Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - Vamps, Villains and Vaudeville by Ellen Mansoor Collier

Book Synopsis

In 1920s Galveston, society reporter Jazz Cross is in for a surprise when she attends a traveling vaudeville show with her beau, Prohibition Agent James Burton, and discovers that an old flame acts in the production. That night, they find a stabbing victim behind the Oasis — her half-brother Sammy’s speakeasy — who’s identified as an actor in the troupe. When the victim disappears and later turns up dead, Jazz must help prove that Sammy wasn’t the killer.

Meanwhile, a ring of jewel thieves is turning up all over town, robbing rich tourists of their precious gems. After a second vaudeville actor is found dead, Jazz discovers that the events behind the scenes are much more interesting than the outdated acts onstage.

To make matters worse, Sammy’s old nemesis demands that he settles a score and forces him into yet another illegal scheme. Can Jazz help solve the murders and prove her brother’s innocence—so he can escape the Downtown Gang for good?

A historical Jazz Age mystery inspired by real-life Galveston gangs and local landmarks.

Author Bio

Ellen Mansoor Collier is a Houston-based freelance magazine writer and editor whose articles and essays have been published in a variety of national magazines. Several of her short stories have appeared in Woman’s World. During college summers, she worked as a reporter for a Houston community newspaper and as a cocktail waitress, both jobs providing background experience for her Jazz Age mysteries.

A flapper at heart, she’s worked as a magazine editor/writer, and in advertising and public relations (plus endured a hectic semester as a substitute teacher). She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Magazine Journalism and served on UTmost, the college magazine and as president of WICI (Women in Communications). 

FLAPPERS, FLASKS AND FOUL PLAY is her first novel, published in 2012, followed by the sequel, BATHING BEAUTIES, BOOZE AND BULLETS, released in May 2013. She lives in Houston with her husband and Chow mutts, and visits Galveston whenever possible.

“When you grow up in Houston, Galveston becomes like a second home. I had no idea this sleepy beach town had such a wild and colorful past until I began doing research, and became fascinated by the legends and stories of the 1920s. Finally I had to stop researching and start writing, trying to imagine a flapper’s life in Galveston during Prohibition.” 

Author Links

Website: http://www.flapperfinds.com/
GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6452242.Ellen_Mansoor_Collier
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/artdecodame/flappers/ 

Purchase Links:

Amazon

Giveaway

(4) E-Copy - Winner’s Choice - Jazz Age Mystery (ends 3/30)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Did You Know Tuesday - Fun Facts About Pencils

National Pencil Day falls this week on March 30.  I like to sketch or doodle with a pencil, but rarely use them to write.  (I have always been a felt tip pen girl!)  My biggest memory of using pencils for writing was in elementary school, with the fat, old fashioned pencils that we learned to write with.  (Do children still use these?)

Here are a few fun facts about pencils, in honor of National Pencil Day:

The origin of the word pencil is unclear.  It may derive from pencillis (Latin, "little tail) or pincel (French, "little paintbrush").  

Before erasers existed, bread crumbs were use to erase mistakes.

Hyman Lipman patented a pencil with an eraser attached in 1858.

Pencils were used on early American and Soviet space missions because they can write in zero gravity.

Pencils can also write in water!

John Steinbeck wrote with pencils and sometimes used 60 a day.

Ernest Hemingway also preferred to write with pencils.

Johnny Carson played with pencils on The Tonight Show.  The pencils were specially made with erasers for safety.

Roald Dahl wrote with pencil and kept 6 sharpened pencils ready at all times.

Thomas Edison used special pencils that were thicker than normal pencils.

Henry David Thoreau's father owned a pencil making business, and Thoreau designed his own pencils.

Pencils do not contain lead.  They contain graphite and clay.

14 billion pencils are produced each year worldwide.

The average pencil can draw a line 35 miles long.  It can also write 17,000 words.

If you dream of a pencil, it means you think a relationship may not last long.

So what is your thought on pencils ... Love them?  Use them to write, to draw?  Prefer pens?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments, below.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Music Monday - "I'm Gonna Be 500 Miles" by The Proclaimers (1988)

When I was in college, I used to make mixtapes.  They often had a theme - happy songs, songs for a rainy day, songs that make me want to dance ...  If I was making a mixtape today of happy songs, "I'm Gonna Be 500 Miles" by The Proclaimers would definitely be on that tape.

