Larceny at the Library

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Colleen J. Shogan and her cozy mystery novel, Larceny at the Library.

Author’s description

Congressional chief of staff Kit Marshall is finally figuring out what it takes to work for a newly minted committee chair in the House of Representatives. After a swanky evening soiree at the Library of Congress, Kit’s husband Doug discovers the body of a high-ranking librarian inside a ceremonial office. In addition to a murder, there’s also a major theft to complicate the situation. The contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets the night he was assassinated have gone missing. Kit’s political boss and the Librarian of Congress ask Kit to investigate, and she’s released into a world of intrigue populated by a frisky donor, an ambitious congressional relations specialist, a cagey rare books curator, an overly curious congressman, and a baseball-loving lawyer. Kit must solve the crime before Doug’s career is tanked by suspicion.

The case takes her to the inner bowels of the Library of Congress, Ford’s Theatre, the National Portrait Gallery, and the D.C. Public Library. In the end, Kit must put her own life on the line to retrieve her most valuable possession, which goes unexpectedly missing as she hunts down the killer and thief.

My Review

In Larceny at the Library Colleen J. Shogan has written an enjoyable cozy mystery enhanced with an insider’s knowledge of DC politics and a wealth of fun information about the Library of Congress and the world of historical artifacts.

Her amateur sleuth, Congressional chief of staff Kit Marshall, is diligent and methodical, and she delivers an admirable solution to the crime, just in time. I liked Shogan’s supporting characters and felt she introduced enough about each to make them three dimensional without getting bogged down in extraneous plots. On the whole, the story works well on an intellectual level.

I wish I’d read the previous novels, as I’m guessing author Shogan covered basics I missed. I needed to know more about Kit Marshall in order to really like her. I kept wondering what she was doing solving murders. Worse yet, when characters from previous stories showed up, I found their cameo appearances frustrating. I have a feeling this particular book works better on an emotional level if the reader is already invested in the main character and is happy to see people from her past.

Every book stumbles a bit somewhere: for this novel I’d say it could use a little more zing. I don’t want car chases and ticking bombs in my cozy mysteries, but less mundane food descriptions, fewer extraneous references to pop culture, and a lot less dialog that boils down to people introducing themselves to each other would have allowed this basically good story to pack more punch.

As it is, it’s a fun read and I’d like to read more by this author. I do recommend this book to all cozy mystery fans, and particularly to those who are also history buffs or are fascinated by watching the DC scene.

About the Author

Colleen J. Shogan has been reading mysteries since the age of six. A political scientist by training, Colleen has taught American politics at several universities and previously worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative staffer in the United States Senate and as a senior executive at the Library of Congress. She is currently the Senior Vice President of the White House Historical Association.

Colleen is a member of Sisters in Crime. “Stabbing in the Senate” was awarded the Next Generation Indie prize for Best Mystery in 2016. “Homicide in the House” was a 2017 finalist for the RONE Award for Best Mystery. “Calamity at the Continental Club” was a 2018 finalist in the “best cozy mystery” at Killer Nashville. She lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband Rob and their beagle mutt Conan.

Find the Author at

https://www.facebook.com/washingtonwhodunit/
https://twitter.com/cshogan276
www.colleenshogan.com
www.goodreads.com/cshogan276

Buy the Book at

Amazon  or BN.

Yes, there is a giveaway

The Author will be awarding a $75 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

GF

My Favorite Excerpt

Dunlap motioned for me to follow inside her private office. With a spectacular view of the historic Jefferson Building and the United States Capitol accompanied by floor to ceiling windows, the Librarian’s corner suite constituted prime real estate on Capitol Hill.  Her desk was littered with papers and books. I appreciated a disheveled work space and instantly felt at ease with the homey appearance of her personal space.

“Please sit down, Ms. Marshall,” she said, pointing to a leather armchair. She took a seat directly opposite me, straining to offer a smile.

“I’ll touch base with Sergeant O’Halloran later this afternoon,” I said. “I’ve already done a preliminary survey of the immediate suspects so we can talk freely about where the investigation stands.”

