Sunday, August 9, 2020

Meet Mystery Author Paty Jager, Read About Her New Title and Puzzling out a Murder Mystery

Paty hosted me last week on her blog Ladies of Mystery featuring my historical mysteries. Now, to return the favor, she's my guest!

Paty is an award-winning author of 46 novels, 8 novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery and western romance. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it. This is what Mysteries Etc says about her Shandra Higheagle mystery series: “Mystery, romance, small town, and Native American heritage combine to make a compelling read.”

Puzzling out a Murder Mystery

At book #6 in my Shandra Higheagle Mystery series, my daughters both asked me how long I planned to make the series. At the time, I said, until I can’t come up with anymore ideas or the readers start complaining the books/characters have soured.

I just released book 15 in the series. Capricious Demise has my amateur sleuth, Shandra Higheagle, a Native American potter beginning the book with a dream about two children. A boy and a girl.

To get you up to speed if you haven’t read the series, Shandra was estranged from her Native American family on her father’s side after he died. As an adult, she reconnects with that family at her paternal grandmother’s funeral. And ever since the funeral, her grandmother comes to her in dreams, giving her clues that help Shandra and Ryan Greer, a detective with the Weippe County Sherriff’s Department in Idaho.

When I began what I call my stewing and brewing process for this book, I had the intention of bringing children into their lives. It wasn’t until I had a scene with one of the secondary characters play out in my head, that I realized the children would become orphaned when their parents were killed.

For me the best part of writing this series and coming up with this particular book, is seeing the story arc of not only the main characters but the secondary characters as well. The secondary characters that are brought to life in the first book, Double Duplicity, (which is free at all ebook vendors) all have had lives that continue to move through life, not just show up in different books because I needed a person. I have built a secondary cast of characters who, whether Shandra is at home in Huckleberry or visiting relatives on the Colville Reservation in Washington, will have a growth in their lives from the last book they were in.

For this book, I had to delve into one of the parts of murder I find fascinating—motive. I won’t say too much because I don’t want to give the killer away. This particular book, I started with the dream, the children, two deaths by different means, and then built my motive from my title.

Each book I have a different path that leads me to the motive. Sometimes it’s the motive I come up with first and build the rest of the story around it. Other times it’s the deceased I have first and the motive comes along as I build the story. I believe that is why I enjoy writing murder mystery books. I have as much fun piecing the story together like a puzzle as I have when I read a mystery and try to puzzle out who the killer is.

What is your favorite thing about writing or reading mystery books?


Book 15

Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series


Shandra Higheagle’s deceased Grandmother enters Shandra’s dream, showing her two lost children. Her grandmother never comes to her dreams unless there is a murder to solve. But whose? The children? Or someone related to them?

Ryan is called out to a suicide, that isn’t. While contacting next of kin, he finds the victim’s husband also murdered and their two children missing.

Using her dreams, Shandra helps locate the missing twins whom they take into their home as foster children. The hunt for the reason the parents were murdered becomes urgent when the children reveal they may have seen the killer.

Universal Purchase Link


Contact Paty











Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Marlene Wagman-Geller Writes About Strong Ladies Who Made a Difference

I introduced Marlene in my last post with her book WOMEN OF MEANS, FASCINATING BIOGRAPHIES OF ROYALS, HEIRESSES, ECCENTRICS, AND OTHER POOR LITTLE RICH GIRLS, and am happy to feature BEHIND EVERY GREAT MAN, about the women who made their men's successes possible.

About Marlene

The frigidity of the Torontonian winters-not to mention shyness-led to becoming a life-long bibliophile. And, like most voracious readers, at the pinnacle of my bucket list was the dream of seeing my name on the spine of a book. However, until I could pen the Great Canadian Novel, there was the matter of economic survival. After reading The Great Gatsby, I decided to become an English teacher, and to that end, I attended York University where I received an Honors B.A. followed by teacher's college at The University of Toronto.

I made the great sacrifice of leaving my winter wonderland when I moved to San Diego and currently am an English teacher in National City, California. I always tell my students that dreams do not just have to be for sleeping and several times, in the quest to pursue my own, I sent out my novels to literary agents. The result: enough rejection notices to wallpaper my home. And then serendipity stepped in.

