Please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for August: (8/3) Dianne Freeman (8/10) Daryl Wood Gerber (8/17) E. B. Davis's Review of Granite Oath, James M. Jackson's new novel (8/24) Rose Kerr (8/31) V. M. Burns.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

An Interview with Veronica Bond by E. B. Davis

 

We had learned through terrible experience

that predators were found not only outdoors.

Veronica Bond, Death in Castle Dark, (Kindle Loc. 815)

 

Actor Nora Blake finds her dream job when she is cast in a murder-mystery troupe that performs in an imposing but captivating old castle. When she stumbles upon a real murder, things take a nightmarish turn in this first book in an exciting new series.

Maybe it was too good to be true, but when Nora Blake accepted the job from Derek Corby, proprietor of Castle Dark, she could not see any downsides. She would sink her acting chops into the troupe’s intricately staged murder-mystery shows, earn free room and board in the fairy tale–like castle, and make friends with her new roommates, which include some seriously adorable kittens.

But something sinister lurks behind the walls of Castle Dark. During Nora’s second performance, one of her castmates plays the part of the victim a little too well. So well, in fact, that no one can revive him. He has been murdered. Not ready to give up her dream gig—or to be the next victim—Nora sets out to see which one of her fellow actors has taken the role of a murderous real-life villain.

Amazon.com

 

I had read this book a month before I wrote questions for the interview. So, while reviewing my highlighted passages, I found myself slipping back into re-reading the book. That says a lot about the author’s writing. Once I’ve finished a book, I rarely re-read.

 

Veronica Bond (aka Julia Buckley) started A Dinner and a Murder mystery series with this first book, Death in Castle Dark. Main character Nora Blake is an extremely likeable character. She’s an actress, but she can also sing and play the piano. She’s close to her family, who visit her at the castle. Readers come to know the entire family.

 

The co-owners of the castle, two brothers, Derek and Paul, share banking and financial skills. While Derek is the playwright of the dinner murder mysteries, Paul keeps the books and the troupe in the black. Derek’s dog, Hamlet, a part black lab/King Kong mongrel, also has walk-on parts in the plays.

 

When a murder occurs, Nora wonders if she made a mistake accepting the position. Solving the murder mystery proves she has what it takes be a sleuth in real life, not just on the stage.

 

Please welcome Veronica (Julia) back to WWK.                                          E. B. Davis

Have you ever worked in the theater? Or are you a dinner murder mystery aficionado?

 

I have never acted professionally, but I had leading roles in three high school musicals, and those were experiences that left a lasting impression. When my husband and I were first married, we played a couple of those murder-mystery-in-a-box games with friends. We hosted a dinner party and everyone was assigned a role. It was fun, but a lot of work to prepare, and once we had children we never had time for things like that.  :)

 

Where is the castle located? How far is it from Nora’s hometown of Chicago?

 

Castle Dark is in a fictional, rural town called Wood Glen, more than an hour southwest of Chicago.

 

How did the castle get there? How old is it?

 

The castle was commissioned just after WWI by Derek’s great-great-great uncle, Philip Corby. He made a fortune in steel after the war and indulged a desire to own a castle like some he had seen in Europe as a soldier.

 

What are the brothers doing to keep the castle afloat financially?

 

The castle has two main sources of income: the murder mystery dinners (which are expensive), and the occasional contracts they have with film crews who want to use the setting for a movie or commercial. So far that has kept the financial wolf from the door.

 

Nora seems close to her family. I’d never heard of a family who has their own chat room. Why don’t they just group text each other?

 

They are group texting, in a Facebook group chat for just their family. My family has one, too.

 

Why does fellow actor Connie want Nora to take the acting job at the castle?

 

Connie and Nora form an immediate rapport--one of those friendships that simply forms out of a certain favorable chemistry. And Nora does, in fact, take the job mostly because of Connie.

 

Nora describes herself as an introvert. Can actors/singers who entertain in front of audiences be introverts?

 

Absolutely! I would guess that a majority of actors are introverts. I think that introverts are drawn to performance because it’s a way to be someone else, someone more outgoing and exciting, at least for a short time. I’ve seen actors in television interviews who gave monosyllabic answers to all the questions, clearly shy despite their gregarious personality in the role they played. But I also see it in my students; some of the shyest students I’ve ever had tried out for the school play and surprised me with their ease upon the stage. But then again, I tried out for all my school plays, and I would describe myself as a classic introvert, from that time to this.

 

Why does Derek go from one extreme to the other on finances? He won’t light the staircase to the actors’ rooms but then he buys birdseed and treats for the squirrels.

