Thursday, June 30, 2016

Guest Post by Kelley Kaye, author of DEATH BY DIPLOMA

Guest Post for Mallory

     This is my first guest post for Mallory Hearts Cozies, for my debut cozy mystery Death by Diploma, so today I've been thinking about firsts. We are traveling in Seattle and Alice in Chains (Man in the Box) is playing on the radio, this great grungy song in the Grunge capital of the world--I was in college when this flannel-wearing, Nirvana-loving movement began, and I can hardly believe it's been over 25 years since that happened. A whole new genre of music: a 'first' for this area of the Northwest.

     We also just passed the Boeing factory, and I was commenting on the amazing thought processes of people looking at birds and saying, I want to do that too! And now it's happened. I think Leonardo Da Vinci even had a blueprint for an airplane in his drawings? I don't know if DaVinci was able to create  an actual plane or a working model of one, but at least the Wright Brothers figured it out. That 'first' has been so important to everyone.

   My late father, who opened the first used bookstore in the country, circa 1966, used to collect first editions of pulp fiction, or any first printings of his favorite book. He taught me how to spot a first edition--simply open past the title page and look at the little ditty telling you about the publisher and place of publication. If it just has a year, say 1976, and nothing else, it's a first edition. If you see multiple years or listings like 'first printing second printing', it is not. Fun useless trivia for my fellow lit lovers...😘

     The family trip I'm on right now is a whole boatload of 'firsts' for them too (not me, but that's another blog involving a disastrous one-minute marriage in my early 20's): first time in San Francisco, first time in Seattle's Pike's Market, first jaunt up to the top (well, almost top) of the Space Needle.

     These firsts are important for us as travelers, but also for me as a writer. Every time I hit the road, there're more opportunities to people-watch, eavesdrop (my favorite writing tool) blog, and just take myself out of my daily schedule, which is write, parent, write, market, write, parent, do laundry, lather, rinse, repeat. It's difficult to find the 'firsts' I want in that assembly line schedule.

     As writers, we all want to do something first, to write a story that's never been told, introduce a style that's never been seen. I taught Creative Writing for many years, and if I learned anything, it was to try and find a 'first' in the WAY I was telling my story. There are no storylines that haven't been done, in myth or legend (or probably by Shakespeare), but if I can give my characters a new way to react to an old problem, or a different setting in which to face that old problem (New occupation. New planet?) or if the characters who are facing the problem are different (new race, new gender, new orientation.) from the usual, then the story becomes its own brand of 'first'. For Death by Diploma, since it is first in the Chalkboard Outlines cozy series, the whole BOOK is about firsts. It's Emma's first time in Colorado for her first teaching job, after her first (hopefully only) divorce, and it's fer shure everyone at Pinewood High school's first MURDER, so there ya go: firsts galore!

     I've decided that if I can follow the best old adage regarding firsts--you know the one--Today is the FIRST Day of the Rest of Your Life, if I can live by that, then I'm doing okay.

Yaaaaaaaaaaaay BOOKS!

--Kelley Kaye

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Review of DEATH BY DIPLOMA by Kelley Kaye

Death by Diploma (Chalkboard Outlines Book 1)Death by Diploma by Kelley Kaye
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review of DEATH BY DIPLOMA by Kelley Kaye
(Chalkboard Outlines Book 1)

DEATH BY DIPLOMA is a warm cozy mystery with endearing characters, the kind of cozy that just makes a reader smile inside and feel happy, even a reader who is a cynical old harridan. Even though brand-new teacher Emma Lovett almost seems too good to be true, almost a little too ingenuous, her drive, ambition to inspire high school students to learn and to desire to learn, are admirable and heartwinning. Her friend Leslie, Department Head, is a treasure, and Melvin, the janitor, is expertly drawn as an individual who is possibly somewhat autistic, possibly schizophrenic, but winningly synesthesic. He also really impressed me as a person and a character. Wrapped in an intriguing mystery, DEATH BY DIPLOMA deserves reading for character and theme as well as for mysteriousness.

