Across the books and in person.

Welcome! Since I write two English mystery series, I thought it would be fun to chat about that. And about England. Specifically, Derbyshire, since that is the county I know the best. If you have questions about my books, about mysteries or your own writing, or want to know something about England -- perhaps you're planning a visit -- I'd love to talk with you. Let's start chatting, shall we?

Derbyshire VIllage

Derbyshire VIllage

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Coming Soon....

To a book signing near you.  Well, I hope so!  I may be jumping the gun when I say it's coming soon.  It all depends on your definition of 'soon.'  Since Time is relative, 'soon' may be fine to say.  I will submit my non-fiction manuscript, Cider, Swords & Straw, to my publisher today.  I am assuming it will be accepted and published next year.  She gave me the go-ahead to write it based on my very loose synopsis of what the book would be.  So I wrote it and it's ready for her to read.  She said "Put in lots of recipes."  So I did.  Over 300 recipes.  I have no idea if that is "lots of recipes" or not.  Again we come to definitions.

I created a little flyer for announcing the future publication of C,S&S.  I hope it's eye-catching and makes people want to read it.  Couldn't put in the book's word-count with the other info 'cause the galley hasn't appeared.  But I can add that to the flyer when it's closer to press time.  In the upper 100s, I'd think.  It'll be a nice-sized book, with a year's worth of Taylor & Graham plot synopses, all twelve customs explained more fully, some illustrations, menu suggestions and party ideas for hosting your own British custom celebration.  It's a super companion piece to the mystery novels, but it actually is an interesting book to read in its own right.  The customs are exceedingly fascinating (at least, I think so!) and I enjoyed researching them more fully to add them to the book.

Anyway, that's where I am with it.  First non-fiction book I've written ...  well, I guess we'll soon see if it becomes a book.  It was exceedingly fun to research, think up the plots for the four Taylor & Graham books that will round out a year's worth of customs, finding the recipes.  Now I cross my fingers and send up prayers that it will see the light of day and sit alongside the novels on folks' bookshelves.  If it doesn't, come this autumn I've got a nice little bonfire, I guess.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Down to the Wire

Whew!  I discovered this morning, just by my own super detective work, that Swan Song and A Well Dressed Corpse are available for sale online at  and   I discovered the Kindle-ized versions two days ago and knew they came out days before the "real" books, but obviously I didn't know the publication date for the trade paperbacks.  Well, they are out and I am happy.  I shot an email to the CR at the Barnes & Noble store where I'll be book signing Saturday, telling her the books are out and if there is time enough to order them, I'd appreciate it.  Don't know if she can get them that quickly.  It's down to the wire as far as book arrival and signing date.  But they are out and my enthusiasm is on the upswing. 

In keeping with my effervescent mood, I have decorated one wall of my office with "posters" of my novels.  This helps me when I am a bit down.  I see what I've accomplished in 6 years and think it's not too shabby.  A bit of a pat on the back and an 'atta boy' for me when I need it.  As you can see, I've left room for other books to come.  Hope I do, indeed, fill the space.

It was quite low last week, I don't mind admitting.  I finished up the non-fiction book and that was about all I could handle for days.  Yesterday I did figure out how to poison the victim in the next Taylor & Graham book, so that was good.  I'd originally wanted a plant poisoning because that fascinates me -- how some plants can be beneficial and some are deadly.  And why are some parts of a plant deadly while other parts are okay for consumption -- like rhubarb, for example.  Utterly fascinating.  Anyway, I spend a lot of time with my poison book, book of British plants, and a little online research.  I came up with a poison and I hope a good way of dispatching my poor ole guy.  Of course, I wanted to do what Ngaio Marsh did in her book Death at the Bar.  I think that was brilliant and I really wanted to emulate her, but I have to find my own method.  I know it's not as good, but she was a genius, in my opinion.

Well, guess I better do something beneficial today.  Maybe I'll work on that poisoning method.  There's got to be something more subtle....

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Well, today I finished the new non-fiction book.  It's a hybrid of my calendars that I used to make each year and sell.  My book has the months as chapters, the first chapter being November.  Each chapter has a longish synopsis of the Taylor & Graham book occurring in that month, a longer explanation of the custom on which the plot is based, and recipes that are associated with or can go along with the custom.  I had such a good time researching more information on the customs -- I need to do something with my knowledge!  Of course, right now my novels reach only to June.  So, to make my non-fiction book hold a year's worth of books, customs and recipes, I had to figure out what the last four books would be.  I figured out which customs I would use, sat down one lovely spring day and came up with the plots of the four books, and wrote out the synopsis and then the customs sagas.  I plopped those into the non-fiction book and then the fun began of finding recipes for all twelve customs.

This is not as daunting as it might have been.  I have several British cookery books and I know some of the foods associated with some customs, like having parkin, baked potatoes and lemonade on Bonfire Night.  I also had two articles I'd written some years ago on two customs, so I used those.  Plus, of course, some lengthy synopsis on most of the books.  So I really had to write about half the book.

I'm excited about it.  I have a few drawings in there, illustrating bits that might be confusing to the American reader who doesn't know about change ringing or rapper dancing, for example.  I also included a page on planning parties if you want to host an event connected to one of the traditions.  There's also a list of suggested recipes to use for a specific event, like a picnic for the corn harvest custom, or a fireside tea for Valentine's Day.  As of now, I have 300 recipes in the book.  That could change, depending on my publisher's version of "a lot of recipes."  She wanted "a lot of recipes," so I put in what I consider a lot.  Yes, I know 'lot' is subject to individual interpretation, but I didn't think she wanted three or four per custom.

Next comes proof reading and waiting for Swan Song and A Well Dressed Corpse to come out.  I think it would be pushy on my part to submit another manuscript before my latest and greatest have left the printing press.  I'll wait at least a day after I get my copies of the novels....

My non-fiction book has the advantage of use as a standalone book (fun to read without having read any of the Taylor & Graham), a cookery book (hey, 300 recipes -- there's gotta be one in there you'd kill to have!), and of course a great companion piece to the T&G series.  And you'll know what's coming up in the next few years because I've got the four synopsis of the unwritten four books included.  And no, it's not the end of the series.  Unless you know something I don't know.  I just thought it would be a tidy bundle to have 12 novels, 12 customs, and 12 months of recipes within one book cover.

So that's where I am.  I'm extremely tired; I've worked on this nearly non-stop for over a week, putting in 10-12 hour days at the keyboard.  But I hope the effort will be worth it.  I guess I'll find out sometime.