Compulsively Readable Gifts

If your taste in fiction runs toward thrillers, you should definitely consider adding Libby Fischer Hellmann to your list of “want to read” authors. Long-time readers of this blog will remember I featured Libby last year after learning we have an audiobook narrator (the gifted Robin Rowan) in common. You can read that earlier post here.

While Libby and I have some common elements in our professional portfolios—editing, for example, as well as public speaking and crisis communication experience—she’s far more prolific as an author. Libby’s books cross the spectrum of crime fiction: suspense mysteries; historicals; PI novels; amateur sleuth; police procedurals; and a cozy mystery. Her fiction has been nominated for the Agatha, Anthony, and Edgar awards, and has repeatedly garnered Readers’ Choice awards (see the entire list here.) She’s also past president of Sisters in Crime–a busy woman indeed!

If you’d like to add Libby’s work to your collection—or buy as a gift—now’s the time! She has a box set (Kindle edition) of the Ellie Foreman mysteries on sale through December 2nd. This is the series the critics describe as “a masterful blend of politics, history, and suspense.” You can get all four books for just $5.99 now through December 2nd. Find the box set on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and iBooks. And with book #5 in the series coming in just a few months, this is a perfect time to catch up!

Libby box set

Here’s a sample of the reviews for the books included in this set:

Jeremiah Healy, author of Turnabout calls An Eye for Murder “a clever mystery puzzle…a wonderful thriller.”

The Midwest Book Review has this to say about Picture of Guilt: “Hellmann has surpassed herself. Well-crafted, intense and exciting, right up to the last page… a must read.”

Crimspree Magazine declares A Shot to Die For is “a traditional mystery with a modern edge… the author’s confidence shows from beginning to end… refreshing as soft serve ice cream on a hot summer night.”

And as proof that Libby’s work appeals to readers across the spectrum, Tracy Farnsworth of the Romance Readers Connection says that “the story is action packed with twists that keep you turning the pages. Ms. Hellman has done a fabulous job in bringing two worlds together. … a must read.”

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I’ll be back soon with recommendations and suggestions for dog-related mystery fiction and some more terrific authors. Until then, happy reading!

In Time for the Holidays

christmas-935461_640Thinking about holiday gifts or looking to add to your own collection? I have suggestions! Over the next few weeks I’ll post info and links to books and authors—some  previously featured here, some new—with books priced to make even the most budget-conscious person happy. To make as many people happy as possible, I’ll include a range of mystery sub-genres, from cozy to traditional to thriller and action-adventure. Most will have dogs or cats in the stories, while others were selected because they’re well-crafted fiction. Great prices, too, starting at just 99¢ (US) and £0.99 (UK).  Since I’ve been reading a lot of authors living and writing in the Ozarks region, I’m going to kick off this promo with a local (to me) author.

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Jack R. Cotner writes poetry, short stories, and novels in addition to painting and sculpting. You can see his work and learn more on his website. He writes compelling fiction that pushes the boundaries of traditionally recognized genres, and the Kindle editions of his short story collection and novel are on sale this holiday season for just 99¢ (US) and £0.99 (UK).  I’ve previously featured Jack on this site (find that here), so this time I’m sharing what others have to say.

Jack website image

Mystery of the Death Hearth

I enjoyed this book very much. It has a very interesting story line. I would recommend to all my friends. Great reading.

~ Andrea Utecht (Amazon review)

 

…As a lover of historical fiction, I found this novel to be excellent. It is very well written with an interesting setting and an intriguing murder mystery. It is evident that the author has extensively researched the period and region in which the story takes place. His descriptions of the traditions, religious practices and way of life of the characters involved draw us in beautifully as the mystery unfolds. Cotner’s writing style suits the period well and lovely, descriptive phrases abound. Each chapter is preceded by a fascinating poem, as well as the date in both the Roman and Celtic calendars, adding a further dimension to the text.

The story takes place in the 5th Century AD in the Celtic lands of the northern and western regions of mainland Europe…All in all, the book presents an intriguing and well-crafted mystery with well rounded characters. It should appeal to anyone who enjoys a good mystery with an historical setting.

~Patricia Bunting (Amazon review)

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Storytellin: True & Fictional short Stories of Arkansas

I loved these stories: fictional tales cleverly linked to genuine family stories. They are engaging, sometimes witty, sometimes insightful, occasionally disturbing, and they offer a foreigner like me a small insight into the mountainous regions of Arkansas: their people, their culture and their history. Fascinating to read and very enjoyable.

