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Guest Host: Elizabeth Kelly June 27, 2013

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in bestsellers, mystery.
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Elizabeth Kelly in #litchatWhat kind of life can you expect when you’re a girl named after Jimmy Hoffa, your mother is an iconic former movie star and your father is running for congress? Elizabeth Kelly draws this girl in all her adolescent confliction, then throws her into the center of a murder mystery where she is the only eyewitness.

Chat with Elizabeth Kelly about her new novel, The Last Summer of the Camperdowns, in #litchat from 4-5 p.m. on Friday, June 28, 2013. Catch the full conversation from our dedicated #litchat chatroom.

The Last Summer of the Camperdowns

It’s the summer of 1972, the Vietnam War is raging, Watergate embroils the nation with political scandal and President Richard Nixon is running for reelection. Riddle, whom her father insists on calling Jimmy, idolizes her idealistic father. A self-described loner, 12-year-old Riddle pales in comparison to her beautiful mother, an ice queen with a wit sharp enough to crack a glacier. The only thing they appear to have in common is their love of horses. It’s this love of horses that sets Kelly’s novel galloping toward a finish both expected and surprising.

While searching for a missing dog, Riddle happens upon a scene of violence in a horse barn and is threatened by the perpetrator, a horse trainer named Gula Nightjar. She tells no one what she saw and heard, yet the scene haunts her imagination. When the wealthy Cape Cod neighborhood is alerted to a local boy gone missing, Riddle wants to doubt what she saw, while still knowing and fearing the worst. Eventually Riddle is the one who happens upon the boy’s dead body hidden in the woods. By the time she finally accepts the reality of what she saw in the barn, she’s completely cowed by the dark, creepy horse trainer.

As Riddle keeps the secret of what happened in the barn, other family secrets emerge that entwine the entire close-knit neighborhood for a final showdown in The Last Summer of the Camperdowns.

Follow Elizabeth Kelly on Twitter: @ElizabethKelly8.


Friday Guest Host: Karen Pullen April 11, 2013

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in mystery.
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Karen Pullen in #litchatAuthor Karen Pullen is a PhD-toting engineer turned bed and breakfast owner whose first novel, Cold Feet, launched from Five Star Publishing/Gale in January.

In Cold Feet, special Agent Stella Lavender has a stressful‚ adrenaline-fueled job: buying drugs undercover from paranoid drug dealers.

So one afternoon she’s grateful to be relaxing at an elegant outdoor wedding. But as the guests wait‚ then grow restive‚ the satin-clad bride is dying most horribly. Who would kill a bride—an “angel” according to the groom—just minutes before her nuptials?

Cold FeetJoining the investigation‚ Stella discovers the bride’s surprising history and that jealousy‚ depression‚ and grief colored her relationships.

In Cold Feet‚ Karen Pullen draws the reader into a riveting story that alternates between Stella’s life as a drug agent and her determination to untangle a complex knot of secrets‚ harmful emotions‚ and questions of identity in order to find a killer.

Karen Pullen left a perfectly good job at an engineering consulting firm to make her fortune (um, maybe not) as an innkeeper and a fiction writer. Her B&B has been open for 12 years, and she’s published short stories in Every Day Fiction, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and Spinetingler. Her first novel, a mystery called Cold Feet, was released by Five Star in January 2013. She lives in Pittsboro, N.C. with her husband, her father, and four spoiled cats.

Follow Karen Pullen on Twitter: @KarenWPullen.

Literary Mysteries May 21, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in literary fiction, mystery.
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Media Monday for May 21, 2012: Esquire to Publish Books Devoted to Men’s Fiction. Esquire’s new series of “Fiction for Men,” intends to define and push the term into the literary lexicon.

Emily St. John Mandel in LitChat

Emily St. John Mandel (Photo: Dese’Rae L. Stage)

Literary mysteries take readers beyond the who-did-it and into the psychological playground of murder and mayhem. This Wednesday in #litchat we’ll discuss how literary mysteries differ from mainstream or genre mysteries and why they are often misunderstood. On Friday, Emily St. John Mandel joins us to discuss her new literary mystery, The Lola Quartet.

