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
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!