Category Archives: Latest News

A sampling of things that are going on in my life…

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

I was tagged by my friend Clare O’Donohue in the Next Big Thing Blog Hop, so I’m answering some questions on my blog today about that. Just for the record, I’ve tagged friends D.C. Brod and Teri Barnett, so watch for their posts on January 9.

Here are my answers:

What is the title of your next book? The next book is an anthology called HOOSIER HOOPS & HIJINKS which I’m co-editing with Brenda Stewart. The book is a collection of short mystery stories about Hoosier basketball. I’m also contributing a story, “Snowplowed,” which feature Charlotte and Francine, the two heroines from a story in an earlier anthology, RACING CAN BE MURDER. HOOSIER HOOPS & HIJINKS comes out in October, 2013. I’m also working on a full length novel about the two women, MURDER ON THE BUCKET LIST.

Where did the idea come from for the book? The inspiration for HOOSIER HOOPS came from Indiana’s obsession with basketball. If you’ve never heard of Hoosier Hysteria, it is a very real thing that occurs at the end of high school basketball season. As for Francine and Charlotte, I can’t reveal the continued source of inspriration about these two women and their friends, who have a wide variety of edgy bucket list items. Otherwise, I might not get fed more story ideas :-)

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? HOOSIER HOOPS & HIJINKS is being published by Blue River Publishing. I’m hoping MURDER ON THE BUCKET LIST will also be traditionally published.

What genre does your book fall under? “Snowplowed” is definitely a cozy. Most of the other stories in HOOSIER HOOPS are also on the lighter side of the mystery spectrum. MURDER ON THE BUCKET LIST is most definitely a cozy.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Since Betty White is being overused, I’m thinking Carol Burnett for Charlotte and either Jane Fonda or Lily Tomlin for Francine.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? For MURDER ON THE BUCKET LIST: After a dead body falls out of a pool shed during the night a group of older ladies are trying to have a secret, bucket list-related skinny-dipping party, the ladies find they must uncover the identity of the murderer while at the same time dealing with sudden national attention celebrating their bucket list adventure.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? I have a real interest in stories that are life-affirming. My goal with the Charlotte and Francine stories are to celebrate life. I hope that readers will enjoy these stories of women who may be getting older but whose lives are getting no less richer.

What about your Nick Bertetto series? I love Nick and hope to write more stories about him and his family. The earlier books fit into my  theme of life-affirmation, and the new ones I have planned will continue in that same way. Right now I’m outlining a new trilogy of Nick books. I hope to be able to have two series going if the Francine and Charlotte book takes off.

Why the world won’t end on Friday

Whenever someone finds out my latest book, the thriller THE FINAL MAYAN PROPHECY, is about December 21, 2012 and the end of the Mayan calendar on that date, they ask if it really means the end of the world.

I don’t want to talk too much about the book and give away the end because I hope you’ll read it :)  –so let me answer it in a completely different way. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular ways people are predicting the earth will be destroyed in 2012, some in conjunction with this Mayan end date:

1)      Asteroid hits earth: According to recent reports from NASA, the odds of a really big asteroid hitting the earth in the next 28 years are 1:625. That’s .0016 or .16%, or way less than a 1% chance, and that’s within 28 years.

2)      Nuclear war: The Doomsday Clock sits right now at 5 minutes to midnight. The closer the clock is to midnight, the closer the world is estimated to be to global nuclear disaster. (All of this is according to Wikipedia, not always reliable but as best as I can tell, is accurate in this case.) The latest adjustment, made on January 10, advanced the clock one minute to its present position. To me, that means nuclear war is a little more possible (1.67% more; one minute more out of 60) than it was last year, when we successfully escaped global disaster, so, rounding up, I’d go with maybe 2% as the odds for global nuclear destruction. Keep in mind, I’m no statistician.

