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This week I’m hosting author, Peggy Hanson.
Peggy Hanson is an author and travel blogger who loves to share her international life with her readers. Peace Corps,Voice of America, teaching of English–all these have played major roles in her life. Growing up in a series of small towns in Colorado, the daughter of a mountain-climbing Congregational minister and teacher, probably helped mold her affinity to nomadism. In her adult life, she’s lived for extended periods in Turkey, Yemen, India and Indonesia. Her first two books are mysteries in the Elizabeth Darcy series set in other countries: DEADLINE ISTANBUL and DEADLINE YEMEN. She is currently working on the third in that series, DEADLINE INDONESIA, and is also compiling and editing her great aunt Mary’s diaries and letters and pictures from 1888-1920 when she was a missionary teacher and principal in the Balkans. The working title of the diaries is MISS MATTHEWS OF MACEDONIA. or UNHOLY DEATH ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. It is a story of early feminism and a woman’s bravery in the face of war.
In the past, Peggy has contributed travel articles to magazines in India. Recently she has started travel blogging forjourneywoman.com and travelgogirl.com. Her most recent blog is entitled THE TURKISH DELIGHTS: Women to Travel With, Women to Love.
When time permits, Peggy leads groups of friends to Turkey. And she travels with her economist husband and with a group of close friends who call themselves The Delights. Read the blog on travelgogirl.com to learn more about that group of amazing women! Peggy lives near Washington D.C. with her husband and two energetic kittens.
Called to Yemen to help her old friend Halima, correspondent Elizabeth Darcy combines work with the chance to repay an old debt. But the narrow, mysterious streets are populated with armed men and veiled women; who can tell friend from foe? Her first priority is to help Halima’s young brother Ali, who has become involved with religious extremists. But murder dogs her footsteps, and she is under police surveillance. Abducted along her investigative trail, Elizabeth is drawn into the terrorists’ web. She must work with two men—one Yemeni, one British—who are on a mission of their own. What are their plans? And why have they all ended up in the remote Hadhramaut wadi where the Incense Road once began? Elizabeth pieces together the plot, hoping she’s in time to save Halima and Ali. But can she save herself as well?
Here is an excerpt:
The perpetual charm of Arabia is that the traveler finds his level there simply as a human being. Freya Stark, A Winter in Arabia 1997
It’s a myth that a woman needs a male escort in the Middle East. My taxi driver treated me just as he would any man: he tried to cheat me.
“Fifty riyals?” I asked in mock amazement, leaning into the window. “I won’t pay more than thirty.” My Arabic was rough but, within these parameters, understandable.
The driver I’d selected from the line of jalopies adjusted his loose turban, shifted his wad of qat to one side of his mouth, spat green juice onto the ground and gestured for me to get in—a magnanimous act of compromise on the price. He didn’t offer to help me, so I pushed my carry-on into the front seat and crawled into the plastic-covered back seat. The dashboard had fake fur all over it and looked like a poor ragged animal that had had a hard winter. Egyptian music whined from the radio. I didn’t even look for a seat belt.
The e-mail had arrived in the Trib newsroom in Washington three days earlier. Its heading said, “from Halima in Sana’a.” The message itself was spare: “Come. Please.”
Halima is not the sort to exaggerate. Given the debt I owed her—in truth, my life—my reaction was intense and personal. And here I was.
I’d had a companionable chat on the plane with a charming international type who said his name was Michael Petrovich, so I hadn’t expected to be taking a taxi alone in the middle of the night. I’d thought I’d be dropped off at the hotel in gentlemanly fashion. But plane relationships often don’t last past the luggage carousel, and this one was no different.
He’d turned to me as we watched the line of shabby bags squeak past, stuck out his hand, and with an ambiguous look in his eyes, said, “Elizabeth, this has been a pleasure. More than you can know. I hope to see you again in Sana’a. I’m being picked up for a meeting. Will you be all right?” Petrovich’s gray eyes looked regretful through the haze from passengers lighting up after the flight.
Meeting at midnight?
“Of course!” I laughed. “I’m fine.”
I picked up my carry-on and marched out into chill desert mountain air to the row of jalopies at the taxi stand while he still waited for his luggage. I travel light and unencumbered. The man from the front seat of the plane, the quiet one with khaki pants and a laptop who’d watched as Petrovich and I had walked up and down the plane at the Cairo stop, stood at the baggage carousel waiting for his luggage, too. I’d nodded briskly and felt his gaze follow me.
“Peggy Hanson’s Deadline Yemen is terrific. She brilliantly captures its mystery and its fascination, and yes, its dangers as well. I know—I’ve been there.” – Charles Todd, author of the Ian Rutledge Mysteries and the Bess Crawford mysteries.
“I love learning something new when I read fiction, and Deadline Yemen fills the bill. This is more than a compelling mystery. It’s an education about a place filled with complications, paradox, conflict and deep beauty. In short, this book is a treasure.” – Anne Hillerman, author of Spider Woman’s Daughter, a Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee mystery.
Other books in the series:
Deadline Indonesia – coming soon!
Deadline Istanbul http://www.amazon.com/Deadline-Istanbul-Elizabeth-Darcy-Hanson/dp/1434442365/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431714629&sr=8-1&keywords=deadline+istanbul
Deadline Yemen http://www.amazon.com/Deadline-Yemen-Elizabeth-Darcy-Hanson-ebook/dp/B00FY8JXOW/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1431713305&sr=8-1&keywords=deadline+yemen
Peggy has chosen to do a book giveaway for Deadline Yemen. She’ll pick one winner from the readers who leave comments. So please feel free to do so. and good luck to everyone.
This week, I’m hosting author, Suzanne Burke.
Suzanne Burke, a native of Richmond, Virginia currently lives in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, with her retired racing greyhounds. She has more than ten years’ experience working with the greyhound breed as a volunteer for the Greyhound Adoption League of Texas. Suzanne also has more than 15 years’ experience in the information technology field in project management and technical writing.
Logan and the Mystical Collar
Logan the greyhound is off on another exciting adventure! After he is given a special birthday gift—a collar adorned with hieroglyphics, found in an old dusty antique shop—Logan is miraculously transported to the land of Ancient Egypt. He finds himself along the Nile River outside of the seaport city of Alexandria, where he meets a famous royal figure and her regal greyhounds. Together, they discover the mysteries and secrets of the Pharos lighthouse, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Logan also illustrates a powerful lesson in leadership when he challenges his nemesis Zeus, a muscular greyhound and the queen’s bodyguard, in the biggest, most important race of his life!
