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Friday, August 20, 2010


Our Book Club Friday guest author today is Linda Kupecek. Linda’s debut mystery, Deadly Dues, the first in the Lulu Malone mysteries series, was launched in February 2010. (Watch the video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2Ti5XfF378). Linda has graciously offered a copy of Deadly Dues to one of our readers who posts a comment to the blog this week. Linda is also the author of Rebel Women: Achievements Beyond the Ordinary (Heritage House Group, 2003) The Rebel Cook: Entertaining Advice for the Clueless (TouchWood Editions, 2006) and Fiction and Folly for the Festive Season (Heritage House Group, 2006.) Read more about Linda at www.lindakupecek.com. -- AP

Many thanks to Anastasia for inviting me to party on her blog. I would love to spend time with Anastasia and her crazy, quasi-aristocratic family. I am a crazy collector of many things, and also happen to be a writer of mysteries, which leads me to believe a fun time could be had by all.

In my debut mystery, Deadly Dues (TouchWood Editions 2010) unlikely sleuth Lulu Malone, the former star of hugely successful dog food commercials, along with her overweight sheepdog Horatio, has fallen on hard times. So, okay, maybe the classically trained actor stumbles across a few dead bodies. That doesn’t stop her from shopping for shoes. Let’s get our priorities straight.

In Deadly Dues, poor Lulu, with dimples, curves, and charm galore, stumbles from murder to murder, trying to solve the mystery, while snagging deals at high end shoe shops and thrift stores. Hey, we all want to have fun. Thrift store shopping is so underrated. And, for Lulu,  it is a great antidote to murder.

 In the meantime, Lulu riffs on the life of the artist. I have been an actor in my first career, and I know how tough it is to balance the high minded hopes of one’s youth with the reality of the biz. As in, in what life did you hope that you could simultaneously play Juliet, Desdemona, Medea and Grandma Moses, all in one rep season?

Okay, let’s get even more real. How on earth do we actors survive a children’s school tour through the north of Canada and Alaska, where the kiddies throw everything in their arsenal at us while we are onstage emoting our little hearts out, without laughing about it years later? Or film shoots where the horse decides it is going do what it is going to do, which involves lots of doodoo, and the poor actor just tries to deliver a performance malgre tout. Every profession has war stories. I think actors have the best ones.

It seems to me that we all need a good laugh, and if I can manage to create a few laughs here and there, I figure it has been a good day. The other option is grabbing a babushka (my family is eastern European) and sobbing uncontrollably into it regarding the huge injustices of the world, the working poor, the starving, and most importantly, the brilliant authors whose books need to be read by the multitudes.

Lulu is a survivor. Sometimes she has to pull a few dimples here and there, and as readers will discover, she swings a mean Birkenstock, but for the most part, she is a pacifist, who just wants another gig, and enough money to buy dog food for Horatio, that big lummox of a freeloader, and chardonnay for herself. She also wants a renewed career, and is constantly brainstorming on ways in which to do this.

Lulu is a collector of sorts, in an ad hoc sort of way. Not like me at all. I am a serious, even demented collector, some might say, after viewing my home. I am a past president of a collectors club. I was once a collectibles columnist, and that was tremendous fun. Writing about what you love is always a holiday.

Shoes were a natural fit for Deadly Dues. (Not that I have a lot of pairs. I recently whittled my stash down to only 95 pairs or so, which is not so bad, considering what I once had. This, of course, is one of the challenges of collecting, always refining from quantity to quality, while considering range of design and era.)

My next mystery, which I should be writing right now this very minute, instead of doodling on this very pleasurable riff for Anastasia’s blog, is Trashing the Trailer (which in this case, is a makeup trailer,) and I am finding it fun to fit in as many references to makeup as possible. I am not a collector of makeup, but it can be an obsession for many women (and cross dressers, let’s be open minded here,) so I am ready to have fun with it.

I am a collector of vintage and antique jewelry. So far, I have not written a mystery focused on this, but hey, just give me a few moments alone with a nice piece of early Trifari and who knows what I might come up with?

