Posts Tagged ‘mystery novel’

Terry Ambrose and License to Lie

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Terry Ambrose sets his second novel, License to Lie, in a beach city. So like his first novel, Photo Finish, we are treated to a beach dweller’s use of the sand and sea: “The fleet of ghostly fog ships was dissipating as the sun took control of the day.” And those descriptions fit the mood of his new character, a criminologist who works with the police, but doesn’t feel too good about himself at many points in the story: “The marine layer blanketed the sky above, the reflection of city lights gave the sky a dull sheen reminiscent of dirty white linoleum in a half-lit room.”

This novel is full of Terry’s subtle sense of humor and I found myself laughing out loud more than once and needing to turn pages fast. His criminologist is also a “forensic hypnotist.” How can you not read on to see what that’s all about?  And his second lead character, a stunning blonde, is “kidnapped by Bush and Nixon.”  No way I could put the book down there.

License to Lie is a detective story full of rapid plot twists, fun characters, and a computer-geek-saves-the-day ending. Ambrose tells the story through two protagonists. She is a con artist, a liar-for-profit with five million dollars of other people’s money in her bank account, and a cynic. He is her opposite, a criminologist, a hard worker, a guy with a soft spot for folks in trouble. She is definitely not attracted to him: “The last thing I needed was to be around a guy I couldn’t manipulate.” He tries hard not to fall in love with her:  “She was captivating, seductive, and something else–yes dangerous.” Together they must track down four kidnappers. It is this relationship full of friction which keeps our interest as the plot zips along.

Ambrose has carefully stacked the deck in this novel so that each chapter, like the flip of a card, reveals and entices. He piles on more and more complications with each chapter, giving us great details so that we can visualize each scene–including some very good fight scenes. And occasionally he throws in some wonderful descriptive sentences, poetic language that is never too much:  “The words came out as no more than a breath. Soft as the silk of my favorite blouse.”

This is well crafted storytelling.  I think it would make a great beach read.  Or, if you prop it up next to your Starbucks coffee, the beach will surround you anyway.  I highly recommend it.

About Writing: Using Real Details in Imagined Settings

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

November 3, 2012 was National Authors’ Day. I had a book table at the Oceanside library. There must have been twenty local authors and there were ten speakers. It was a good chance to meet and talk to other authors.

November is also National Novel Writing Month. To celebrate, I’m doing some guest posts on literary blogs. The schedule is on the Pump Up Your Book site.  But you can read the first post here. It was on Sapphyria’s Book Reviews:


Writers fill their fictional world with details from their real world. That’s why we believe their stories. I think this weaving together of the real and the imagined makes for strong settings.

In Artists & Thieves I consciously placed the character Angelo in Monterey’s Cannery Row because it is a well known place. But the restaurant I invented for him is straight out of my head. I called the restaurant Sardines because Cannery Row used to be a cannery now, think John Steinbeck, not a tourist destination. And the main fish packed in those old canneries were sardines. A reader doesn’t need to know that but it helps with the pun: “Sardines was packed. Angelo nudged his way into the bar area of the performance space, reassured a little by the odd mixture of elegance and crap which its owner, Max, had assembled. The metal and brick walls were bleak, the lighting exquisite.”

I don’t always consciously use details from a real place in a scene. The other day I had lunch at a restaurant which is built around an old trout fishing lake. It has fish water spouts on the eaves, fountains spraying cones of water in the middle, and ducks. There is a long path which winds down from the parking lot. The path is cool even on the hottest day because bamboo lines both sides of it, thick bamboo, almost three inches in diameter. As I walked down the path the other day I thought, Wait a minute. I know this place. Well, of course, I know it, I’ve been here dozens of times. No, that wasn’t what I felt. I knew the path from somewhere else. Then I realized that I had used this path as a setting in Artists & Thieves. It popped into my head as I was writing a key scene towards the end of the novel. The memory of this real place unconsciously provide the perfect setting for a chapter. The chapter is titled The Bamboo Grove. The main character, Mai, is in the hospital with her grandfather who has been shot. I’ll just pull a few sentences here as examples:  “Mai walked outside to the coffe stand. Came back in with coffee. Walked outside for a muffin. Came back in. Sat. Picked up a magazine. Couldn’t read. Couldn’t sit. Paced. Sat. Outside, wisps of fog flowed in currents of evening air. Mai wandered away from the hospital down a path to a grove of bamboo which screened the cement parking structure. The thick bamboo stalks offered a sturdy comfort. . . . The gently curving path wandered through the bamboo. She walked slowly, feeling hopeful. . . .Along with the rustle of the bamboo leaves, the bowl’s song played in her head. . . .”

Since I study Chinese brush painting, I know that bamboo is a symbol in Chinese thought for resilience. It survives the snow of winter, bends without breaking, and remains green in the heat of summer. That image was perfect for this crucial moment in the story when Mai needs to pull herself together and find the person who shot her grandfather. Even if you as a reader do not share the knowledge of the symbol, bamboo works throughout the chapter.

Sometimes I deliberately choose certain places for my characters to be, sometimes the details of a place pop unexpectedly into my head as I write. Both ways help create a good story. Artists & Thieves won the 2011 San Diego Book Awards in the action/suspense category.




Kindle Author Sponsor

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

My novel, Artists&Thieves, recently won the San Diego Book Awards in the action/suspense category.  It is highlighted in a Kindle Author Sponsor page on David Wisehart’s blog.  You can find the book trailer, short reviews, and an excerpt there. Check it out.