In 2008, I read Peyton Place and became intrigued by its Dedication Page: To George for all the reasons he knows so well. I turned to Google and discovered that George was Grace Metalious' long-suffering husband, and their marriage was as tempestuous as the ones in the novel. I then had my Eureka moment--a book that explored the backstories of the world's literary masterpieces.


Who Said Men Get to Monopolize the Glory?

Discover the Little Known Women Who Have Put the World's Alpha Males on the Map.

From ancient times to the present, men have gotten most of the good ink. Yet standing just outside the spotlight are the extraordinary, and overlooked, wives and companions who are just as instrumental in shaping the destinies of their famous—and infamous—men.

This witty, illuminating book reveals the remarkable stories of forty captivating females, from Constance Lloyd (Mrs. Oscar Wilde) to Carolyn Adams (Mrs. Jerry Garcia), who have stood behind their legendary partners and helped to humanize them, often at the cost of their own careers, reputations, and happiness. Through fame and its attendant ills—alcoholism, infidelity, mental illness, divorce, and even attempted murder—these powerful women quietly propelled their men to the top and changed the course of history.

Meet the Untold Half of History, Including:
•Alma Reville (Mrs. Alfred Hitchcock)
•Elena Diakonova (Mrs. Salvador Dali)
•Winifred Madikizela (Mrs. Nelson Mandela)
•Ann Charteris (Mrs. Ian Fleming, a.k.a. Mrs. James Bond)
•Ruth Alpern (Mrs. Bernie Maddoff)
And 35 more!

Friday, July 3, 2020

Former VP Aaron Burr Married Eliza Jumel On This Day in 1833

On this day in 1833, former Vice President Aaron Burr, 78 and poor, showed up at Eliza Jumel's doorstep with a minister. Eliza, 58, New York City's richest woman, agreed to marry him. I so enjoyed researching and writing my biographical thriller ELIZA JUMEL BURR, VICE QUEEN OF THE UNITED STATES.

A true rags-to-riches story: how “Bouncin’ Bet Bowen” George Washington’s daughter, became Eliza Jumel Burr, wife of Vice President Aaron Burr

and New York City’s wealthiest woman

While researching Hamilton, I became fascinated with his political nemesis Aaron Burr, which led to Aaron's last wife Eliza Bowen Jumel. Only a handful of biographies of her exist, so I learned as much as possible about her from these books and other sources I found.

She came from the filthy streets of Providence and wound up owning to the grandest mansion in New York City, which has been Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War and is open to the public. The urchin Betsy Bowen used her street smarts and business acumen to become Madame Eliza Jumel Burr, Vice Queen of America. Her legacy lives on—in the Morris Jumel Mansion of Washington Heights, where her spirit still lingers, 147 years later.

During her ninety-one years, she begged on the streets, sold her body, married a rich man, married a former Vice President, and as New York City’s grand dame, traveled Manhattan in the coach Napoleon Bonaparte gave her.

Throughout her adventurous and unconventional life, Eliza’s one regret was that she could not publicly announce that George Washington was her father. When Eliza was ten years old, her mother told her of Washington’s visit to Providence. They spent one night together at the home of Freelove Ballou, an aunt who later adopted Eliza. She was born nine months later. Her many attempts to reach her father gained her an invitation to Mount Vernon weeks before his death.

Eliza’s love of make-believe brought her to Manhattan’s John Street Theatre, where she played many leading roles. When the theatre was bought by a speculator and torn down, she “made a living how I could” – at the brothel of Manhattan madam Sally Marshall, whose ladies entertained senators and other prominent figures.

Eliza met the charismatic Aaron Burr when he became New York’s Attorney General. While standing outside Federal Hall after President Washington’s inauguration with her best friend Susannah Shippen, she caught a flash of dark eyes that sparkled and caught the sunlight like jewels. Susannah innocently introduced them, unaware of their instant attraction.

