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Monday, August 10, 2020

MYSTERY AUTHOR CAROLYN J. ROSE ON SAYING GOODBYE TO A SERIES

Carolyn J. Rose emerged from the University of Arizona with a degree and a tan and stayed on for graduate school. Thanks to boredom and a public service announcement on late-night TV, she abandoned literary studies for two years with Volunteers in Service to America. From there she entered the land of TV news, spending twenty-five years as a researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor She’s now a high school substitute teacher, which led to her Subbing isn’t for Sissies mystery series. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

In Search of a Soft Farewell
Many readers have been left longing for more when a writer (Sue Grafton, for example) dies and a series comes to a sudden stop. Many TV viewers have been devastated when a series is cancelled by a network or a production company and ends without resolution or, worse yet, ends with a cliffhanger. You may have wondered, as I have, if writers had crafted more of the abandoned story. You may also have thought about trying to find those writers and slipping them a few bucks in exchange for summaries of those “missing” episodes. 

With that in mind, as I labor through revisions of No Substitute for Matrimony, my task is to figure out how to let readers down gently. It’s the final book in the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series, so I need to tie up the loose ends of storylines and character arcs so nothing is left hanging. My goal is to leave characters poised to walk toward the horizon and the adventures they might have next.

It’s not easy.

But neither is getting a series—even an “accidental” series like mine—underway.

Crafting the “right” words to begin a story can be a torturous process. Unless an amazing first line has flashed into my mind, I take care of that pesky starting-off problem by writing “Something incredibly brilliant goes here,” drawing a line, and then launching my new project with the second sentence or paragraph. When the first draft is complete, I know more about plot and character and theme. I know how the story unfolds, and I know the “seeds” I should plant in the first few lines to engage readers.

The ending is a product of what I plant. It’s the ripe fruit at the end of the vine. It should be satisfying, and its taste should linger. But it should also leave a reader wanting more.

But what if there won’t be more?

That’s the question I’m asking myself as I complete the final adventures of substitute teacher Barbara Reed, her scruffy and entitled mutt Cheese Puff, her wealthy neighbor Muriel Ballantine, her fiancé Detective Dave Martin, and a host of others.

I’ve enjoyed writing the books in this series and I could probably write more. I’m in decent health (so far, but with COVID19 out there, who know?) and the characters have plenty of ideas about what could happen in a fourteenth book. I know this because they “speak” to me—mostly in the middle of the night. And no, I’m not worried about my mental health because I’ve talked with many other writers who experience the same thing. We can’t all be crazy, can we?

I’m ending the series for several reasons. First, the characters seem to be at good places in their lives, so I don’t feel guilty about leaving them.

Second, keeping track of all the tiny details of character and setting has become a chore. I confess! I created some of this hardship myself by neglecting to keep careful notes. (If you look up “slipshod” in the dictionary, you might find a picture of me.) My (self) defense is that when I wrote the first book, No Substitute for Murder, I had no idea I’d hear from so many readers who felt it should anchor a series.

Third, I think there’s a limit to how many murders and other crimes I can inflict on the fictional town of Reckless River, Washington. I don’t want readers to accuse me of having Cabot Cove Syndrome.

And fourth, I have ideas for other stories involving other characters.

I hope I’ll succeed in crafting a soft farewell at the conclusion of No Substitute for Matrimony. I hope I’ll be able to end the series by opening doors for characters instead of slamming doors on readers. Perhaps, when the book comes out in the fall, a few of you will let me know how I did. 

No Substitute for Mimes
Subbing Isn’t for Sissies Mystery, Book 12

Suddenly, mimes seem to be everywhere in Reckless River, Washington. Their antics amuse residents at first. Then street theater gives way to street crime. Fast, organized, and armed with cream pies, mimes avoid capture. And they baffle police by delivering stolen items to the cop shop.

Barbara Reed suspects the thefts are designed to frustrate and misdirect authorities, increasing the success of a major heist. Crime reporter Stan Stewart agrees, but his investigation gets nowhere. Mimes aren’t talking.

Barb would like to help track facts, but she has a bad cold and a new assistant principal is making her subbing life miserable. On top of that, Mrs. Ballantine is pushing her to set a wedding date, and she’s been guilt-tripped into helping at an outdoor holiday market.

