May 2012 bring you and yours peace, joy and good health! Cheers, Paula

 
 
Three reasons to celebrate this week and next:
CHILDREN, who promise tomorrow.
MUSIC, which amplifies life, along the way. 
IF NOT PEACE, at the least the possibility of reduced warfare in several regions

In keeping with the season, here are a few chestnuts roasting on an open fire for you, dear reader, in hopes they will put a (at least a small) smile on your face:
http://www.birdsonawireblog.com/1/category/christmas/1.html

This has been a tough year for everyone and we know 2012 will be difficult, as well. 
But, we’re still here, aren’t we? As long as we’re here, there's hope for a better day.  

As 2011 comes to a close, I can tell you we see a clear sign of hope up here in the woods. Our last important washed-out road reopened this week, thanks to crews that have worked 24/7 since the August 28 disaster. In spite of the Halloween blizzard, in spite of angry outbursts from some in DC who balked at funding a portion of our recovery from a 100-year flood, work crews got the job done. There may be homes, businesses and jobs lost forever, but at least MA Route 2 is open from Boston to North Adams, for the first time in almost four months. The same holds true for VT Route 9 and VT Route 4. In fact, all but a few Vermont roads are now passable or will reopen by New Years. Thank you, state road crews in Massachusetts and Vermont! You have given us very valuable presents, indeed!  

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy New Year, with an emphasis on the happy part.

 
 
Looking for the perfect gift? Why not send your favorite bibliophile a new book written by one of our friends or readers?  Or why not read one yourself?  

As you'll see, this is a robust list of seasoned -- even bestselling -- authors. You are bound to find something you like here. 

If you believe in buying books from local authors, who could be more local than cyber friends or neighbors? These authors live and work as close to you as your computer or mobile device. 


Go to your local bookstore or follow the grey hyperlinks below to purchase a book or get more information. If you contact an author through a hyperlink, please let him or her know you linked from here.  

Happy Reading!

Mystery/Horror
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Tag Man
Archer Mayor

This book by mystery writer Archer Mayor is the 22nd in his Vermont-based, Joe Gunther series and the first to make it to the New York Times bestseller list. A fan – and Archer has many, including this reader – might assume Brattleboro, Vermont is the murder capital of the US. As a neighbor, I am thankful the Bratt PD has loaned Det. Joe Gunther to the famed (but fictional) Vermont Bureau of Investigation. With Gunther and his crew of assorted misfits on the job, we sleep better. Available at your local bookstore, through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or at a discount from the author at http://archermayor.com/bookstore.htm. Watch for an exclusive interview with Archer, coming soon on Birds on a Wire Blog.  


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Death Bed
Leigh Russell

This police procedural is bestselling-author Leigh Russell’s fourth book highlighting DCI Geraldine Steel’s excellent work at keeping southeast England safe for all. If Death Bed is anything like her earlier novels, you can expect mucho murder and mayhem before Steel’s crack detective unit steps in. The book will be released for Kindle on December 19 and in print in May 2012 through Amazon UK. For a signed copy, buy through http://leighrussell.co.uk/. Scroll below for an extensive interview with Leigh.  



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The Bureau
Connie Corcoran Wilson

This creepy short story previews Connie’s second collection of horror short stories, a sequel to "Hellfire & Damnation," published in 2010. Her next collection is scheduled for release as an E-book in 2012.  The Bureau is available now from Amazon for Kindle. Contact the author for more information.



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Koontown Killing Kaper
Bill Campbell

As he describes it, Bill Campbell’s third novel -- a satirical mystery -- is “one of the most outrageous, most offensive, most hilarious books you may ever read.”  I’ve read two of his earlier works and they certainly lived up to that promise.  And, all were great reads!   KKK is available now as an E-book at Smashwords, 
http://bit.ly/rO0XlQ . For more information, follow Bill, his musings, work and podcasts at www.facebook.com/groups/118751508175839/ 


Children’s Books

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The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats
Connie Corcoran Wilson

A full-color, illustrated book for children ages 3 to 7, explaining how to get along in life, told in Dr. Seuss-like rhyme. Available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, in print and as E-book.



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Point to Happy
Miriam Smith and Afton Fraser

This interactive book is for children on the autism spectrum who benefit from visual support. Dozens of bright, friendly photographs are compelling to look at and easy to understand. The text is clear and direct. The parent reads, the child points. As much fun as a game, it's a joyful experience to share together.





Humor

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Laughing Through Life
Connie Corcoran Wilson

Humorous essays and anecdotes about school-teaching, child-rearing and politics. Available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, in print and as E-book. 



