A E Jones’ Mind Sweeper Series

I don’t often binge read books in a series, but I did when I dove into the world of A.E. Jones’ MindsweeperMIND SWEEPER trilogy. When I finished MIND SWEEPER, I immediately downloaded the next adventure, SHIFTER WARS, and preordered SENTINEL LOST. (There are also two novellas about supporting characters, THE FLEDGLING and THE PURSUIT.) The stories combine humor, romance, and science fiction/fantasy in a very well developed world in which Kyle McKinley, a human woman with the power to remove and replace memories, works with a charming vampire named Jean Luc and a TV-addicted, computer ace demon named Misha to clean up after supernatural incidents humans shouldn’t have seen.

I’m not going to give you too much detail, because these books are just full of surprises, much more fun to read when you’re not expecting them. And I certainly did not see a lot of the twists and turns coming.

MIND SWEEPER opens when the latest incident involves an angel killing a vampire in a bar, and human police detective Joe Dalton joins the team. With twelve clans of demons, assorted shape shifters, and a few unfortunate humans who stumble into the middle of things, Kyle and her team have their Shifter Warshands (and fangs and claws) full.

In SHIFTER WARS, Kyle finds herself back with the team after a stint doing security work at a casino in Nevada, becoming involved with the chief shifter, Griffin, and falling farther into the mystery of the Key. We learn more about the lives and culture of the shifters, as a dissatisfied faction tries to take over the Pack.

SENTINEL LOST supplies a completely satisfying wrap up (at least for now–who knows what Jones has planned for Kyle and the crew?) to the Mind Sweeper story. Demons all over Sentinel Lostthe place, the return of Dalton, and secrets from Kyle’s past all add up to a terrific story.

If you enjoy romance, mystery, humor, and science fiction seamlessly blended together, mouse right over to your favorite purveyor of ebooks and download the Mind Sweeper series. Highly recommended.

Writer Wednesday: Favorite Holiday Books

Our Writer Wednesday assignment for November is “Tell us your favorite holiday books.” That’s a WW Novemberno-brainer for me: In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash. What, that doesn’t sound like the holidays to you? Well, four of the five stories that Jean Shepherd turned into my favorite holiday movie, A Christmas Story, came from that collection. (The fifth came from Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories and other disasters.)

“Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid” gave the movie its core, driven by Ralphie’s passionate desire for a “Red Ryder BB gun with a special Red Ryder sight and a compass in the stock with a sundial.” We hear about the Old Man’s battle with the furnace, Ralphie’s lofty expectations for his “What I Want For Christmas” theme, his visit to Santa Claus, Aunt Clara’s abominable bunny costume, and his broken glasses. I never lusted after an air rifle, but I sure can identify with the theme writing and the broken glasses.

The episode of the Little Orphan Annie decoder ring, with its high anticipation and deep betrayal as Ralphie discovers the true meaning of the secret message, comes from “The Counterfeit Secret Circle Member Gets the Message, or the Asp Strikes Again.” The arrival and demise of the notorious leg lamp is described in “My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award that Heralded the Birth of Pop Art.” Ralphie’s epic battle with the neighborhood bully plays out in “Grover Dill and the Tasmanian Devil.” (Fun fact for fans of the film: Scut Farkas character was added for the movie, with Grover Dill demoted to toady. Scut did appear in another story, “Scut Farkas and the Murderous Mariah” in the
Wanda Hickey collection.) The destruction of the Christmas turkey is adapted from “The Grandstand Passion Play of Delbert and the Bumpus Hounds,” also in Wanda Hickey, in which the neighbors’ dogs destroyed the Parkers’ Easter ham.

All of Jean Shepherd’s writing was sharp and hilarious. My copies are old paperbacks, with small print and brittle yellow pages, that once belonged to my mother, who introduced me to Shepherd. I remember reading the Bumpus hounds’ story aloud to my late husband when he was ill, interrupted by frequent laughter. (The two of us also watched the movie every year, a habit I have continued.)