Written in Logan’s voice, Logan and the Mystical Collar is a story of courage, friendship, and perseverance. Readers will cheer for big-hearted Logan as he overcomes bullying, gains the trust of strangers, and helps change the world of those around him. Children and adults will learn many intriguing facts about historical Ancient Egypt, and children can gain valuable life lessons on how to deal with bullying.
Ages 7 and up. Contains illustrations and educational projects at the end for children to expand their vocabulary, critical thinking and creative writing skills. http://greyhoundstories.com/
Here is an excerpt:
I opened my eyes to the view of rich sands along the banks of a beautiful flowing river. Several greyhounds were sunning themselves on the sandy shore, while others were wading in the cool blue water. Where exactly was I and how did I get here? I was struggling to get my bearings when suddenly I heard a melodic voice speak. All the greyhounds perked up their ears and dashed toward the source of the voice. A graceful figure emerged from the distance. Was this a mirage? Was I really seeing a beautiful young woman? And who was she?
She was picturesque standing on the riverbank with a towering muscular black dog by her side. All the greyhounds seemed cautious in this dog’s presence. The woman was draped in flowing white fabric, and golden trinkets adorned her arms and hair. She snapped her fingers and the other greyhounds ran to greet her, wagging their long, slender tails. The woman knelt down, accepted the showering kisses the greyhounds offered her, and giggled at their affection.
She gradually stood up, cocked her head slightly, and with curiosity asked me to come to her. She seemed to come from royalty, commanding such respect from this group of greyhounds. I wondered whether they belonged to her.
I began to walk slowly toward her, being careful not to show my bravado too boldly in front of the imposing black greyhound, which didn’t budge from her side. He had a piercing stare and his eyes did not back down from mine, as I carefully approached the young woman. I did not feel any fear—quite the opposite. I felt more curiosity than anything. Who was she, and who was the big black greyhound?
“Tell me, fair one, what is your name?” the young woman asked, curiously. I was mesmerized by her beauty and thought she looked like a goddess. Was she talking to me?
“Uh, uh, my name is Logan,” I stammered.
“You have such fair colored fur, not like the others. From where do you come?” she inquired. As I looked around at all the other greyhounds now surrounding her, I became acutely aware that I was the only golden-colored greyhound. Why were all the other greyhounds black and gray? I hadn’t noticed this before.
“Logan, that’s such an unusual name. You are not Egyptian,” she said.
Huh? Egyptian? Of course, I was not Egyptian—I am an American! Still unsure of my surroundings, I was growing more confused by the minute. This was a weird place with very different looking people, but the greyhounds looked the same as my brothers and sisters at home. Otherwise, nothing else seemed familiar. I could see only beaches and black rich soil stretching for long distances and lots of blue flowing water. On one side of the river were very fertile lands of vegetation. The other side was starkly different, with red sand that seemed to go on for miles.
“Logan, where were you just now? You seemed to escape into some kind of deep thought,” the young woman asked.
“I was just surveying my surroundings. I am trying to figure out where I am,” I said.
“Logan, you are in Egypt, land of the Pharaohs, and I will be one of them someday,” she replied with a warm smile.
Pharaohs? Holy moly! They don’t have Pharaohs anymore, or at least I didn’t think so. I remember momma reading us a children’s story about Cleopatra just the other night, and this place sure seemed like what was described in the story. Could it be? If so, how did I get here?
“Logan, pay attention! We must move quickly to my quarters, lest you be seen, as you are a rare one and we don’t want you in any danger,” the woman commanded.
Logan and the Mystical Collar http://www.amazon.com/Logan-The-Mystical-Collar-Adventures/dp/1490992421/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_y
Suzanne and I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.
This week I’m hosting a member of my writer’s group, author, L. Nahay.
L. Nahay is an author of fiction-fantasy and an independent publisher through Midnight Tomorrow Books. She has always ever written. She is a mom to two monsters, and while she’d love to live the more wild way most of her characters do, she currently resides in Chicago. When not writing……life is just a little darker. But for occasional reminders of life outside her stories, she enjoys reading (other people’s stories), drawing, camping, hiking, traveling/exploring, and time with those monsters of hers. To date, she has published the first book of her fiction-fantasy series entitled Red Moonglow on Snow, and an urban fantasy short story called The Dryad. Red is available as both an ebook in all major platforms, and as a softcover through Amazon. The Dryad is an Amazon ebook only.
Red Moonglow on Snow
Lira had never wanted anything other than to leave the exile she’d been born into and return to Home, her family’s origin.
The moon had glowed red upon the snow the night that was to happen, but the man at her side was so beautiful and his promise so pure, that Home, she decided, could wait.
Today, three years too late, He’s finally ended her exile. Yet Home has become the last place she wants to be. She tries to hate the man she’d once loved, hate the place she’d once wanted, and hate Home’s people and the history she shares with them all, as they remind her of the life she did not get to live.
But she’s in His territory as well as her fractured family’s, and it’s exactly where she needs to be. To right so many wrongs, she must face the past and set it right before those traumas trickle down into the next generation.
Here is an excerpt:
I see nothing but heavy, suffocating blackness that drinks everything in without giving anything back. The wind whispers, howls, or screams around my head, yanking at strands of my tangled hair. I ignore it and stare, unblinking, ahead of me as though I can see.
A jagged horizontal strip of momentary brightness streaks across what I understand to be the line between sky and earth some miles ahead, giving a brief, doubtful view of something. Buildings? Trees? Why am I pointed towards it?
I inhale cautiously. The air is pungent with a wet earthy smell. Earth into sky, sky into air: Rain. Heavy, single, large drops of rain began to splatter upon my shoulders.
Something below me moves. A unicorn! “Get off me!” I twist and turn and fall sideways off the demon’s back.
[I’m not on you,] a voice snarls, agitated. The fall to the ground is further than I would have expected- if I’d had a mind to pay any attention- and the landing thrusts my elbow into my side, just under my ribs. I gasp from the added blinding pain of the arrow striking the ground as well, but struggle more to untangle my legs from something to get onto my feet. Damn dress!
[Are you done? That was a bit of an overreaction.]
[If you can prove to me that you can care for yourself, I will.]
“I am perfectly capable of fending for myself!”
[I believe I said ‘care’, not ‘fend’. Get up and walk. Find yourself shelter. Eat something. Then, I’ll leave.]
I flatten onto my back, trying hard not to cry. Raindrops strike my face like malicious flicks of a finger. Incompetent. Touched. Worthless. Abandoned. Thrown. A. Way. “I hate you.”
