BLOG TOUR – Body on Baker Street – REVIEW & GUEST POST

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Today, I’m happy to bring you a stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours tour for Body on Baker Street by Vicki Delany. We’ll start off with a guest post from Ms. Delany and then my review and purchase links will be after that.

Guest Post

Creating a Whole New Town

By Vicki Delany

Some books are set in real places. My Lighthouse Library series written under the pen name of Eva Gates is set not just in a real town, but in a specific, real-life building. The Bodie Island Lighthouse near Nags Head, North Carolina.  You can visit it yourself, have a look around, go inside the lighthouse, even climb the spiral iron staircase 200 steps to the top.  It’s all real.

Except it doesn’t contain a library, offices, meeting rooms, and certainly not an apartment on the 4th floor.  Those I added myself.

But sometimes a real place won’t do, and then the imagination comes in.  For the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series, I needed a street called Baker Street, and a town with a name that relates to London or to England.  I wanted it to be in New England, and I wanted a tourist destination, which is always convenient for providing a steady stream of victims and suspects.

So I created West London, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, and named the main shopping street Baker Street.  At 222 Baker Street, I put the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop, and next door at number 220, I opened Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room.

I put my town on a peninsula with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Nantucket Sound on the other, to make it a popular tourist spot and to provide the books with lots of atmosphere.

Now that I had my store, I had to stock it. Books mostly, Conan Doyle originals, modern pastiche novels, non-fiction to do with Conan Doyle and his life and times and contemporaries, a gaslight shelf full of mysteries set in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.  And merchandise of course, anything and everything to do with the Great Detective and his imitators, from posters and DVDs to tea cups and sewing thimbles.  Next door at Mrs. Hudson’s they got busy making scones, sandwiches, and small pastries and serving afternoon tea.

Now that I had my town and my shops, it was time to populate it.  Gemma Doyle is a thirty-something Englishwoman, come to Cape Cod to manage her great uncle’s store. She is smart, highly perceptive, has a great memory (for things she wants to remember) and is occasionally lacking in some of the social graces. Her best friend Jayne Wilson owns and operates the tea room. As Gemma pokes her nose in murder cases, Jayne is always loyal but often confused.  We have not one, but two, handsome men. Rare book dealer Grant Thompson and Detective Ryan Ashburton. Ryan and Gemma were once in a relationship, but he found it hard to be with a woman who always seemed to know what he was thinking.  More cops, dedicated Sherlockians, an intrepid newspaper reporter, fellow shop-owners, and Great Uncle Arthur who never seems to be at home, round out the cast.

The joy of writing cozies, I have found, is the pure fun in it.  I’ve had great fun creating the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium and the people of West London, and I hope you enjoy reading about their adventures.

Thank you, Ms. Delany for providing a guest post for my blog today! It was interesting reading about your thought processes behind creating the town.

Body on Baker Street is the second book in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery series. While it’s definitely possible to read this as a stand-alone book, I highly recommend reading the first book, Elementary, She Read as it’s a great start to the series!

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Review

I enjoyed this latest installment of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery series.

Gemma is a fascinating, yet sometimes annoying character, much like Sherlock Holmes himself. She’s well-rounded and complex, but sometimes her mannerisms are just a little too over the top for me.  I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but there’s a particular spot in this book that I wanted to give Gemma a “Gibbs-slap” (from NCIS for you non-tv watchers) to the back of the head to try to get her common sense going again before she attempted something totally idiotic!

I love the side characters too. Jayne and Ryan are wonderful. I’m liking Ashleigh more and more as each book goes on. I even like Louise more and more as the series goes on.

The setting descriptions are always well-done. I feel like there’s enough for us to be able to imagine the setting in our mind, but not so much that we’re overwhelmed as readers. That’s a hard balance to find, but I think Ms. Delany does it well in this book.

The plot moves along well. I had no idea who the villain was until he/she was revealed. As Gemma explained her logic behind her deduction, I could see the way the clues lined up, but the villain definitely wasn’t on my radar before that.

