Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Five Canine Cozy Mystery Book Reviews

A Shapeshifters' Library series reader once called my books cozy fantasy. I loved the term and thought I'd invented a new genre (or the reader named an existing genre).

But cozy mysteries with canines have been around for a long time. I've been writing a review column for a dog magazine and have been reading a lot of canine cozies and thought I'd share some of the reviews.

Catwalk Sheila Webster Bonham  
Midnight Ink Books, 2014 (An Animals in Focus Mystery)">Catwalk (An Animals in Focus Mystery)
Animal photographer Janet MacPhail competes with Jay, her Australian Shepherd, in canine agility.  The mystery begins when a dead body is found in the agility course’s crawl tube. In addition to believable and oh so funny insights into the dog world, Janet, our 50-something menopausal heroine, deals with her mother in a nursing home, her boyfriend, and her mother’s boyfriend, as well as a feral cat problem.
Janet also trains and competes with her cat in feline agility. Who knew feline agility was even a sport – and fun for owner and cat?
I loved the combination of dog/cat information, mystery, and a women’s real life issues. Read it for the animals and the laugh out loud porta-pottie Iditarod scene!
Sheila Webster Boneham, award-winning author, has written seventeen nonfiction books about dogs, cats, and rescue and founded rescue groups for Aussies and Labs. 
Both mystery series left me begging for more.
Eileen Brady
Poisoned Pen Press, 2014 (a Kate Turner, D.V.M. Mystery)">Muzzled: A Kate Turner, DVM, Mystery (Kate Turner, DVM Mysteries)From the moment Dr. Kate rescues a hamster from a vacuum cleaner you know this mystery will be filled with animals and laughs. When she visits Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breeders and discovers two dead bodies and 27 blue-ribbon dogs running wild, you know she’s going to stick her nose into crime solving. While police suspect murder-suicide, Dr. Kate disagrees. Was the couple murdered for the money their champion dog could bring to another breeder? As Kate's veterinary house calls continue, so does her varied list of suspects-including a tattooed biker baker.

Pet lovers and mystery lovers will find this a cozy choice. I loved the humor, the mystery and a peek into a veterinarian’s life. Plus who could resist a vet’s view of quirky pet owners.

Eileen Brady is a veterinarian living in Scottsdale with six cats and two dogs of her own.">Murder Strikes a Pose (A Downward Dog Mystery)
Murder Strikes a Pose

Tracy Weber

Midnight Ink, 2014 (A Downward Dog Mystery)

When George, a homeless alcoholic and Bella, his German Shepherd, disturb the peace outside Kate’s yoga studio, she loses her Zen-like calm. The three form an unlikely friendship until Kate finds George’s body behind her studio and tries to find a home for Bella.

Yogi Kate and Serenity Yoga are not always serene but always delightful. A mystery from a yoga studio owner who knows the behind the scenes work and a dog lover not afraid to deal with real problems. I appreciated that Bella had serious issues with EPI (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency) and, for a change, wasn't smarter than the sleuth.
Tracy Weber, yoga teacher and founder of Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, shares her home with challenging yet amazing German Shepherd Tasha and a bonito flake-loving cat.

Fifty Shades of Greyhound  
Sparkle Abbey
(A Pampered Pets Mystery, Book 5) Bell Bridge Books, 2014">Fifty Shades of Greyhound: A Pampered Pets Mystery (Volume 5)
Fifty Shades of Greyhound is California’s premier rescue group charity event, graced by fifty greyhounds. Smart, savvy but ditzy Caro Lamont, Laguna Beach’s pet therapist, loves animals and designer clothes and for the fundraiser gala Caro and society couples put on the dog dressed in shades of gray. All is champagne and big checks until a dead body spoils the party.

Of course things get worse for the rescue group. Caro butts in and the results bounce between humor and danger. Before the perfect ending, enjoy the Laguna atmosphere, a tiny bit of romance, nutsy pet people, and a cozy mystery that will keep you guessing. And who will end up with Grandma Tilly’s ugly brooch?