[I think we can safely say that who you choose to love and who you choose to hate have been ridiculously off.]
“No, we can safely say that I completely hate you, you evil, repulsive beast!”
The grass is long and sticky, coming over my head and sticking to my shoulders and arms, the sides of my face, wrapping around my legs. Thinking about my legs makes the right one begin to throb. I can’t sit up to inspect it. Why is it hurting?
[You were struck by an arrow, remember?]
Don’t talk to me.
Lightning pierces through clouds above me. I want to pick my head up and use the flash of light to inspect whatever lay ahead, but my hair has rooted into the ground and my head won’t budge. “Are you here to kill me?”
[Am I allowed to speak to you now?]
[No, Lira. I’m not here to harm you in any way.]
Thunder races Lightning overhead. I can’t decide who has won.
[Get on my back, Lira. I’ll carry you to shelter.]
How long has it been? How long have I been here?
[Only a few hours.]
My thigh burns.
[You bled all over me.]
“Stop listening to my thoughts! They’re mine! You kidnapped—” The word, the memory, chokes up the rest of my words. “Just, leave me here, please? Please just leave me here.”
[You don’t know where you are.]
“Does it matter?”
“Leave me here!” I wish I could fade here. Close my eyes and drift away.
Movement beside me. I open my eyes and wait for them to help.
The boundary between night and the unicorn is a thin one. I’m in one big black ball of shadows within shadows. Night to camouflage a demon, how helpful.
[If you don’t stop with the insults……]
The fragile boundary moves again. The large unicorn body steps partially out of the night and begins to sink down beside me. Long, muscled legs fold beneath his body. I jump. That horn. That horn- where’s my knife? Will a dagger do anything against a unicorn?
“What are you doing?”
[I’m getting settled. I ran pretty hard too, you know. How long do you plan on staying here? It’s going to get very wet and very cold. And just so you know, you look horribly fragile despite your behavior on the hills.]
His gold horn sparkles with a dim light. The prismatic raindrops holding onto it scatter at the next boom of thunder. I stare, transfixed, waiting for it to happen again.
Scents of earth, the promise and yearning for rain and the softening grass pulls my head down, bombards my nostrils and sanity. Cold, damp ground permeates through the thin dress and chills my skin with more than a touch of spring frost.
I close my eyes, bring my bound hands up to my collar bone and clasp my fingers together so tightly my knuckles throb. It’s not spring. It’s autumn. It’s Talyn’s birthday.
[It’s been a long time since you’ve eaten.]
I turn my face away from him. Lightning comes again but stays longer. Through the grass I catch a better glimpse of whatever waits in the distance, but not enough to know what it is. “I just want to sleep. Sleep until you and everything else goes away.”
[You can sleep all you want, but nothing will have changed. It’s going to get very cold out here very soon, Lira. Get on my back. Let me continue to carry you. It’s not far. It’s just ahead.]
Lightning again brings a glimpse of what now looks like small, irregular mountains. Whatever it is leaps across the flatland towards me; calls out to me by my own name and a name— or a title— I’m not familiar with. I jerk back. The ghostly current carries Death’s smell. I relax again. Can I answer? Slip into night soundless, with morning leaving no trace I was ever here? I don’t want night. Night brings day. This will be real. I don’t want this to be real. “Where are you taking me?”
[Just a place to sleep. Come, Lira. One movement at a time. And then you can sleep, I swear.]
I don’t want to move, don’t want to sleep. Want to sink into the earth and vanish. “Take me back.”
[I can’t,] the unicorn whispers sorrowfully into my head.
[We’ll see to your leg as soon as we can.]
“They took my baby,” I whisper. Hearing me speak it ripples right back over me as though I’m kneeling and bleeding in the hallway again, screaming until my soul and every window in the house shatters. But this time I can’t scream. I lay on my back and watch the blinding darkness, feel the same emptiness inside me. Where was I before I woke here, after she was taken? All I remember is darkness, like this, and feeling so abandoned. “He wasn’t there, Nightmare, and Others came and took our daughter. And now I’m here. I hurt, unicorn. I hurt so much.” On cue, my shoulder begins burning, the pain trailing down to mingle with the fire shooting out from the arrow. I’d had my arrow aimed at their chests but I’d hesitated. I had decided to call out to Him first instead.
[I’m very sorry, Lira. I’m here to help you, I swear.]
“Is a swear more reliable than a promise?”
[I take it The Ass You Reek Of made you a promise he did not keep.]
“It’s too late. He’s three years too late.”
[You don’t smell three years distant of him. His smell on you is overwhelming-]
“If I’m that revolting, go away!”
[It’s not you. It’s Him. But I think I’ll be able to tolerate it. Eventually. I swear to you, Lira, that I am here to help you. And yes, a swear is more reliable than a promise.]
There’s no stars. There’s no moon. We’re in the middle of something, in the middle of a storm, someplace in the void between thunder, lighting, rain and earth, in the void where life and worlds are born, where chaos is on pause.
To stay connected, learn more about her writing, and for social media links, check out her:
publisher website at www.MidnightTomorrowBooks.com
or her personal blog at www.LNahay.com
We’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.
This week, it’s my honor to host distinguished author, Dr. Betty Jean Craige.
Betty Jean Craige is University Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature and Director Emerita of the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts at the University of Georgia.
She received her B.A. in Spanish Literature from Pomona College (1968) and her M.A. (1970) and Ph.D. (1974) in Comparative Literature from the University of Washington. She taught at the University of Georgia from 1973 to 2011.
Dr. Craige has published books in the fields of Spanish poetry, modern literature, history of ideas, politics, ecology, and art. She is a scholar, a translator, a teacher, and a novelist.
Dr. Craige was Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Delta Prize for Global Understanding. Most recently she has written a murder mystery titled Downstream, published by Black Opal Books on November 26, 2014.
What inspired you to write this novel?
Let me tell you who inspired me to write Downstream. Novelist Terry Kay, who lives in Athens, Georgia, inspired me. He urged me to write fiction when our local newspaper discontinued my Sunday column, “Cosmo Talks,” about animal cognition. Cosmo is the loquacious African Grey parrot about whom I had written the book Conversations with Cosmo: At Home with an African Grey Parrot (2010).
I retired from the University of Georgia in 2011, after thirty-eight years as a professor of comparative literature and eighteen years director of the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts. For the last ten years I taught a course called “Ecocriticism” in which we studied ideas about nature after Darwin as well as current environmental issues. I became interested in the pharmaceutical pollution of our environment.