All in all, it was a good book. It didn’t have that pizzazz that I look for in a 5-star book and Gemma’s stupidity in some things caused me to give it a 4, but I still recommend it to cozy mystery lovers!

Thanks for stopping by today! If you wish to visit other stops along the tour, please click the banner below and that will take you to the main tour page with a list of participants.

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Remembering…

16 years ago today, the United States experienced the worst act of terrorism on our soil (not necessarily the worst ever in the world, but the worst on our soil). Over 3000 people lost their lives on September 11, 2001. It’s a day that as Americans, we will never forget.

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I certainly will never forget it. I was working as an administrative assistant at a substance abuse treatment center. We were all (clients, staff, everyone) in a seminar about HIV/AIDS. Shortly after the seminar got started, my boss’s mother paged her. She excused herself to go call her mom and when she came back she handed me a note that said “a plane just flew into the World Trade Center”. I looked at her and whispered “Really?!” and she nodded. I don’t think I could tell you a single thing that was discussed in the seminar that day.

We concluded the seminar and turned on the television we had in one of the treatment rooms.  We were just in time to see the first building fall. God, my heart just stopped in my chest. And then seeing the destruction of the Pentagon and knowing that it was only the bravery of the men and women on Flight 93 that saved the U.S. Capitol from a similar fate.

While many places I knew closed for the rest of the day, we remained open because we wanted to give our clients plenty of time to talk about their feelings about what was going on. We didn’t want them to relapse over this horrible tragedy (we ended up having one relapse, but the majority of our guys held firm in their recovery).

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Even now, 16 years later, it’s still hard to grasp the enormity of lives lost that day. The number of heroes that gave their lives so others might live, both those in uniform and civilians. It’s one of those times that bonds us together as humans. Everyone I know can tell you exactly where they were when the planes hit the towers and the Pentagon, and when the towers fell.

There are memorials for all three sites of destruction, tho’ I haven’t been to them yet. Someday I will be able to visit them. Until then, I will continue to remember what happened 16 years ago.

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BLOG TOUR – A Christmas Peril – REVIEW & AUTHOR INTERVIEW

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Today, I’m happy to be bringing you a stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for A Christmas Peril, the first in a new series by J.A. Hennrikus. There will also be an interview with the author after my review!

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Synopsis

When Edwina “Sully” Sullivan’s life imploded, she left behind her job on the police force and her unfaithful husband to start a new life as the general manager of her hometown theater, the Cliffside Theater Company. For five years, she focused on budgets instead of crimes and kept the Cliffside running alongside its mercurial artistic director.

But when her best friend is arrested for killing his father, the rich and powerful Peter Whitehall, no one is looking for another suspect. So, in between keeping A Christmas Carol on budget and Scrooge sober, Sully dusts off her investigative skills to find a killer. Her two lives collide when her ex-husband gets on the suspect list and she’s forced to confront her past in order to save her present.

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Review

This was an absolutely delightful book! It didn’t quite have the pizzazz I look for to push it up to a 5-star rating, it is a solid 4.5 in my opinion.

The characters in this series are great. There was only once where the main character did something absolutely stupid and unsafe. The rest of the time she was well-behaved. Obviously there are some risks in trying to solve a mystery, it just bugs me when the heroine goes off and does stupid stuff or disregards all thoughts of safety. The side characters were fun too. Everyone was well-developed and complex.

The plot line moved along quite well. I’d say steady-fast. It wasn’t so fast that you couldn’t keep up, but it definitely moved along. I had absolutely no idea who the villain was until it was revealed. Honestly, he wasn’t even on my radar, so that was a great twist for me.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I look forward to the next installment whenever that might be!

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Author Interview

Q1: Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?  Do you enjoy your day job?

Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I run an arts service organization for the New England theater community called StageSource (www.StageSource.org). I’ve worked in arts management for my entire career, and really love what I do. The work I am doing now is particularly rewarding, because it is a behind the scenes organization that supports the entire community.

I also teach arts management classes, which I also enjoy. It is a challenge keeping everything in the air, but worth it.


Q2: Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a set # of pages or words? How does music/other noise affect your concentration when you’re writing?

Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I really, really try to carve out time every day, but that isn’t always possible. Usually I do marathon days on the weekends. When I write, I try and get a scene done, so the word count can vary. I need background noise while I write. I usually have a show on that I’ve seen before, so I don’t pay attention but the voices are with me. MIDSOMER MURDERS is my current writing companion.


Q3: When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or do you feel like you have the “reigns” of the story? Similarly, do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?

Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I am a plotter. A serious plotter. I start with characters, and an idea for the overall story. Then I write it down, and keep writing down the barebones until there is a frame for the entire story. Then I write it all down on plot cards, and use dramatic structure to make sure it will work.

Do characters hijack my stories? Yes, and I love that. I have characters that were supposed to be in one book, and they end up being series regulars. If a character hijacks the story too much, I make a note of it. That character obviously wants their own story, and isn’t good about sharing.

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Q4: How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?

Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: Years ago I joined Sisters In Crime, and that made all the difference in my writing life. Not only did I meet people who understood my journey, I took classes to hone my craft, went to conferences to build my network, and made friends. Wonderful friends, including my fellow Wicked Cozy Authors (WickedCozyAuthors.com): Barbara Ross, Sherry Harris, Liz Mugavero aka Cate Conte, Jessica Estaveo aka Jessie Crockett aka Jessica Ellicott, and Edith Maxwell aka Maddie Day.

A CHRISTMAS PERIL was the first book I tried to sell. I’d written other books, but they are in drawers, and they will stay there. I got lovely rejections for A CHRISTMAS PERIL, but didn’t find an agent or a publisher. Then I was offered the opportunity to write the Clock Shop Mystery series as Julianne Holmes. The idea came from an editor, and I “auditioned” to write the series. The third book, CHIME AND PUNISHMENT, just came out. With that track record, I wrote a proposal for A CHRISTMAS PERIL, and very happily for me, Midnight Ink bought the series.  Proving the adage, dreams do come true, but sometimes the path isn’t a straight one.


Q5: In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?

Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I plot very heavily, and that helps me with a fairly polished first draft. I do a read through, and then send it out to my first reader, Jason Allen-Forrest. He gets it back to me with notes. Then I do at least two more deep edits on the book

Usually, I have been in a writing loop where one draft bleeds into another. For the manuscript I just turned in, I gave it a chance to “rest”, and that made all the difference. I am trying to incorporate more rest periods in my writing, which is tough given that I write two books a year.


Q6: A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?

Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: Working in theater has been a gift to me for regarding characters. Every actor will tell you that they have to find something redeeming about their characters in order to play them. Villains don’t think that they are villains.

In mysteries, villains are driven to commit a crime, and usually they can justify that. I will confess, when I first wrote A CHRISTMAS PERIL I had another villain in mind, but after I worked on it for a while I realized I had the wrong killer.

Most of my characters, including my villains, have parts of people I know in them. The villains? I’ll never tell.

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Q7: Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional?

Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: Between borrowing names and creating characters, there is a lot of my real life that shows up in my fiction. Happily, so far, it has worked out. I am also very fortunate in that I know and work with a lot of people, so there is a lot to draw from. Usually, it is a quirk, or a trait, or an experience that I borrow.

I was once in a very volatile meeting, and I kept my cool throughout. A colleague followed me into my office, and demanded to know how I always kept so calm. I told her that I plotted a murder during the meeting, and that helped. Then I smiled, so she thought I was kidding. I wasn’t, of course.


Q8: If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?

Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: What an interesting question! I think about that. I have friends who write historical fiction, and I applaud them their research and attention to detail. I don’t think I could do it.

