Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Author Interview: Dr. John Yeoman of The Cunning Man

  



Looking for clever, fast-paced historical mysteries? Here you’ll discover seven ‘impossible’ crimes, locked room puzzles, passion and riddles galore. Enjoy these lusty crime stories set in Elizabethan England where a ‘cunning man’, Hippo Yeoman, must solve devilish cases to save his friends’ lives, or even his own.

This anthology of short historical mystery stories is a world ‘first’. It’s not only a joy to read in its own right, but it’s also a ‘fictorial': a collection of crime thrillers packed with clever but unobtrusive tips that show you precisely how they were written, to help you write your own stories! They will appeal equally to avid readers of historical crime and students of creative writing who want to enhance their story or novel writing skills, in any genre.

Can you find the culprit before Hippo does? Challenge your own detective skills, enjoy a thundering good read in settings that are wholly authentic to 16th century London, and discover – while you read – how to write a great story!

~~~oOo~~~

INTERVIEW

1. What do the letters after your name stand for? MA Oxon, MA (Res), MPhil, PhD, FSRS.

Master of Arts, Oxford University; MA by Research; Master of Philosophy (a sort of mini-PhD), Doctor of Philosophy; Founder the Society for the Rehabilitation of the Semi-Colon. (All my qualifications, apart from the last one, are real.)

2. From where did the idea for 'fictorials' come?

I developed the ‘fictorial’ approach, plus an interest in historical fiction, in 2001 when I self-published Gardening Secrets That Time Forgot. It was a how-to gardening manual disguised as a novel. (Yes, it was very odd!) In every chapter I had my 15th century gardener stumble on a clever new gardening idea which the ‘editor’ solemnly explained in a footnote so the modern reader could use it in their own garden.

I sold the book through ads in gardening magazines and netted around $130,000. I knew I was onto something with the ‘fictorial’ approach but I lost interest in gardening and didn’t apply the idea to fiction again until this year, with The Cunning Man.

3. What is a witchcraft cabaret?

In my twenties, I chanced upon a professional witch (don't ask me how) who was touting his coven around night clubs. They'd re-enact a spooky witchcraft cabaret, very louche but low on authenticity, for just a few groats. I was newly down from Oxford, a would-be entrepreneur, so I hired the cellar of the Phoenix pub in Cavendish Square, London, and ran a classified ad in Time Out Magazine. Just two lines pulled in over 200 people. I was too busy at the door to see the show, alas, but at one point a naked girl ran through the lobby, howling. And I prayed it was part of the act.

4. One of the stories in The Cunning Man mentions him polishing glass containers with his beard?

Yes, the cover shows a youthful Hippo Yeoman with a short beard. He grew his beard down to his waist later to appear wise and attract bigger fees. Alas, it didn't work. In my stories, he is perennially poor.

5. Are the books in which Hippo appears a series of sorts?

Yes. I have four Hippo books up at Amazon: Fear Of Evil, Dream Of Darkness, an anthology The Cunning Man and a single long story The Hog Lane Murders.

6. If you could live at any time throughout history, when would it be and why?

It would have to be today, because medical science was almost non-existent before the 20th century. (Up until the 19th century, as many as 10% of people died from tooth infections. If you lived in London, you were unlikely to survive beyond your 40th year.) But if I had to choose an historic era, it would be Dr Johnson's London. Ale, ribaldry and coffee house gossip had their heyday. It was my kind of place.

7. If you could invite any writer from history to your house for supper, who would it be and what would be on the menu?

Dr Samuel Johnson. The menu would consist of a large bowl of punch and Johnson's irritating scribe, Boswell, would be locked away in the outhouse.

8. Do you ever speak at children's schools and what do (or would) you say?

No, I don't, but if I did I'd say: write for fun. And don't let anyone ever tell you that your stories are no good. After all, what do they know?

9. What is a morris dance?

This is a traditional English entertainment - still performed at pubs - in which a group of half-drunken men (and occasionally women) leap about very dangerously waving sticks, swords and handkerchiefs, to the sound of fiddles, drums and concertinas. The name goes back to the 15th century and is supposedly derived from 'Moorish dance', although it may have originated in Cornwall. Tourists visiting an English pub are strongly discouraged from taking part as their travel insurance does not cover the inevitable accidents.

10. What place in the world have you never visited, but would most like to?

Sybil's Club in Paris in 1893. It was the haunt of princes and poets, rogues and millionaires (but I repeat myself). It is the venue for my next novels in which Hippo's great grandson, much removed, is hired to discover who murdered the city's literary agents. He accepts the contract for one reason only: so he can shake the killer's hand.