So I decided to use fiction to explore the problem of water contamination. I chose to write a murder mystery because I had been reading mysteries since childhood and I thought I could write one that would entertain the reader. Thanks to the web, I have become an expert on murder. But the mystery in my novel is not only about who did the murdering but also what was happening to the people in the town. In Downstream a new estrogen-based longevity drug called Senextra keeps people alive and healthy well into their second century, but it has some environmental side effects. It causes fertility in a couple of post-menopausal women, undescended testicles in dogs, and extra feet in frogs.
How have your personal experiences affected your writing?
During my academic career I wrote a number of books on the history of ideas, including a biography of Eugene Odum, the ecologist who developed the ecosystem concept. The books all focused on the emergence of a holistic way of thinking about our environment and our global society. So when I started writing Downstream I wanted to show that we all live in an interactive whole, in which, for example, the infusion of pharmaceuticals in part of the system affects the whole system. I had originally called my novel “We All Live Downstream,” since we are all using water that has been affected by those humans and animals living upstream.
I set the story in a fictive town named Witherston, in north Georgia, a beautiful part of the country where we can still find wilderness and unpolluted waters. I have spent forty-two years of my life in Athens, Georgia, and have spent many weekends exploring the southern Appalachian mountains.
I live with an American Eskimo Dog named Mary and an African Grey Parrot named Cosmo. I once lived with four American Eskimo Dogs. I do love non-human animals. So in Downstream I gave almost every character a pet or two. One character has a Pacific Parrotlet named Darwin. In my second Witherston mystery, Fairfield’s Auction, I gave that same character an African Grey Parrot named Doolittle. Doolittle is a major character in that novel.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I like the mysteries of Louise Penny, who sets her stories in a rural village in Quebec. Like Louise Penny, I want my readers to get to know and like all the characters of Witherston, and I want my readers to get involved in the solving of the mystery.
I also like the novels and essays of Barbara Kingsolver, whose values I share and whose writing I admire immensely.
What genre of books do you like to read? Do you limit yourself to only the genre that you write yourself?
I like to read mysteries and spy thrillers. I spent my career reading and teaching great literature, so I have been influenced by Western literature from Homer through the present. But in my retirement, I am reading mostly current novels.
I like movies too, especially cerebral thrillers and mysteries. I would love to make a movie as funny as Little Miss Sunshine.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
A friend who read the first draft told me that Downstream was “message heavy.” His wife told me the novel was “preachy.” Ooof. I don’t even go to church, so I don’t know beans about preaching. But their honest criticism made me lighten the environmental message and try to make the novel funnier.
Another friend who read the published book told me that she “couldn’t put it down” and that she “laughed out loud” at some of the scenes. That was encouraging!
What project are you working on now?
I have completed the second novel in the “Witherston Murder Mystery” series. It’s called “Fairfield’s Auction.” And I am working on the third. I am also making a movie of Downstream.
At the celebration of his hundredth birthday, local billionaire Francis Hearty Withers announces to the people gathered on the front lawn of Witherston Baptist Church that he has finalized his will. In it he bequeaths $1 billion to his north Georgia hometown of Witherston and another $1 billion to be divided up equally among the town’s 4,000 residents—in recognition of their support of a Senextra pharmaceutical factory. Senextra is a drug that enables individuals to lead healthy lives well into their second century, but it has some unanticipated consequences.
The group assembled to hear Withers’s announcement do not all applaud. One person carries a sign that says SENEXTRA VIOLATES MOTHER NATURE. Another, KEEP SENEXTRA OUT OF OUR SYSTEM. A third, WE DON’T NEED MORE OLD MEN.
Withers flies into a rage. He vows to change his will and disinherit the community. Two days later he is found dead.
In Betty Jean Craige’s first murder mystery a few humans die in unusual circumstances. (A few others live in unusual circumstances.) Who dunnit?
A Short Excerpt from CHAPTER 1
Friday, May 22, 2015, Labor Day weekend, Witherston, Georgia:
Old Withers is gonna make us all rich!”
“I heard he plans to give everybody in Witherston a million dollars!”
“But that’s when he dies. And he looks pretty healthy to me.”
“He turns a hundred today. He’ll be dying soon!”
“Oh my God! Georgia’s beauty queen Rhonda Rather looks pregnant! Isn’t she a bit long in the tooth to be carrying a foal?”
“She must be over fifty! God in Heaven! I didn’t know that Mayor Rather—I’ve always called him Rotund Rather—was such a stud.”
“Dear Rhonda doesn’t want to be pregnant, and her daughter Sandra does. I heard that Sandra and Phil are getting fertility treatments.”
“Faith Folsom has a bulge in her belly too, and she’s older than dirt. Do you all think she’s pregnant?”
“Probably. She doesn’t have the sense God gave geese.”
“Oh but she does.”
“Jesus God, I pray it doesn’t happen to me.”
“Honey, bless your heart and don’t get me wrong but you are way too old, way, way too old! You’re almost old enough to go to Withers Village!”
“But they don’t accept girls there.”
“Lottie, come here! Look at Francis Hearty Withers all dressed up on stage acting holier than the High and Mighty just because he’s going to bless us with his unearned money. He thinks we’ll clap for him when Scorch unveils his statue.”
“Gretchen, did you know he paid Scorch $50,000 to make that statue?”
“I’m not giving Withers a single clap. The old geezer is an environmental criminal. He thinks he can use our town and our creek and our land for his toxin-producing Senextra factory.”
“Who’s that hunk in the blue suit?”
“The man talking to Dr. Folsom? He’s the CEO of BioSenecta, Dr. Martin Payne.”
“Well, good gracious, I’ll be darned! He’s sure easy on the eyes!”
“Francis Hearty Withers talked him into building a Senextra factory here.”
Detective Emma Evelyn Arroyo, “Mev” to her friends, heard these conversations as she walked through the crowd. She was on duty until 5:00, and her assignment was crowd control on the front lawn of Witherston Baptist Church. Rumors abounded that today Witherston’s local billionaire would announce the construction of a pharmaceutical factory on Founding Father’s Creek upstream from Witherston and that Witherston’s KEEP NATURE NATURAL environmentalists would protest. The Witherston Police Department, for which she worked, was on alert.
Mev spotted a group of teenagers wearing KEEP NATURE NATURAL T-shirts.
“Ladies and Gentlemen!” Mayor Rather bellowed into the microphone. “It’s 4:30 and time for a grand and glorious party! We’re here to celebrate the hundredth birthday of Witherston’s most famous citizen, actually Lumpkin County’s most famous citizen, Francis Hearty Withers. Thanks to all you folks for turning out for the occasion. Let’s give a big hand to Mr. Withers, the last of five generations of Withers residing on Founding Father’s Creek.”