Vintage and antique buttons are one of my passions. I have a reasonable (although certainly not museum quality) collection, and I constantly defer to my more knowledgeable colleagues in this area. Something that drives me batty is when somebody with limited information and research professes to be an expert in an area of collecting. I try to know my limitations and am always eager to learn, especially from my fellow collectors at the National Button Society, who are awe inspiring in their knowledge, and who suitably reduce me to humility when I attend The National Button Show. Having said that, it won’t stop me from writing a mystery set in the world of antique buttons some day. I have a screenplay, set in the world of button collecting,  in development with a major Canadian production company, so who knows where that may lead?

Collectors tend to be somewhat obsessed. I can say that with impunity, because I am on the same trail, tracking down the best of the best at garage sales, flea markets, auctions, antique shows. I have done a lengthy stint as an antiques dealer and suppose at some point I might try my hand at a mystery in that genre, even though others have already done that successfully.

But, hey, I say, we should always try our luck. If every time somebody else was hugely successful, and the rest of us said, “Well, no point in trying”, well, would any of us get anything done?

I notice that previous posts on this delightful blog have had tips on various craft topics, so, for what it’s worth, here is a very basic and non-definitive guide to cleaning buttons.

Sounds somewhat batty, I know, but I think a lot of us (if we are reading this blog) have gone to a garage sale and come across a huge box of totally grungy buttons. No clue on how to identify them. Don’t know how to fix them up.

First of all, if you want to identify them, get thee to your nearest library, or bookstore, which will no doubt have a nice array of button books. The best one for the basics is Button Button Identification and Price Guide  by Peggy Anne Osborne. This is the beginning collector’s bible. I still use it when working on a new stash of buttons, when I am stumped.

Once you have a vague idea of what’s what, here’s how to clean up the nasty mess (and let’s face it, if a bunch of buttons have been hanging around in a tin for fifty years, they may have a heck of a lot of history but also a huge amount of dirt.)

Pearl (also known as Mother of Pearl or Shell): wipe with a soft, damp cloth. I soak them briefly, because I am a bad girl and like to get everything clean, but the best is to quickly wipe them with a cloth. Then dry them on terry towel.
Glass: you can soak them in water if they are really dirty, but it also works to wipe them well with a soft damp cloth.

Metal: Wipe them with a dry cloth. There is a very good metal cleaner (I think it is called Wenol) which also works. You can use other gentle cleaners, but you have to be scrupulous not to damage the design (For example, if you have a fine old Victorian opera button, do you really want to erase the art in pursuit of cleanliness? And if you don’t know what an opera button is, that is another very good reason to get Peggy Anne Osborne’s book, so you can be ENLIGHTENED, teehee.)

Celluloid: don’t put them in water. You will just have a smelly mess and be very sorry. This is an early plastic and the best you can do is to wipe them quickly with a slightly damp cloth. The smell is distinctive. Some say it is slightly fishy. I don’t know how to describe it except to say that once you know it, you never forget it. And don’t want to smell it a lot. Just open an old tin of buttons that hasn’t seen the light of day in maybe forty years, and the smell will knock you back a few feet.

Bakelite: same deal, just wipe it, never soak it. It has a very distinctive smell. Described as burning rubber, but go figure, I have never been able to figure it out. Finally, one night, it was like a revelation, I was experimenting with Bakelite buttons, and I smelled something. I don’t know what it was, but I finally knew it was Bakelite and from that day on, I knew Bakelite. Anyway, just give it a quick wipe and for Pete’s sake, don’t do anything fancy with it.

There are so many other types of buttons but these are the basics. Not that my words are definitive. If you want definitive, go to the National Button Society’s website, www.nationalbuttonsociety.org where people really know what they are talking about.