“Impressive,” said the Librarian, her hands folded neatly on her lap. “How did you come up with such a list?”

I explained that a limited number of people knew that only her fingerprints and Gustav Gaffney’s could open the safe. Given Doug’s observations, if we assumed that Gaffney was killed last night instead of this morning, then only those already inside the building would have had access to the Librarian’s ceremonial office. That narrowed the list of possible suspects considerably.

“Then who are we talking about specifically, Ms. Marshall? asked Dunlap. “After all, I’m in charge of the Library of Congress, and I need to know who might be responsible for these heinous crimes.”

“Of course, ma’am.” I ticked off the known suspects with my fingers. “There’s Gordon Endicott, Joe Malden, Lea Rutherford, Janice Jackson, and Congressman Henry Chang.”  After taking a breath, I continued. “The police likely consider my husband Doug Hollingsworth a suspect, too. But I don’t.” I chuckled. “For obvious reasons.”

“Thank you for those names, Ms. Marshall,” said the Librarian, now with a pinched expression on her face. “I’m afraid you’re going to have to go back to the drawing board.”

My head flinched backwards. “Excuse me, ma’am?”

“Many of those individuals are my employees here at the Library of Congress,” she said. “None of them could have killed Gustav Gaffney or committed theft.”

“It’s hard to imagine a colleague you know and trusted could have done this. But I’ve seen this unfortunate scenario time and time again. You’d be surprised what motivates people to do horrible things.”

Sub-lebrity*

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Leon Acord and his memoir, Sub-lebrity*.

Author’s description

A droll, oddly inspirational memoir from the actor Breitbart once called “a gay leftist activist,” SUB-LEBRITY by Leon Acord (Old Dogs & New Tricks) is an honest, sometimes bitchy but always sincere story about growing up (very) gay in rural Indiana, achieving acting success outside the closet, and generating headlines with his very-public smackdown with Trump-loving Susan Olsen (Cindy, The Brady Bunch)

Do you wonder what a memoir writer doesn’t tell you?

I asked Leon Acord … and here is his response.

I’m a believer of the “vomit draft.” Meaning, when writing a first draft, you write down everything that comes to mind. Future drafts are about cutting, condensing and deciding on and strengthening your “thesis.”

So, after the first draft of SUB-LEBRITY, I realized my book was the mostly comic tale of an out-and-loud gay actor from Indiana now living and working in Los Angeles. If a story wasn’t about being gay, being an actor, or being a gay actor, out it came. There was no room for family dramas or medical traumas.

But as requested, here’s a chapter which I cut from my book, all about my scariest “medical emergency.”

A Twisted Vein

          I somehow arrived at middle-age without ever breaking a bone, having surgery, or even spending a night as a patient in a hospital.

Pretty good, huh?  Especially considering my childhood was filled with jumping off barns, riding horses and mini-motorbikes, and farm work!

But that’s not to say my life has been free of scary medical-show drama.

Around 2003, I began to notice, while reading, that text was becoming a little blurry.  I attributed it to my age (40 at the time), and mentally made a note to buy some reading glasses.

I also noticed colors on TV became muted when I closed my left eye.  Again, I assumed it was just a case of aging eyes.

Then one day, as I was walking to work in San Francisco’s Financial District, I looked up at a high-rise building.

Is that building bulging? I wondered.

I closed my left eye. The building did, indeed, appear to have a small bulge — one or two floors warping outwards.

How is that possible?

I quickly made an appointment with my regular eye doctor, a wonderful woman named Dr. Christine Brischer.

          As we sat down, I explained to her what I was experiencing.  She looked into my left eye, then my right, with her lighted pen.  Then, without a word to me, she spun around in her chair, picked up the phone, and called a leading ophthalmologist.

“Hi, its Christine.  I have a patient who needs to see you immediately.  Can he come this afternoon?  Good!”

She hung up, and spun around to face me.

“I hope you have good insurance,” she said cryptically.  “This is going to be expensive.”