Deeply in love, Eliza wrote: “Colonel Aaron Burr appeared to me the perfection of manhood personified. Wherever he went he was petted and caressed by our sex. And yet, he never took advantage of his position.”

Eliza named her only son George Washington Bowen, believing Aaron was the father.
While Aaron climbed the political ladder on his way to the Vice Presidency, Eliza met wealthy wine merchant Stephen Jumel, a native Frenchman. Knowing Eliza’s heart belonged only to Aaron, he wooed her and trusted her to invest his capital in Manhattan real estate. With her shrewd negotiating skills and street smarts, they amassed an empire.

On Eliza and Stephen’s first trip to France together, the fallen and beaten Napoleon Bonaparte boarded Stephen’s brig the Eliza, seeking an American vessel to ensure his escape from the British. Stephen, in all seriousness, offered the Emperor a wine barrel to stow away in. The Emperor, haughtily put out when he realized Stephen wasn’t joking, accepted Eliza’s invitation to hide in their New York home, but never made it to the new world. However, he did give Eliza his yellow coach and other costly gifts, now on display in the Jumel Mansion. Stephen’s business connections afforded him and Eliza introduction to the upper echelons of  Paris society. She met King Louis XVIII, but he shunned her begging to let Stephen join court circles.

Back home, she resumed her love affair with Aaron, whose wife Theodosia had died of cancer. He was now Vice President, having lost the presidency to Thomas Jefferson. Eliza asked him to marry her, but he turned down her proposal. He just wasn’t ready for remarriage.

After the most famous duel in American history, Aaron fled New York City while Alexander Hamilton lay dying. When Hamilton died the next day, Aaron was indicted for murder. After four frantic months, Eliza finally received a letter from him, under an assumed name, R. King.

Financed by his son-in-law Joseph, he’d bought the rights to a half million acres in the South. He planned to make it into a new state, settle it with adventurous pioneer men, attract a slew of colonists and settlers, and make himself Governor.

His next hurried missive told her that he’d abandoned the entire plan. Why? He didn’t say. But President Jefferson had filed a formal charge of treason against Aaron. He was brought to Richmond, Virginia for trial.

He’d gathered so much support and adoration from Richmond, he was wined, dined and acquitted, with his daughter at his side.

He finally returned to Eliza after finishing out his term as Vice President, but soon sailed for England. Believing her life with him was over, she dragged herself back to Stephen and proposed marriage to him—only to be turned down once again. Determined to become Mrs. Jumel, she faked her impending death with the help of a loyal servant, a bottle of hot water to raise her temperature, and white powder to mimic deathly pallor. She called her doctor and had a stable hand inform Stephen that she was dying. When he rushed to her bedside, she begged him, “Before I leave this world, it would mean so much to me if I could leave as Mrs. Jumel.” He summoned a priest and they were wed even before she received last rites. But of course she made a miraculous ‘recovery’ and once again, returned to her wheeling and dealing.

While tending to his farmlands, Stephen fell from a cart and died in Eliza’s arms two days later. She was brought up on murder charges which were dropped. A despondent Eliza once again turned to her true love, Aaron, back in New York at his law practice.

One evening, Aaron showed up at her doorstep with a minister in tow, the same Reverend Bogart who’d married him to his first wife Theodosia fifty years before. He proposed to Eliza on bended knee: “I give you my hand, Madame; my heart has long been yours.”

She finally became Mrs. Burr at age 56. Aaron was a robust and youthful 78.
He began to spend Eliza’s money recklessly, plowing through $13,000 within a few months. The bickering became grounds for divorce when a maid caught him in a compromising position with another woman. Brokenhearted, Eliza hired a lawyer Who handled family matters—including divorces. Who was this lawyer? Alexander Hamilton Jr.

Aaron received the final papers on September 14, 1836, and died later that day.
Eliza returned home to her family and lived another 29 years as Mrs. Burr, the name she’d always longed for.

The Morris-Jumel Mansion still stands in Harlem, New York City and is open to the public. 