When mimes set their big plan in motion, Barb and her tiny mutt Cheese Puff are in exactly the wrong place. Or are they?

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Friday, August 7, 2020

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--MYSTERY AUTHOR LESLIE WHEELER ON A TALE OF TWO HEROINES

An award-winning author of nonfiction, Leslie Wheeler writes the Miranda Lewis Living History Mysteries, which debuted with Murder at Plimoth Plantation, and the Berkshire Hilltown Mysteries, which began with Rattlesnake Hill and continue with Shuntoll Road. Learn more about Leslie and her books at her website.

A Tale of Two Heroines
The re-release of my very first mystery, Murder at Plimoth Plantation, as a trade paperback gave me an opportunity to get reacquainted with the heroine of that novel and two that followed: Miranda Lewis. I discovered how much I still enjoyed her company. Perhaps because we’re somewhat alike. Like me, Miranda is a Cambridge-based history book writer, my profession before I turned to mysteries. She even looks a bit like me: tall and slender with curly red hair. Like me, she hails from California and has a bossy older brother, while I have a bossy older sister. Aside from these similarities, what makes her fun to be with is her sense of humor. She has a gift for making witty observations about people, including herself. So, why would I ditch a perfectly good heroine for someone else when I came to write Rattlesnake Hill

The answer is simple: Miranda made me do it. There’s a crucial scene in Rattlesnake Hill, where the heroine is supposed to kiss a man she’s fallen for, and Miranda refused. I was shocked. Yet when I thought about it, I realized that it was her way of telling me she didn’t belong in the book—that it was someone else’s story. I had to figure out who this other person was. 

The result was Kathryn Stinson, who is different from Miranda in several ways that make her a more appropriate heroine for Rattlesnake Hill and the sequel, Shuntoll Road. She’s ten years younger than forty-something Miranda, and therefore more impressionable. Unlike Miranda, who has recently ended a twenty-year marriage, Kathryn has never been married. She tends to keep men at a distance, though she has a boyfriend when the novel begins. She also has a darker and more complicated backstory than Miranda. Kathryn’s parents divorced when she was four, and her father went on to marry several more times, while her mother plunged into a deep depression which rendered her incapable of caring for Kathryn. Instead, Kathryn was raised by her mean-spirited grandmother. The only happy times in her childhood were the summers she spent with her life-and-love-affirming great aunt in Hawaii. Throughout the novel, Kathryn is torn between her grandmother’s negativism and her great aunt’s more positive outlook.

No wisecracker like Miranda, Kathryn is wary of other people. Still, she doesn’t lack empathy and reaches out to another woman upon learning of a tragedy that has occurred in the woman’s life. She’s also capable of falling deeply in love. She does kiss the man in the story that Miranda refuses to kiss, though only after a struggle between the warring influences of her grandmother and great aunt within her. Miranda has had a passionate relationship in the past, not so Kathryn. The man she kisses becomes her first real love.

Yet, for all their differences, Miranda and Kathryn have certain things in common. Both have a keen interest in the past, fueled in part by their jobs. Miranda writes history books, and Kathryn is a curator of prints and photographs at a small private library in Boston. Her desire to solve a family mystery involving the identity of a nameless beauty in an old photograph belonging to an ancestor brings her to the Berkshires in the first place. Also, both women have withdrawn to a certain extent from active participation in life. After the failure of her marriage, Miranda has chosen to live vicariously through her writing until events force her to become more engaged. Kathryn also devotes herself to her work and keeps people at a distance until she, too, is forced to jump into the fray.

Both women show courage and determination in pursuing their goals—Miranda to clear her niece’s name in a murder investigation, and Kathryn to find out the truth in two love triangles where the woman was killed in mysterious circumstances. These qualities are especially important to Kathryn, as she navigates the darker worlds of Rattlesnake Hill and Shuntoll Road. She represents a main character who was created to fit a certain story. 

Readers, in your writing, which comes first: the main character or the story?