~~~oOo~~~

Thank you, Dr. Yeoman for giving my readers a little more insight into your life and works!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Book Review/Giveaway: The Deadly Dog Show by Jerold Last


The sixth book in the popular Roger and Suzanne mystery series finds Roger and Bruce hired to go undercover impersonating the owner and handler of a Champion German Shorthaired Pointer named Juliet to investigate certain irregularities that might be occurring at dog shows in California. To complicate this case the bodies of dead judges start popping up and Suzanne picks up a mysterious stalker sending her most unwelcome gifts. Throw in drug cartels and corrupt cops and it sounds like a typical job for our detective couple.

The Deadly Dog Show can be read as a stand-alone novel.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

#AtoZChallenge - All Gallow's Eve - O and P



OAKWOOD

Oakwood is the name at a 'residential/teaching facility for adults with MR/DD' (mental retardation and developmental disabilities).  I worked there for four years.  So, it's not a tourist-y thing that you could see when you visit Kentucky.  But there seem to be an incredible amount of services for people with, shall we say, intellectual differences, here in my state.

My job as a 'residential associate' was both the best and the worst job I've ever had.  A residential associate assisted the residents (although the preferred term was 'client') with ADL's (activities of daily living) and the acquisition of new skills.

The first book idea I had in recent years involved going undercover as a resident at a facility such as Oakwood.  But it would have to be carefully *ahem* worded.

The best thing about the place was working with the residents.  I started out in a 'cottage' that had all high-functioning male clients.  I went to the ER five times in the first six months of employment.  Some years later I heard that the one man who had been the most difficult had gone to a group home with other high-functioning 'alpha' males and wound up getting beaten to death.  He was a jerk, but he didn't deserve that.

After six months, I was transferred to a cottage that had men on one side and women on the other.  I worked with the women and most of them were in wheelchairs at least for transport.  Some of them I considered a second family.  My second inter-house transfer came about 3 years later after a *ahem* rather vocal disagreement with one of the so-called 'professionals' concerning one of the clients.  She attempted to have me 'taken off the floor', but that failed.  So she reported the home manager for some imagined offense and that woman was transferred.  What a joke.

Anyway, I got transferred with a client (over whom the aforementioned disagreement took place) to a home with higher-functioning females, where I was injured severely enough on two occasions to warrant more than a year of medical leave.

And I took up smoking less than a year after I started working there.  It was either than or bang my head or my fist against a wall in frustration.

It wasn't all bad, though.  I developed several close friendships that continue to this day.  I would still step between one of my 'clients' and any danger.  And I have a lot less hesitation when going into a potentially physically dangerous situation.

~~~oOo~~~


POTATO CANDY

One day, before my husband and I got married, I was speaking on the phone with my future mother-in-law.  She told me about DH's favorite candy in the world and said that he would love me forever if I made it for him.  Wanting to encourage that, I took down the recipe she dictated over the phone:

-1/2 c. mashed potato
-1/2 c. butter
1.  cream that all together, then add
-powdered sugar
2.  in sufficient quantity to make the mixture workable without sticking to your hands.

So I did that.

DH was sitting in the living room at a computer.  I walked out there with a bowl of the stuff and made him close his eyes.  Then I spoon-fed him a little bit of this fondant and asked him what he thought of it.  He said it tasted good, then asked what it was.  I said, "Isn't this your favorite candy - potato candy?  Your mom said it was your favorite!"

"What about the peanut butter," he asked.  WHAT?!?!

She had forgotten to tell me that part, maybe thinking that I would have known it somehow.  Anyway, the recipe should continue like this:

3.  Roll out the mixture into a rectangular shape on a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap.  Spread a thin-ish layer of peanut butter over the mixture.  Then, roll it up like you would a cinnamon roll log.  Cool for a while in the refrigerator for easier cutting.  But if it's too cold it's more likely to crumble.

~~~oOo~~~

Click the big sunflower graphic at the top of the page in order to go to the participant list for the 2015 Blogging from A to Z Challenge to find more great writer-bloggers!


Friday, April 17, 2015

Book Review: The Cunning Man by John Yeoman


Looking for clever, fast-paced historical mysteries? Here you’ll discover seven ‘impossible’ crimes, locked room puzzles, passion and riddles galore. Enjoy these lusty crime stories set in Elizabethan England where a ‘cunning man’, Hippo Yeoman, must solve devilish cases to save his friends’ lives, or even his own.

This anthology of short historical mystery stories is a world ‘first’. It’s not only a joy to read in its own right, but it’s also a ‘fictorial': a collection of crime thrillers packed with clever but unobtrusive tips that show you precisely how they were written, to help you write your own stories! They will appeal equally to avid readers of historical crime and students of creative writing who want to enhance their story or novel writing skills, in any genre.

Can you find the culprit before Hippo does? Challenge your own detective skills, enjoy a thundering good read in settings that are wholly authentic to 16th century London, and discover – while you read – how to write a great story!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

#AtoZChallenge - All Gallow's Eve - N



NEWPORT AQUARIUM

According to the Newport Aquarium site, they were voted the #1 aquarium in the country.  It just doesn't say when.  I did not get to go on this trip that my husband, children and mother-in-law took, as I had to work.  There have been several occasions like that and on one occasion I got a tattoo on my right shoulder with my kids' initials and birthstone colors in hearts so I wouldn't miss them as much.  I'm glad the kids had a wonderful experience, but I have to admit to being a wee bit jealous at such times.