Sparkle Abbey
is the pen name of mystery authors Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter. The name comes from Sparkle (Mary Lee's cat) and Abbey (Anita's dog).

The Big Chihuahua
Waverly Curtis
(A Barking Detective Mystery) Kensington, 2013">The Big Chihuahua (A Barking Detective Mysterye=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0758)</a><img src=P.I. Geri Sullivan and Pepe, her fast-talking Chihuahua, (sadly only Geri can hear him) look for a missing woman and stumble into a New Age retreat staffed by Leaf and Artichoke, where cult devotees worship the incarnation of Dogawanda.

Before Geri can say "Dog Be With You," or "Obey Your Alpha," Pepe is tapped as their new guru, and takes the name Towering Cedar. It wouldn't be a mystery without a body or two. Throw in some wolfdogs, an enigmatic celebrity, and Pepe's clever dialog and the result is a silly satire mixed with mystery and mayhem. A delightful cozy read to cuddle with.

Waverly Curtis is the joint byline of mystery writers Waverly Fitzgerald and Curtis Colbert. Fitzgerald lives in Seattle with her daughter and her daughter's Chihuahua, Pepe. The authors donate part of the proceeds of the book sales to the ASPCA.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Susan Orlean, Rin Tin Tin, and Libraries

Rin Tin Tin

Those who know me know I'm no fan girl. Celebrities do not send me into a swoon.
Susan Orlean and Amber Polo

This weekend I met Susan Orlean, author of Rin TIn Tin and The Orchid Thief, and I was thrilled. She appeared as part of Yavapai College’s Hassayampa Institute (I love that word) Literary Southwest series in Prescott, Arizona.

Susan Orlean
The Orchid Thief

Besides her book about an iconic dog, there's more. The Orchid Thief was made into the movie Adaptation and Meryl Streep played Susan Orlean. Is that cool! Staff writer for the New Yorker. Contributing editor to both Rolling Stone and Vogue. Wow.

Orlean read from Rin Tin Tin and her work in progress about libraries. That should be a clue. Any writer who writes about dogs and libraries has my attention. She’s an amazing journalist and creative non-fiction author. You know the kind. You read their articles and their books even if you have absolutely no interest in the subject.

And now for the personal part. After I read Rin Tin Tin I heard Susan Orlean was writing about libraries sparked by her interest in the fire that damaged the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986 and destroyed 400,000 volumes – 20% of the collection.

Dogs, libraries, and book-burning. This former librarian and dog breeder was  seriously hooked. I sent her a copy of Released (dog-shifting librarians nose to nose with book-burning werewolves) and a few treats for her dog. And I received a thank you note. I think she and her dog appreciated the biscuits more than the book, but I was thoroughly impressed to receive a reply. And a fan turned into a fan girl.

Now, I’m waiting for her next book.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Self-Publishing Workshop

The Camp Verde Community Library sponsored a free self-publishing workshop on  February 20th. For anyone who aspires to be an author, choosing how to publish a book is essential. Sorting through the choices in today’s changing publishing world is daunting, but crucial. This workshop covered the new ways to publish, discussed print-on-demand books, ebooks, and more.
Pathways to Publishing

Creative writing instructor and author Val Chanda, Yavapai College Emeritus English Faculty shared her perspectives during “Pathways to Publishing Workshop: An introduction to the world of digital self-publishing” outlining differences between traditional publishing, old-style “vanity presses,” and current options for self-publishing print and ebooks. She published her first novel, a science fiction thriller, Psy Mind: Deadly Reckoning, in 2011 and has since published two others in the Psy Mind series and launched a new mystery series.
Val Chanda

I facilitated the afternoon panel featuring local authors who have self-published in a variety of ways, including: fiction, non-fiction, memoir, inspirational, art books, a card deck, an audiobook, and audio CDs. The panel discussed their own personal paths to publishing and answered questions. Members included: Amber Polo (me), Melissa Bowersock, Ronni Ann Hall,  Val Chanda, and John Jenkins. For a very small town it was exciting to see the talent we have. 

