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.

Friday, August 30, 2019

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--AUTHOR LIESE SHERWOOD-FABRE ON SHERLOCK HOLMES

Award-winning author, Liese Sherwood-Fabre, is currently developing a series on Sherlock Holmes as a young man. Her research into Victorian England described in the Sherlock Holmes tales is available in her essays on The Life and Times of Sherlock Holmes, and her essays on Sarah Cushing and scandal during Victorian times will be available as part of the collection Villains, Victims, and Violets: Agency and Feminism in the Original Sherlock Holmes Canon. Learn more about Liese and her books at her website

A Study in Evil
When Clarice met Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, Miggs, the prisoner in the cell next to Lecter, verbally and physically accosted her. That night, the inmate committed suicide by swallowing his tongue. Lecter had been observed whispering to him and making him cry. A trained psychiatrist, Lecter persuaded Miggs to kill himself—without even being able to see him. Housed side by side with a brick wall in between, with only his words, Lecter controlled another’s actions.


In Tami Cowden’s typology of villains, Lecter was identified as the quintessential “evil genius” who used his superior intellect to control situations and others. The female version was the “schemer,” a lethal plotter who played with others’ lives.[1] Almost as dangerous as Hannibal Lecter (minus the cannibalism), was an evil sister introduced by Arthur Conan Doyle in his Sherlock Holmes story “The Cardboard Box.” Sarah Cushing committed murder without ever touching her victims.

Like Lecter, her words were enough.

After her youngest sister Mary married, Sarah visited the newlyweds in Liverpool for an extended stay. Sarah took a shine to Jim Browner, Mary’s husband, and when he spurned her advances, she took it upon herself to ruin him and his marriage. Sarah filled her sister with suspicions about Jim. As a sailor, he was gone for periods of time, and she questioned his behavior while he was away. Sarah also observed that another man, Alec, ostensibly calling to visit her, was attracted to Mary and soon was encouraging a growing affection between the two. An affair developed, thanks to a few choice words from Sarah. With all the pieces in place, Sarah left Liverpool, and six months later, Jim caught Mary and Alec together and killed them both. Knowing who was actually at the bottom of his misery and hatred, he sent an ear of each in a box of salt to Sarah.

This particular tale fascinated me. Conan Doyle described a character as evil as Moriarty—Sherlock’s mortal enemy—writ small. Moriarty operated as “a spider in the center of its web…. He does little himself. He only plans.” Similarly, Sarah, through a series of well-placed words to her sister, spun a web around Mary, Jim, and Alec that ended in tragedy.

That was why I chose this particular story and villain for my essay “Still Waters Run Deviant: The Scheming Librarian” in the soon-to-be-released collection Villains, Victims, and Violets: Agency and Feminism in the Original Sherlock Holmes Canon. Unlike Moriarty or Lecter, however, Sarah Cushing would never see herself as a great mastermind, particularly given her plans ended in her own sister’s death. The moment she realized what the cardboard box contained, she was struck with such a tremendous emotional shock, she was bedridden and unable to see anyone for some time. Thus, in the original tale, only Jim’s version was provided. In my essay, Sarah had her say as well and provided another “spin” on the events.

Sherlock pursued Moriarty to end the villain’s control of an expansive criminal network. He only investigated the Cushing sisters’ case until he identified Jim as the murderer. Once he directed Scotland Yard to the culprit, he asked his connection not be made public. He noted he only wished to be linked with those cases considered difficult to solve, and the clues the cardboard box provided as well as other information gleaned from interviews with the third sister were more than sufficient to determine who committed the crime. Perhaps, however, he also knew, that unlike Moriarty, he would never be able to prove the mastermind behind Mary and Alec’s deaths—or bring the person to justice. For this schemer, the price of her meddling was a “circle of misery, violence, and fear,” which, in Sherlock’s mind, offered no logic or reason.

Villains, Victims, and Violets: Agency and Feminism in the Original Sherlock Holmes Cannon (A studious Scarlets Society Anthology)
Villains, Victims, and Violets pulls back the curtain on the private spaces of the women in the original Sherlock Holmes tales, revealing their “proper”—and not so proper—place in a man’s world at the dusk of the 19th century. Twenty-nine authors examine Holmes’ world through the lives of the women who lived in it: the villains driven astray; the victims he rescued; and the strong, pivotal Violets from his most unforgettable cases. 




