Transition to Murder by Renee James

I am pleased to introduce to you all Renee James, an author I met at aWisconsin Writer’s Association writing retreat I was speaking at last year. Renee and I exchanged books. I read Transition to Murder and I would recommend it, but I’ll let Renee talk about the book and a bit about herself.

Transition to Murder (A Bobbi Logan Crime Novel)

You write in the voice of a transgender woman—what’s your connection to the trans world?
I’m transgender, but not transsexual. I identify as a woman but live in both genders for many, many reasons. Lots of us in the transgender spectrum don’t transition for fear of alienating loved ones, losing careers, or, in the case of male-to-female trans people, losing male privilege.

How are you connected to the heroine, Bobbi Logan?
I developed the Bobbi Logan character after I decided not to transition. As a kind of therapy, I began writing a fictional journal about a trans person who transitioned in her late thirties as I might have done. I did the journal to see what her life would have been like. She had many of my physical and emotional characteristics at the start, but she evolved from there. I got about 50,000 words into the project and realized I had a really interesting character, so I decided to put her in a novel.

Transition to Murder is set in 2003 and Bobbi faced enormous difficulties in her transition. Have things changed since then?
It depends on where you live. In the big cities, especially in the north, it’s like night and day. In 2003, when a transwoman like me walked into a restaurant, conversations would stop, people would gawk, and even the people who accepted me would regard me with knowing smiles. Today, in those same places, no one gives me a second glance, the wait staff treats me like anyone else, and genetic women don’t even blink when we share the Ladies Room. It’s as close to a miracle as I’ve seen in my life.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite as positive when you travel into rural areas or the poor sections of big cities or the states of the old Confederacy, where things remain very touchy for trans people.

What about the bathroom issue?
It’s a non-issue in places like Chicago and New York. I think I’ll wait awhile before I go to North Carolina or Texas, though.

Bobbi encounters conflicts and tensions within the transgender community too. Don’t you tend to support each other?Support was always the mantra when I came out, and in the bad old days, we did band together to have functions where it was safe to be “out.” Support isn’t the same as friendship, though, and it wasn’t especially easy to make friends with other trans people. Most of us didn’t have much in common other than being trans, so conversation didn’t necessarily come easily.

Today, more of us are out on our own because it’s safe and fairly accepted in many places, so our cohesiveness is declining. The other factor is age: young transgender people have a radically different experience than trans people my age had in their formative years. They are more out, more accepted, and better able to transition before they become fully formed in wrong gender. So they tend to be much more passable than many of us older trans people, and maybe a little embarrassed at being compared to us. Add to that the usual tension between generations, and you can see the basis for internal friction.

The other thing is, we’re a lot like any other group in America. The same mix of personalities, politics, religious beliefs, education—everything. And you’ve probably noticed that we American’s have a lot of conflicts and tensions these days.

Why do you write in first person?
The people who mentored me when I came out constantly emphasized how important it was for each one of us to make a contribution to the acceptance of transgender people by the rest of society.

I wanted my Bobbi Logan novels to be my contribution. My idea was to put non-trans readers in in the mind and body of a transsexual woman for a few hours so they could get a sense of who we are and how we experience the world. I thought first-person was the best way to go about it and I think it works.

Transition to Murder is based on an earlier book, Coming Out Can Be Murder, which you self-published. What’s the difference between the two books, and why did you re-publish?
I re-published because I wanted to see what I could learn from a professional publisher and to hopefully sell more books than I did as a self-publisher. I got to work with a good editor, and he convinced me to change the ending of the story. That was the biggest difference between the two versions, and the sequels are based on the Transition to Murder version. (Anyone who read Coming Out Can Be Murder and wants to know the change can contact me through my web site (reneejames.author.com).

Tell me about the sequels to Transition to Murder.
First of all, I don’t like multi-book series based on the same hero or heroine because there’s no character development, just plot. So I’ve spaced my sequels years apart, picking up Bobbi’s life at different stages of her development as a woman and a human being.

