Thanksgiving provided time for gathering with friends and family. The feasting and conversation was great, but I really enjoyed having time away from work to simply sit and read.
I read another story from The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Fifth Course of Chaos. Earl Staggs provided a heartwarming tale, Stakeout in a Maple Tree. Sheriff Mollie investigates the theft of fruit, vegetables, and a chicken from the farm of town crank Callie. Mollie isn't all that interested in helping the foul tempered and bitter Callie, but it's her duty. She stakes out the orchard. The case takes an unexpected turn, which results in healing of old wounds. I really enjoyed this story, demonstrating the variety of tone and writing styles in this anthology.
Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine publishes double issues, making for a thick magazine packed with mystery stories. I read four stories one morning. As busy as life has been, I can't describe the joy of leisurely turning the pages of a good magazine.
I read The Chair Thief, by Robert Lopresti, which reminded me of why I was so happy to have a break from the office. Larry and Nate obsess over the loss of a vacant office chair to a rival. The twists and turns the story takes as they maneuver to gain the Gaines Executive Model X7 results in quite a shocking ending. But totally believable to anyone who has been burned by office politics.
The House Across the Street, by Robert S. Levinson, likewise has a startling ending. Sid and Myrna Franklin are only mildly curious about their new neighbors, an attractive young couple. While they insist they are dull homebodies, Phil and Bethany insist on striking up a friendship. The Franklins finally agree to host dinner. It's well worth reading to discover how the dinner goes.
In Ghost Busters, by Carol Cail, Tirzzy comes to the aid of her friend Willa, who has recently moved to a retirement village. Troubling petty thefts and scary noises and lights late at night have ruined what Willa hoped would be paradise. Tirzzy enlists Julian, a guy intimidating in size and appearance, but with a kind heart, to trap the thief.
The cover story is Harlem Nocturn, by L. A. Wilson, Jr. Travis Redman is a man with secrets, and a past he would prefer to leave behind. The problem is, the past has a way of hanging on, and to bury his secrets he would have to end friendships with the people who knew him when, the Carolina refugees. It's post WWII, and African American servicemen still face racism instead of a returning hero's welcome. In this atmosphere, Travis is pressured into solving a mystery. He uncovers more than he expected.
Each of the short stories I read this week made my vacation more enjoyable.
11/23/2017 1 Comment
Short Story Reviews: Thanksgiving Theme
Short fiction seems particularly suited to fun holiday themed stories. This week, I read about deadly pumpkin pie in the Kings River Life story Surviving the Feast: A Thanksgiving Mystery Short Story & Recipe by Joan Leotta (November 18 issue). You can read it free, while you're preparing the recipe, or fixing your own special desserts. I have a favorite pumpkin pie recipe. It comes on the back of every can of Libby's pumpkin, but I do add a secret ingredient to make it uniquely my own.
We are hosting Thanksgiving on Friday instead of Thursday. Several friends and family will have the traditional feast the day before. Hopefully our gathering will focus more on conversation and board games than on food, but we are planning to have all the fixings. My family is full of health nuts, but we won't go so far as Tofurky. Not this year. Lessons learned. We're preparing an organic free range turkey. I find my food tastes better when it lived a happy life.
Happy food comes from family ranches like Rafter W Ranch in Colorado. They didn't raise turkeys for sale this year, so we bought ours from the Natural Grocers health food store. Rafter W does raise chickens. I have enjoyed amazing roasted chicken from Rafter W Ranch. You have to try homegrown meat to believe how different it is from factory farm meat.
Back to fiction. I am still reading my way through The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Fifth Course of Chaos. Last week I talked about the first story in the anthology. This week I read The Capo-Clipped Capon Caper by Arthur Carey.
Mediocre private detective Sam Spad is approached by two FBI agents. The turkey the President of the United States plans to pardon in the well-known annual ceremony has been snatched. The President can't miss this photo op, and so the FBI is keen to retrieve the bird. Their request seems unusual, but they seek out Sam due to a clue left by the perpetrators.
Both of the Thanksgiving themed stories I read this week were light-hearted, fun reads. If you haven't had enough leftovers yet, or if like us, the feasting has only just begun, I recommend you check these out.
