It’s Apple Harvest Time by Karen Shughart

If you drive around our area in October, you will notice the leaves on the trees have begun to turn, colorful red, orange, and yellow instead of multiple shades of green. The air smells of sweet decay, new mown grass, and when the waves crash against the beach, a clean, verdant aroma wafts through the air, a bit like the ocean but without the brine.

You’ll notice farm markets, large pots of colorful mums clustered together at the edges of the parking lots, filled with a bounty of vegetables: squashes, pumpkins, eggplant, green beans, and apples, lots of apples.

New York is one of the largest apple-growing regions in the country, second only to Washington state. On the south shore of Lake Ontario, where we live, you’ll see acre upon acre of lush orchards, laden with the heavy, ripe fruit. What might surprise you, if you don’t know much about apples, is that not only do they come in different sizes and colors, but there are also hundreds of varieties, old favorites and those recently developed. Each year brings more choices; there’s an almost infinite selection.

Photo by Karen Shughart

Apple harvest here, in the north, is a reason to celebrate. One of our friends spent his earlier years as an MD but has become an apple farmer in retirement (the story of his journey to this point is a long and interesting one), with 100 acres of the sweet and savory fruit.  Now he can be seen-cowboy hat, jeans, and boots, shirt sleeves rolled up to the elbows-cheerfully working alongside his seasonal employees to pick the crop before the frost creeps in.

We love going to his farm, when on a late afternoon, with a variety of cardboard boxes and tote bags in hand, we stroll through the stands of trees, lined up in rows in military precision. We carefully choose apples that will last in cold storage in our garage throughout the winter: baked into breads, pies, and cakes, eaten with sharp cheese, or sliced into a salad.

After, we’re likely to cluster around a large island in his farmhouse kitchen, drinking glasses of wine and eating charcuterie boards piled high with cheeses, sausages, artisanal breads, and apples, yes, apples. When the skies are clear and the air is cool, he’ll host an evening barbecue for friends in his meadow at the edge of the orchard; a huge bonfire burning with apple wood. Then, we gather, to laugh, share stories and eat a meal of locally sourced food. One year a white bedsheet affixed to the side of his barn served as a screen for an outdoor movie while we munched on apple fritters and popcorn cooked over that fire.

I love October for many reasons: the cool nights and bright warm days; the quiet and calmness now that summer residents and visitors are gone; the bright colors, and the earthy pungency of burning leaves that fills the air. But mostly because it’s apple harvest time, a time for convening with friends and sharing the bounty of the season.

Back to the Concerts by Karen Shughart

We moved from a mid-sized metropolitan area to a small village on the south shore of Lake Ontario in the Finger Lakes region of New York almost seven years ago. We love being part of a community where everyone truly does know your name, and the beauty surrounding us is inspirational. I wouldn’t be writing the Edmund DeCleryk mystery series anywhere else.

There’s lots going on here, especially during summer months, but attending monthly cultural events was an integral part of our lives where we used to live, so we decided to explore what was available in nearby Rochester and other nearby communities.  The highway system is good, and within a short drive there are a multitude of choices:  Broadway offerings performed by excellent touring companies; ballet; opera; community theatre; choral performances, and concerts of every sort. 

We discovered a wonderful performing arts venue, The Smith Opera House, in nearby Geneva, and that each year they offer a subscription to a cultural series that includes performances by both the Rochester and Syracuse symphony orchestras, world renowned dance troupes and award-winning vocal groups. This series became the opportunity for a monthly date night, preceded by dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, located a few doors away from the performing arts hall. It was something we looked forward to, especially during winter months.

Photo by Gabriel Santos Fotografia on Pexels.com

Then the pandemic hit, and our date nights in Geneva fizzled. The series was cancelled, and we found ourselves scheduling nights at home: pizza, perhaps; or takeout from a nearby restaurant; followed by streaming cultural events on TV. It was nice watching events from the safety and comfort of our home, and we agreed we enjoyed those evenings, but it wasn’t the same.

The Smith has opened its doors again, but for safety reasons there will be no subscription series this year. Each performance will be available as a separate entity, there will be no paper tickets (just an email confirmation) and patrons must order online or purchase their tickets at the door the evening of the event. Masks plus proof of vaccination will be required, plus there will be social distancing inside the venue.

We’re fine with that.  I just ordered two tickets for the first symphony performance to be held later this month. The restaurant we like has re-opened but with strict guidelines; we’re fine with that, too. We’re happy to be able to get out for an evening.

