Visitations Abroad Inspire Author’s Ghostly Tale

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASue Owens Wright is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction. She is an eleven-time finalist for the Maxwell, awarded annually by the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) to the best writer on the subject of dogs. She has twice won the Maxwell Award and earned special recognition from the Humane Society of the United States for her writing. She writes the acclaimed Beanie and Cruiser Mystery Series, including Howling Bloody Murder, Sirius About Murder, Embarking On Murder and Braced For Murder, which is recommended on the American Kennel Club’s list of Best Dog Books.

Her nonfiction books include What’s Your Dog’s IQ?, 150 Activities for Bored Dogs, and People’s Guide to Pets. She has been published in numerous magazines, including Dog Fancy, Mystery Scene, AKC GAZETTE, Fido Friendly, The Bark, and Animal Fair. Her work also appears in several anthologies, including PEN Oakland’s Fightin’ Words, along with Norman Mailer and other literary notables. Her newest novel is The Secret of Bramble Hill.

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I’ve always loved reading a thrilling ghost story like Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House or Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë.  I’m also a diehard fan of Edgar Allen Poe’s eerie tales, and I made sure to visit the Poe Museum years ago when I was in Richmond, Virginia, for my book signing at Creatures ‘n Crooks Bookshoppe. Whenever a character encounters a brooding old manor house in such stories, the chances are good that it’s haunted. The authors no doubt found their inspiration at such places in real life, as I have.

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Having visited the Brontë Parsonage Museum of Haworth on my travels in Yorkshire, England, I’m convinced that the Brontë sisters didn’t have to venture too far from home to find inspiration for their classic tales of romance and mystery. The bleak parsonage stands beside one of the spookiest graveyards I saw in England, and there are many. A walk on the windswept Yorkshire moors could stir any writer’s imagination, as it did for the Brontë sisters, who often wandered upon well-worn footpaths near the parsonage that meandered across the desolate moors. Popular Brontë walking tours offer tourists the chance to hike on the high moors and in beautiful Worth Valley, but I missed taking the tour on a gray day when it started to rain. I’m more accustomed to sunny California strolls, but I doubt that the inclement weather would have deterred the Brontës.

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While touring in England, I stayed at a number of historic homes dating back centuries. When I returned from my trip abroad years ago, I began writing my first novel, a paranormal romance inspired by the beautiful English countryside and purportedly haunted locales across Britain.  The Secret of Bramble Hill is set in Cornwall, where I walked along the same precarious shale cliffs of the scenic Cornish coast as the heroine in my novel.  In my book, Tessa Field possesses psychic abilities that enable her to see and communicate with the dead. While I don’t claim to share Tessa’s “gift,” as her dear departed aunt Emily called it, I could easily have believed that a resident ghost inhabited some of those “wuthering” English manor houses where I lodged during my travels. This book is the result of those chilling “visitations” in England. I hope that people will enjoy some thrills and chills of their own while reading The Secret of Bramble Hill.

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The Secret of Bramble Hill buy links:
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Book Review: The Semper Sonnet by Seth Margolis

the-semper-sonnetThe Semper Sonnet
Seth Margolis
Diversion Books, April 2016
ISBN: 978-1-68230-056-5
Trade Paperback

Academic Lee Nicholson discovers a long lost sonnet written by William Shakespeare in an old book, but when she announces the find on a television program, all sorts of evil things happen. First is the murder of the tv cameraman she’d taken to her bed in a euphoric response to the program. The problem is, she is the one accused of murdering him, and soon she is on the run, attempting to prove her innocence before she’s convicted and they throw away the key.

Violent events escalate. More people are murdered, usually right after she’s spoken to them. As Lee realizes the deaths are related to the sonnet, she examines the document ever more deeply. What she discovers is a hidden code, and the final word is Semper, which means “always.” As the plot thickens, she finds the sonnet was written to Queen Elizabeth I’s specifications, with a message for future generations. But also revealed is the presence of what could unleash a pandemic on the whole world and wipe out mankind.

Convoluted? You bet. I admire the way the author unfolds the mystery and the way Lee makes these discoveries. I didn’t, however, particularly admire Lee herself as a heroine. What thinking woman, particularly one supposedly as smart as she is purported to be, would climb into bed with so many men on one night stands? Especially when a basic stranger has already been murdered in her bed? Worse, she accepts yet another man into her life when she already suspects him of duplicity.

Even so, as the story winds down and as the reader flies from the U.S. to London and back and forth, the action ramps up to a high level. The book is well-written, and though much of the story is a bit predictable⏤we’ve seen it before in The Da Vinci Code and it’s like⏤I still enjoyed the way this played out.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, October 2016.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

Early Spring?

Yesterday, we had a huge hail storm, something that’s not unheard of in these parts (central Virginia) but isn’t a common event so we turned into gawkers. The thing about hail storms is they’re kind of beautiful—assuming you’re not standing in them—and fascinating because you’re looking at ice falling madly when the temperature is way too high to think ice can survive.