 

These details are meant to highlight Derek’s eccentricity. He is a “creative,” and he doesn’t think or act the way other people do. He’s fun to write, though.  :)

 

You mentioned that Hamlet has jowls. So, if he is part black lab, is the other part blood hound? Is there another part, which is Bernese Mountain dog making him so big?

 

Well, there are jowls and there are jowls. The older I get, the more I notice my own. :) Seriously, though, I have a Black Lab, and his cheeks are very loose, so that when he relaxes they kind of hang down in a jowly way. He also drools up a storm. As Nora says in the book, no one quite knows Hamlet’s origins beyond Labrador.

 

In the middle of the case, Nora adopts three kittens. Why would she do that? What are their names? Does she ever tell Dereck about her living contraband?

Nora is characterized as an impulsive person. She felt the need to keep the kittens safe, and suddenly she was stuck with them. I’ll keep their names a mystery since there is a moment of revelation in which the reader learns them. And by the end, Derek has learned of their existence.

 

It was interesting that you had more scenes involving Paul, who seemingly is at the periphery of the story. We get to know him better than Derek, who is more involved with the actors. Why?

 

Paul seems peripheral at first, but he becomes an important character. His genial nature makes him more approachable than Derek, who retains an aura of mystery appropriate to Castle Dark. But readers will learn more about both brothers as the series progresses.

 

Zana is an interesting character. She’s the cook for the troupe, but she is married and has ties to the community since she lives in the town and used to work for a bakery. Why does she need to “treasure hunt?”

 

Zana is an interesting and mysterious character who is devoted to family. Her grandmother taught her this little “game,” and she still likes doing it. It’s a throwback to her childhood and an homage to her grandma.

 

Why is Tim, another actor, passive aggressive?

 

Why is anyone?  :)  I wouldn’t say that Tim is passive aggressive most of the time. He has a couple of moments with Nora in which he seems like a different person but uncovering a character’s true self is always part of solving a mystery.

 

What is a naiad?

 

In Greek mythology, a Naiad is water nymph said to inhabit a river or waterfall. There is a fountain behind Castle Dark, and over it presides a statue of a Naiad who looks eternally at the water.

 

Nora’s teenage twin brothers are blood thirsty, but because of their attraction to violence they save her. How did they do that even though they weren’t at the castle during attacks on her?

 

Nora’s brothers are pretty standard teenage boys: they’re very physical, they love being loud and obnoxious, and they tend to be drawn to movie-style violence. They are also very smart. They love their sisters, although they don’t like to talk about it.  :)  When Nora moved to her own apartment in Chicago, her brothers made her a PowerPoint about how to defend herself. It was rather comical, and she laughed at it.  But later, when Nora is actually in danger, she remembers some of the good advice that her brothers had offered beneath the nonsense of their presentation.

 

What’s next for Nora?

 

Nora will be back in Castle Deadly, Castle Deep, the next Murder and a Mystery title. Life at the castle continues to be spooky and mysterious.  :)

 

How many series are you now writing? How do you do it and keep it all straight?

 

I’m actually on a little break right now. However, I have several books that just came out, one in the Hungarian Tea House series (which has received some lovely reviews from both Kirkus and readers), and the Castle Dark series. I have two other series which have ended (Writer’s Apprentice and Undercover Dish), but I’ll be self-publishing a new book in the Undercover Dish series this fall.

 

Juggling things while writing them all could sometimes be stressful, especially because I teach high school full time, but mostly it was fun, because writing is such a pleasurable escape. I’m convinced that if a writer enjoys the writing, a reader will probably enjoy the reading.

 

Thanks so much for having me on the blog!!

 


 Veronica Bond is the pseudonym for Julia Buckley, a beloved author who has taught high school English for twenty-nine years. Her previous series include the Undercover Dish mysteries and the Writer’s Apprentice mysteries. She currently resides in Chicago, Illinois.

 

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Thank You Erle, For The Reminders! By Jule Selbo

Erle Stanley Gardner’s books lined my father’s bookshelves. My dad, like Gardner’s most famous character, Perry Mason, was also an attorney, and he was of Erle’s era: women were meant to be wives, daughters were expected to obey, and men were in charge. (My dad, fortunately, by my high school years in the 1980s, had evolved.) I’ve been re-reading Gardner’s most popular series for the last months – and despite the evident 1930s, 1940s and 1950s chauvinism, the sporadic political incorrectness and racial stereotypes, and the proliferation of women hiking their skirts up above their knees to show a shapely gam, I’m taking away some “swell” reminders for my Dee Rommel Mystery series.