The Lola Quartet takes readers through the lives of several individuals tied together through their high school association as a popular jazz ensemble called the Lola Quartet. Skipping about through the ten years since the members played their last gig together, several of the characters enter the story with solos that segue into a story of ambition, desperation and murder. Gavin, who returns disgraced from his job as a journalist in NYC to the Florida suburb where he once played trumpet for the quartet, sets the tone of the novel when he begins a search for his high school girlfriend who may be the mother of a child conceived those ten years ago. Each of the former quartet members play a crucial part in the score of this brilliant literary masterpiece.

Emily St. John Mandel was born on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. She studied dance at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre and lived briefly in Montreal before relocating to New York. Her previous novels are Last Night in Montreal (a June 2009 Indie Next pick and a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s 2009 Book of the Year) and The Singer’s Gun (winner of an Indie Bookseller’s Choice Award, #1 Indie Next pick for May 2010, long-listed for both The Morning News’ 2011 Tournament of Books and the 2011 Spinetingler Awards.) She is a staff writer for The Millions. She has an essay in the recent anthology The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of the Book (Soft Skull, 2011), and her short fiction will appear in Venice Noir, an anthology forthcoming from Akashic Books in 2012. She is married and lives in Brooklyn.

Madmen & Monsters March 26, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in mystery, thrillers.
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Media Monday discussion: Book Blurbs, Do They Hurt or Do They Hinder Sales? Resource media from New York Times Opinion Pages, March 6, 2012.

Stephen GallagherMonsters, both real and metaphorical, figure prominently in every culture since the dawn of time. The sinister serpent in the Garden of Eden brought the downfall of humanity, Grendel devoured mighty warriors in their sleep, and Mr. Hyde swallowed the mild-mannered Dr. Jeckyll, and we mustn’t overlook the impact of vampires and zombies on pop culture. Even Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster have inspired poets and storytellers for centuries. What is it about monsters that titillates our terror? We’ll discuss this on Wednesday, March 28, and then on Friday, March 30, author Stephen Gallagher joins us to discuss his new novel, The Bedlam Detective.

In The Bedlam Detective, Gallagher introduces us to the Victorian-era British department of crazy, officially known as the Visitor in Lunacy, which investigates people of wealth to are suspected of mental incompetency in looking after their estates. Working as a special investigator for the Visitor in Lunacy, former Pinkerton detective Sebastian Becker, is sent to the small town of Arnmouth to investigate Sir Owain Lancaster, the sole survivor of a scientific Amazon expedition in which his wife, son and exploration team were killed. Sir Owain, once a respected member of the Royal Society, is lambasted as a fraud and a madman after his memoir is published with claims that prehistoric beasts killed the party. Becker’s arrival in Arnmouth coincides with the disappearance of two local girls who are later found dead. Complicating Becker’s investigation is Sir Owain’s claim that the beasts followed him across the sea and now roam the moors and are responsible for the deaths of the girls. Mystery and malice create havoc in Arnmouth, while Becker’s personal life is shredded when his wife is attacked by a grief-crazed father at a London children’s hospital. Madmen and monsters spring to life with truly terrible results in this literary mystery.

Stephen Gallagher is a novelist, screenwriter, director, and author of 15 novels published in the UK and US, including The Kingdom of Bones, which first introduced readers to his character Sebastian Becker. He was lead writer on NBC’s Crusoe and worked on scripts for the US version of Eleventh Hour, a series he created for ITV in 2006.  He has won the British Fantasy Award and International Horror Guild Award winner, and a Stoker and World Fantasy Award nominee.

Pseudonyms July 25, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in chick lit, multi-cultural fiction, mystery, non-fiction.

Samuel Clemons had Mark Twain. Charles Dodson had Lewis Carroll. The Bronte sisters had the Bells. Pseudonymns. For reasons public and private, long-speculated and tossed glibly in gossip, these and thousands of other authors through the years chose to publish their writing under different names. The reasons they chose pen names are many, varied from author to author and era to era. This week in #litchat we’ll discuss authors writing under pseudonyms.