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Review_ANTS IN SPACE by G. J. Griffiths

Ants In SpaceAnts In Space by G.J. Griffiths
My rating: 4 of 5 stars 

Review: ANTS IN SPACE by G. J. Griffiths

First in a new children's series, this is a delightfully illustrated ants-as-aliens story. Two lucky little girls, sisters, discover in their garden aliens who resemble ants. The two girls get to travel on the spaceship to the alien planet, where they learn some science and are helpful. 

ANTS IN SPACE is a chapter book with illustrations. 

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Review: THE REGRETS OF CYRUS DODD by Bette Lee Crosby

The Regrets of Cyrus Dodd The Regrets of Cyrus Dodd by Bette Lee Crosby
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Review: The Regrets of Cyrus Dodd by Bette Lee Crosby

For those times when i feel down, or just in need of book comfort, I and many other happy readers know just where to turn: to any novel from Bette Lee Crosby. Her very newest, THE REGRETS OF CYRUS DODD, is a fine example. Author Crosby has a writing style that is immediately relaxing yet riveting, and the reader finds attention locked to the page. Set in the fairly early 20th century, in rural West Virginia, this novel relates the story of dedicated farmer and husband Cyrus Dodd, a man who possessed so many intrinsic blessings, yet allowed pride to trip him up, and not just his own pride, but the pride of another. Like so many of us, Cyrus' moral integrity meant that when he was right, he knew it, and he expected everyone else to also know and acknowledge. But not every individual possesses integrity or even character; and when Cyrus' innate sense of justice encounters one of those individuals, he unwittingly steps into a damaging situation which unrolls like a snowball flying down a mountainside.

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Tour: THE SECRET OF BALD ROCK by Charles A. Salter

The Secret of Bald Rock Island: Kare Kids Adventures #1 by Charles a Salter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars 


Off the Maine Coast is a schizoid island named Bald Rock, where half the land is lush with grass and trees in a lovely, pleasant, environment. The other side of the island contains enormous, and dangerous, Bald Rock, whose hollow core leads to the ocean. While the island's children play happily in the park and listen avidly to the prescriptive storytelling of Mr. Bartleby, one young girl, Kelcie, determines to unravel the island's secrets. 

THE SECRET OF BALD ROCK ISLAND is a contemporary middle-grade mystery with a generous old-fashioned heart. It made me fondly reminisce of childhood favorites Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and the Boxcar Children. 

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Interview Questions

Charles A. Salter author of The Secret of Bald Rock Island (KareKids Adventures #1)


1. What inspired you to create this series?


A: For the past few years I have become increasingly concerned about the trend in our society to infantilize young people and make them dependent on the ‘nanny state’ rather than independent and mature adults who can help lead our society into the future.  I hope my series will help young people realize they do possess heroic qualities and can make a difference by standing for what they believe and seeking to help others.


2. What is your writing process like? Did you plot the entire story of The Secret of Bald Rock Island before you began writing or did you come up with it as you wrote?


A: I know some people like to outline their entire novel before starting to write, but I like to begin bydreaming up imaginative new characters and puttingthem into an exciting new situation or crisis. Theysoon begin to take on a life of their own and seem almost real to meand they’ll tell me how they want toresolve the problem. Early on they will tell me what the ending is, but it is always an exciting adventure for us to discover together how they will get there.


3. Who inspired the character of Kelcie?


A: Kelcie is a composite of my two daughters.  Out of the entire series so far, volume #1 is the only one set in the past—about one generation ago.  At that time, my now-adult daughters were children and we often went to Maine (the location for this novel).  We saw and experienced the kinds of places described in the book!



4. What independent traits does Kelcie demonstrate that you would like young children to emulate?


A: Kelcie may be only ten years old, but she knows how to think for herself and decide how she can best help others.  She is a true “Kare Kid” who not only has a caring attitude towards family, friends, animals, and the environment, but she translates that concern into real action to accomplish her goals.  In the surprise ending of the book—when she finally confronts the mysterious island creature face to face—her beliefs and principles about life and nature lead her to suggest an amazing solution to the adults on the scene.


5. What do you hope both your young readers and the parents of those readers take away from the books?


A: Family and friends in this series clearly cherish and care for each other.  I would hope these stories would encourage both parents and young readers to do the same.  I would hope that young readers would learn the importance of going beyond having a good attitude about others and translating that into real action to help when needed.  And I hope parents will learn the wisdom of sometimes stepping back and letting kids work through their own solutions to life’s problems and issues…yet also be available when those kids ask for help.


