“If the Creek Don’t Rise: Tales from the South”
“A Creole beauty. Eccentric sisters and a black rose. One granny woman and a red button. Church suppers and bingo nights. A poet out of his element. Dreams of Mexico. The shadowy world of thoroughbred horse racing. If the Creek Don’t Rise is a collection of hard-used characters, tangled relationships, family angst, and fortitude. Step into the Deep South and experience the lives and hardships, hopes and dreams, of folk who have nothing except grit—and sometimes love—as their currency. Eighteen tales and six postcard vignettes, highlighted with artwork by Susan Raymond, make this collection a skillful and moving exploration of the commonplace, the hidden, and the unforgettable.
Review: “If the Creek Don’t Rise” is an appealing collection of Southern-based stories that captures the essence of the region. The author’s deep Southern roots lend an authentic voice to the tales woven within this book. Readers are transported into a raw, unfair world filled with relatable characters. The stories evoke vivid sensory experiences, allowing readers to feel, smell, and hear the surroundings while immersing themselves in the characters’ emotions. The honest and genuine dialogue transports readers back to a bygone era, reminiscent of conversations heard in front of a country store on a Saturday morning. The figurative language and storytelling of the South are a perfect fit, and Nancy Hartney skillfully addresses themes of race and gender. This collection is an interesting tapestry of Southern life, painted with diverse tales reflecting the soul of its people. It is an easy and enjoyable read, providing both entertainment and insights into life’s experiences. The characters come to life through the author’s keen understanding, making readers feel as if they truly know them and are present in every scene.
About the author:
According to her bio, Nancy Hartney writes short stories and, although she has lived in Texas and California, she is a daughter of the South loving its sweaty beauty and feeling grief about its dark underbelly.
She has contributed to Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, The Ocotillo Review, Arkansas Life, The Chronicle of the Horse, Sidelines, and the Horsemen’s Roundup. Her book reviews have appeared in the Ft. Worth Star Telegram, motorcycle touring articles in American Iron, general interest pieces in Do South, Fayetteville Free Weekly, and Ozark Mountaineer. Her fiction has appeared in mid-west regional anthologies while Cactus Country, Frontier Tales, and Rough Country have featured her western tales. She writes for the Washington County Historical Journal Flashback (AR).
National Chocolate Chip Day
No, this is not a food blog but today I thought it appropriate to turn it over to a delicious treat, a cookie to be exact. The chocolate chip cookie is a classic American treat that consists of a soft, chewy cookie dough studded with chocolate chips, and today May 15th is National Chocolate Chip Day in the USA. This delicious holiday pays homage to the popular cookie, which is loved by many. It was invented by Ruth Graves Wakefield in the 1930s at the Toll House Inn in Massachusetts. Since then, the chocolate chip cookie has become an iconic dessert enjoyed by people of all ages.
What does this have to do with books and writing, you may ask? Here are three delicious novels that mention the holiday or the chocolate chip cookie:
“Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder” by Joanne Fluke: This cozy mystery is the first book in the Hannah Swensen series. The story revolves around a small-town baker named Hannah Swensen, who finds herself investigating a murder that takes place during the annual Lake Eden Chocolate Chip Cookie Contest.
“The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder” by Joanne Fluke: Another book by Joanne Fluke with a similar title, this is the first book in the Hannah Swensen Mysteries series. Hannah Swensen, the owner of a cookie shop, becomes entangled in a murder investigation after one of her customers turns up dead. The story features delectable descriptions of cookies and includes recipes for chocolate chip treats.
“The Lost Art of Mixing” by Erica Bauermeister: While not solely centered around National Chocolate Chip Day, this novel explores the interconnected lives of various characters, including a pastry chef named Chloe, who bakes a mean chocolate chip cookie. The book delves into themes of love, loss, and the joy of food, with occasional mentions of chocolate chip cookies.
Chocolate chip cookies provide a delightful backdrop in these novels for those who enjoy both literature and delectable treats. Enjoy the celebration!
Enough writing for the moment. I’ve made myself hungry.
Enjoy National Chocolate Chip Day!
The Accidental Spy
The Accidental Spy by David Gardner is an entertaining and engaging read combining both humor and espionage. The story revolves around Harvey Hudson, a history professor who has lost everything and takes a high-tech job for which he is completely unqualified. When he outsources his work to India, he unwittingly becomes embroiled in a Russian cyberattack on the US petroleum industry.
The author skillfully creates a flawed and relatable protagonist in Harvey. Despite Harvey’s personal struggles (and there are many), Gardner manages to inject humor into the story, adding levity to an otherwise tense situation. Gardner weaves an intricate web of twists and turns that kept me guessing (and smiling) until the very end.
The book is a quick and easy read, and the pacing is just right. The writing is clear and concise, and the characters are well-drawn and believable. The Accidental Spy is a must-read for anyone who enjoys espionage thrillers with a touch of humor. Highly recommended!
About the author:
David Gardner grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, served in Army Special Forces and earned a Ph.D. in French from the University of Wisconsin. He has taught college and worked as a reporter and in the computer industry.
He coauthored three programming books for Prentice Hall, wrote dozens of travel articles as well as too many mind-numbing computer manuals before happily turning to fiction: “The Journalist: A Paranormal Thriller,” “The Last Speaker of Skalwegian,” and “The Accidental Spy” (all with Encircle Publications, LLC).
He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Nancy, who is also a writer. He hikes, bikes, messes with astrophotography and plays the keyboard with no discernible talent whatsoever.
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April Fool’s Day
“Work? Why, cert’nly it would work, like rats a-fighting. But it’s too blame’ simple; there ain’t nothing to it. What’s the good of a plan that ain’t no more trouble than that? It’s as mild as goose-milk. Why, Huck, it wouldn’t make no more talk than breaking into a soap factory.” Huck Finn’s friend, Tom, trying to convince him to work for him by painting a fence on April Fool’s Day.