We have a treat in store this week with two guest hosts. On Wednesday, July 27, Carmela Ciuraru joins us to discuss her new book, Nom de Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms. Friday, July 29, a mystery novelist will share why she chose to publish her debut novel, A Good Excuse to Be Bad, under the pen name Miranda Parker.

Carmela Ciuraru, Nom De Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms

Nom De Plume is an engaging glimpse into the lives of 18 literary icons who published under pen names. Rather than try to psychoanalyze why these complex individuals chose pen names, Ciuraru draws from scholarly sources, first-person anecdotes, diaries, and public record to contrast the authors with their alter egos. Ciuraru asserts that the choice of pen name and how the author employs—or lives within—the pseudonym reveals as much about the person as the words he/she writes. The secrets alluded to in the book’s subtitle aren’t new author scandals, conspiracies or mysteries, but overlooked details that distinguish the character of the author from the alias. Nom De Plume unites rigorous research with witty and playful prose, resulting in a book writers will be putting on their holiday gift lists for years to come.

Carmela Ciuraru does not write under a pseudonym. In addition to Nom De Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms, Ciuraru’s anthologies include First Loves: Poets Introduce the Essential Poems That Captivated and Inspired Them (Scribner) and Solitude Poems (Alfred A. Knopf/Everyman’s Library). A graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, she is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and PEN American Center. She has written for the  New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, O, The Oprah Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, and other publications. She is a 2011 Fellow in Nonfiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA).

Follow Carmela Ciuraru on Twitter: @CarmelaTheTwit.

Miranda Parker, A Good Excuse To Be Bad

Miranda Parker may or may not reveal her real name during her visit to #litchat. She will, however, share why she chose to write under a pen name. Her debut novel, A Good Excuse To Be Bad, is the first in a series featuring drop-dead gorgeous bounty hunter Evangeline Crawford. When her brother-in-law, the high-profile pastor of an Atlanta megachurch, is murdered and her twin sister arrested for the crime, Evangeline uses her brains and her beauty to reveal the killer. Evangeline, nicknamed “Angel,” flirts and flaunts while on the job, but off duty, the girl walks a mean straight and narrow.

After graduating from Agnes Scott College, the author known as Miranda Parker began working as a features editor for various magazines and spent many years as a publicist for national recording artists, actors, ministers, and authors. However, writing fun, fiesty, redemptive bad girl gone good stories is her passion. She resides with her family in Georgia near a horse ranch and her daughter’s Girl Scout Troop. On a perfect day she can be found curled up with a good book or in a movie theater with a bucket of popcorn.

Follow Miranda Parker on Twitter: @MirandaParker2.

Intuition February 21, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in commercial fiction, fiction, mystery.
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Sara J. Henry and her four dogs.

When is the wrong thing to do the right thing? If the wrong thing makes everything work out fine, was it the wrong thing to begin with? How does one know the difference? Intuition. Knowing something without knowing why or how is one of the mysteries of human experience. This week in #litchat we’re discussing intuition.

On Friday, February 25, author Sara J. Henry joins us to discuss her debut novel, Learning To Swim. Set in the triple locations of upstate New York, Vermont and Ottawa, Learning to Swim is a triathlon of mystery and self-discovery with a hint of romance. What would you do if you saw a child falling overboard from a ferry in the middle of a frigid lake? Female protagonist Troy Chance doesn’t think twice before diving from the side of the ferry and swimming to the child’s rescue. Troy’s choices immediately following the rescue ignite a fuse of intuition that threatens to consume her self-controlled life.

Henry grew up in Oak Ridge, Tenn., graduated from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and Carleton University in Ottawa, Ont., and in between took journalism classes at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Like her character Troy Chance in Learning To Swim, she has been a sports feature writer for magazines and newspapers, including the Longview Daily News and the Tri-City Herald, both in Washington state. Also like her main character, she once lived in Lake Placid, N.Y. in a house with a lot of roommates, and worked as sports editor at The Adirondack Daily Enterprise in nearby Saranac Lake, and freelanced for magazines.

