Here I unpack the closet of my life!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Holiday Movie Memories!

 We all have special Christmas and holiday season memories from our childhood. For me many of those memories are centered around holiday movies and TV specials, and I’m guessing I’m not alone.

When I was little, I remember every year watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer on Christmas Eve. It wasn’t Christmas until I got to enjoy Rudolph’s story of misfits triumphing over hardship—though I’m sure at that age I just thought it was all cute. I love Rudolph to this day, and it frustrates me that they now play him as soon after Thanksgiving as they can manage.

Something else I remember as a small child was the Bing Crosby Christmas special—another vital part of every Christmas. After Bing died, for the longest time Christmas just didn’t feel right. This was probably my earliest introduction to the wonders of Bing Crosby and Christmas. When I was a little older I discovered White Christmas and Holiday Inn and I was in love—not only with the wonderful music, but with Bing and his partners Danny Kaye in White Christmas and Fred Astaire in Holiday Inn.

Around that time I also discovered It’s A Wonderful Life. I’m pretty sure I cried the first hundred times I saw that one.  Watching those three movies was a part of every Christmas for myself and my siblings until we all moved away. Now I only get to see them now and then as my own children have their own Christmas favorites.

When my kids were little, along with introducing them to the classics like Rudolph, Charlie Brown Christmas, and Frosty the Snowman, they enjoyed new favorites like Garfield’s Christmas (something that is still a must see for us every year), Barney’s various Christmas specials, Thomas the Tank Engine, Bob the Builder, Winnie the Pooh, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, and I’m sure there were many more. Eventually they graduated to newer holiday movies like Jingle All the Way and Elf.

Another favorite of mine, and now my children’s as well, is the classic story of A Christmas Carol. While we have enjoyed many incarnations through the years, the one that is still a must see each Christmas is Patrick Stewart’s incredible version—come on you can’t beat Captain Picard as Scrooge!

Being not only a mystery writer, but also a mystery fan, many of my Christmases have also included a couple mystery Christmas favorites such as Sherlock Holmes and the Blue Carbuncle, and Poirot’s Christmas.

I’m sure there are many others I have missed mentioning. I have so many special memories with my siblings, and later on my own children, watching all these wonders of the holiday season. The holidays still aren’t complete without getting in a few of these treasures. Sure it’s TV and movies, but I’d hazard to guess that they are a big part of most of our Christmases, and really it’s more about who you watch them with then just watching them. 

Why not share some of your favorites! Perhaps we will all discover some new holiday treasures to share with those we love!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving Chicken Noodle Soup

As we approach another Thanksgiving I think most of us start thinking about the wonderful food we will be enjoying that day, but I wonder how much that food varies from home to home. I know the traditional Thanksgiving consists of turkey, sweet or mashed potatoes, rolls, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and maybe ham.

However, for many Mexican households here in the San Joaquin Valley the meal looks a bit different with tamales often being the mainstay of the meal. For my own family and its German background, we added our own touches to the traditional potatoes and turkey. Every year my Grandma Lewis would make homemade chicken noodle soup. Her day would start early making the dough for the noodles. Then it would be rolled out and cut. For most of her life, it was cut by hand with a great big dangerous looking knife. Later on, someone in the family bought her a noodle-making machine, which made it much easier.

After the noodles were cut, they would be laid out to dry. I remember Grandma smacking many a hand that tried to eat the drying noodles, especially my brother Drew—he still tries that to this day.

While the noodles dried Grandma would bake the turkey and boil the hen in the water that later would be used to cook the noodles. Finally, when it was getting close to time for the meal, the noodles would be cooked and cut again in the big kettle so they wouldn’t be too long.

At dinner, the soup would be what everyone fought over and the turkey came in second. It wasn’t until I was married that we had someone at our Thanksgiving dinner table that heaven forbid didn’t like the noodle soup! That’s when I had to start making stuffing for him, and our daughter Jessica who decided she would take after her dad.

Another Thanksgiving tradition in our home growing up was cream pies instead of pumpkin. Chocolate was the family favorite but Grandma always made a lemon and a coconut as well. Sometimes someone else in the family would bring a pumpkin pie, though my dad would never touch it. As far as he was concerned, and still is, the only pie is chocolate pie!

Until my grandma was unable to physically handle it, Thanksgiving was always at her house and I have the honor of living in that house now—a home filled with memories of a wonderful lady. It was more than just her incredible food of course, she made everything on Thanksgiving feel so perfect and homey, and it was great having all the family together and taking the time to thank God for another year.

Our Thanksgivings have changed over the years since her passing, but my sister Sheryl has taken on the mantel of making the noodles now since my mom’s health makes it difficult for her to make them anymore. After all, it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving in the Ham/Lewis household without chicken noodle soup.

I’m sure you have your own special twists on Thanksgiving dinner as well. Why not share them here at the Closet—perhaps we will all find something new we can try this Thanksgiving dinner! And if you are preparing your first Thanksgiving dinner and could use a little advice, check out the experts on the Food Network.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Guest Blogger Marilyn Meredith! Why I Write

I'd like to welcome long time friend and fellow mystery author Marilyn Meredith to the Closet today! Thanks so much for joining us!

Why I Write

by Marilyn Meredith

This weekend someone asked me if I was making a lot of money with my books.
I laughed before I answered. Here is what I told her. “Not really. Of course I do make some money, but I spend far more in the pursuit of promoting my books.” That sounds a bit crazy, doesn’t it? When I get a royalty check from one of my two publishers, my percentage is the smallest of all. If I’m getting a royalty from a print book, the bookstore gets the biggest cut, then Ingram (the distributor) gets the next biggest amount, the publisher takes the next percentage, and I get the least amount of all. And no, this is not unusual; it’s the way it works for everyone. Of course if someone buys a book directly from the publisher, then there aren’t so many pieces of the pie taken out. If someone buys a Kindle edition, of course it’s the same thing, Amazon comes first, then the publisher and then me. There are some variables, but that’s pretty much how it works.