~Kathy Shuker (Goodreads review)

Indeed, Jack Cotner has delivered Storytellin’ at its finest by juxtaposing accounts from generations of Cotners next to fictional tales triggered by those family events. A fine collection of memoir and short stories in a single volume. As one reader pointed out, two books in one. Loved it.

~Nancy Hartney (Goodreads review)

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I love the ability to buy ebooks now, include a personal message, and specify the delivery date so it’s delivered when I want. When you purchase a digital book as a gift, you can choose to have the gift sent directly to the recipient or sent to your own email account so you can either forward the message or deliver a printed copy of the gift instructions personally. By the way, there’s no Kindle required; books can be read on Kindle or one of Amazon’s free reading apps.

Check back during December to see info about other great authors and their books!

Thanksgiving and Pets

The Thankful Dog

Chasing Dog Tales has a lovely poem, The Thankful Dog, written from Haley the dog’s perspective:

The Thankful Dog

I’m thankful for the day you adopted me
And your patience while I learned where to pee.
Sorry for the time I pooped in the hall
It was rough at first, but we got through it all.

You were so kind while I learned to behave,
You showed me the world, so I could be brave.
I have all the things a good pup should own,
Good food, fresh water and toys and bones.

Our house is warm and I have my own bed
But you don’t mind if I share yours instead.
When I’m sick, you lay with me on the floor
With my head on your pillow, I let out a snore.

I’m thankful for all those rides in the car
And all the vacations we’ve shared so far.
From off-leash hikes to beaches with sand,
So many adventures across this great land.

Read the rest here and thanks to Elaine Bryant.

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Ani the dog shares her thoughts about the harvest celebration, English style:

ani3

Now, I know we don’t do Thanksgiving here, but we should; I like turkey. I have experience of turkey… most memorably that Christmas day when she didn’t quite shut the fridge and went out of the kitchen. Well, at least she didn’t have to eat leftovers for days on end…

Read the rest here and thanks to Sue Vincent for sharing her lovely furry friend with us!

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i-grub-thanksgiving-main320_1If you’re so inclined to make a special dinner for your own dog, here’s a great recipe from TheBark.com by Jonna Anne with Mary Straus, Canine Nutritionist, and Shawn Messonier, DVM, Veterinary Consultant.

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Important holiday reminders from the North Shore Animal League America:

1. Fatty Foods:  Too many fatty, rich, or unfamiliar foods can give your pet pancreatitis or gastroenteritis; two medical conditions that can be very painful and even life-threatening.

2. Diet and Exercise:  Maintain your pet’s regular meal and exercise schedule and avoid too many holiday leftovers. A disruption in his dietary routine can cause stomach upset, diarrhea and/or vomiting.

3. Bones:  Make no bones about it. Certain bones can lacerate or obstruct your pets’ insides. Save the bones for the broth – not your dog.

4. Onions:  Onions and onion powder, widely found in stuffing and used as a general seasoning, will destroy your dog or cat’s red blood cells, which can lead to anemia.

5. Grapes and Raisins:  Grapes and raisins contain a toxin that can cause kidney damage to both dogs and cats.

6. Chocolate:  Chocolate can actually be fatal to your dog or cat; so all those sweets must be kept well out of reach.

7. Food Wrappings:  Aluminum foil, wax paper and other food wrappings can cause intestinal obstruction. Make sure to place these items securely in the garbage.

8. Fresh Water:  Make sure your pet always has fresh water. When there are more people in the house, there’s more chance to bump into the water bowl leaving your pet dry.

9. Quiet Time:  Make sure your pet has a quiet retreat should the holiday festivities be too much for him. Watch his behavior to make sure he is not stressed.

10. Garbage:  Keep an eye on the garbage and keep it securely fastened! If your dog gets into it, he may think he’s hit the jackpot, but all he’ll be winning is health problems from something as simple as gastric disturbance, vomiting and diarrhea to the worst-case scenario – death.

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EMERGENCY FIRST AID FOR DOGS

7_FirstAid

Even the most responsible pet owner can’t always protect their pet from a sudden accident or illness. Getting your pet immediate medical attention can be the difference between life and death. Download this e-book to learn more about what to do in an emergency situation.