Transition to Murder is about her first year of gender transition. A Kind of Justice which came out last October, starts five years later. Bobbi is wildly successful and starting to explore all the possibilities of life, including romance, when the Great Recession knocks her flat and a brilliant police detective starts building a powerful case against her for the ritual murder of a sexual predator.

Seven Suspects will release next October. We pick up Bobbi’s life five years after A Kind of Justice when she’s a little world-weary and maybe a trifle arrogant and suddenly finds out she has a stalker who is getting closer and more violent every day.

What are you working on now?
I’m researching ideas for another Bobbi Logan novel, which gives me a great excuse to visit LGBT strongholds and friends. While that’s going on, I’m also working on a thriller with a completely different cast of characters set in Ontario’s famous canoe wilderness, Quetico Provincial Park.

Thanks for visiting my blog, Renee and I wish you the best in your writing career!

reneejames-black-lores

You can get to Renee’s website from Here.

She is on twitter: @ReneeJAuthor

She is on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/reneejamesauthor

You can purchase Transition to Murder on Amazon.

Published in: on January 29, 2017 at 11:26pm01  Comments (2)  

Photo (Video) Phriday

I say this and thought I’d do a video vs photo Phriday. I think this is too funny. Apparently the bird is a Blue Manakin. I wonder why they are doing this. Is the bird (light green and hard to see) sitting at the top of the branch directing them?! Is it watching because it can’t believe they keep doing the same thing over and over again?! Well, I looked them up and, of course, it’s males, trying to get the attention of the female. These birds can be found in Argentina, Brazil and Paraquay.

Published in: on January 27, 2017 at 11:26pm01  Leave a Comment  
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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a MockingbirdI am working on book II of my Agnes Kelly Series and someone had compared Agnes (in the first book) to Scout in To Kill a Mocking Bird. I thought that was an apt description so I wanted to reacquaint myself with the famous story and character. I took the audio book of Harper Lee’s classic out of the library and listened to it. I have not read Lee’s Go Set a Watchman but I will, even though it hasn’t gotten the best reviews.

Stats: First published in 1960, print is 324 pages, audio is 9′, narrated by Roses Prichard

Blurb: (Goodreads) Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior – to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos.
(Cliffnotes) To Kill a Mockingbird is primarily a novel about growing up under extraordinary circumstances in the 1930s in the Southern United States. The story covers a span of three years, during which the main characters undergo significant changes. Scout Finch lives with her brother Jem and their father Atticus in the fictitious town of Maycomb, Alabama. Maycomb is a small, close-knit town, and every family has its social station depending on where they live, who their parents are, and how long their ancestors have lived in Maycomb.

A widower, Atticus raises his children by himself, with the help of kindly neighbors and a black housekeeper named Calpurnia. Scout and Jem almost instinctively understand the complexities and machinations of their neighborhood and town. The only neighbor who puzzles them is the mysterious Arthur Radley, nicknamed Boo, who never comes outside. When Dill, another neighbor’s nephew, starts spending summers in Maycomb, the three children begin an obsessive — and sometimes perilous — quest to lure Boo outside.

What I liked: Roses Prichard does a wonderful job with her narration. She is the perfect Scout, making you feel like she’s right there telling you her family’s story. Much has been said about this story and I’ve read it before, of course, but listening to it as a writer vs a reader I think it is a story of a time in history and the lives in this small southern town that Lee captures so well. Everyone remembers the high points: the trial, Boo Radley, but there are many other slower moments that illustrate the everyday lives of these characters.

What I didn’t like: When the book first came out, I wonder if anyone criticized Lee for the large words Scout uses throughout the book. As an adult, it’s entertaining to hear Scout use these words, but as a practical point, I’m not sure a six-year-old would have really known half of them. I understand her father had been reading and instructing her way before she started school, but still… The Cliffnotes explanation is that Scout is older when she’s recounting the story, but it’s not written from an adult perspective, so I don’t buy that.