When I purchase books from the publisher directly and sell them myself, the cut is better for me. However, it’s not so easy to sell them myself. If I bring the books to the bookstore for a talk and books are purchased, the bookstore gets 30% and my profit will be 10%. No so great, is it.
I love to do book fairs—especially those that don’t charge anything for a booth or table—then I get to keep all of the profit (after what I paid for the books, which I do get at an author discount.)

Unfortunately, most book fairs or craft fairs charge for the privilege of being there so the trick then is to sell enough books to make back that money and then some. If you’ve traveled somewhere for the book fair then you have to take the cost of gas into account. And if it’s far away, then you’ll probably have the price of a hotel room and meals to figure in the equation. No, most of the time you really aren’t going to make a profit.
What you will be doing, hopefully, is meeting new people who will ultimately become fans and buy more books if they like the one they bought at the fair—or take a card and buy a book online. Many mystery writers also go to mystery conventions—and unless you’re a famous author, you certainly won’t sell enough books to make back the cost of attending. Most of us go because it’s a lot of fun. In my case, I’ve met so many people at these cons that each time I go it’s like attending a reunion. Years ago, I roomed with Lorie Ham at the Bouchercon in Anchorage. That’s when I really got acquainted with Lorie and we had a great time together and have been friends every since.

So, now to answer the question, if I’m not making much money, why do I write? I write because I have to. I’ve come to love the characters in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series and I want to know what is going to happen to Tempe, her pastor husband, and all the people in Bear Creek and on the reservation next.
Over the years I’ve learned I really don’t have any control over the world that I live in—but I do have a bit of control over the world that I’ve created. Though bad things always happen in my books, after all I am writing mysteries, I can make sure that everything turns out the way it should in the end.

Invisible Path can be purchased as a trade paperback or e-book from or any of the usual online bookstores.

Marilyn Meredith is the author of nearly thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Invisible Path from Mundania Press. Under the name of F. M. Meredith she writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, An Axe to Grind is the latest from Oak Tree Press.
She is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Internet chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at and her blog at

Synopsis of Marilyn's latest book, Inivisible Path:

-->While Tempe’s son, Blair is home from Christmas break, he and his roommate from college do a bit of snooping to find out about the para-military group who’ve been seen driving through town. When a young popular Indian is found dead near the recovery center on the reservation, Tempe is called in to help with the investigation. Another Native American but a newcomer to the rez, Jesus Running Bear, is the only suspect. A hidden pregnancy, a quest to find the Hairy Man, and a visit to the pseudo soldiers’ compound put Jesus and Tempe in jeopardy.
Excerpt from Inivisible Path

“Jesus, I need to talk to you.”

My grandma was the only one who could get away with pronouncing my name like Jesus in the Bible. My friends say it like “Hay-soos.” Grandma didn’t like it when she heard someone say my name like that. She usually corrected whoever it was by saying, “My grandson is not Mexican, he is Indian. His name is Jesus Running Bear.”

I don’t know what inspired my mother to give me such a name, and she wasn’t around to ask.

Grandma fixed her small dark eyes on me. When she smiled her eyes became crescent moons. She wasn’t smiling now. Whatever it was she wanted to say, it had to be important.

I put down the bowl I’d gotten out of the cupboard. Breakfast would have to wait.

“You’ve been thinking about something a lot. Something that’s going to give you problems.” Grandmother’s face was round, weathered, and brown as a nut. Her gray hair was pulled straight back and arranged in a bun. Wiry strands escaped and poked out around her ears and the nape of her neck. She wore a man’s red plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled up to her elbows, over a pair of faded blue jeans. Beneath the baggy clothes, she was slim and muscled. Her toes peeked out from a pair of worn leather sandals.

I loved my grandma; after all she was the one who raised me after my mother left me alone while she went on a three day drunk. My uncle found me and brought me to grandmother’s house where I’ve been ever since. No, I don’t miss my mother because I don’t even remember her. I only know what I’ve been told about her—not much of it good.

I wasn’t sure what kind of problem Grandma meant. Sure, I’d been going down to the beer joints with my cousin and friends even though I knew she didn’t want me drinking. Maybe that’s what this was about. I respected my grandmother, but I hadn’t obeyed her warning about never touching alcohol. She hated alcohol. Grandfather had died from drinking too much. Maybe my mother was dead too. No one had heard from her in years.

“Come. Sit down.” She motioned to the chair where I usually sat. In front of her was a cup of tea. “We’re going to find out exactly what is going on with you.”

I sat on the edge of the seat. She was going to do some weird Indian stuff. We were Miwok—though we didn’t live on or near a reservation. We lived in a small town in the foothills above Modesto which is in the Central Valley of California. Frankly, I didn’t know much about my heritage except what my grandma told me.

She was an amazing woman, and could do so many things. I was proud of most of what she did. She knew how to gather herbs that could cure most sicknesses. She wove beautiful baskets that she sold at Pow Wows and to tourists in gift shops in Yosemite and other places.

When I was a kid, she took me on camping trips into the back country. She could out hike me even today. But I wasn’t crazy about all the Indian stuff she did that I didn’t understand.

Grandma stared into the cup and began speaking in her native language. That’s what she always did when she was concentrating on something.

She lifted her head and fixed her eyes on me again. “You’re looking for a girlfriend. That’s it, isn’t it?”

Well, sure. What young guy isn’t trying to find a girl? But for once I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut.

Again, she peered into the cup. “I see all kinds of women. Be careful not to choose the wrong one. If you do, you’ll be miserable.”

She stared and her eyes looked funny, like she was seeing something far, far away.

