This past week I started my tenth book. My books go by the month and since my first one was in June, this one is March – Daffodils in March. Although I keep my main characters, Catherine Jewell and Police Chief John MacDougal and many others are in every new book. I introduce new characters in every new book, too. Some return in other books and some just disappear, especially if they’re a victim or murder.
Because I believe in placing my series in a place I know, I created Portage Falls, a fictional town that is a mixture of all the small towns that are around me, a place I’ve lived my whole life.
Catherine Jewell is much younger than I am, but she shares a few things with me. A love of gardening, she lost her child and husband who both died in a car accident ten years before my first book starts. No, I didn’t lose an only child in an accident, but my oldest son died of cancer, so I know the grief of losing a child. My husband didn’t die. He had a mid-life crises after 31 years of marriage and left me. He regretted it less than two years later, but by then I had my own house and found it was kind of nice living alone. Catherine has a good job at Elmwood Gardens, as a part time botanist at Elmwood Gardens, a large public garden, and her own nursery, Roses in Thyme. (June book)
In the second book I brought back my main characters including the police department and John MacDougal’s mother aa well as some new characters who continue to be in most of the rest of my books, like Betsy Hostetler, who is somewhat like an aging hippy, and her late teenage son, who has Down’s syndrome, and a drop-dead gorgeous environmental activist who comes to town, and four other characters who will return in most of my other books. (July book)
In my third book Ladies of the Garden Club. Three women in the garden club are poisoned. Because Catherine had just taught a workshop on poisonous plants, one of the Portage Falls officers suspects her, so Catherine starts making a list of who might have been the one to murder those three women. More new characters are added to Portage Falls including Boris Hajde, a strange man who keeps buzzards and has autism. When the murderer is discovered it’s a sad ending. (August book)
In my fourth book The Body in the Goldenrod a Civil War Reenactment is going on in Elmwood Gardens. During one of the fake battles, someone with a real bullet hits one of the reenactment soldiers, a man who is not liked by almost everyone which makes it hard to find the murderer. Catherine is the one who noticed the dead body in the goldenrod after the battle ended making this the 6th body she’s discovered since the series started. In this book Martha MacDougal tells Catherine about the backpacking trip she went on with the environmental activist in which they found a dead body, too, and were able to solve the crime. Robin Harper, a female officer joins the police force. (September book) (my new computer deleted my picture of the cover)
In the fifth book, Murder in the Corn Maze), Catherine is going through a Halloween Corn Maze with her brother. Teenagers dressed as ghosts, vampires and other wicked costumes jump out at those walking through. Catherine’s best friend, Maggie, discovers the body of a teacher dressed as a vampire. Maggie becomes a suspect because his blood on her costume. An African American family moves to town and moves into the Llewellyn house. The father is a teacher, their mother a lawyer in Cleveland, there are two elderly sisters who bicker a lot, and what many readers enjoy are the nine-year-old twins, who discover a tunnel leading from the house to the carriage house once part of the underground railroad. (October book)
In my sixth book, Carnations for Cornelia the two young twins who discovered the tunnel now find a skeleton. They were found in October’s book, but now they’re being investigated as a more recent murder of a young woman, and not that of a slave. Catherine gets curious and starts trying to figure out who if any girls lived in the Llewellyn house. Another murder occurs when the father of Portage Falls youngest police office. Tony Montecalvo, returns to town after being gone for twenty years. He is unable to forgive his father for leaving him and his mother so when his father is found murdered he’s a suspect now. (November book)
In my seventh book, Blood Red Poinsettias Christmas is approaching and Harold Dunlap, who portrays Santa Claus has built a motorized contraption with a deer’s head with antlers on the front of it. Meanwhile, elderly Grace Meadows, a woman in her 90s with a greenhouse offers Robin Harper her upstairs to live, and with the help of Tony Montecalvo, who broke her in to the policing of their small town, they turn it into a nice apartment. There is a sad murder in this book, but more happiness and love. John MacDougal’s mother marries the environmentalist and Tony and Robin, who have argued since she first came to town, find out that each really loves the other one, and Catherine and John get engaged Christmas Eve. (December book)
In my eighth book, Amaryllis for Phyllis, Catherine’s grandfather’s dementia gets worst so he is now a resident of The Sunset Home in Portage Falls. Catherine’s grandmother is staying with her so Catherine can take her to visit him daily and Catherine visits regularly, too. Gramps is not happy there and wants to go home to the farm. When two residents in the home end up murdered including one who is Catherine’s grandfather’s roommate. The problem is Catherine knows her Grams can’t take care of him anymore but worries about Gramps staying there. (January book)
In my ninth book Red Roses for Valentine’s Day, the wife of one of John’s officers is found murdered when he comes home. It’s been a miserable marriage and no one can understand why he stayed married to her because she slept around with lots of men. Pete Dominic becomes the prime suspect, but neither Police Chief John MacDougal or the other officers believe it nor do his children who came home with their families to be with him. Then when another woman almost dies from an attempted murder and Pete had nothing to do with it, the real murderer is found. Because it is Valentine’s Day, the book ends on a happy note. (February book)
Note: It won't be out until my granddaughter makes the heading smaller to fit the book. She's working on it now.
One of the things I do is try to include social issues. In the first book there was the difference between a very rich man who is murdered and an elderly woman who rummages through garbage cans for food and other things she might be able to use. Both are murdered. In my second book, I bring up environmental issues when some wealthy people try to get a road through some wetlands that has many rare plants and creatures. Also, in this book I introduce a young man with Down’s syndrome. In my third book, I have a man who is a recluse and very strange in that he keeps buzzards and all his plants have black in the title. He is autistic, and returns in every book eating breakfast by himself in Belle’s Diner, where there are retired men gossiping or talking sports or whatever they talk about every morning. In the fourth book, I deal with domestic violence, and I brought in an African American Family with a father who is a teacher, a mother who is a lawyer, and two elderly sisters who bicker a lot and two nine-year- old twins, who I like so much that I’ve written two short stories with them in it. In the fifth book I deal with gay bashing when two men come to town and start a business called Willie’s Car Repair and Donut Shoppe. Willie repairs cars and the customers can go through the door to the donut and sandwich section where his partner Sam makes delicious pastries and sandwiches. Their business is spray painted with nasty words, but one of John’s part time officers, is also a minister and he gets a large crew of his parishioners to clean off the graffiti. I also bring in a man who is in every one of my other books after this. He was injured in the war and wears a prosthesis and has PTSD. In my sixth book I deal with the problem with alcoholism. In the seventh book, Catherine’s grandfather’s dementia is getting worse and he gets lost coming to her house for Christmas dinner. In the eighth book I carry on with dementia and also elder abuse. In my ninth book, I again bring out how some men although they don’t physically abuse their wives they do so in other ways.
And now we get to my tenth book. Because I have Amish people who live fairly close to me and every Sunday morning and afternoon horse and buggies go past my house either going or coming from a church service somewhere nearby. Maggie always barks at them from inside or beside the house. She doesn’t think horses belong on a road, I guess. I’m including at least one Amish family in this book. I shop for groceries at Aldi’s and so do the Amish who are brought there in vans by people who take them places for a fee. Also, some nights I hear a single buggy going by and figure it’s a young teenage boy on Rumspringa. I worry about him getting hurt by the cars and big trucks that go down my road. I’m also going to include the opioid problem.
Do you write books with social issues of some kind other than just murder?
Do you relate to books that deal with some kind of issue other than just murder?