Even Gardner’s description of Perry Mason in The Curse of the Careless Kitten (1942) is inspiring in its thorough ability to give us the author’s version of a perfect protagonist: “Perry Mason had that peculiar, confidence-inspiring magnetism which is so frequently found in tall men. In repose, his features and his manner had the weathered patience of hard granite. But… in critical courtroom crises, he was a fast-moving, quick-thinking force, molding men’s minds, out-thinking (all) antagonists…” And Gardner upped the character stakes by making sure Mason did not do all his “lawyer-ing” in the courtroom.

 

Parnell Hall, author of the crossword series The Puzzle Lady, writes, “Perry Mason was always doing such outrageous, outlandish and downright illegal things… a Perry Mason book was not so much a whodunit, as a how-will-he-get-away-with it? (He’s) skating on thin ice, finding evidence, concealing evidence, juggling evidence, and planting evidence.” Now, that’s fun.

 

The first book in my crime mystery series, 10 Days, A Dee Rommel Mystery, was released August, 2021; it’s been well-reviewed and many readers have pointed out their delight with Dee’s tendency to head straight into trouble. Since I’m working now on 9 Days, A Dee Rommel Mystery, I use my reading of the Perry Mason books as a reminder that cool logic, reasonable caution, cerebral out-thinking are not the only goals. It’s to have “a gas”, to push Dee Rommel to the edges of danger and challenge her in emotional, physical and psychological ways. I imagine I hear Gardner’s coaxing “…let Dee make the wrong choice, at times. See what happens. See how (or if) she can right the ship.”

 

Gardner’s series also serves as Reminder #2 - to embrace a little aggressive chaos – and relish it. In Case of the Careless Kitten, Mason turns down a big-money, boring equity dispute to take on an if-come case because, he says: “(it) sparkles with mystery, adventure, romance… it’s cock-eyed and crazy... It’s one hell of a swell case.” In 10 Days, even though Dee Rommel begins as a “reluctant hero,” she ends up diving in because puzzle-solving, for her, is addictive.

 

Reminder #3: Keep the story paramount. Gardner didn’t spend much time on describing his California locations; they’re quick and concise. He writes: “… the car climbed rapidly, the screaming siren alternately roaring back in echoes, then being swallowed up in the vastness of the deep mountain canyons…” Case of the Careless Kitten (1942). He also describes characters sharply, sometimes teasing the reader into a smile. Such as: “She flowed across that office with the rippling, effortless progress of a cylinder of jelly sliding off a tilted plate.” The Knife Slipped (1939). In 10 Days, my protagonist Dee has a chip on her shoulder, and it’s hard to win her trust, so characters are always seen through her semi-cynical lens.

 

Reminder #4: As a reader, I enjoy hearing the opinions of characters; Gardner often allowed his characters to share their philosophy on the human condition. “When a man starts running away from things in life, he builds up a whole chain of complexes and fear.” The Case of the Grinning Gorilla (1952). In his Cool and Lam books, Gardner allowed his hard-smoking, obese private detective Bertha Cool to vent, “… people are sheep, made to be sheared. They love to worship public officials who play politics. Every eight years, the people swallow some politician hook, line, and sinker and make him president. They hold him on the political stomach for about six years. Then they commence to get indigestion because the politicians quit pouring the soda bicarbonate of publicity into their stomachs. At the end of eight years, they vomit him up in order to swallow someone else, and the process is repeated.” The Knife Slipped (1939). Bringing this back to my book, 10 Days, one 5-star reviewer on Amazon commented: “…the mystery focuses around AI and tech industries, it was fascinating and freakishly timely.” Dee Rommel has definite biases on this topic (mostly having to do with privacy rights) – and the antagonists disagree. It was fun to explore the pros and cons in this topical arena.

 

Reminder #5: Gardner, even after he closed his law practice to commit himself totally to writing, was inspired by real cases. Many pitted the desire of women wanting independence from domineering men or the false assumption of the wealthy and privileged that they could   with murder. Other plots were inspired by the program Gardner founded: “The Court of Last Resort”; a legal aid project dedicated to help those who had been convicted due to careless or malicious actions of prosecutors or police. Gardner has inspired me here too – I cull though police and prison records to remind myself that greed, vengeance, jealousy, lust, psychoses, and countless other societal maladies are active – and dangerous - parts of our society. That reality can certainly inspire fiction.

 

So, thanks, Erle for the great reads and “lessons”.