3)      Solar flare sends us back to the Stone Age: According to a report in last month’s Christian Science Monitor, which gets this information from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, “When aimed at Earth, strong solar flares and CMEs [Coronal Mass Ejections] …  can pose a danger to astronauts and satellites in space, as well as power grids, navigation and communications systems on Earth.” Reporter Amina Khan, writing in the Los Angeles Times, quoted space weather scientist Mike Hapgood at the Rutherford  Appleton Observatory near Oxford, England about the odds of this happening,. “A recent paper (published in February in the journal Space Weather) tried to estimate the chance … and came up with a value of a 12 percent chance of it happening in the next 10 years.” It’s probably not technically correct for me to average this over ten years, but if I did, it’d be a 1.2% chance each year.

So, after looking at these scenarios, I think the odds are small that December 21, 2012 will be the end of time.

Did the Mayans think that way? My personal philosophy is always one of great hope, that even out of the worst situations, good emerges. To find out if and how I carry this through the plot of THE FINAL MAYAN PROPHECY, you’ll need to read it. I thank you if you do.\

The Final Mayan Prophecy

Premise: The ancient Mayan calendar, accurate for more than 5,000 years, comes to an end on December 21, 2012. (It’s almost here!) What did the Mayans know that we don’t?

Among the Maya, some believe the birth of the god-king Kukulcan will occur at the end of this age. When a rebel group awaiting that birth kidnaps a pregnant woman and her husband to force the prophecy, the event triggers a string of happenings that may cause it to come true.

NOW AVAILABLE FOR 99 CENTS EVERYWHERE! Smashwords, Amazon, everywhere!

At Smashwords.com, you can get the ebook version for ANY e-reader you have, whether it’s an iPad, a kindle, a nook, a kobo, or whatever else.

Not sure about this e-reader stuff? Still prefer paper? It’s available in trade paperback at amazon for $9.99.

The novel was co-written with television producer Paul Skorich and is based on a screenplay we also co-authored.

Lookin’ Good

She still looked good despite being dead 12 hours.

I shut the freezer door on Judy and contemplated what to do next – why we ever thought kinkysex.com was a good idea. We were demo’ing for our website how blood chokes – sleeper holds for you pro wrestling fans – could turn the old love lights on. But I held it for a second too long and her lights went out altogether. And since we had the camera turned on, I now had to dispose of both the body and the evidence.

I tried to think what Judy would have done if the situation had been reversed. Judy had the better business head between the two of us. There wasn’t a thing that went wrong she hadn’t found a way to capitalize on. Like the time the police caught us doing the demo on “unusual places to handcuff your lover” when the alarm we thought we’d disarmed at the Crate and Barrel went off at 3 a.m. Judy threw some edible boxers around my waist and while her explanation for why I was strapped to a picnic table featuring gourmet hotdog condiments didn’t impress the police, it did impress Jerry Springer’s producers. Shortly after our appearance we added a line of our own special gourmet condiments to our website and they were a big moneymaker for us.

Yeah, that Judy, she had the magic. Me, not so much. At least, that what she said. Come to think of it, she never liked any of my ideas. But suddenly one of them came back to me. It might just work. The idea for a new website, cannibalismtoday.com. I opened the freezer door.

Yeah, she looked real good for having been dead 12 hours.