I do think about non-fiction, and some of the extraordinary women who we don’t know enough about. I’m not sure I would write about a specific woman as much as I would write about a time. We are coming up to the centennial of white women getting the right to vote in the United States. (It took women of color longer.) That subject fascinates me.


Q9: What are some great books you’ve read recently?

Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I am on a summer reading binge of Louise Penny, and I am enjoying it tremendously. I had never read her before, so I have catching up to do!

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Q10: What books have influenced your life the most?

Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: My life or my writing? My writing has been influenced by Agatha Christie, Elizabeth Peters, Dorothy Sayers, Elizabeth George and others. Specific books? If you could see my triple shelved bookshelves, you’d know I can’t answer that question, at least not easily!


Q11: If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?

Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: I would spend the day with Sully. We’d go to the Beef and Ale, have burgers and fries, and a good local brew. I hope we’d have charming actors like Steward Tracy joining us. Then we’d go back over, and watch rehearsal for a while. We’d end up back at her carriage house, drinking wine and talking about the show.


Q12: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?

Ms. Hennrikus’s Answer: Again, my theater life helps me with this a bit. I don’t seek reviews out. If I happen upon one, I may read it, but I likely won’t. Reviews are useful when they are constructive, but “like” or “don’t like” are matters of opinion. The reviews that matter to me are the reviews I get from my editors, and folks who read my manuscripts, because I can still change the work. Once it is published, there’s nothing I can do.

The only way I engage with reviewers is to thank them. It is a lot of work, and a service to authors and readers.

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A huge thank you to J.A. Hennrikus for being willing to answer my questions! Thanks for joining me today on the latest stop of the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for A Christmas Peril by J.A. Hennrikus.  If you wish to visit other sites on the tour, please click on the banner below. It will take you to the main tour page where you will find a list of participants and links to their blogs.

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What’s New

I haven’t posted in a few days so I thought I should take a minute to share what’s up on this end.  I apologize for the lack of graphics. My allergies are bugging me and the decongestant is making it difficult to even type, much less attempt to look for graphics.

My new job is going well. I’m enjoying it and am thankful every day that I no longer have to work with the public! Some days are busier than others. Some days I don’t have that much to do and some days I’m swamped, but that’s the nature of being at the mercy of when items are delivered. I’m learning to pace myself on the swamped days and appreciate the slower days.

I’m still working on my room, but I’m getting closer to being done. I’ve set the end of September as my goal for being done. I took a 5-day weekend around the 30th/1st and plan to use those days to shift furniture and do the final touches. I’ve done well sifting through books I own and getting rid of some that I’m just never going to use/read again. Ditto with some of my art supplies. There are some resale shops around here that will take art supplies so I’ve been getting some together to donate. Those are the two things that take up the most space in my room so working on paring those down to manageable levels feels really great. I’m not done, by any means, but I’ve got a huge chunk done.

This past weekend was a long weekend here in the United States as we celebrated Labor Day. I worked in my room part of the time, but on Saturday, I took my dad to the Thunder Over Michigan air show with the Blue Angels as his belated Father’s Day present. I’ve been taking him for a few years now. We had a great time and hopefully later in the week or this weekend, I’ll have my pictures ready to put up. Some need a little help with shading and color since the cloud cover came in and made everything in the picture go grey.

A few weeks ago, my doctor put me on steroids to deal with an allergic reaction. That will be the last time I ever voluntarily take steroids. It basically made my psych meds inactive so even tho’ I was taking them, I felt like I hadn’t had psych meds in days. NOT a good place for me. It’s taken me almost two weeks to feel better again after stopping the steroids. That was definitely a lesson learned.

What’s going on with all of you? If you’re in the US, did you do anything special for the holiday weekend? If you’re not in the US, did you do anything fun on your weekend?

 

REVIEW – World of the Innocent

5 out of 5 stars.

Today I’m bringing you a review of World of the Innocent by Nadine Keels. I absolutely fell in love with this book, hence the 5 star rating.  Below the review is also an interview with the author!