I squirmed, wondering where this was leading. Maybe she already had someone picked out for me.

“I see a pretty girl with a nice figure. She has long straight hair, clear down to her waist. She’ll wiggle her plump bottom and you won’t be able to think. Women have power–especially young pretty ones. Don’t you so much as give her more than a passing glance. If you do, you’ll be miserable your whole life.” Grandma didn’t look up.
In my mind I could see the pretty girl walking down the street, her shiny black hair swinging back and forth like her hips.

After a few minutes my day dream ended when Grandma said, “There’s another one. Short and skinny like I was when I was young. But beware, she’s nothing like me. This one is sneaky. She’ll act like she cares for you when she has lots of other men.”

Interesting. This was more fun than I’d expected.

“I see another one, curly headed and laughing. She’ll welcome you to her bed.”

This was sounding better and better, and I risked a smile.

“Take my warning, grandson. Don’t marry her. She knows nothing about being a wife or taking care of children. She only knows how to have fun. She only wants to party, party, party. She’s not for you.”

I was beginning to wonder if there was anyone Grandma would see in that teacup who was good enough for me.
“Ah, there’s the one you must look for. She’s a sweet girl, with dark brown wavy hair and a dimple in one cheek. She knows and respects the old ways.”

“Where is she? Does she live around here?” I was ready to introduce myself to this wonderful woman.

“No, she lives far away. It may take a long, long while before you meet her.”

That wasn’t such good news. “How will I find her?”

“The path lies straight ahead. Sometimes it will be invisible, but it’s always there.”

Grandma’s discussion about my future seemed to be over.

She picked up the cup and dumped the dregs in the sink. Wiping her hands on a tea towel that had been draped through the handle of the old refrigerator, she asked, “Are you ready to eat?”
* * *

I almost forgot about Grandma’s predictions, because I started drinking more and more with my buddies. I became an embarrassment to her and my other relatives, and I didn’t care.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lamby In My Closet!

It has been awhile since I’ve posted anything from my “closet” so I’m sitting here trying to think what might be of interest to you all. Obviously it’s no secret that I am a writer but have you ever wondered how that all started?

Like many writers I began writing at a very young age, it’s something that has just always been a part of me. The first things I ever wrote were short stories about my stuffed animals. I created an entire world that existed underneath my house where all of those animals lived. The only entrance to this world was through my old, wooden toy box. Each animal had creative names like Lamby the lamb lol, and Blackie the Black Panther. Lamby was kind of like the mother of the group. She did all the cooking and looking after of the others. I still own Blackie, but the others have gone on to stuffed animal heaven. That’s really all I remember of that time as I was only seven years old.

I moved on from there to writing poetry. My first poem was published when I was 13 in a magazine called the “Young Ambassador”. I entered a poem called “My Prayer” in their yearly contest and was one of the winners. Wow what a feeling at that young age to be published. That same year I also wrote my first song, “I Really Love You Lord”, which was published in a Blackwood Brothers songbook. It was quite an exciting year for this young writer.

Over the next several years, I published several poems and short stories in various little magazines. However, it was also during this time that I decided that I wanted to write a novel. Well I had no idea how different and daunting a task that would be. My inspiration through all of this was my favorite TV show at the time, “Murder She Wrote”. It may sound silly but somehow that show inspired me and I spent many hours typing away on an old typewriter while I watched it. I ended up naming my daughter Jessica after Jessica Fletcher.

My attempts at novel writing were various, including a “Star Trek” novel (I happily admit to being a Trekkie my whole life-perhaps there’s a future closet story right there). As I became a fan of mysteries in my mid teens, I also started trying to write a mystery novel. It was during this time that the character Stephen Carlucci-who is in all of my books-came to be. I got his last name from a street sign and his first name came from one of my favorite daytime soap actors, Stephen Nichols on “Days of Our Lives”. Poor Stephen just didn’t seem to be able to carry a book on his own and has now been the “sidekick” of both of my main characters, Alexandra Walters and Pastor Mike Raffles.

In my early 20’s, I was encouraged to combine my two passions of singing and writing to write a mystery novel featuring a gospel singer. Well the rest is history as they say. Alexandra lives in four mystery novels and one short story. Her story came to an end this year with the publishing of “The Final Note”. Sample chapters of this book can be found in the archives of this site. Ironically, Stephen lives on, and will become the new sidekick of his cousin Roxi Carlucci once I have time to sit down and start my new series.

And there you have a brief history of my writing. There are many more twists and turns along the way-more songwriting, articles published in magazines, writing for local newspapers, and then of course now “Kings River Life Magazine.”

Watch for another item from my “closet” hopefully, coming soon. Perhaps I’ll be taking “Star Trek” out of my closet!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Book Review of "The Hanging Tree"

The Hanging Tree

By Bryan Gruley

Touchstone Books

August, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4165-6364-8

Paperback, 336 pp., $15.00

Reviewed by Theodore Feit

This second book in the series continues a look at the small town of Starvation Lake and the people who live in that northern Michigan burg as seen through the eyes of Gus Carpenter, the executive editor of the bi-weekly hometown newspaper. The plot involves the apparent suicide of his second cousin, Gracie, who left the town about the same time Gus did years before for Detroit. Gus, of course, returned when he lost his job with the Detroit Times, Gracie only recently.

But what Gracie did in the big city is a big mystery, as is the question of why she had returned to Starvation Lake. At first, it cannot be determined whether she died by suicide or had been murdered. She was found hanging from an oak tree from which townspeople and kids routinely hung paired shoes, just like many carve initials into trees. It falls to Gus to look into Gracie's past to determine the secrets of the present.