Rating: 4+/5

Published in: on January 23, 2017 at 11:26pm01  Leave a Comment  
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Old Tune Tuesday – by Train

Okay, this is not that old (unless you think 2012 is old), but I like it (great song, great lyrics, funny video…) so I’m sharing it this on a very gloomy day in Wisconsin. I needed a pick me up – how about you?!

 

Published in: on January 17, 2017 at 11:26pm01  Comments (2)  
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Free Speech Tested by Simon and Schuster

Drew Angerer/Getty Images from npr website

Did anyone hear this piece on NPR recently about a book by social media provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos?:               https://www.npr.org/player/embed/509497010/509542890

It’s an interesting topic of conversation, in particular for all writers and readers out there. Does anyone have the right to promote hate speech? Is it right for Simon and Schuster to promote it by publishing this book (and profit from it)?

Ah…the democratic process in motion.

Published in: on January 13, 2017 at 11:26pm01  Comments (7)  
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The Gallery by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

This was a new audio book at my local library so I picked it up. It was marked  as YA.The Gallery

Stats: Published in June of this year. 321 print pages, 7 hours of audio. Narrated y Jorjeana Marie

Blurb: It’s 1929, and twelve-year-old Martha has no choice but to work as a maid in the New York City mansion of the wealthy Sewell family. But, despite the Gatsby-like parties and trimmings of success, she suspects something might be deeply wrong in the household—specifically with Rose Sewell, the formerly vivacious lady of the house who now refuses to leave her room. The other servants say Rose is crazy, but scrappy, strong-willed Martha thinks there’s more to the story—and that the paintings in the Sewell’s gallery contain a hidden message detailing the truth. But in a house filled with secrets, nothing is quite what it seems, and no one is who they say. Can Martha follow the clues, decipher the code, and solve the mystery of what’s really going on with Rose Sewell . . . ?

Inspired by true events described in the author’s fascinating note, The Gallery is a 1920s caper told with humor and spunk that readers will love.

What I liked: I really liked the idea of Rose, the woman who was closeted away from everyone, communicating via her paintings. How she would know anyone would get what she was trying to say through those paintings is another matter, but the idea is really unique and allows Marx Fitzgerald to educate the youth this book is written for without being too obvious. I have no complaints about Jorjeana Marie’s narration of the story. I cover is a little busy, but I like it.

What I didn’t like: The main thing is the author never really gives me a reason to care about Martha or Rose much. I care a bit more for Rose because she is obviously (spoiler alert!) not wanting to be where she is. I kept listening because the book wasn’t too long, and I was listening vs reading it. I can listen a lot longer to something that doesn’t particularly interest me than I can read the print version. The fact that Rose complains about her food being salty – things like tea that shouldn’t be salty – and the young maid, Martha, is the only one who checks how Rose’s food actually tastes is a bit unbelievable to me. Also at the end, everyone is so easily on Rose’s side when they have not been in all the years leading up to the big reveal. You could perhaps believe Martha’s mother, who takes care of Rose and believes Rose’s husband can do no wrong, but not all the other people in the house. And for Rose to do what she did with the paintings in the end also seems odd. I won’t give that away, but any lover of art, and art that ends up being part of why she is saved, wouldn’t do what she did, in my opinion. Overall the plot is a bit slow for the young audience it is written for (and for me!).

Rating: 2.5/5

Published in: on December 15, 2016 at 11:26pm12  Leave a Comment  
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Old Tune Tuesday – Christmas Version

It’s just a couple weeks until the big day for all you kiddies out there, so I thought I’d go a bit festive. Yes, Annie Lennox is not that old, not to me anyway, but I like her version of this song.

