Guest Blogger ~ Julie Weston

The Nellie Burns and Moonshine Mystery series began one full moon night. My husband and I had visited Galena Lodge in south central Idaho, near where we live, for a full moon dinner. On our way back down from this mountain pass between the Boulder Mountains and the Sawtooth Mountains, we stopped at Last Chance Ranch. My husband is a photographer and he longed to take a photograph of this ranch in the moonlight and snow. No lights were lit, so we climbed through the fence, he carrying his large format camera, tripod, and other camera gear. As he set up the camera to take the photograph, I watched the house and decided there could be a dead body in there. And lo, my Moon series of books began.

My protagonist is a young woman photographer who comes west from Chicago in the early 1920s. She yearns to be an artistic landscape photographer. Photographing Moonshadows (the name of the first book in the series) is high on her list. In addition to my husband, I have a line of photographers in my family on my maternal side, who came first to Idaho in the 1870s on their way to Oregon via wagon train. They stopped in Boise and never left Idaho. My grandmother and mother were born there, and I grew up in North Idaho in a mining town. The photographers in my family were named Burns. In early North Idaho, a woman photographer arrived from Chicago. Her name was Nellie Stockbridge. And lo, I had my first character: Nellie Burns.

Author in a mine near where she grew up.

Other characters turned up almost immediately: Rosy Kipling, a retired miner from Hailey (our hometown now); Charlie Asteguigoiri, the Basque sheriff for the county; Goldie Bock, the owner of a rooming house in Ketchum; a Chinese mother and son; a sheep rancher, and other persons of interest. Nellie and her photographs help solve the mystery of the dead man at the ranch, along with Moonshine, a black Labrador dog, that Nellie adopts. He becomes her constant companion. And lo, I have a sidekick.

The second and third books in the series live in Idaho—in the Stanley Basin (Basque Moon) and in Craters of the Moon (Moonscape). Each time the landscapes become characters as well, partly because of my heritage and partly because I live here after having practiced law in Seattle for many years. My books have each won honors, including Basque Moon, which was a WILLA winner in historical fiction.

My latest book, MINERS’ MOON, coming out in December, 2021, grew out of my mining town of Kellogg. I descended the mines a while ago, and all I did and learned then became the basis for this newest book. Rosy, Charlie, and Nell get tangled up in two investigations: a mine explosion where several miners are killed, and bootlegging the federal revenuers seek to stop.

Idaho has so many wonderful and strange places and history, I see no end to my Nellie Burns and Moonshine series.

Miner’s Moon

Crime photographer Nellie Burns and Basque Sheriff Charlie Asteguigoiri travel from central to northern Idaho to investigate bootlegging and possible complicit town officials. A suspicious mine explosion pulls them into a second investigation. Retired miner Rosy Kipling joins them, bringing Nell’s black Lab Moonshine.

While Charlie roams the backcountry in search of illegal stills, Nell questions survivors of the explosion and a madam. Rosy descends the principal mine to listen and pry. The two investigations lead all three to discover secrets and lies—from “soda drink” parlors, local brothels, worker hints deep in the mine shafts—that have deadly consequences. Predictably, Nellie gets in over her head. A rock burst seals off Charlie and Rosy in a mine collapse. Moonshine plays an instrumental role, and Nellie tries to rise to the occasion in spite of her debilitating fear. All four long to return to their high desert home, but cannot until they lay bare the crimes before their luck runs out.

Buy Links:

Indiebound:  https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781432888046

Amazon:   https://www.amazon.com/Miners-Nellie-Burns-Moonshine-Mystery/dp/1432888048/ 

Five Star Publishing:  gale.orders@cengage.com

Julie Weston’s publications include mysteries set in Idaho in the 1920s, a memoir of place about Kellogg, Idaho, where she grew up; and a coffee table book with her photographer husband, Gerry Morrison. Essays and Stories have appeared in a variety of journals, including The Threepenny Review, The Saint Ann’s Review, IDAHO magazine and others.