[1] Tami Cowden, Fallen Heroes: Sixteen Master Villain Archetypes, Las Vegas: Fey Cow Productions, 2011, page 90.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

A LADY LAWYER IN THE OLD WEST--INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR CATE SIMON'S ANNA HARRISON

Photo of Old West courtesy of RedRock Photography of Wichita
Today we sit down for a chat with Anna Harrison, the heroine of author Cate Simon’s Courting Anna.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
I was practicing law in my small town in (1880s) Montana, training my clerk Jeremy, and starting to think about the future for my ward Sarah. I’d loved and lost when I was much younger, and I was all right with that. Until my author had me cross paths with Jeremiah Brown . . . .

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
My independence – I’ve always done what’s right for me, which is not necessarily true for women in my day.

What do you like least about yourself?
I’m hopelessly undomesticated, which in my time period is very unusual for a woman. I was never much good at cooking or sewing. When my mother tried to teach me to cook, as a child, I nearly set the kitchen on fire more than once. After that, she agreed it was better that I hang around daddy’s law office instead.

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you? Well, there’s this Internet thing. We’re still getting the hang of the telegraph where I’m from. Inside my story, probably the coincidence that Sarah and I went on holiday to Colorado Springs at the same time that Jeremiah and his partner Ed showed up in town.

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?  
Mostly she understands me, but sometimes it’s a little intrusive, the things she asks. Back in my day, there were things you didn’t talk about so openly.

What is your greatest fear?
Losing my independence. In my day, a married woman lost her legal status – everything belonged to her husband, she couldn’t enter into contracts, etc.

What makes you happy?  
Reading – especially when a new shipment of books comes in from my bookseller back East. Riding and hiking in the mountains; Sarah and I like to explore, together. Battling Nick in the courtroom. Getting to know Jeremiah Brown.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
I wish my parents had still been alive when my story began – I miss them. (They died in a train derailment three or four years beforehand.)

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
Nick Powell, my best enemy. He’s one of my dearest friends, but we’re always trying to outdo each other, in court, in negotiations, in life. We’re evenly matched, which makes it enjoyable, but sometimes it’s tiring.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?  
I’m quite happy being me.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
Cate was a lawyer, like I am – but she preferred storytelling and went back to graduate school, so she could teach college, instead. We like a lot of the same books – George Eliot, Wilkie Collins, Crime and Punishment, and so on.  I don’t understand why she disliked being a lawyer so much, but then, she keeps telling me that I really should learn to cook. Her website is at www.catesimon.com – she’s got pictures of her family back in my era, and Western scenery by a really talented photographer friend. And she’s adding stories to her blog about early women lawyers like me – the first in the U.S. was in 1869!

What's next for you?  
Living happily ever after. Right now Cate is working on a book about another woman, a Western lawyer very much like me – but who heads East, to the very different world of Gilded Age New York City, who finds herself trying to help a family friend who’s been accused of murder. After all, as a lawyer, she knows what to look for!

Courting Anna
Beautiful Anna Harrison has carved out her life as a small-town lawyer. Brilliantly intelligent and fiercely independent, a female attorney of her caliber is quite the oddity in 1880s Montana territory! After losing her fiancĂ© years before, she guards her heart as carefully as her treasured independence – until outlaw Jeremiah Brown comes into her life. Throwing caution to the wind is against Anna’s nature – but what can one night with her handsome client hurt? He’s leaving town the next day . . . .

Jeremiah Brown has been working hard to come clean and dodge bounty hunters who know him as notorious outlaw Tommy Slade until the statute of limitations runs out on his past crimes. Though he’s irresistibly drawn to Anna, he’s well aware that sleeping with his beautiful attorney is a deadly game to play, even if it’s only “just” one night. Still, how can he resist?

But Fate has different plans for them, and they find themselves falling in love against their better judgment. How can they have a future with a price still on Jeremiah’s head? And how can Anna find happiness as a wife without losing her own hard-won independence? When circumstances spiral out of their control, they both discover that love is the most important thing of all.

In the courtroom, in the wilderness, and in the face of scandal, Jeremiah’s biggest challenge is Courting Anna.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

#ROMANCE AND #MYSTERY AUTHOR KRIS PEARSON DISCUSSES SETTING AS INSPIRATION

Wellington Harbor, the inspiration for Drizzle Bay
Kris Pearson is the author of eighteen romances and two cozy mysteries. If it's fine, she gardens. If it's wet, she writes. And if the writing's going well, the garden can look after itself.  Learn more about Kris and her books at her website. 