Shuntoll Road
A Berkshire Hilltown Mystery, Book 2

Boston library curator Kathryn Stinson returns to the Berkshires, hoping to rebuild her romance with Earl Barker, but ends up battling a New York developer, determined to turn the property she’s been renting into an upscale development. The fight pits her against Earl, who has been offered the job of clearing the land. When a fire breaks out in the woods, the burned body of another opponent is discovered. Did he die attempting to escape a fire he set, or was the fire set to cover up his murder? Kathryn’s search for answers leads her to other questions about the developer’s connection to a friend of hers who fled New York years ago for mysterious reasons. The information she uncovers puts her in grave danger.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2020

AN INTERVIEW WITH DEBUT HISTORICAL FICTION AUTHOR GEORGE CRAMER

Today we sit down for a chat with debut historical fiction author George Cramer, who also writes police procedurals and thrillers. Learn more about George and his writing at his blog.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
In early 2012, I was laid off from a high-technology company. Even with forty years of investigative experience, I could not get a job. Age discrimination is alive and well. It was for the best. I signed up for a writing class at the Dublin Senior Center I thought was technical writing. I was wrong, the class was an introduction to creative writing. I was hooked.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication
Eight years, and after a couple dozen rejections, I went with a small indie publisher. I never realized how much work goes into publishing.

Where do you write
My preference is a public library or senior center. When I’m on motorcycle trips, I try to take a day off and visit the local senior centers. I can sit in a corner and work for a couple of undisturbed hours. However, my absolute favorite place is in a library aboard a cruise ship. I can sit there and work for hours on end. Of course, my wife is not overly thrilled. So I can only do this on the days we are at sea.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind
No kind. The music draws my mind away from my work and into unwanted lulls.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular? 
I have to admit, except for The Mona Lisa Sisters, there are events and characters in my thrillers and many of my short stories.

Describe your process for naming your character
Why did you have to ask that? Finding names that fit the character is one of the most difficult chores I face. I begin writing, and if I’m lucky, a name pops into my head; if not, I think of someone I like for protagonist and dislike for the antagonist. I always change the names later, but it makes it easier to attribute good and evil for the moment.

Real settings or fictional towns
I use both. With robbers and cops, I used real locations, which required a great deal of research. In an early manuscript, I used a newspaper that did not fit into the proper location. My wife caught it and has never let me forget. Every time I try to work in reality, I remember the newspaper and work extra hard on my research.

I’m working on a police procedural/thriller that I placed in a fictitious city so I could avoid some research time. However, I love how it allows me to create events, scenes, and characters that fit my story.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has
It’s not really a quirk, but in one of my novels, a bad guy loves to play cribbage. He carves a cribbage board while on a Georgia chain gang. He carries it through several visits to prison, and even on the Bataan Death March, and as a slave-labor POW in Japan. He carries it until he dies while serving a life sentence at Folsom Prison.

What’s your quirkiest quirk
I doubt I have any, but I asked my wife and oldest daughter. Wife: “You mean besides being stubborn.” Daughter: “Stubborn.”

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. This work always comes to mind when I am asked this question. When I write the title, my body fills with emotions, love, fear, hope, bravery, and a wish to be a man like Robert Jordan.

Everyone, at some point, wishes for a do-over. What’s yours
I regret all the years that I neglected my family to devote more time to my work.

What’s your biggest pet peeve
People who puff up and talk loudly, sometimes verging on shouting.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves
My wife, food & water, a library

What was the worst job you’ve ever held
I was hired as an investigator by a company with over six-hundred stores. After a month, I discovered that almost all of my assignments were distasteful. The aim was to catch management employees at anything that gave the company cause to fire them. I gave notice, and less than thirty minutes later, I was escorted out of my office.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read
You already know it was For Whom the Bell Tolls. After that, it is a toss-up: Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony, Ramona Ausubel’s No One is Here Except All of Us, or Perma Red by Debra Magpie Earling. I know that is more than you asked for, but I’ve read so many great books, it’s hard to choose.

Ocean or mountains
That’s a tough one. I grew up living on the beach. Now, if I can’t see mountains, I get a bit claustrophobic.

City girl/guy or country girl/guy
I’m stuck in the suburbs but want to move to a small country town, or a house on a mountain overlooking the sea.

What’s on the horizon for you
My first novel, The Mona Lisa Sisters, comes out this month. After that, I’m looking forward to a long motorcycle ride, and finishing my Liberty trilogy.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
My first attempts at fiction told stories but not much else. Now my goal is to move my readers and make them think.