Even if you couldn't tell by the date on the photos, you could tell that these are *ahem* old pictures, because the kids here are the same ones in the cave pictures from yesterday.  Only they're more like young adults now.  Heck, the boys are old enough to drive!


Aside from the Louisville Zoo, and maybe Kentucky Kingdom (amusement park) I'd hazard a guess that the Newport Aquarium is probably the most visited family-oriented destination in the state.

I can see a school field-trip or two in All Gallow's Eve where "the poor ignorant country children are treated to the educational experiences available only in the big city".  At this point, I can hear DS2 (far right in the above picture) say, "do I notice a hint of sarcasm"?  Hmmm.  What do you think?

Ok.  I'll stop now.

~~~oOo~~~

Click on the sunflower graphic at the very top of this post to see the list of 2015 A to Z Challenge participants and visit their blogs to see what they are writing about this year!



#AtoZChallenge - All Gallow's Eve - M




MAMMOTH CAVE


I guess I was feeling lazy yesterday, or maybe I was worried about the flooding state of emergency in our county, or both.  Anyway, I thought I would repost some pictures we took in Mammoth Cave in Western Kentucky.

Above is DD (dear daughter-sitting), DS2 and DS1.  DS2 is not really taller than DS1 (he might have been standing on a rock.  And since then he has 'grown into his height'.  He's definitely not as stocky anymore.  But in this silhouette, he does look AMAZINGLY like his paternal grandfather.

This was in the first chamber where we topped for some history information.  That was after descending some 400 stairs.  Now, since I got kicked in the knee at a job 4-5 years ago, and had an operation on that same knee. I can count the number of times on one hand that I have not gone down steps like a toddler, both feet landing on each step one foot after the other.  There was simply no time if I did not want to hold up the entire group.  I was holding onto the railings for dear life.

There were four (or maybe five) tours available from that area going to different parts of the 400 mile cave network.  We chose a medium-length tour.  The kids kind of wanted to do that one, and I did not want to be what made us choose something else.  The guides made several general warnings before we left about the degree of difficulty on the hike and anyone who thought they might have trouble could till back out.  I was *ahem* not thinking straight and said, "No problem!"  

It was that with that thought of not disappointing my children (and not wanting them to worry about me) , and with God's help I made it through without having to be carried out.  I was 'purt near' delirious by the time we got to the final chamber.  When they said, up the walkway and outside, I think I bit on my tongue to keep from crying tears of joy! *lol*  (Yeah, sure, NOW I can laugh about it!)

There was a 3-4 hour drive home, interrupted by stopping at a restaurant.  We had never been there before, but I swear that was just about the best food I have ever tasted!  (It is a regional chain, and we have visited several of their locations since then.  The food is really good, but that day ... mmm, mmm, GOOD!)

And I don't know about the kids but my husband admitted being sore the next day.  Me?  I could hardly move for the following two days.  

I wasn't born in the hills of Kentucky, but I have some of the mule-stubbornness that seems to run in my in-laws' family.  And my father's side of my ancestors came from West Virginia, next door to the east from Kentucky.  Maybe all this contributes to my love for the Appalachian region.



One word of caution - if you ever take one of the Mammoth Cave tours, make sure someone in your party has a working flashlight.  (In our case, of course, the park rangers all had flashlights.)  Because, if the lights go out while you are down there, you cannot see your hand even if it is touching your nose.

~~~oOo~~~

The sunflower graphic at the top contains a link to the participants' page at A to Z Central, where you have a choice of literally hundreds of blogs to explore!



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

AUDIO BOOK REVIEW/GIVEAWAY - Shelf Life by Christina George


Publishing: An industry of out-of-control of egos, unrealistic expectations, and books with the shelf life of milk. This is Kate’s world, but for how long?

When one of Kate Mitchell’s star authors is carted away in handcuffs, she thinks it’s only the beginning of her troubles. As her world crumbles around her, Kate desperately looks for anyone to hold on to but finds that happy endings are truly works of fiction. When her career and love affair hit their expiration dates, Kate sets off on a new adventure....

Starting over in California is easy, but Kate soon learns that leaving her old life behind isn’t. Nicholas Lavigne is eager to help her forget, but two things still own her heart: the dream of discovering the next great American novel and MacDermott Ellis. As Kate tries to rebuild her life, she finds a surprising gift that reboots her career in a new and unexpected direction. Suddenly her name becomes synonymous with one of the biggest best sellers publishing has seen in ages, and she's welcomed back with open arms. At the height of her success, the ghosts of her past come back to remind her of the world she'd been trying to forget and the man who never let go of her heart. Behind the book there’s always more to the story.