My brother, Bruce Hartman, has a new book out, for all you fans of psychological thrillers with a tie in to art and music. For those who don't know him, Bruce is an accomplished musician, composer, writer, avid reader and raconteur who probably would have been just as happy as a piano bar musician, if he had not gone to Harvard Law. Now that he's retired, Bruce is back polishing up all those novels he wrote along the way.
The Rules of Dreaming, published by Swallow Tail Press, is featured today on The Next Big Thing Blog Hop (http://bit.ly/ZWeSl0).
Bruce describes the book as having "three main themes: madness, music, and murder. It takes place in and around a mental hospital where some of the characters are patients and some are physicians."
What inspired him to write this particular book? He says"
Years ago I imagined a story about a patient in a mental hospital who sits down at the piano in the patient lounge and flawlessly plays a difficult piece of classical music. Although this usually requires years of instruction and practice, the patient’s psychiatrist discovers that he has no musical training or experience. So the question I started with is: Where did this music come from? Where does any music come from? Does music come to you as a kind of inspired madness, or does it come from outside the human mind?
The Rules of Dreaming is available May 23, online at the all usual places, or on order at your local bookstore.
It's that time of year, when everyone starts compiling lists. At Birds, the most important list of the year is the one of new books by authors who happen to follow this blog. We've got mystery writers and other novelists, self-help gurus, artists, a satirist, a poet,a French literature scholar and someone who writes in the young adult genre. We've even got a joyful CD. What more could anyone want?
You'll recognize a few names, but I've read many of these books so am sure you'll hear more about all of them in the near future.
Most books and the CD are available from Amazon through the link provided. If reviewed, I've provided the ranking. In some cases, authors also sell books on their own websites and would prefer you buy directly from them.
Don't shop online? Then print this page and take it with you to your local bookseller for holiday shopping or your own reading pleasure.
Elaine Magalis Long-time Birds reader and blogger at Late Fruit, Elaine Magalis lives near the Canadian border in West Glover, Vermont. A writer, editor, art historian and docent at the Old Stone House in Brownington, Elaine taps into her interests in the first two installments of a series of "cozy mysteries" set in the mythical Shrubsbury, Vermont, the quintessential small New England village of lore. The Body in the Butter Churn 5 stars from Amazon!
A gem of a mystery! Elaine rolls history, the practice of art restoration, arts administration, Internet research and police procedure into a big knitting ball of a tale about an improbable murder in an idyllic locale. Follow her two would-be detectives as they track down a killer in a town ripped right from a Currier & Ives print. Reading this book is like taking a dip in a refreshing Northeast Kingdom quarry pool on a sweltering afternoon, without getting wet.
The Organist Who Wore Gloves Another great cozy mystery from Elaine Magalis, a perfect read for a cold winter night. In this tale, we learn much more about the two "detectives," Alex and Tasha Mulholland, both of whom are experiencing trepidation over growing older. One is facing puberty and the other, old age. If you love Vermont, or just have a vision of how idyllic life might be in a slower-paced, less congested locale, you may be surprised to learn that ordinary people are less than perfect everywhere, even in Shrubsbury, Vermont, and especially to its south, in the nearly heathen Brattleboro. Can't wait for her third book in this series!
Kathleen Scott and Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D.Conversations with the Wise Aunt: The Secret to Being Strong as a Teenager and Preparing for Success as an Adult 4.5 stars from Amazon!
Don’t you wish a wise relative would step in and help you raise your kids? Life-coach Dennis E. Coates and his wife, writer and blogger Kathleen Scott
, assume the roles of favorite relatives in this book and its predecessor, Conversations with the Wise Uncle. Coates and Scott say all those things you wish you could say easily, but can’t. Even better, they throw in the advice your kids don’t want to hear from you (of all people!). What a blessing for a frazzled parent on your gift list!
Dennis E. Coates
The Spaces Between
5 stars from Amazon!
A closet poet for decades, Ann McNeal taught physiology at Hampshire College for 33 years while writing poetry published by small journals, including Peregrine, Paper Street, Equinox, and several anthologies, including On Retirement: 75 Poems (University of Iowa Press, 2007) and Solace in So Many Words (Weighed Words, 2011).