Book Review: Linda Schroeder’s Artists&Thieves

Monday, July 11th, 2011

WINNER, San Diego Book Awards, 2011

Terry Ambrose, writing for, reviews my book, Artists&Thieves which recently won the San Diego Book Awards in the Action/Suspense category.  Here is his review.  You can also read it at

“Linda Schroeder’s Artists and Thieves introduces us to Mai Ling, a fun and resourceful protagonist who recovers stolen arat for Interpol–but presents herself to the world as an artist.  Mai Ling’s world is filled with deception.  It’s a world where every donor is a potential thieft and every friend may have a secret agenda.

When her grandfather asks Mai to help him fulfill an ancient family promise, she’s torn between honoring that centuries old promise and her responsibility to Interpol. As Mai is drawn further from her role as an Interpol agent and closer to her role as a thief, she’s faced with temptations that will ultimately test her moral fabric.  Mai steals the vase from an antiquities smuggler.  But in this small world where all the players know the others, she quickly becomes a suspect, which also makes her a target.

As the art smugglers close in on Mai Ling, she becomes attached to the vase and begins to learn its secrets. And when the smugglers steal back the vase and nearly kill her grandfather, she vows to do anything to fulfill her promise. In the final moments, Mai is faced with one of the most basic questions of all–will she kill to get what she wants or not?

Readers interested in the art world will enjoy Schroeder’s characters, who seem to have just enough larceny in them to be unable to refuse an opportunity to make a big score.  And, for those who are tired of novels dominated by weak plots that only succeed due to an overabundance of senseless violence and sex, Artists and Thieves is a good alternative.  The violence isn’t excessive, but well placed.  The plot slows a bit as the vase changes hands a few times, but overall, this well-written mystery will have readers cheering for Mai Ling to fulfill her promise, but not lose sight of who she is.”

Chinese brush painting

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

The heroine of my novel is a Chinese brush painter. She existed in the novel before I began to learn Chinese brush painting. After I learned something about it, I edited the scenes in which she paints, but not much. I had the basics right from studying the history of Chinese art.

A Chinese brush painting is a painting made with a Chinese brush. And a lot of practice. And respect for tradition. Its brush stokes come from ancient Chinese calligraphy. (Calligraphy is still considered the highest form of art. The June 5, 2010 New York Times reported that a calligraphy scroll by Huang Tingjian dating from about 1095 CE recently sold in Beijing at auction for $64 million.) Nature is the inspiration, simplicity and energy are valued. (Check out for a current exhibition, February 17-July 4, 2010, Tracing the Past, Drawing the Future: Master Ink Painters in 20th Century China.)

The Chinese brush is made from animal hair such as wolf, deer, or goat, shaped in layers, and tapered to a point. Different hair and layering deliver the ink and color differently.

There are a great many books on the “how to” of Chinese brush painting but I found I could not learn the brush strokes from books. No matter how clear it was to the artist who struggled to write and illustrate the process, it just wasn’t clear without a teacher.

I have an excellent teacher. She is a superb artist, a kind and encouraging teacher who  “dances” the brush to make a painting and wants us all to feel energy in the creation of a work as well as impart a vitality to the painted object.

Occasionally, that happens. After a whole lot of throw away attempts, something will dance onto the paper for me. However, I have, at times, rather quirky views of traditional subjects. Chrysanthemums, symbols of autumn, for instance, drive me crazy.

Chrysanthemum from The Mustard Seed Garden

Here is a traditional example from the Chinese classic The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting (Bollingen Series, Princeton University Press, 1992). Originally published in 1679-1701 by three brother-painters in Nanking, it presents the rules and ideals for painting.  I’ve tried for several years to get a decent, traditional chrysanthemum. In class a few weeks ago, I threw away about 20 attempts. I’d had it. I put away the illustrations we were trying to duplicate, screamed silently, and did this flower.

Linda's chrysanthemum

It seemed to me the essence and energy of chrysanthemums. I added a quick rock, and later at home added the yellow wash and mounted it on heavier rice paper. Now I really like it. It was a moment of energy flowing onto the paper.

I repeat, I really like it. My teacher wasn’t so sure. It wasn’t traditional. But hey, it was a “dance.”

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Next up:  Chinese brush painting of a really odd cat with attitude.


Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Welcome to my blog and first real post.

Artists&Thieves is a mystery novel, an art caper. I’m thinking of this blog as an art caper also, an olio–a stew of art and prose, a mixture of this and that.  We’ll see what happens.

I’m reading Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton. She describes the high road of big money art. It’s a fascinating road. This blog is not the high road. It’s more like “who drives on this road?”

I’ll share Chinese brush paintings from my studio and weird and wonderful works  from friends’ studios and writing desks. Since my novel as well as artists and thieves are the theme topics here, I’ll let you know when updates about my novel are posted on the About The Book page, discuss art that has been stolen in dark alleys, and take a look at the creative stuff which pops up everywhere in sunny California byways. Like this driftwood.

Monterey driftwood

In April, I was walking in the late afternoon on an empty beach in Marina, California, just up the road from Monterey. Some long gone someone planted a piece of driftwood by the waves, piled sand around it to keep it upright, and left it there as if to watch the sea. As the tide rose higher, I thought “this won’t be upright for long.”

Rising tide

Next morning I checked. In spite of the waves eroding the sand piled around it, it was still there, watching the sea. It seemed a simple affirmation of our ability to see beauty. Five stars.

The Watcher

Up next:  San Diego’s Urban Trees:  complex materials, complex ideas

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