Where Is Drizzle Bay?
The Merry Summerfield cozy mysteries have taken over my writing life. I’m enjoying myself SO MUCH and I think it shows in the books. My ‘series bible’ for them is growing constantly because new people are always being added to the cast. The books are set in Drizzle Bay, New Zealand. Does it exist? Not by that name! If you drive north from Wellington along our wild coastline you’ll come to several places who’ve each added their own features to Drizzle Bay, though.

Why is it called that? Because of Jim Drizzle’s old family farm. He’s now Lord Drizzle because he unexpectedly inherited an English title. (This is fiction – I can do that!) In fact we did have a similar thing happen here many years ago, so maybe it’s not entirely fiction.

I thought you might enjoy some photos of where I’m from, and the inspirations for Drizzle Bay. For many years I’ve lived in Wellington, which is the capital city of New Zealand but not its largest city. We have an almost circular harbor, protected by quite steep hills. The first shot (above) is one I took a few weeks ago while we were at a house overhanging the water. It had been foggy, and the fog was just rolling away to reveal the business district on the other side. It was a magic morning.
Wellington Control Tower
It’s not always this still, though! We have the reputation of being windy. Entirely true. As Vicar Paul tells his sister when he and Merry collect her at Wellington airport in Xmas Marks the Spot, Wellington sits in a gap between two steep islands. The wind whistles though that gap at a fair old speed sometimes. To celebrate this, our new airport control tower has been built to lean into the prevailing wind by a jokey twelve degrees. Definitely an icon. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is only four degrees. ‘Ours’ has good foundations though, and we’re not expecting it to fall right over.

As you leave the city you drive north past Porirua – home of world-famous Whittaker’s chocolate – then along the grandly named Centennial Highway. This skirts the water for miles with views of Plimmerton, Pukerua Bay and Paekakariki (often naughtily shortened to ‘Pie-cock’).  They’re all Drizzle Bay, and yet they’re not.
 
Kapiti Beach Highway
I took this last shot from the Paekakariki Hill Road. It’s so steep that long vehicles are banned from using it. Far below you can see the railway line on the right, the main highway next it, and then the Tasman Sea – next stop Australia.

The third in the series will be Dead and Disorderly, and this time Merry will be looking after a collection of cats.

Xmas Marks the Spot
A Merry Summerfield Cozy Mystery, Book 2

OMG! Who hid a quarter of a cow in the trunk of my brother’s beloved Mercedes? And what’s with that spooky big X marking the spot on the beach where a man lies dead? Can my quarter-cow and the corpse possibly be connected?

Detective Bruce Carver doesn’t think the body is any of my business, but someone’s up to no good amid the twinkling Christmas decorations in drowsy Drizzle Bay.

I’m sure I can help, but maybe I’m too curious for my own good. Who’s going to rescue me now a smelly rustler has roped me up far too close to that big white X? Not my brother Graham and his two goofy spaniels. Not old Margaret and little Pierre the poodle. Not my ex-husband, the unfaithful Duncan Skene. I need a super-resourceful man with … umm…muscles.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--JUDY PENZ SHELUK'S SLEUTH COOKS UP BRIE & ASPARAGUS QUICHE

Photo courtesy of Half Baked Harvest
(www.halfbakedharvest.com)
Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of the Glass Dolphin Mystery and Marketville Mystery series, and the editor of The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense. Learn more about her at her website.

I’m not much of a cook, truth be told, but I have learned to live vicariously through my Marketville Mysteries’ protagonist Calamity (Callie) Barnstable. And while there are no actual recipes in my books, Callie can often be found making dinner (when she’d not ordering in Thai or cheese pizza with hot peppers and extra sauce). In A Fool’s Journey, Callie makes Asparagus & Brie Quiche, which she pairs with mixed greens with balsamic dressing, angel food cake with fresh strawberries and a dollop of strawberry whipped cream for dessert. Sounds yummy, doesn’t it?

Brie & Asparagus Quiche

Ingredients:
1 - 9” pie shell
3 eggs
1 small white onion, chopped
1tsp. butter or margarine
8 ounces Brie cheese, cut into wedges
½ cup milk
½ cup 18% table cream
8-10 asparagus spears, ends trimmed
Salt and pepper, to taste
Nutmeg

Directions
Pre-heat oven to 400°F

Melt butter and lightly fry the onion until clear.

