Guest posting today on the Michigan Scrapbooker blog!

Check out my guest post today at Michigan Scrapbooker Blog!

This FABULOUS magazine offers educational articles, a calendar of events, ads from many local scrapbooking businesses, giveaways ,and more. It’s FREE when picked up at one of the many locations listed on thier website and subscriptions are available.  They also have a FREE e-newsletter– you can subscribe to at their website. (I already have!)

 

Here are their websites and FB info. enjoy!

Digging the Quirk

If you are unimaginative or uninspired, you may want to keep moving. By that I mean, don’t read this post. You are not my audience. My readers are the best. They love a little quirk and little imagining of possibilities and a little leap of faith. And that’s the kind of reader I am, too. I want to be entertained, but not spoonfed. I like to figure some things out on my own and love when a writer manages to grip both sides of by brain and leave me wondering about some things.

So in reading some of the criticisms of my book, I find myself thinking the same thing: “Move along, this book is not for you.” Though I like to think my books are for everybody, no book is.

I’m a fan of these News of Weird items you see in newspapers and online publications. I have always thought I’d use some of these items in my fiction. And I have. For example in my first book, SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS, Beatrice gets stabbed in the back of her neck and doesn’t realize it. This scene gets questioned a lot. Believe it or not, I based the scene on several items I read where real incidents occurred. Here’s just one online example.

 The Daily Mail

And in SCRAPPED, the second book in the series, we read about a kind of calcite that makes things look like they disappear, almost like an invisibly cloak. (Harry Potter, anyone?)

Here is one of the sources for that.

Nature

In my next book, DEATH OF AN IRISH DIVA, there’s some genetic quirkiness going on. And that’s all I’m saying. (Yes, this is a teaser!)

I often think about the saying that truth is stranger than fiction—and I’ve definitely found that to be true in my life and in my research. What about you?

Living the Dream: New York, Kensington, and BEA

Just back from a trip to New York City. I met with my agent, my editor, and attended Kensington’s BEA party, which was fabulous.  These moments are fleeting for us writers, we who sit in front of the computer day after day in isolation. But it inspired me so much so meet the wonderful folks at Kensington who work hard to make the magic happen. And they were all so incredibly enthusiastic about my books! Amazing! (I kept pinching myself–really!) I won’t mention them all by name in this post for fear of forgetting someone, but let’s just say that Kensington rocks, most especially my editor, Martin Biro.

I also met with my agent, Sharon Bowers on Thursday and we discussed how things are going and what is next on the horizon. I picked up an advanced copy of Dawn Eastman’s “Pall in the Family,” which I can hardly wait to read. I met Dawn at Malice Domestic and am so excited about her debut mystery.

On Friday, I attended Book Expo America and wandered around looking for books and stories. I found the Mystery Writer’s of America’s booth and caught up with some friends there. Maybe next year, I will sign books with my friends at BEA. For those of you who don’t know what BEA is— it stands for Book Expo America and it’s the largest book industry gathering in the U. S. and I do mean large, as in OVERWHELMING. Because it’s industry-related, there are countless free books and advance books, with the idea, of course, of creating some buzz among readers, editors, the press, and so on. I picked up a few books—not as many as I could have. But I was careful because books are heavy. I could not take all the books I wanted. I just could not.

I checked out Soho Press’s books—a publisher I admire for many reasons. And I picked up a book that I think both my daughters and myself will like:  “Dancer Daughter Traitor Spy,” by Elizabeth Kiem. Like many young adult books, I think adults might like this one, too.

I also found a British publisher—Accent Press— churning out cozies that look very good, though I’ve not had a chance to read them yet. I picked up “Something in the Blood: A Honey Driver Mystery,” by Jean G. Goodhind and the first book in a highly successful series. I also picked up “Murder by Magic,” by Lesley Cookman, who is lauded as the “Queen” of British “cosies.”

I also grabbed “Forever Chic, Frenchwomen’s Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style, and Substance” by Tish Jett, published by Rizzoli Ex Libris.

Also, I had a lovely conversation with Brad Brown, author of “Term Limits, an Evolutionary Fix for Marriage.” This books sounds fascinating and Brad is all too happy to chat about it. Once again, keep your eyes open. He may be visiting the blog soon.. All is all the trip was fruitful in terms of mining a few potential stories and making some great connections. But it took on a dreamlike feel when I was spending time with my agent and all of the Kensington folks who are so enthusiastic about my books. Sigh. Now, back to work!