Just an admittedly trite aside: the novel truly starts off with a "bang." And while there are elements of sex and violence, they are relatively mild. More important is the analytical drive bringing the story along to its conclusion. And once again, for hockey and journalism fans, Mr. Gruley has presented, with sensitivity and deep first-hand knowledge, an intensive look into the relationships of small town residents, family, and what makes a community the size of Starvation Lake tick. Highly recommended.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The End of An Era

For many years I have been the editor of the NoName Cafe Book Review Corner as a part of my writing/singing website. Thanks to the help of a couple of great reviewers we shared many book reviews and great author interviews at the Cafe and it was a lot of fun. But the time has come to say goodbye to the Cafe. It was tied to my Alexandra Walters mystery series (it was named after a Cafe in those books) and that series now has come to an end with the publication of The Final Note, as has my old website (though you can view the old Cafe reviews and interviews up until early next year at the old site). I am busy now with the magazine that also has book reviews and author interviews, and with my singing, so it was time to move on.
However, this means I will be continuing here at Mysteryrat's Closet to write articles and provide book reviews, and I have started a new blog for my music ministry.
So you can find me at both of those places as well as at Kings River Life (to learn more about the magazine read my previous post. And when the time comes to birth my new mystery series perhaps then it will be time for a brand new website!
This has definitely been a year of change and my hope is that most of it will be change for the good! I also plan to begin work on writing a mystery play-a brand new kind of challenge.
So stay tuned here and on my twitter for writing updates & book reviews, and at my other blog for music updates.
Goodbye NoName Cafe, hello a new and different world!
Happy reading & Good Coffee,
Lorie Ham

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Story of a Magazine, or You Can’t Write That

I have been writing most of my life. My first poem was first published at the age of 13. Through the years, I’ve had magazine articles, poems, short stories, and novels published, and written off and on for local newspapers and magazines.

However, you may ask how did you end up deciding to start a magazine? Well I’ve noticed that things seldom happen “as planned” in life—changes hit you out of the blue all the time. One such change happened to me in December of 2009 when without warning I was laid off from my current job. I found myself going okay now what? And then it hit me! While working in the newspaper world I’d had many ideas of what I felt would be interesting stories that I believed people would enjoy, and been constantly told no we don’t do stories like that, or no we don’t have room, or even no I don’t think people around here would find that interesting. In other words, you can’t write about that. My favorite though was—you go too in depth with your stories.

I decided why not start an online magazine where I’m in control of what goes in it. At first glance it may seem a little self indulgent, but don’t we all have times when we wish we could do what we feel is right? When you reach a point where you’re tired of people telling you that you can’t do what you really want to do and feel in your gut is the right thing to do. So now I’m finally able to do those stories I never got the chance to do, and follow those ideas. I now can write that!

After the idea, came months trying to figure out exactly what would be the focus, what would be a good name, where to find other writers since I had no intention of filling up an entire magazine with only my writing lol, and so on. So I got together with some creative friends and started brainstorming on a name—which seemed to be the place to start. We came up with Kings River Life Magazine. The Kings River runs through my town of Reedley, California and through many other towns in the San Joaquin Valley. The desire was to not be limited to just one community, but be open to writing stories from all the surrounding cities as time went along, so this seemed to be a name that left us open to cover all life on the Kings River.

Next, we needed a logo, a photo that was all ours, so the process was started to make that happen and I’m very pleased with what we came up with.

So now what exactly would be our focus? Why not start with areas I know and that I have connections in. One good thing about living in an area your whole life, and working with various local newspapers and magazines, was that you made connections. I’ve gone to church and sung in churches my whole life so let’s cover local ministries—with a special focus on what people are doing to help those in their community. I’m a member of the local Historical Society board so why not local history. My daughter is involved in local theatre and it never gets the coverage it deserves so why not theatre. Music—well I’m a singer so that’s a given. I’ve had a heart and connection with local teens since working with them at the library—so why not a section just for them. Better yet, why not let them write it? I firmly believe in going green—so let’s include that. And reviews of books, music, TV, movies, etc. Yes that sounds good—oh and animals, I love animals and was involved in animal rescue for several years. So that seemed like a good mix—a good place to start. Oh and wait—I write fiction set in the Valley, why not include some of that too. And my husband is involved in sports, and I know a lot of people in the City and Education…

The beauty of it being online and with such an all-encompassing name like Kings River Life, is we aren’t hemmed in to anything. As time goes along, we can expand not only to other communities but to covering whatever we find people want to read.

As to writers—it’s amazing once you start talking about what you’re doing how many people say hey I’d like to write something. Yeah not everyone who wants to write can write, but we’ve lucked out and ended up with a great group gathered from all different walks of life and all different ages from 15 to senior citizens. I also talked to some English classes at the local high school and found some writers there, along with teens I already knew.

We went live on May 29 after a LOT of work! And have been going strong with a new issue up every Saturday morning at 10 every week since. We’re still growing and deciding what works and what doesn’t, what people like and what they don’t, but it’s going great and we can’t wait to see what the future holds! (FYI none of this would ever have happened without the awesome talents of our webmaster/editor Dorian Rhodes who works crazy hard.)

Honestly, the best things about it so far is the great team that’s come together to make Kings River Life happen each week and having people send us emails saying hey I loved that story or thanks for letting people know about us, and no longer having someone say “sorry but you can’t write that” lol.

So check us out at Follow us on twitter @kingsriverlife and find us on Facebook and MySpace. Watch us grow and evolve and if you have an idea of something you would like to see in an issue, or maybe you even would like to try your hand at writing something—let us know And you may notice when you check us out we really aren’t limited to just the area of the San Joaquin Valley of California along the Kings River—we have reviews, author interviews, articles and fiction that can appeal to people where ever you live! So check us out.