Writing this piece has made me think about the complexities of weaving several stories together into A Christmas Storya film that has become a Christmas classic. The five stories have been reprinted in one volume, A Christmas Story: The Book that Inspired the Hilarious Classic Film. I want to reread them (and admire Shepherd’s skill in adapting them) without struggling with those old paperbacks (I actually have new glasses on order; they might handle the small print, but they won’t do much for the brittle yellow pages or cracked binding), so I’m downloading the Christmas Story edition to my Kindle to reread during the holidays.

Do you have a holiday book you love and reread? Visit some other Wednesday Writers, Tamra Baumann, Lauren Christopher, Natalie Meg Evans, Jean Willett, and Sharon Wray,
and discover their holiday favorites.

Reading in the Dark

This past weekend we had a Rain Event in the Houston area. Around here a Rain Event covers a lot of meteorological territory. Last Memorial Day an unexpected storm flooded roads and underpasses and a great many homes, stranding people in cars and houses. Now and then an expected storm doesn’t materialize at all, to the suspected disappointment of the local weather reporters.

This weekend we waited for torrential rains resulting from Hurricane Patricia, but thanks to the Mexican mountains that shredded Patricia on her eastward journey from the Pacific to the Gulf, our Rain Event did not live up to predictions.

There were high water spots scattered around the area, but most people know where to watch for them. No houses flooded, and no one was hurt

Some places got as much as nine or ten inches of rain; my backyard picked up five inches, much needed. By Monday morning the standing water in my yard was gone.

But Sunday morning the wind picked up, and about 10:20 my power went off. And stayed off, unlike the occasional five-second glitches that knock my computer and cable box off.

Understandable, with all the bad weather. I called in the outage (although my smart meter is supposed to report such things) and found a window where the light was just about good enough to finish some paperwork I had started. Then I switched to reading on my near-antique Kindle—no back lighting, but there’s a small light built into the case.

By noon I was getting a bit impatient. I know, this was a first world problem. It wasn’t even warm enough for the lack of air conditioning to be noticeable.

But the voice mail system at CenterPoint Energy had already called once to say the problem was fixed (it clearly wasn’t), and again to change the predicted time from 12:15 to 1:30, and then to 2:45.

So I went out to lunch and did a little grocery shopping. When I got home about 2:15, I was not surprised to find the house dark.

I was surprised to find a voice mail message saying that I should have electricity. So I called in the outage again, went through the whole recording, including the bit when the cheerful recorded voice suggests checking your circuit breakers (mine are old, but they don’t pop by themselves) and the end when she wishes you a great day. Hello? I just called to say nothing in my house works. I’m not having a great day.

KindleI finished the book I was reading on my Kindle, so I picked up the hardback I’ve been reading and began looking for a book light—you know, those little gadgets that clip onto a book cover and purport to light the pages. I could have sworn I had half a dozen of them, but I could only find one. Made do, near a window, with a battery lantern nearby.

2:45 came and went, as did 4:30, and 6:15. After that it was “we are assessing the outage,” and my eyes were tired from a day of reading (Good) in bad light (Not Good).

So around 7 I gave up, fed the cat (who seemed surprisingly disturbed by the whole situation), and set out to find a dinner that I could see and didn’t have to cook.

Down the street I spotted a gaggle of service trucks (do three or four qualify as a gaggle?). I parked my car on the side street and walked around two of them—both empty. So I drove around the block, and by the time I got back to the trucks, I saw lights where there had been none a few moments earlier.

So I headed back to the house, where I found all the lights on. 7:20 PM, only nine hours after they went off.

Oh, joy, everything was back to normal. I took a shower (my hot water supply does not require electricity, but the light in the shower does), microwaved my dinner, and settled down to watch a movie.