Home Again, Jiggedy-Jig

I’m back from Malice Domestic in Bethesda, Md., and from the Festival of Mystery in Oakmont, Pa.. If someone asked me to choose between the events, I’m sure I couldn’t. They are very different from one another, but both are wonderful for writers and readers alike. Both are well-organized and staffed by helpful, friendly sort who love to chat with writers.

Scrapbook of Secrets didn’t win the Agatha for best first novel. I know everybody says this—and so it appears a little cliche and maybe fake—but truly, I was honored to be on that very short list of authors.

Here they are— with apologies to the photographer for no credit. This picture was going around on Facebook and I could not figure out who the original belonged to.

From left to right: Stephanie Jay Evans, Erika Chase, Duffy Brown, Me, and Susan Boyer

In fact, I was just thrilled to be in the same space as Louise Penny, Laura Lippman, and so many other writers whose work I’ve admired through the years. Besides the writers, the readers make the event really magical for me. Imagine someone knowing your characters and your plot and coming up to you and saying “I think Beatrice should do so and so.” I mean, really? You can’t ask for more than that as a writer.

At Malice, I participated in the famous “Malice-Go-Round.”  Authors go from table to table and pitch our books to readers. We are timed and have to keep it within 2 minutes. I had a fabulous partner in Linda O. Johnston, who was also my roomie at the hotel. They say to think of this event as “speed dating for writers” and it is really like that.

Here we all are (once again, I have no idea who this photo really belongs to) :

The Festival of Mystery is Pittsburgh is a bit like that , too. It’s organized and hosted by the fabulous Mystery Lover’s Book Store in Oakmont, Pa. Readers are already lined up to get in to the festival when we arrive. Here’s some shots of the crowd waiting outside the building:

And when they enter, they are eager to chat with writers—and to buy our books. The other part of the festival is that the authors are interviewed on a stage where they, of course, get to talk about their books.

Here’s a shot of the audience:

By that time, I was a bit pooped, I must admit, and forgot half of what I wanted to say. But I think I did well—because I signed some books and talked with readers after that.

Connecting with readers is really what events like this are all about. Next on my schedule is a reading with two other mystery authors in Staunton, Va., a neighboring town. Hope to meet more readers there. And after that, New York!

Lovely Write-Up this Morning

I went to bed early last night and missed that Julie Tucker-Wolick had placed a note on my Facebook page about her blog. She’d reviewed both “Scrapbook of Secrets” and “Scrapped.” It was a lovely write-up. I am so grateful. Sorry I missed her note last night, but what a fabulous thing to wake up to! Check out the write-up and her blog here.

Ten Reasons I Use Scrapbooking in my Fiction:

I’m a big fan of scrapbooker Shimelle Laine’s blog and have been wanting to try the Ten Things Challenge on the tenth of every month. I’ve been asked this question a lot over the past several years so I thought I’d write it up for anybody else who wants to know. Why do I use scrapbooking as a theme in my mysteries? Of course, I’ve given it some thought and here are my ten reasons.

  1. Community. I’ve been around different craft communities in the past. I don’t know if any other crafters get together as frequently as scrappers do. But it seems integral to the craft to get together and share. What better reason to bring a group of characters together on a regular basis on the page.
  2. A lens. Scrapbooking provides an intimate lens into my character’s lives. We see the importance of their family, their achievements, and the other facets of their lives, like cooking and baking. In my first book “Scrapbook of Secrets,” my croppers make scrapbooks for children belonging to a woman who has mysteriously died. They piece together more than photos and pretty paper. They piece together a life full of depth and secrets.

    Photo by Andrew Wrennie

  3. Puzzles equal mystery. Have you ever thought about the puzzle aspect to scrapbooking? Looking for the right picture, embellishment, paper, and so on and putting it all together is one aspect of it. But in my second book, “Scrapped,” we puzzle out another character’s personality by looking through her mysterious scrapbook of shadows. To me, more than any other craft (except maybe quilting) scrapbooking lends itself to mysteries.
  4. Remembering the past. In my next book, due out next year, one of my characters discovers an old scrapbook that relates to an event happening around her. The past leaves footprints everywhere, including scrapbooking. I wanted to explore that through scrapbooking in fiction.
  5. Imagining the future. I think this is as important as the past. Scrapbooking lends itself to dreaming about what the future holds. With each picture we place on our pages, there is a hope for the future–or else why do we do it? I, for one, like to imagine my kids flipping through pages I’ve created in the near and distant future.

