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, July 31, 2022

“A Fresh Take on the Classic Detective Formula”: Saul Golubcow’s Frank Wolf and Joel Gordon Mysteries

Interview by Paula Gail Benson

When I found Saul Golubcow’s first two stories in the issues of Black Cat Weekly Mystery Magazine, I was hooked. His protagonist, Frank Wolf, survived the Holocaust with his daughter and resettled from Vienna, Austria, to New York City. In his earlier life, Frank was a scholar, but proof of his academic background was destroyed by Nazis. Unable to pursue a career as a professor, Frank became a security guard for a library. Then, eventually, he set up an office as a private detective.

Meanwhile, Frank’s daughter marries and has a son, Joel. When Frank’s daughter is widowed, Frank steps in to help raise Joel, who makes them both proud by attending law school in the 1970’s.

The Frank Wolf and Joel Gordon mysteries have just been compiled in The Cost of Living and Other Mysteries, available through Amazon and the publisher Wildside Press.

I enjoyed these stories so much that I wrote Saul a fan letter. He graciously responded. I dare you to read his answers and not race out to buy his collection! I don’t think it’s possible. Let me assure you, you will not regret adding Saul Golubcow to your reading list. Thank you, Saul, for joining us at Writers Who Kill!


(1)        How did you determine the professions for Frank’s daughter and Joel? 

Hmmmm. For Joel’s mother, I thought about the state (plight) of women in the late 1940s, especially a young woman with an accent who had suffered horribly through the Holocaust. I thought she could easily get a GED and finish college in three years. But what then? There wasn’t much open to women back then, especially if they had no “connections.” I didn’t want her staying home and “getting in the way,” so managing a jewelry store (not owning) seemed right since there was a good deal of Jewish presence in the diamond district at that time.

And Joel, I wanted him in law school and eventually an attorney to oppose the book-centered training and confidence of a lawyer (hope I’m not offending) with the more organic, life-based and “critical analysis” centered focus of his grandfather. I wanted that pull and tension and continuous resolution.

(2)        What made you decide to write about the 1970’s and 1980’s time period? 

I love this question. The most elementary answer is that my story and character conceptualizations began in the 1970’s. And of course Frank is in his 70s at that time, and I couldn’t take him much further into the future. But there’s more to it. I think when we’re older, we have “Proustian” moments when an object, a taste, a small thing takes us back in time, and when it happens to me I am transported to the 60’s and 70’s which are more vibrant and comfortable in memory than more recent eras (perhaps even the present). When I enter Frank’s world, I am in my recollection young and engaged, taking in the wonder and confusion of so much. But I also have the benefit of decades of life’s digestions to make more sense of what I see.

 (3)        How do you ensure that you are writing authentically about that time period? 

When I tell my psyche, “speak memory,” I then spend hours of research into what’s available about the New York orthodox communities in the 1970’s. While the scene of Joel’s visiting the Electric Circus, relies on a vivid memory of my own visit when I was young, I need to make sure that memory’s usual embellishments and biases are not distorting past reality. Mr. Google, of course, is a wonderful research assistant including visuals that attest to or challenge memory.

(4)        Your settings provide insight into the communities where Frank and Joel take on cases. How did you determine where your stories take place? 

Let’s start with “The Cost of Living.” When I was in the New York area years ago, I was intrigued with the Boro Park neighborhood, particularly 13th Avenue with its mix of stores, hubbub, high orthodox Jewish presence, merchants knowing each other and other’s habits, and gossip central aura. The perfect place for the murder of a kosher butcher, I thought, and where only someone with the background of Frank Wolf could crack the case.

For “A Little Boy is Missing,” I remembered the real-life case of the disappearance and murder of Leiby Kletzky in 2011. How might Frank Wolf respond to such a situation in the Williamsburg of the 1970’s?

And for “The Dorm Murder,” I had gone to high school at a similar religious institution in the Washington Heights section of New York as the Yeshiva in the story. I had lived in the dormitory, and while I was there, we did have a boy climb to the roof and threaten to kill himself. We never knew why, and so years later I wondered what might have brought him to the roof and how Frank’s anguished past could dictate his response to and solving of the murder in the dorm.

(5)        Are your stories based upon actual occurrences? 

“A Little Boy is Missing” to a large degree but set 40 years earlier. As I indicated above, “The Dorm Murder” to a small degree as I had experienced a boy on the dormitory roof, and the “suspects” and murder victim are composites of the people I came across as a high school student. “The Cost of Living,” not at all.

(6)      How would you describe Frank’s approach to a case? 