This song is by the Scottish band The Proclaimers.  This band features twin brothers Charlie and Craig Reid.  Charlie Reid wrote "I'm Gonna Be 500 Miles" in 45 minutes while waiting to travel.  

Although this song was released in 1988, it became a big hit in the U.S. in 1993 after it was featured in the movie Benny & Joon.  (That is where I first heard the song.)

I love the infectious happiness and energy of this song.   The singer is so in love that he declares:

"But I would walk five hundred miles
And I would walk five hundred more
Just to be the man who walked a thousand miles
To fall down at your door"


How can you not love that?!   Do you remember "I'm Gonna Be 500 Miles"?   I'd love to hear from you in the comments, below.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

What a Vintage Seller Does On Her Day Off

I have had a long work week, and took the day off.  I wanted to do something that was a change of pace ... so what did I pick?  Antique malls, of course!

I took a few photos to share with you.  A glimpse inside one of the antique malls - this one had an upstairs and downstairs:


A souvenir hula skirt.  I remember these at Florida tourist shops.  The outside of the package has layers of tissue paper, but if you look inside the tissue paper you see the actual hula skirt (two pictures below).


Tight Squeeze game -- looks like it was marketed for 1960's teens.  I've never heard of this before!


A capiz shell light fixture - so retro!


This great modern light fixture was actually from Ikea -- they evidently have this in a smaller size too.  I heard that and started thinking about where I could put a smaller fixture like this in my home.  I love it!


An antique stove that still works.  WANT.


 A dachshund cushion - with doxie in silhouette.  So sweet!   I did get a little dachshund figurine at one of the malls;  it's already out in my study.


A little cardboard house.  Very cute!


 I love everything about this Mid-Century living room set.


 I also love this Mid-Century hutch.


Cotton!  What a surprise to see this.  I remember seeing fields of cotton when we went on trips to my grandparents' house.  This took me back.


The Partridge Family Album.  I see this and am suddenly 8 years old.  I am pretty sure I still know all the lyrics from these songs by heart.


 A coupon saving file -- I still have this exact file.  I had no idea it was now vintage.


Jadeite salt and pepper sets.


A cute dachshund salt and pepper set - dachshunds in sweaters.


 Salt and peppers of dogs in doghouses.


 Kissing dachshunds - I found this set at an estate sale a few weeks ago and kept it for my little doxie shelf.


 A toy ice cream maker.  I had a set similar to this (a bit later vintage) as a child.  I remember you turned the little handle to make ice cream.  It never got quite as firm as ice cream usually is, but it still tasted good to me.   I also included a picture of the box package.


I don't collect restaurant menus, but I love food history, and could easily start collecting these.  This neat 1950's menu is from The Hotel Monteleone Coffee Shop in New Orleans.   


So there you have it - just a few fun pics.  I hope you're having a fun weekend!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Dear Abby - Vintage Easter Dachshunds

Dear friends,

I'm taking a break from my rescue series this week to wish you a happy Easter.  I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

I've looked high and low and found some vintage Easter postcards featuring dachshunds.  For some reason these are hard to find - who knew?!

This is my favorite.  A little girl hugs a dachshund, while another doxie brings flowers.  Little chicks are hopping around, too.


A dachshund meets three bunny rabbits!


This card features a whole family of bunny rabbits ... and a handsome black dachshund.


It looks like some dachshunds are helping a bunny rabbit with some Easter eggs.  (I like this idea!)


Two dachshunds meet a big rooster!  This is an unusual card.  Are they in a library?


Another dachshund meets a rooster on this vintage Easter postcard.


A dachshund howls with happiness because he discovered a nest of eggs.


Another surprised looking dachshund finds a chicken and baby chicks.


This pretty dachshund carries pink flowers.


I hope you enjoyed these vintage Easter dachshunds.  I also hope your Easter weekend is lovely.  

I'll be back next week with a happy pet rescue story for you.

Love to all,

Abby xoxoxo

Book Review - Playing the Part by Jen Turano

Book Synopsis
Can they accept who they are behind the parts they play in time to save the day?

Lucetta Plum is an actress on the rise in New York City, but is forced to abandon her starring role when a fan's interest turns threatening. Lucetta's widowed friend, Abigail Hart, is delighted at the opportunity to meddle in Lucetta's life and promptly whisks her away to her grandson's estate to hide out.

Bram Haverstein may appear to simply be a somewhat eccentric gentleman of means, but a mysterious career and a secret fascination with a certain actress mean there's much more to him than society knows.