6. Independence is a huge theme in Kare Kids Adventures. To what extent did you or did you not experience independence as a child?



A: My parents were absolute models for fostering independence in me and my siblings…often to a degree which would be considered illegal these days!  I had my first paying job when I was about age 5—babysitting the infant of neighbors who lived in the same apartment building where we did.  My mother was in a nearby apartment in case a real problem developed, but I sat with this wonderful kid and read books and took care of him otherwise.  Later that yearI took sole care of my baby brother (about age three) when both my parents worked.  I dressed and fed and entertained him when I was only 6 and my mother was at work for three hours each morning.  A few years later, on non-school days I and my brother or friends would be on our own all day, playing in the woods or riding bikes or playing sports.  No cell phones in those days, and we were on our own until meal times.  By age 19, I went to England for my college junior-year-abroad and toured all of western Europe with just my friends.  During that year I experienced the amazing adventure in Norway which lies at the heart of book #4—THE TRAVEL TWINS AND THE LOST SECRET OF THE VIKINGS.


7. How did your experience as a parent and grandparent influence The Secret of Bald Rock Island?


A: I have always tried to encourage my own children and grandchildren to become independent and make their own decisions about which sports, activities, and careers to choose.  I taught them to stand up for what they believe.  And this is exactly what Kelcie’s mother and dear family friend, Mr. Bartleby, do for her in this book.  As Kelcie comes to grips with the loss of her father years earlier, both adults encourage and help her to work through that process in a mature way.


8. Did you pull from your background in psychology when writing this series? If so, in what way?


A: As everyone knows, much of psychology focuses on mental illness and other pathological conditions.  But part of the field focuses instead on fostering close and healthy relationships, particularly among parents and children.  One area of thought and research in psychology which has always interested me is that about not simply telling kids what to do, but rather encouraging them to think through problems and issues so they can come up with their own insights and solutions.  And that is exactly how the adults in this book handle Kelcie’s quest to solve the mysteries of Bald Rock Island.



9. How do you think technology and the age of the helicopter parent have influenced independence in children today?



A: Everything seems different these days compared to when my generation was growing up.  Technology certainly has its advantages, but it can also isolate children from healthy and beneficial social relationships.  If you’ve ever seen a bunch of kids sitting together, but with each one lost and alone in his/her own electronic device and virtual world, you can sense the downside of technology.  Doing things by oneself is not the same as independence.  True independence does not imply social isolation but rather the ability to think for oneself and play a leadership role in a social situation.


Parents who want the best for their children will not become over-protective and smother their development by always being present and doing everything for them.  Children need to mature by becoming self-reliant and capable of doing things on their own, but they can’t accomplish that if a helicopter parent is always hovering around and making all the decisions.



10. The Secret of Bald Rock Island is the first of the KareKids Adventures Series. When will the next installment come out?


A: In book #2, CHARLOTTE AND THE MYSTERIOUS VANISHING PLACE, Kelcie is now grown up and her 9-year-old daughter is the star.  Charlotte discovers a serious environmental danger in the woods and does everything she can to alert authorities and rescue two trapped puppies.  This book is due out on July 1 of this year.  In book #3, HOW THREE BROTHERS SAVED THE NAVY, Charlotte’s three cousins uncover a terrorist plot to destroy their navy father’s ship.  They show great courage and ingenuity in ferreting out the details and then thwarting the plot.  That book is due out in early August.  Charlotte’s twin brother and sister should be coming along some time in early fall in book #4, inTHE TRAVEL TWINS AND THE LOST SECRET OF THE VIKINGS.  This book’s plot unfolds on a scary (but real) train winding its way high in the beautiful mountains of Norway.  Felons with mysterious motives have stolen the famed Leif Erikson Sunstone from their uncle’s Viking museum in Oslo, and the twins decide to get it back.

In all of these books, the Kare Kids can’t rely on magic or super powers to solve their problems.  They are realistic kids who live in the real world…BUT they know how to act independently and to translate caring from a mere attitude into genuine action to solve the problems they encounter.