My publisher, John Betancourt, described my stories as a “fresh take on the classic detective formula.” So Frank’s approach begins in the classic fashion as given by Frank himself in “The Dorm Murder”: “We must examine the crime scene, interview those present in the dormitory on the night of the murder, listen to Mr. Gold speak of his son [the murder victim], examine evidence, and look at the official police report. It is only then that we may allow our critical analyses engine to shape our conclusions.” What does he mean by “critical analyses?” The suspension of built-in personal or societal schemas, biases, and pre-suppositions by which we understand people and place. It calls, at first, for the withdrawal of one’s emotions as distorters of the facts. No one is above suspicion because the superficial assumption is “she couldn’t possibly have done it” (Mrs. Wachter in “The Dorm Murder). When the detective is confident that the crime’s environment is well established, that there is sufficient confidence in the “facts” and contradictions in facts exposed and held in abeyance, then non-cerebral factors such as “hunch” (gut) based on what the mind has ascertained is allowed in. Also “emotions” are allowed to play as the detective, based on his own and trusted others’ feelings, immerses more fully into the world of the crime, all the way to that “emotional”  instance when the crime occurs. We will never get away from our own solipsistic emotional propensities, so how may they be of use after critical analyses are employed?

And while “motive” should certainly be pursued when solving crimes, Frank believes that so much harm and evil are perpetrated on the individual and societal levels without tangible premeditation that comprehending the near motiveless nature of the crimes is essential to solving all three cases in the book.

And finally, the world in which Frank operates is Jewish and mainly orthodox Jewish. That’s why only someone like Frank with his training and history can investigate well in these communities as he understands the culture, religion, language, nuances, and personalities of the stories’ actors to include in both his critical analyses, hunches, and emotional responses.

(7)      In some respects, Joel is like a cross between a Watson and an Archie Goodwin. What do you think Joel brings to the cases? 

I think it’s also a question of what Joel brings to the stories as a character. Yes, because I decided to take care of perspective through the use of an assistant (like Watson, Hastings, or Goodwin), I gave Joel the narrator role in which I could use and abuse him as a neophyte not just in detective work but also in life overall compared to his grandfather. Frank tells Joel he needs him for the gravitas a young man gives to his “detective agency,” for the unaccented English Joel speaks when the speech of an older man with an accent would detract, and for Joel’s energy in doing legwork that Frank, at his age, could not do.

But while Holmes has an affection for Watson, and while Poirot and Wolfe care for Hastings and Goodwin, though in more of an amanuensis or servant fashion, Frank loves Joel with all his heart and soul.  As with most Holocaust survivors, what keeps them going is their connection to family and the future. To understand Frank and really my stories, I must make the reader understand this central relationship. Frank jumps most directly into an action “act” on the roof when he thinks Joel may die. His uncontrollable sobbing after they come off the roof harkens to Frank’s sense of previous loss and the unbearable thought of losing the future.

I also wanted a coming-of-age dynamic to be part of Joel’s character so that the reader can see Joel changing as the stories progress. When he’s not on his high horse, Joel, in Mark Twain moments, realizes his grandfather has both a high IQ and EQ, and comes to appreciate he can learn and benefit from both.

(8)      Tell us about Frank and Joel’s relationship. How do you see it continuing to develop? 

I have committed to both Frank and Joel that I will not allow for stagnancy in their relationship. Joel will continue to mature and learn from his grandfather. But what about Frank? Is there anything he can learn from Joel? I hope so because a one-way learning street will not satisfy me nor the reader. Shortly before my father passed away, he shocked me when he said he learned a good many things from my wife and me. I had always seen myself as being taught by him, and often resenting what I took to be paternal pedantry. I think I want to bring some of that tension and realization to the Frank/Joel relationship.

(9)      So far, the stories seem to be fairly close together in time. Do you foresee them continuing in this time period or will they extend into later dates? 

Of course I can’t go to far into time given Frank’s age. But I think he has a few good years left in him to into the later 1970’s, and given his successes that are being recognized in the Jewish communities in which he would solve crimes, he just might take cases in more compact time frames.

(10)      Joel’s mother and wife are significant family members. Do you see them becoming more involved in future stories? 

Thank you for making me face this writing challenge. I think I write more easily about men than women, but regardless I need to do more with the women in my stories. You may have noticed that I introduced Joel’s wife Aliya in “The Dorm Murder” and started to form her persona. The next story gives her a much larger presence both in centrality to plot and relationships with her own family and friends and within Joel’s family.

Given her traumatic experience during the Holocaust and the early death of her husband (Joel’s father), Joel’s mother is constantly fearful but importantly not paralyzed by that fear (she does work as she takes precautions for her safety). I have a story in mind that revolves around her, her tight-lipped loneliness, and vulnerability that places her in danger. At this point, the plot is fledgling and not yet ready for flight.