Blanch asparagus in salted water for 3 to 4 minutes, then drain in ice cold water to retain color.

Cut the rind from the cheese and chop into small cubes.

Mix cheese, eggs, and milk into a food processor and blend until smooth. Add salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.

Spread onions on the base of the pie shell, pour in cheese mixture, then place asparagus spears on top.

Bake thirty minutes until set and lightly browned.


A Fool’s Journey
A Marketville Mystery, Book 3

In March 2000, twenty-year old Brandon Colbeck left home to find himself on a self-proclaimed “fool’s journey.” No one—not friends or family—have seen or heard from him since, until a phone call from a man claiming to be Brandon brings everything back to the forefront. Calamity (Callie) Barnstable and her team at Past & Present Investigations have been hired to find out what happened to Brandon, and, if still alive, where he might be. As Callie follows a trail of buried secrets and decades-old deceptions only one thing is certain: whatever the outcome, there is no such thing as closure.

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Monday, August 26, 2019

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--CROSS STITCHED APPLE WREATH ORNAMENT



With September nearly upon us, those of us who enjoy crafting for the holidays, both for decorating and gift giving, are looking ahead to Christmas. Here’s an apple wreath design you can stitch in an evening and finish as an ornament.

Stitch on 25-ct. white linen with two strands floss worked over two threads.

Backstitch with 1 strand black floss.

Stitching Area: 41w x 39h


Size: 3-1/4” x 3-1/8”

Find more Christmas crafts in Drop Dead Ornaments and Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide, Books 7 and 8 in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series by Lois Winston.

Drop Dead Ornaments
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 7

Anastasia Pollack’s son Alex is dating Sophie Lambert, the new kid in town. For their community service project, the high school seniors have chosen to raise money for the county food bank. Anastasia taps her craft industry contacts to donate materials for the students to make Christmas ornaments they’ll sell at the town’s annual Holiday Crafts Fair.

At the fair Anastasia meets Sophie’s father, Shane Lambert, who strikes her as a man with secrets. She also notices a woman eavesdropping on their conversation. Later that evening when the woman turns up dead, Sophie’s father is arrested for her murder.

Alex and Sophie beg Anastasia to find the real killer, but Anastasia has had her fill of dead bodies. She’s also not convinced of Shane’s innocence. Besides, she’s promised younger son Nick she’ll stop risking her life. But how can she say no to Alex?

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Kobo 

Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide (Pre-order ebook now; print available 10/1)
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 8

Two and a half weeks ago magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack arrived home to find Ira Pollack, her half-brother-in-law, had blinged out her home with enough Christmas lights to rival Rockefeller Center. Now he’s crammed her small yard with enormous cavorting inflatable characters. She and photojournalist boyfriend (and possible spy) Zack Barnes pack up the unwanted lawn decorations to return to Ira. They arrive to find his yard the scene of an over-the-top Christmas extravaganza. His neighbors are not happy with the animatronics, laser light show, and blaring music creating traffic jams on their normally quiet street. One of them expresses his displeasure with his fists before running off.

In the excitement, the deflated lawn ornaments are never returned to Ira. The next morning Anastasia once again heads to his house before work to drop them off. When she arrives, she discovers Ira’s attacker dead in Santa’s sleigh. Ira becomes the prime suspect in the man’s murder and begs Anastasia to help clear his name. But Anastasia has promised her sons she’ll keep her nose out of police business. What’s a reluctant amateur sleuth to do?

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Friday, August 23, 2019

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR TERRY SEGAN

Today we sit down for a chat with mystical and paranormal thriller author Terry Segan. Learn more about Terry and her books at her website. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
About a decade ago. I dabbled in a few travel articles for an online newsletter that welcomed guest authors. It was then I realized how much I loved writing and was hooked. Shortly afterwards I began writing my first novel. It isn’t the book currently published but will be my next.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
From start to finish Photographs in Time took about two and a half years to write and self-publish. The best thing I did for my craft was to join a writer’s group. Through their knowledge, encouragement and critiques, my novel took shape and my journey as a writer moved forward in leaps and bounds. The story went from being simple words on a page to an engaging adventure with twists and turns I hadn’t even imagined until I’d gotten there.

