Monday, January 30, 2012

Beach Tale: Idioms with Nautical Origins

          Have you ever heard the phrase, “Not enough room to swing a cat?”  Don’t ask me why, but my mom used to say it a lot.  And since it’s a universal truth that as we sound more like our mothers as we age, I muttered it the other day when complaining about how cluttered the basement had become. 
My son asked, “What does that mean?”
I explained my childhood interpretation of the phrase, where you grab a cat (I envisioned our seal point Siamese, Punchy) by the tail and swing it around the room, knocking over lamps and pictures and whatever other knickknacks are within the cat’s circumference.    
“That’s crazy,” my son said.
So in my effort to prove myself right, I did a Google search.  Guess what?  (And I’m admitting this publicly here…) I was wrong.  And to further my surprise, I learned the phrase had a nautical origin.  Additional research showed a lot of common terms have ties to Navy traditions.  Here are a few, gleaned from Traditions of the Navy by Cedric W. Windas, copyright 1942:

Friday, January 27, 2012

Beach Chat with Beate Boeker

Beach Chat—15 rapid-fire questions asked of a writer.

Name:  Beate Boeker

Book you are reading right now: The Foundling by Georgette Heyer

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Beach Read: "Chic in France" by Beate Boeker

The definition of a “beach read” is something quick to read while relaxing at the beach.  This story falls into that category on so many levels.  Most significantly, it’s a short story, not a full-length novel, so you can read the entire thing before having to reapply any SPF-99.  As an aside, the author of this story (as well as many wonderful books) will join us for Beach Chat on Friday, so be sure and revisit this blog again. 

Story Title: Chic in France
Author:  Beate Boeker
Genre: Romantic Short Story
Setting: NYC and Nice, France (oh-la-la)
Format:  Kindle download
Length:  8,600 words (about 25 pages if printed in book format)
Publication date:  May, 2011
Publisher:  none
Opening Lines:
     “French women,” Jack said, “have a certain je-ne-sais-quoi.”
     I hate it when Jack speaks French to me, but I nodded and pretended I understood. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Beach Tale: The Case of the Cruller Shop Arsonist

          The aroma of fresh-from-the-deep-fryer donuts floated through the doorway.  In response, my mouth sent out enough saliva to rival Niagara Falls.  I vowed to get even with the diabolical police chief who had assigned me the case of the four torched Cappy’s Crullers donut shops along the boardwalk.  I’d been on the Atkins Diet for 23 days in preparation for my Valentine ’s Day wedding, and this stakeout was above and beyond the call of duty.  But it seemed a logical conclusion that the only CC storefront still standing in a 100-mile radius would be the next to go up in flames.  Somebody needed to keep an eye on things, and I was the only one available.  Sometimes I just get lucky that way.  Sigh.
          I know it’s a cliché that cops never met a donut they didn’t eat, but the truth is we frequent the establishments on account of the availability of fresh coffee 24 hours a day.  But we’re only human.  So after ordering my caffeine fix, I tacked on a casual request for one maple-glazed cruller and then settled in a back booth to watch and wait. 
          Thirteen-and-a-half crullers later, my patience was rewarded.
          “You the detective handling the fires?”

Friday, January 20, 2012

Beach Chat with Lois Winston


   Name: Lois Winston, author of the Anastasia Pollock Crafting Mysteries

   Book you are reading right now: I recently finished The Past Came Hunting by Donnell Ann Bell and plan to start reading Back in the Habit by Alice Loweecey as soon as I find a free moment.

Preference, print or ebook: It used to be print but I’m enjoying ebooks more and more lately because I can make the type larger.

Genre you write: humorous amateur sleuth mysteries

Current work in progress: I recently turned in Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, the third book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. As soon as I finish up my blog tour for the release of Death By Killer Mop Doll, the second book in the series, I’ll begin the fourth book.