(11)      Will Frank be continuing his relationship with Mrs. Wachter?

Ah, Mrs. Wachter, you won’t let me hide, will you Paula? Not trying at all to be disingenuous, but I am not sure. In my mind, one day I end the relationship, and the next day I see reasons for it to continue. Joel doesn’t like her, but perhaps, so what! In “The Dorm Murder,” I wanted the reader to question Joel. Is she really so bad? Is it resentment that he might lose part of his grandfather? Or is it a lack of understanding the isolation and even loneliness of the elderly who need companionship as much as a Joel needs an Aliya? I’ll keep exploring.

(12)      What is the possibility that you may explore cases that have ties back to the Holocaust? 

I think two of my stories tie directly back to the Holocaust. In “The Cost of Living,” the victim and his unwilling killer both are Holocaust survivors, and the “crime” is solved because one “greenhorn” (Holocaust survivor) can’t fool another. In “A Little Boy is Missing,” the whole reason the little boy’s community is in Brooklyn is because of the Holocaust’s devastation. It’s Frank’s Holocaust impacted psyche that allows him to navigate the cultural and religious boundaries of the Williamsburg community. And in “The Dorm Murder,” it’s Frank’s anguished past that separates him from others in understanding the anguish of the victimizers and how loneliness, fear, impulsivity, rage, all aspects of the Holocaust figured in the killing.

But perhaps I dither. You might mean that I might conceive a case where Holocaust secrets or specific events during the Holocaust contribute directly to the plot? For now, may I just say “maybe”?


Saul’s Bio:

When he is not immersed in the New York of the 1970s with his detective Frank Wolf, Saul Golubcow lives in Potomac, Maryland with his wife, Hedy Teglasi. His Jewish themed fiction centers on the complexity of and challenges Holocaust survivors in the United States have faced. His stories have appeared in Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Weekly, and Jewish Fiction.NetThe Cost of Living and Other Mysteries is his first book-length publication featuring Frank Wolf, a Holocaust survivor. In addition, his commentary on American Jewish culture and politics appear in various publications.  

Saturday, July 30, 2022

LOCATION, LOCATION, BLOODY LOCATION By Simon Wood

 

People see a hill and think, “What a lovely place to build a home.” I see a hill and think, “What a great place to bury a body.” People see a quiet stretch of shoreline and think, “What a great place for a romantic walk.” I see a quiet stretch of shoreline and think, “What a great place to execute a snitch.” That’s the problem I have with traveling these days. I love visiting new places. I want to see the world. If I didn’t have an explorer’s heart, I never would have discovered my Julie in Costa Rica. Now when I travel, I don’t see locations, I see crime scenes.

 

I’m always on the hunt for a great locale. I say to friends, “You live in a great neighborhood. Where would the best place be to stash a body without anyone seeing me?” My friends are cool with it. They roll their eyes and entertain my fantasies. I’ve stopped asking strangers these questions. For some reason, it scares people. Who knew?

 

I’m not a keen researcher as things go. I like to lie in my stories, but I do like to go location hunting. Accidents Waiting to Happen is set in Sacramento. I’d only been there a couple of months when I got to writing it, so I needed some killing grounds. I rode around the city and its suburbs on my bicycle in search of locations. I didn’t have a car at the time, so I didn’t have much choice there, but having the bike meant I could stop anywhere I wanted to check out. 

 

I live in the Bay Area now. San Francisco isn’t so much of a cyclist’s city, so I do a lot of scouting on foot. For one of the stories in Working Stiffs, I wanted to kill someone on the Embarcadero. So I started at one end and walked to the other poking about. Sadly, I didn’t find anywhere useful but did find a site at Fort Mason. I can’t recommend Fort Mason enough to kill someone (Fictionally speaking that is. I don’t want anyone getting ideas and pointing fingers when it goes pear-shaped. All right?) 


The thing is that I don’t want to talk about the same old locations that everyone else uses in their books. This is especially a problem with the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area. There are plenty of us scribblers around fighting for a fresh perspective on the town, so I really need to get my hands dirty. Just like with methods of killing, writers want to keep it fresh and new for themselves and their readers. Well, I know I do.

 

So I’m always on the hunt for a good location with plenty of originality. It’s another reason I like to write about places outside of my usual stomping grounds. Little known places provide a wealth of killer locales. I have a tendency to go on road trips with Julie and the dog just so that we might check out somewhere I came across in a travel magazine or on TV. I just have to have my hands on a killer location.