    Photo by the Gamma Man

  6. Relatable. Some writers write for artistic reasons alone. Others for commercial reasons. I like to think my books straddle those lines. Characters have to be relatable in some way. There are other ways readers relate to my characters, of course. But so many of us know someone who is a scrapbooker—or we are one ourselves.
  7. Exploration.All crafts move through time. Some are little changed by it. Others, like scrapbooking, sometimes follow trends and technology. Learning about digital scrapbooking myself, you see my characters grappling with (or loving) some of those changes. As a writer this is a great tool to show more about my characters and to show that scrapbooking is an evolving art form.

    Photo by Photoshop Roadmap

  8. Food. I love the way croppers come together and bring food to events. Writing about crops gives me a chance to explore food appropriate for my characters and settings. You don’t always have food at crops, and we all know that when you do it pays to be extra careful. Once again, the kind of food my croppers eat and their reaction to it is one of the elements in story building.
  9. Storytelling. Scrapbooking is visual story. What better way to add layers of meaning to your fiction?
  10.  Passion. I love scrapbooking. Writing for a living is not easy. Writing about something you feel a passion for makes it a whole lot easier.

 

 

 

 

My Journey Book—a Very Special Giveaway

Last year, I was totally blown away by the gratitude I felt by so many readers contacting and telling me they loved my book. In fact I wrote a post “Love Note to Readers”  about how honored I felt. And I still do.

So I knew I wanted to do a special giveaway with the publication of SCRAPPED. Something I felt my readers would truly appreciate.  After giving it a great deal of thought, I made what I’m calling a “Journey” book. The idea is that it’s an empty, already (somewhat) embellished, prepared scrapbook or journal.  In other words, it’s  book full of templates.

You can put your own photos and writing on the pages I’ve already prepared or use some of the many blank pages I left in the book for your own creative expression. One of the pages has a pocket that’s full of embellishments to help you create your own pages, if that’s what you choose.

The book also lifts quotes from SCRAPPED and uses some of the visuals from the book, like Tarot cards and moons and so on.

In order to win the book, just follow this link to Kensington’s Facebook page. You’ll have to hit the LIKE button. Fill out the form and, voila, you are entered.

As for me, I enjoyed crafting the book and hope that whomever wins it will love it as much as I do. In the mean time, keep reading, my friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth

In an effort to bring you up to speed on what’s been happening with my Cumberland Creek characters, I’m publishing this short story. In my timeline, this happens a year before my next book (SCRAPPED) begins. This takes place in November and SCRAPPED takes place in October a year later. Many of you asked me about Vera’s pregnancy. So I wrote this story to fill in some gaps and I first published in my newsletter. If you’ve not subscribed, please do. Most of my short stories are published there first.

Happy Holidays!

Mollie

 

Happy Birthday Elizabeth

 

Vera placed her swollen feet on the stool as she sank bank into the chair. A long drawn out sigh escaped from her hulking body. She took in the scene before her—a fire in the fireplace, beautiful log cabin walls with quilts hanging on two of them, a rocking chair next to the stone fireplace. One of these days, Vera was going to learn how to quilt.

“I didn’t think it was a good idea for you to come to this retreat,” Sheila said.

“Good Lord, Sheila. It’s only thirty miles from home,” DeeAnn said, as she sat a plate of muffins on the table.

“Get those away from me,” Vera said, turning her face toward the window, which offered a view of the lake, and colorful autumn trees surrounding it.

DeeAnn tsked as she moved them to another table.

“It’s all I need to gain another pound,” Vera said. “I can barely move as it is.”

“Thirty miles of twisty country roads,” Sheila said to DeeAnn, ignoring the conversation about muffins and weight.

“I’m fine,” Vera snapped. “Just pregnant. I’m not due for another few weeks. So chill out Sheila.”

DeeAnn and Sheila exchanged a look.

“What was that all about?” Vera said, an octave higher than her usual.

“Nothing,” DeeAnn said and walked over to the fire, which the group had deemed   DeeAnn’s responsibility. She poked around at it.