This collection of her work speaks the quiet language of New England backyards and woods. Using images from nature, her writing portrays subtle changes of weather, both external and internal. Observations on a quiet pond, mathematics lessons in grammar school, the poignancy of autumn, all lead to accessible yet profound meditations on life and aging.
Bill CampbellThe Koontown Killing Kaper
4 stars from Amazon!
I finally got a chance to meet the iconoclastic novelist Bill Campbell. His third novel, Koontown Killing Kaper, is making some waves, even in academe where it is popping up on syllabi for African-American and contemporary lit courses. Bill is one of the most literate writers you’ll ever encounter, but he hides his reading addiction well behind a near-perfect voice for satire, especially on any topic related to the black experience. If you like the book, he has a whole range of related merchandise on his website.
Five O’Clock Follies
: What's a Woman Doing Here, Anyway? 4.5 stars from Amazon!
In her brilliant debut novel, longtime daily journalist Theasa Tuohy captures the essence of what drives those who go into war armed only with a camera, notebook, and pen. At a time when women rarely dreamed beyond careers as nurses, teachers or secretaries and certainly not as news reporters, a tall, enigmatic redhead arrives in Saigon. She is an object of great interest to the male correspondents, one of whom reports she arrived at Tan Son Nhut Airport wearing high heeled bikini shoes. Few take her seriously as a reporter. To most, she is a trifle, a bobble, a lagniappe. Angela Martinelli survives a chopper crash, spends several days in the bunkers of the so-called Alamo Hilton during the siege of Khe Sanh, is captured briefly by the Viet Cong while trying to make her own way to the battle of Hue after being refused a hop on a military chopper because she isn't male, and finally is badly wounded when a jeepload of other correspondents are killed in Cholon, the Chinese quarter of Saigon. Her life, loves and struggle to prove herself chronicle the deterioration of the war, the strategic battles around the Tet offensive, and the conflict raging back home over the conduct of the war. Not since Graham Greene has anyone captured so well the tedium and terror of reporting on war.
Pamela Chatterton-Purdy and David Purdy
Icons of the Civil Rights Movement
Some of you may be familiar with artist Pamela Chatterton-Purdy’s Icons of the Civil Rights Movement, a multi-media exhibit featured on this blog as part of a series of posts about civil rights. Using wood, oil paint and even gold, Pamela created 26 pieces of art commemorating milestones in the US civil rights movement or honoring its martyrs. Like religious icons, these panels tell a powerful story through images capturing the power and the dignity of those involved in the struggle.
The Icons have been exhibited at over 22 universities, art galleries, libraries, houses of worship, as well as at the Obama inauguration in 2008. As Pamela and her husband David, a retired United Methodist minister, traveled with the exhibit, they got a chance to meet and talk with some of their heroes, including Rep. John Lewis, the family of Viola Liuzzo, the father of a child killed in the Birmingham church bombing and one of the nine students who integrated the Little Rock schools in 1957. The Purdys also met “ordinary people who did extraordinary things,” Pamela says. These were the unknowns who marched, sat in, registered voters and did legal work for equal rights.
Using eyewitness testimony collected over the course of their travels, the two created a large-format, hardcover art book featuring 22 of Pamela’s pieces and a narrative based on David’s historical research. Not only does Icons of the Civil Rights Movement: Connecting the Dots contains high-quality reproductions of Pamela’s work, the book includes exclusive interviews with people whose courage and commitment changed the course of history. You can purchase this book directly from the Purdys. Click on the title to link to their website.
A glimpse of several icons, used to illustrate a story published in 2008 about Pamela's work.
Leigh RussellDeath Bed
(2011 in UK, 2012 in US)
4 stars from Amazon!
UK author Leigh Russell writes the very popular DCI Geraldine Steele police-procedural series. Leigh’s most recent book, Death Bed, hit UK bestseller lists a year before it was available in the US. She promises her next book, Stop Dead, will top all the previous Geraldine Steele mysteries in shock and complexity. Not an easy task! Stop Dead
will be published this month in the UK, but is available now for pre-order in the US at amazon.com.
