The Detective’s Daughter

Kim in Baltimore protecting my eyes from the eclipse.

Nat King Cole sang about those lazy, hazy days of summer as Nana cooked in the kitchen. I could hear the music as I played in the yard. The windows were wide open despite the muggy heat of a Baltimore summer and the fact that Nana had a brand new air conditioner. She refused to turn it on no matter how hot the temperature.

I lounged in a tiny pool that Pop-Pop used a bicycle pump to inflate. Nana had put several throw rugs and an old comforter to protect the bottom of the pool and to cushion my feet from the hot cement.

Sometimes my friend Valerie from down the street would come over to sit in the cool water with me, but most often it was my dog Rikki who kept me company. He stayed in the shade under our picnic table watching over me as Pop-Pop sat dozing in his lawn chair with a transistor radio to his ear listening to the Oriole game.

This is how I remember the summer days of my youth. Baseball games, steamed crabs on Sundays, snowballs at night. I can close my eyes and conjure up the smell of Nana’s rose garden after an afternoon storm and hear the whistle of the trains passing the house and smell the tar of the street that was too hot to walk across in bare feet.

I tried to recreate those summers for my own children; the freezer stocked with juice pops, a wading pool in the yard, a gentle dog to keep watch. I have an air conditioner in the window I rarely use. When we first moved to the house we only had a few fans. In the morning I’d strip the beds and load all our sheets in the freezer for the day. At bedtime we’d grab them out and run as if the devil chased us up the stairs, throwing ourselves onto the sheets not even bothering to smooth them out or tuck them in. We just wanted to enjoy those few moments on the icy bed.

The coolness of the sheets was as brief as those summers that we remember not so much for the warmth of the days, but the happiness of being together.

Readers: What are your favorite childhood summer memories?

 

 

Sleep Tight

Jessie- Enjoying a last bit of summer vacation on the coast of Maine

alarm-clock-1193291_1920I’ve written several times in blog posts, either here or as a guest on other blogs, that I am an enthusiastic planner and goal setter. For many years I’ve spent time once each looking over my resolutions and plans for the year and bringing them down to weekly and daily courses of action. Every year I buy a planner to help me to stay on track and to achieve those things I most want to accomplish.

This year I have been using a planner by Ink and Volt which I adore. The one feature that has been more useful to me than all the others is the monthly challenge. It is a page used to state a habit or skill you would like to work on for the month with a place to  write a note to yourself about why you feel like bothering and a daily check off area to mark if you manage to achieve what you set out to do.

In July the habit I decided to work on was getting 8 hours of slep each night. My husband has been remarkably sleep deprived for quite a long time and I wanted to be supportive of him making a priority of turning in early. I thought if I went to bed early enough to accomplish my goal he would feel he had to do so too and that it would do him a world of good. What I hadn’t realized was that more sleep was just what I needed myself.

For years I had no time to hear myself think until after the children went to bed. I would squeeze out a couple of hours for reading or knitting or movie watching after they were asleep. This wasn’t so bad when they went to bed at 7:00 or 7:30 but as they stayed up later and later themselves, I did too. As a result, for the last several years, I’ve managed on five or six hours of sleep every night and I thought it was enough. That is, until I made a habit of sleeping for eight.

By the end of the first week in July I felt like a different woman.  I popped out of bed with energy I hadn’t felt in years.  I wasn’t as likely to find myself looking in the refrigerator for no good reason. I was more productive with my work.  It was marvelous. By the second week I didn’t even feel guilty about lazing about in bed for so long every night. By the third and fourth I was astonished at the change in my life. I was awake fewer hours each day but each was more enjoyable and productive.

Now when I don’t get my eight hours I feel it. I even attempt to take a nap to catch up if need be. I’m not sure how I managed for so long on so little. Even after a couple of months I am astonished by how much better I feel and how little appeal just one more chapter or another episode of any given program on Netflix has in comparison with a full night’s sleep.

Readers, do you ever get enough sleep? Do you wish you could squeeze in a another hour or so every night?

Welcome Nancy Coco!

Happy Friday! Liz here, happy to welcome our friend Nancy Coco, aka Nancy Parra, also aka Nell Hampton… but today, she’ll be Nancy Coco. Her newest book, Oh Fudge, is out August 29. It’s the fifth novel in the Candy Coated Mystery series set on Mackinac Island, Michigan, which she’s going to talk about today. 

Here’s a little more about the book, then Nancy will take it away!

