The Classics: In Appreciation

Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Middlemarch, Anna Karenina, Scarlet Letter—all classics I’ve read and loved over the years.

My love affair with the classics started in 1989 when I worked in downtown Los Angeles. One day at lunch a co-worker asked if I wanted to go to the library with her. Surprised, I said, “Sure!” I’d never worked with anyone who spent her lunch hour at the library.

We walked to the Los Angeles Public Library and I checked out Jane Eyre. I had a vague memory of reading Charlotte Bronte’s tome in high school and decided to try it again. To this day, it tops my list of favorite classics. Over the next few years, I read—in many cases revisiting my high school reading list—An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser; Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy; Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence; and House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, to name just a few. I also enjoyed the complete works of Jane Austen and Willa Cather (Ms. Cather’s short stories remain on my TBR list).

Most I liked, with a few being okay. Sad to say, I didn’t like Wuthering Heights any better in the early nineties than I had in high school. Heathcliff was just too dark.

In 1993 I joined a mystery group and became obsessed with that genre. Up to that point, I’d read many Agatha Christies (are they classics?) but few other mysteries. A few years later, I started penning my own.

These days, writing cuts into my reading time, but I try to read at least one classic a year, and it’s sometimes a mystery. Read my post about Wilkie Collins’ early example of detective fiction, Woman in White. Last year I finished the epic War in Peace. Read my thoughts about Leo Tolstoy’s magnum opus here. I just finished Little Women and will eventually share about the delightful autobiographical novel by Louisa May Alcott.

Why do I love the classics? They have a timeless quality and universal appeal, essential traits that make a classic a classic. Little Women—despite the lack of texting and social media—could be a contemporary coming-of-age novel.

The classics are known for well-drawn characters and compelling story lines. That said, it can take time for a classic story to be compelling. Contemporary books have to grab the reader on page one; classics require more patience, but are worth the wait. My friend who took me to the LAPL and I started Middlemarch together. Several times I was ready to close the book for good, but, being a faster reader, my friend assured me that the story would pick up. Sure enough, George Eliot’s masterpiece became a page turner.

What’s next for me? Many of my author friends rave about The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. It’s a revenge tale and I do love revenge tales. And I’ve had Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters queued up on my Nook for some time.

Back to where the classics began for me: below is a photo of the beautiful and impressive Los Angeles Public Library. During my stint working downtown, this building was closed for renovations due to two fires. The collection had been relocated to a building on South Spring St. By the time the original building reopened in 1993, I was working elsewhere, but occasionally returned to visit this stunning structure. If you can visit, do so, but at least read about it here.

In closing, I send a big thanks to Alison, my long ago library pal!

Readers, what are your favorite classics?

5 Ways to Get It Done: And on Time!

D.J. Adamson, author of the Lillian Dove Mystery series, shares 5 ways to get it done … and on time. D.J. is one busy woman so she knows whereof she speaks (or, in this case, writes).

Here’s D.J!

No, I am not one of these people who start Christmas shopping in September. With my luck, as for how life revolves for my protagonist in the Lillian Dove Mystery series, the presents I purchased would no longer fit, be liked or not already purchased by those I meant to give the gifts to. And no, I do not have the time or money to go up in the snow-clad mountains like Stephen King’s character in his book Misery to get away from life to finish a book. Come to think of it, that didn’t work well for his character either. “I’m your number one fan,” ended up sledgehammering the writer.  And no, I am not a Super Woman. No S on this chest. But, I have learned a few tricks that can help anyone get something done…especially that short story or novel that’s been hatching in their creative treasure chest.

