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, October 6, 2014


Late 17th or Early 18th Century Italian or French Silk Bargello
M.S. Spencer has published nine novels, lived on five continents, borne two children, and loves the Florida sky and the Maine woods. Learn more about her and her books at her blog.

My romance/murder mystery Artful Dodging: the Torpedo Factory Murders takes place in Old Town Alexandria, an historic cobblestoned city on the Potomac River in Virginia. It follows the adventures of several artists at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. An old munitions factory on the waterfront, it lay abandoned after World War II until the 1970s, when an intrepid band of local ladies convinced the City of Alexandria to lease it to them for an art center. Today it houses 82 studios, the Art League, the Friends of the Torpedo Factory, and an Archaeology center. I had the pleasure of serving as the Executive Director of the Friends of the Torpedo Factory for several years and watched the artists at work, weaving their often-eccentric personalities into my characters. My office was in the tower at the top of the building, where Milo finds her first dead body.

In Artful Dodging Milo Everhart creates delicate needlepoint, while her friend Tekla Spirikova sculpts large metal objects. Together they fight City Hall (literally,) which wants to give their beloved Torpedo Factory Art Center away. Things get complicated when their greatest adversary turns out to be the man Milo loves, and even more complicated when too many murder victims turn up.

I have been doing needlepoint since my children were small. I made needlepoint Christmas stockings for everyone in the family before moving on to eyeglass cases. Of course, friends and relatives could only use so many eyeglass cases, and after awhile I began to find them hidden in nooks and crannies about the house. I still love it, but I'm not the artist Milo is. Which is why she has a studio in the famous Torpedo Factory and is a juried artist with all kinds of awards.
Antique Crewel Embroidery

Milo paints her own canvases, chooses her own yarns and colors, and finishes the product, be it a clutch or eyeglass case, pillow top or picture. She uses a variety of stitches, including Bargello.

Bargello uses thick, usually bright colored yarn on canvas. It's named after a collection of chair seats in the Bargello Museum in Florence, Italy. The long, vertical stitches usually cover two or more threads. It makes a nice thick mat--good for heavy use items, although the technique limits designs to geometric patterns.

Milo also does crewel--true embroidery that uses silk or cotton floss and a variety of stitches such as stem stitch, French knots, and satin stitch. Crewel is used for delicate items--samplers or pillows. Many people like counted cross stitch, but Milo hates it because, since she has to count the stitches to know when to change colors, she can't focus on her love life or the murders that keep cropping up at the Torpedo Factory Art Center.

For more information on the Torpedo Factory, check out their website. You'll also find more descriptions of the art of needlepoint in Artful Dodging.

Artful Dodging: the Torpedo Factory Murders
Waiting out the rain, Milo Everhart takes stock of her widowhood and the handsome man standing in the door to the bar. Little does she know she will meet that man again and again under both passionate and terrifying circumstances.

Tristram Brody waits for his date, too conscious of the beautiful woman sitting by the door. Little does he know that she will hate him for trying to destroy her beloved art center and even suspect him of murder. Nor that she will be drawn inevitably into his arms. 

Little does either of them suspect they will be embroiled in not one, but two murders, in which the fate of the Torpedo Factory, an art center housed in an old munitions factory on the waterfront of Old town Alexandria, will be decided.

Buy Links


M. S. Spencer said...

Thanks so much for having me and Milo today! I hope your readers enjoy the discussion. M. S.

Heare2Watts said...

The book sounds awesome and thank you for sharing the pictures of artwork, they are beautiful.
Kathy Heare Watts

JoAnne Myers said...

A great cover and beautiful needlepoint. The book sounds great. I like the idea of the murder taking place in an art center with several people solving it. good luck with it all.

Angela Adams said...

Beautiful needlepoint. I admire your talent.