Amber Polo, Melissa Bowersock, Val Chanda
John Jenkins, Ronni Ann Hall
 It was also exciting to see so many writer at all stages on their paths wanting to explore self-publishing.

Amber Polo
Attendees also learned about Reading Arizona (ebooks about Arizona), and SELF-e (a national collection of ebooks) both sponsored by the State Library.

Kathy Hellman, Camp Verde Library Director

Monday, February 16, 2015

New Cover for Heads in the Clouds

I was so thrilled to be a finalist even more thrilled to win I decided to add the winner's medallion to the cover! 

Traveling to Albuquerque and attending was so much fun, but to completely honestly honest - after the words "The winner is..." there is nothing like hearing your own name.
(Actually what I meant to say is more like "my heart is filled with humility and gratitude" but it still was a thrill.)

The Book Awards honor the best in New Mexico and Arizona books, as judged by booksellers, librarians, teachers, and marketing experts. The New Mexico Book Co-op is a collaborative partnership with over 1,400 local authors and publishers and is New Mexico and Arizona's largest non-profit featuring New Mexico and Arizona books. The mission of the Co-op is to showcase and help authors and publishers promote and sell books. Every state and region needs an organization like this!

I'm especially honored that Heads in the Clouds was chosen because its setting is very much like the place I live. I used wonderful northern Arizona locations like Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Well, and the Prescott Rodeo. The novel's aviation community may be similar to my own, but not one of the interesting characters are based on my neighbors (well, maybe one or two).
with Paul Rhetts New Mexico Co-op Founder

It was exciting to be with such dedicated book people who where genuinely proud of 
their profession.
Some of the winning books

Thursday, February 5, 2015

My Annual Valentine's Post

Love, Serendipity, and Chocolate
by Amber Polo

Indulge me as a republish my annual Valentines Day post.           

Once upon a time, in 1994, I was the marketing manager for a Boston conference taping company. My boss’s Polish wife decided to throw a party. Registered for a weekend regional Mensa conference at a hotel west of Boston, I was more interested in getting away from my co-workers than socializing with them. But, when your boss has a party, you go, even if the weather is awful and you know traffic to the west suburbs will be hell.

            So I ate Jolanta’s thick potato soup and dark bread and waited for the earliest polite moment to leave. At last, blocking the door, she told me I must take sweet treats with me. I opened my briefcase and she dropped in a handful of candy. I smiled and ran down the steps to head into Friday rush hour traffic.

            At the hotel Regional Gathering on Friday evening I met old friends. On Saturday morning I had my first ever tarot card reading. Still trying to make sense of the intricate cards, I walked into the Clear Thinking Workshop. I was not particularly interested in thinking; Thinking meant questions and I wanted answers. What did the future hold for me, my career, my fortune, and, most of all, my love life? Was it too much to hope to meet the love of my life? And soon?

            Sitting next to me, with obviously a more serious interest in clear thinking, was Vince Polo, an attractive, age-appropriate man from Maryland with a big smile. Vince and I left the workshop and over the next six hours drank a lot of coffee, discussed our lives, and shared personal stories and feelings. Vince’s intelligence, sense of humor, good looks, honesty, and his intense interest in me were irresistible. He stayed for the evening banquet, returned for sessions on Sunday and decided to stay in Boston for another day so we could have dinner on Monday evening.

            Sunday night, as I was unpacking my weekend luggage, I up-ended my bag and out fell two “Prince Polo Krunche wafel z kremem Kakawym oblewane naturalna Czekolada” candy bars in gold foil wrappers.

Had I found my prince?

Here's a photo from our Arizona wedding!

            A Polish deli near Sedona’s Well Red Coyote bookstore stocks Prince Polo chocolate-covered wafer candy bars. And like all the Polish people I've questioned, the deli owners agree the candy bars have been around forever and the name has no significance.
Little did I know back then that I've ever write a paranormal romance novel or a fantasy.