Sheila sat down on the huge plaid couch next to her. “You’re just not yourself, dear.”

“Well, who the hell is?” Vera said after a few minutes. “After everything that’s happened…I’m not sure I’ve processed it all. Then there’s this,” she patted her stomach.

The Cumberland Creek Scrapbookers had been planning this retreat for months. It was the only weekend they could all get away at the same time together. They rented a cottage at Sherando Lake, which was a part of the George Washington National Forest.

“You’ll be fine. You’ve got us,” Sheila said.

Vera rolled her eyes. “Look at us. We are a mess. We came up here to scrapbook and…”

Why was Vera being so grouchy? She was more moody than ever.

With all of the tensions in their lives, along with the upheaval the recent murder created, they all felt a need to get away. Vera’s nerves were shot after the whole murder ordeal. Newcomer Annie was shaken, as well. They were all hoping to never have to deal with another murder again.

But so far, Sheila was driving Vera crazy by her fussing, DeeAnn was driving Vera crazy with all the goodies she was baking, Annie mostly went for long walks alone by the lake, and Paige sulked at the scrapbooking table alone. Why was she the only one scrapbooking?

Vera was worried the group was falling apart. They’d been together seven years as a scrapbooking crop—others coming and going but Sheila, Vera, DeeAnn and Paige were the main stays. Sheila and Vera had grown up together. Paige was a few years younger than them in school, but their families all knew one another. DeeAnn was from Minnesota—had married a local man, moved to town and opened her own bakery.

Since Maggie Rae’s murder, things had been tense within the group. It was almost as if making those scrapbooks for her family sapped all the creative energy from them too. They were adrift in their projects and lives.

But nobody had been more tense than Annie, the newcomer who thought she was moving to a sweet, bucolic place, not a town where your neighbor gets murdered in her basement. Annie had been stalked, too. Turns out by an “innocent” man who was troubled. She was so gorgeous that it was a wonder more men didn’t stalk her. Well, mused Vera, she was a bit intimidating, too. Sharp. Said what was on her mind.

Just then, Annie walked back in the house after another one of her walks, looking like a glowing, windswept  goddess. “It’s just so beautiful out there,” she said dreamily.

Vera grunted. She had always loved Sherando with its hills and lakes and thick forest surrounding it. But she was in no mood to talk about its beauty. Truth was, she wasn’t feeling well. She been feeling bloated and cranky for months, it seemed, but today it was different. She tried to fight off heartburn and back pain with Tylenol and anti-acid. It seemed like everything she ate made her hurt.

Looking at Annie, so tall and thin, made Vera want to heave. She was so over being pregnant. The charm of it wore off weeks ago.

 

“What are you working on over there?” Sheila said to Paige.

“Just an album for Randy,” she said. Randy was Paige’s only child, who had grown up and moved away. His father disowned him when he found out he was gay. Paige was trying to patch things up—not easy.

“How’s that going?” Sheila asked.

“Oh well,” she waved her hand. “You know. Randy and I are getting along fine over the phone. We spent that weekend together and had such a blast. But Earl? “ She shrugged.

“He’ll come around,” DeeAnn said. “I mean Randy is his kid, too.”

Paige frowned. “I hope so. But he’s been so brainwashed about gay people. And I suppose it’s harder for a man to come to terms with a gay son.”

Vera didn’t get that at all. She’d never tell Paige, but she thought her husband Earl was an idiot. But of course her own soon-to-be-ex-husband was not much better. But she was proud of Paige for forging ahead and patching up things with her son herself—without Earl’s blessing.

But sitting here, pregnant and without a husband, she didn’t want to hear this conversation at all. Something about it rubbed her the wrong way. You just never knew what kind of child you were bringing in to the world. Gay. Straight. Manic. Gifted. But Vera believed it didn’t matter—that you loved and supported your kid no matter what.

Vera saw Paige running her fingers over the page she just finished. The title was “Mother & Son.” It was surrounded by different photos of them together. One of when he was still a baby in her arms.

“Aw now,” Sheila said. “Look at that.”

“I can’t wait for this baby to get here,” Vera said, feeling more hopeful as she looked at Paige and her page. Look. They survived the baby years, the toddler years, middle and high school, then college. Surely she could manage.

But she’d be managing without a husband.