Mev was relieved to hear only clapping, polite and restrained as it was. She was too preoccupied with her own immediate problem to share in her fellow Witherstonians’ excitement.
“Fellow citizens, I didn’t hear you. Let’s give a big, big, big hand to—let me drop a hint—Witherston’s most generous benefactor.”
Francis Hearty Withers sat smiling on stage in his navy Armani suit with his aqua Salvatore Ferragamo silk tie, holding his ivory-inlaid mahogany cane. He was flanked on one side by the tall, solemn, well-dressed Dr. Neel Kingfisher, who stood, and on the other by the overall-clad Scorch Ridge, a giant of a man, who also stood.
“Now let us sing ‘Happy Birthday!’”
Mayor Rather led the crowd of some three hundred men, women, and children in a spirited version of the song, which included the second verse usually sung for the very young:
“How old are you?
How old are you?
How old, how old
How old are you?”
Mr. Withers stood up and raised both arms in triumph. “I’m one hundred years old, and going strong!”
Dr. Craige’s website: http://www.bettyjeancraige.com/
Downstream can be purchased on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Downstream-Witherston-Murder-Mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00OSXPV4A/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1425093905&sr=1-1&keywords=Downstream+by+Betty+Jean+Craige
I’m sure Dr. Craige would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.
This week, I’m pleased to welcome back one of my favorite mystery authors, F. M. Meredith.
F.M. Meredith, also known as Marilyn Meredith, is the author of over thirty published novels. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Besides having family members in law enforcement, she lived in a town much like Rocky Bluff with many police families as neighbors.
Who Am I Writing For?
That’s a very good question. The obvious answer would be for the reader. More specifically for the reader who likes mysteries, police procedurals, and books that are a bit more on the side of following clues to solve a case, rather than using modern equipment and forensic science.
The readers I’m writing for are the kind who like to know about the police officers’ private lives and how what goes on at home affects the job—and vice versa. That leads into the fact that I’m writing for those readers who enjoy seeing characters change and grow as a series unfolds.
I’m also writing for those who have become fans of my series. These folks are important to me and I work hard to make each book unique and entertaining.
There is also another person I’m writing for–me.
Yes, you read that correctly, I am writing for me too. I have been compelled to write since I was a kid. I wrote stories, articles for my own magazine that I put out one summer, and plays for the kids in my neighborhood to perform.
As a young wife and mother, my writing tended to be focused on PTA news and plays for my Camp Fire Girls to star in as money-making projects. I did try my hand at a couple of novels, but nothing came of those attempts. I went to college after my 5th child started kindergarten, and did a lot of writing then, but didn’t get back to fiction until I was a grandmother.
Writing is part of me, something that I hope to continue for the rest of my life.
F. M. Meredith aka Marilyn Meredith
College student, Veronica Randall, disappears from her car in her own driveway, everyone in the Rocky Bluff P.D. is looking for her. Detective Milligan and family move into a house that may be haunted. Officer Butler is assigned to train a new hire and faces several major challenges.
Here is a short excerpt from the beginning of, Violent Departures:
The silver Toyota Prius stood empty and idling in the short driveway. The driver’s door gaped open. A plump, and obviously distraught, middle-aged woman ran barefoot down the cement steps of the small older home toward Officer Vaughn Aragon.
He’d responded to a call from the dispatcher about a missing person. Ordinarily, the caller would have been asked to come to the station to file a report, but the circumstances in this case seemed urgent.
“Thank God you’re here. My granddaughter, Veronica, she’s gone.” Gray strands mixed with the woman’s long black hair she’d pulled back and tied with a scarf. “Please find her.” Tears threatened in her dark eyes.
Without touching anything, Aragon poked his head inside the running vehicle. A large purse lay open on the passenger seat, belongings scattered, among them, a cell phone. On the floor lay a multi-colored backpack.
Though blond, Aragon, having grown up in East L.A., spoke fluent Spanish. Because the woman had dark skin and hair, he assumed she was Latina. He introduced himself in English and Spanish, and asked for her name.
She frowned as though his Spanish confused her. “I’m Mrs. Randall.” She added, “And I’m not Mexican. Please, help me find my granddaughter.”
Though flustered by his mistake, Aragon said, “When was the last time you saw her?”
“A few minutes before I called the police. We finished breakfast and she went out the door, on her way to school. She is a student at UCSB. I started to do dishes and then I noticed her car still parked in the driveway. I came out to see what was wrong and found the car like this.” Her voice rose. “She disappeared.”
Contest: Because it has been popular on my other blog tours, once again I’m offering the chance for the person who comments on the most blog posts during this tour to have a character named for him or her in the next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery.
Or if that doesn’t appeal, the person may choose one of the earlier books in the series—either a print book or Kindle copy.
Violent Departures can be purchased at: http://tinyurl.com/jvmubw5
I tackle a hard question tomorrow: What Makes the Rocky Bluff Mystery Series Unique?
NOTE: Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to have a character named after you in Meredith’s next novel. I did. I loved my character and it was a lot of fun to see my name in her last Rocky Bluff mystery, Murder in the Worst Degree.
On my blog this week, I’m happy to welcome back author, Penny Petersen.
Penny Clover Petersen began writing her first novel at fifty-nine on a dare from her husband, Tom. A life-long resident of the Washington DC area, they now reside in Bowie Maryland.
In addition to writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, refurbishing old furniture, collecting stories for the ‘family cookbook’, and savoring new cocktail recipes.
She loves historic homes and is a docent at Riversdale Mansion in Riverdale, MD. Penny is currently at work on her third Daisy&Rose mystery.
Roses Are Dead, My Love
In Roses Are Dead, My Love, my second Daisy&Rose Mystery, sisters Daisy and Rose Forrest find themselves knee deep in the middle of a sinister blackmail scheme. Under the spell of a June heatwave, Old Towne seems to be cursed. Rose is attacked in her own home, and their beloved dog is brutally duct taped and his doghouse goes up in flames. When they find the postmistress bludgeoned to death, the sisters know they have to get to the bottom of it. With their extraordinary mother, Angela, at their side, the ladies take on the hunt for an invaluable baseball card, a malicious prankster, and a blackmailing killer.
Here is a short excerpt:
As Daisy and her mother, Angela, sat in the sunroom eating mushroom and green olive pizza and watching the dogs playing in the yard, Daisy filled her mother’s glass with a frothy orange concoction.