 

Erle Stanley Gardner wrote 155 books and more than 400 articles before his death in 1970.

 

SHORT BIO:

Jule Selbo’s crime mystery novel, 10 Days: A Dee Rommel Mystery (Pandamoon Publishing, August 2021) is the first in a series. Jule absconded from Hollywood and her work there as a produced screenwriter to Portland, Maine to concentrate on writing novels. After writing three award-winning historical fiction books, she has now worked up the courage to dedicate herself to her favorite genre – the crime/mystery. She’s near completion of the second in the series: 9 Days, A Dee Rommel Mystery.  https://www.juleselbo.com

Thursday, October 28, 2021

The Rest of the Story by Connie Berry


 In The Shadow of Memory, the fourth Kate Hamilton mystery (May 2022), Kate’s wise and sensible mother says, “Truth is always more interesting than fiction, Kate. It’s more complex as well.” 

Very true.

Three days ago I returned from a long-awaited trip to England. My specific purpose was research for a new Kate Hamilton mystery, but I always remain alert to unexpected insights. One of them came on a visit to Coleton Fishacre, a lovely Art Deco National Trust property set in a wooded valley on the south coast of Devon.

The site was chosen as a country retreat by hotelier, theater owner, and impresario Rupert D’Oyly Carte and his wife Lady Dorothy, the younger daughter of the Earl of Cranbrook.

Construction began in 1925, and the D’Oyly Carte family—Rupert, Dorothy, their son Michael and daughter Bridget—moved in a year later. The charming house remains exactly as it was in the 1930s. The setting is idyllic, with hills rolling down to the sea, a tidal pool, and extensive gardens, one of Lady Dorothy’s main interests in life. The day my husband and I visited the sun was shining. What a glorious place to live, I thought.






Then I learned the rest of the story.

Tragedy struck in 1932 when Michael, age 21—the oldest child, favored by his mother and indulged by his father—was killed in a car crash in Switzerland. The car had been a gift from Michael’s father, purchased over the strong objections of his mother. Reports at the time claimed Michael was headed for the gambling tables of Monte Carlo.

The family never recovered. Rupert and Dorothy separated, and in 1936, divorced. Bridget, who idolized her brother, refused to sleep in the house. For years, while visiting her father at Coleton Fishacre, she stayed in a caravan (a camper). As soon as her father died, she sold the property to the National Trust.

For me, Coleton Fishacre, the lavishly beautiful, sunny retreat on the south Devon coast, will always be connected with tragedy and the resulting devastation of a family.

What we see on the surface of things is never the whole truth. That’s what mystery fiction is about, after all—uncovering the complex and unexpected story behind the façade. Telling the rest of the story. 

What unexpected insights or experiences have shaped your writing?

What have you learned about life through reading?

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

An Interview with Krista Davis by E. B. Davis

To be honest, I was glad I didn’t have friends who would

send me a human skull. I frowned at it.

Krista Davis, Murder Outside the Lines, Kindle Loc. 151

With Halloween just around the corner, the fall colors in Georgetown are brilliant. As manager of the Color Me Read bookstore, coloring book creator Florrie Fox has arranged for psychic author Hilda Rattenhorst to read from Spooktacular Ghost Stories. But the celebrity medium arrives for the event in hysterics, insisting she just saw a bare foot sticking out of a rolled-up carpet in a nearby alley. Is someone trying to sweep murder under the rug? Florrie calls in her policeman beau, Sergeant Eric Jonquille, but the carpet corpse has disappeared without a trace. Then in the middle of her reading, Hilda chillingly declares that she feels the killer's presence in the store. Is this a publicity stunt or a genuine psychic episode? It seems there's no happy medium. When a local bibliophile is soon discovered missing, a strange mystery begins to unroll. Now it's up to Florrie and Jonquille to expose a killer's true colors . . .

Amazon.com

 

In this third episode of the Pen & Ink mysteries, Krista Davis writes a spooky Halloween mystery set in Georgetown, a historic area of Washington, D.C. I went to college in D. C. and spent many fun times there so reading this series is a treat and a walk down memory lane.

In Murder Outside the Lines, Krista gives us a roaming skull, spiritual mediums, disappearing corpses, not disappearing corpses, and community spirit during a time of haunting spirits.

Please welcome Krista Davis back to WWK.           E. B. Davis

Thank you! It’s a pleasure to be here again. If you are reading this and wondering about the cover, it’s designed to be colored. Read the mystery inside, and color the cover outside! Both the front and back covers can be colored. And there are clues hidden in the images. The idea is to make the book your own and color it the way you imagine Florrie Fox’s world.