Gardening/Lifestyle
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The Roses at the End of the Road
Pat Leuchtman
  

An award-winning garden writer’s collection of lively essays about life in a rural town, on and off her precious rose walk. For the rose-lover or anyone who has ever dreamed of living on a dead-end road at the top of a mountain in New England. Ask your local bookstore to order it for you or buy directly from the author.



Spirituality

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Where Am I Going? 
Moving from Religious Tourist to Spiritual Explorer
Michelle Cromer

A thought-provoking memoir about spirituality, family, love and finding true inner happiness by the founder of Pink Crosses, an organization that helps the families of the more than 600 women who have been murdered over the past decade in Juarez, Mexico. 
Wife, mother, bestselling author, salsa dancer in training and ex-corporate drone, Michelle conducts workshops in which participants learn how to tap into a deep well of spirituality, serenity, and purpose. She also hosts a radio show on Blog Talk Radio. Available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.



Other non-fiction

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Ghostly Tales of Route 66, Volumes I, II and III
Connie Corcoran Wilson 

Connie Wilson recounts mysterious happenings along the famed highway, state by state. Available in paperback from Quixote Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and at 
http://bit.ly/vOi7Bd



For more books by readers of Birds on a Wire Blog, go to http://www.birdsonawireblog.com/1/post/2011/08/author-author.html



 
 
Here is the first of what I hope will be a series of exclusive interviews with authors who happen to follow this blog.

Five years ago, Leigh Russell was a mom and special education teacher in southern England. Today, she’s still a mom, but also is an internationally known, bestselling mystery writer, with three successful books published and a fourth slated for release on Christmas Day. She says she already is working on three more books for No Exit Press, all part of the same series.   

Cut Short, Dead End and Road Closed introduce DCI Geraldine Steel, a protagonist unlike Jane Tennison of the PBS series Prime Suspect, Olivia Benson of SVU or Jane Whatshername of the NBC’s new Prime Suspect knock off. Geraldine is younger and probably better trained than all of them but, like her fictional colleagues, she often finds herself swimming against the current in the tough environment she works in.  

These are really good reads. Without hesitation, I would recommend any or all to anyone who loves British police procedurals, or is looking for some real escape fiction. Her next book, Death Bed, is available for pre-order now for download on December 25 to Kindle and perhaps other e-readers. It also will be available in hardcover in all the usual places. For more information about Leigh or any of her books, go to
http://leighrussell.co.uk/.  

Q: What gave you the courage to leave teaching and jump into writing full time? 
A: I have not yet abandoned teaching completely. This term I am teaching a crime fiction unit to sixth form, which is great fun! I never planned my jump into writing. I wrote the story of Cut Short and the Geraldine Steel series really took off in a way I never anticipated. It’s very exciting!

Q: What are some important books on your personal bookshelf? Who is your favorite novelist? What mysteries do you read?
A: Some personal favourites are Dickens, Edith Wharton, the Brontës, Jane Austen and, among more contemporary authors, I really enjoy Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguru because they write so beautifully. Of course I also read a lot of crime novels and my favourites are too many to list. I mainly read UK authors, but do admire Jeffery Deaver, Lee Child and Tess Gerritsen.

Q: Do you borrow elements from the news to develop plots? 
A: My plots are never based on true life incidents.  All my stories are flights of imagination.  I start with a question --  what if? -- and start speculating about dark possibilities. It might sound strange, but I find real crimes too disturbing to use in my fiction which is, after all, a form of entertainment.

Q: Two of your books open in the middle of the commission of a crime. Do you work out all the elements of your story lines before you begin, or do start with the crime and go where the Ouija board takes you? 
A: I know the beginning and the ending of my books before I start writing, and do try to work out the journey between the two in advance.  That said, often a character will lead me along a slightly different path, or a plot twist will occur to me as I’m writing, and I follow that. So the books are planned yet at the same time they do develop as the story unfolds.

Q: In all three books, I found the police were a bit slow tracking down the culprits. If that isn't my imagination, is it intentional? 
A: My readers tend to be one step ahead of the police in my books, because the reader is sometimes privy to information the police don’t yet know.  That can add to the suspense, as the reader can see the police going along the wrong path, but is helpless to put them right. Of course, readers can be misled from time to time as well, but my books are “why-done-its” rather than “who-done-its.” The characters and their motivation fascinate me more than the intricacies of plot.