Purchase ELIZA JUMEL BURR on Amazon

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Meet Michael Fiorito and Read About CALL ME GUIDO, His Collection of Stories About Growing Up Italian in Queens, NY

About Mike
I am currently an Associate Editor for Mad Swirl Magazine and a regular contributor to the Red Hook Star Revue.
My writings have appeared in Narratively, Pif Magazine, Longshot Island, Beautiful Losers, The Honest Ulsterman, Chagrin River Review, The New Engagement and many other publications.  
My short story collections, Hallucinating Huxley and Freud's Haberdashery Habit, were published by Alien Buddha Press.  Both are available on Amazon.    
Published by Ovunque Siamo Press in 2019, my book CALL ME GUIDO explores three family generations as seen through the lens of the Italian American song tradition. 
In 2019, I was nominated for the Pushcart Prize by Ovuqnue Siamo Press.

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Call Me Guido is about three family generations as seen through the lens of the Italian American song tradition. 

Simultaneously confronting and courting Italian-American stereotypes head-on, all of the stories are connected by crooner themes: An uncle who discovers himself by believing he’s Tony Bennett; a son discovering Sinatra’s fragility while driving with his father; Bobby Darin selling his soul to possess the gift of performance; a mother, dark and strong, like the earth itself, teaching her son the meaning of strength; a mobster hired to kill a singer who wouldn’t cow-tow to the mob.  In this collection, there are gamblers and mobsters, but philosophers and poets too. 
As poet Joey Nicoletti (Thundersnow) writes, these are “the stories of relatives, potato farmers, performers, imagined aristocrats, and the ballads they sing.” John Keahy (Seeking Sicily) says, “This collection, in quick bites, informs, entertains, and surprises---a masterpiece of storytelling.” 
Alfonso Colasuonno, cofounder of Beautiful Losers Magazine writes “Mike Fiorito navigates his readers through the ethnic twilight of the 21st century Italian-American experience in CALL ME GUIDO, a book that is hilarious, thought-provoking, and poignant in equal measure. Fiorito’s CALL ME GUIDO will be regarded as a seminal work of Italian-American literature.” 