Awards for Weston include the WILLA Award for Historical Fiction, Story Circle Finalist award for Moonshadows, Foreword Bronze Award for Mystery and Honorable Mention for her memoir in the 2009 Idaho Book of the Year Award, among others.

Social Media:

Facebook: Julie Weston and JulieWestonAuthor

Instagram: westmorjw

Email: westmorjw@aol.com, juliewweston@gmail.com

www.julieweston.com

www.bigwoodbooks.com

The First Draft by Karen Shughart

I started writing the first draft of the third mystery in the Edmund DeCleryk series several months ago. It’s entitled Murder at Freedom Hill, and as with the first two books, the murder is linked to an historical event, this time the Abolition Movement and Underground Railroad. Both are part of the history of the village where I live in upstate New York, as are the historical backstories with the previous books, portrayed with a bit of poetic license.

When I start writing a draft, I know the setting (it’s always the fictional village of Lighthouse Cove, NY), have chosen the victim and other characters.  There will be a trip or two to Canada, it’s right across Lake Ontario from Lighthouse Cove; the communities bordering it on both sides are intricately linked by related historical events.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I’ve contacted my technical experts with questions on investigative procedures and sentencing guidelines. I have the basic trajectory of the story in my head, and usually have identified the murderer. And I plan for the recipes that will appear at the end of the book, courtesy of Annie, Ed’s wife.

After that it’s a bit of a free-for-all. Structured chaos. The road not taken. Once the first draft is finished, I start to think about changes I want to make in the plot. Sometimes that means getting up in the middle of the night and writing down idea so that by morning they haven’t been erased by a dream or two I may have had in the interim.

I’ve been asked if I create an outline or use index cards when I’m writing a book. I don’t, although I know many authors who do. For me, it’s too confining. I’d rather go where the story leads me instead of being boxed in by my own rigid expectations. Case in point: since starting the first draft of Murder at Freedom Hill, I’ve changed the murderer three times, added a few twists and turns, and lengthened the time it takes to solve the case. It’s a true, excuse the cliché,  work in progress.

The first draft is messy and meandering, and it’s now that the hard work begins. I know I’ll need to clean it up, cut and paste, do a significant amount of wordsmithing, expand the investigation, eliminate overused words, and insert the historical backstory chronologically and strategically. I’ll also need to decide which recipes to include.

The first drafts of Murder in the Museum and Murder in the Cemetery ran about 40,000 words. My background is journalism, so I learned to write sparingly. I think I’m finally getting the hang of it, this draft ended at 55,000 words, a lot closer to my goal of 70,000+.

Writing the first draft is lots of fun, I go with the flow and see where the story takes me.  But now, the real work begins.

The Wine Blog by Karen Shughart

I’ve always believed that it’s easier to write about what you know, which is why wine features so prominently in my Edmund DeCleryk mysteries. Like my husband and me, Ed, and his wife Annie, live in the northern Finger Lakes region of New York, the second largest wine producer in the U. S. Wine is very much part of the lifestyle here.

Our own wine journey began many years ago. Our kids were in college, our careers at their peak, and we came home each night exhausted. We made the transition from workday to evening by having a glass of wine (or sometimes for Lyle, a Scotch) before dinner.  We caught up, chatted about our day, and even when my husband traveled for business, we designated a time to call each other, evening drink in hand. Although now retired, we continue the tradition to this day.

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One weekend we were invited to a dinner party at some friends’ house. We were asked to bring a dish to share and a bottle of wine to pair with it. It was the genesis of a gourmet group that met quarterly for many years, rotating hosts. A specialist at a wine store helped us choose the wines to go with each course. We quickly learned that to enjoy wine is to slowly sip and savor it.

Some of us took a cruise together from San Francisco Bay, along rivers that led to the Napa, Sonoma and Carneros wine regions of California.  Each evening we’d dock and before dinner attend a wine education session. The next morning we’d board a bus that would take us to charming towns for vineyard tours, wine tastings and to explore galleries and shops.