Oh Fudge      View More: http://alisonpaigephotography.pass.us/nancy_parra_roanoke_texas_portrait_photograph

Life is always sweet in Allie McMurphy’s delectable fudge shop. But murder can make things unpleasantly sticky . . .

After Allie inherited her family’s McMurphy Hotel and Fudge Shop, cousin Tori moved off to California in a bitter huff, and the two haven’t spoken since. So to have her cousin reappear on Mackinac Island without warning is a big surprise—but not as surprising as finding her standing over a dead woman impaled with a garden spade in the Mackinac Butterfly House. Butterflies may be free, but Tori won’t be for much longer—unless the cousins can bury the hatchet and work together to catch a killer who’s taken flight. Because when it comes to family, blood is thicker than fudge . . .

Hi, Nancy here. I’m lucky to have grown up along the shores of Lake Michigan. We had sand dunes in our backyard and a blueberry farm on one side, woods on the other. We used to go out in the early morning and spend the entire day outside playing. There were wild grapes in the trees and wild strawberries and blackberries, mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns and other wild things to gather and eat. My Dad grew huge gardens. We raised chickens, rabbits, ducks and geese for eggs and meat. My best friend had horses and magical things like electric fences. If you touch an electric fence with a stick covered in bark you don’t feel the shock. But if you remove the bark you would get the poke.

They used to crop dust the blueberries and we would run up to the second floor of the old farmhouse and watch as the plane came straight at the house then shot straight up in time to miss hitting the house.

There were bee hives, clover, bee stings from running barefoot in the grass. We used to draw lines in the sand and outline houses with hand drawn doors and rectangles for furniture. In fourth grade, my best friend’s mom gave us a box of old party dresses with crinoline. We were small and they make perfect pioneer outfits. The boys would build forts with pine needles and pull out the ferns. The roots were pointed and the ends feathered and they would toss them at each other playing cowboys and Indians.

This is my memory of Michigan. We would go to the lake shore and play in the water. Visit cousins and swim in smaller lakes. Every few years we would vacation to the Upper Peninsula crossing the great Mackinac Bridge – a suspension bridge that rivals the Golden Gate. There we would stay in cabins along a lake. We would hike up and down old mining roads and get visits from bears. Everywhere we went the people were hospitable and the days long.

It’s why I chose to set this series on Mackinac Island. I hope to bring some of the joy of growing up in the mitten state to readers everywhere. It’s a place where the sky touches the water. The smell of fudge, fresh hay, horses and fair food mix together. Where you can sit after dinner across from a fire roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories. Where children wave sparklers and write their name in the sky as dew falls on the grass. The scent of tall pine trees, warm sand and sassafras brings all the memories back. I get to visit again every time I write another Candy-coated mystery.

Now that I’ve told you about my summers growing up. I’d love to know-what is your favorite summer memory?

Of Clocks and Time

My grandmother's clockI love writing the Clock Shop series. I am in the middle of a blog tour for Chime and Punishment, and I’ve been gathering stories from people about clocks and watches that mean something to them. It is very rare that the meaning is because of monetary value. Usually it is because of connections. I have a clock that my grandmother left to me. It is electric, and from the 50’s. Not worth much money, but worth the world to me.

I’ve also adored the research I’ve done for the books. The research for Chime and Punishment was particularly fun, since it required a field trip to a real clock tower, with a real clockmaker, the ever patient David Roberts of the Clockfolk of New England. I thought I’d share some of those field trip photos here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m on vacation today, so it will be a couple of days before I get to respond to your comments. But do let me know, is there a clock or watch you love in your life?

Wicked Wednesday – Crime Podcasts

NEWS FLASH: Ginny C is the winner of Brooklyn Bones from Triss! Check your email, Ginny.

Happy Wicked Wednesday! A while back, I’d mentioned podcasts in a blog post. One of our readers said they’d love to hear about the Wickeds favorite podcasts – so here we go! This week we’re talking about – what else – our favorite crime podcast. So Wickeds, what’s yours?

Podcasts

Barb: It’s strange to me that though I don’t like true crime on television, I love true crime podcasts. Like many people, I got hooked with season one of NPR’s Serial, which Bill and I listened to in two obsessive days on our annual drive from New England to Key West. Now one of my major favorites is CRIMEandSTUFF created by sisters Maureen and Rebecca Milliken. Mystery author Maureen’s journalism background shines through in this well-researched crime podcast, and both sisters know their popular culture cold. There’s a focus, though not an exclusive one, on New England crime, so I am often hearing much more indepth stories on events I’ve read one or two articles about, or have vaguely heard happened in the past. They’re on summer hiatus now, but there are thirty-one episodes stockpiled for you to enjoy. Totally recommend!