An Excerpt from CALL ME GUIDO

One More for My Dad 

Driving in the car with my father, he reaches over to turn on the radio, steering with his left hand. He puts on “The Imaginary Ballroom,” a program that plays Sinatra, Martin and Bennett.
Sinatra’s voice emerges warmly from the speakers.
“Yes, it’s alright with me,” Sinatra sings sweetly. The song is not full of bravado; it’s tender and hesitant. He’s telling a woman that she looks like his previous lover; she has sweet lips too, like his old lover. He says that if she’s lonely one night, it’s alright if she kisses him with those lips.
We never hear her response.
I hate to admit that it’s a great song and that Sinatra sings it dramatically and convincingly. I don’t want to like my father’s music — he desperately wants me to.
I look over at my dad; he turns the music up louder.
There are parts of the song that Sinatra sings in a whisper. He’s pleading with the woman. This is not the Sinatra I had despised growing up. A braggart, a “wop” gangster. This is the voice of a fragile and sensitive person. If I said this to my father, he’d say, “You’re too deep for me,” which would piss me off. I’d hear that as “I don’t want to talk about that kind of shit with you.” So I don’t say anything. I have a reputation to uphold with my dad. I am the tough, independent kid, unlike my brother Frank who, as a kid, cried when my mother washed his hair in the tub.
I am also the one who punched a kid in the face so hard when I was about eight or nine, I knocked his tooth out. The kid’s father was so angry he came to our house, knocked on the door.
My father opened the door.
“Do you know your son punched my son in the mouth and knocked his tooth out?”
My father looked at the kid. He had a big gap to the left of his two front teeth.
“I want your son to apologize,” the other man said.
“Michael,” my father shouted, “please come here.”
I came to the door, dirt still on my face from playing outside.
The man looked me up and down then looked at his own son. Standing next to his kid, I was about a head shorter.
“You let this kid knock your teeth out?” the man asked his son, fixing his stare at me.
His son started to cry, like he was about to get a worse beating than the one I’d given him.
The man grabbed his son by the shirt, and dragged him away.
When they were gone, my dad said, “You gotta learn to control yourself.” He didn’t yell at me. He never directly encouraged me to fight, but when retelling the story to my mom at the dinner table, he laughed a bit.
“He don’t take shit from no one, this kid,” he said. Being tough might get me far. The world is cruel.
Then, when I was about fourteen, he and my mom came back from a parent-teacher meeting at my school.
“I met Mr. Amato,” my father said. Mr. Amato was my science teacher. It was his first year and my classmates and I weren’t interested in making it easy on him. In the lab, I had hit a kid in the back of the head with a frog kidney.
“He said he has a hard time keeping the class in order.”
I listened attentively, curious to hear what else Mr. Amato had to say.
“I raised my hand,” my father said, “and asked him if he could single out the troublemakers and punish them.” I told him I thought that was a good idea.
“He asked me my last name,” my father said, then paused.
“When I told him Fiorito, you know what he said?”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“He said, your son,” – my father paused and sighed – “is the ringleader of the group.”
He looked disapprovingly at me, curling his tongue in his cheek.
“Ringleader” echoed in my head over and over.
Shaking his head, he had a slight grin on his face. He seemed to at least be proud that I was in charge.
The sound of the Sinatra songs brings me back to the present.
We stop at a red light; my father taps his fingers on the steering wheel and then looks over at me.
He lowers the music.
“Why do you have a mopey face on?” he asks.
“No reason.” I’m not sure what in particular was bothering me, but I’m sure something was. Something was always bothering me.
“Are you worried about us going to live with grandma?”
I’m not, but I say yes. The housing authority had found out that my mom was working and had evicted us from the projects. Since rent was based on income, we were at fault for not declaring my mother’s earnings. But my mother paid the rent; my father’s gambling debt consumed almost all of the income he made. Whereas my father was a gambler, sometimes stripped into vulnerability, my mother was constant, hardworking and indefatigable.
“Don’t worry, everything will be okay.”
I am not worried about that, at least I don’t think I am.
“We’ll be there for only a few months,” he says.
“Grandma lives near your school,” he adds.
I think of how nice it will be to walk to school, instead of taking two buses every morning.
He turns up the music again.
I change the station, looking at him for approval.
He nods okay.
“I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” is playing.
My father lowers the music.
“I like this song,” I say over Jagger’s shrieking “And I try, and I try.”
“It’s noisy,” he says. “This is the guy who struts like a rooster?”
He starts to jerk his head back and forth, mimicking Jagger.
I make a face at him. “He does more than dance like a rooster,” I say.
I hear Jagger’s words about not wanting to listen to TV announcers and wanting to do his own thing as if he is speaking to me directly.
I don’t know if my father hears the words, or if they would matter to him. Jagger is a rooster, is all he knows.
“He’s alright,” my father says. “He’s got balls. Can’t sing, but he’s got balls.”
You don’t know shit about music, I think to myself.
I look out the window.
I’m thinking about Mick Jagger and then about how Maria Hermano sucked my dick earlier that day.
“I told you not to worry,” my father says. “It’s going to be okay.”
I’m happy he’s worried about me, even if for the wrong reasons.
“We’re going to stop over at Pete’s to get sausage,” he says, “before we pick up Mom at the train station.”
I nod.
“Satisfaction” is over. He looks at me before turning the station back to the oldies.
“Old Devil Moon,” sung by Tony Bennett, comes on.
He looks at me, raising the volume.
“It’s not noisy; this is quiet music.”
The guitar playing is terrific. Bennett’s vocals swing with feeling.
“You like this?”
I shrug my shoulders, saying, “I don’t know.”
“Is he the one that looks like a parrot?” I ask to get him back for the knock on Jagger.
“What, Bennett?”
I point to the radio.
He’s got a big Italian nose, like my father.
“He sings like a parrot.”
“At least he doesn’t strut like a rooster.”
We both laugh a little, but I don’t reply. I let him get the last word so I can hear the rest of the song.


