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.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


photo by Frank Vincentz
If you’re fascinated with the retro fashions, music, and lifestyles of the 60’s, Sally Carpenter is the author for you. A former Hoosier now living in Southern California, Sally writes the Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol cozy series and a new retro-cozy series set in the Midwest in 1967. She also has short stories published in two anthologies. Learn more about Sandy and her books at her blog. 

Living in the past and loving it

How does one stand out in an ocean of authors when, thanks to self-publishing, hundreds of new books appear daily? Some call it the author’s “brand,” the type of themes, settings and world view a reader can expect from the author every time. I call my brand “retro cozies.”

I find it easier to write about the recent past: 1960 to about 2000. For one thing, I don’t know much about modern technology. I don’t even own a cell phone (gasp!). MP3 files, Tivo, WiFi and “cloud” storage mystify me. But I do use a computer—I’m not that out of touch.

So rather than write about modern times and get something wrong, I pen stories about what I do know. VHS players, turntables, transistor radios and floppy discs? I got that covered!

Modern sleuths have it too easy. The protagonist gets in a jam? She just whips out her cell phone and calls for help. Can’t ID an intruder? Run the security camera footage through facial recognition software. Looking for someone? Google and you’ll find them in seconds. Need proof of the crime? Just get a DNA sample.

But my sleuths have to work. They rely on old-fashioned legwork, interviews, hard evidence, logic and a bit of luck. No technological shortcuts for them.

I like the culture of the past: Classic rock music, movies and TV are more interesting than whatever is on the airwaves or online streaming today. And clothing? Today everyone, even in the workplace, wears T-shirts, cargo pants and capris. Ugly! Even if you dislike tie-dye and polyester pantsuits, at least the clothes were colorful and unique.

I brought my retro-fetish to Chasing the Codex, a group mystery created by 24 authors/writing teams published with Cozy Cat Press. Each author contributed one chapter to an ongoing story, adding or deleting characters as needed and pushing the plot ahead just a little bit further. The result was exciting to watch, as we had no pre-determined conclusion.

Although the story is set in the present, I added some retro-love with my character Rambler, a counter-culture throwback. He dresses like a hippie, lives in a VW van, uses ‘60s lingo and exists in his own world. I was pleased that some of the other writers used him in their chapters.

I liked Rambler so much that I placed him in my new cozy series set in 1967 in the Midwest. He and his woman live on a small farm just outside the city limits where the town cops can’t get them. He runs a head shop tucked in the back of the record store where the heroine works part time, when she isn’t performing at the city’s Christmas-themed amusement park.

What’s challenging about writing retro-cozies is the research needed to make sure the household products, music, clothes, slang and attitudes are true to the times. I write one sentence and then Google to check the facts. Time consuming but fun and definitely a blast from the past.

Chasing the Codex
Bryndis Palmer, owner of The Neglected Word bookstore, invites her 14-year-old niece, Frieda, to visit her so they can attend the Midwest Booklovers Convention in nearby St. Louis. But when Frieda, along with Bryndis’ ex-boyfriend, Holt Furst, are kidnapped, the aunt sets out on an adventure to not only rescue them but to discover the secret of an old Bible and possible hidden treasure.

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Angela Adams said...

The 60s had the best music! After reading this post, I'm hearing The Beatles in my head!!

Sally Carpenter said...

Hi Angela. Yeah, yeah, yeah! I'm a Beatlemaniac too. It's odd that since the 1980s, rock/pop music has been so blah. No breakout artists or new styles since the classic musicians.