Lucetta, who has no interest in Abigail's matchmaking machinations, has the best intentions of remaining cordial but coolly distant to Bram. But when she can't ignore the strange and mysterious things going on in his house, it'll take more than good intentions to keep her from trying to discover who Bram is behind the part he plays.

Purchase a copy:
http://bit.ly/1RQM4QD
My Review
Playing the Part is set in the 1880's.  The protagonist is an actress who leaves town in a hurry because of a stalker.  This leads her to Bram Haverstein, a mysterious man in a Gothic setting - an American castle.  I really enjoyed the Gothic elements of the story.

This novel combines historical fiction, romance, Christian fiction, and humor in a unique way.   This is the first novel I've read by Jen Turano, and I don't know if this style is representative of her other books as well.  I enjoyed it.  It was different and fun!

Playing the Part is the third book in a series.  I have not read the other books (yet!) but still enjoyed this novel. 

The characters were well developed, with dialogue and descriptions that moved the story along at a brisk pace.  This was a lively novel and would be great as a weekend read or vacation read.

I recommend Playing the Part for fans of historical fiction.  I will certainly be looking for more books from this author in the future.


Author Bio
Jen Turano, author of the Ladies of Distinction series and the A Class of Their Own series, is a graduate of the University of Akron. She is a member of ACFW and lives in a suburb of Denver, Colorado.

Website | Facebook

I received this book from Litfuse in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - A Clue in the Stew by Connie Archer

Book Synopsis

Soup shop owner Lucky Jamieson stirs up more trouble in the latest mystery from the national bestselling author of Ladle to the Grave…

When Lucky Jamieson opens up By the Spoonful to host an event with a famous author, she’s not expecting a bunch of nuts to descend on her small-town soup shop. But the author’s exasperating entourage—from a prickly publicist to a snippy son and his tipsy wife—give fresh meaning to the phrase, too many cooks spoil the broth.

The evening is more than spoiled, however, when it ends with a homicide. When the manner of the murder—as well as another recent unsolved crime—echoes the author’s fiction, Police Chief Nate Edgerton realizes he has a copycat killer on his hands. And Lucky hopes that one of her regular customers who has mysteriously gone missing isn’t involved. Once again, the soup shop owner will need to stir up some clues to find her friend and catch a cunning killer—before things really take a tureen for the worse…

Birdhouse Books Interviews Connie Archer 

Birdhouse:  When did you realize you wanted to be a writer? 

Connie:  I think it was a very slow evolution.  I didn’t start out thinking, ‘I want to be a writer.’  I’ve always been a huge mystery and thriller reader, always loved any book in that genre that I could get my hands on.  It was always my preferred reading.  Then one day, I realized I was creatively bored and decided I would try to write a mystery myself.  I wasn’t sure I could do it, it was a lot harder, well, I should say, I figured it would be hard, but it was harder and more of a brain burner than I realized.  My goal was to write one book, just one, and try to get it published.  If anyone had ever told me that a few years later, I would have a contract to write the first three books in a series, and more to come, I’d tell them they were dreaming.  So, I guess I woke up one day and discovered I was a writer! 


Birdhouse:  What was your favorite book as a child? 

Connie:  I would really have to say it was The Borrowers.  I remember those books so vividly.  I learned to read pretty early and read a lot of books – of course, Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys – all mystery writers must cut their teeth on those, but I still think I’d go with The Borrowers.  I’d love to find those books again and read them as an adult. 

Birdhouse:  What is your writing day like?  Do you have any interesting writing quirks? 

Connie:  I promise myself I’ll wake up early in the morning and use those first hours (after coffee, of course) to write.  The truth is I’m pulled into too many household things, taking care of my needy cat, doing laundry, watering plants, putting something in a crock pot, washing a few dishes, etc., that’s it’s hard to keep to that promise.  My best time for writing seems to be at night, when the house is quiet and I have no distractions.  Even if I just rough out a chapter, that’s fine.  I’m chipping away at the huge task.  And then I write till I fall over, then crawl into bed.  I like to play Freecell on the computer, so I allow myself three games and three games only, otherwise I’d still be playing an hour later and waste a lot of time.  Freecell helps me get my brain out of linear thinking somehow.  At least I’m convinced it does and makes it easier to write. 

Birdhouse:  What was the most surprising thing you learned while creating this book?