 My sister, Gina, calls me after she read my story.
“Oh my God, why did you write that stuff about Dad?” She’s not frantic, but she’s upset that I wrote publicly about our father’s gambling problems.
“I write about our family because it’s hard to write about,” I say. “Because it matters.”
“You know Mom can’t see this story,” she adds. And I know that too. Too many details about how he borrowed money, and the general despair we all felt. Though it was an almost daily discussion when we were kids, it’s now a subject to be avoided. When my father died twenty-five years ago, he became saintly. His earthly sins were buried in his grave.
“I know. I don’t want her to see it. I don’t want to upset her.”
“Well, I’m happy for you,” Gina says. She means it, too. “I’m thrilled for your success.” 
My father’s worst critic, when he was alive, was my mother. I remember how it upset me to hear her talk to him. Before she moved out of our house for a few weeks, her attacks on him became even more vitriolic.
“If you have to get another job, do it,” she said. “I’m working all day, come home to make dinner, clean the house then sell jewelry at night,” she added, raising her voice. Then. “I don’t care if you never come home.”
This last statement clanged off the project building walls and rang throughout the house, like a rusted metal bell hammered on a steel stairwell.
My father didn’t respond. He had swallowed so much guilt, he couldn’t speak. The guilt stuffed his mouth, froze his throat and sank into his stomach. From there it went straight into the infinite space of his soul. Enough guilt to fill the universe. He looked down at his crossword puzzle and tapped his foot in his slipper. In silence.
Hearing the shriek in my mother’s voice bothered me as a kid. Why did she have to be so mean? Now I know better. She was out of her mind with worry. How will we pay rent? How will we make it to the next day?
She went on long into the night. Her voice searing and desperate.
But nowadays, my mother only praises my father. About how smart he was. How talented. How handsome. The truth is they did love each other very much. You could always see that. They hugged each other. Spoke kindly most of the time. And they enjoyed each other’s company. It was the gambling that poisoned their relationship.
And so now I am the Fredo of the family. The snitch. I say things. I write things. You have to understand that this tradition of keeping your mouth shut is very old. It goes back centuries. It is the modern form of omertà, or code of silence. Omertà is a dialect form of the word umiltà, “humility,” in reference to the code of submission of individuals to the group interest. Being taciturn, you’re serving the needs of a greater good. Shut up, don’t upset your mother. Keep your mouth closed, show respect.
The roots of our family silence extend back hundreds of years. It begins in Sicily and Southern Italy in general. Since Sicily was a crossroads for empires, it was often occupied by foreign powers. The Greeks, Romans, Moors, Normans, Bourbons, and Nazis, to name a few. Average Sicilians couldn’t count on government, or society, to help them. This was only compounded when Garibaldi united Italy. Although Garibaldi recruited the South to fight the Bourbons in the North, he then abandoned the South. The South suffered from lack of infrastructure: schools, hospitals and so on. And the villages were under feudal rule; if you were a laborer, there was simply no way out. They were trapped, like mice in a cage. The only thing they could count on was family. Family was their refuge. When Vito Corleone says “Never let anyone outside the family know what you’re thinking,” he’s referring to the tradition of omertà.
Given the tumultuous nature of Sicily’s history, its notable writers – Leonard Sciascia, Luigi Pirandello, Giuseppe di Lampedusa, Elio Vittorini, and Maria Messina – have described an overarching narrative of paura storica, or history of fear. Fear of the outsider. Fear of the unknown.
In writing about my family, I’ve committed a sin. I’ve broken a long held tradition of silence. It’s as if I’ve woken my father from the grave. Only I can see him looking at me disapprovingly. Behind curtains, behind doors. Walking the halls of our project apartment, alone. Like I unleashed fear of the outsider on our family.
And while my sister and other siblings might be slightly wounded by my breaking the silence, they are also happy for me. And proud of me. That’s another contradiction in the Southern Italian soul. The love for family is so strong, you can hate someone, or really be annoyed at them, maybe never even talk to them, but still love them, still want the best for them. This isn’t always true with every family, but it’s true with mine.
So I continue to tell our story, our history of fear.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Three Strands of Research and Planning ~ Past, Present and the roll of a Dice By author Diana Jackson

Three Strands of Research and Planning
~ Past, Present and the roll of a Dice
By author Diana Jackson

My inspiration for MISSING Past and Present began from two angles; three if you count the dice!