And that’s just another thing in my closet.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Review of Dispel the Mist by Marilyn Meredith

It's been awhile since I've had time to review a book myself, but I always make the time to review Marilyn Meredith's books as I know I'm going to love them and this one is no exception.
Hope you enjoy the review, and hope you get yourself a copy of the book.
Happy Reading & Good Coffee,

Dispel the Mist, A Tempe Crabtree Mystery
By Marilyn Meredith
Mundania Press, 2009
ISBN 978-1-59426-402-3

Dispel the Mist is the latest book in Marilyn Meredith’s Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, set in the mountains above the San Joaquin Valley. In this book Tulare County supervisor Lilia Quintera dies under suspicious circumstances soon after the announcement of a planned project for a new hotel and golf course on the Bear Creek Indian Reservation—a project that quickly causes a heated debate. Her mixed Mexican and Native American heritage played a significant role in Lilia’s election and many on the Reservation expect her to support the new project. Lilia recently helped bring a casino to the Reservation to allow for more jobs and a better life for those living there.

Before her death, Lilia also became involved in another controversial project—the opening of a home for women with disabilities in the new gated community of Shadow Hills. This project has a personal side for her in that her niece would be residing in that home. Some of the Shadow Hills residents think the home will bring down property values.

Tempe is put on special assignment to investigate this murder due to her ties to the community and the Reservation. She quickly finds the suspect list growing to include those that were against the proposed projects, Lilia’s much younger husband, and even her own sister.

Not only is this an excellent mystery, but Marilyn weaves into the story the Native American elements that make it unique—including the lore of the Hairy Man. Could it be more than just a myth? The relationship between Tempe and her preacher husband Hutch is also a joy to watch unfold as they work to find a balance between their busy lives and differing beliefs.

I highly recommend Dispel the Mist. For more info on Marilyn’s other books check out her website at

Friday, July 9, 2010

Blog Hop favorite authors!

This week's blog hop asked what our favorite authors are and why. I enjoy so many it's hard to narrow it down but here are a couple. I love Anne Rice, her writing is so good and I've always been a fan of vampires and no vampire beats Lestat! I just started reading her Angel series and that same quality is there-I'm loving it.
Another favorite is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes is the best detective ever-no other detective will ever be greater and so many try to copy him. I love mysteries and Sherlock Holmes is the best.
Happy Reading & Good Coffee,
Lorie Ham

Monday, July 5, 2010

Mystery book review

Since I've been swamped with my new online magazine lately, Kings River Life, I haven't posted anything in a couple of weeks. Finally here is a book review done by Cindy Chow, DEATH WILL HELP YOU LEAVE HIM By Elizabeth Zelvin. Consider adding this to your summer reading list.
And if you're looking for a free mystery read online my mystery novel, DEADLY DISCRIMINATION, is being serialized on my magazine-check it out at there you can start with chapter 1, but there are now 6 chapters on the site, with a new one every week.
Happy Reading & Good Coffee,
Lorie Ham

By Elizabeth Zelvin
St. Martin’s Minotaur, $25.99
ISBN: 978-0312582661, 10/09

Review by Cindy Chow

Death Will Help You Leave Him is a story of addictions. Each characters battles his or her own addiction, be it to alcohol, drugs, love, sex, being needed, or, helpful for this novel, an addiction to investigating. Bruce Kohler is nine months sober and working as a temporary paralegal when his best friend’s girlfriend Barbara’s addiction to helping others has the three on a mission of mercy to aid her Al-Anon sponsee Luz, who apparently just discovered the body of her boyfriend in her apartment. The beautiful women had been unable to refrain from loving or leaving the abusive victim, and the fact that Luz has been a little recalcitrant with the truth to everyone has her as the number one suspect on the police suspect list. With considerable pressure from Barbara, Bruce finds himself a little too eager to investigate the dead man’s life, which included drug dealing, several stints in rehab, a bakery-owning family, and most problematic for Luz, a wife. While the addictive high of detecting satisfies some of Bruce’s need for excitement, the reappearance of his bi-polar ex-wife dangerously creates another.

The most compelling aspects of this second novel by Elizabeth Zelvin, a psychotherapist with a strong addiction treatment background, are the addictions of the characters and the various ways they have managed to cope with them. Barbara is impulsive and reckless with her need to constantly help and “fix” other’s problems, Bruce daily battles the desire for alcohol and an attraction to his fragile and reckless ex-wife, and Luz has her own inability to acknowledge the destructiveness of her past relationship. Bruce’s own personal tragedies interweave with his amateurish investigation, and both prove to be realistic and clearly depicted. Despite the somber themes of this mystery, the wry humor of the heroes lighten the tone and make this a very enjoyable read. The characters and their struggles also aid in creating an extremely unique mystery that sucks the reader in and refuses to let go.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Review of HOLY DEATH by Harol Marshall

HOLY DEATH: The First P.I. Berger Novel

By Harol Marshall

Alabaster Book Publishing, 2008

Review by Cindy Chow

Take a tough-talking private detective who calls women “broads” and thinks that the prospective client who just walked in has blond hair that "flowed over her shoulders like cheese sauce on a baked potato." Add the PI’s hot secretary who is nicknamed "Bunny" and happens to be sleeping with the boss. Now however, surprise the reader by making the detective a thirty-something woman and having her eye-candy assistant Bernando "Bunny" Contreras be a part-time standup comedian/karate instructor/secretary. What you get is this very unique take on the noir mystery by Harol Marshall. Pauline (Polly) Isabel Berger is a PI both in name and profession. She's less than thrilled, though, with her new leggy client Cinda Mae Bradbury, who thinks that her boyfriend is being poisoned by Santa Muerte, which is both a cult and a saint. However, it's Cinda Mae's husband who meets his maker first, with the boyfriend arrested as the culprit. A hysterical -and often confusing - Cinda Mae insists that Antonio is not guilty, insisting that Polly prove his innocence.