 

Don’t be surprised if one day, you sit down next to small yet affable stranger who’ll lean in close and whisper, “Do you know any good places where I can dump a body?” Don’t panic. It’s probably me. Then again, it probably isn’t.

 

Bio: USA Today bestselling author Simon Wood is a California transplant from England. He's a former competitive racecar driver, a licensed pilot, an endurance cyclist, an animal rescuer, and an occasional PI. He shares his world with his American wife, Julie. Their lives are dominated by a longhaired dachshund and six cats. He's the Anthony Award winning author of Accidents Waiting to Happen, Paying the Piper, Terminated, Deceptive Practices and the Aidy Westlake series. His book The One That Got Away is currently optioned for a movie adaptation. He’s a regular contributor to Writer’s Digest and other writing magazines. He also writes horror under the pen name of Simon Janus. Curious people can learn more at www.simonwood.net

Friday, July 29, 2022

How The Tale was Told: A Blog by Warren Bull


Image by Marcus Winkler on Unsplash


 How The Tale was Told: A blog by Warren Bull



See below for a more extensive explanation.


https://www.washingtonpost.com/magazine/interactive/2022/all-the-presidents-men-robert-redford-woodward-bernstein/?utm_campaign=wp_the_daily_202&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_daily202&itid=sf_lifestyle_article_list




In a recent article in the Washington Post, reporter, Ann Hornaday interviewed Bob Woodward about the movie, “All the President’s Men” and about the events of Watergate that led up to Nixon administration officials being imprisoned and, eventually, President Nixon’s resignation. 


It is interesting that in the movie, as in real life, a crucial element of the impact of real malfeasance and criminality was how the information was presented. Woodward had a draft of William Goldman’s screenplay which Woodward had marked up extensively. Apparently, Goldman had depicted he reporters, Carl Bernstein and Woodward, like the characters in an earlier Goldman script for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”  He envisioned the reporters as wise-cracking buddies who bring down the President.


Actor Robert Redford recalled riding on a train with reporters while making a movie about a politician. He asked about the break-in at the Watergate Hotel. The reporters cynically said the real story would never be revealed. He said the reporters told him for the truth to come out would require support of the publisher, the editor, and time to investigate. They predicted correctly that the upcoming election would be a landslide for Richard Nixon. Nixon was known to be vindictive and he would go after a paper that published anything that negative. They said news was always short-term. Other events would push the break-in out of the news.


As the Watergate story dribbled out, Redford became convinced that the interaction between the reporters – a WASP republican Yale graduate (Woodward) and a Jewish long-haired liberal (Bernstein) – who had to work together despite their differences to cover an important story would provide the structure for a great plot. He called Woodward repeatedly. Eventually Woodward agree to meet with him briefly. Woodward and Bernstein were working on a book. Redford bought the filming rights to All the President’s Men for a generous amount. However, he still had to convince publisher Katharine Graham who was rightly concerned that the movie would leave impressions of the Washington Post that would persist for years. 


Many drafts of Goldman’s screenplay reflected the reporters’ actions faithfully but added Hollywood elements such as beautiful women and banter between the characters that horrified the reporters. Director Alan J. Pakula, Woodward and others made so many changes to the script that Goldman regretted his involvements even after winning an Academy Award for the screenplay. He and Redford ended their friendship. Nevertheless, Goldman is responsible for the most memorable line, “follow the money” and for structuring the end of the sprawling saga.


The movie won praise from reporters for showing the daily grind of reporting including working the phones, knocking on doors, and fact checking details. It necessarily omitted the many efforts of congresspeople and their staffs who eventually got Nixon to resign. It downplayed the courage of the Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham who was willing to risk the future of the paper itself and pursue the story.  


The movie could have been a “buddy” film with witty dialog, romantic subplots, and -who knows- car chases and explosions. It could have been entertainment “based on” real life events. The movie is how Watergate is remembered by many people today.


Like the movie script, the events of Watergate might have been told in a very different way than they were. On June 17, 1972 intruders were discovered in an office rented by the Democratic Party of the United States.  Twenty-six months later Richard Nixon resigned as President of the United States rather than face impeachment by the House of Representatives with prospects of conviction by the Senate and removal from office.

The White House Press Secretary, Ron Ziegler, once labeled the initiating event “a third-rate burglary.” President Nixon tried to stop an FBI investigation by assuring the Acting Director, L. Patrick Gray that investigating a money laundering aspect of the case would interfere with a CIA operation. Gray continued the investigation after determining there was no CIA involvement. The “Saturday Night Massacre” happened when Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox who was investigating the President’s actions. Richardson resigned. Assistant Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, instructed to fire Cox also resigned. 