Oh, Bill wanted to be a part of it all. She was sure he would be—but not in the same way Earl was with Paige and Randy. Her mother, Beatrice, would help as much as she could, too. But she was no spring chicken. Fear ripped through her as it often did ever since she’d been pregnant. She just wanted to scream: “What kind of a sick joke is this, God?”

She’d always wanted to have a baby, but at 41? Alone?

“Me, too,” Sheila said. “It’s been awhile since I’ve had a baby to play with. I can’t wait.”

Sheila had four of her own. One was heading for college next year. One was heading for high school—one in middle school, the youngest in elementary.

“Funny, you somehow think of them as an extension of yourself. But they really are their own people. And sometimes it’s not something you planned on or even ever imagined,” Paige said, sort of to herself.

“I’m glad you’re getting to take some time away,” Annie said, changing the subject, as she looked at Vera. “Try to get as much rest as you can, while you can. We’ll all be there to help you out. But this peace and quiet, here, in these mountains…well, once you become a mom, you’ll see these moments are fleeting.”

Annie sat down at the scrapbooking table and fingered through some paper. DeeAnn joined her.

Finally, Vera thought, everybody is at the table. Well, everybody but her. Maybe it was going to be okay. Maybe they would survive as a group—after the weeks of them investigating the murder and now the trial and with all the gruesome details it revealed about Maggie Rae and her family life. Would anything be the same again?

“You know, that’s true,” DeeAnn said, sifting through an envelope of photos and papers. “But I’ve never regretted having kids. I’m so proud of mine I could burst. Doesn’t mean there hasn’t been times I wanted to wring their skinny necks,” she said and laughed.

Annie laughed along as Sheila joined them at the table.

“Are you all actually going to crop at this scrapping retreat?” Vera said. “How about that?”

“Of course we are!” Sheila said, with a little too much cheer in her voice.

Annie went to the refrigerator and grabbed a beer. “Anyone else?”
“I’ll take one,” Paige said. “I need it. Dealing with Earl about Randy has set my nerves on edge. I want him to come home for Christmas. Randy wants to come home. But Earl is all like ‘what will people think? What about the church?’ “

“Those are good questions,” DeeAnn said, after a moment.

“What?” Vera squealed, rolling herself out of her chair. “It’s nobody’s business is what I say.”

“Now, wait, Vera,” DeeAnn said, putting her scissors down. “Paige and Earl live here. They’ve been at that church forever. God knows what will happen if Randy walked through those doors.”

Vera waved them off as she walked up to her chair at the table.

“Man, my back just aches,” Vera mumbled, before sitting down.

“That chair going to be okay?” Sheila said, getting up from hers.

“Sheila, sit down. Good Lord,” Vera said.

Annie reached over and turned the radio on—Alison Kraus was singing. That was one singer they all agreed about so they left it on the station. They wouldn’t get much choice in these mountains anyway.

They all began to dig through their papers, photos, books, and a photo escaped from Vera’s unruly pile. It was Maggie Rae, smiling at the camera, sitting on a swing, must have been in high school, maybe college.

Tears suddenly stung Vera’s eyes as she looked up at DeeAnn.

“We did good by her,” DeeAnn said, in a hushed tone.

Sheila reached out and grabbed Vera’s hand. “We certainly did.”

“I don’t think I’ll ever get over it,” Vera managed to say.

“Me neither,” Annie said from across the table. “I keep thinking about her kids.”

“I just wish…we could have stopped it,” Vera said.

“Shhh,” DeeAnn said. “Nothing we could do about that.”

“We just didn’t know,” Paige said.

“But we need to be more aware,” Annie said.

Vera nodded. “Yes. Hopefully, nothing like this will ever happen again in Cumberland Creek. But let’s make a pact to be more vigilant. There were signs. Let’s not ignore them any more.”

They all nodded in agreement.

Vera felt her body give off a great heaving sigh as the tension in the room seemed to disappear.

Damn, she was hungry. She started to get up to get a plate of raw veggies that was on the kitchen counter. The room spun and she sat—or rather—fell back into her chair.

“Vera?” Sheila was on her like white on rice.

“Just got a little dizzy. I’m sure it’s my blood pressure,” Vera said. “Something I’ve had to deal with for a few months, now. All this extra weight. Fifty pounds! “

“Are you sure?” Sheila said, reaching for her hand.

“Yes,” Vera said and took a deep breath. “Help me up. I just want that plate of veggies.”