Connie:  I’m not sure if there was anything really surprising, except I did find that this story just flowed very easily.  One writer friend of mine once described my books as “dark cozies.”  (She writes very funny upbeat stories, so coming from her, I’m not surprised she said that.)  I’ve just approached each book as a traditional mystery.  Some of the motives and crimes were dark, but the village always remained a safe place in the end.  For a lot of readers, the term “cozy” has come to mean lighthearted or funny or upbeat, but I’ve never been a “funny” writer.  If anything, maybe I did have a little fun with A Clue in the Stew because the plot is based on a famous mystery writer visiting the village.  Clue is probably the “coziest” book in the series.  I just hope readers love it as much as the earlier books. 

Birdhouse:  Who are your favorite authors?

Connie:  Wow, that’s hard to say.  There are so many famous authors I adore – Sue Grafton, Tana French, Michael Connelly, Archer Mayer’s Joe Gunther novels, Nicholas Freeling’s books, especially the Inspector Van der Valk series (sadly, he’s gone now), the Swedish Beck series from years ago.  And I’m totally blessed being a mystery writer because I get so many free books at conferences, and get to read beyond my budget, and then when my mystery writing friends have a book launch or library event, I always make sure to buy one of their books.  When I sit down to do my taxes, I’m sometimes shocked at what I’ve spent, so I do try to be economical.  Thank heavens for those free conference books! 

Birdhouse:  What is your next writing project?

Connie:  Well, my new series, the Zodiac Mysteries (Midnight Ink) will debut on June 8th.  My protagonist is Julia Bonatti, a San Francisco astrologer, who never thought her profession would lead her into danger.  This project has been close to my heart for a long time and I’m thrilled that it will see the light of day in just a couple of months.  This series is written as Connie di Marco, and anyone curious about it can go to my new website (conniedimarco.com) and read about the series and The Madness of Mercury, the first book.  I’m busy right now working on the second book which I’ve called Dark Sun.  (I hope my publisher likes that title because my plan is to use a different planet in each title.)

I’m starting to work (when I have time) on a Los Angeles based crime story and I have two other projects, more traditional mysteries, that I’d like to find time to work on.  I just wish I could clone myself and then maybe I could get a lot more done. 
 
Author Bio

Connie Archer is the national bestselling author of the Soup Lover’s Mystery series from Penguin Random House (Berkley Prime Crime).  A Spoonful of Murder, A Broth of Betrayal, A Roux of Revenge, Ladle to the Grave and A Clue in the Stew are all set in the imaginary village of Snowflake, Vermont.  Connie was born and raised in New England and now lives on the other coast.  You can visit her at www.ConnieArcherMysteries.com
Author Links

Website:  www.conniearchermysteries.com
Facebook:  www.Facebook.com/ConnieArcherMysteries
Twitter:  @SnowflakeVT
Goodreadshttp://bit.ly/1MMQllp
Purchase Links
Amazon
http://amzn.to/1QzfxSl

Barnes & Noble:  http://bit.ly/1O6lVOs

Giveaway

(5) Print Copy - A Clue in the Stew by Connie Archer.  Giveaway ends 4/4/16.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Dear Abby - Meet Scotty (A Rescued Pet Spotlight)

Dear friends,
 
I hope you are having a good week!  It is still beautiful weather here, and yesterday I had an extra long walk and met a cat who was out walking as well!  How about that?!  I love kitties and the kitty, named Bella, was friendly with me as well. 

Today I have a beautiful kitty friend for you to meet.  Her name is Scotty and she has a dramatic rescue story!

 
Abby:  What is your background and how did you end up in rescue?
 
Scotty:  Hi, Abby! I'm a cat and I don't know any dogs personally, but my mom says they're good. My name is Scotty, although I'm a girl. I'll be 7 in just a couple of months!

I was very tiny when a lady named Eleanor found me curled up in the engine compartment of her car. I was scared and wouldn't come out, so Eleanor's son had to take some parts out of the car to get me. (I think he put them back later.) Eleanor cleaned me up a bit and took me down the street to some people she knew loved and helped animals - my new mom and dad!

The funny part was that they already had adopted a lot of furry and scaly guys and gals, so they weren't going to keep me - they planned to find me a nice home. Can you imagine? I fixed that fast, though. Right when they took me inside, I curled up in my future mom's lap and slept for an hour while they watched old Star Trek episodes (that's how I got my name). She said I stole her heart right then!  

Abby:  How were your first days at your new home?
 