 Nixon made considerable efforts to control the narrative. Fortunately for the country, he failed. Many in his administration and his political party chose to honor their commitment to the United States over their commitment to him.  

It is sobering to consider how much influence the framing of events has on how events are perceived.  


Thursday, July 28, 2022

Are Memories Reliable? by Connie Berry

 


My latest Kate Hamilton mystery, The Shadow of Memory, explores the lingering impact of the past upon the present and the differing memories people have of the same event.

I experienced those differing memories this past weekend as a high school friend and his wife came to stay with us on their way home from a Road Scholar event in Door County, Wisconsin. As we chatted about our high school years, it became obvious we have very different memories and impressions of those long-ago days. So much so that we joked we must have gone to different high schools.

One of his memories was news to me. Apparently, in our senior year, a new student appeared at Auburn High School in Rockford, Illinois, and joined the football team. The coach of the team asked my friend, Jim, who had a car and who lived not far from this young man, to drive him to and from football practice. One day in early fall, he arrived at the boy’s house to pick him up, only to be told by his mother that he wouldn’t be going to football practice that day. In fact, he wouldn’t be returning to school at all. He’d been arrested for killing and dismembering a girl. He’s still in jail, according to Jim.

 Here’s the thing: I’d never heard that story in my life. Why not? It was in the local newspapers, and my mother read the newspaper from cover to cover every morning. Why didn’t she say something? Was she protecting me from shocking news? Why didn’t the principal of the school make some announcement? Most importantly, why hadn’t any of my friends said something? Yes, it was a different time back then, before social media and twenty-four-hour news, but a murder that shocking should have rocked the whole city, right? It’s a mystery.

That mystery reminds me that in writing a mystery, authors can make use of the fact that every witness to a crime will have a different memory of that event. As police professionals know, if everyone has precisely the same memory, their testimonies might be dodgy. People tend to remember things that make a significant emotional impact. That means that what a character remembers can be a wonderful way to add complexity to a plot and to reveal character

Have you ever remembered something very differently than someone else who was there?

Authors, how have you used differing memories to deepen character or plot?

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

An Interview with Meri Allen by E. B. Davis

 

I took a deep breath. “No time for sleuthing. First things first. Dessert.”

Meri Allen, Mint Chocolate Murder, Kindle Loc. 1168

 

Riley Rhodes returns in the second delicious cozy set in a New England ice cream shop, Meri Allen's Mint Chocolate Murder!

When Udderly Delightful Ice Cream shop manager Riley Rhodes is summoned to Penniman’s Moy Mull Castle, it’s the cherry on top of a successful summer season. The gothic pile built by an eccentric New England Gilded Age millionaire has been transformed into a premiere arts colony by Maud Monaco, a reclusive former supermodel. As part of Moy Mull’s Fall Arts Festival, Maud is throwing a fantasy ice cream social and hires Riley to whip up unique treats to celebrate the opening of an exhibit by Adam Blasco, a photographer as obnoxious as he is talented.

As Penniman fills up with Maud’s art-world friends arriving for the festival, gossip swirls around Blasco, who has a dark history of obsession with his models. Riley’s curiosity and instincts for sleuthing – she was a CIA librarian – are piqued, and she wonders at the hold the cold-hearted photographer has over the mistress of Moy Mull.

But when Adam is found dead behind the locked door of Moy Mull’s dungeon, Riley realizes there’s more than one suspect who’d wanted to put the malicious photographer on ice.

Amazon.com

 

Mint Chocolate Murder, the second book in the Ice Cream Shop mystery series by Meri Allen/Shari Randall was released yesterday. Main character Riley Rhodes, CIA librarian and now ice cream shop manager, doesn’t just solve one mystery in this book, she solves three. All of which were satisfying for the reader and also reminding us that in every crime there are more victims than perpetrators.

 

I love Meri’s/Shari’s secondary characters, and in this volume, another secondary character came to life that seemed worthy of more appearances, but we’ll see if that comes about in further books.

 

Please congratulate Meri Allen/and WWK blogger, Shari Randall on the publication of this very relaxing and intriguing read!

                                                                                                      E. B. Davis

 

Thanks so much for interviewing me, E.B. I always enjoy our chats.

 

Rocky doesn’t sleuth with Riley in this book. Why is Rocky on the outs with Riley? Rocky has just been neutered and has had to suffer the indignity of wearing the cone, so he’s not happy with Riley at all. Plus the other cat in the house, Sprinkles, has been acting out, and Rocky wants to escape the drama.