One weekend Lyle and I traveled to the Finger Lakes; a short drive from where we lived in Pennsylvania. We were enchanted by the wineries and restaurants, the vibrant jazz scene, and postcard-picture beauty.  We purchased an 1890s cottage on Lake Ontario; after retirement, we decided to make it our permanent home.

We joined a wine club.  At a series of monthly classes at New York Kitchen in Canandaigua, we learned about regions around the world where wine is crafted and how terroir, the natural environment in which grapes are grown, results in differences in color, smell and taste of the same varietal.  We cleaned up our musty basement and created a wine cellar in what was once a cistern, dry as a bone with thick stone walls and floor and about 56 degrees year ‘round.

Over the years I’ve learned a lot about wine, and I write about it in my mysteries. It is, after all, part of the local lore, and an integral part of the culture. And just like Lyle and me, having a glass of wine at the end of the day is a way for Ed and Annie to unwind and share their stories.

Guest Author – Kathleen Kalb

What Are We REALLY Talking About?

by Kathleen Marple Kalb

  Keep your eyes open when my characters start talking about social issues.

 Chances are pretty good I’m slipping in some very important evidence that you’ll want to remember later. One of the wonderful things I’ve learned as an historical mystery writer is that all of that background gives me unique ways to work in key clues while most of the reader’s attention is on other things…for an especially satisfying reveal later in the story.

Here’s an example: in A FATAL FIRST NIGHT, most of the cast is at the main characters’ home for Sunday afternoon tea, and they get into a wonderful discussion of suffrage, women’s role in the world, and whether females can kill. Some extremely important evidence comes out during that talk, and of course, I’m not going to tell you what it is because of the potential spoiler. But that scene is one of my favorites.

I’m far from the first writer to use this trick. Many of my favorites, especially people I grew up reading and wanting to emulate, do the same thing. Elizabeth Peters, probably my all-time favorite, was the sneakiest of them all. Especially in her Amelia Peabody historical series, you’d be thinking about amulets or dead pharaohs, and first thing you knew, the Master Criminal had pulled off some dastardly deed that Amelia would sort out at the end.

Ella’s world is just chock-full of similar opportunities. Not only is there all of the social ferment to fuel heated teatime debates, there are also the worlds of opera, newspapers and sports, all of which contribute bits of the solution to the plot, and provide fun ways to get there. Plus, because this is a series about a performer, classic backstage dramas.

My favorite writers take familiar plots and tropes, and give them a twist just when you think you know what’s going to happen, and that’s what I like to do too. Ella’s relationship with her beau, Gilbert Saint Aubyn, Duke of Leith, is all about upending expectations. In old-school historical romances, a Duke is the ultimate matrimonial prize, usually drawn as a suave fellow who could have any woman he wanted but chose our heroine because she was interesting, and of course, virtuous.

The Barrister (as most of the cast calls him) is in fact a Duke, and easy on the eyes. After that, though, the tropes are out the window. He’s anything but suave, inevitably saying stupid things when he tries to impress Ella, and much more comfortable playing the lawyer he trained to be than the Peer he became. She likes him because he’s open-minded and unpretentious, but still has less than no interest in marrying him and becoming his legal property.

I’d keep my eyes open for clues whenever those two are fencing and courting. You never know where I might hide something…

A FATAL FIRST NIGHT (coming 4/27/21) opens with a murder in Richard III’s dressing room after the premiere of the Ella Shane Opera Company’s new production, The Princes in the Tower.  Ella and friends aren’t at all sure about their colleague’s guilt — even though it seems obvious. Meanwhile, newspaper reporter Hetty MacNaughten has finally escaped hats to cover a sensational murder trial. Before it’s over, the cast will have to sort out several interlocking mysteries, welcome an unexpected visitor…and find another Richard III. Will everyone survive to the final curtain? 