“I’ll get it,” Annie said.

But as Vera stood, leaning on Sheila—a woman half her size—pain ripped through her back and lower abdomen as large gush of water came pouring out from her. It was in a great puddle on the floor.

“Oh great,” Sheila said. “Just great.”

“Shut up, Sheila,” Vera said.

“What?” DeeAnn and the others stood and raced to Vera’s side.

“I just lost my water,” she said, sounding much more calm than what she felt.

“Whoa,” Annie said. “We need to get you out of here.”
“Okay,” Paige said. “We can do that. Let’s just get cleaned up and packed up and leave. “

“We better do it quickly,” Annie said.

“Of course,” Sheila said.

“I mean,” Annie said as she pointed at the window. “It’s snowing.”

“That’s just a little skiff,” DeeAnn said, a Minnesotan who knew her snow. “I’ll drive. It will be okay.”

 

Supplies thrown into to their crates. Clothes heaped into their suitcases. Bags zipping. Food placed into containers and bags.

And the snow started to come down with big fluffy flakes against a gray sky and huge evergreens. Clumps of snow hung on to the green branches.

A white dusting covered the roads. Better that it happen now than later, Vera  thought. But still, she wasn’t due for another three weeks. She took a deep breath, trying not to panic. The weather casters had not called for snow—though it was November and her mother had warned her about the possibility.

“What on earth is wrong with you? What if we get a snow storm? You ready to have that baby holed up in a cabin with nobody to help you but those crazy scrapbookers?” Beatrice had said.

Damn her. Why did she always have to be right?

Vera couldn’t call Bill, couldn’t call her mother, as there was no cell service until they were down off the mountain.

Somehow, Beatrice was already at the hospital. Someone had managed to call her. How did Vera miss that?

And Bill was nowhere to be found.

“Where is Bill?” Vera managed to say, after she caught her breath from a contraction that gripped her and her mother grabbed on to her hand.

“He’ll be here,” Bea said.

“Now, we see you want a natural childbirth,” the nurse said as Vera was placed into a wheelchair, with the scrapbookers swarming around her, like she was their precious queen bee. Of course. Her friends would always be there for her. She warmed.

Beatrice harrumphed.

Another pain tore through Vera, along with her stomach getting as hard as a bowling ball.

“I’ve changed my mind,” she said between breaths. “Give me what ever drugs you’ve got.”

 

Later, as she held her daughter, with her mother and Bill on either side of her, she was awash in emotion and warmth. She fell hopelessly in love with the sweet girl-child in her arms.

“What did you decide for a name?” Bill asked. “What do we call her?”

“Elizabeth,” Vera replied.

A strange sound came from Beatrice—something between a sob and a gasp. “My Mama’s name.”

 

 

 

 

The Men of Cumberland Creek: A Brush-Up

This blog post is a reposting from the launch of my first book SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS. As I am launching my second one, SCRAPPED, I’ve been reposting to remind you about my characters before we go into the next book. Soon I’ll introduce you to Cookie Crandall, my newest character.

Okay, so I’ve gotten you up to speed on all of my main characters and some of the secondary characters—all women. But not any of the male characters.  So, I thought I’d introduce them to you.  Yes, SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS is a mystery novel, but it’s a traditional mystery, which (among other things) means the characters and their relationships are important to the story.

Mike Chamovitz (Annie’s husband) is a pharmaceutical sales rep and is away from home for a few days at a time. Have you been following my Pinterest account? (Here’s link to that.) If you are, then you know that I imagine him as a Johnny Depp look alike. At first glance, Mike and Annie have a wonderful relationship. He is a much more patient and settled person than Annie is, though.

Here is a bit from the book about them:

“Annie’s memories of their time together before the children helped her to cling to the hope they would get there again someday. They met at a book fair—and their conversations were often about literature, politics, philosophy. Mike’s mind was a beacon that lit a fire in her. She always found something he said sparked the desire in her to learn more. Do more. Be more.”

Bill Ledford (Vera’s husband) is a lawyer and I imagine him as David Duchovny, but balding. Bill is smack in the middle of mid-life and thinks he has it all figured out. Turns out, he doesn’t. (In facts, she still thinks a lot about her old boyfriend Tony.) Here’s a little about Bill and Vera:

“For all intents and purposes, Vera thought, Bill was the perfect husband—always kind and polite, cleaned up after himself, and he was an attentive lover, for which she had always been grateful. But lately, she just didn’t want to be bothered. Sex was more trouble than it was worth—so more often than not, she told him no, she was tired, or not feeling well. And he would never question her. But sometimes the thought of making love with him absolutely just filled her with dread.”