 

Is the title of this book a red herring? Why not Pumpkin Spice Murder? I’d originally titled this book The Cold Art of Murder, but the publisher decided to go with flavor names and loved the alliteration of Mint Chocolate Murder. All the references to Pumpkin Spice grew out of the character’s dialogue – so many people are obsessed with the flavor it becomes a running joke, but it didn’t play a role in the plot.

 

When people meet Riley and know she’s the manager of Udderly Delicious Ice Cream shop, what do they say to her? Everyone greets Riley by announcing their favorite flavor. She’s gotten used to it and enjoys it – it shows how much she’s been embraced by the Penniman community.

 

Prentiss Love is a likeable character. Will he stay as a secondary character? Everyone loves Prentiss! Isn’t he wonderful? I want him for a best friend. I promise to never kill him off.

 

Riley brings custom ice cream for the event at Moy Mull: Cherry Vanilla with Luxardo cherries poached in bourbon and cinnamon; Rhubarb Crumble, Pumpkin Spice, Amaretto laced with bitter chocolate with almond biscotti crumble; Pear and Stilton, and Unicorn—a bubble gum flavor. What are Luxardo cherries? What does Riley have against Pumpkin Spice? She’s selling a ton of it. Luxardo cherries are a special type of cherry preserved in a liquor made by processing the pits, leaves, and stems of Marasca cherries. This gives them a touch of flavor similar to amaretto or almond. It’s a far cry from a typical maraschino cherry. Riley’s pumpkin spice ice cream is so popular that she spends a lot of time making it, time she’d like to spend sleuthing!

 

What is cranachan? What is Riley’s take on it? How is the word pronounced? Cranachan (CRAN-a-kan) is a traditional and decadent Scottish dessert, similar to a trifle, that layers raspberries, cream, and toasted oats (that can first be soaked in whisky). Honey -- heather honey if you can find it -- is incorporated in the cream. Riley first encountered the dessert in a snug pub near Edinburgh Castle, and makes her own version for a very special Scottish themed dinner at the art colony’s castle.

 

How are ice cream rosettes made? It’s easy? I haven’t tried it myself, but I’ve heard the key is keeping it cold. Here’s a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxvT63vULqg

 

 

Why does Sprinkles, the former pedigree show cat, need therapy? How does she flunk therapy? Let’s just say that Sprinkles is having trouble adjusting to all the changes on the farm and at the ice cream shop. Sprinkles feels rejected and Riley and her best friend, Caroline Spooner, are eager to try anything to get Sprinkles out of her funk. The scene with the therapist was a hoot to write!

 

How does culinary-grade heather taste? Where do you get it? Is it pretty? You can buy it from specialty culinary shops online. It’s light purple and has a flavor similar to chamomile.

 

Due to her failed CIA assignment with the culprit, Paolo, Riley second guesses her instincts. Understandable, but at the end of her assessment, Riley knows she didn’t misread Paolo, she fooled herself into believing in him. Why did Riley do that? Riley, who is usually so level headed, was swept off her feet by the handsome and magnetic Paolo. I think the romance of Italy probably played a part, too.

 

Is the allure of genius what attracts fans and groupies? Does it apply to artists as well as tech/business tycoons? This is such a good question. Many books have been written by people who fell under the spell of a “genius”  (thinking of Loving Frank about Frank Lloyd Wright, Pablo Picasso, Hemingway). Who can understand what attracts one person to another? Frankly I’d run as far away from Adam Blasco, the odious “genius” photographer in Mint Chocolate Murder, as I could, but somehow many models flocked to him.

 

What flavor is Bloody Mess ice cream, and why is that its name? A fun subplot in the book is the arc with Brandon Terwilliger, one of Riley’s teenage employees. Brandon creates flavors that baffle Riley and the other adults at Udderly, but prove to be hugely successful with Penniman teenagers because it becomes a dare to eat them. Bloody Mess incorporates coconut ice cream, white chocolate covered pretzel pieces, raspberry jam, and marshmallows. His creations prove the wisdom of the old saying “to each his own.”

 

Flo and Gerri are opposite, but they also have common interests. How do they differ and what do they share? Sisters Flo and Gerri are retired educators (Flo Kindergarten and Gerri a high school principal), work part time at Udderly Delicious, and are knowledgeable genealogists, so much so that they’re referred to (behind Gerri’s back) as the Graver Girls. Apart from these similarities, they couldn’t be more different. Flo is a sunny free spirit who prefers bright primary colors, and Gerri a battle axe who is president of every club in Penniman and favors jewel toned, dramatic clothes and accessories.

