featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Monday, September 3, 2012


I'm turning over our Monday craft day today to Joyce and Jim Lavene, co-authors of bestselling mystery novels. They've written and published more than 60 novels for Harlequin, Berkley and Charter Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. Their current novel is Treacherous Toys, book #5 in the Renaissance Faire Mystery series set in Myrtle Beach. Learn more about them at their website

Joyce and Jim are offering a copy of Treacherous Toys to one of our readers who posts a comment. Be sure to stop back on Sunday to learn if you're the winner. -- AP

Making Wooden Toys for Christmas

Our protagonist, Jessie Morton, in the Renaissance Faire Mysteries takes on a different craft as an apprentice with each book. Of course, murder isn’t far behind, but she is genuinely interested in what she’s learning.

Jessie is working on her thesis, The Proliferation of Renaissance Crafts in Modern Times. She’s learned arrow making and archery, sword making and sword play, hat making and weaving baskets, among other efforts. She’s not always the best at what she learns, but she works hard.

In the fifth book in the series, she is learning to make wooden toys at Renaissance Faire Village. Her mentor is Father Christmas who is a little on the devilish side but a master toymaker. Her apprenticeship may be one of her shortest yet when he's found dead. Unfortunately, there's a long list of suspects – Chris Christmas liked the ladies.

One of the things Jessie learns about Renaissance crafts is that you have to develop patience. Craftsmanship wasn’t rushed hundreds of years ago. A master craftsman lived or died according to the time and effort he put into his work. His reputation was everything.

Toys were very simple, meant to appeal to the child’s imagination. This might include toy swords, bows and arrows, hand puppets, whistles, wooden stick puppets, wooden cup-and-ball toys.  Today’s Father Christmas might create wooden trucks, animals and bendable toys. These would be brightly painted but very basic.

The Renaissance Faire of the 1500s was very different from today. While our modern faires and festivals seem to be a hodgepodge of foods, rides, characters and shows, they do have some order. Early faires and festivals were spots for people to come together, maybe once or twice a year, and could get quite rowdy.

Craftsmen, like Father Christmas, would be at these events – hopefully not with such tragic consequences as are found in Treacherous Toys.

Watch a video that shows how to make a wooden toy train.

Thanks for joining us today, Joyce and Jim! Readers, if you'd like a chance to win a copy of Treacherous Toys, post a comment. And don't forget to check back on Sunday to see if you're the winner. -- AP


Meb Bryant said...

Joyce & Jim,
Thank you for the post on your new book, TRECHEROUS TOYS. The cover is eye-catching and the video on making wooden toys piqued a renewed interest in crafts.
I look forward to the read. Best in sales.

Joyce Lavene said...

Thanks, Meb! It's always interesting to do the research for these books. We've learned a lot along with Jessie as we've written them.
Joyce and Jim

Yetta said...

Oh, what fun! I just bought four wooden toys (truck, heart-shaped rattle, moose and car) for my 6 month old grand daughter, hndmade in the next town up the road here in Maine. She loves the rattle as she can put her whole hand into the hole in it. I've always loved wooden toys.

Joyce Lavene said...

Hi Yetta! We love wooden toys too. Jim collects them. We have some fire trucks with detachable ladders and some dragons. Little kids - and big kids - like them!

Joyce and Jim

Kathleen Kaska said...

I've learned so much from reading Lois' blog. I had no idea how crafty the world is. My dad made wooden toys so your mystery, Joyce and Jim, touched a special place in my heart. Congratulations on your new release.

Jake said...

Remember those terrific toys from childhood. On TBR list.

Joyce Lavene said...

Thanks, Kathleen! I haven't actually known a real toymaker but we did meet some Renaissance Faire vendors who made puppets. That was interesting!

Joyce and Jim

Joyce Lavene said...

They are great toys, Jake, and almost indestructible!

Joyce and Jim

ElaineCharton said...

tscI love wooden toys. My grandfather made wooden toys for his kids and his grand kids were playing with them over 20 years later! Even his great grand kids knew the fun was in the toy box at grandpa's house!

Joyce Lavene said...

The kids always know where to find the fun, Elaine!

Mary Frances Roya said...

Interesting! How something built for joy and fun can be used for evil. Great blog.

Sheila Webster Boneham said...

Hi Joyce & Jim! What a fun post, and I look forward to reading the book. I think simple toys are the best - I still remember the many fun hours I spent with my plain wooden blocks. Low tech, hi fun. Thanks for being so crafty :-)

Sheila Webster Boneham said...

Or high fun even. ;-)

Sue Farrell said...

I fondly remember my wooden toys of childhood---I think I'd like to read this book during the Christmas season.

traveler said...

Wooden Toys hold a special place in my heart. They are so precious and when I was young easily obtained. Enjoyed your great post.

Michelle F. said...

I love the cover and I've read a few of the Lavenes' books and I own more of their books to be read.