PREORDER: https://www.kensingtonbooks.com/9781496727244/a-fatal-first-night/

Kathleen Marple Kalb grew up in front of a microphone and a keyboard. She’s currently a weekend morning anchor at 1010 WINS Radio in New York, capping a career she started as a teenage DJ in her Western Pennsylvania hometown. She’s the author of the Ella Shane Mystery historical mystery series: A Fatal Finale is out now, A Fatal First Night this spring. She also just began a darkly comic new chapter series on Chanillo.com: On the Side of the Angels.

WHERE TO FIND ME:

Website: https://kathleenmarplekalb.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Kathleen-Marple-Kalb-1082949845220373/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KalbMarple

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kathleenmarplekalb/

Photo source: public domain picture from the NYPL Digital Collections

Guest Blogger – Diana Rubino

I’ve been a mystery book buff since age 12 when I started reading the Trixie Belden series (similar to Nancy Drew). As my reading preferences matured, I graduated to murder mysteries. I always wanted to write one, but didn’t believe I had the ability to weave an entire plot around a murder, plant clever clues, red herrings, and surprise the reader with ‘whodunit.’ So I began writing murder mystery subplots in my historical novels, starting with FROM HERE TO FOURTEENTH STREET.

When I wrote my biographical novel about Eliza Jumel Burr, Aaron Burr’s last wife, my agent told me it needed a bit of ‘punching up.’ I pondered how to do this, then thought, ‘what would be more punched up than a few murder mysteries?’ So I wrote two subplots involving true-life murders that occurred during the time of the story. In one of them, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton defended the accused, Levi Weeks, after his fiancée Elma Sands was found drowned in a well once owned by Aaron. In real life, Levi was acquitted, but public opinion maintained this was due to Levi’s high-priced ‘dream team.’ In my story, I involved Eliza in the lives of Levi and Elma, and Levi eventually confesses to her. As for all murder mystery authors, knowing the killer makes writing a mystery less daunting. I began writing mystery subplots in my books that followed: DARK BREW, FOR THE LOVE OF HAWTHORNE, and the biographical novel I just finished, about Edith (Mrs. Theodore) Roosevelt, who helps the New York City Police, of which her husband is Commissioner, find a serial killer.

I stay as close as possible to the historical record, but in writing novels, I must ‘take license’ and weave fiction in with the true life events. I’m careful to give readers lush descriptions of the settings, to send them on a journey back to that time, without rambling on, to avoid giving a history lesson. That, as well as writing murder mysteries, became easier with practice.

 ELIZA JUMEL BURR, VICE QUEEN OF THE UNITED STATES

Abandoned and left to survive on the streets of Providence, Betsy Bowen dreams of being reunited with her father – none other than George Washington. During her ninety-one years, she begs, sells her body, marries a rich man, marries a poor man, solves a murder, meets her father in secret and becomes Eliza Jumel, the wealthiest woman in New York City. She actually could have been George Washington’s daughter, according to the historical record–he visited Providence nine months before she was born.

A story of desperation, ambition, heartache and betrayal, borne with humor and refusal to compromise with what the heart asks first.

Purchase ELIZA JUMEL BURR: http://getBook.at/ElizaJumel 

Diana writes about folks through history who shook things up. Her passion for history and travel has taken her to every locale of her books, set in Medieval and Renaissance England, Egypt, the Mediterranean, colonial Virginia, New England, and New York. Her urban fantasy romance, FAKIN’ IT, won a Top Pick award from Romantic Times. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Richard III Society, and the Aaron Burr Association. When not writing, she owns CostPro, Inc., an engineering business, with her husband Chris. In her spare time, Diana bicycles, golfs, does yoga, plays her piano, devours books, and lives the dream on her beloved Cape Cod.
Visit Diana at

www.dianarubino.com

www.DianaRubinoAuthor.blogspot.com https://www.facebook.com/DianaRubinoAuthor

and on Twitter @DianaLRubino.