Follow Sara J. Henry on Twitter at @sarajhenry.

Ambiguity September 27, 2010

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in bestsellers, fiction, mystery.
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Thomas H. Cook (photo: Richard Perry)


Topic of the Week:
September 27-October 1, 2010

Endings are the point of know return in a novel. Some readers demand happy endings with all of the strings tied in a pretty bow, while others like playing with the strings to tease and tangle into slipknots of their own conclusions. This week in #litchat we’re discussing ambiguity and how it affects the ending of a novel.

Joining us as guest host of #litchat on Friday, October 1, is master of mystery and ambiguity, Thomas H. Cook. Cook’s revelation of characters and motives, his skillful build of tension as he reels clues in and out is so subtle you don’t realize you’re hooked until you can’t lay down the book. And the ending? Make your own conclusion, but in the end you’ll be satisfied.

Cook’s latest novel, The Last Talk With Lola Faye, proves again how his uncanny ability to tie slipknots of endings. The majority of narrative takes place over the course of one night, but covers lifetimes. On a book tour for his marginally successful history book, jaded author Lucas Page drones on about his new book, Fatal Choices. In the audience sits his father’s former mistress, Lola Faye, the woman he blamed for his father’s murder and the subsequent death of his mother. After the lecture, Lola Faye engages Lucas in a round of drinks and enthralls him for hours in lengths of memory—both hers and his—untying the threads Lucas thought were forever knotted in the past. By the end of the novel the strings are loose once again, leaving the reader to tie them as they will.

Thomas H. Cook is the author of more than 20 books, including works of true crime. His novels have been nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award, the Macavity Award and the Dashiell Hammett Prize. The Chatham School Affair won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel in 1996. His true crime book, Blood Echoes, was nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award in 1992, and his story “Fatherhood” won the Herodotus Prize in 1998 and was included in Best Mystery Stories of 1998, edited by Otto Penzler and Ed McBain. His works have been translated into 15 languages. He lives in New York City and Cape Cod.

Read the chatscripts from this week’s discussions:

September 27 & 29, 2010: Ambiguity

October 1, 2010: author Thomas H Cook, topic Ambiguity

Follow Thomas H. Cook on Twitter: @thomashcook.

Young Debut Authors July 26, 2010

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in fiction, literary fiction, multi-cultural fiction, mystery.
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Jacob Ritari

Topic of the Week for July 26-30, 2010

The New Yorker made waves in the literary community with its recent 20 Under 40, a once-per-decade list of younger authors to watch. Many of the names on that list were unknown to the greater reading public, yet literary luminaries praised the list. The average reader could list dozens of standout authors under the age of 40, yet the list shortens considerably when looking below the threshold of 30. This week in #litchat we’ll discuss authors whose debut books were published before they crossed the tender age of 30.

Our guest host on Friday, July 30, is 23-year-old Jacob Ritari, whose recently released debut novel, Takaro Gorge (Unbridled Books), inspired this week’s topic. A mystical setting with impending danger, multiple POVs from a diverse cast of characters, and the mysterious disappearance of three Japanese schoolgirls make Takaro Gorge a spellbinding read. Advancing from one POV to another—a jaded American journalist and his alcoholic photographer, a hard-boiled Taiwanese cop, the Japanese teacher facing professional humiliation, insecure Japanese teenagers on the cusp of self-discovery—Ritardi leads readers down a trail of suspicion that doesn’t let up until the final pages. While the story is gripping and the design and pace of Takaro Gorge compelling, it’s Ritari’s insights into human nature and characterization that defy Ritari’s youth.

Jacob Ritari has studied with the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist organization in Taiwan and studied Japanese language and literature at Japan’s Sophia University. He lives near new York City. He is a 2009 graduate of Sarah Lawrence College.

Follow Jacob Ritari on Twitter at @JacobRitari.

Read transcript from Jacob Ritari’s visit to #litchat here.