 

For the Love of Island Dogs

© Anna Landry

© Anna Landry

Note: this post was originally published in July of this year. I’m reblogging now in celebration of the 2nd anniversary of Reading Recommendations, which is the brainchild of Susan Toy. Susan is a staunch advocate for writers and readers around the globe, and it’s my pleasure to revisit the island dogs of Bequia, the fine work of artist Anna Landry, and Susan’s own writing. There are more than 250 authors featured on Reading Recommendations (including me), and I hope you’ll you’ll browse the list and find “new to you” books. Join the anniversary celebration November 18th on Facebook and/or read the special blog posts to find out how you might win one of the terrific giveaways!

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Last year, I was honored to be recognized by Susan Toy and included in her Reading Recommendations. As a result, I met some wonderful authors and found fabulous books for my own “must read” stack.

Susan Toy photo

Susan M. Toy, Author & Publisher

I include Susan as one of those wonderful authors, and anyone who enjoys a good story set in an exotic locale will love her work, too. Here’s a mini-version of Susan’s bio:

Susan M. Toy is a Canadian author and publisher who shares her time between Canada and her Caribbean home on the island of Bequia. She has previously published Island in the Clouds, a mystery novel set on the island. One Woman’s Island is second in the Bequia Perspectives series and will be ePublished in 2015. Susan’s life has always been filled with cats, but she numbers many dog-lovers among her friends. (Read more about Susan and her literary journey here.)

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I love this teaser for Island in the Clouds: “Part travelogue, part mystery, Island in the Clouds takes a long, hard look at the reality of living in a place that seems perfect — from the outside, anyway.” Who can resist that sort of book? Even better, it’s the start of a series that will offer an up-close view of island living, with characters (both two- and four-legged) we’ll want to spend time with. (You can read the first chapter here.)

The second in the Bequia Perspectives series is One Woman’s Island, and Susan has generously sent along an excerpt for us to enjoy. (Find that at the end of this post.) As a reader, I love fiction that gives me the opportunity to learn about different places, customs, and traditions (even the not-so-happy ones). As a writer, I appreciate the authors willing to tackle those issues when they fit the story, as Susan has done so well in her work. I felt as though I’d been transported to that island, that boat, and wanted to bring those dogs home with me.

In addition to sharing this excerpt, Susan also sent along some fabulous work by the artist Anna Landry. She has this to say about Anna:

Anna Landry, Artist

Anna Landry, Artist

Inspired by her parents’ interest in art and stimulated by a lifetime of travel, Canadian-born artist Anna Landry was painting and drawing from a very young age. In the mid-90’s, a two-week painting holiday in the sun resulted in nine years spent living, working and continuing to paint on the island of Bequia in the West Indies. Anna has most recently been busy sailing…discovering, photographing, collecting inspiration from the Windward and the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. Most of her paintings are created in her Bequia studio she has shared with many dogs over the years.

One of the truly great things about talking with artists (and I include writers, poets, painters, sculptors, and the like in that category) is the opportunity to hear the inspiration for their work. For both Susan and Anna, one source of inspiration was a Norwegian sailor named Mariann Palmborg. Susan tells me Mariann called Bequia home for several decades where she was a friend to many, “but especially to the numerous dogs and cats on the island. She was the inspiration for the character Solfrid (Mariann even named the character!) and the subject of one of Anna’s paintings. Mariann sadly passed away in 2009 and is still sorely missed by all her many two-and-four-footed friends.” Here’s Mariann, as painted by Anna:

Mariann WhyKnot by Anna Landry

Mariann WhyKnot © Anna Landry

In addition to sharing the image above, Susan scanned other paintings and photos by Anna, with an invitation to include as I wished. I couldn’t choose between them and so included them all in a slideshow. I hope you enjoy both the excerpt and the images as much as I did, and add Susan Toy to your own “must read” list!

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And now as promised: Excerpt ONE WOMAN’S ISLAND by Susan Toy 

You can follow Susan on Twitter, browse her website,  catch up with her on Goodreads, and check out her Amazon author page.  For more information about Susan’s books and where to find them, visit islandeditions.wordpress.com. Happy reading!

Armistice

Note: this tribute was published on November 11, 2015, by fellow writer (and dog lover) . My sincere thanks to Sue for allowing me to share.