Favorite place to write: My office. It’s also the only place I can write because that’s where my desktop computer is. One of these days maybe I’ll get a laptop, but until then, I’m chained to my desk.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Beach Read: MURDER, SHE WROTE THE FINE ART OF MURDER by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain

Intro:  I had the pleasure to meet Donald Bain and his wife Renée Paley-Bain at the New England Crime Bake Conference last November.  The two (along with fictional character Jessica Fletcher) write the Murder, She Wrote series.  For those of you who don’t know, in the television show, the main character, Jessica Fletcher, is the author of wildly successful murder mystery books who goes around solving murders that seem to happen wherever she goes.  The character of Jessica Fletcher was played by Angela Lansbury.  The show ran from 1984 to 1996.  When I approached the two Bains to autograph my copy, I said, “My father is a huge fan, and speaks of Jessica Fletcher as if she were a real person.”   Donald Bain quipped, “I do the same thing.”  

Book Title:  Murder, She Worte The Fine Art of Murder

Author:  Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

Genre:  Mystery

Setting:  Italy, Chicago, and a brief stop in Cabot Cove, Maine

Format:  Hardcover

Pages:  277  

Publication date: October, 2011

Publisher:  Obsidian

Opening Line: “This is the Basilca of Santa Maria di Collemaggio, one of the finest in all of Abruzzo.” 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Beach Tale: A House that Inspired a Novel

This is a tale about a house by the sea.  A young writer visited often with to pass the time with his cousin, Susannah Ingersoll.  Susannah was the daughter of a wealthy sea captain who lived with her family in a sprawling mansion right on the rocky coast of the Atlantic Ocean.  The cousins spent many a lively evening in the dining room of said mansion.  Since water was usually unsafe at this period of time (mid 1800s), spirits were often consumed for health’s sake, but it is not clear if said writer ever over-indulged.  But while sitting in that house, something triggered the writer’s imagination, and he went on to write a dark romance, one met with critical acclaim, and one that has stood the test of time.
The novel was first printed in 1851.  The setting was Salem Massachusetts.  The writer was Nathanial Hawthorne, and the book, The House of Seven Gables.   
If you haven’t read it, or in the event you have forgotten, here is the opening paragraph: 

House of Seven Gables, Salem, MA
"Halfway down a by-street of one of our New England towns stands a rusty wooden house, with seven acutely peaked gables, facing towards various points of the compass, and a huge, clustered chimney in the midst. The street is Pyncheon Street; the house is the old Pyncheon House; and an elm-tree, of wide circumference, rooted before the door, is familiar to every town-born child by the title of the Pyncheon Elm."

Friday, January 13, 2012

Beach Chat with Jayne Ormerod

Fifteen questions in five mintues....GO!

Name:  Jayne Ormerod  

Book you are reading right now:  Murder, She Wrote, The Fine Art of Murder by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

Preference, print or ebook: Print!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Beach Read: V IS FOR VENGEANCE by Sue Grafton

Life usually limits me to reading while I eat breakfast and at the end of the day once the computer is closed down, the dishes are washed and the kitchen cleaned.  But there are some exceptions to this rule, and one is when the book is so good that no dinners are cooked, no laundry is done and definitely no email sent.  This book was one of those that fall into the life-interrupted-to-read categories.

Book Title: V is for Vengeance (Kinsey Millhone Series #22)
Author:  Sue Grafton
Genre: Mystery
Setting: Fictional town of Santa Teresa, CA, 1988
Format:  Hardcover
Pages:  437
Publication date: Dec, 2011
Publisher:  G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a member of The Penguin Group (USA), Inc
Opening Line: Philip Lanahan drove to Vegas in his 1985 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet, a snappy little red car his parents had given him two months before, when he graduated from Princeton.
Favorite Passage:  I placed a second copy of my report in an unlocked file drawer labeled GYNECOLOGY & FEMININE HYGIENE ISSUES, subjects I hoped the average thief would find repulsive. 

Beach Read Rating: 5 out of 5 Beach Umbrellas

Monday, January 9, 2012

Beach Musings Monday: "Warm Hands, Cold Heart" a super-short romance

          Caitlyn wrapped her hands around a mug of steamy coffee, inhaling the fragrant aroma of roasted Arabica beans.  She absolutely loved the smell of fresh brewed coffee, but detested the taste.  The only reason she’d brewed a cup was to have something to warm her hands on.  She had never been so cold in her entire life.     
          Having been born and raised in the sunny southern California, she was suffering her first winter on the desolate prairies of Nebraska.  The job offer had been too good to pass up, and being two-thousand miles away from Derek, that cheating skunk of an ex-fiancé, was an added bonus.  But she hadn’t realized how brutal winter could be until the first blizzard of the season hit and the furnace conked out.       