 

What is a Gretna Green marriage? In the 1700s, laws regarding marriage in England were tightened to require couples to be 21 and marry in a church. In Scotland, the law required only that the couple declare themselves free to marry and undergo a less formal ceremony called “handfasting.” Gretna Green is a small Scottish town right over the border with England where many of these so-called “runaway” marriages took place.


Riley considers Tilly, the police dispatcher, the devil. Why? Riley considers her relationship with Tilly O’Malley, the police station secretary, a devil’s bargain. Riley knows that for every tidbit of inside information she gets from Tilly over tea at Lily’s Tearoom, she’ll have to give something back to “the loosest lips in Penniman.”

 

A pamphlet at the castle “The Story of the Weeping Lady” was written by S. W. Randall. Did you ever write such a thing? I did so much work researching haunted Scottish castles, I decided to treat myself to a cameo appearance in the book!

 

How did Riley train to read text in any direction? Can you do that? I can. I’ve heard of several other writers who can read upside down text, too. Riley has found this particular small talent useful.

 

I was surprised to learn that color photography started in the 1890s. Why did it take so long for it to be mainstream? Inventors had long understood the science of color and light, but it wasn’t until the late 1800s that a process was developed that made color photography commercially possible – possible but still cumbersome and extremely expensive. Before that, photographs were hand tinted by miniaturists.

 

When Sprinkles has a temper tantrum, she really is vindictive, isn’t she? Sprinkles has such a, shall we say, operatic personality? She’s so much fun to write.

 

If someone is in this country on a work visa, can they really be thrown out just by being questioned during a police investigation? Not for being questioned, but being convicted of any crime will put their immigration status in jeopardy. Luca, the student beekeeper, is working on the farm and is very attached to Willow Brightwood. Riley cares deeply for both Willow and Luca, and is driven to help prove Luca’s innocence.

 

What is a Morganatic marriage? How do you know this stuff? Nothing like falling down the genealogy rabbit hole! Throughout history, royals have fallen in love with and wanted to marry commoners. Their families and royal courtiers didn’t want any real power to transfer to these spouses, but a caring royal could give a commoner spouse substantial gifts of real estate or jewelry in order to give them financial security. This gift would traditionally be given the morning after the wedding (“morgen” in German).

 

Is there a word for a woman bigamist? Not that I know of. Readers? Actually, I think there’s been a movement toward a gender-free use of the word “bigamist,” though it is more common for men to marry while still legally tied to a female spouse.

 

Was it fun writing this book? Absolutely! I’ve been eager to write a locked door mystery, and to incorporate a mystery in a castle. One of my favorite places is Gillette’s Castle in East Haddam, Connecticut, and it was my model for Moy Mull. Also, developing recipes and treats for a fantasy ice cream social was a dream come true.

 

What’s next for Riley? I just wrapped the third, as yet untitled Ice Cream Shop mystery. Riley’s next adventure will take place at a historic inn on the Penniman Green, during a Halloween-themed wedding. I can’t wait for you to read it.

 




Tuesday, July 26, 2022

SleuthFest Adventures by Martha Reed

I don’t think we’re ever going back to the way it used to be before COVID-19. What we get to do is to figure out a way to keep moving forward and living our best lives even as the virus continues to mutate under our feet, prickly little SOB that it is.

Despite being double vaccinated with two boosters, I involuntarily joined the COVID-19 so-not-a-fan club on June 26th while doing my bit to support our local St. Pete Pride Festival. It was a membership I didn’t seek, but as we know, no good deed goes unpunished.

The ticking time bomb about testing positive was my very great fear that I’d still be testing positive and that I’d need to cancel my plans for attending SleuthFest, the annual conference sponsored by the Florida MWA for writers and fans of mysteries, thriller, and suspense fiction. I’ve been hearing about and looking forward to attending SleuthFest since I moved to Florida four years ago. This year I made plans to share a room with Annette Dashofy, my Pittsburgh SinC-based running buddy and overall good sport. (There are a whole bunch of stories there that will need to be covered in a separate blog.) My positive COVID-19 status forced me to double check my calendar daily since I needed a negative test to get the green light and to go. I wasn’t thrilled with my 5-day COVID-19 illness experience, and I sure wasn’t going to knowingly spread it around.

It was a race to the finish line. Thankfully, on Wednesday, July 6, I tested negative. Whew! Tossing my suitcase into my SUV, I picked up St. Pete based writer Cheryl Hollon on Thursday the 7th. We headed south for Naples, FL before taking a sharp left down Alligator Alley.

I’ve been fortunate in my life travels. I’ve seen many natural wonders. Take it from me, you need to see the Florida Everglades at least once in your lifetime. It’s a surreal space. The landscape is literally as flat for as far as the eye can see. That blank flatness does something odd to your head. You come away with a very real sense of just how small you – and your human problems – are against that all of that immense and open sky.