I left her office in a daze, and immediately called Laurence.  He left work early and joined me at the ophthalmologist’s office.

After a thorough and grueling examination, the specialist explained to use what was going on.

A small artery behind the center of my right retina had sprung a leak.  The blood that was spilling out was pushing the retina forward, thus causing vision in that eye to appear warped.

The ophthalmologist conferred with his team.  They suggested urgency.  Considering the leak was located directly in the center of my eye, they recommended the “big guns” — a “hot” laser eye surgery.  It would leave me with a permanent blind spot in the middle of my right eye, but the heat from the laser might — just might — seal up the leaky vein.  We agreed.

My head was strapped into a chair.  I was warned against moving in the slightest for the 60 seconds the laser was shooting into my eye, as the laser would burn (and blind) anything it touched.

The terrifying procedure began, and the entire time, I wondered What if I have to sneeze? What if there’s an earthquake?  What if I fart?

I didn’t, there wasn’t, and I didn’t.

I was appearing in the play Worse Than Chocolate at the time, and assured director Jeffrey I’d recover sufficiently in time to return to the show following the mid-week break in performances.  And I did, despite incredibly distracting “halos” that stage lighting caused in my recovering eye. (I should’ve worn the eye patch I’d been sporting after the surgery on stage, but critics already felt my villain was a little too over-the-top!)

That weekend, during a performance, as I’m “firing” Jaeson Post and demanding the office key from him, he dropped it as he handed it to me.  I looked down.  With my impaired vision, the brass-colored metal key vanished against the similarly colored wooded floor.

I looked at Jaeson.  Rightfully remaining in character, he refused to pick it up.

I got on my hands and knees and felt for the keys with my hands, like a young, manic Patty Duke-as-Helen Keller.  The audience actually loved it, loved seeing the heavy of the show (me) reduced to crawling on his hands and knees after being such a prick, but it was a very scary moment which I think I played off.

We returned to the doctor for a follow-up a week later.  We were both disappointed when told the vein was still leaking.   So now, I had warped vision plus the blind spot right in the center of my eye.  I began to question the wisdom of using the “big guns” right away.

The doctor suggested we try the hot laser again.  But one blind spot is enough, thank you very much.  So, we opted for the less-powerful option:  inject me full of photo-topical chemicals, and shoot a “cold” laser into my eye, through the retina, at the leak.  Then hide from direct sunlight for the next three days (not so easy to do in Los Angeles), as the chemicals would leave me susceptible to serious sunburn within minutes.

That didn’t stop the leak either. So, we tried it again. Then again.

After seven more expensive cold laser surgeries over 18 months, the leak was finally catheterized.

What caused the vein to pop a leak in the first place?

That question left the various eye professionals stymied.  Until over a year later, when we consulted with a vision specialist on the campus of UCSF.

“Did you grow up on a farm?” he asked within moments.

“Why, yes, I did, why?”

“Histoplasmosis,” he answered, explaining the infection – caused by inhaling dried bird droppings – is common in people who live(d) on midwestern farms.  Most people carry it without ever developing symptoms.  Yes, as a matter of fact, I did spend a few months as a kid raising chickens and selling the eggs to neighbors and family members.  And I remembered, Mom had battled the same thing when I was a young kid — in her case, it attacked the veins in her legs, putting her in a wheelchair for a week or two.

Then again, it may be the kicked-up piles of dried pigeon shit I inhaled while shooting OUT’s climatic mugging scene in that disgusting San Francisco Tenderloin back alley.

  Over the years, my blind spot from that hot laser has continued to expand, basically leaving me effectively blind in the center of my right eye.  If I live long enough, the slowly expanding blind spot will eventually leave me legally blind in that eye.

I’ve gotten used to it.  The human eye is an amazing thing, and fills in blind spots with the colors surrounding it.  I only really feel impaired when taking a conventional vision test, while watching a 3D movie, or if I’m driving in an unfamiliar part of town after dark.