Where do you write?
Where don’t I write would be an easier question! My boyfriend and I travel as often as we can by motorcycle. My stories take form in my head as we roll through miles of highways or shorelines. Sometimes the landscape inspires me, or I work out difficult plot lines. Once we reach our destination, I grab my iPad and put down my next chapter. My love of traveling and writing inspired the blog on my website, “Musings From the Back of the Bike,” where I share our journeys.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by?
I don’t need either. My writing happens wherever I can set my iPad, whether it’s a restaurant, bar, or beach. Rarely is the din of surrounding patrons so loud that it pulls my focus. All I need is a clean area. Clutter makes me crazy and inhibits my creativity. This can be a bit of a challenge as we’re full time RVers and space is limited. It’s all about choices: need versus want.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
The plots are fictional, but my characters may ring with a bit of truth from real life. So far, each of my novels centers on a female character. My currently published book, the next one I’m getting ready to launch, Precious Treasure, and the third one I’m working on, Five Steps to Celestia, all have a strong female lead. I’ve always been independent and driven to explore the world around me, and some of that rubs off on my characters. Minor roles may have traits of friends, family or complete strangers. Living in Las Vegas opens many avenues of people-watching.

Describe your process for naming your character.
There’s nothing magical about it for me. I simply pick one that feels right.

Real settings or fictional towns?
Many are inspired by real places, but my specific settings are fictional. My main character, Sami, lives in a Victorian-style house on the hills of Palos Verdes overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The town is real, yet her house resides firmly in my imagination. My next novel takes place on Long Island, where I grew up, but the cities are fictitious.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
The enjoyment Mr. Chang, the grandfather of one of my main characters, takes in making people uncomfortable with his vague responses. While having all the answers, he revels in doling out just enough information to evoke additional questions or cause frustration in those seeking his knowledge.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
Probably humming Flight of the Bumblebee while struggling into a pair of pantyhose.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written), which would it be? Why?
The Eight by Katherine Neville. My favorite books are those that either take a part of history and weave it into a current tale or jump back and forth in time. Katherine Neville’s story alternates between a young woman in the 1970’s and a French nun from two hundred years prior. Throw in a mystical chess set created by the ancient Moors that has the answer to life, and you have absolute brilliance! As the book progresses, she brings the lives of the two women closer and closer. I strive to have her story-telling ability.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
I wish I’d started writing in my twenties. The idea was there, but I didn’t have the confidence to put pen to paper. Having a vivid imagination, I could’ve entertained thousands for the last few decades.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
The series “Firefly” being cancelled after only one season.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
My iPad with a charging brick, a well-stocked wine cellar of red blends from the Paso Robles area, and satellite WiFi.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
Working as a secretary at a preschool. The director reeked so badly of cigarette smoke that potential parents touring the facility visibly recoiled at her approach.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
As mentioned above, The Eight by Katherine Neville. Every few years I need to re-read it.

Ocean or mountains?
No contest—ocean! I’m a beach girl at heart. Couple that with my gypsy soul, and there are many shorelines yet to wander. That’s probably why my first book has the main character living in a house overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I might even be a little jealous of her!

City girl or country girl?
I’m a mix. Put me in a city with a great public transportation system, and I’m in exploration mode. My current favorite is Boston. So much history, great people and places to wander—not to mention the seafood. I do like the country as well since I enjoy tent camping. A few weekends every summer we hook up a small travel trailer to the back of the motorcycle and head for cooler parts like Mt Charleston outside of Vegas or Pine Valley, UT.

What’s on the horizon for you?
I’m currently seeking representation for my next book, Precious Treasure. It’s a great story and I’d like the opportunity to make it available to a wider market. Paranormal fiction is very popular, and this book fits the bill—a missing husband, a journal written by a Confederate soldier, and the author appearing to the bereaved wife as she tries to find the connection between the two.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
My mind is constantly on overdrive creating storylines and chapters. Much of my writing begins as a sedate plot then twists into something supernatural or fantastical. I’ve embraced this side of me and feel my writing is better for it.