Books I meant to review in 2011, part 2

….As I mentioned in Part 1, I let myself get overwhelmed in 2011 and didn't post reviews of some of books I read. But before we get TOO far into 2012, I wanted to post these. The last post covered all the books on the left, this post will cover the first four on the right. Next week I'll post the remainder.
  • THE NINTH DAY by Jamie Freveletti—Book 3 in the Emma Caldridge series. This is my favorite so far in the series. Freveletti  does a great job of setting up a horror that’s easy to imagine—a wasting disease that infects a prized marijuana crop and within nine days will kill anyone who inhales it or even touches it. When the crazed drug lord who can’t find a way to stop the disease from contaminating the plants decides to deliver massive quantities of the marijuana to the United States and start an epidemic, it’s up to the intrepid Emma to find a cure for the disease and stop the shipments from reaching their drop points. When Emma discovers that she has disease herself, it’s truly a race against the clock to find the antidote. Brilliant work from a terrific thriller writer who’s only getting better.
  • DEAD UNTIL DARK by Charlaine Harris—I’ll admit that I’ve never watched TRUE BLOOD on HBO, nor had I been much of a fan of this type of genre since DARK SHADOWS in my teenage years (which were, regrettably, a very long time ago).  But after having had breakfast with Charlaine at Bouchercon 2011 (a perk that came with being Midwest Chapter President of Mystery Writers of America), I bought a copy of the novel that started it all and asked Charlaine to sign it. Well, I couldn’t put it down. It had a narrative drive and a mystery that kept me going until the end. Loved the premise that vampires could become an accepted part of the world and go mainstream once a synthetic blood was developed. I’m still not a big fan of the vampire genre, but there’s no question in my mind why Charlaine has and deserves a legion of fans.
  •  GRACE INTERRUPTED by Julie Hyzy—Book 2 in the Manor House mystery series by the author of the White House chef series. When a group of Civil War re-enactors comes to Marshfield Manor, it’s murder on the staff—even more so when one of the most hated of the re-enactors is murdered. Grace must wade through a myriad of people who may have wanted the man dead, including relatives of the man she’s just started dating, to figure it out. Delightful stuff from a hardworking cozy writer whose latest book (AFFAIRS OF STEAK) just hit #22 on the NYT extended bestseller list.
  • WILD AT HEART by John Eldredge—I came to Eldredge’s book after completing Henry Blackaby’s excellent workbook, EXPERIENCING GOD. I was searching for another study to bring me closer to God and closer to the man he wants me to be. While I disagree with Eldredge on a few points (from his stories, I think he was an angry young man and some of that still colors his perception of the world), I feel his call for us to return to our masculine roots, not to strive to be ‘nice guys,’ but rather warriors who seek to right the wrongs of the world. He points out that when we were kids, did we dream of being nice? No, we dreamt of being Luke Skywalkers and (more recently) Harry Potters. It dovetails with the biggest thing I took away from Blackaby—to see where God is at work and seek to be a part of what he is doing in the world. I recommend WILD AT HEART to all Christian men.

Galettes

This great photo of galettes is taken from the batch made by my daughter Liz and her husband Tim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love the fact that cookies that have been in families for years are getting called ‘heirloom’ cookies. What a riot!

Anyway, this cookie is one that my grandfather’s family on my mother’s side brought with them from Belgium. They called them galettes, and we make them every year at Christmas. They’re made with an iron…we use a pizelle iron, which is sort of the Italian version of a galette.
Here’s the recipe for a half-batch. It’ll make about 8 dozen.
Ingredients:
3 sticks margarine
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
2 1/2 t. baking powder
3 eggs, divided
1/4 t. salt
5 1/2 cups flour
Directions:
Beat egg whites until stiff. Set aside. Cream butter and sugars. Add remaining ingredients. Add whipped egg whites last. If dough is sticky, add another 1/2 cup flour but DO NOT EXCEED 6 CUPS. If needed, refrigerate until it can be handled.
Heat a pizelle iron. Using a cookie scoop, place a nice size ball of dough on the iron. Close and cook until golden but not brown. (It can be a fine line. The first two cookies won’t take any time at all (<20 seconds) because the iron is so hot. After that, lengthen it to somewhere between 60 to 90 seconds. They look like the above. (special thanks to Liz and Tim for the photo of their cookies.)

Mystery course October 29th!

Okay, it’s been forever since I updated the website. We had some problems with it, but even then you know I’m not always good about updating. I do good for awhile, and then I look focus.

Anyway, I’m teaching a course in The Basics of Mystery Writing this Saturday, October 29th, at the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library (40 E. St. Clair Street), starting at 3 pm and going for an hour and a half. The workship is FREE. We’ll touch on everything from setting to plot and in between, and for those who maybe a little more advanced and have a manuscript in hand, we’ll talk about query letters, synopses, and agents. I’ll also be signing copies of SAINTLY REMAINS during the noontime author fair. For more information, check the IMCPL website by following this link: http://tinyurl.com/3qbr2jn. My part in the fair is sponsored by the Writers Center of Indiana.