The Mona Lisa Sisters
Lura Grisham Myer lives a perfect life until her world is ripped apart. Reborn, forged of pain and misery, she battles to recapture happiness with the help of two orphans and a mysterious stranger.

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Monday, August 3, 2020

CRUISING INTO MURDER!


Lois Winston has done it again. Ever since she decided to write a series about me, she just can’t give me a break. I should have known her devious mind was at work the moment I discovered she’d written the gift of a cruise to the Bahamas for me and my family into the end of the previous book in the series. I’ll admit, I did suspect there would be strings attached to the gift, given who gave us the cruise. It’s the reason I had massive trepidations about going even before we set foot aboard the ship. What I didn’t expect were the dead bodies. 

Why are there always dead bodies?

Lois thinks it’s funny that I should even ask such a question. After all, she reminds me, she does write murder mysteries.

Lois also asked that I provide a disclaimer for this latest book. I’m not sure why I should do her a favor, given the aforementioned dead bodies, but I’ll take the high ground here. She wants readers to know she got the idea for A Sew Deadly Cruise last autumn, months before the world turned upside-down. She had always wanted to write what’s known as a “locked room” mystery. That’s a mystery where a crime has been committed in a location that’s sealed to the outside world. Think Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, which takes place aboard a train during a trip across Europe.

A cruise ship seemed a perfect venue for such a plot, but in order for the “locked room” mystery to occur, the ship wouldn’t be able to dock at any port. That’s when Lois came across a news article about a ship that had been denied debarkation at its intended port of call. And no, there was no outbreak of norovirus or people trapped due to a pandemic or any other ship-wide illness that would make readers squeamish. She just doesn’t want me giving away too much of the plot.

In addition to wanting to write a “locked room” mystery, Lois also decided it was time she shared Zack’s origin story with her readers. And boy, does he ever have a doozy! After the year she’s written for me, you’d think nothing would surprise me at this point, but I never expected what she had up her sleeve about Zack.

Most of all, she wants readers to laugh, especially with all that’s going on in the world right now, we all need to laugh more. The universe released the Kraken on us. We need to release the endorphins to fight back! So rest assured, like all of the other Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, this book will give you an escape from the reality of life.

A Sew Deadly Cruise officially releases October 1, 2020, but the ebook version is now available for pre-order. Want to read an excerpt? Click here.

A Sew Deadly Cruise
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 9

Life is looking up for magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack. Newly engaged, she and photojournalist fiancé Zack Barnes are on a winter cruise with her family, compliments of a Christmas gift from her half-brother-in-law. Son Alex’s girlfriend and her father have also joined them. Shortly after boarding the ship, Anastasia is approached by a man with an unusual interest in her engagement ring. When she tells Zack of her encounter, he suggests the man might be a jewel thief scouting for his next mark. But before Anastasia can point the man out to Zack, the would-be thief approaches him, revealing his true motivation. Long-buried secrets now threaten the well-being of everyone Anastasia holds dear. And that’s before the first dead body turns up.

Friday, July 31, 2020

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--AN INTERVIEW WITH HARRY BRONSON FROM L.C. HAYDEN'S HARRY BRONSON THRILLER SERIES


Today we sit down for a chat with Harry Bronson from the Harry Bronson Thriller Series by author L. C. Hayden.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
I was a homicide detective in the Dallas Police Department. I loved my job, but not my supervisors. They were too political for my taste. If the bad guy was the President of the U. S., I’d still go after him. The heck with politics. But no, my boss would say, “Leave it alone. Stand down.” I hate that phrase: stand down. So I’d ignore it. I’d get the bad guy, but at the same time, I’d be in deep guacamole.

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
The fact that I don’t discriminate. If you’re the bad seed, I’ll go after you with all I’ve got. Folks tell me I’m stubborn in that way. Bein’ stubborn isn’t a good thing, you know? But for me, it’s the best. That’s how I get them all the time. Stubbornness and the use of my brains. Perfect combination.

What do you like least about yourself?
Havin’ to lie to the love of my life, my wife Carol. But sometimes, you know, the job requires those little white lies. I tell her I’m in no danger when in reality, I’m in a hole so deep, I’m not sure I can get out. But she stands by me. She’s the best. And between you and me, I’m pretty sure she knows the truth. I can tell that by the number of gray hairs she carries on that pretty head of hers.
  