Main character, Florrie, has pets. Do they both go to work with her? Please tell our readers about her pets.

Florrie has a cat named Peaches, who goes to work with her some days. If you look carefully at the upper left corner of the cover, you’ll see Peaches lounging in the bookstore window.

Frodo, the golden retriever, belongs to Florrie’s parents and generally only stays with her when they are out of town. He is always welcome at the bookstore.

Not only does Professor Maxwell own Color Me Read, the bookstore Florrie manages, but she also lives in the carriage house behind the Maxwell mansion. How did that happen?

The first book in the series, Color Me Murder, is all about how she came to live there. Anyone familiar with the greater Washington D.C. area knows very well how expensive it is. Florrie had just about given up searching for an apartment close to Color Me Red bookstore in Georgetown when the professor offered her the carriage house so his abhorrent nephew wouldn’t live there.

The action starts when a deliveryman plunks down a crate addressed to Professor Maxwell containing a human skull, Harry, named by the private investigator who sent it. Florrie wonders if it is legal to possess a human skull. Maxwell states that only three states have laws about possession of human skulls. What states are they and what do the laws state? 

I’m not an expert on this. From what I have read, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, and now New York have laws that prohibit selling or ownership of human remains. In addition, there may be laws in those states as well as others that consider detaching human parts as desecrating a corpse. There are generally exceptions for medical and scientific purposes. Apparently, you can buy skulls online. I can honestly say that I have not tried to buy one, nor do I wish to have one.

I haven’t been to Georgetown in a while. Do the stores and residents decorate in a big way for Halloween? There is a scene in the movie The Exorcist set in Georgetown. Why is it a spooky place?

Georgetown is fabulous and probably more romantic than spooky, but a lot has happened there over the years, good and bad. The famous stairs in The Exorcist are sort of creepy because they are long and steep and set outdoors between two tall buildings.

Halloween is huge in Georgetown! They go all out. There’s a photographer who takes a lot of photos in Georgetown and Old Town. You can find her blog here https://www.thatjanebird.com/blog/ or look for thatjanebird on Instagram. You’ll not only see the charm of those locations but also lots of pumpkins, ghosts, and witches!

Eric, Florrie’s policeman manfriend, remarks that he likes a good ghost story and finds it remarkable that there is no scientific proof, and yet everyone seems to have a ghost story. Is that true? Do you have a personal ghost story?

This is a topic that I find fascinating. Many of us reason that ghosts and spirits in any form are nonsense. Other people swear they have seen ghosts. In my own family, people who didn’t believe in ghosts have changed their minds. I’ve had some odd mists show up on photographs. Those are long stories and not all that interesting except they weren’t on the photo before or after the one with the mist, and they were taken in locations that were connected to someone close to me who had died. It is odd that people around the world, in all cultures, have seen ghosts. And it is also strange that many of their stories sound similar.

What is the historical significance of the Maxwell carriage house?

It was once a real carriage house and part of the Underground Railroad. A tunnel where people could hide connects it to the mansion.

Does snake venom make bitten people delusional?

Yes. I imagine it depends on the amount of venom and the type of snake, but they can become delusional.

Mr. DuBois, Maxwell’s butler, normally stays in the mansion. But he suddenly trumps up reasons to stay at Florrie’s carriage house during the day, even though he isn’t a cat fan. Why has his behavior changed?

Mr. DuBois is agoraphobic and never leaves the property. He is fine outside on the grounds and in the carriage house. A big fan of true crime TV shows, he imagines murder everywhere. After a psychic held a séance at the mansion, he thought that a new ghost had arrived and remained in the mansion. Consequently, he did not want to be there alone.

Are there apps that enable people to make phone calls that appear to be from another phone number? Does it have to be a landline? Is this like phishing email?

I am sorry to say this is true. It’s hard to believe, but apparently, it can be done. I don’t think it has to be a landline, and it is sort of like phishing email. It’s ideal for pranks.

I went on a Halloween Ghost Tour in Leesburg one year. It was surprisingly spooky. Your characters go on one in Georgetown. Does Georgetown have a ghost tour as well or did you make that up?

I made this one up to suit the story. But Georgetown has been around for a long time and there are loads of ghost stories. Many of them are about historical figures. I’ve heard that the stone house has many ghosts!

If you are visiting the area, you can find ghost tours here. https://freetoursbyfoot.com/washington-dc-ghost-tours/

On the ghost tour, Florrie literally trips over another corpse. She also discovers the cemetery staff pulls a gag on its ghost tour visitors. What did they do?