1.       The Past

When an old abandoned, but not dilapidated house was pointed out to me while walking with friends one day, I was moved to look it up on an old map and found that it was called ‘The Grange,’ a not uncommon name I noticed, since there were several other also places labelled ‘the Grange.’ I looked this up on line. wrote:

Chiefly British. a country house or large farmhouse with its various farm buildings (usually in house names):Bulkeley Grange;the grange of a gentleman-farmer.
(in historical use) an isolated farm, with its farmhouse and nearby buildings, belonging to monks or nuns or to a feudal lord:the nunnery's grange at Tisbury.
the Grange, See under Granger Movement.
Archaic: a barn or granary.
That led me to do some research in my local archives:
·         Was there a monastery or nunnery in the area? I found several, surprisingly.
·         Were there any notable mysterious happenings? Yes ...
I stumbled upon a story of a trainee nun’s ghost who is allegedly still swinging from the rafters in a place not far from the abandoned home. She caught my attention and I was hooked. The ghost is at Chicksands Priory, a place with a fascinating history of its own, but I decided against relocating my novel there.
I next wrote down a series of questions about monastic life, many of which I could discover on line:
·         What are the stages to become a nun?
I chose an 'aspirant nun' for my story and called her Evie.
·         What kind of dress would she be wearing in the 18th century?
I Googled this and found some great pictures, but an aspirant nun’s costume would have been simpler. More of a tunic, especially when doing farm work.
·         What would the pattern of her day be like?
There are seven hours of prayer:
any of certain periods of the day set apart for prayer and devotion: these are matins and lauds, prime, tierce, sext, nones, vespers, and compline. Prime - the second canonical hour; about 6 a.m. terce, tierce - the third canonical hour; about 9 a.m. nones - the fifth of the seven canonical hours; about 3 p.m.”
My imagination was working at its most virulent in thinking of ideas for a possible plot.
·         Why did she become an aspirant nun? You’ll have to read the story ...
·         Did she have any family?
Yes she did and I decided that her sister would be training to be a nun alongside her. It is Evie's sister Millie who disappears.
·         Why is she swinging from the rafters?
You’ll have to read the story to find out.
My research continued for Millie. Without giving the story away too much, this included questions and visits:
·         How long did it take people to travel on 18th Century tracks and roads?
·         What canal systems were in place? A visit to the canal museum in Stoke Bruerne.
·         What type of work did itinerant workers find in different areas of the country heading north?
·         There was a workhouse to research.
·         A visit to make to New Lanark Mills. (and guidebooks to buy)

Research is never quite finished but is ongoing until the first draft is complete.

2.       The Present

In the present I was drawn to the uncomfortable truth about homelessness and the need for food-banks, but also the human aspect of refugees. (It is all too easy to think of numbers) As a friend once remarked ‘there but by the grace of God go I,’ which sums up my feelings that if it were not for chance, it could happen to any one of us in the ‘blink of an eye’, if you’ll excuse the cliché. It is a worrying thought that we even have many ‘refugees’ escaping the flood waters in the UK at the moment. (I'm talking here of folks being temporarily re-housed in the crisis.)
I made notes on my experiences of volunteering at a soup kitchen in Luton years ago and more recently at a food-bank locally in Fife. I also noted many of my memories teaching refugees and asylum seekers while teaching at a college in Luton.
I drew on personal experiences or on second hand accounts for much of Dot's life, my homeless character, and I based her living in a make believe town called Drumford with the Grange at a village called Canbury. I chose made up locations this time to preserve the anonymity of the actual house on which the story was based.

3.       The Dice

This was an unusual device I stumbled upon. I found a dice and was rolling it one day and found myself wondering about times in my own life which could be seen as a 'one' or a 'six'. This was perfect for Dot as she remembered the back story of her life, which had brought her to the point of homelessness.
I must admit I loved this idea and enjoyed writing about it.

~ And so MISSING Past and Present was conceived, researched, planned and now it is born!

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