Scotty:  It had been pretty scary and hard to find food when I was so young and on my own, so at first I went pretty wild whenever it was time to eat, and I'd climb Mom or Dad's legs and cry hysterically. I had some issues, ahem, with the whole litter box thing, too. They made me feel better by making sure I knew there was always going to be plenty of food for me, and putting my box in a nice spot. After a few weeks, I didn't get hysterical anymore!
 
 
Abby:  What are a few of your favorite things?
 
Scotty:  Two of my favorite things are my mom and dad. They call me their princess, and let me sleep on their pillows right on top of their heads, each in turn, which makes me purr a whole bunch. I like watching and helping them work, too. I sit on top of Mom's desk and make sure she's writing; she says I look like a "gargle," whatever that is. I also love my inside-the-house brothers, Sully and Vondel. We like to hang out. And my favorite activity of all is stealing (borrowing) things! I especially like to take keys, lip balm, pens, and bookmarks. The best time was when my Auntie Iris was taking care of us while the folks were away. I stole her whole key ring while she cleaned my box, and it took her an hour to find it! Ha!
 
Abby:  Do you have any tips for people who want to adopt a rescue pet?

Scotty:  According to my mom, the best thing to do for rescued animals is to be patient and give them lots of love. She says it helps to remember that a lot of times, they're scared and lonely and maybe haven't been treated very nicely, so they have to have time to learn that they're safe. Even if they start out being kind of a pain in the neck (or leg) like I was, once they know they're at home with a family, they will turn out to be wonderful - like me!
 
Above:  Scotty cuddling with her brother, Sully.

Thank you, Scotty, for stopping by today!  I loved reading about your life.  You found a wonderful family!   I enjoyed reading about the way you like to borrow things.  That is very clever!

Dear friends, I hope you enjoyed meeting Scotty today.  I would love to spotlight your rescued pet as well.  Just let me know in the comments if your furbaby would like to be interviewed.  (Be sure to leave your email address!)

Wishing you a wonderful weekend, with Spring just around the corner!

Love to all,

Abby xoxoxo
 
 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Book Review - Fall of Poppies

Book Synopsis


Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 1, 2016)


Top voices in historical fiction deliver an unforgettable collection of short stories set in the aftermath of World War I—featuring bestselling authors such as Hazel Gaynor, Jennifer Robson, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig and edited by Heather Webb.


On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month...


November 11, 1918. After four long, dark years of fighting, the Great War ends at last, and the world is forever changed. For soldiers, loved ones, and survivors the years ahead stretch with new promise, even as their hearts are marked by all those who have been lost.

As families come back together, lovers reunite, and strangers take solace in each other, everyone has a story to tell.


In this moving anthology, nine authors share stories of love, strength, and renewal as hope takes root in a fall of poppies.


Featuring:

Jessica Brockmole - Website | Facebook | Twitter

Hazel Gaynor - Website | Facebook | Twitter

Evangeline Holland - Website | Facebook | Twitter

Marci Jefferson - Website | Facebook | Twitter

Kate Kerrigan - Website | Facebook | Twitter

Jennifer Robson - Website | Facebook | Twitter

Beatriz Williams - Website | Facebook | Twitter

Lauren Willig - Website | Facebook | Twitter

Heather Webb - Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Purchase Links


My Review 
I enjoyed reading Fall of Poppies for several reasons.

First, it is a collection of short stories.  This is a format I loved and read often during my college years.  It has been a long time since I've read a short story anthology.  The stories in this collection are beautiful, each one a little masterwork.  The tones of the stories are varied - love, loss, hope.  

Second, it is my favorite genre, historical fiction.  I was familiar with several of these authors (Jennifer Robson, Beatrix Williams, Hazel Gaynor, Lauren Willig).  Fall of Poppies was a wonderful introduction to the other authors, and I ended up putting a number of their books on my Amazon Wish List.  

Third, this time period, after World War I, is a particularly interesting one ... unique as a time between the great sorrow of the war, and the upcoming freedom of the 1920's.  I became interested in this time period because of Downton Abbey, and think that other fans of that show will particularly enjoy this read as well.

The stories were so beautifully told that it is hard to pick favorites, although I will admit I especially enjoyed "All for the Love of You."   This story, by Jennifer Robson, features Daisy Fields, who was one of my favorite characters in Moonlight Over Paris.  I adored that novel and almost threw my hands up in joy when Daisy reappeared in this story collection.  What an unexpected delight to read more of her story here! 

I recommend Fall of Poppies for fans of historical fiction, and for anyone who enjoys a well written, engrossing short story.
I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.