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Synopsis

Jhoi: she’s poetic. She’s guarded. And she couldn’t imagine having much to do with a guy like Marcas. Sure, Marcas is a brilliant fellow artist, admired by plenty of fans. But he’s so remarkably…strange.

Still, Marcas touches Jhoi’s soul. And through the counsel of a shrewd old neighbor, Jhoi will discover a link between intimate friendship and becoming a steward of an era.

A tale of love, enduring belief, and the meaning of innocence—based on a true story.

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Review

WOW. That’s the first thing I said when I finished this book. Just WOW. This book totally blew me away. It’s in my top five of “the most romantic books I’ve ever read”, especially considering there wasn’t much physical intimacy. Plenty of emotional intimacy, just not much physical. And yet, still one of the most romantic books I’ve ever read.

Our main characters, Jhoi (pronounced Joy), Marcas, and Nathan are all wonderful. They’re complex characters and very well-rounded considering it’s not a very long book. I just love Jhoi. She reminds me a lot of myself with her reluctance to get involved with anyone or even casually date.

The plot line moves along steadily. I felt the pace was just right. It wasn’t too fast but not so slow that it wasn’t believable. The twist at the end made me breathless. In hind sight, I wondered if I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. I won’t say any more because I don’t want to spoil it for the rest of you.

highly recommend this book. I think it was fabulous and I think you will too!

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Interview with Nadine Keels

Before we get into the questions and Ms. Keels’ answers, I first just want to say thank you to Ms. Keels for asking me to read her book and for being willing to answer these questions for me!

Q1: Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically?

Ms. Keels’ Answer: Ah! Well, I’m not at my computer every day, pounding out words, and not all my time to write is “set aside.” But do I write every day? Yes. Because writing isn’t only something I do. I am a writer, and my whole life factors into what eventually ends up on the page. Living is all a part of my writing process, so in essence, I’m always writing.


Q2: Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?

Ms. Keels’ Answer: Oh, yeah, I give my manuscripts time to “marinate” before I get more technical with them. Have to just let a story resonate for a while, make sure the journey is complete and my characters have truly spoken their piece.


Q3: Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional? 

Ms. Keels’ Answer: Ha! I don’t know if there’s even a such thing as a truly—or perhaps I should say “wholly”—fictional character. All character traits are going to come from somewhere, from some part of the author’s observation or experience. One way or another, whether it’s intentional or not, or whether or not it’s even noticeable, the people in an author’s life are going to end up in that author’s books.

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Q4: What are some great books you’ve read recently?

Ms. Keels’ Answer: Might be an unusual answer, but I’ve been rereading the Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary. I mean, I loved the books when I was a little girl because I saw so much of myself in Ramona. Revisiting the books now, I can see how wise the stories actually are and how much Cleary truly has an understanding of human nature, from children to adults.


Q5: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?

Ms. Keels’ Answer: Yup, I read my reviews. Most of them, anyway. I thank the reviewers, if they’re people I personally requested a review from. But I don’t comment on reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. Book reviews are posted in those places for readers, so I don’t think a reader’s message to other readers is the place for an author to step in and have his/her say.

I do think much can be gained from authors actually listening to the folks they’re writing for, though, so I pay attention to how my books are affecting the people reading them. I have taken into account concerns from reviewers on technical points, but when a reviewer’s concern or dislike is simply a matter of different tastes, I’m fine with their being entitled to their taste, and my being entitled to mine.


Q6: Do you have any hobbies? What are they?

Ms. Keels’ Answer: Is it lame for a writer to say her hobby is writing? Teeheehee. One of this bibliophile’s biggest hobbies is writing about the books she reads. That is, I absolutely love book blogging! Also, because stories are my passion, whether literary or visual, I’ve become almost as much of a cinephile as I am a bibliophile. I so enjoy watching films and discussing them with folks who appreciate them as much as I do.