  1. If doing this project was like a job, and you were being paid enough money to pay the rent, you’d find a way to get it done. But, okay. Writers don’t always have a bundle of bills in their wallet. So, I’ve found, like a job, I just do it. Like brushing my teeth in the morning, I get up and do it. I don’t consider if I want to or should I?  Do I have the time, do I feel creative?  Is my muse whispering wonderous words in my ear? No, well too bad. Get up anyway.  As easy as that. I write every morning for at least an hour. It’s how I start my day. No matter the weather, the comfy warm covers, or my clock that says I have another two hours before going to work, I get up—changing out of PJs isn’t required—go to my desk and write. All three Lillian Dove books, including the latest, LET HER GO, were written in my nightgown.
  1. Some say, “Well, I’m more of a “night kind of person.” I bet they don’t work night shifts for a paycheck, and if they do, I bet some wish they had “regular” hours. A lot of quote marks here, but I think you get my drift. Waiting until night allows for the world to set in. Or, if you don’t go to work until six at night, then your morning hour would start at four. It’s perspective.

I have been writing every morning for at least thirty years. I get up, go to the computer, and write. It doesn’t necessarily matter what. Like athletes need to get their blood moving, I need to get the words circulating. This doesn’t mean my day is necessarily finished. I write three to four hours a day while working a job–a professor with student papers to grade, having a family, writing a monthly book review newsletter Le Coeur de l’Artiste, and sitting down to watch TV with my husband at night. My mother used to say, “You can do a lot in an hour.” Sometimes that’s the only slot I have, one hour. But there are several “one hours” in my day available. Plus, I have found, once I start in the morning, my brain continues, the words circulate, while I am busy with all the other things so that when I do sit down for another hour’s worth, I am ready.

P.S. I have been known to stop mid-lecture to write an inspiring line of dialog that pops into my head.

  1. Okay, I’m old. I can remember when paper and pen were necessary to write. What excuse do you have, today? Cell phones, IPads, computers. Technology is around you twenty-four hours a day. Is there really any excuse? And if you only find that hour a day every morning to write, read those other “pause periods” that come into your day. I listen to Audible in my car going to work, and read every night before bed—even if it’s the twenty minutes I have before dropping off to sleep.
  1. If you need a reward like a paycheck to work, then give yourself one. “When I get this short story done,” I get to go shopping for _____________. Don’t allow yourself to buy anything on the whim, wait for it.

But when do I breathe if my day is so full?  Breathing is involuntary. Without it, you die. Dedicated breathing, what I call meditation or “grounding myself” can happen at any point in my day. I don’t need to sit cross legged to do it. And, I find a way to include the necessity of sanity in my day…even if it is standing in the sun, feeling the warm, the breeze, shutting off the circulating words for a few seconds–breathe.

  1. One last thing to maybe get you off and going, to give you some sage advice to contemplate that may inspire you not to procrastinate one day longer:

IF NOT NOW, WHEN?

Write this question on your mirror. Put it as a reminder on your computer. I know two things….life, as I perceive it, lasts only a finite number of heartbeats. I have no idea how many I was born with or how many I have left. And, Einstein has proven that there is only NOW, the moment.

∞∞∞

I wish I could say I was a genius, a bestseller,  and this tad bit of encouragement was going to help you get going on that project you want to write, get done, or start and bring your great success.  If I were honest, I’d tell you; I was late in getting this blog to Maggie King. But, I do write an hour every morning. I do write three to four hours every day.

For those who found themselves inspired from reading this post, I hope you will let me know how it inspired you or share how you have found ways to get things done.

D.J. Adamson is an award winning author of both her mystery novels and her science fiction novel. She is the editor of Le Coeur de l’Artiste, a newsletter which reviews books, and a blog, L’Artiste which offers authors the venue to write on craft, marketing, and the creative mind. D.J. teaches writing and literature, and to keep busy when she is not writing or teaching, she has been a board member of Sisters in Crime Los Angeles and Sisters in Crime Central Coast, a member of the Southern California Mystery Writers Organization, California Writers Club and Greater Los Angeles Writer’s Society.  Her books can be found and purchased in bookstores and on Amazon. To find her, her blog L’Artiste, or newsletter go to http://www.djadamson.com. Make friends with her on Facebook or Goodreads.

Note from Maggie: I was privileged to guest post on D.J.’s beautiful L’Artiste blog two years ago: “Did Book #1 Pave the Way for Book #2?”

 

Anthologies for the Holidays

In Iceland, the best Christmas gift is a book. For me, it’s the best gift anywhere, anytime.