Photographs in Time
Sami and Jimmy have devoted their lives to bringing couples together in a most unconventional way—time travel. Despite being born eras apart, happy unions are forged. After two unexpected disasters, it’s not until a third mishap occurs that Sami and Jimmy discover it’s the intentional meddling of an old nemesis. As they dig deeper into the past and seek help from their predecessors, the daunting truth is their own relationship is in jeopardy.  They must stop this mad man in time to complete the thirty matches required before more casualties result from his vendetta. It will take every resource, past and present, to assure they all have a future.

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Thursday, August 22, 2019

MYSTERY AUTHOR ANNE LOUISE BANNON USES OLD LOS ANGELES AS INSPIRATION FOR A NEW SERIES

Los Angeles, circa 1875--Spring Street at Court Street
Aside from her tendency to think of weird ways to kill people, Anne Louise Bannon is appallingly normal. Her only real quirk is wearing earrings that don’t match. She is the author of the 1920s set Freddie and Kathy series, the Operation Quickline series of cozy spy novels, and the Old Los Angeles series about a winemaker in 1870. Learn more about Anne and her books at her website. 

Old Los Angeles as the Setting

I call it the Cabot Cove Syndrome, after that old TV show Murder She Wrote. It was a tiny town in Maine that had, like, a murder a week. You’d never want to live there. Nor would you want to live in most of the small towns, fictional and otherwise, featured in cozy mysteries because the murder rate is so incredibly high.

Most cozy writers simply ignore this and most of us play along because that is, after all, the convention of the genre. In my Freddie and Kathy series, it’s ridiculous that they come up against so much murder and mayhem, even in the series’ 1920s New York setting. But we all know that in real life the murder rate in most small towns is something like one every few years, and even in the “Big Bad Cities”, very few people apart from the police come nose-to-nose with a real murder.

However, as I was doing the research for my Old Los Angeles series, I quickly realized that I had a time and place where one really could run into enough murder to make a series plausible. L.A. in 1870, was an incredibly violent place. It probably wasn’t as bad as one wag put it, with a murder a day. Historian Scott Zesch put the rate at 13 murders a year around this era, based on newspaper and court reports, and it’s likely that those numbers are a little low.

Even if we go with 13 murders a year, it doesn’t sound like much until you think about it. Los Angeles now has roughly four million people and gets around 300 murders a year, which is considered a relatively high rate. That’s between six and seven murders a year for each 100,000 people living in L.A. In 1870, there were roughly 5,000 people living there. At 13 murders a year, that’s a murder for roughly every 350 people. That’s a very violent place.

What made it so violent was that it was a frontier town. The population was largely transient, with all manner of men coming and going as they looked for work or to make their fortunes. Most of the murders were bar brawls, knife fights, and shootings.

One of the reasons I picked 1870 to start my series was that L.A. was on the cusp of civilizing. They had just set up the police force in 1869 (in fact, this year is the 150th anniversary of the LAPD). The city would double in population during that decade, with more women and families moving in. This makes for a really nice cross-section of social strata. Add in the mix of Whites, Chinese, Blacks and Mexicans, and you’ve got one heck of a set-up for plenty of mayhem.

It gets even better when real history cooperates. The incident that Death of the City Marshal is based on really happened. Okay, I massaged the facts a little when Marshal Warren does not actually die of his wounds. But he really was shot by his own deputy in a dispute over the bounty on a prostitute.

I’m not knocking the small-town cozy. I love books like that. I’m more than willing to suspend my disbelief for a good puzzle and some quirky characters, like the lovely Ms. Pollack, whose blog this is.

But, dang, a real-life time and place that already has an abundance of nefarious goings-on? How could I resist? Cabot Cove is a wonderful setting. But so is Old Los Angeles.

Death of the City Marshal
Old Los Angeles Series, Book 2

When the city marshal gets into a gunfight with his deputy, winemaker and physician Maddie Wilcox is on hand to care for the marshal's wounds. Then the marshal is smothered in his bed the next morning, sending Maddie on the hunt for a killer prepared to do the worst to keep that most basic of human desires: a home.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