What is wonderful about Anastasia’s blog is that when people can find a way to meld their personal passion with writing, it is a win-win situation. Thank you for inviting me, Anastasia. What fun this was. I now want to dive into a huge bin of unidentified buttons and frolic madly. However, I have a book to write.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Linda, and for sharing such an entertaining post with all our readers. For those of you who would love to read about Lulu, Linda is giving away a copy of Deadly Dues. All you have to do is post a comment this week to be eligible. And don’t forget to check back tomorrow to see who the winner is. -- AP


jeff7salter said...

Yes, Linda, collectors can be (or become) somewhat obsessed. But when you're that fully ingrained with your quest, you can find youself spotting treasures from (literally) across a room.
Two quick examples from the days when I -- very actively -- collected military gear, uniforms, miscellany.
My wife and I were at a large flea market which had occupied an entire former school building (two stories) including the gymnasium and some out-buildings. We were eating an awful sandwich at (what passed for) a snack bar.
On a table across the way, perhaps 40 feet or more, I spotted an army helmet of the type used by Americans in WW2 (and beyond). Even from that distance, I noticed it seemed like one of the earlier versions. Sure enough, as soon as I ambled over, I saw that it was ever-so-slightly 'taller' than those produced later in the war. [There are other distinctions, but that is one]. I immediately 'collected' it. And it still amazes me that I could spot that fraction of an inch from such a great distance.
Second example: In a dingy, dusty, very dark storage 'shed' where my mom lived at the time, I spotted something in the corner that looked at frist like a bucket or planter. Gingerly took a step closer (worried about wasps) and guessed it might be a helmet, upside down. Another step: definitely a helmet ... possibly German from WW2.
Another step. Yes, a Model 40 helmet used by the Nazis. Later research (on the decals & paint) revealed it had been used by the Germans occupying Norway and then later used by the Norwegeian army with its distinctive decal.
[It had since been painted over with modern 'reenactor' decals, so it took a lot of work to get to the bottom of it.]
Which is all a long way of saying: buttons, helmets, whatever. If you're invested in it, you can have many fulfilling experiences.

Donna Fletcher Crow said...

What a delightful read! I can't wait to meet Lulu in person. Please, please enter me in the drawing! And I do think I should win because I'm headed to Calgary next month and much anticipating meeting Linda and the group of mystery writers there. Linda, my daughter loves Value Village. maybe you can show us some new thrift stores in Calgary, we're enthusiastic shoppers. Shall I bring the pink polkadot heels or the red ones with ankle straps and flowers?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a fun read! Your shoe count seems in the range of my grandmother's and mine. I have a pair similar to the cover art. I love hearing about vintage collectables too. Please include me in the drawing.

--Brenda W.

Unknown said...

Lulu sounds like a great gal. And who doesn't love shoes?

Unknown said...

Hi Linda, a fun post. True collectors are a breed apart and the bane of our friends. But then you get to have a marvelous experience.
When Ford and I attended the International Willow Collectors Conference this summer we had the please of sitting next to two Eskimo ladies who had flown in from Anchorage. They have been collecting willow pattern china since the 1970s and were delighted to find other weird people like themselves. They found us on the Internet.
Don't include us in the drawing--we met Lulu in February. See our review on Amazon.
Nash Black (Irene)

pennyt said...

Lulu and Horatio sound like a pair of characters I need to meet and read about. I'm an avid thrift shop patron and love the adventure of what you might find in that next box of goodies. Please enter my name in the drawing. Thanks for a fun post.

linda kupecek said...

Haha. I don't know if it appropriate for MOI, the guest blogger, LInda, to answer these responses, but I just want to say that I am delighted with these effervescent comments. Oh, we thrifters must stick together, fighting off the hordes at rummage sales, while grabbing our objects of desire. Of course, I am Very Gentle, and never ever am brutal at sales, even though I once nearly came to fisticuffs with a woman over a box of buttons.
And Donna, for sure we will hit VV, Women in Need, Salvation Army and any other treasure island on the side streets.

Anonymous said...

Having written eight different books on eight differing subjects I must now be working on Plan I or could that be J? Any way Linda if it works for you stick with it.