The plus side?  I have to subject myself to rigorous eye tests every six months to ensure the leak doesn’t reopen.  Since most of the patients of my ophthalmologist are elderly men and women battling macular degeneration, every time I show up for an appointment, I enjoy the very rare sensation of being the young person in the room — a feat I rarely accomplish in LA!

Or anywhere else these days, now that I think about it…

About the Author

Leon Acord is an award-winning actor and writer who has appeared in over 35 films you’ve never seen and 30 plays you’ve never heard of. Possible exceptions include the digital TV series Old Dogs & New Tricks on Amazon Prime Video (which he created, wrote & co-produced), and the stage hit Carved in Stone (in which he played Quentin Crisp in both SF and LA productions). His memoir, SUB-LEBRITY: The Queer Life of a Show-Biz Footnote, is now available in paperback & e-book on Amazon. He wrote his one-man show Last Sunday in June (1996) and co-authored the 2014 play Setting the Record Gay. He was a “Take Five” columnist for Back Stage West throughout 2009 and a former contributor to Huffington Post. He has also written for San Francisco Examiner and the journal Human Prospect. He currently lives in West LA with husband Laurence Whiting & their cat Toby.  Learn more at www.LeonAcord.com

Find Leon Acord at:
www.facebook.com/LeonAcordActor
www.instagram.com/leonacord
www.twitter.com/Sub_lebrityLeon
Blog: www.LeonAcord.com/blog
Amazon: www.bit.ly/SUBpaperback
Old Dogs & New Tricks website: www.odnt.tv

Buy Sub-lebrity* on Amazon.

 Yes, there is a giveaway.

Leon Acord will be awarding a $50 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt

One of my nemeses from the jock clique, Rick Sisson, was slumming, playing the bit part of an “Old Man” about to be poisoned by two murderous old ladies in Arsenic & Old Lace.

As Mortimer, I was to rush on stage, see the Old Man about to drink a glass of poisoned elderberry wine, grab him by the jacket, and shove him out of my crazy aunts’ house.

That was how we’d been playing it.

For closing night, he and his jock buddies thought of a hilarious prank.  Instead of setting his glass of fake wine on the table before I grabbed him, he’d throw the full glass of Hawaiian Punch into my face!  It was closing night, why not?  Smear the queer!

The sizable high-school auditorium was packed with a rowdy closing-night crowd of parents, faculty and friends, unaware they were about to witness my humiliation.

The moment arrived.  I entered, rushed to the Old Man with the glass near his lips, and SPLASH!

I was stunned.  Rick rushed through the door and off stage before I could do a thing.

The audience erupted with laughter.  Erupted!  And didn’t stop!

I’d seen it on sitcoms all my short life.  Actors forced to hold for a laugh.  I lived for the moments on the Carol Burnett Show when something went wrong or when the actors tried not to laugh.  And now, I was experiencing that myself.  It felt wonderful!

Rick wanted me to feel like Carrie White.  Instead, I felt like Cary Grant.

The two teenaged actresses playing my aunts just watched, trying not to laugh themselves.

I felt myself about to smile.  I turned my back to the audience and fumbled through a desk on stage, pretending to blindly look for a handkerchief – a cover until I could wipe the now-gigantic smile off my face.  The audience found this hilarious and continued howling.

Back in character, I gave up at the desk and turned to face the audience just as the laugh was softening.  I instinctively yanked off my clip-on tie and began dabbing my wet face with it.

The audience screamed with laughter again – this time, the laughter morphed into applause.

The song from the Broadway musical Applause is right – it’s better than pot, it’s better than booze.  Waiting out a long laugh break, instinctively finding ways to prolong it, riding it like a surfer on a wave, then crashing against the shore in a loud burst of applause, is the best feeling in the world.

I had flirted with the idea of being an actor, among other creative pursuits, all though childhood.

But in this moment, I knew. I’d spend the rest of my life chasing that feeling.

Sketches of Life

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author A. Gavazzoni and her action-mystery-historical novel, Sketches of Life

Author’s description:

In the middle of WWII, France has surrendered to Germany, and young Lily, half French and half American, has her life turned upside down. A careless girl full of dreams, Lily must leave France and go to her father’s homeland, taking her mother with her. Lily’s mother becomes completely dependent upon her teenage daughter, and Lily is forced to grow up quickly.