Do you really want me to give that away? Let’s just say they made the ghost tour more fun!

Is the story about Lincoln true?

I wasn’t there, so I can’t swear to it. But that’s what they say! I have found several references to his behavior following the death of his son Willie. Interestingly, Willie died just about the time that methods of embalming were being tried, and he was embalmed.

Prince Harry’s real name is Henry? Who knew?

I had no idea until I started to do research. His name is Prince Henry Charles Albert David Duke of Sussex (or Mountbatten Wales or Wales, apparently his last name is complicated).Whether sociopath or psychopath, it seems we all have had close encounters. But why is it that we feel like fools after we finally discover their true natures? They have to be more common than we’re led to believe.

Many people who are murderers or commit other crimes can be surprisingly charming. That aids them in eluding authorities or raising suspicion. Ted Bundy springs to mind. While we would like to think that we might recognize malicious people by their evil eyes or menacing expressions, there are those like Ted Bundy who don’t concern us until a pattern emerges.

What is next for Florrie, Frodo, and Peaches?

The next book in the Pen & Ink Mysteries is A Colorful Scheme and it’s all about writers! Frodo will be snoozing happily at home, away from the murder and mayhem. But Florrie and Peaches will be in the middle of a big celebration and the murder of an aspiring author.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

A Change in Life, A Change in Season by Martha Reed

A few years back I looked out the living room window of my home in Aspinwall, PA during a February blizzard. I noticed that the snowdrift was even with the bottom of my windowsill, stretching out like a soft and fluffy freshly laundered blanket as it evenly covered the ballfield across the street.

That’s when I decided it was time to move south.

It took me a few more years to settle on St. Petersburg, Florida, as my new home. I moved to Florida in January 2019. St. Pete is a great place to live. The people are super friendly, the climate is sunny and 80 degrees year-round, the dolphins and manatees sport in Tampa Bay. But this year, for the first time since I moved, I’m missing Autumn and the change in seasons.

I felt a genuine pang when I flipped the calendar to October 2021. I miss apple cider, and crisp fall mornings when the first earthy frost heaves crunch beneath my feet. I miss the rustling gold and scarlet maple leaves and lifting cherished heirloom Shetland wool sweaters from a cedar chest, gently scented by mothballs. I even miss frothy pumpkin spice lattes.

What I miss the most is the family fun at Halloween.

Aspinwall is a tight-knit community with 2,800 people crammed into 0.4 square miles. Now kids who hunt candy are calculating little monsters, and any child related to me quickly figured out that the most efficient way to loot the most candy in the strictly limited amount of time was to trick-or-treat using Aunt Martha’s house as their home base.

It worked. We had a blast, and we had it down to a science. The grown-ups hung out at my house drinking beer and sipping wine after we released our pillaging horde to terrify the neighbors. The best part of the Halloween evening was when the kids returned, hunched and struggling under their overloaded pillowcases. (Disclosure: I believe we inherited pirate DNA.) The kids then kicked us out of the living room, spilling their loot across the floor and setting up an impromptu marketplace where they hustled each other out of their favorites. It was the best party of the year, and it took hours.

The kids are grown now, but I still cherish the memories and this photo:

St. Pete has its own Halloween traditions. We hang cobwebs and plastic pumpkins off the palm trees:

What’s your fondest Halloween tradition or memory? Did you share thrilling ghost stories around a fire pit, or hand-make your costume?

Monday, October 25, 2021

The Mysterious Missing Socks by Nancy L. Eady

I don’t divide my laundry by color, but by disposition—the hangables (the clothes that get hung directly from the dryer or which need to hang dry without going into the dryer), the ironables (the clothes that need to be ironed), and the foldables (yep, the clothes that need to be folded). Under the normal laws of physics, you would expect a simple equation. Socks in hamper = socks out of dryer. 

It doesn’t work that way. A black hole periodically appears and disappears in the dryer, taking a sock with it. One oddity of this phenomenon is that it is sock specific. I’d expect any self-respecting black hole visiting a dryer to vary its diet with shirts, jeans, or underwear, but not mine. It transports socks. I’m not sure where the black hole takes them, but by now, it has a vast collection of athletic socks, compression socks, pants socks, knee socks and any other sock you can imagine. 

I take it in stride. If the dryer didn’t get a sock occasionally, the dogs would, still leaving me short. My husband, however, is much more careful with his clothing. We have gone on safari before to locate his missing clothing. The black hole must know this, since my socks disappear at a far faster rate than do his. But whenever the black hole takes male socks, Mark and I have the same discussion. It always starts with “What is happening to all my socks?” He hasn’t bought into the black hole theory yet. 