And at 8:45 the power went off again. This time it wasn’t the whole neighborhood, though. The power circuits around here probably look like a nest of snakes on whatever chart exists. My neighbor’s lights stayed on, as did the street lights. Great, an even smaller outage. How long would this one take to fix?

Called CenterPoint again—at least the obnoxiously cheerful voice admitted there was an outage, and didn’t tell me to check my circuit breaker. I think she did tell me to have a great evening, but by then I was too frustrated to care.

Fortunately that outage only lasted one hour, and the house was back to normal by 10 PM.

This evening I’m watching Castle. The ice maker in the refrigerator just refilled with water. My computer is on, and the email bell rings from time to time. I’m typing this on my (battery powered but unlit) AlphaSmart with a 200-watt table lamp next to me. I made dinner in the microwave. I have a candle burning, but only for the scent.

I do love electricity. It’s too easy to take it for granted.

Kindle and book

My thanks to theawkwardyeti.com for one of my favorite cartoons!

Writer Wednesday: Naming Names

Our Writer Wednesday topic this month is “tell us you favorite character name,” but I couldn’t think of one, WW Octobereither as a reader or as a writer. But names are important, and for a writer they require quite a bit of thought, and sometimes just as much planning.

Many of my favorite keeper books are science fiction, because I enjoy the world building. And names are often part of that world building. Character names in books like Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern, or Marion Zimmer Bradley’s tales of Darkover often tell the reader quite a bit about family, social position, or occupation.

I find I can’t write about a character until I know his or her “true name.” From time to time I have realized that I simply can’t remember a supporting character’s name, a sure sign that whatever name I stuck the poor soul with is the wrong one. I like to play with names, and sometimes they take on an extra layer of meaning. In one of my manuscripts, the heroine is called Liz, short for Elizabeth, and the fact that the Spanish version of her name is Isabel becomes an important plot point. In another story, the heroine calls herself Charlie, but the hero, a European with a formal streak, always addresses her by her proper name, Charlotte.

Sometimes a character’s true name never shows up, suggesting that there’s something else about the Columbo & Dogcharacter that isn’t working. That thought reminded me of Lieutenant Columbo, who never had a first name, and his dog, who never had a name at all. Columbo tried out several names for the dog during the series, but none of them seemed to work, and the dog remained Dog. Come to think of it, Mrs. Columbo didn’t have a first name, either.

On the other hand, I’ve recently been reading a series of old-fashioned Regency romances, originally published in the 1990s, in which nearly all the male characters have at least three names, first, last, and title(s). How other people address these men speaks to relationships and social position. People in contemporary stories are generally casual about names, but in historical tales, arriving at a first name relationship may be a major romantic milestone.

Do you have a favorite character name? Or are there names that push your buttons and make you put a book down? For more thoughts on names, visit Wednesday Writers Sharon Wray, Lauren Christopher, Natalie Meg Evans, and Wendy La Capra (and be sure to check out Wendy’s upcoming release, Duchess Decadence).

A Few Days in the 20th Century

As I write this on Tuesday morning, I am beginning my sixth day with no Internet access on my home computer. Last Thursday morning some Verizon technician accidentally pulled the plug on my line, possibly in connection with a minor change in my account bundle. I have no idea if it’s just me or a mass outage—I can’t go on line to ask around—but this is not what I call acceptable customer service.

The story keeps changing. On Thursday night it was an upgrade, and everything would be fine on Friday. When it wasn’t, another long call generated a service ticket and the information that it was a physically mismatched line. Verizon was committed to having it fixed by 5 pm on Sunday.

That came and went. Monday morning I was promised service in two or three hours. It was a network problem, and they were working on it. That didn’t happen, so Monday afternoon I called again. By this time, the Verizon voice mail tree put me through to a human immediately. After forty-five minutes, mostly on hold, I was told it would be twenty-four to forty-eight hours.

I’m far angrier at Verizon than I am at the lack of Internet. Even if it is a widespread outage (which none of their heavily-accented call center people will admit to), this is a ridiculously long time to wait for repairs.