Detective Adam Bryant is the only detective in the small town of Cumberland Creek, yet he is Harvard-educated, and smart as a whip. The trouble with Adam is he is socially inept and comes across as sexist on several occasions. He is in  good shape and a very attractive man, even if he has a bit of a swagger. (In truth, maybe that swagger is part of his appeal.)  Check out Pinterest to see who I’d cast as Adam. Heh.

Here’s the scene in which many of the scrapbookers first meet Adam:

“Greetings exchanged, the detective walked into the room filled with pretty scrapbooking doodads, paper, and food. He was a large man, tall, about six feet, five inches in height and broad at the shoulders, narrow at the hips. He was manly-looking enough to look out of place in this group of women, who were all sitting there gaping—a decent looking, clean-shaven man in a blue suit with eyes to match. Shoes polished to a shine. Spiffy. Maybe an ex- military man? Hadn’t Vera seen him at the funeral?

“I’m Detective Bryant,” he said flashing his badge. “I just have a few questions for you. Now what’s going on here?” He gestured at the table.

Vera cleared her throat. “Dinner,” she said, with a smile. “Would you like some?”

All three of those men play important roles in all three of my books—even though they are secondary characters. The focus is on the women. But it the first book SCRAPBOOK SECRETS, there is another man that’s key in the story—Robert Dasher, Maggie Rae’s grieving husband. Here’s a bit of Annie’s observing him:

“Robert was a devastatingly handsome young man. He looked like he stepped right off the pages of GQ. His clothes hung on him just like a model’s, clung in the right places, showed off his thin, but muscular physique, Those blue eyes, though, held very little emotion. Annie could not read anything in them—even in the wedding pictures. He was smiling, but his eyes looked the same as when he wasn’t smiling. Odd.”

Just a note here: We see Robert Dasher from afar in SCRAPPED and HYBRID (Book #3).

 

Cumberland Creek: A Brush-Up

At the end of the month the second book in my Cumberland Creek Mystery Series will be published. SCRAPPED takes place a full year after SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS. I think a lot of series are spaced closer together and maybe the others in my series will be. But in the mean time, I went back and looked at some of my old posts where I introduced you to my characters and thought it would be fun for you to revisit before the next book comes out. And who knows…maybe some new reader will happen on this post and decide to pick up both books.  Next post: The men of Cumberland Creek.  Stay tuned for more on Cookie Crandall, my new character.

Intro to my characters

My Cumberland Creek Mystery series revolves around a group of women in a small but growing Southern town. They get together to scrapbook, eat, and as it happens, to solve murders.

The story is told from three main characters points of view. They are surrounded by a secondary group of women and men. There’s also a third tier of characters I like to call my “walk-ons.” I thought I’d introduce you to the main three characters and next week I’ll tell you more about the secondary characters. The third group of characters shifts from book to book.

Annie

Annie Chamovitz is 36-years-old and has “retired” from the rough and tumble world of Washington, D.C., investigative journalism. She and her husband Mike moved to Cumberland Creek from Bethesda, Md., a posh suburbanish city.  Her family is the only Jewish family in town.  When the book opens, she is a stay-at-home mom to Sam and Ben.  After being in Cumberland Creek about a year, she is finally invited to a weekly scrapbooking crop. She goes to the scrapbook gathering—reluctantly. Visions of frilly stickers and glitter paper dissuade her. Soon, she is part of the group, finding she loves the “puzzle” aspect to scrapbooking.  Soon enough, she also gets sucked back into freelance journalism.

A narrative bit about Annie:

The first time Annie was asked the most popular question new residents were asked, which was “What church do you attend?” she grimaced. She felt violated. She was used to moving in an urban community in which such questions were not asked.

My favorite quote from Annie:

“I don’t need my husband’s permission, Detective, just his support. This is the twenty-first century,” she said.

Vera

Vera Matthews has just turned forty. She is the owner of the only dancing school in town. She has never quite resolved her longing for the stage. So, among other things, she delights in changing hair color and make-up palettes. She is married to her college sweetheart, Bill Ledford. She grew up in Cumberland Creek, went to college in New York City, and danced professionally for a brief period of time. Because she’s childless, she makes scrapbooks for her students and herself.