11/16/2017 1 Comment
Short Story Review: Three Stories
I wanted to round out the typical Thanksgiving festivities with themed reading, so I got an e-copy of The Killer Wore Cranberry - A Fifth Course of Chaos. The first story in the anthology, Chicken Little by Barbara Metzger, features Chuck, a private detective with Walter Mitty tendencies. He imagines himself as a hard-boiled detective. It appears from the start that he often gets things wrong, so will he be able to solve the mystery? (Language alert for my readers - there are a few f-bombs.)
Each story in the anthology must include Thanksgiving and cranberries. I look forward to reading more as we approach the holiday.
Susan Oleksiw - A Slight Deviation from the Mean - Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine November / December 2017
How does an expat American mathematician wind up a homeless nun in India? Oleksiw reveals part of Shanti's story, at least as it relates to a mystery in A Slight Deviation from the Mean. Anita Ray hires Shanti to clean rooms at her small Hotel Delite, against the wishes of her Auntie Meena. Shanti is a holy woman, and Meena thinks the housecleaning job would be demeaning for the woman. Quite the contrary. Shanti has been expelled by her guru. She is barely making her very modest ends meet.
An interesting ethical dilemma is revealed after Shanti begins working for Anita. I was pleasantly surprised by the resolution of the story.
Joseph D'Agnese - Her Father's Killer - Mystery Weekly Magazine November 2017
D'Agnese creates a compelling tale in the 2,000 word range. Setting, characters, and plot unfold at a rapid pace. Priscilla Mae Gregson has returned to her small home town for her father's funeral. When she sees his body, she suspects he was murdered, and sets out to enact revenge.
I enjoyed reading three stories in three different venues. Each had a different tone and setting. That's the fun in reading short. You can sample a variety of writing styles and genres without making a novel-length commitment.
11/9/2017 2 Comments
Short Story Review: AHMM
The current issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine is another I know I will read cover to cover. The short stories I've read so far have been entertaining and well-written.
R. T. Lawton appears with Black Friday - number ten in the Holiday Burglars series, where mildly inept burglars attempt to commit larceny on major holidays. This time, they nearly receive a dose of their own medicine. Lawton has gathered previously published stories into e-book collections you can find here. You can read about the inspiration for a character in the tale here, at the SleuthSayers website.
Last month's AHMM listed a short story, Night Flight to Bali by Jane K. Cleland, that used multiple points of view. This month's issue again flaunts the established short fiction conventions successfully. Damsels in Distress, by S. L. Franklin, tells the story of a missing person case from the point of view of the detective, his wife, the missing girl's roommate, and a couple other characters I won't mention because that will give away too much. The "damsels" are both the missing girl and her roommate. What unwinds is a dual-plot story that winds up in an entirely satisfactory ending.
11/7/2017 0 Comments
Does anyone actually like Daylight Saving Time? Why is it we seem permanently stuck with this disruptive assault on those of us who struggle with the concept of time? It will take me days to adjust. And it cuts off the daylight where I need it most - after work.
Despite my determination to simplify my life, I have been buried with projects and activities. Last week, the company I work for hosted a customer audit. We were attempting to acquire an important environmental certification. Things look hopeful, although there is more work to complete before we are fully approved.
In the meantime, I received welcome news from the publisher of The Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library. My first entry in the multi-author series was enthusiastically approved. I now have a revision to complete, per the editor's comments. I am so happy to be a part of this very cozy mystery venture. These are sweet stories with lovable characters, and a mystery (often murder) to be solved.
I'm also working on a short story. This has been slow going, but this morning I had bit of a breakthrough. The plot threads are coming together. Often, when creating a story, the author doesn't envision every element. At some point in the writing, connections are made, and the plot elevates from a point A to point B telling, into something deeper.
I'm on a roll again with my fiction, and I don't want to take too much time away from writing, but I will be trying to post a short story review on Thursdays. I received the new AHMM in the mail, and purchased The Killer Wore Cranberry Thanksgiving-themed short fiction collection, so I have lots to read!
I hope you are enjoying time this fall curled up with a cup of coffee or cocoa, and a good book.
11/2/2017 0 Comments
Until Further Notice
I've encountered the perfect storm of busyness. Between deer hunting season, a big project at the day job, and dental work, I had to make a decision with the time I had left: blog or write fiction. I hope to return to reviewing short stories next week. Until then, I'll be using whatever "spare" time I can find to work on a new short story and two novel drafts.
Happy NaNoWriMo to all the writers participating this year. I won't be joining you this time around, but my thoughts are with you as you create your 50,000 words.
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