What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
My author, this L. C. Hayden—she’s always puttin’ me in a pickle. Each book challenges me further and further, and I face some really tough situations. For instance, in my latest adventure called When Memory Fails, I’m tryin’ to help my nephew and his fiancé locate a hidden ledger that will reveal all of the transactions done in the past. People were killed. Money was stolen. Land was confiscated. If this information is revealed, the powerful Lazzarones will be ruined. But the fiancé, you know, she wants to right the wrongs. So I’m helpin’ them locate this ledger. 

The search leads us to a ghost town where we meet The Hermit, the keeper of the ghost town. Then bang! The house I go in to save The Hermit explodes and I’m thrown out. When I land, I hit my head very hard. When I regain consciousness, I find myself in this ghost town. I don’t know how I got there, where I am, or even why. But worse, I don’t remember who I am. Can you imagine how horrible that felt? Not knowin’ who you are—that’s somethin’ I don’t wish on anyone, even my enemies.

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
I’m not sure you’d call it arguin’, but we do have a lot of discussions. L. C. is pretty good when it comes to that. She lets me have my way. She knows I’m the trained detective so I know what I’m doin’. In fact, I’d say, often she sits to write and has no idea where she’s goin’. So she says, “I’m listening, Bronson.” And I take her where the story should go.

What is your greatest fear?
I’m always scared that someone will try to harm my family just to get to me. It has happened before, and I’m afraid it can happen again. I’m fiercely protective of my family: that’s my wife and our two married girls and their families.

I’ve got some really good friends who are more like family to me. So I’m very protective of them, too. Anybody crosses that line, man-oh-man, you better watch out!

What makes you happy?
I remember takin’ my little girls to see those Walt Disney movies. You know the ones: CinderellaSleeping Beauty—all those. In the end, they all lived Happily Ever After. It made them giggle.

That’s the way I feel when a case is solved and the bad guys are in jail or permanently disposed of. Everythin’ has been restored to its proper place. You know, Happily Ever After.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
There’s a hole in my heart that will never be healed. In one of my recent adventures, When the Past Haunts You, I reconnect with my long-lost sister. Of course, I never told anyone about her—not even Carol. Then, after all these years, Lorraine reaches out to me. Naturally, I refuse. What she did was unforgiveable. 

She begged for my help, but I was too stubborn to bend. Too late I realized I never stopped lovin’ her. I’ll always be her Big Bro. But by then—well, you’ll just have to read that adventure to get the full story. It pains me too much to even think about it.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
That would have been a super easy question to answer if I was still workin’ for the Dallas police department. The chief there was such a political figure. Didn’t matter if the bad guys got away so long as we didn’t step on any important toes.

But now that I’m retired, that’s a really hard question. I guess you would say the characters who bug me the most are the ones I’m pursuing at the moment. I zoom in on them and won’t let go. No matter what.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
That would be Carol. She’s wise beyond her years. She knows what she wants, and she knows how to get it. Me? I have to dig and search. Not Carol. She’s a great wife and mother. 

In fact, and this is just between you and me, she’s the only one who can get the better of me. If I don’t want to do somethin’ that needs to be done, she finds a way for me to do it and makes me think I came up with the idea. One of these days, I’m goin’ to have to reverse that role, but I just don’t know how.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
That would be the award-winning and bestselling L. C. Hayden. We are so close that sometimes I actually think she’s real. Crazy, huh? Besides writing the Harry Bronson Thriller Series, she also writes the Aimee Brent Mystery Series, and the Connie Weaver Thriller Series, and she also writes nonfiction, an inspirational series about miracles and angels, children’s books, and a whole bunch of other books in various genres. She’s got a great website where you see all her books and find her social media links.   

What’s next for you?
Remember how a little while ago you asked me what I’m afraid of? I told you I fear for my friends. That’s where I am now. Mike, my ex-partner who is like a brother to me, is deep in trouble. Looks like he’s gone bad, but this is Mike we’re talkin’ about. That’s just not possible. But all the evidence points to him. I’m not quite sure how to help him. My author is only done about one-third of the adventure and neither she nor I know where it’s goin’ to end. Frankly, I’m worried.