How about an anthology for the mystery/thriller fans on your list? It’s the solution to the quandary, “What does Aunt Denise like to read?” or “What if she’s already read what I pick out?” There are enough choices in anthologies to ensure that Aunt Denise hasn’t read all the stories. And it’s a great gift idea for you!

Here are just a few suggestions:

The Noir Series from Akashic Books. Here you’ll find vast collections of dark stories from the USA and around the world. There’s one for my home town of Richmond, Virginia.

Elm Books publishes anthologies of fiction, mysteries, poetry, science fiction, romance, and Gen-E children’s books. I especially enjoyed Death and a Cup of Tea.

This spring, Elm Books will release Death by Cupcake. I’m pleased that my story, “Cupcakes and Emeralds” will appear in what promises to be another great collection.

In Melodie Johnson Howe’s Shooting Hollywood: The Diana Poole Stories, a middle-aged actress tries to make a comeback but keeps tripping over dead bodies!

Ms. Howe guest-posted on this blog back in June. Read her post, “Images of a Writer,” here.

The Best American Mystery Stories 2018, edited by Louise Penny, includes stories by T. C. Boyle, James Lee Burke, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Charlaine Harris, Andrew Klavan, Martin Limón, Paul D. Marks, Joyce Carol Oates, and others.

Consider a gift subscription (print or digital) to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and/or Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Both publications come out bi-monthly.

50 Shades of Cabernet: A Mysterious Anthology includes stories that feature—you guessed it—Cabernet! My contribution is “Wine, Women, and Wrong.”

All these and many more are available at your favorite brick-and-mortar store or online.

Happy Holidays, my friends! Celebrate with a good book. Read about Iceland’s annual Christmas book flood here.

Readers, do you have your own suggestions for gifts-giving? Leave a comment.

 

Amy Reade’s Top Ten Gifts for Readers

Welcome back, Amy Reade! Amy is one of my favorite guests and today she shares her Top Ten Gifts for Readers. Wait’ll you see what’s #1!

Here’s Amy:

Maggie told me to write what moves me for this post. And since the holidays have already kicked into high gear, I thought I’d write something you can use. Something that’ll make gift-giving easier this year for the readers in your life.

Without further ado, what follows is my list of the 2018 edition of the Top Ten Gifts for Readers:

10. 100 Books Scratch-Off Poster. This poster lists 100 iconic and influential pieces of literature. As your favorite reader finishes each one, he or she scratches off the film underneath each book title to reveal a tiny piece of artwork that references the book. $15.00 at Uncommon Goods: https://bit.ly/2AvC9jR

9. Nancy Drew Wrapped Pencil Set. Perfect for your favorite reader OR the sleuth who has everything. It’s a set of 5 no. 2 pencils, each hand-wrapped with pages from a Nancy Drew book. Note: each pencil has been shortened to the width of a Nancy Drew book page, so you’ll be getting pencils that are a bit shorter than regular pencils. A set of 5 pencils is $10.00 at Etsy: https://etsy.me/2DRdKZJ

8. Bibliophile by Jane Mount. This is a coffee table book chock full of quizzes, facts about literature, and book recommendations, among other things. Um, if anyone in my family is reading this…you know what to do. Find it for about $19.00 on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2zripys

7. Lit Chat. This is fun for families and a great activity for book groups who might need a month off for something a little lighter! It’s a deck of 50 cards containing 100 questions about literature—favorite characters, what books-turned-movies are good or bad, and lots more. It’s an entertaining conversation starter. Find it for $16.99 at Abrams Books: https://bit.ly/2BA8nMC

6. Rechargeable Book Light. This is a perfect gift for someone who likes to read in bed. The light clamps onto the book and voila! Your reader has an accompaniment for a book he or she just can’t put down. Get it for $29.95 at Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/2DZclkx

5. Book Socks. For the reader who loves to lounge while he or she reads, this is the perfect gift. It gives clear, concise instructions to anyone who may be nearby. I’d love a pair! Find them on Etsy for under $15.00 https://etsy.me/2E0O25E

