Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

to all who are into Halloween and being scared.

I'm not.

Fear is something I deal with a lot. As part of that, fear regarding my own writing is a major issue. So, submitting something to my local writer's group always makes me a nervous wreck before and after our meeting. With considerable unease, I submitted another somewhat weird story of mine for today's meeting.

General consensus of the folks that were able to attend was that the story worked. Needs a little work primarily in the area of dialogue and conflict between the two major characters. But, overall the piece has a good nucleus and hangs together well.

I also got an idea from them on how to bridge the vast middle on the novel project.

So, all in all, it was a pretty good meeting though I wasn't able to offer much advice their way on their projects. And so it goes......

Sunday, October 25, 2009

News and Notes for October 25, 2009

Interesting reading seen elsewhere:

1) E-books and libraries

2) A lack of respect for sci-fi authors

Just stuff I found interesting and informative.

On a separate note—finished my latest story effort about an hour ago and sent it off to my local writer’s group. Will found out next Saturday how it went over as if dealing with Halloween isn’t enough.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Review: "The Gift of Murder" Compiled and Edited by John M. Floyd

For the fourth consecutive year, Wolfmont Press has released an anthology designed to raise money for the “Toys for Tots” program. Edited by John M. Floyd, this year’s anthology is made up of many familiar names to anyone who reads short mystery fiction and novels. Austin Camacho Bill Crider, Earl Staggs, Randy Rawls, Deborah Elliot-Upton and the other usual suspects are also familiar to readers who participate in the various online writing groups. Just reading the author names involved should tell you that the content of the book is going to be good.

The anthology opens with “The Seven Dollar Clue” by J.F. Benedetto. Private Eye Mark Sauer doesn’t want to be a murder victim the week before Christmas. But, when Madame Zhu Li, head of the Jade Dragon Criminal Triad in New York’s Chinatown, wants to see him and won’t take no for an answer, he worries this could be his final dinner.

“Red Christmas” by Stefanie Lazer follows next in a tale about just how far a parent has to go to get the right toys for Christmas.

Written from the perspective of a child, the story, “The Christmas Caper” by Stephen D. Rogers tells what a child will do to get the toy he must have at nearly all costs.

“Twas The Night” by Anita Page brings the ongoing economic crisis into focus for a recent layoff victim. Having retreated to his cabin after his job and his marriage crashed, the narrator becomes involved in a local disappearance.

If you haven’t read the Ace Edwards, Dallas Private Investigator series by Randy Rawls you are really missing out. For this anthology, there is a prequel of sorts to the series via the tale “Jingle Bell, S. I.” Beyond explaining a little early history, the tale is silly and light hearted and reflects the occasional mood of the series.

“Caught On Christmas Eve” by Earl Staggs has more than a couple of twists in this shoplifting tale. I had the pleasure of reading this story in advance a few months ago since Earl and I are both in the same local writer’s group and I knew then it was a winner.

“The Gift Of The Margi” by Peg Herring proves that, in the end, during the holiday season sometimes family is all you can count on.

Deborah Elliott-Upton crafted a rather disturbing story with her “An Unexpected Gift.” Impossible to describe without ruining it for readers, I can safely say this one surprised me. It also proved to be a harbinger of several darker in tone stories in this anthology.

Known primarily for his excellent Sheriff Dan Rhodes series, Bill Crider is writing of werewolves again in “The Werewolf’s Christmas.” Imagine the holidays with a full moon and you are a werewolf. A guarantee of trouble on the home front.

“Yule Be Sorry” by Carolyn J. Rose shows just how mad a woman can be when she thinks her husband is cheating on her.

In a nod to her excellent novel “Death Will Get You Sober” released last year author Elizabeth Zelvin brings back Bruce, Jimmy and Barbara in a quick little holiday tale. Recovering alcoholic Bruce manages to help with a murder case and still make a quick run to the store in “Death Will Trim Your Tree.”

Everyone has relatives they don’t care for. Gwen seems to have more than her share in “The Worst Noel” written by Barb Goffman. Enough is enough and she finally does something about the issue in this disturbing tale.

The Hannibal Jones series of novels written by Austin S. Camacho are quite good. It isn’t any surprise that the tale “No Place To Spend Christmas” involves Hannibal and his latest case.

The media constantly warns folks to beware of strangers trying to help you during the holiday season. Elmer finds out why in “One Good Turn” by Steve Shrott.

I’m not sure what the folks at Amazon will think if they read “The Kindle Did It” by Gail Farrelly. I am pretty sure I don’t want a Kindle anymore.

For a police detective the late night phone call, especially during the holiday season, can mean only one thing. Ben Barker isn’t thrilled when he is summoned in “An Inconvenient Killing” written by Herschel Cozine and isn’t going to like what he finds in this disturbing tale.

Detective Julie Garcia of Cottonwood, Arizona finally gets a chance to deliver the ultimate Christmas gift in “The Gift Of Christmas past” by Kris Neri.

The final story is the “Sprit of Spadena Street” by Marian Allen. When a neighbor is mugged during the holidays, it is time for the other residents to rally around and find the perpetrators.