Paula DumontLes convictions de Colette: Histoire, politique, guerre, condition des femmes French university professor Paula Dumont looks at 20th century French novelist Colette's views on women's lives, loves, and history in a book published this month, in France. Les convictions de Colette is not available from Amazon at this time, but can be purchased through the link above.
Colette was a brilliant female writer, perhaps best known for Gigi, her scandalous novel about a young courtesan-in-training. Colette's own life was far more flamboyant than her literature. At 34, she began a very public romance with one of Napoleon's nieces. At 47, she seduced her teenage stepson. In the 1940s when she was in her 70s, she aided many Jews hiding from the Germans, including her own husband. At the same time, she flirted with Nazi occupiers.
For more about Colette's life and work, see http://bit.ly/UEI60z. I look forward to learning more about what drove this complex woman, according Professor Dumont's research.
Paradise City: A Joe Gunther Novel
4 stars from Amazon!
Another year, another mystery for Joe Gunther and his crack team at the Vermont Bureau of Investigation. This one takes them out of their comfort zone in Brattleboro, Vermont, to the lawlessness of urban and rural Massachusetts. An elderly woman surprises thieves in her Beacon Hill home and is viciously murdered. Thus begins a tale that moves from the streets of Boston to ivy-covered Northampton (a/k/a Paradise City) in the west, and ultimately back north to the Green Mountain State. Archer Mayor’s 2011 book made it to the New York Times Bestseller list. He’s on a roll. Best wishes, Archer!
Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem
Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem
Some Bright Morning (CD)
I’ve written at length about Rani Arbo and the agnostic gospel group Daisy Mayhem. We never miss a chance to hear them perform live. In fact, the best live music I’ve heard this season came from Daisy Mayhem and the hospice choir Hallowell at a Brattleboro church last month.
If you want to feel good or just belt out a few joyous sounds with like-minded folks, join with the Mayhem on their new album, Some Bright Morning. Follow the link to song samples, downloads and a place to purchase this gem of a CD. Suitable for all ages, orientations and most musical preferences.
Connie Corcoran Wilson
Connie Corcoran Wilson
For the last several years, blogger and journalist Connie Wilson has published three, four or five books a year. How does she do it? Does this woman ever sleep? This year, she co-authored a textbook on creative writing while producing weekly entertainment reviews and a collection of award-winning mystery/thriller short stories that are sure to scare you into mending your ways. All are available on Amazon.
Here’s Connie's current lineup:
Creative Writing Primer
by Ellen Tsagaris, Connie (Corcoran) Wilson, Robin Throne and Jodie Toohey
Hellfire and Damnation II
4.5 stars from Amazon!
The Color of Evil
3.5 stars from Amazon!
The Legend of Tug Fest and Other LeClaire Ghost Stories The Bureau
Full disclosure: I loooove Ann Patchett and have permanently parked her novels Bel Canto, Run, Taft and State of Wonder in a prime location on my wall of bookcases. In fact, I'd go far as to say State of Wonder is one of the best books I have ever read.
I love her complex tales, sharp mind and perfect ear, but most of all I admire her courage as a creator of characters. When it comes to the challenge of developing personas wholly unlike herself, Ann Patchett is fearless. She just jumps right in, calls on her magical skill and voila!, she takes on the voice of a child of the Amazon, an aging black barkeep, a Boston Irish politician, old women, young women, you name it.
So, it is not too surprising that, when Nashville business leaders called on Patchett to help fill the void when multiple bookstores left that city, she jumped right in. To learn more about how and why she became a bookseller as well as the author of bestsellers, see this story/video from The Atlantic, below.
Author of 23 books in the Joe Gunther mystery series, Archer Mayor has carved out a nice niche for himself as Mr.Vermont, at least to mystery readers. Gunther fans appreciate the research and the insider point-of-view Mayor brings to his police procedurals, most of which are set in small towns within or around Vermont.