It has given me some interesting insights on my Internet usage. I work at the Scorekeeper on Tuesday through Thursday, so when I get to the office this morning, I’ll be able to catch up on my email, most of which will consist of various Yahoo loops, ads from Amazon and BookBub, and possibly a few business emails from clients, which I would not have addressed until today anyway. I’ll pop into Facebook long enough to tell friends why I’ve missed their birthdays and book launches this weekend. I spend way too much time down that rabbit hole anyway.

I use the Internet for lots of silly things every day. Checking the TV schedule (what’s on? have I seen that episode? where have I seen that actor?), reading comics on the Houston Chronicle web site, playing games.

But not everything is frivolous. This morning I can’t check the traffic before I set off on my thirty-mile commute. This weekend I hit a wall on a freelance project because I can’t access on-line references. I haven’t been able to order prescription refills or check my banking or credit activities. I’d like to review a couple of books I’ve finished reading. I won’t be able to post this until my Internet comes back. I trot over to the computer to look something up more often than I realized. It’s almost like reaching for the light switch when the power is off, an ingrained habit.

I did get a good bit of freelance work done on Friday, until I needed to get on line with it. I did my weekend shopping. I mowed the lawn and weeded and did the laundry. I read a lot. I watched TV. I did not fade away from lack of the Internet. But I was conscious of every ad, every news story, every newspaper article that ended with some variant of “visit us on our web site.”

I miss my morning ritual of email, blog, comics, and Facebook, although apparently I could have slept another hour instead. Yesterday morning I made an early call to Verizon, but I’m not going to bother this morning. I won’t be here most of the day anyway. But if it’s still down tonight, they’ll hear from me again, squeaky wheel and all that.

And then I’ll give the billing department a ring.

Postscript: 215 emails waiting this morning, which I picked my way through in the course of the day. I managed to vent a bit on the Verizon Facebook page, too. When I got home this evening, all the lights on my modem were green and my email popped right up. My voice mail isn’t working, as I discovered this morning, but that shouldn’t be too hard to fix. Not tonight, though. I’m happy to be connected to the cyber world again, but maybe I’ll remember a few time management lessons learned while I wasn’t.

Natalie Meg Evans’ The Milliner’s Secret

Natalie Meg Evans’ The Milliner’s Secret dragged me in from the opening pages and never let go. As The Milliner's Secretthe novel begins in 1937, Cora Masson works in a London hat factory while trying to avoid her abusive Belgian father. The only thing he’s given her is a working knowledge of French, which she uses to flee to Paris when a near-stranger, German art dealer Dietrich von Elbing, offers her his valet’s seat on the boat train.

That impulsive decision changes her life in ways she could never have imagined. With forged documents, she becomes Coralie de Lirac, turning her back on England and making her way in the cut-throat world of Parisian fashion as a milliner. Working her way up in the trade, Coralie never hesitates to fight for her future, for the people she loves, and, as the war sweeps through France, for survival.

Her complicated, changing relationship with Dietrich von Elbing forms the core of the story. Dietrich’s secrets are deeply buried, gradually peeling away like onion skin. An ace pilot for the Luftwaffe in World War I, the approach of another war draws him back into the military as a respected senior officer. His relationship with Coralie serves to protect her—when it’s not proving to be her greatest danger. Drawn together and driven apart, Coralie and Dietrich move through one another’s lives and through the dangers of occupied Paris.

The backdrop of war mixes with the more intimate world of high fashion and the highly competitive, and sometimes vicious, millinery trade. Even as the Nazi occupation dims the Paris lights, women want their hats, and Coralie often serves French customers in the morning and German officers’ wives in the afternoon. The Milliner’s Secret overflows with fascinating background details about fashion and hats, nightlife, feast and famine.