Q: Where and how did you learn about police procedure? Do you have professional sources? If so, how did you develop them? 
A: I do a lot of research, and have a lot of wonderful contacts on the police force. I have met them since my books were published, and many of them are fans of my books.
Whenever my books require detailed knowledge, I ask for help. It is vital to have professional sources and I solicit help from all sorts of people, not just the police. Many of my advisors are leading experts in the fields of DNA, forensic anthropology, forensic medicine or psychiatry in prisons. I have spent an afternoon with local fire officers, and with market traders, finding out about their work. I was recently invited to meet a murder investigation team, and have been invited to visit a police station, both of which were fascinating.

Q: Are any characters based on people you have met or know?
A: My characters are never based on real people. I don’t know where they come from. They are not planned in advance but appear on the page as I write. They really just evolve.  They must be composites of people I’ve met, snippets I’ve seen and heard, or read, but their creation is not a conscious process.

Q: Unlike some successful authors, you are extremely responsive and available to your readers. Why is that? 
A: These days I think many successful authors are willing and happy to interact with their readers. With so many other demands on our time in the modern world, it’s important to encourage readers. Apart from that, I really enjoy meeting people. They always interest me. And it’s lovely meeting fans of my books! 


 
 
Today’s Washington Post has an excellent graphic explaining how the brain works as we age. Below it, you will find six recommendations for keeping your brain young and agile. A printed copy will be on my refrigerator door, ASAP!

http://wapo.st/vxBSHb


 
 
Do you think it’s a fluke that, in the middle of the worst economic downturn in recent history, the world of books is flourishing? Towns may reduce the size and hours of their libraries, big-box book stores may fail, but the deluge of fiction keeps rolling to meet the demand of escape-hungry readers like me, who live for their daily dose of unreality delivered either on paper or through cyberspace.

All this is a lead up to tell you I finally broke down and bought a Kindle DX, then got my husband a Nook for his birthday. I’m sick of lining more and more walls with bookcases. Today, we keep those digital rascals keep humming, especially on nights when there are no Law and Order reruns available on the tube.

Like many, I suppose, I was afraid a Kindle would ruin my reading experience. Quelle surprise! Instead, it has added to my pleasure immeasurably. Plus, I get the added advantage of not having more tomes to dust, and knowing I’m not killing off perfectly beautiful trees every time I open a book.

Still stuck in the dead tree world? Check out this website for interesting bookshelf ideas.

Wondering what to do with that old set of encyclopedias that take up half your bookcase? Here’s a clever idea for how to recycle all that knowledge.

My big grey e-reader sits quietly next to my favorite chair in the living room or on my nightstand, all charged up and ready to do its thing. Since it’s loaded with 20-30 books, the most recent Sunday New York Times book section, the New York Review of Books, German Word-a-Day and Reader’s Digest (of all things), there’s always something fun to dive into for five minutes or several hours, depending on the hour and the mood.

I’d like to share a few titles of my favorites among the 20 books or so I’ve read in the last few months. You’ll also find them listed in the GoodReads section located in the right hand column of this blog. If you’re interested, click on that site to read my reviews as well as comments from many other readers, or to get more information on the books.

Here are a few keepers from my Kindle:
Freedom: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Suite Française by Irene Nemirovsky
Cut Short, Dead End and Road Closed (three mysteries) by Leigh Russell
By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham

Stay tuned to Birds on a Wire Blog for an exclusive interview with Leigh Russell, one of England’s hottest mystery writers. I'll post it early this week. 


Authors and authors-in-waiting, take note: Five years ago, Leigh was a full-time English teacher, but not anymore. With a multi-year contract from No Exit Press, she now writes every workday, then spends her spare time developing a following at book signings and speaking engagements.

I, for one, love her books, in spite of the prodigious body counts. (Remind me to steer clear of Woolsmarsh, England. It must be a murderer’s mecca, like Cabot Cove, Maine.) If you liked the Prime Suspect series (the one with Helen Mirren that ran on PBS a decade ago), you will also like Leigh Russell’s DCI Geraldine Steel, a younger and less cocky version of Jane Tennison, who drives the storylines in spite of herself. Geraldine – if I may be so bold to call her that -- was recently named one of the great crime sleuths in contemporary literature on Lovereading, and is cited for popularity among die-hard mystery readers on many Amazon book sites.    

Someday, I’d like to start a Birds book club based at GoodReads. As moderator, I would pick a book. Anyone interested in participating could read it by a certain date, then enter a running conversation on the book set up on a private site on GoodReads. Or, we could have an invitation-only, password-protected live discussion using the GoodReads platform. Any takers?