AN INTERVIEW WITH CRAFTING COZY MYSTERY AUTHOR JANICE PEACOCK

The author creating a glass bead.
Cozy mystery author Janice Peacock makes a return visit today to sit down for an interview. Janice’s books emphasize crafts and other creative pursuits. If you didn’t see it when she visited us previously, you’ve got to check out the fabulous glass bead necklace featured on her earlier post.  Learn more about Janice and her books at her website. You can also check out her Youtube channel and watch her creating a glass bead here.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I was never sure I wanted to be an author until I finished writing my first book, High Strung. I know it sounds strange, but I wrote my first book as an experiment and an intellectual challenge. My sister-in-law had written a few books during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo,) and she loved the challenge of writing 50,000 words in a single month. When November rolled around, I decided to give it a try. Once I started writing, I was hooked. I find writing very therapeutic—it keeps me out of trouble. Not that I’d get into any actual trouble, but it does help my brain by giving it a puzzle to work on every day.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
I started out as indie published with High Strung and was picked up by a traditional publisher about six months after my book’s first release. Working with the publisher’s editors, graphic designers, and production team was a wonderful experience. Sadly, though, they went out of business as I was getting ready to launch the third book in my series, Off the Beadin’ Path. After that, I decided to return to indie publishing and could not be happier with that decision.

Where do you write?
I write at my desk in my home office. It’s the perfect place for me to write a crafty mystery, with creative inspiration all around me—piles of beads, fun paintings on the walls, and a closet overflowing with craft projects. I often have to clear beads and other artistic flotsam from my desk to make room for some serious, well, maybe not so serious, writing.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I often wear my headphones and turn on soothing music without lyrics, like ambient music, meditation tunes, acoustic guitar, or piano when I’m writing. I save the rowdy 1980s rock music for the studio when I am making glass beads and jewelry.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
Much of my work has been drawn from real life—all except for the murders. I was inspired to write the Glass Bead Mystery Series after spotting the perfect murder weapon in a glass blowing studio. That weapon and its surrounding plot landed in Off the Beadin’ Path, the third novel in the series. There are several characters who are combinations of various bead-obsessed people I know, and the settings are certainly drawn from real like: a bead store, a bead bazaar (like a craft fair), a glass blowing studio, and a gallery, for example.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Val, Jax’s next-door neighbor, has too many quirks to name. Most recently she was obsessed with fad diets, including the Werewolf Diet (you can’t eat when there’s a full moon), Sleeping Beauty Diet (you can’t eat if you sleep all the time), and the Day of the Week Diet (you can only eat foods that start with the same first letter of the day of the week—Friday you can eat figs, fudge, and French fries.)

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
I can’t stand it when people say “It is was it is.” What does that even mean? Everything is what it is, by definition. I’m getting worked up just thinking about it.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Do I get a hut? Do I have electricity? I’ll assume it’s pretty basic on my little island paradise. I’d say: crunchy snacks, a stack of mystery novels (maybe some set in a tropical location,) and cooler full of mojitos.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
My favorite book is Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold. It’s an historical mystery/thriller. The book is about a magician, and ultimately, the whole book is one big magic trick. You’ll have to read it to understand what I mean. And if you do, please let me know what you think.

Ocean or mountains?
I’m pretty much an ocean person. I grew up in Southern California, and the beach was a big part of my life. I love snorkeling and have had many magical experiences swimming with sea turtles in Maui.

What’s on the horizon for you?
At this point I am shifting gears and starting to write a new series. I have a draft of the first book, but it needs quite a bit of work before it will be ready for publication. It’s a bit too early to talk much about that series. I can tell you it will be in the cozy mystery genre and won’t have anything to do with beads.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
I’ve been writing fiction for seven years, though I wrote technical training documentation in the software industry for 30 years before that. I have a husband and a grown daughter, and I live a pretty normal life in the San Francisco Bay Area. I love working from home, tending my garden and chickens, and sitting on my back deck on warm evenings and having a glass of wine. I have two cats: Max and Leo, named after Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom from Mel Brooks’ movie and play The Producers. When I’m not writing, I’m in my glass studio playing with fire.

To Bead or Not to Bead
A Glass Bead Mystery, Book 4

When a wealthy theater owner is killed by a falling art glass chandelier, glass beadmaker Jax O’Connell’s boyfriend, Detective Zachary Grant, quickly determines it was no accident. Jax and her friend Tessa try to carry on with a charity fashion gala at the theater, but with only a few days before the big event, they have to scramble to keep things from falling apart. The emcee quits, and to make matters worse, Tessa’s daughters are suspects in the murder. As the chaos unfolds, Jax discovers new suspects at every turn, including an edgy glass blower, an agoraphobic socialite, and a hunky former-cop-turned-actor. Can Jax piece together the clues to find the killer and uncover the dark secrets behind the victim’s family or will it be curtains for her?

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