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We’ve been in full-blown spring here for a week or two and, being a hater of cold, I’m eternally grateful. I’d much rather have 70 degrees than 40 or less but I can’t complain too much about the winter we’ve had. Usually, we’d have a few weeks more winter and March is notorious for surprise snowmageddons but I don’t think we’re going to get that this year.

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My idea of “normal” weather goes back to my childhood, of course. Here in Richmond, we had winters that were cold—lows usually in the 30’s, sometimes 20’s for brief spells—and summers that were hot and exceedingly humid, ranging from high 80’s to a few days here and there in the low 100’s, mostly in the 90’s. We were tough back then, living without air conditioning until after I left home for college. I’m not so tough these days, preferring comfort over sweat, but I’d still take 98 with no AC rather than cold. Cold’s only redeeming quality comes when we get snow that’s good for making snow cream 😉 Beyond cold and heat, we have many more tornadoes and other extreme-ish weather here in my state than in the past.

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All of which brings me to global warming because, let’s face it, weather patterns HAVE changed. Where I differ from hardcore believers in climate change is that, while I believe it’s happening, I don’t believe humans are entirely responsible. There’s too much credible evidence (from what I’ve read) that this is a cyclical phenomenon, one which has happened before in pre-history when humans could not possibly have caused it. Do we play a huge role in this current situation? Yes, undoubtedly. Do we need to improve our environment? Yes, vastly, and I’m willing to do my individual part without giving up all the things that make life more comfortable. I want pristine skies and breathable air as much as anyone does…unleaded gasoline and clean heat make sense…but I doubt if I’ll ever have an electric car and I’m quite sure I’ll never go for natural gas in my home. I recycle bottles, paper and cans and I have water-saving appliances and fixtures (although I think water-saving toilets are one of humanity’s worst inventions). I take re-usable bags to the grocery store and I financially support the preservation of rain forests and, actually, plants in general. Oh, and I haven’t spread cigarette smoke around since August 2004.

James River in Richmond, VA

James River in Richmond, VA

What kinds of things do you do to help our environment? Do you think we can entirely reverse climate change worldwide or even just in our own small parcel of the earth, enough to make a difference?

Book Review: As You Lay Sleeping by Katlyn Duncan

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Book Review: The Ville Rat by Martin Limon

the-ville-ratThe Ville Rat
A Sergeants Sueno and Bascom Mystery #10
Martin Limon
Soho Crime, June 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61695-391-1
Trade Paperback

When the body of a beautiful Korean woman washes up on the shore of a frozen river, it sets off an investigation that carries Ernie Vascom and George Sueno, two irreverent 8th Army CID agents, into areas far afield from just a murder inquiry.  The event takes place during 1974 in South Korea, not far from the DMZ.  Not only do they have to fight higher-ups in the chain of command, but must determine the motive for the killing.

Despite the fact that Pres. Harry S Truman “desegregated” the armed forces years before, the novel graphically portrays how black and white soldiers maintained their separate ways when off duty, convening in all Black or all-White bars for recreation. And in the midst of this enters the Ville Rat, the so-called nickname of a former GI who caters to the Black bars by supplying Colt 45 favored by the Blacks because of its higher alcohol content.  The Ville Rat holds a key clue to the investigation and Ernie and George desperately try to find the illusive person to solve the case.

As a police procedural, the novel is juxtaposed between a detailed investigation and the seamier side of Army politics and Korean night life.  The Ville Rat is the 10th novel in the series, each reflecting the author’s deep knowledge of the Korean people and culture, much less of the army and its officers.  This newest entry is no exception, and is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2016.

Book Review: Close Call by Laura DiSilverio

close-callClose Call
Laura DiSilverio
Midnight Ink Books, September 2016
ISBN:978-0-7387-4920-4
Trade Paperback

Not quite non-stop suspense as some reviewers have suggested, but mostly. The author has firm handles on the story line, the characters and the setting. She manipulates all with a deft hand. If things are a little more complicated than is the usual case in thrillers of this kind, well. It’s up to we readers to pay more than casual attention, right?

The title of the book might have effectively been pluralized. We are with the main character, Sydney Ellison, through most of the book and while she weeps gallons of tears, her determination to see the mystery and the crimes to their righteous conclusions is laudable. That she perseveres in the face of repeated set-backs is testament to her core grit. Sydney’s reconciliation with her sister, Reese, her handling of their slightly insane mother, all play important parts in what is essentially a family drama. The novel is intense, compels persistent page-turning, and introduces us to a multi-dimensioned professional assassin.

In an overcrowded deli, located in Washington, D.C., Sydney encounters her nemesis and main adversary in the story, although she doesn’t know it at the time. Nor does her adversary-to-be, a professional hit man who doesn’t appear to be quite as put-together as he should be, given apparent longevity. Their brief interaction sends both on a long and winding path through mistaken identities, murder, family rollercoaster rides and both keen and fatuous observations on D.C. politicians. Also, lots of tears.

Given the current situation in our nation’s capital, the confirmation hearings going on, the story has exciting real-life resonance. Readers seeking a tension-filled story with real characters should enjoy this novel.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 2017.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.