it sound so good that I decided I wanted to read it just as soon as I finished Old Yeller.

Julia was older than me by three years, and often felt the need to look out for me. When I was about to start school, she decided I needed to learn to spell so that I wouldn’t be an ignoramus when I arrived in first grade. She taught me one word before losing interest in the project, or losing patience with me. The word was J-U-L-I-A.  I repeated it to myself constantly and wrote it in shaky letters on a poster in my room so I wouldn’t forget. As if I ever could. Julia_and_Liz