268 pages including author bios, the anthology features a variety of writing styles and tones along with a variety of crimes during the holiday season. From the lighthearted type of stories typically seen in these anthologies in years past to the dark and disturbing ones included this year there is something for nearly every reader. John M. Floyd is to be commended for expanding the scope of the anthology this year to stories that probably would not have made the cut in past years. Unlike past anthologies, silly cleverness and puns regarding the crimes and events during the holiday season were kept to a bare minimum. Readers who prefer syrupy silliness might be disappointed, but those who prefer a harder edge, even during the holiday season, won’t be disappointed with this good anthology.

As in past years, sale proceeds after publishing costs will be donated by Wolfmont Press owner and publisher Tony Burton to the “Toys for Tots” campaign.

The Gift of Murder: An Anthology of Holiday Crime Stories to Benefit Toys for Tots
Compiled and Edited by John M. Floyd
Wolfmont Press
October 2009
ISBN# 978-1-60364-010-7
Paperback (also available in e-book form)
268 Pages (including 4 pages of author bios)

Material provided by Tony Burton in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Reviewing: "Quick-Stitch Crochet" Edited by Judy Crow

Designed for speed, this 2008 release is aimed for folks who want time saving designs. As editor Judy Crow notes in her welcome on page three, “With societies busy schedules, today crafters are looking for fast, simple projects with great end results. The designs in this book are ideal for the crafter on the go!”

The book is broken into five sections with the first titled “Around the House” and features sixteen various designs for different unique items. Whether it is the “Hot Pot Mates” on page 8, or the “TV Time Accessories” (found on page 26) to hold your various remotes, or the “Candle Mat Doily” on page 38, each design is simple and features plenty of directions, list of materials needed, finished measurements and photographs of the finished item.

The second section is aimed at the kids with the title “Little Ones.” Beginning on page 46 with “Bootie Bouquet” to make a very unique baby shower gift and culminating on page 68 with the “Baby Shells Afghan” the focus is on babies. In between, there are ten other patterns for baby items sure to please both baby and mom.

“Gifts to Share” is the third section and has something for almost anyone. How many crochet books, for example, feature designs for “Oxygen tank covers.” This book does beginning on page 90. The various “bookmarks” starting on page 108 are pretty neat too. This section features another twelve designs meaning there should be something to make and give that personal touch for any friend or member of the family this holiday season.

With cooler weather moving in, there is still time to create some “Afghan Beauty.” This fourth section of the book of the book begins on page 120 and is all about blankets. Find the pattern, pick your colors and get to work using any one of the twelve patterns included. Make sure to look at the beautiful “sand and sea” on page 131.

By now you have accessorized your home, made something for others, and a blanket so it is time for some personal fashion flair. “Fashionable Accessories” begins on page 148 with “Easy Tie Wrap” before moving on to the “Winter Royal Set” on page 156 (matching gloves, hat, and scarf) and “Slippers For The Family “on page 166 with nine other possible choices of things to make to set the style this fall and winter.

The book ends with a very short two pages on general instructions regarding symbols and techniques and a one page “special thanks” to various artists and designers. No matter what design you are looking at in this book, each one is simple and comes with plenty of detailed directions, list of materials needed, the finished measurements of the project and pictures of the finished item so that you can evaluate what you have made very step of the way. Filled with over sixty colorful patterns, this 176 page book would make a great gift to yourself or the crocheter you know.

Quick-Stitch Crochet
Edited by Judy Crow
DRG Books
ISBN# 978-1-57367-295-5
176 Pages

Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Reviewing: "Whack A Mole: A John Ceepak Mystery" by Chris Grabenstein

It is summer again on Sea Haven, NJ and things start innocently enough. Danny Boyle is now a full time police officer and remains partnered with John Ceepak. As Ceepak finds romance, Danny’s babe, Kate has left and moved to California. With Katie gone, Danny is coping as best he can, often finding just something to do to occupy himself. Such is the idea to go with Ceepak on their day off to return a ring that Ceepak found in the sand while using his metal detector.

The ring at some time belonged to a Brian Kladko who graduated from P. J. Johnson High School in Edison back in 1983. Danny and Ceepak meet the owner of the ring who says he gave it to a Lisa Franco who was his girlfriend at the time. She disappeared back in the summer of 1983 and Brian Kladko never got a chance to ask for it back. He may have moved on with a wife and kids, but it becomes clear very quickly that Lisa might have died that summer.

Quickly, like some demented game of whack a mole, clues begin to pop up all over the island, primarily in the sand. As the town leadership tries desperately to keep the media ignorant, Ceepak and Boyle attempt to stop a madman from killing again.

Third in the mystery series after “Tilt A Whirl” and “Mad Mouse” this book continues the slow shift for Danny from wide eyed kid playing cop to a compete police officer. As he shifts, so too does Ceepak who is becoming less isolated as a romantic relationship begins blossom. Fortunately, while the characters may evolve some, rock steady is Ceepak's code and Danny’s faith in Ceepak.

As in the early novels of the series, “Whack A Mole” is set in the present tense. It features plenty of action, humor and clues to keep the seasoned mystery reader entertained and guessing right to the end. There is a reason author Chris Grabenstein has won the Anthony award and others-- good mystery stories.

Whack A Mole: A John Ceepak Mystery
Chris Grabenstein
Carol & Graf (Avalon Publishing Group, Inc.)
ISBN# 0-7867-1818-8
310 Pages

Material provided directly by the author in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009