The fun bit about attending SleuthFest or any writer’s conferences are the odd little happenstances that occur just by being there. I was sitting in the bar lounge (go figure) with Annette Dashofy, Gail Massey, and Cheryl Hollon, and the next thing I know we’re being swept into the restaurant to have an intimate dinner with Guest of Honor Jeffrey Deaver, Tracy Clark, and Tori Eldridge. It was one of those “huh, what, me?” moments of how did I get here?

Everyone sitting at the table was a talented writer. I kept wondering how I ended up sitting at the grown-up table with them. I sat in complete fan-girl awe with the whole company, but I have to note that Jeffrey Deaver was as authentic and down-to-earth as I could ever imagine a Guest of Honor to be. He is obviously intelligent. I had the feeling he was deliberately lowering his intelligence wattage to 20% to keep the dinner conversation friendly. I also had the keen feeling that if he ever cranked his intelligence up to 100% and turned it loose that it would be like sitting across the table from an open microwave oven, and I was the potato.

In case you can’t tell, I had a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The best takeaway from the SleuthFest conference was the “How to Write a Mystery” handbook I received for volunteering to work at the registration table. The handbook was edited by Lee Child and Laurie R. King and produced by MWA. The topics are insightful and inspirational. I’ve been steadily dipping into it whenever I need a quick break from writing to keep on feeling like a part of the writerly scene.

What are your plans for attending in-person conferences this year? Are you going to Killer Nashville or Bouchercon?

Monday, July 25, 2022

Jewelry Descriptions by Nancy L. Eady

As promised last month, I am giving you excerpts from a few of my favorite books involving jewelry descriptions and characterizations. 

The first two quotes are from the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery, one of my favorites since I was a child. 

From the first book of the series, Anne of Green Gables:


Marilla wore her amethyst brooch to church that day as usual. Marilla always wore her amethyst brooch to church. She would have thought it rather sacrilegious to leave it off – as bad as forgetting her Bible or her collection dime. That amethyst brooch was Marilla’s most treasured possession. A seafaring uncle had given it to her mother who in turn had bequeathed it to Marilla. It was an old-fashioned oval, containing a braid of her mother’s hair, surrounded by a border of very fine amethysts. Marilla knew too little about precious stones to realize how fine the amethysts actually were; but she thought them very beautiful and was always pleasantly conscious of their violet shimmer at her throat, above her good brown satin dress, even although she could not see it.

 

From Anne of Windy Poplars:


Anne’s engagement ring was a circlet of pearls. She had refused to wear a diamond.

 

I’ve never really liked diamonds since I found out they weren’t the lovely purple I had dreamed. They will always suggest my old disappointment.”

 

“But pearls are for tears, the old legend says,” Gilbert had objected.

 

I’m not afraid of that. And tears can be happy as well as sad. My very happiest moments have been when I had tears in my eyes – when Marilla told me I might stay at Green Gables – when Matthew gave me the first pretty dress I ever had – when I heard that you were going to recover from the fever. So give me pearls for our troth ring, Gilbert, and I’ll willingly accept the sorrow of life with its joy.” 

Another favorite book of mine, And Ladies of the Club, by Helen Hooven Santmyer, contains the following description: 


[Johnny] tightened his arm around [Julia], turned until he could lay his cheek against hers for a moment, then kissed her gently and sat back.

 

“I brought you something. Aren’t you interested?” He reached into his pocket for a jeweler’s box. If she was disappointed to see on it the name of a local jeweler, she let no sign appear.

 

“Oh, my ring! I didn’t think you would have it so soon.”

 

It’s Mr. Weller’s prettiest, I thought. Would you rather I’d let you choose your own? We can change it. It isn’t much of a diamond, as diamonds go, but you know – “

 

“Dear Johnny! Of course I know. And I know it was chosen with love.” She held her left hand across to him and he slipped the ring on her finger.

 

From The Ghost from the Sea by Anna Holmes (part of the Haunting Danielle series.)

 

Manicured nails sporting blood red polish absently tapped the tabletop. It wasn’t the tapping sound that caught Danielle’s attention, it was the sparkling flicker bouncing off Jolene’s many diamond rings. The woman had a ring on every finger – even her thumbs, and Danielle was fairly certain it wasn’t costume jewelry. Looking up from the fidgety fingers, Danielle noted Jolene’s designer silk blouse and diamond earrings.

 

So there you have it. Four examples of using jewelry to enhance the impression the reader has of a character. What have you read or written about jewelry that helped describe a character?