With the aid of one of her cop ex-husbands (she has two), Polly meanders her way through Cinda Mae's malapropos, metaphors, and lies. Polly also has to juggle the jealousy of her assistant (who isn't bothered by their 12 year age difference) and the flirtatious attentions of her Ex. If she can still manage to solve the case, it will definitely be a miracle.

A noir mystery featuring a hard-boiled female detective, the novel never takes itself too seriously. The dialogue can often be exhausting with its continual inclusion of puns, ridiculous names, and jokes, but the characters are likable enough to make the reading a pleasure. Anyone looking for a parody of the classic, noir mystery will find enjoyment in the first installment of this series.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Check out the Book Blogger Hop!

Trying something new this week-it's called the Book Blogger Hop! Check it out if you love books, it's a lot of fun. Just go to Crazy For Books
Happy Reading & Good Coffee!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Review of LAW & DISORDER by Mary Jane Maffini

By Mary Jane Maffini
Rendezvous Crime, $16.95

Review by Cindy Chow

Everyone loves a dead lawyer joke. Until real lawyers end up dead.

Ottawa victim’s advocate attorney Camilla MacPhee was anxiously awaiting the conviction of Lloyd Brugel, especially after her client committed suicide soon after testifying and being grilled by Brugel’s sleazy lawyer, Rollie Thorsten. When Thorsten turns up shot dead and dumped in the Rideau River, Camilla assumes that it’s just another way of Brugel delaying his court sentence. She changes her mind when her favorite client, reformed art thief Bunny Mayhew, turns up on her doorstep with the news that he’s been receiving letters containing lawyer jokes, followed by notes naming a recently deceased attorney. Due to the easily distracted and borderline incompetent assistant her father saddled with her with, Camilla discovers that she also had unknowingly been receiving the same “warnings.” When the police disregard her suspicions, Camilla recruits her computer savvy senior citizen friend to help investigate and prevent further deaths. Her assistant Alvin Ferguson both aids and hinders her as he prepares for the arrival of Camilla’s boyfriends daughters, whom Camilla was unaware would be staying at her house. A bulldog of a real estate agent, determined to help Camilla sell an unwanted inheirtence, adds complications as Camilla attempts to discover what ties all of the deceased attorneys together and who may have it in for her, her client, and the law profession.

A hilarious contrast to the morose, disillusioned, lawyers of John Grisham, Camilla proves to be a delightful, impetuous, impulsive, and occasionally irrational character who bulldozes her way through in order to help her friends. A short, dark, changeling in a family of tall, svelte, blonde, sisters, Camilla dodges their attempts to meddle in her life as she copes with the arrival of her love interest’s daughters who also have a history of interference. The characters and intricate plot keep the pace of the novel moving quickly, and a rather unorthodox observation by Camilla provides her with a completely unexpected solution. This fourth in the Camilla MacPhee series will have readers eager for the next, if only to see if her life will ever get less complicated.

Friday, June 4, 2010

New book review!

Check out Cindy Chow's review of IDENTITY CRISIS by Debbi Mack


By Debbi Mack

Quiet Storm Publishing, 2005

ISBN: 978-0-557-08325-1, $15.99

Review by Cindy Chow

A domestic violence case turns deadly for Maryland attorney Stephanie Ann “Sam” McRae, but not in the way that would be expected. This time, it’s the abuser who’s been shot dead, with the police and an FBI agent wanting to know the location of Sam’s client Melanie Hayes, who has just gone missing. To further upset Sam’s life, she just barely escaped having her own identity stolen by an imposter applying for a credit card in her name.

Feeling responsible for her client and then hired by Melanie’s boss, Sam investigates Melanie’s home and the dead man’s life, discovering that Melanie’s Ex worked at a strip club and seemed to have been falling apart mentally at the end up of his life. Teaming up with a private investigator who served papers on Melanie alleging that she was involved in identity theft cases, Sam gets herself involved in more trouble than she could ever expected.

For a first novel, Identity Crisis is very well-written and reads smoothly with a plot that is tied up satisfactorily if not neatly. Sam herself proves to be complicated and somewhat ethically flexible. She’s unwilling to break a federal law by opening an envelope that was sent to a post office box rented out illegally in her own name, yet swipes the appointment book from her missing client’s home and even breaks into the office of a strip club after hours. She has a married lover, one who is on the opposing side of her legal case. More disturbing for me though, is that she’s beaten so severely by mafia-types wanting to know information that she spends a week in the hospital and yet neglects to reports the attack to either the police or her district attorney boyfriend. It’s a plot hole that had me seriously questioning Sam’s judgment as a member of the bar.

However, this novel did keep me completely riveted to the end and truly had me liking Sam, her humor, and her dedication to her client. Sam is realistically flawed, and this just makes her all the more relatable to those who may be jaded by tough-talking, cynical detectives. Sam deserves another outing soon that will show her growth as a person, an attorney, and as an investigator. Readers will be rewarded by another appearance of a Sam McRae mystery.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Closet Becomes Long Term Temporary Cafe!

2010 has definitely been a year of change-both good and bad. One change has been that of webmasters for my personal writing/singing website, so although my website remains at with a lot of great stuff on it, including sample chapters of my earlier books, it has not been updated in several months.
Since another change has been to start my own online magazine at, with the assistance of my new webmaster, that same new webmaster is swamped with that project as am I. Because of this I have decided that the old website will remain where and as it is, and the new one will go live on January 1, 2011 with a brand new look! My book review and author interview section of my website, The NoName Cafe, will remain as is for now at the old site as well, and will be reborn anew with fresh new material in January at the new one.
In the meantime-the Closet will become my new temporary home for great mystery book reviews and some author interviews! So be on the lookout for some great new stuff coming up here very soon. Who knows-maybe even tomorrow! lol
You may also follow me on Twitter @mysteryrat or check out my Facebook pages.
As always,
Happy Reading & Good Coffee
Lorie Ham

Monday, May 31, 2010

New online magazine goes live!