Trying her best to support them both, balancing work and dreams of continuing her studies, Lily meets her first love and discovers passion and betrayal on her way. Ninon is a survivor. Alone in the world, she works as an exotic dancer in a French cabaret called Le Passioné, where she moves her hips to put food on her plate until a new and dangerous opportunity is presented to her. Although Ninon has lost faith in love and God, life will show her surprises can be found around every corner.

France, the United States, Spain, Austria, and Argentina present the backdrops for an epic tale of people trying to adapt to a world in turmoil—one that’s filled with secrets and surprises.

How much time should an author spend researching history?

I asked the author how much of her time was spent on historical research and how important she thought historical accuracy is (or isn’t) when telling a story. Here is her interesting response.

The novel is set in an historical era, but it’s not really an historical novel. Still, I wanted to show my readers only the real facts, places, and events, so I had to spend a long time researching various facts, from simple things such as when the first blender was created, to more complicated topics such as the presence and actions of the Mob in New York City.

I hate when I read a book and the facts are completely phony. I feel betrayed by the author, so I wanted to write fiction but in a way that a person could read my novel and know for certain the events and settings were accurately described. Every scene is calculated to have a true-to-life background; I did extensive research on each place and the people who inhabited those areas during those times. I try to make certain every character acts, dresses, and thinks in accordance with the novel’s timeframe and setting.

It takes a long time to conduct research like that. I write at least one hour per day, and usually, the research consumes at least a third of that time, but in the end, I’m usually very happy with the results.

About the Author:

A. Gavazzoni is a Brazilian writer, a former professor of law, and has been a practicing lawyer for 28 years.  Her first series of self-published novels,  Hidden Motives: Behind the Door, Lara´s Journal and The Brilliant Game, won several writing contests, gathered five gold medals, one bronze medal, five honorable mentions and was a finalist of many great contests (B.R.A.G medallion (Gold Medal); Book Excellence Awards (Two Gold medals);  e-lite awards (Gold medal), Golden Book Award (Gold Medal);  IPPY AWARDS (Bronze Medal), Readers Favorite (three honorable mentions); Paris Book Festival (Three honorable mentions); Eric Hoffer Book Award (Finalist); American Fiction Awards (Finalist); Indie Excellence Awards (Finalist); Independent Author Network (Finalist); Indie Excellence (Finalist); The IAN book of the year awards (Finalist); The Kindle-book award (semi-finalist).

Adriana speaks Portuguese (her native language), English, French and Spanish and she loves to travel.  Adriana loves to cook for her friends, to dance the tango, to work out, she is a voracious reader and a proud dog’s mom of two girls, Juno and Charlotte.

Find the author at:
http://www.agavazzoni.com/
https://www.instagram.com/adri_gavazzoni/
https://twitter.com/a_gavazzoni
https://www.facebook.com/A-Gavazzoni-513404948849469/

See the book video at https://youtu.be/nG4e1ARxqR8

Buy Sketches of Life on Amazon. 

During this tour, the book is $0.99!

Yes, there is a giveaway.

A. Gavazzoni will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

My Favorite Excerpt:

Having nobody else in the world and nothing to lose is terrifying, but it’s also liberating. No matter what I had to do, I would have the courage. I couldn´t disappoint anybody, nobody would cry over my actions, and I had nobody to please.

Things are as big as your proximity to them, and if you keep your distance, nothing can scare you or threaten you. Everything is just a matter of perspective, and the secret to surviving was to keep my heart safe and never expect anything from anyone. In the end, all feelings, good or bad, are only as powerful as you allow them to be.

I learned to live day by day, planning but not living for my plans, trying to solve just the problems I had in front of me and not worrying about things that hadn´t introduced themselves yet. As life had shown me, and Malena once told me, we had no control over the future, and it was as unpredictable as the ocean—it could drown a person if they thought they could tame it.