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Armistice

“We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.”

From ‘In Flanders Fields,’ by John McCrae

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On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 1918, the Armistice signed at Compiègne came into effect. 

Not for the mistaken glory of war, nor for their valour, nor the sacrifice of their lives on the altar of politics, but for Peace.

We will remember.

Reflections of Life in Fiction

fountain pen

I write mystery fiction. I write from experience, from observation, from research. The characters living in the world I create are good, bad, and sometimes both. They have virtues and vices. Some of my characters will share your view of the world and some won’t. In short, they’re the sort of people you already know or might expect to meet. And, like many people you know, some of these characters aren’t shy about voicing their opinions and fighting for what they think is right. And when opposing viewpoints collide, therein lies the conflict at the heart of the story.

My job as a writer, then, is to present those opinions and messages as part of the plot development. It’s far easier, frankly, to write a character whose values and beliefs match some of my own than it is to write a character at the other end of the spectrum. Both kinds of characters, however, are essential to the plot, so it’s my job as storyteller to present each as authentically as possible.

In Dangerous Deeds (forthcoming), you’ll find multiple characters with the common bond of military service but with differing opinions and interests. Writing these characters proved easy because I’m third-generation military. My paternal grandfather served in the Canadian Infantry in World War I, my father served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II, and I served in the U.S. Air Force. I enlisted a year after the fall of Saigon and served through the Cold War of the 1970s and 1980s right through the first Gulf War before retiring from active duty in the mid-1990s. I was fortunate to serve alongside honorable and courageous men and women; the bonds we forged still hold and inform my writing.

While veterans of all ages share a common bond of service, our experiences vary and every generation has stories unique to their time. That’s where observation and research come into the writing process and allow me to create an assortment of characters of varying complexity. Take my protagonist’s neighbor Zak Henderson, for example, who was introduced in Deadly Ties. His time in uniform included three deployments to Afghanistan. If you were to say “Thank you for your service” to Zak, he’d likely nod and tell you that he was just upholding the family tradition of serving others.  Since leaving the military, he’s done his best to settle into civilian life as a single parent. When trouble comes to Eagle Cove, Zak’s ready to stand in defense of what’s right.

Just like any other segment of the population, the military ranks include some who crave conflict and seek power over others. As much as we might like to believe everyone in uniform holds firm to the highest ethical standards, the reality is that some do not. In Dangerous Deeds, you’ll meet the character Karl Shackleford, former second-in-command to Sheriff Johnson’s corrupt predecessor. Karl opted for the Army rather than fall in line with the new law-and-order regime, and only came home after falling afoul of Army conduct regulations. Now he’s back on the job thanks to Veterans’ Reemployment Rights and eager to see his old boss reinstated as sheriff and resume his own position of power. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen, legal or otherwise.

Some veterans return with physical or psychological wounds, and more than a few find themselves without a place to call home. Some estimates suggest that nearly 50,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Another 1.5 million veterans are at risk of homelessness because of poverty, insufficient support networks, and housing issues. That’s true for some of my characters, too.  In Dangerous Deeds you’ll meet Martin Grimes, homeless after the family’s hilltop farm was auctioned off while Martin served overseas. Now he’s getting by one day at a time, doing odd jobs that come along, spending nights rough camping in the woods not far from Waterside Kennels and wondering just what he’d been fighting for. When trouble comes to Eagle Cove, he’ll have to decide, once again, where his sense of loyalty and honor will lead him.

Three men, all veterans, each with his own story to tell. Although fictional, each reflects some element of reality for military veterans today.

This week, the United States will recognize Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day in recognition of the ceasefire on the 11th hour of November 11, 1918 which ended World War I. If you’d like to learn ways to support military veterans in need, visit the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans or learn about the Lifeline for Vets.

Veterans Day 2015

 

And the Winner is…

congratulations

Congratulations, Barbara Tobey! You’ve won the 3-for-1 Deadly Ties package prize: a Kindle edition of the book, the audiobook (narrated by the top-ranked voiceover artist Robin Rowan), and a signed paperback. Barbara, please email me (dogmysteries [at] gmail) and let me know where to send your prize! Remember you can keep for yourself, give as gifts–whatever you like!

Coming up: a sneak peek this week at Dangerous Deeds, the next in the Waterside Kennels mystery series.