This weekend I launched my new online magazine, Kings River Life. While it mostly features items of interest to those in the San Joaquin Valley of California, we also have interviews with California authors and we are serializing one of my mystery novels, DEADLY DISCRIMINATION.
Come check us out at We are also looking for submissions from Valley area writers.
Follow us on twitter @kingsriverlife
Later this week look for a new blog post where I share my journey to starting a magazine!
Happy reading & Good Coffee

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pepsi in my closet

Something that my main character, Alexandra Walters, and I have in common is a love of Pepsi. We both know it isn’t good for us, yet often find ourselves turning to it for comfort and just the caffeine to keep going. Alex was introduced to Pepsi by her father, Rueben Walters. In “The Final Note” Alex makes a comment about how she doesn’t know how the bus manages to move forward with so much Pepsi stored in the bins in the bottom of the bus.

I was first introduced to Pepsi by my Grandpa Lewis. I don’t really remember it myself but have been told many times that I was very young and was reaching for his straw. Not thinking I could get anything out of it, Grandpa let me have it. Well I surprised them all by being quite adept with the straw and that’s when I got my first taste of Pepsi. There was no going back. While it’s a habit I’ve tried many times to break, and have succeeded most of the time in cutting back, it’s something that has been a part of my life for almost all of my 44 years now.

Pepsi has a long history in our family as I can’t recall ever seeing my Grandpa without one, and the same has continued with my dad. As he now suffers from Parkinson’s and has been able to retain few of the joys of his life, Pepsi is one of them.

It actually is connected to some wonderful memories for me including one of my Grandma Lewis. After Grandpa passed away, she was lonely so I began spending the nights at her place, which was only 2 houses away from my parent’s home. Each night I’d arrive and she’d have an ice cold Pepsi waiting for me-one she’d put in the freezer just long enough to be extremely cold and wonderful. We’d sit down then and enjoy our Pepsi’s and watch one of many TV shows we enjoyed together. I remember Dallas, Miami Vice and Moonlighting being some of our favorites. I miss those times, and cherish them fondly. It was at that point in our lives that my grandma and I became more than just granddaughter and grandparent-we became friends.

So for better or worse Pepsi will always have a special place in my “closet”. Alex and I both will continue to enjoy the cool, refreshing drink. And now living in what was once my Grandpa and Grandma Lewis’ house, I have made new memories sitting in front of the TV eating popcorn and having Pepsi with my kids while we enjoy a movie, or an episode of Buffy or Monk. My husband even participates of sorts-though his is Diet Pepsi-yuck lol.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to get everyone to go out and enjoy a Pepsi and I realize it’s not a healthy habit. I’m just sharing what it has meant to me and my family-right or wrong.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


This is a book review done by my primary reviewer for my NoName Cafe Book Review Corner site that is on temporary hiatus. Cindy Chow is awesome and has been reviewing books for my site for years. Since the Cafe is on hiatus right now thought I would start posting some of her reviews here in my Closet!

Happy reading and good coffee!


By Elizabeth Zelvin

St. Martin’s Minotaur, $25.99

ISBN: 978-0312582661, 10/09

Review by Cindy Chow

Death Will Help You Leave Him is a story of addictions. Each characters battles his or her own addiction, be it to alcohol, drugs, love, sex, being needed, or, helpful for this novel, an addiction to investigating. Bruce Kohler is nine months sober and working as a temporary paralegal when his best friend’s girlfriend Barbara’s addiction to helping others has the three on a mission of mercy to aid her Al-Anon sponsee Luz, who apparently just discovered the body of her boyfriend in her apartment. The beautiful women had been unable to refrain from loving or leaving the abusive victim, and the fact that Luz has been a little recalcitrant with the truth to everyone has her as the number one suspect on the police suspect list. With considerable pressure from Barbara, Bruce finds himself a little too eager to investigate the dead man’s life, which included drug dealing, several stints in rehab, a bakery-owning family, and most problematic for Luz, a wife. While the addictive high of detecting satisfies some of Bruce’s need for excitement, the reappearance of his bi-polar ex-wife dangerously creates another.

The most compelling aspects of this second novel by Elizabeth Zelvin, a psychotherapist with a strong addiction treatment background, are the addictions of the characters and the various ways they have managed to cope with them. Barbara is impulsive and reckless with her need to constantly help and “fix” other’s problems, Bruce daily battles the desire for alcohol and an attraction to his fragile and reckless ex-wife, and Luz has her own inability to acknowledge the destructiveness of her past relationship. Bruce’s own personal tragedies interweave with his amateurish investigation, and both prove to be realistic and clearly depicted. Despite the somber themes of this mystery, the wry humor of the heroes lighten the tone and make this a very enjoyable read. The characters and their struggles also aid in creating an extremely unique mystery that sucks the reader in and refuses to let go.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Rats in my closet!