The dryer has help from my 19-year-old, who refuses to wear socks bought for her.  Instead, she seems to believe my socks possess magic properties, requiring her to snatch them from my drawer. Today, I mentioned to her that my socks are disappearing at an alarming rate. Her response? 

“I put them in your hamper when I was done with them.”    

The urge to thank her for her consideration warred with the impulse to suggest that if she’d drop the rest of my clothes that she borrows in the hamper also, I’d at least get to visit with them. She likes to “borrow” my size XXL T-shirts, which she says drape comfortably and artistically around her size XS frame. But I know the socks aren’t her fault, especially since she has no use for Mark’s. 

I often wonder where the black hole sends the socks. It’s not the other side of the world, since I checked the “antipodes map” at antipodesmap.com. Antipodesmap.com is a website showing what is on the exact opposite side of the earth from you. In my case, if you dug a tunnel straight through the globe from where I’m sitting, you’d end up somewhere in the Pacific Ocean about 2/3 of the way east between Madagascar and Australia, not a very propitious site for socks. It’s possible that the black hole is part of a secret government experiment that transports objects to Tuttle, North Dakota (pop. 77), but why socks? Why North Dakota? Why Tuttle? The list of questions continues. 

One day, I will discover the closet holding every missing sock and open it, only to die buried in an avalanche of socks. What a way to go!

Sunday, October 24, 2021

An Interview with Annette Dashofy by E. B. Davis

CRIME IN THE COUNTRY is a collection of short stories featuring characters from the Zoe Chambers Mysteries. All have been published previously, either on Annette Dashofy’s website or in other publications. This anthology brings them together in the order they happened, although not in the order they originally appeared.

“A Christmas Rescue” features the search and rescue call where Zoe Chambers and the brand-new chief of police, Pete Adams first meet.

“A Signature in Blood” first appeared in the Winter 2006-07 issue of Mysterical-E Magazine and was the short story that inspired the series. It was also nominated for the 2007 Derringer Award.

“Sweet Deadly Lies” first appeared in Lucky Charms: 12 Crime Tales, an anthology from the Pittsburgh Chapter of Sisters in Crime. It introduces Officer Abby Baronick, Detective Wayne Baronick’s kid sister, prior to her joining the Vance Township Police Department.

“Las Posadas-A New Mexico Christmas” revisits the cast from No Way Home.

“A Christmas Delivery” has Chief Pete Adams searching for the Vance Township version of the Grinch who stole Christmas.

“Secret Santa” features Pete’s dad Harry Adams and his lady friend who try to solve a string of thefts at Golden Oaks Assisted Living.

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Crime in The Country features six short stories that are representative of the series progression and characters in the Zoe Chambers mystery series. The mystery is how Annette Dashofy chose these stories that take the reader from the very beginning of the series until the present. The collection not only features Zoe and Pete, but also the Baronick siblings and Zoe’s best friend Rose. I’d only read one of these stories before. While we wait patiently for the next book in the series, these stories bring to mind a lot of questions I have for Annette!                           E. B. Davis

Did you write any of these shorts specifically for this volume? How did you decide which to include?

 

No, none of the stories were specifically written for this collection. As for which ones to include, it was simple. All of them!

 

Are you a winter person? A Christmas person? I ask because four of the six stories are set during Christmas.

 

Ha. I’m neither. Those four Christmas stories were all written as gifts to my newsletter subscribers. I confess, I stole the idea from Craig Johnson, who sends out a holiday newsletter including a short story every year. Hey, it works for him. I figured it would work for me. Since my “gift” is sent out at Christmastime, it only made sense to have them be Christmas-themed.

 

In “A Christmas Rescue,” Pete is new to the area. He has a wife. I never remember his wife living in the area, but then it has been a few years since I read the first book. How long did she stick around?

 

Pete and Marcy were already divorced in the first book, but she was still in the area, living with her new husband. The main reason Pete took the job in Vance Township eight years prior was to please his wife. Well, that didn’t go as he’d planned. The whole sordid tale is told in Circle of Influence.

 

In “A Signature in Blood,” the adults gossip about all the adults in the community who may have had a grudge against the victim. They seem oblivious to the children. When there are school shootings perpetrated by kids, is it always a shock to the adults that kids kill? Are they that clueless?

I just think no one wants to believe a child is capable of such things. Especially the parents.

 

When I lived in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington D. C. a couple walking on a Sunday morning were attacked and killed by a gang who were initiating members. The newbies had to kill to become members. I’m aware of this happening in urban areas. Does it happen in rural areas, too?