When Memory Fails
A Harry Bronson Thriller

When Sandra Sechrest discovers the terrible secret about her family’s ancestors, she’s determined to right the wrongs. She seeks the help of retired cop Bronson. Along with Bronson’s nephew, they travel to a ghost town in Colorado to unearth the secrets buried there. But Sandra’s family, led by the evil Bobbi Lazzarone, will do anything to guarantee that Sandra fails—anything, including murder.

Suddenly Sandra, Daniel, and Bronson are thrown into a world filled with deception and danger. Bronson swears to protect the young couple at all costs, but when the house he’s at explodes, Bronson is left for dead, and Daniel and Sandra are forced to fend for themselves.

When Bronson regains consciousness, he can’t remember who he is, where he’s at, and why he’s there. Will he regain his memory in time to save Daniel and Sandra? Or has he finally met his match When Memory Fails?

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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

AUTHOR C.A. ROWLAND EXPLORES THE GHOSTS OF SAVANNAH IN NEW MYSTERY SERIES

Olde Pink House
Author C.A. Rowland writes historical fiction, science fiction, fantasya and the Haunted City Mystery Series set in Savannah, Georgia. She comes by her interest in ghosts, myths, legends, and the paranormal from having spent hours in cemeteries with her grandmother. Learn more about C.A. and her books at her website. 

A few years ago, I flew to a work conference in Savannah, Georgia. Normally, I would have driven the eight hours since I like to stop along the way when I see something that interests me. I also love to take ghost and historical tours, so I’ll drive to different houses or sites either before or after my work obligations. 

This time, I was pressed for time. And as happens in my life from time to time, the creative world had something else in mind for me. 

Carry-on bag in hand, I deplaned and headed to the taxi stand. There I met the most energetic and engaging woman taxi driver. She reminded me of one of my friends from Texas, and inspiration struck. 

I had wanted to write a mystery series and had considered Savannah or somewhere in Texas. Still, as we drove into the historic district, I realized that my love of the architecture, history, and everything in Savannah would be perfect. And I had my protagonist, Trisha, inspired by my taxi driver. Which was just about the time Trisha’s newly dead Aunt Harriet showed up, not wanting to be left out. 

With Aunt Harriet, I had a doorway into the ghostly secrets of Savannah, which I love. In the first novel, The Meter’s Always Running, we get a small glimpse into this world. In the second novel, which will be out next year, Aunt Harriet shows us the other world existing inside a local restaurant, The Olde Pink House. 

It was originally known as the Habersham House because it was owned by James Habersham, Jr., one of Savannah’s founding family members. The building was constructed with red bricks, which were then completely covered with white plaster. No one knows whether it was the quality of the bricks or the plaster job, but the red bricks bleed through, causing the building to turn pink. After years of trying to cover it, in 1920, the owner painted it pink, and it’s remained its trademark color to date.

The building changed hands many times until it was restored by Jim Williams, the owner of the Mercer House. The Mercers and their history played a large role in The Meter’s Always Running, and as with many of my stories, history is an integral part. 

In the basement of the Olde Pink House is a wonderful tavern, where the ghosts of little children are said to play tricks on those who enter the bathrooms – locking the doors so the human guests can’t exit. Mr. Habersham is said to walk the halls, both in the dining rooms upstairs as well as the lower areas. So, if you feel a cold spot or breeze that isn’t the air conditioning, you may have just wandered near a spirit. 

And I’ve been told by Aunt Harriet that Emma Kelly, who you may recall from the book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, sometimes tickles the ivories of the piano and sings for the spirits in the basement bar at times. 

It’s one of my favorite places, and I’m not surprised that Aunt Harriet found a way for me to include it in a story. Plus, for those who like trying out new restaurants, the Olde Pink House has a terrific menu of southern classics, including a BLT sandwich with fried green tomatoes and baked bacon with brown sugar. 

Crystal Beer Parlour
But that’s not the only place that provided some inspiration for the first novel. There’s a local restaurant called the Crystal Beer Palace, or The Crystal. It’s known for its juicy burgers, delicious peach cobbler, and a wide selection of unique and limited-release craft beers. It’s a fun place with Savannah memorabilia on the walls and a haunted picture near the payphone. A little girl named Sara haunts the upstairs, while Monroe and Smitty, two long time servers, are said to visit on occasion. Don’t be surprised if they show up in a short story or novel in this series. 