Viper by John Desjarlais

As he did in BLEEDER, John Desjarlais takes a contemporary mystery and expertly intertwines a supernatural one.  VIPER features Selena De La Cruz—insurance saleswoman, shoe fashionista and former Drug Enforcement agent—who is forced back into police work when a hit list is discovered and her name is on it. The nine people on the list have one thing in common—they all had a run-in with a drug dealer called the Serpent.  As Selena and her colleagues try to track down the dwindling number of people on the list to stop the killings and learn who is behind them, they must deal with a young girl whose visions of a Virgin of Guadalupe-type apparition precede each death.  Are the little girl’s messages of a veiled vengeance real?  Are the apparitions somehow connected to the deaths, or is this event being used by the killer to cover each murder?

Desjarlais keeps you guessing as the action accelerates faster than De La Cruz’s souped-up vehicles.  When Selena becomes the last woman standing, she must either figure out who is behind the killings or fall victim to La Serpiente. VIPER strikes fast and sinks its teeth in you. You won’t be able to put it down.

 

Printers Row Literary Festival

The Printers Row Literary Festival is Friday and Saturday, June 4 and 5, in downtown Chicago. I’ll be there signing books both days. Please stop by the Mystery Writers of America booth if you’re in the area. We’re in tent V, near the intersection of Dearborn and Polk.

The MWA booth has a lot of readings and signings going on during the day, but one especially fun event will be the Flash Fiction contest on Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m.  Barb D’Amato and Sara Paretsky will be the judges; I’ll be the MC.  Anyone can participate. You don’t have to be an MWA member.

How does it work?

Take one of five opening sentences and come up with a short story – so short that you can read it in five minutes or less. We’ll be timing you, but if the story is good enough we just forget to look at the clock.

Here’s the opening sentences, you can make them any gender you want:

1) He wasn’t going to make it.

2) It was the smell that got to her.

3) Digging a hole six-feet deep was harder than he thought.

4) He’d have done it different if he’d known how much weight she’d gained.

5) They say a goldfish will eat anything.

Judging will be completely arbitrary and potentially quite unfair. But regardless it’ll be awesome because we have two of the most distinguished authors in Chicago history, Barb D’Amato and Sara Paretsky. So no, no pressure here. Nope, none at all.

What can you win? All participants will likely win prizes and there will be one grand prize awarded – a $25 Starbucks gift card.

Anything else? We’re limited to at most 12 participants due to time. There will be a sign-up sheet at the tent, but first come, first served.

Hope to see you there!

Buffalo West Wing by Julie Hyzy

Julie’s fourth entry in her White House Chef Mystery series is her best book to date. With a new administration taking office, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes in the Executive Mansion, and a box of buffalo wings intended for the incoming president’s young children is left in the kitchen. While the box is from a reputable restaurant, Executive Chef Ollie Paras knows that nothing is to be consumed unless it is known how it got to the White House. Ollie’s decision makes the children unhappy, the First Lady unhappy and even members of the staff unhappy. Ollie puts the wings away, but one of her assistant chefs retrieves the box and gives it to the laundry women and two of the butlers. They later become deathly ill and are rushed to a nearby hospital. The hospital comes under siege almost immediately and the White House patients are taken hostage.  The terrorist group wants their leader set free from a Wisconsin prison.

The poisoned wings were clearly meant for the President’s children, but the Secret Service wants it kept quiet while they investigate who the traitor is among the White House staff. This means that the First Lady, still unhappy with Ollie, has no idea that her children would have been the hostages had it not been for Ollie’s decision to follow protocol. Ollie must also wrestle with a troublesome personal chef the First Lady has brought in to prepare the family meals. The man happens to want Ollie’s job. Toss in the stress of new Secret Service agents haunting the kitchen, a strained relationship with her ex-boyfriend, a potential new love interest, and an upcoming state dinner for officials from the country that spawned the terrorists, and Ollie is once again over her head when trouble finds her on the front lines of protecting the First Family.

The thing I loved most about this book was how skillfully Hyzy weaves all these elements into the story. We know some of them will turn out to be red herrings in terms of who the insider traitor is, but all of these elements are important to Ollie and therefore important to us. It’s a fun read that never loses its momentum, has lots of good twists, and reaches a satisfying conclusion where Ollie once again feeds the First Family and saves the world. Don’t miss getting hooked on this series and especially don’t miss out on this book.