Once you get to know Det. Gunther of the Vermont Bureau of Investigation and his team, you won’t forget them. As someone who lives just down the road a piece from his office in Brattleboro, Vermont, I can tell you the locals sleep better knowing Gunther and crew are on the job.
Here’s the short version of Archer Mayor’s bio, lifted from his webpage:Mayor—who was brought up in the US, Canada and France—was variously employed as a scholarly editor, a researcher for TIME-LIFE Books, a political advance-man, a theater photographer, a newspaper writer/editor, a lab technician for Paris-Match Magazine in Paris, France, and a medical illustrator. In addition to writing novels and occasional articles, Mayor gives talks and workshops all around the country, including the Bread Loaf Young Writers conference in Middlebury, Vermont, and the Colby College seminar on forensic sciences in Waterville, Maine. In addition, Archer is a death investigator for Vermont’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, a detective for the Windham County Sheriff’s Office, the publisher of his own backlist, a travel writer for AAA, and he travels the Northeast giving speeches and conducting workshops. He also has 25 years experience as a volunteer firefighter/EMT.
Archer writes one book a year, launching each one in the fall, before the holiday book-buying season. His next mystery, Paradise City, is scheduled for release in October.
The city in Paradise City is Northampton, Massachusetts, which sits in a region stretching roughly from Brattleboro VT to Springfield MA, dwarfing the population of the entire Green Mountain state. The story involves police from the fictional Tucker Peak VT, Northampton and Boston, as well as points in between. According to Publisher’s Weekly, “stings, surveillance, and interrogations all play a part in the effort to uncover a sophisticated, ruthless criminal operation. Fans of this first-rate procedural series will be satisfied.” (For the complete review, go here). This interview was conducted on February 2, 2012. How important is place to your novels, and why do you base them in Vermont? First, it’s where I live. Second, it’s a small state. I like the miniaturization. The more layers there are to remove [in the solution of a crime], the clearer it is how everything works. How the hell do you function when you have a bad guy and layers and layers of government [like we see in Law and Order]? You could choose to ignore those layers -- and some writers do -- but I think that’s too bad. Is the character Joe Gunther or the way he operates unique to Vermont?You'll notice that Joe always works as a team player and what he does is custom fit to Vermont, as it should be, but the procedures and protocols he follows are not unique. The police practices that he employs in Vermont change slightly in New Hampshire and Maine, for example, then a little more as you go away to other parts of the US. A Los Angeles cop could find his way around these books, though. No problem. How do you keep your characters fresh? They are their own characters. They’re alive and well, in my head. Joe and Gail and Sammy and Wally are real people, to me.
My exposure to these folks is year in and year out. I’ve known them almost 30 years. They are not extraordinary, but real people with real habits and I just chronicle their passage through life. Some of them do extraordinary things -- but don’t we all? – but these are not superheroes. I don’t need to stretch to give them life, I just have to be relatively consistent.
Will Joe Gunther and friends age as the series builds?
The characters will evolve slightly as is natural to every character but, no, Joe Gunther will never age.
Do you use your own experience in your books? How much are they based on real people and events?
I use some real names because people I don’t always know offer them to me [through auctions I run on my website]. My work gives me exposure to reality, heightens my understanding of situations and people, but I don’t transplant the details of an actual case.
People kill each other all the time. I have no interest in exploiting [real situations in which] people are still very upset. That seems cruel to me.
I write murder mysteries. I have a place to park things [I experience or learn through my work] but I’m not a historian. I make up my stories, but there can be cross references that don’t compromise confidentiality.
Do you use social media?
I have a website, but find Facebook and Twitter intrusive and costly in terms of time. I’m a private New England guy, but I understand that if I don’t use [social media], people are not going to buy my books. So, I have a love/hate relationship with all of that. If in fact I do hit the big time, I’ll shut the door if I can. I find it rude that people expect me to be anything but a private person.
What do you read?
Right now, I’m reading a book on Roman history. I don’t read murder mysteries. I don’t want to curl up with a mystery at the end of the day. I’ve had enough, so I read a lot of history books. I also like obscure books but I don’t get to read much. I don’t have time.