Evans’ previous novel, The Dress Thief, explored the world of high fashion in Paris in the 1930s, ending before the war reached Paris. Although The Milliner’s Secret is not a sequel, supporting The Dress Thiefcharacters from The Dress Thief reappear in Coralie’s life, sometimes as friends, sometimes as foes, sometimes as both, as well as new characters, some trustworthy, some not.

I don’t want to give away too many details: this is a book filled with surprises best unspoiled. The Milliner’s Secret is one of the most gripping novels I have read in a long time.

Both The Milliner’s Secret and The Dress Thief are available as ebooks from U.S etailers. Paper editions are available (fast delivery and free shipping) from the Book Depository in Great Britain.

Death By Decibels

We planned to write about phobias for September’s Writer Wednesday posts, but I really couldn’t think WW Septemberof one. The last few days, however, may have instilled in me a new fear.

Do you remember some years back when American soldiers were trying to force Manuel Noriega out of the Vatican Embassy in Panama City? They went with noise, blaring rock music through loudspeakers and turning a nearby field into a helicopter landing. Noriega lasted ten days. After this weekend, I’m surprised the people in the Embassy didn’t throw him out into the street a lot sooner.

Last Thursday night about midnight, I was on my way to bed when I heard a strange clicking noise in the hallway. Water, dripping from somewhere, soaking the throw rug in front of the non-functional and seldom-opened second bathroom. So I went up to the attic, knowing full well what I would find: a dripping A/C drain line and what appeared to be a puddle on the attic floor. It wasn’t until Friday morning that I discovered there was no puddle in the attic, and there was no ceiling in the bathroom, just a pile of sopping wet insulation and sheet rock on the bathroom floor.

So along with the A/C tech (that part was an easy fix) came the water damage folks, who tore out the remains of the wet ceiling and a bit more sheet rock, and set up four industrial strength drying fans and a large machine that I think was some sort of giant (and loud) dehumidifier.

The noise was—well, I don’t know where to begin. It never stopped (at least not after I reset the breaker the machinery popped about half an hour in). It was everywhere. Even closed doors didn’t help much. The second day in, I found a relatively quiet spot—relatively—in the opposite corner of the house, where I could do some paperwork and read, but I couldn’t concentrate on anything more demanding than Sudoku at my computer.

Turning the TV or the radio up very loud almost masked the relentless sound of the fans. Almost. My poor cat alternated clinging to me with stalking around the house meowing loudly in protest, something she never does. And I abandoned her from time to time, running off for a peaceful lunch with my Kindle and the fast food of the day.

The fans were set in motion midday on Friday. Someone came to check them and tell me the walls fansweren’t dry yet on Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, the technician removed the two fans in the bathroom, leaving the other two, and the big red thing, in the hall. There was no discernible drop in the sound level. By now I was receiving emails from the electric company suggesting that I should have my A/C unit checked because I was using so much more energy than usual.

I actually slept all right despite the fans, probably because spending the days with them was so exhausting. My brain felt like it was stuffed with cotton wool, when it wasn’t making me slightly dizzy. My stomach, and its companion organs, were working overtime. My nerves were shot. And I was cold, in spite of turning the thermostat up.

This morning (Tuesday), a few hours short of four days, the technician who set everything up on Friday came back. He took measurements, made notes, and hauled the rest of the equipment out to his truck. If he had said, “One more day,” I think I might have lost it completely.

So, phobias? How about the sound of water dripping where there shouldn’t be water at all? In fact, I’m seriously thinking of having the sixty-year-old galvanized pipes in my house replaced before they spring a leak.

It Had To Be LoveOn a happier note, check out Tamra Baumann’s new release, It Had To Be Love, available now from Montlake.

What with vacations, back-to-school, and book deadlines, the Wednesday Writers are a little short-handed this month, but catch up with Tamra Baumann, Priscilla Kissinger, Wendy LaCapra, and Carol Post for more tales of phobias. Join us again next month for a discussion of character names.

Previous Older Entries


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 594 other followers