4. Reading Lamp. Have you always wanted a reading lamp in the shape of an open book? No? Is that because you didn’t know they exist? Well, you’re in luck because they’re a thing and you can get one for less than $35.00 on Amazon! https://amzn.to/2BA8s2T

3. Kindle Unlimited Subscription. For $9.99 per month, this is a great option for the reader who loves ebooks. There are literally (see what I did there?) a million books available on Kindle Unlimited, plus magazines and audiobooks. It auto-renews every month, so just keep in mind how many months you want to pay for and then you’ll have to cancel the subscription. But for 10 bucks a month to keep your favorite reader off the streets, lifetime reading might be a good investment. Here’s the link to subscribe: https://amzn.to/2TQXn4M

2. Bodleian Library Treasures. The Bodleian Library was founded at Oxford University in 1602 and it contains amazing literary gems, such as maps, manuscripts, letters, and more. This book features 100 documents that trace the history of reading and writing. Find it at Bas Bleu for $35.00: https://bit.ly/2TQYKjN

1. And last, but not least…you knew this was coming, didn’t you? A book by a favorite author, and naturally I have a great suggestion:

The Worst Noel is my first cozy mystery and features a single mom whose deadbeat ex shows up in town just about the same time the bodies start falling. The main character, Lilly Carlsen, has to deal with her ex, two teenagers, and an aging mother who’s beginning to show signs of dementia. And now Lilly is a suspect in two murders. Christmas is going to be murder this year… Find it at Amazon (https://amzn.to/2ynjiHQ) and all other retailers (https://bit.ly/2DZkCVz).

Note from Maggie: I just finished The Worst Noel and thoroughly enjoyed it! Perfect gift choice.

Thanks for having me here, Maggie!

Wishing you all a merry Christmas and a happy holiday season!

About Amy

Amy M. Reade is a cook, chauffeur, household CEO, doctor, laundress, maid, psychiatrist, warden, seer, teacher, and pet whisperer. In other words, a wife, mother, community volunteer, and recovering attorney.

She’s also a writer. She is the author of The Worst Noel, The Malice Series (The House on Candlewick Lane, Highland Peril, and Murder in Thistlecross), and three standalone books, Secrets of Hallstead House, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, and House of the Hanging Jade. She lives in southern New Jersey, but loves to travel. Her favorite places to visit are Scotland and Hawaii and when she can’t travel she loves to read books set in far-flung locations.

Let’s Connect

Website: www.amymreade.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/amreadeauthor

Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/AmyMReadesGothicFictionFans

Twitter: www.twitter.com/readeandwrite

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/amreade

Instagram: www.instagram.com/amymreade

Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/2v2OAUy

Goodreads Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8189243.Amy_M_Reade

 

Pens, Paws, and Claws (and Fins, Feathers, and Hooves)

If you’re an animal lover looking for your next favorite mystery author, read on!

Pens, Paws, and Claws is a group of mystery authors who love animals. Our furry, feathered, and finned friends are a part of our lives and the pages of our stories. The authors who post on a rotating schedule include: Heather Weidner (brainchild of the blog), Debbie De Louise, Jeanne Adams, K. B. Inglee, Judy Penz Sheluk, Sheri Levy, Teresa Inge, Kristina Stanley, Tracy Weber, and yours truly.

Pens, Paws, and Claws also features entertaining weekly guest posts from mystery authors who talk about their pets and field such questions as “How do you use animals in your writing?” “Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing?” “Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?” “Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?”

Read posts from our most recent guests: Marilyn LevinsonChristine Verstraete, and Melissa Gole.

My latest post lists suggestions for readers who love mysteries with dogs. Read “The Dogs Have Their Day” here. I wrote a companion post, “Mysteries Need Cats,” earlier in the year. Of course, many love felines and canines and will want to add titles from both lists to their TBR piles.

Check out the archives for posts from the authors on our regular rotation and from our guest authors.

You just may find your next favorite mystery author—likely you’ll find several. Tell us about your favorite pet mysteries in the comments.

Connect with us!

Website: http://penspawsandclaws.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PensPawsandClaws/ (really cute video with two dogs in a hammock)

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PensPawsClaws