Angela took a sip. “Mmm, very tasty. What did you call this?”
Daisy smiled and said, “I call it a Midnight Marauder. It suits this evening’s plan.”
Angela’s eyes lit up. “What have you got in mind?”
“Well, as I said, I do trust Rose’s instincts about Peter – at least about his not attacking her. And I trust Bill.”
Angela snorted, “You most certainly do not!”
“His police instinct – I trust his police instinct. He’s positive that Peter couldn’t have had time to get back from Baltimore, kill Peggy and return in time for a seven o’clock seminar. Who in God’s name schedules a seminar for seven in the morning after a cocktail party the night before? These academics must be real masochists. But something about that man is strange. Why would he spend so many nights in that bookstore when he has that beautiful house downtown?”
“To be near Rose?”
“He hardly ever sees Rose when he’s there. No, he’s up to something and I want to know what. So, I thought we’d take this excellent opportunity, while he and Rose are both occupied for the entire evening, to check out his attic!”
Angela clapped her hands like a little kid. “Super! I happen to have suitable late night attire right upstairs.”
At eleven, Daisy was standing on a stepstool at the back of her closet pulling out an old tote bag. She checked the contents. WD-40, screwdrivers, kitchen tongs, a large black scarf, and two flashlights were right where she left them after her last midnight caper. She tested the flashlights, replaced the batteries in one of them, and said to Angela, “It’s all good. Let’s go.”
They stood at the window and watched Ron Tucker walk his dogs past their house and waited ten minutes until he walked back on his way home. Then Daisy, ‘burglar bag’ over her shoulder, and Angela slipped quietly out of the side door and up the driveway.
Just as they got to the street the door of Clover Tavern opened and a group of people came out laughing and talking loudly as they walked to their cars.
“Rats! Maybe we should wait until the Tavern closes,” whispered Daisy as she backed down the driveway. “People can see Peter’s gate from the Tavern door.”
“Not to worry. We’ll just go around back and hop Mrs. Hudson’s fence. Then we can slip across the street and go down the alley next to Marc’s place. We can sneak into Peter’s yard from the other side. There aren’t any lights back there and nobody can see the back of the book store anyway.”
Daisy was impressed. “You didn’t just think of this, did you, Mother?”
“I like to have contingency plans. When you told me about this evening’s scheme I sort of scouted out all the routes in my head. So let’s go for it. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? If someone stops us, we’ll just say we’re out for a walk.”
Daisy looked at her mother standing in the dark wearing black tennis shoes, black leggings, black gloves, and a black jacket with the hood pulled low over her face. “Somehow, I just don’t think the police would buy that. You look like a second story man.”
“Pish. I just like to dress for the occasion.”
“Exactly my point!”
Roses Are Dead My Love, will be out on May 1st.
Penny and I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.
This week, I’m hosting popular author, Jan Christensen
Jan Christensen grew up in New Jersey. She bounced around the world as an Army wife, and in Texas when her husband retired. After traveling for eleven years in a motorhome, she settled down in the Texas Coastal Bend.
Published novels are: Sara’s Search, Revelations, Organized to Death, Perfect Victim, Blackout, Buried Under Clutter and most recently, A Broken Life. She’s had over sixty short stories appear in various places over the last dozen years. She also writes a series of short stories about Artie, a NY burglar who gets into some very strange situations while on the job.
WHERE DO IDEAS COME FROM?
One of the questions writers often get seems to irritate many: “Where do you get your ideas?” Some writers have snappy answers: “Idea.com.” “The boys in the basement.” “The girls in the attic” (well, that one’s mine—the boys are Stephen King’s).
I don’t mind the question, but I have a really hard time answering it with any finesse. Each story has a different answer. Here are some specifics.
- Ripped from the headlines—my latest published novel, A Broken Life, is about a woman whose identity is stolen, how and why. And Revelations, about a religious cult, after reading about the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, while living just north of there.
- A Whim—no idea at all what to write about. Remembering some ten-minute writing exercises I’ve done with other writers, I decided to pick out an object in my office and start a story. It was going to be a short story. I noticed a camera. And I was off. It became a novel, though, Blackout, about a young girl who lost her memory, but begins to remember it as photographs from her past, and a camera plays an important part in solving the mystery of her mother’s death.
- Quirky Characters–I wanted to do a story with quirky characters and a New York City setting (I grew up in metropolitan New Jersey). It was going to be mainstream, but it morphed into my second try at writing a mystery (first one is still in a drawer). Sara’s Search was published in 2004 by a small press, and after having about thirty short stories published, I felt as if this writing gig was really for me.
- Favorite Reads–Some of my favorite reads are about female private investigators. Naturally, I wanted to write about one myself. Someone with attitude and humor. All I needed was a murder victim. That turned out to be the easy part. Thus was born Perfect Victim.
- My Main Interests–One of my main interests is time management and personal organization. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a personal organizer as a main character? She goes to help people clean up and stumbles upon dead bodies in Organized to Death, Buried Under Clutter, and the upcoming, Cluttered Attic Secrets.
These explain the novels. But there are those published short stories, over sixty of them now. I can’t even remember where all those ideas came from. So, like most writers, I can’t come up with a one-fits-all answer.
What I have concluded about inspiration is that a person has to be open to it. It doesn’t really matter what sparks it, each person will take the same bit of matter, an object, a setting, a person, an event, and make up their own story, each unique with a different slant. Which definitely keeps things interesting, for me, anyway.
Anyone have a great reason for writing a particular story? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
A Broken Life: A Lighter-Side Mystery
While in the middle of investigating a domestic case, Rhode Islander PI Paula Mitchell finds an old friend, ragged and homeless. Paula learns that Martha Hendricks is the victim of identity theft. Three years earlier a woman, with ID confirming her as Martha, was busted on a drug charge. After Martha’s boss found out about it, he fired her. Soon Paula begins to receive threatening phone calls. The doctor Martha worked for is murdered. And Martha disappears–until Paula finds her, beaten and left for dead, in her own backyard. For two days, Martha is unconscious. As Paula investigates further, she learns more about the doctor’s employees, meets Martha’s old boyfriend, and one of her former roommates. Paula’s suspect list grows. When she’s almost run down in a parking lot, her lover pleads with her to stop her investigation. Paula refuses. Not only is Martha in danger, but if Paula doesn’t push harder for answers, she knows she’ll be the next person on the killer’s hit list.
A BROKEN LIFE EXCERPT
I strode into the store. Looked around. The only customer was male, about five-feet eight, with short brown hair, brown eyes and a pointy little nose. My accident-prone tail [from yesterday]. Surprised, I stopped in the doorway, staring . . .