 

Any evil that happens in the city can (and does) happen in the country. In fact, there are facets of that story that are based on a real event that happened many, many years ago.

 

“Sweet Deadly Lies” features the Baronick siblings. What is it about those characters that made you want to show them solving a case together, or not, as the case may be?

 

This was the first time I wrote about Abby, and I created the story for an anthology before having been offered a contract for the first Zoe and Pete mystery. I had so much fun getting to know Wayne Baronick’s kid sister. And as someone with an older brother, I found her very easy to relate to! It took me a while to decide to bring Abby into the books, but I love the way she fits into the cast.

 

Are there still Revlon/Mary Kay ladies? Or is everything done online now?

 

The door-to-door makeup sales force has definitely changed. I was an Avon Lady for a few years and drew from the experience to write the story. There are sales reps and some operate online only, but you can still find local “Avon Ladies” for more personal service. I continue to purchase from them on occasion. I order online but select the same local woman, who I used to work with, to receive credit for the sale.

 

Would Abby Baronick continue to have worked the case when she was told to stand down if it hadn’t been her brother’s order?

 

Probably not. While she’s young, she’s also a good cop. Wayne, however, pushes her buttons (and she pushes his as well)! Either way, she has definitely grown and matured since she’s moved to Vance Township and has been working with Pete.

 

I had to laugh when reading “Las Posadas—A New Mexico Christmas” because years ago when my daughter was small we became separated in a large box store. When we finally found each other, she was so mad I got lost. Just as in this story, “missing” depends on the point-of-view. Why is this old gentleman so important to everyone?

 

That area is very tight-knit, and elders are revered. Mr. Alvarez is a kindly old gent, well known by all. Kind of a surrogate grandfather. Plus it never looks good when an abandoned car and phone are found in the middle of nowhere with a winter storm approaching.


Do you have a personal connection to New Mexico?

I do. One of my best friends, Leta, lives in Aztec. Her son is a deputy sheriff with the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office. Prior to the pandemic, I went out there frequently. Leta is largely responsible for this story. During one of my visits, she told me about Las Posadas, and I took notes. She also was key to the creation of No Way Home, the book that introduced this cast of characters. And she created Billy and Miguel.

 

I tried to look up the word Rez and found a lot of bizarre definitions. What are the Rez?

 

The Rez is what the locals call the Indian reservation. I don’t think it matters where you are out west or what tribe, the reservation is “the Rez.” In the case of this story, it’s the Navajo reservation.

 

What are biscochitos?

 

Biscochitos are a traditional New Mexican butter cookie, flavored with sugar, cinnamon and anise. Very yummy!

 

We all shop online anymore, which makes deliveries a problem. What did you think of Amazon’s delivery service allowing delivery people inside of customers’ homes?

 

Ha. I’m sorry. I’m not allowing anyone inside my house when I’m not home. I’m not crazy about letting someone in when I am at home! Like so many others these days, I have a home security system but still. No thank you. Leave it on the porch and the Ring doorbell will keep an eye on it until I can bring the package inside.

 

In “A Christmas Delivery” an older woman will not open the door to Pete even if he is the Police Chief. She only opens the door after Zoe accompanies him. How long does it take in a small town not to be a stranger?

 

Well, Pete’s now been in town for ten years, so…ten years? Mrs. McVehil has never had to deal with the police before. She has dealt with the ambulance crew. So much so that she treats Zoe and her fellow paramedics like her own kids or grandkids, plying them with cookies.

 

In “Secret Santa” Pete’s father, Harry, who suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease, has moments of clarity and then retreats into a fog. But when he is lucid, he seems to be especially sharp and puts together facts. What did Harry do for a living?

 

Good question! It’s one I don’t recall ever addressing. I think Harry would have liked being in law enforcement (he’s extremely proud of his son), but like so many Pittsburghers of his age, he worked in a steel mill.

 

Regardless of his mental state, Harry’s fine character always seems to shine through. Is this often the case with these patients?

 

I’ve seen it go both ways. Harry is a mishmash of my dad and my uncle (Dad’s brother), both of whom had Alzheimer’s. Sadly, my dad grew more belligerent as the disease progressed. My uncle, on the other hand, always remained cheerful and was a sweetheart.

 

Will you be continuing the Zoe Chambers mystery series? Have you found a new publisher?

 

Yes and YES! I’m very excited that Level Best Books has picked up the series. The next Zoe mystery is scheduled for release in May 2022!