No one seems to know the origin of April Fool’s Day. Some believe it started in ancient Rome, where people celebrated the festival of Hilaria on March 25th, a day of merrymaking and pranks. Other sources suggest it may have originated from the spring equinox, a time of rebirth and renewal, when people would play pranks to celebrate the changing season.
The most popular theory, however, is that April Fool’s Day originated in France in the 16th century. In 1582, King Charles IX of France adopted the Gregorian calendar, which shifted the start of the new year from April 1st to January 1st. Some people resisted this change and continued to celebrate the new year on April 1st. These people were mocked and tricked by others, and the tradition of playing pranks on April 1st became widespread.
As in Huck Finn’s day, modern April Fool’s Day is celebrated around the world, with people playing practical jokes on each other and the media often publishing fake news stories for the occasion.
Here are three popular novels that mention the April Fool’s Day celebration in case you’d like to check them out:
“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain, a classic novel.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee: In one scene of this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the Finch children play an April Fools’ Day prank on their reclusive neighbor, Boo Radley.
“The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown: This bestselling thriller features an April Fools’ Day prank played by the antagonist, who uses a fake phone call to lure the protagonist, Robert Langdon, into a trap.
Popular, Basic Mystery Story Plots
In April 2022, I had a heart attack and spent ten days in the intensive care unit. I had wonderful surgeons, doctors, nurses, and staff that were professional, proficient. To them, I will always be grateful. They saved my life. While lying in recovery following surgery, I had lots of time to think. Of course, my mind went to writing and the several works in progress that languish on my computer and the notepad on my writing desk. Yes, I still use a lined notepad and pencil to jot down notes and ideas. Why? Because I do not and will not ever completely trust computers. Sorry, computer people, but if I can’t hold it in my hand, it doesn’t exist as far as I’m concerned. Anyway, while contemplating my next series of murder mystery short stories (because it seemed easier than working out the perennial writer’s-block I’m experiencing for my second murder mystery novel), I began contemplating some of the better-known murder mystery plots published through the years.
I have a short list of ten recurring plot lines and have listed examples of one or more published murder mystery stories that follow said plot. Read along. I’m sure you can think of other examples to illustrate the plot lines.
Our first murder mystery plot involves a murder that occurs in a small town or village and the local detective must solve the crime. My choice of an example is “The Moving Finger” by Agatha Christie. A small village is tormented by apparent suicides and vicious, anonymous hate letters. Miss Marple to the rescue.
Second plot: A detective or amateur sleuth must solve a series of murders that are connected by a common thread. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson featuring a Swedish publisher turned amateur sleuth who solves a series of murders connected by a common thread and is a perfect fit for our example plot.
Third on the list: A person is falsely accused of a crime and must clear their name. “Presumed Innocent” by Scott Turow features a person falsely accused and who must clear their name and so, clearly fits the bill of our number three plot.
Plot Four: A treasure or valuable item is stolen, and the thief must be caught. Since this is part of the main plot of my Celtic murder mystery, “Mystery of the Death Hearth” I will defer instead to the classic “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” by Arthur Conan Doyle—a collection of short stories featuring the famous detective solving various mysteries; in one of them, a treasure or valuable item is stolen, and the thief must be caught. Another contender with the same plot line is, Agatha Christie’s “Theft of the Royal Ruby” with her intrepid detective, Hercule Poirot.
At number five: A missing person case is solved by a private investigator. Let’s go for another of the classics here and select “The Big Sleep” by Raymond Chandler featuring a private investigator, Philip Marlowe. He’s hired to find a missing person, but the case soon becomes a complicated web of murder, blackmail, and corruption.
My sixth selection: A serial killer is on the loose and must be caught before they strike again. “Silence of the Lambs” by Thomas Harris featuring a serial killer who is on the loose and must be caught before they strike again. The story follows FBI agent Clarice Starling as she hunts down the infamous serial killer known as “Buffalo Bill.” I wouldn’t recommend reading this before going to bed for the night.
Number seven on the list: A crime boss or organized crime ring is taken down by law enforcement. “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo featuring a crime boss and organized crime ring busted by law enforcement. The story is about the Corleone crime family, the patriarch Vito Corleone, his sons Michael, Fredo, and Sonny, and their criminal empire.
Our eighth plot: A murder takes place in a closed community, such as a boarding school or monastery. Not a book, but “Murder in the Cathedral” by T.S. Eliot is a play. It’s a verse drama about the assassination of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1170. The play is set in the Cathedral, and the characters are the monks, the priests and the people who were present at the time of the murder. But if you’re not into plays, check out the book “Name of the Rose” by Italian author, Umberto Eco. That historical murder mystery is set in an Italian monastery in the year 1327. One of my personal favorites.
At number nine we have: A detective or amateur sleuth must solve a crime that has been unsolved for years or decades. “In the Woods” by Tana French is the first book in the Dublin Murder Squad series. Here, a detective must solve a crime that has been unsolved for years. The story follows detective Rob Ryan who returns to his hometown (where he was a victim of a traumatic event as a child) to investigate a murder case that has eerie similarities with the one from his past.
Number ten: A crime is committed on a luxury train or ship, and the suspects are all passengers or crew members. Well, of course, I’m going with the classic “Death on the Nile” by Agatha Christie. A crime is committed on a luxury ship, the S.S. Karnak, and the suspects are all passengers or crew members. The story revolves around detective Hercule Poirot as he investigates the murder of a wealthy heiress on board the ship. Another of Christie’s novels with this plot and her famous detective Poirot is “Murder on the Orient Express” which takes place on a train.
What good mystery have you read lately?