A narrative bit about Vera:

It wasn’t as if she kept secrets from her dearest friends. Some things were too private to talk about at a crop. After all, crops were primarily for scrapbooking. Oh yes, there was the social aspect that one couldn’t deny. But nothing deep or heavy should be broached.

My favorite quote from Vera:

“I may be a bitch, but I work too hard for my money to go and have some pop psychologist to charge me to tell me about the psychological aspect to a hobby. For godsakes. Some people just sap all the fun out of everything,” Vera said, taking a bite of the cake.

Beatrice Matthews

Beatrice Matthews is Vera’s eighty-year-old mother and is not a scrapbooker. She is a quantum physicist and has conversations with her dead husband, who appears in ghost form throughout the book—but only to her. She grew up on Jenkins Mountain, one of the many mountains surrounding the town of Cumberland Creek. At the beginning of the book, Bea is stabbed.

A narrative bit about Bea: Now this knife in the neck business concerned her. Who would do such a thing? And what would have happened if it had not been lodged just exactly where it was? She could have died—or worse, been paralyzed, at the mercy of the likes of Vera and Sheila, two mid-life fools if ever there were.

My favorite Beatrice quote: “Your Daddy bought it for me and taught me how to use it. I feel safe with it here next to me in my nightstand. So over my dead body will I get rid of it.  In fact, you can bury me with my gun in one hand and Leaves of Grass  in the other,” Beatrice said.

 The Second Tier of Characters

Three other regular croppers meet every Saturday night—DeeAnn. Paige, and Sheila, who is the scrapbook consultant in the group.

Since my last post was a bit long, I thought I’d keep it short this time and tell you a bit about DeeAnn.

DeeAnn has been in Cumberland Creek for twenty-five years—and she’s still considered a newbie. She married a local man—her college sweetheart—who is the high school principal. She’s got two daughters, both in college. Fair skinned and freckled, she’s a large, muscular woman—with a baker’s arms and heart. There’s nothing she likes better than feeding people. She brings the most delicious snacks to crops. Her bakery is the only one in town. There are others on the outskirts of Cumberland Creek. As a baker, her focus has always been on bread, cake, and cookies. (Pamela’s Pie Palace has the pie market cornered.) In the first book, DeeAnn hires an intern who has a way with muffins.

A quote from DeeAnn:

“Classical tonight ladies?” Sheila asked.

“Hell no,” DeeAnn said, getting up to head for her bag, pulling out a CD.  “Let’s hear some Stones.”

Paige

Paige Swanson grew up just outside of Cumberland Creek proper—sort of between Jenkins Mountain and the town. She grew up in the modern Mennonite church, which means that to look at her, you’d never know she was a Mennonite. In fact, you might think “aging hippy” when you first see Paige, even though that is not what she is at all.  She is fond of tie-dye shirts and dangly earrings.  In fact, when Annie first meets Paige she thinks her name doesn’t suit her at all. “She looks more like a Willow or Moonbeam.”

Paige is the high school history teacher. She’s the mother of one son—Randy, who is a chef living in Washington, DC, with his partner. She has not spoken to him in years. This issue is a dark cloud hanging over her that bursts from time to time.  His homosexuality goes against everything she believes in—or so she thinks.

Like all Cumberland Creek Croppers, Paige is a pretty good cook, but she loves to make cakes and cupcakes. Her specialty is red velvet.

Sheila

Sheila is one of the most interesting characters in the book—she is the scrapbook consultant who refuses to allow her children into basement, where she holds her weekly scrapbooking crops. She is also an avid runner, rarely missing a day.

Sheila and Vera grew up together—their mothers were best friends. Sheila’s mom passed away years ago from breast cancer—and so this is an issue that is near and dear to Sheila’s heart. She runs in a lot of breast cancer awareness marathons and so on.

Sheila’s scrapbook room, house, and scrapbooks are immaculate—but Sheila herself rarely is. She wears wrinkled mismatched clothes at times and hardly bothers brushing her hair—or wearing lipstick.

She and Beatrice pick on each other incessantly—but underneath, Beatrice and Sheila care for one another. One of the ways Sheila endears herself to Bea is by making sure she’s well-stocked in pie.