How do you maintain your privacy and sell books at the same time?
This is a world in which [a writer] can no longer behave like J.D. Salinger. He’d go broke today. So, you’re on Facebook, you tweet. We’ve entered a new world, the writer holds himself directly to the reader and the publisher is less a part of the relationship than ever.
How do you manage to write a book a year and still work at two jobs?
The reason I have three jobs is I’m broke like everyone else. [With three part-time jobs], I don’t have any benefits, so I work without a safety net. That means I have to work consistently. What advice do you have for new authors? Anybody can get published. Now the question is, how do you get noticed among readers? People say, I’ll just self publish then go out and create buzz. Right! How?
It used to be that about 60,000 titles published were published a year, but now it’s over a million. Only a tiny percent receive any marketing money. What about other 99 percent?
All that seems to matter today is the marketing. Isn’t that sad? Quality writing seems to have been forgotten. What about good copy editing, syntax and story lines? Writing is supposed to be music for the brain, not garbage that has to be sold.
I’ll never run out of things to write about. I’m engaged in a project with te Vermont Tourism Bureau to forge something for our mutual benefit. I sat down with them the other day to see what we could do together and, in 10 minutes, we came up with 45-60 names of local sites Joe Gunther has touched. He has covered the state like a bucket of water!
[See this story on CNN
for details.] How did the 2011 flood affect you?
I was working a criminal case and needed access to something in Wilmington and couldn’t get there. I’ll definitely do a book off the flood, maybe for next year.
For more on Archer Mayor and his books--
Website and blog: http://www.archermayor.com/
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.
Archer MayorThis 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.
Death BedLeigh 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.
The BureauConnie 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.
Koontown Killing KaperBill 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/
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.
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.
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.
The Roses at the End of the RoadPat 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.
Where Am I Going?
Moving from Religious Tourist to Spiritual Explorer
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.
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
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!
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?
James Joyce, 1938
Not that I didn’t already know that Birds readers are a hardworking bunch, but at least three have added new books to their list of publications and accomplishments. Now that’s worth celebrating!
Research psychologist, prolific blogger and novelist Jacqueline Ann Christodoulou of Manchester, England, who blogs at Dirty Sparkle, has written Identity, Health and Women: A critical social psychological perspective, published by Palgrave Macmillan. For some of Jacqui’s thoughts on identity and the premise of her book, see http://dirtysparkle.blogspot.com/2010/10/narrative-therapy-and-power-of-owning.html .
Retired college professor and poet Jane Rowan shares her stunning memoir of the sexual abuse she endured as a child, resulting PTSD and painful path she followed to begin the healing process, in The River of Forgetting, published by Booksmyth Press. For more about Jane and how she used her own creativity in recovery, visit her blog at http://www.janechild.blogspot.com/ .
What does a hip young novelist do when he opts out of the rat race to stay home and raise a new baby? He blogs. And, then he blogs some more. Bill Campbell put two year’s worth of his very literate, snappy and irreverent comments into Pop Culture, a collection of essays available as an ebook or paperback. Follow his current escapades and listen to his weekly musical podcasts at http://billanthrope.blogspot.com/.
Frankie’s Place: A Love Story by Jim Sterba
A very laid-back memoir of the romance and early marriage of two journalists, one a Boston blueblood, the son of a dirt-poor farmer. They lived on the Maine coast, and the book contains rich scenic sweeps, Downeast recipes and tales of small-town life.
The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday by Alexander McCall Smith
This is the fifth in the Sunday Philosophy Club series, featuring Isabel Dalhousie. I’d say this book is best read on a rainy, muddy Saturday. Don’t expect a thriller because you won’t find much trepidation or resolution in this mystery, just nice people caught in the complexities of life in contemporary Scotland.
The Senator’s Wife by Sue Miller
Not your run-of-the-mill tale of infidelity and revenge. This is much messier, more like real life. Characters are round and sympathetic, if not likeable, even the bad guy. I’d recommend it to my best friend.