Deciding to play it cool, I walked farther into the store, picked up a candy bar, a box of doughnuts, and watched the guy out of the corner of my eye. He said something to the cashier, then sauntered toward the door, head down. Maybe he felt me staring, because suddenly he looked up, saw me, and took off. I dashed out after him, the clerk yelling behind me. When I reached for the door handle of the Taurus, I realized I still had the candy and doughnuts in my hand. I heard the other car start up and back away. Throwing the goodies on the ground, I jumped into my car and took off after him, squashing the candy and doughnuts under my wheels.
He drove . . . with me right on his bumper. . . . I managed to stay with him all the way to Springton, and then through several other small towns until we were out in the country. I had memorized his license number by that time, as well as the back of his head.
The sound of a train whistle wailed in the distance. The car ahead slowed down as we approached a crossing. Behind me, I heard another sound–a siren. Lights flashed in my mirror. Thank goodness, I thought, the police. I looked ahead again and saw what the guy was trying to do. He wanted to get through the crossing and have the train block me. Don’t do it, I thought. Remember your luck with the bus. This would be much worse. I wanted to close my eyes, but I couldn’t.
The whistle hooted again, the train almost upon us. The guy made his move, getting through, and I had to stop. I turned around and motioned frantically toward the police car.
But the police officer took his time climbing out, his notebook in hand. He sauntered over to me so slowly that I became impatient and jumped out of the car.
“Hold it right there!” he yelled at me, drawing his weapon.
“Officer,” I shouted, standing still, putting my hands up. “You have to catch that guy.”
As I raised my arms, my jacket pulled away to reveal my gun. Now the officer stopped walking, too. “Use two fingers to take out your weapon,” he said, his voice hoarse, “and place it on the ground.”
“Officer,” I pleaded. “I’m a private detective on a case. We need to catch the man I was following.”
“Yeah, and I’m the Easter Bunny. I’ve heard them all now. Do as I said. Get that weapon on the ground, then turn around and spread-eagle against your vehicle.”
Shaking my head, I used my thumb and forefinger to gingerly lift my gun out of its holster, and bent down a little so I wouldn’t have to drop it far and damage it. After I straightened up, I hugged my Taurus and uncomfortably let the officer search me for more weapons. Did his hands linger a little longer than necessary? It was hard to tell under these circumstances.
“Okay,” he said when satisfied, still shouting over the noise of the train. “Now show me some identification.”
“In my purse,” I said through wooden lips, as I reached inside the car for my bag.
When he saw my PI license his only comment was, “Huh. Well, anyway, you’re under arrest.”
“What for?” I demanded.
“Shoplifting,” he shouted.
The train chugged along until finally the caboose came into view. I gaped at the police officer a moment before collecting what wits I had left. With one final, mournful toot of its horn, the train disappeared around a bend. I looked at the road ahead, and of course, the guy in the car had disappeared. My only real lead in the case.
Here is my review:
Paula Mitchell, PI, is working on a domestic case when she discovers a homeless woman who looks like a fellow classmate from high school. When it turns out to be that person and Paula finds out how she came to be homeless, she takes Martha in and goes after the criminal who has stolen Martha’s identity which happened to be the reason Martha was out on the street.
As Martha’s investigation progresses, her former boss is killed and Paula does interview after interview with the people Martha worked with at the time her identity was stolen, only to come up with no real suspects. By now Paula’s had several threatening phone calls and an attempt on her life. Also, someone has been watching her. But who is he? And why is he hanging around her home?
When Martha is attacked in Paula’s driveway, the case really starts to heat up, especially when Paula’s deaf aunt shows up on her doorstep, adding one more person’s safety she has to worry about.
The characters were well-developed, and the mystery kept me turning pages. I recommend it to any mystery lover.
Learn more about Jan at her website: www.janchristensen.com
Buy links for A Broken Life:
Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-broken-life-jan-christensen/1120729427?ean=9781502974624
Jan and I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.
This week I pleased to host author, EM Kaplan
EM Kaplan is the author of un-cozy, un-culinary Josie Tucker mysteries. The newest snarky mystery, DIM SUM, DEAD SOME, was released in January 2015. She also has written a nascent fantasy/paranormal series, anchored by the novel, Unmasked.
EM Kaplan grew up in a part of Tucson, Arizona where there were no sidewalks. Like a tumbleweed, she roamed from Massachusetts to California to Texas, and is now settled in Woodstock, IL. She’s also been a Girl Scout, trombonist, toilet-cleaner, beginner ninja, hip-hop dancer, and subversive marketeer.
Dim Sum, Dead Some
Ivan Sorokin is missing. Who wants him out of the picture—his wife, his business partner, or the stripper who holds his heart?
Josie Tucker stands on Beach Street with her back to the San Francisco wharf. Above her, the Ghirardelli sign winks in the dusky twilight, seducing her. The ice cream parlor lights beckon like a lactose lothario, a casein casanova, trying hard to woo her. But her heart longs for dumplings, for dim sum.
Dim sum means “heart’s delight.” Imagine nibbling at a savory golden pouch stuffed with delicately seasoned meat. If a lover offers the morsel on the tips of exquisitely lacquered chopsticks late in the morning while reclining on silken cushions…that’s food for the heart.
Chinatown. Dim sum. Murder. Josie’s perfect ingredients for adventure.
Here is an excerpt from Dim Sum, Dead Some:
“I need you to talk me down from a ledge.” Holding her cell phone to her ear, Josie stood on the sidewalk on Beach Street with her back to the San Francisco wharf. Above her, the bright Ghirardelli lights winked at her in the dusky twilight, seducing her. The sign beckoned to her like a lover, a lactose lothario, a casein Casanova.
She shivered even though the temperature was nearly twenty degrees warmer than at home in Boston. Here, the sun was just now setting, night cloaking the bay in darkness, the lights shining on the water. She could hear the occasional squawk from an ocean bird, the low bellow of a boat horn on the bay. The air smelled like ocean and fish, and Italian food. She wasn’t far from North Beach, and the wind was blowing the aroma of garlic straight to her nose. She sniffed again. Maybe someone nearby was simmering clams in white wine—San Francisco was an olfactory paradise for a food critic. Especially one who couldn’t eat.
Josie’s hooded sweater and denim jacket were doing a good job of keeping out the wind and helping her to blend in with the smattering of tourists trying to be hipsters with their hands in the holes of their sweaters, just like the song. She was seeing a whole lot of funky, knitted caps and ferocious “statement” beards walking around the wharf this evening as she stood blinking at the Ghirardelli sign. She shivered again, not from the cold, but from the fact that she was about to do something very, very bad to her stomach.