Contest in #litchat during @jacobritari guest host visit:

@jacobritari: Hello, all! Chiming in a bit early to announce a contest we’ll be running. #litchat
@jacobritari: First, watch this short clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgyHAYLmcVo (Anyone else remember this show?) #litchat
@jacobritari: Then write a four-line “hoedown” verse in that style, on the subject of “young authors” or a particular young author. #litchat
@jacobritari: I recommend doing four tweets, one per line, each with a #hoedown tag. #litchat
@jacobritari: I’ll pick the winner when I sign off at 5pm. Entries can be posted from now till then. Don’t be afraid to throw out a few bad ones #litchat
@jacobritari: to get the ball rolling. I won’t comment on the entries until the judging. #litchat
@jacobritari: Example follows: #litchat
@jacobritari: “Being a young author / is with its own perils fraught” #litchat
@jacobritari: “Reading Nietzsche gets you dates / But reading Proust does not” #hoedown #litchat
@jacobritari: “My only friend in high school / Was some guy named Ethan Frome” #hoedown #litchat
@jacobritari: “While I was writing books / Y’all were going to the prom” #hoedown #litchat
@jacobritari: The winner gets a free signed copy of my book. Also if you want, I’ll send you an audio file #litchat
@jacobritari: of me singing your entry in my rich baritone. Linda Hall on the piano, folks!

Endings July 18, 2010

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in fiction, literary fiction, mystery, weekly topics.
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Topic of the Week: July 23, 2010

Carolyn Parkhurst (photo by Marion Ettinger)

There are two things that every novel has in common: a beginning and an ending. No matter how compelling the characters, how engaging the story, how lovely the prose; no matter how much we don’t want it to end, yet can’t wait to see what happens in the textual world of the author’s imagination, the book must end.

What are endings, anyway? Are they simply the final paragraphs in a series of pages? Must they tie up every thread the writer weaves into the story? Is there a perfect ending? This week in #litchat we’ll discuss endings.

On Friday, July 23, Carolyn Parkhurst joins us as guest host. Her newest novel, The Nobodies Album, is an achingly honest portrayal of a bestselling author whose survivors guilt seeps through all of her books. Her latest novel is a compilation of new endings to all of her previous novels, an attempt to remove the little pieces of herself she’s layered into her work. When her estranged son, a rockstar of iconic, stature is accused of murder, the author sees how his survivor’s guilt informs his music and has scattered secrets through his life. The prose is sparse, yet brilliantly plotted with a mystery that maintains its momentum without predictability right to the end.

Parkhurst is the author of the novels The Dogs of Babel and Lost and Found and has published fiction in the North American Review, the minnesota review, Hawai’i Review, and the Crescent Review. Carolyn received a B.A. from Wesleyan University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from American University. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two children.

Follow Carolyn Parkhurst on Twitter at @CParkhurst1

Writing What You Love June 28, 2010

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in food, mystery, weekly topics.

Alexander Campion

June 28 – July 2, 2010

One of the first standards a writer hears in a beginning writing course is, “Write what you know.” If all writers observed that guideline bookshelves would be full of boring and derivative stories. When a writer steps away from what they know to enter a world they love, story magic happens. This week in #litchat we’re discussing authors who write not only what they know, but what they love.

Guest host on Friday is Alexander Campion whose debut novel, The Grave Gourmet, launched on June 29. The first in a series called, The Capucine Culinary Mysteries, The Grave Gourmet combines the author’s love of food with an appetite for mysteries. A savory blend of murder and fine French cuisine, set against the beauty of Paris, Campion’s debut features a zesty, Dior-clad female investigator and her food critic husband working fork to fork in solving murders and sampling haute cuisine.

Campion started out as a true New Yorker, graduating from Columbia and migrating downtown to Wall Street. Early on he was given a six month term in Paris to assist a new venture his firm had just acquired. He stayed thirty-five years, eventually becoming a restaurant critic and progressing inevitably to gastronomic thrillers. He is currently living in Toronto—with his wife and his headstrong Basset Hound—planning to return to Paris in the near future.

Follow Alexander Campion on Twitter: @AlexCampion