Friday, January 6, 2012

Beach Musing

It’s 25 degrees outside, and 53 inside (the big old boiler in the basement conked out about 1 a.m.) and I’m waiting for the repairman.  It’s hard to type with gloves on, and my fingers freeze up and fumble on the keys when I take them off, so I’m going to turn this frosty Friday blog post over to the professionals.  Travel writer and big thinker Bill Bryson gives us food for thought this morning: 

“Among the many thousands of things that I have never been able to understand, one in particular stands out. That is the question of who was the first person who stood by a pile of sand and said, ‘You know, I bet if we took some of this and mixed it with a little potash and heated it, we could make a material that would be solid and yet transparent. We could call it glass.’ Call me obtuse, but you could stand me on a beach till the end of time and never would it occur to me to try to make it into windows.”

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Beach Read: EXPLOSIVE EIGHTEEN by Janet Evanovich

I hope everyone enjoyed (or at least survived) the holiday season.  If I were to measure the end of 2011 based on how many books I had opportunity to lose myself in, then the last few weeks shall be declared a whopping success!   I spent many a happy day tucked into my papasan chair on my sunny ( albeit drafty) front porch wrapped in a cozy fleece blanket wherein I escaped  into exciting and exotic  worlds.  So while I wasn’t technically at the beach (it is, after all, winter here in New England), I have lots of recommendations for Beach Reads (weather you actually go to the beach or do like I do and  curl up in your coziest chair) for the ultimate in beach reading. 

Book Title: Explosive Eighteen (Stephanie Plum series #18)
Author:  Janet Evanovich
Genre:  General Fiction, but usually shelved in the Mystery/Thriller section
Setting:  Newark, New Jersey, with some wonderfully warming flashbacks to Stephanie’s Hawaiian escape
Format:  Hardcover (and you’ll want to buy the hardcover version for the Plum 2012 tear out calendar inside, I’m sure!) 
Pages:  305
Publication date:  December, 2011
Publisher:  Bantam Books, New York
Opening paragraph:  new Jersey was 40,000 feet below me, obscured by cloud cover.  Heaven was above me, beyond the thin skin of the plane. And hell was sitting four rows back.  Okay, maybe hell was too strong.  Maybe it was just purgatory.
Favorite Passage:  <<quote from Grandma Mazur>>  “That spying catches up to you.  One minute you’re a spy, and the next thing, you’re dead in a garbage can.  Unless you’re James Bond.  Nothing stops him.  He’s balls to the wall.” 

Beach Read Rating: 4 out of 5 beach umbrellas

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Reading Resolutions

It’s that time of year, when we shake the dust off from the previous year (and let’s face it, 2011 left a lot of dust on a lot of people) and make promises to improve ourselves for the New Year.  Many people resolve to lose weight or eat better or exercise or quit texting while driving (we’d all appreciate that).  Those promises to oneself are all well and good, but what about improving the minds?  That is why this year I’m making a Reading Resolution, forcing myself to get off the “fast reading” diet of cozy mysteries and regency romances.  Oh, not permanently!  I could never do that.  But, like eating an apple a day, reading a book a month that’s outside my genre will stretch my mind and broaden my horizons and possible make me a more interesting person. 
Hmmm, so many books to choose from, from the “classics” to the “literary fiction” that The Oprah endorses.  What shall I chose?  Oh, I know!  Since Edith Wharton has a tenuous connection (she spent youthful summers at a “cottage” (and by that I mean a “mansion” by the sea) in my hometown in Newport, RI I think I’ll read The Age of Innocence.  There, I’ve put it in writing and shared it with the world, so now I have to do it.  I’ll post a blog on how it goes. 
Your turn…what book do you have in your TBR (that’s To Be Read) pile for 2012?