While we are looking forward to resuming some semblance of normalcy in our lives, I must admit to feeling a bit anxious about attending these performances in person as more cases of Covid and its variants seem to be gaining a chokehold on our country again.   We also realize that things could change between now and then. It’s okay, we’re willing to deal with it. Life is in flux, it usually is, but we’re hoping for the best.

Understanding Your Characters

Part of what makes a great story is great characters. Any reader can tell you that. Writers talk about developing characters, fleshing them out, giving them back story, making them flawed and relatable. These are all vital steps in creating great a character.

But once the character is created, I find I have yet one more hurdle that I have to jump: I have to understand my characters.

A young couple in Galway contemplate the evening

But you created them, you might say with surprise. You wrote their background, you devised their likes and dislikes, fears and dreams. What’s left to understand?

Lots.

Characters run the show. They get away from you, the writer, taking their own story in directions you hadn’t anticipated. Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous. Yet it happens to all writers.

In my current work in progress, I realized after finishing the second draft that I had the wrong killer. A different character was standing in the wings looking guiltily around, trying not to make eye contact with me. Ah-hah, I thought. That’s the real killer!

Trying to pull a fast one on me, I might add.

In several of my books I have another problem of understanding with some of my characters: I write characters who are not native English speakers.

My mother and grandmother in Warsaw

As we all know, language affects not just the way we talk but even the way we think. Writing a foreign character (foreign to me, that is) means not only understanding their native tongue enough to be able to replicate their thoughts, but also understanding the way they frame their thoughts in the first place.

A Pole, an American and an Irishman walk into a bar…. They’re all thinking a little differently and it’s my job to understand those differences.

A woman examines a grave in Warsaw. What might she be thinking?

I’m not complaining. I love that job! I spend time improving my language skills. (By the way, for anyone interested in learning French, I recommend the lessons by Paul Noble. They’re very good!). Extra bonus, it helps when I travel the world and meet new people. So it’s a good problem to have. And one that I hope I have succeeded in overcoming.

But you tell me. If you’ve read any of my books, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my foreign characters and how well I’ve captured their differences.

Learn more about Jane Gorman and the Adam Kaminski mystery series at janegorman.com.

Guest Author – Carole Price

Murder never eauthorphoto copyntered my mind until I retired. I love puzzles of all kinds, but I favor a good mystery. As a teen, I listened to Inner Sanctum, Dragnet, and the Falcon on the radio. After retiring, I attended my first book signing, joined a critique group, and was on my way to thinking how I might murder someone (not literally). Opportunities come in the most unexpected ways. When our daughter moved to Ashland, Oregon, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, my husband and I attended many performances. It was a life-changing experience. I fell in love with the Bard and the theater, took behind-the-scene tours, and interviewed a stage manager from the festival. Later, after I returned home, I had a phone conversation with an artistic director from the festival and thought why not bring Shakespeare to Livermore wine country, create my own theater, and add a mystery. Then I remembered Livermore does have their own Shakespeare festival of three plays over one month, yet different from my two theaters. The outdoor stage at a world-class winery is a great way to take in the works of Shakespeare.

But first, before venturing into plotting a murder I needed to understand police procedures. So I signed up and graduated from the citizens’ police academy and became a volunteer with the Livermore Police Department. I went through their daunting clearance process¾fingerprinting, drug testing, and a polygraph test¾and passed or I would have been denied access to the police station. I remain an active volunteer and have many opportunities to work with the officers and enjoy their thought-provoking encounters and learning experiences. The officers have been generous with their time to answer my questions. They even bought a few of my books.

My series takes place in Livermore, California, where I live, with scenes inside the station’s interview rooms. Because my publisher had specific rules when using the name of a real town or city, I had to get permission from the police chief and the city attorney to use one of their interview rooms in my book as long as I didn’t say anything that would portray the police department or Livermore in a negative light. Living in Livermore wine country has offered me opportunities to interview winery staff members, take winery tours, and decide where to plot a murder. I chose to create two Shakespearean theaters and vineyard on top of a hill on the outskirts of town. A private tour of one of our many wineries is how I learned where empty wine bottles were shipped from and how they are packaged. This information was useful in my newest book, Vineyard Prey, which will be released October 21, 2017.