Sherry: I haven’t ever listened to a podcast. I’m always intrigued by the ones I heard about but never get around to listening to them. One day…

Liz: Barb, like you the first Serial hooked me. I’ve been dying for something just as good! I did like S-Town, though I wouldn’t consider that a true “crime” podcast, even though it was an amazing story. I have a whole list of new ones to try though, including Criminal and Missing, which got great reviews.

Edith: Like Sherry, I’m not a podcast convertee. I did sign up with (or is it, downloaded the app for? #mustgetwiththeprogram) a podcast service on my phone, but I only used it once to listen to and episode I’d missed of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” the NPR news quiz show I adore. I always listen to the show on Saturdays, so I guess I was utilizing their podcast as an archive.  Like with TV – when would I listen to podcasts? When I walk I listen to birds and talk to myself about my plot. When I drive, it’s either all that news I didn’t catch at home, or on a long-distance solo drive I snag an audiobook from the library.

Readers: do you listen to podcasts? What are your favorites?

Guest: Triss Stein, Inspired by Facts

Edith here, happy to welcome Triss Stein back to the blog! She has a new mystery out – Brooklyn Wars – in a series I love. And she’s giving away a copy of either this book or Brooklyn Bones, the first book in the series, to one commenter here today.BrooklynWarsCover-ONLINE

From the earliest days of the Republic until the administration of LBJ, the Brooklyn Navy Yard was, proudly, both an arsenal of democracy, in FDR’s words, and the creator of 70,000 local jobs. In time it became best known as the scary place New Yorkers had to locate to rescue their impounded cars. And then it came back to life, but not without a war.
 
Erica Donato, under pressure to complete her dissertation about changes in Brooklyn neighborhoods, watches as a community meeting becomes a battleground over plans to redevelop the once-proud Yard. That night, on the Yard’s condemned Admirals’ Row, she witnesses the shocking murder of a power-broker.
 
 Erica once again discovers “what’s past is prologue” to both murder and to her life.

 

INSPIRED BY FACTS

What do these random items have in common?

  • A flock of bright green tropical parrots live on a chilly northeastern urban college campus. No one knows where they came from. Sometimes they take a little trip over to a nearby park-like cemetery
  • A long-rumored, legendary underground tunnel at a major transportation hub was rediscovered found some years ago. Pirates? Bootleggers? John Wilkes Booth? All are suspected
  • Valuable stained glass windows have been stolen from old cemeteries and churches.
  • During World War II, damaged ships brought to a huge navy yard sometimes still held the bodies of sailors trapped below when the ship was hit
  • Before the Civil War there was a flourishing hamlet of freed slaves. Then it vanished into the growing city.BrooklynSign

Have you guessed? They are all about Brooklyn and they are one of the reasons I write mysteries that take place in different Brooklyn neighborhoods. How can I resist making these odd bits of history part of a story?

One of them made it into a book (in fact, inspired one), one made it into a story in my publisher’s anniversary anthology, Bound by Mystery, and three, well, I haven’t figured out how to use them. Yet.

TreeWhere did they come from? One was a story an old man remembered hearing as a boy, and two were in newspapers, and I am the person who remembered and looked for more. I worked for awhile in the neighborhood near a third. Those parrots? I’ve seen them in Green-Wood Cemetery, sitting all over the huge Gothic entrance and making quite a racket.  But I found out there are conflicting stories about their origins by researching online.

used to

Photograph by Anthony Russell, used with permission.

For the brand new book Brooklyn Wars, I did much research the old fashioned way. In the library. The book is set against the history of the old Brooklyn Navy Yard, a large piece of real estate, and, at different times, a source of Brooklyn pride, of politics and of contention. I went in to Brooklyn history room and said, “Give me everything you have on the Navy Yard. ”  I spent a day taking notes, making copies and jotting down the names of books I might be able to buy on used books sites.

I looked for inspiring photos that captured a moment. Did I find them?? How about Senator Truman and his family, dedicating the USS  Missouri? How about some of the first women workers there, striding proudly out the gate?  I even found an old dissertation about the heated politics of the closing of the Yard.  Dry academia? There were dozens of possible plots in those pages.

poster3I love spending a day like that, looking for that one odd fact that focuses  a whole story. I always find one and sometimes several. My protagonist, Erica Donato, is a history grad student still working on her dissertation. She loves spending a day that way too.