I’ve only begun to explore all the haunted places in Savannah, but hope you’ll stop by one of the many haunted spots if you have a chance to visit the city. Just the atmosphere of these places will give you a real sense of what the city is like both in our world and the otherworldly parts. 

The Meter’s Always Running
A Haunted City Mystery, Book 1

Born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, taxi driver Trisha Reede knows all the haunts and legends of the city built on the dead. After a long day of ferrying tourists, Trisha ejects a late evening out of line fare. But when he's found murdered, she questions her decision to let him out in such a seedy neighborhood. As the police investigation steers her way, she puts on the gas to solve the crime. As if she didn't already have enough baggage to deal with, newly dead Aunt Harriett shows up, helpful but cryptic, more dreamlike than real, warning of an enraged spirit searching for Trisha.

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Monday, July 27, 2020

A COMMUNIST DOG, A RUSSIAN EMPRESS CAT & A SHAKESPEARE-QUOTING PARROT WALK INTO A MYSTERY


Manifesto AKA Mephisto AKA Devil Dog
Although the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries are technically not pet mysteries, the pets of Casa Pollack play an important role in many of the books. My author, Lois Winston, tells me that a good book needs both an interesting plot and interesting characters. And what makes characters interesting are their goals, motivations, and conflicts. Four-legged and winged characters are no different. Lois has seen to that! 

The Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries feature a cast of rather unique characters, including Lucille Pollack, my communist mother-in-law and leader of the thirteen octogenarian Daughters of the October Revolution. Manifesto is the commie’s French bulldog, named for The Communist Manifesto, a political treatise written in 1848 by German philosophers Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels. 

Given Lucille’s political leanings, you’d expect her to own a Russian Wolfhound, wouldn’t you? I really don’t know why she chose a French bulldog. We converse only when absolutely necessary. However, I suspect size was the main factor. Russian Wolfhounds are quite large, and prior to moving in with me and my family, Lucille lived in an extremely small apartment.

You know how pets often take on the personalities of their owners? This is definitely the case with Manifesto. As such, my sons and I have given the dog a few nicknames, alternating between Mephisto and Devil Dog. However, given that character growth is an essential part of most novels, Lois has allowed Manifesto to mellow over the course of the series. He’s gone from growling at us to tolerating us to preferring us over his mistress. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Whether this is due to age or objecting to Lucille’s smothering is uncertain, but the boys and I see it as a welcome change in disposition. Now if only Lucille would take her cues from her dog… 
Catherine the Great
Manifesto continues to have one nemesis, though. Catherine the Great is an overweight, pampered white Persian owned by my much-married mother Flora Sudberry Periwinkle Ramirez Scoffield Goldberg O’Keefe Tuttnauer. 

Mama is the former social secretary of the Daughters of the American Revolution and claims to trace her lineage back to Russian nobility on her mother’s side. Until recently, whenever she was between husbands, she’d move in with us. Whenever this occurs, due to the size of my home, Mama and Lucille are forced to share a bedroom. The two women get along as well as you’d expect a capitalist and communist to get along. Just like their pets, they fight like cats and dogs.

Ralph
The Casa Pollack menagerie is rounded out by Ralph, an African Grey Parrot with a penchant for quoting Shakespeare. I inherited Ralph from my great-aunt Penelope Periwinkle, a college professor and Shakespearean scholar who brought Ralph to all her lectures. Ralph doesn’t just quote the standard famous lines from the Bard of Avon, though. No “alas poor Yorick” or “friends, Romans, countrymen” for this bird. He has an uncanny knack for squawking situation-appropriate lines from any play or sonnet.

Because he’s potty-trained, Ralph has free rein of the house, much to the annoyance of both my mother and my mother-in-law. Manifesto and Catherine the Great don’t think very highly of him, either, but Ralph could care less. He looks down his beak at any species that can’t converse in English. And much to my amusement, Ralph has developed a “bromance” with my boyfriend, photojournalist (and possible spy) Zachary Barnes.

If you like your murders with a large dose of humor and a dash of fur and feathers, drop by for a visit sometime.