VINEYARD PREY BLURB

front cover 2Cait Pepper, owner of the Bening Estate, and navy SEAL Royal Tanner return to help friends who recently acquired a vineyard in Livermore, CA. Sadie, an Amish girl, and her husband Danny Lord are excited about their new adventure of owning their own vineyard until a couple agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency knock on their door with a warrant to search their property. When Danny bought the winery, he neglected to check the owners’ background.

Desperate to save her friends from danger and embarrassment, Cait is torn between where to focus her efforts to help—the Lords or the actors and her Shakespeare Festival. Cait uses her cop skills to solve the problem of finding drugs at the Lords’ vineyard while avoiding another tragedy that could put her Shakespeare Festival in peril.

About the Author

Carole Price is a Buckeye! Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, she attended The Ohio State University. She worked for a national laboratory in northern California before turning to writing mysteries. Carole fell in love with the Bard after attending plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. She graduated from the Citizens Police Academy and is an active police volunteer for the Livermore Police Department, a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She actively promotes her books at conferences, literary groups, and many other venues. Carole and her husband reside in the San Francisco Bay Area in the middle of wine country.

Amazon

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Guest – Marian Allen

A DEAD GUY AT THE SUMMMERHOUSE

How the DEAD GUY was born

When I began college in 1 968, I had read enough Gothic Romances to be contemptuous of the formula: Orphan girl in her late teens is hired by a brooding older man to work at a spooky, reclusive mansion; is drawn to two men, one of whom seems charming and one of whom seems threatening; pries into the secrets of the house, in spite of being warned not to; is plunged into seemingly occult danger and learns that the real threat is the supposedly charming man and that her savior and true love is the supposedly threatening man.

As an amusement, I began writing a sort of Anti-Gothic Romance: An orphan boy in his late teens is hired by an elderly ex-flapper to work at a mansion where nearly everyone is active in the community; is only drawn to one woman and stops being drawn to her when she turns out to be weird; tries his hardest to get people to STOP telling him the secrets of the house; is plunged into seemingly occult danger and learns that things just may be a little on the spooky side, after all.

After I wrote it, I decided I liked it too much to let it be just silly. As I matured in years and writing experience, I dragged it out occasionally and reworked it, adding characterization and (I hope) depth. At last, I decided it was as full as I could make it and submitted it to an agent. She loved it, and got back some very encouraging letters from publishers, but no sale.

I put it away again for a few years, decided I could improve it at this stage of experience, and reworked it again. By this time, small press publishing had blossomed, and I sold the book to Hydra Publications. During a business transition, Hydra offered me my rights back and, not knowing where that press was headed (it turned out to be getting even stronger and better) I retrieved my rights, went in with two friends and fellow writers to found Three Fates Press (which died and was transformed, under the amazing Amanda Rotatch Lambkin, into Line by Lion Press) and then Per Bastet Publications, and A DEAD GUY AT THE SUMMERHOUSE was finally born.

The cover delights me. The cover art is one of the first works done by my #4 daughter, Sara Marian, who is also one of our partners and one of our authors. Our other partner, T. Lee Harris, a fine arts graduate who does our formatting and cover design and is also one of our authors, found the perfect font for the time period.

A DEAD GUY AT THE SUMMERHOUSE is available in print, eBook, and audio.

deadguy180

 

Mitch Franklin thinks he’s got it made when the town’s wealthiest eccentric hires him to look after her two lapdogs. Then he meets her family. Five years ago, the last guy she hired played head games the family and servants are still trying to recover from. He also wound up dead. Now, some people think Mitch might be just like him. Some people think Mitch might BE him, back from the grave. Will Mitch survive the anniversary of his predecessor’s death, or will he be another DEAD GUY AT THE SUMMERHOUSE?

Indiebound http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781942166085

Amazon http://bookshow.me/1942166087

Audible http://www.audible.com/pd/Fiction/A-Dead-Guy-at-the-Summerhouse-Audiobook/B01B1Y5K4Y/

Marian Allen bio:

ma2015Marian Allen writes science fiction, fantasy, mystery, humor, horror, mainstream, and anything else she can wrestle into fixed form.

Allen has had stories in on-line and print publications, including multiple appearances in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s SWORD AND SORCERESS anthologies. Her latest books are her YA/NA paranormal suspense, A DEAD GUY AT THE SUMMERHOUSE, her collection of science fiction stories, OTHER EARTH, OTHER STARS, and SHIFTY, her collection of fantasy stories set in the world of her fantasy trilogy, SAGE, all from Per Bastet Publications. She blogs every day at Marian Allen, Author Lady.

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