Magpie Murders

Magpie Murders

This is my first book review for 2018. This was a book I have had on my radar for a while. I belong to a couple writer’s organizations, as you know and at a recent Christmas party for our local chapter of Sisters in Crime, I snagged this one.

I finally finished this book, not because it was boring but because I try to savor good reads and yes, I read slowly.   If I didn’t have to work, I could have stayed up half the night to finish it towards the end.

The author is Anthony Horowitz . I am a huge Midsomer Murders fan. If somehow you have never heard of Midsomer Murders, it is a British Television show and Anthony Horowitz is the screenwriter for it. That show is one of the reasons I signed on to Netflix. One of those reasons it takes me so long to read and write but that could be a future post.

Since reading this book, I did discover he wrote Moriarty. I am assuming it is a Sherlock Holmes version written in his nemesis point of view. Have not read that one yet and because my – to be read pile is so huge, if I do, I am not sure when it will happen. So many books, so little time.

Back to my review. A big reason  I thought this book sounded interesting is that it is a mystery within a mystery. I could not figure out how that could happen, but he did an excellent job of it.

The protagonist is Susan Ryeland. She is the editor of the fictional book ‘Magpie Murders’, written by one of their star authors – Alan Conway.
The whole book is her story about that book and it begins with us reading the book with a few scenes buried in between telling us about the protagonist’s (Susan Ryeland’s) life while editing it.

They pull you into the story ‘Magpie Murders’ which is set in a small town in England with the book’s protagonist – Atticus Pund who solves mysteries in picturesque villages in England, like the series Midsomer Murders.

Well you  read all the way through the book in the book and get to the end and realize at the same time as Susan Ryeland that you are missing the last few chapters. By this point – Atticus Pund tells you he knows who the killer is and then there is no more.

This wouldn’t be much of a problem except, the fictional  author Alan Conway dies accidentally by falling off a tower of his home. Of course, people begin to think it may not have been an accident and Susan Ryeland, the fictional editor,  is pulled into the real time mystery because this could make or break her career.

This leaves the reader with lots of questions, who killed Alan Conway and also how does Magpie Murders end – who killed the victim in the book? By then, if Alan Conway had been a real person and alive, I might have killed him for not giving us the ending of his book.

There are lots of suspects in both stories, lots of twists and turns, and a little romance.
I hope this didn’t confuse you. It makes total sense while you are reading it. I do hope it makes you want to read the book. You will see that it is a big book and that may have been why it took me so long to read .  No matter how long it takes you, it is well worth it.

My current book is ‘Woman in the Window’. I am about half way through it and will review it later. What are you currently reading? How is your writing project going? What keeps you moving forward. Would love to know. Please feel free to comment.

If you are a local Iowa writer and looking for a writer’s group, check out both Iowa Romance Novelists and Sisters in Crime – Iowa on Facebook. Hope to see you at our next meeting – February is the 3rd Saturday at  10:00 AM at the Pleasant Hill library for IRN and 3:00 PM at Café Diem in Ankeny for Sisters in Crime – Iowa.

Planning to write about my writing space next month.

Until next time,


Priming the Pump


I suppose it depends on how old you are as to whether – Priming the Pump – makes sense. To be honest, I am not old enough to remember using a hand pump. We always had a faucet in the kitchen or bath and you turned it on and there was water but before my time and before city water, everyone had wells and you had to pump your own water. It took a few tries to get the water to come out and that was priming the pump.

An author friend once said that she always reads something from a craft book before she starts writing. Her name is Cheryl St. John and since she has written many novels and a Writer’s Digest book on craft as well, I thought I would give it a try. I call it priming the pump. I pick up a book on craft and read a little before each writing session. It helps get my ideas on the page. I find that I have to write a little bit, edit, and write a little more before I can find the right words to flow. One way to prime the pump.

It isn’t difficult for me to find something to read when it comes to the writing craft. I have a fairly extensive personal library of craft books.  I read mostly novels but I also keep a craft book handy just for this purpose. I try to either have two books going at once and alternate between fiction and reference books.  By the way,  this is her current craft book and Cheryl has a new book on craft coming out within the next month or so through Writer’s Digest also. Might check it out, I know I plan to buy it. I will post more about it in a future post. Cheryl is one of the authors who will be speaking at an Iowa Romance Novelist meeting this spring and I look forward to seeing her again. You can also check out an older interview with Cheryl on this site where she explains a little bit about her writing process.


Today, I watched a YouTube video with Stephen King. If you have never read his craft book – ‘On Writing’, I highly recommend it. I never thought of watching YouTube to help my writing until a writer friend mentioned it at one of my local writer groups. It is another way to prime the pump.