 

Published in: on December 13, 2016 at 11:26pm12  Comments (2)  
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The Beautiful Mystery – by Louise Penny

The Beautiful Mystery (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #8)I read my first Louise Penny novel – the first one she wrote (Still Life) – thanks to an old college friend of mine. She is a big fan so she sent me a book. I did enjoy it, so when I saw this audio book in the library, I grabbed it up.

Stats: Published in 2012, print is 400 pages, audio is 11 discs (it didn’t give me the number of hours), narrator is Ralph Cosham

Blurb:
No outsiders are ever admitted to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, hidden deep in the wilderness of Quebec, where two dozen cloistered monks live in peace and prayer. They grow vegetables, they tend chickens, they make chocolate. And they sing. Ironically, for a community that has taken a vow of silence, the monks have become world-famous for their glorious voices, raised in ancient chants whose effect on both singer and listener is so profound it is known as “the beautiful mystery.”

But when the renowned choir director is murdered, the lock on the monastery’s massive wooden door is drawn back to admit Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Sûreté du Québec. There they discover disquiet beneath the silence, discord in the apparent harmony. One of the brothers, in this life of prayer and contemplation, has been contemplating murder. As the peace of the monastery crumbles, Gamache is forced to confront some of his own demons, as well as those roaming the remote corridors. Before finding the killer, before restoring peace, the Chief must first consider the divine, the human, and the cracks in between.

What I liked: I love the setting and the idea of the setting, though a bit unrealistic perhaps, it can be overlooked for the sake of the story mostly. Gamache is a wonderful character, as is his side-kick, Jean-Guy. But the real stellar character in this story is the nasty, nasty head of the Surete du Quebec, Francoeur – though it’s really never clear why he’s there because the man doesn’t seem to know how to do anything but lie. This fact might be revealed in the next book, because things were left unresolved related to appearance. I thought Mr. Cosham did a fine job with the narration and the accents. Very enjoyable to listen to. I also love that the monks make chocolate covered blueberries!

What I didn’t like: Since I’ve only read one of Penny’s novels, I don’t know her writing style real well and I think this book is her 13th, but in this novel Penny repeated the story facts a bit too much for my liking. I get that the story was set in a place where time slowed and small things meant more than in the “normal” world – part of the appeal of where this story takes place. But I didn’t need to hear the same facts perhaps said by different people at different times. It slowed an already naturally slow story down too much. And to have the mystery resolved in part because the “inquisition” in the form of a Dominican Monk just happens to find the abby at this very time (even though the reason he has found it is because of a recording that seems to have been out a little while – time enough to hop on a plane). Again, for the sake of the story line, it can be overlooked, but it just seems a bit contrived.

Rating: 4/5 (despite the flaws)

Old Tune Tuesday – Suddenly I See – KT Tunstall

I know, this isn’t that old, but this came up for me on Pandora and I thought you might like to tap your toes today 🙂

Published in: on November 29, 2016 at 11:26pm11  Leave a Comment  
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A Good Concept, But– : S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

This is so cool and innovative! Reminds me of an idea I have about “extras” for my Agnes books. (I’ll share that when I have it all figured out 😉
I’ve got to see if my library can order this for me.
I am thoroughly intrigued!

Audrey Driscoll's Blog

I’ve pretty much given up reviewing books here, preferring to do that on Goodreads. But this book is such a special case, I thought I would dump out my thoughts about it here.

This is what it looks like.

S., or Ship of Theseus

First of all, in the ubiquitous 5-star rating system, I would give this book three stars. Maybe 3.5 — mostly for a clever and intriguing package. It really does celebrate (and, some would say, desecrate) the book as physical object. The book, entitled Ship of Theseus, supposedly published in 1949, really does look like an old library book, complete with return dates stamped inside the back cover. (The latest date is from 2000, which suggests that good old Pollard State U is really behind the times, because rubber date stamps disappeared from college libraries long before the end of the last century. But never mind that). The grey buckram binding…

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Published in: on November 29, 2016 at 11:26am11  Comments (2)