Time to venture into the rat side of my closet lol. Yes I did say rats which may send some of you scurrying for the table. But actually domesticated rats are wonderful pets-trust me I used to be part of the table scurrying crowd so I understand. And actually for me the mystery side of my closet and the rat side are now connected as my main character in the new series will end up befriending an adorable blue dumbo rat against her better judgement-but that's a whole other story.
I'd like to take a moment and share with you my introduction to rats as a pet. Like many I was scared to death of all rodents and would have screamed had any come near me. However when my daughter was in 4th grade her class had rats and she begged to have some of her own. After much arguing I gave in with the stipulation that she and her father would take care of them and I would not have to have anything to do with them at all.
Well this lasted all of maybe 24 hours. We brought home a pair of baby female rats and one of them quickly became ill. Somehow any creature in your home that is ill immediately becomes the duty of the mother in the house-I'm not sure why. I took a deep breath and forced myself to care for the ailing creature-within a couple of days I was hooked. This tiny tan baby was so sweet and loving and her fur so very soft she drew me in and made me fall in love with her. Perhaps rats are magical in some way lol. My love for rats was sealed though when I had to return her to the pet store to be put down :( That broke my heart so much that I brought home a replacement and fell immediately in love with a white rat named Hermione.
Hermione was the best example of a rat anyone could ever find and the best first rat anyone could ever have. Not only was she as friendly and loving as a puppy she was smart! She quickly learned her name and if you let her out to play she would come running when you called her and never got into any trouble.
Now keep in mind if you should venture into the rat owning world that just like people each rat is different and most will get into things and chew them and only a few will come running whenever you call. Many tend to have more cat characteristics in them and are very stubborn looking at you when you call them like they're saying to you "what me? Um I don't think so." I'd say rats are an interesting combination of cat and dog traits-they also clean themselves just like cats.
I'm sure I probably haven't sold most of you non rat people on rats yet, but beware if you ever let them in the door you may be won over by their magical powers :)
If you would like to learn more about rats as pets there are many wonderful websites you can check out one of my favorite being RMCA
One of my favorite rat related movies is Ratatouille! I would never let my rats cook but come on isn't he cute?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Interview with Charlaine Harris

The following interview will appear when we relaunch the NoName Cafe Book Review Corner hopefully within the next couple of months-but since I've kept Charlaine waiting so long decided to go ahead and let all of you go ahead and read it here. Enjoy-Charlaine is awesome!

As we relaunch the Café at its new home we have the special treat of having with us author Charlaine Harris—well known author of the popular Sookie Stackhouse novels upon which the HBO TV series True Blood is based. So grab a cup of coffee and enjoy. Her latest book GRAVE SECRET, is from her other series published by Ace and Berkley. The series features Harper Connelly.
A Touch of Dead, a compilation of previously published Sookie Stackhouse stories, will be on the shelves on Oct. 6, 2009.

Can you tell us a little about the new book GRAVE SECRET?

In this book, Harper finds out the truth about her family.

When did your first book come out?

My first book was published 26 years ago, and it was a mystery titled SWEET AND DEADLY.

Have you always written mysteries?

I've written mysteries and urban fantasy.

What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your series? Tell me a little about the setting and main characters.

My Sookie Stackhouse series is set in northern Louisiana, which I picked because Anne Rice has southern Louisiana. The Harper Connelly books are a traveling series. Sookie is a telepathic waitress who dates a vampire. Harper has been struck by lightning and can detect the dead. She dates her "stepbrother."

Café:Are you writing any books other than the series now?

I'm thinking of doing a standalone.

Café:What is the main reason that you write?

Because it's the only thing I can do well.
Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?

I have an agenda.
Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?

I have a schedule. I write every morning from 8 to 11:30, then in the afternoon from 12:30 or 1:00 until 3:30.
Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?

I don't outline, but I'm not proud of that. I use PostIt notes and a spiral bound notebook to keep track, plus I have a couple of ardent readers I can email; they know the books better than I do.

If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?

I'm writing at the perfect time of day for me.

Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?

I was taking a creative writing class the one year we lived in St. Louis. The woman who taught the class was Shannon Ravenel, who'd just finished working at Houghton Mifflin. She's just retired from her position at Algonquin Press, now. She recommended what I wrote in the class to a colleague at Houghton Mifflin, and HM published the book.

Wow that’s awesome!
What kind of promotion do you find most affective?

If you have the right temperament for it, I think meeting people in person -- readers, bookstore workers, publicists -- can be very effective.

Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue.

Probably at a big chain bookstore in Metairie when it re-opened after Katrina.

That must have been incredible.What do you think has made this series so popular?

I hope the Sookie books are popular at least in part because they're well written. And I think they touch on a lot of themes that readers can identify with.

Future writing goals?

I'm always trying to write a better book.


My mother is a hero of mine. The mother of one of my daughter's friends, whose quick action saved her family from death.

Those are great heroes.
Person you would most like to meet dead or alive?

Possibly, you should rephrase that? I have an image of shaking hands with a corpse. I'd like to meet -- oh, gosh. Shirley Jackson.

Lol now I have a visual of that as well.
What do you read?

I read a lot, and I read a wide variety of books: urban fantasy, mystery, science fiction, a little romance, a little non-fiction.

What are your hobbies?

Well, reading. I don't do too much besides read and write nowadays.

Favorite TV or movies?

"True Blood," of course. I also like "Project Runway" and "Lost." "Dexter," too. I just saw "Area 9" and thought it was really refreshingly different.

I keep wanting to try Dexter.
Any pets?

Three dogs and a goose.

Wow I think you are our first goose owner.

A husband, two sons, and a daughter.

What part of the country/world do you live in?

The South.

Must make research easier.Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?

Read as much as you can and then sit down and write. There's no one correct way to do this.



Café:Can you tell us a little about how True Blood the TV Show came about?

Alan Ball's agent approached my agent, and after some thought I accepted his offer over the others I had on the table.
How you are involved, how much control do you have, and how you feel about the show?

I'm not involved at all, though I'm in touch with Alan and his staff many times a year, especially during the season. I put my books in the right hands, so I didn't mind surrendering control. I love the show.

How does it differ from the books?

"True Blood" is different in several ways. The books are told from the first person, which obviously won't work for the screen, so the other characters are far more developed in Alan's world.

Are you excited about how popular it has become?

Of course I'm excited.

How has this changed your life and your writing?

It's changed my life quite a lot; my writing, not so much

Thanks so much for joining us here at the Café for an exciting mix of mystery and vampires.
Happy reading and Good Coffee!