Today’s video was where he was a guest speaker at a college in Massachusetts. He is always entertaining to watch but most of his talks do have a warning about adult language. He explained where he got ideas for some of his books, like ‘Cujo’ and his trip to a motorcycle repair shop. I did enjoy another one of his stories. At the time that he got his first big advance for Carrie, his car wouldn’t run and it was going to be difficult for him to come up with the money to fix it. His advance was half of $400,000. Someone in the audience asked him if he fixed his car or bought a new one. He bought a new Ford Pinto. That made me chuckle, not because of the make of car but because my first new car was a ’72 green Ford Pinto. I loved that car, just like he loved his. As an aside, if you ever watch – Stranger Things on Netflix, you can see what my old Pinto looked like. It was just like the one Winona Ryder drives in the show. Well my husband hated the car, so I only had it maybe a year or so before he sold it and bought me a ’73 Nova. I never liked it as much as my Pinto even though I ended up driving it for 13 years.

Boy did I get off topic. The other thing I picked up from the video is that Stephen King doesn’t plot. He used to also write without notes. He said he uses notes now because he is getting older and it helps him remember. He said if something is important enough to tell a story about, you will remember.

Well I have gotten further along with my story idea. I have shorter days this week because of the Monday Holiday for Martin Luther King day. I will write this week and I will have something for my critique group next Sunday.

I am getting close to finishing  – ‘Magpie Murders’. I haven’t figured out who the killer is yet and that is my definition of a good mystery.

How is your writing going? Are you writing regularly or are you stuck? If that is the case, you might check out the latest Writer Magazine, it has lots of information about getting unstuck.

What do you do when you get stuck? Next time, think about Priming the Pump. I hope this was at least entertaining if not informative.

May your writing flow this week and let me know what you are reading?

Until next time,



Planning a Novel Week 2 – With a Cold

typewriter coffee camera

I don’t know if it is the horrible Holiday Cold I have been suffering with or what, but this week was not so productive. I came down with this cold the Wednesday before Christmas. It is mostly gone except for I sound like I have a frog in my throat. I have been drinking lots of liquids and I admit a couple nights I had some eggnog with a little Captain Morgan Rum. I thought it might help burn it out of my throat. It didn’t but then afterwards I didn’t care so much.

About all I’ve managed to do this week is play with my plot idea and try to come up with my plot points which was my plan. I am still trying to figure it out. I think I need to work on my characters more. I still don’t know my protagonist that well. Part of me wants her to be a Private Investigator and then another part of me wants her to be a Realtor. I have had friends who suggested the Realtor because I was one and you know that write what you know thingy keeps popping up.

Well I need to work on that this week along with everything else that didn’t get done. I managed to get one room cleared of Christmas decorations, later today I will take down the second tree and the few other things left to put away. And while I do that I will ponder my story a little longer. I tend to brainstorm better when I am doing other things. Usually things that make it difficult to take notes, like take a shower or wash dishes or drive.

I am focusing more on writing descriptions of the characters that have less to do with how they look and more with who they are. I try to find out what they want, why, and how they plan to achieve it. When it comes to the actual physical descriptions, I rely on google to find photos of people that remind me of what I picture them to look like. I am using OneNote to keep my story organized. I have Scrivener but haven’t committed to using it yet. I am more comfortable with Word.

I use OneNote for work. It’s set up, so we can keep personal notes on it, I call them my cheat sheets. It also allows our team to share information that we can all see. I soon discovered how useful it could be for my novels. If you haven’t tried it, you might check it out. It is part of the Office Suite of products that comes with Word, Excel, and all the rest. I didn’t find the learning curve too scary.

I am still reading – Magpie Murders, about half way through it. I am a slow reader and cannot usually get through a book in a week anymore. This one is also big but keeping my interest.

It is getting closer to the first meeting of my local chapter of Romance Writers of America. This month is when we introduce the members who haven’t seen my emails and Facebook posts about what to look forward to. No speaker this month but we will be focusing on goals and preparing members for critique. We are switching up how we critique this year. In the past, we would get someone to volunteer to send their work out to the members and then the next month we would all critique it. It worked but it felt like it didn’t work for enough people. So, starting this month, I am encouraging anyone who wants a critique to bring it to the meeting and someone will take it home to critique and bring back. The one rule is that if you bring something, you must critique someone else’s work. I will be emailing a message to the group later today and relay to the out of town members to email the group and look for someone to share a critique with. We don’t have many out of town people, but we do have  one author who lives in Florida in the winter and other members who drive a long way (One person drives 3 hours one way to a meeting each month.) and others who drive 1-2 hours to get here. With Iowa winters it isn’t always possible for them to make a meeting.

If you are a member of RWA and are interested in joining our local chapter, check us out on the National site. We are working on setting up PayPal, for some reason we must do it yearly. Or you can always contact me, and we can get a membership form to you to fill out and return with a check.

If romance isn’t your thing, I also belong to the local Sister in Crime chapter. The same applies to that group if you are interested.

My mantra for this week is – I will complete my novel planning, so I can start writing the novel.

Have you written down your goals for 2018? Are you writing? Are you reading and if so, what?

May this week be productive for all of us.

Until next time,

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