It’s not impossible that writing these mysteries is an excuse to indulge my inner history geek . At least it gives me a reason to explore odd facts and odd places.

The next book, just getting started, will be about Brooklyn Heights, one of the oldest parts of Brooklyn and the very first official Historic District in New York city. And this is, after all, Brooklyn, a place where people have opinions. It was quite a battle.

Here is a Brooklyn Heights urban legend I was told by a colleague many decades ago, when I lived at the corner of Orange Street. It turns out to be, probably, true: an elderly descendant of an old Brooklyn family objected to streets being named for other old families. She objected so much she would take the street signs down late at night. The city finally gave in and renamed them for fruits.

Who wouldn’t be inspired by that?

high res MIR copy

Do you know a surprising or fun fact about your town? And if you are a writer, have you ever felt compelled to write about it? Remember, Triss is giving away a copy of either the new book or the first book in the series to one commenter!

Triss Stein grew up in northernmost NY state but has spent most of her adult life in Brooklyn. This gives her a useful double perspective for writing mysteries about the neighborhoods of her constantly changing adopted home. In Brooklyn Wars, her heroine Erica Donato witnesses a murder at the famous Brooklyn Navy Yard and finds herself drawn deep into both old and current conflicts.

 

By the Sea, by the Beautiful Sea

by Barb, at the Jersey shore

What is it about the connection between human beings and bodies of water? Why do so many of us find a quality of peace and relaxation when staring at the ocean, or a favorite lake, that we find nowhere else? What is it about a rushing trout stream on a spring day that carries our troubles away with it? Is it because we’ve depended on the water for millennia for food, transport, cooling on hot days? Is it because our bodies are 60% water and we need it to live? Is it because we came from the oceans originally and that memory is somewhere buried deep in our primitive brains?

Our personal histories play into it, too. When I was growing up, both sets of my grandparents had places near the ocean, my mother’s parents in Sea Girt, New Jersey, and my father’s parents in Water Mill, Long Island.

My grandmother Ross would pick my brother and me up on the last day of school every year, and drive us out to the end of Long Island. We knew all the landmarks along the way, the strawberry fields, the windmills, the building shaped like a giant duck that was a market that sold, well, duck, what else? My grandmother’s father would visit her for the same two weeks, so I grew up knowing my great-grandfather well. His hobby was painting tiles and he would let my brother and I paint them, too and then we would take them to be fired. My grandparents belonged to a beach club on Flying Point Road and a part of every day was spent there. Then we’d stop at a friend’s pool on the way home, diving for pennies my grandmother threw in the deep end. Whatever we retrieved we kept to spend at the Penny Candy Store on the way home. I can still taste the Squirrel Nut Zippers.

Later in the summer, my mother would deliver us for two weeks with her parents in Sea Girt. The Jersey shore was a different sort of place, more organized and built up in those days, with a boardwalk. In the mornings my grandmother did household chores while my brother and I agitated for the beach. If the day was overcast she would say, “Go out on the lawn and look up. If you see enough blue to make a Dutchman’s pants, we’ll go.” I’ve never heard the expression since, and I wonder if it is a New Jersey thing, vaguely insulting to the original settlers? My grandmother shared a rental umbrella and two lounge chairs with her friend, Rose Bigley, which would be set up by lifeguards with white zinc oxide on their noses while we waited. Rose and my grandmother would sit in the chairs and talk of grown-up things while my brother and I played in the sand and the ocean.

My parents started the tradition of renting a house for a week in Stone Harbor. It was their way of corralling a family that was spread out, of making sure the cousins grew up together. We evolved our traditions, of mini-golf and cut-throat Scrabble games, and, of course, daily trips to the beach, often two a day. For years a trip to Cape May kicked off my annual Christmas shopping. We did it for a decade and then the kids grew up, had summer jobs and the tradition ended.

When my mother died, my sister-in-law had only one request. “I want to go back to the beach.” And so we have, indoctrinating new in-laws and a new generation of grandchildren along the way.

From this experience, maybe, decades from now, when my granddaughter looks at the ocean, she’ll feel at peace. Or maybe that’s already inside her.

Readers: Do you have a location by a body of water that’s special to you?

Save

Save

Save