On the other end of her phone, her boyfriend Drew said, “Are you anywhere near the Golden Gate Bridge?” His boyfriend status was a recent development for them. They had been long-time friends, college buddies who had recently discovered that they were better off dating. Much, much better off, she thought, her insides doing an unnatural happy wiggle from top to toe. Grouchiness was her natural state, but Josie and Drew were two flavors that perfectly complemented each other. Peaches and cream. Peanut butter and lemon grass. Bacon and beetroot. Bacon and, well, anything.
“Noooo,” she said, not able to keep the rise out of her voice, which made it sound like a question. She noted with amusement that he didn’t sound too worried. He didn’t believe for a second that she would intentionally harm herself. Should she be worried that he wasn’t worried? Maybe it was better not to overthink that one.
Visit her at www.JustTheEmWords.com or write to her at JustTheEmWords@gmail.com.
Amazon page: http://Author.to/EMKaplan
We’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.
This week, I’m pleased to host award-winning author, Jeannette de Beauvoir.
JEANNETTE DE BEAUVOIR is an award-winning author, novelist, and poet whose work has been translated into 12 languages and has appeared in 15 countries. She explores personal and moral questions through historical fiction, mysteries, and mainstream fiction. She grew up in Angers, France, but now divides her time between Cape Cod and Montréal.
The Questions No One Wants To Answer
Most people, I’d guess, read fiction for pleasure and for escapism. We all share the drudgery of getting up in the morning, usually in the same place, and going through the same progression of actions: shower, dress, coffee, feed the cat or the kids, summon energy for the day ahead. And many of us have days that also tend to become rote: work, lunch, work, home. Drop kids off somewhere; pick kids up somewhere. Plan and execute a menu. Clean the house. There’s no question that finding a few hours to curl up and travel vicariously, to live an adventure, to meet fascinating people, is a great way to relieve the pressures of daily life.
And all of that repetitive activity can sometimes keep us from thinking too much about the Greater Questions of Life. We tend to face them only when they’re thrust in front of us: a death in the family, a friend arrested for a criminal activity, the decision to place an elderly relative in a nursing home. And that’s normal, I think: sometimes just getting through the day is enough without pondering life after death, the morality of cheating on income tax, the wrenching decisions made on the behalf of others. At the end of the day, picking up Socrates or Descartes or Kierkegaard to look for answers just isn’t an option.
Normal, yes. Healthy? Maybe not so much. I believe that we do need to think about these things, but maybe the person most likely to lead us there isn’t a philosopher—but a novelist.
It’s not a new idea. Storytelling has always been at the service of philosophy. Stories are used to reinforce cultural norms and principles in nearly every human society… and, often, to keep the monsters at bay. Fairy tales in particular help children explore dark places without any harm to themselves; and there’s a reason why so many of us read murder mysteries, stories with killing at their hearts.
Which is not to say that I begin my novels by asking myself, “hmm, which difficult principle shall I explore today?” Rather, I consider the things that twist my mind, and find a way to talk about them, assuming that if they do that to me they probably do it to other people as well.
Many years ago I picked up a newspaper and read about the arrest of John Demjanjuk, an auto worker accused of war crimes when, as a guard at the Sobibor concentration camp, he’d helped execute 27,900 Jews. What I remember most about the story was the interview with his adult son, who was loudly and constantly protesting his father’s innocence. Well, I thought, of course you would. You’d have to. Who could equate the warm kind father who provided for you and loved you and kept the monsters at bay when you were little—how could you possibly equate that man with someone who could commit war crimes? The mind boggles.
I thought about that man. A lot. About what you’d have to go through to accept that these two sides could live in the same person, a person you loved. And so I wrote a novel called The Illusionist in which my protagonist is called upon to do precisely that.
Because making “the” story into “a” story does two things: it allows us a little distance (it’s happening to the people in the novel, not to us) and it gives us the ability to think through some of these complex moral questions without the necessity of acting on them. Which means, perhaps, that when we are called to act, we’ll have had the luxury of thought already.
I touch on a similar question in my most recent novel, Asylum. In collusion with the government, the Catholic Church—mostly through its convents—performed cruel and abusive acts on children. My own personal experience of growing up in a convent school could not have been further away from what happened to these orphans: to me, nuns were women who encouraged critical thinking, who loved their charges wholeheartedly, who gave selflessly of themselves in the service of others. To learn that nuns (even if not the same ones) beat children, allowed children to be used for experimentation and consigned to death, did not care for children… this was too much for my heart to bear. And so I allow my protagonist, Martine, to deal with it, and I try to learn—through her—to live with the unsettling contradictions of life.
Storytelling affords us the luxury of dealing with monsters, both internal and external, in a way that defuses their power. The best storytellers reach into the human psyche to find archetypal fears and passions and bring them into the light. Novelist talk of betrayals and murder, of love and loss, of hatred and fear, and as we read their words we’re able to dip our toes into the waters of those Great Questions Of Life, find them cold, squeal a bit and pull the toe back out. Until the next time. And eventually, if we read enough, we’ll start incorporating these personal and moral ambiguities into our understanding of life, of ourselves, and of others.
Will that make us better people? I don’t know. But it will make us people who are more equipped to at least take on the questions when we’re forced to deal with them.
Not to mention giving us a great fictional ride in the meantime!
Martine LeDuc is the director of PR for the mayor’s office in Montreal. When four women are found brutally murdered and shockingly posed on park benches throughout the city over several months, Martine’s boss fears a PR disaster for the still busy tourist season, and Martine is now also tasked with acting as liaison between the mayor and the police department. The women were of varying ages, backgrounds and body types and seemed to have nothing in common. Yet the macabre presentation of their bodies hints at a connection. Martine is paired with a young detective, Julian Fletcher, and together they dig deep into the city’s and the country’s past, only to uncover a dark secret dating back to the 1950s, when orphanages in Montreal and elsewhere were converted to asylums in order to gain more funding. The children were subjected to horrific experiments such as lobotomies, electroshock therapy, and psychotropic medication, and many of them died in the process. The survivors were supposedly compensated for their trauma by the government and the cases seem to have been settled. So who is bearing a grudge now, and why did these four women have to die?
Not until Martine finds herself imprisoned in the terrifying steam tunnels underneath the old asylum does she put the pieces together. And it is almost too late for her…in Jeannette de Beauvoir’s Asylum.