Tag: Gethsemane Brown

Gethsemane Brown

Oh, the Places You'll Go

Warning: These photos of the places that inspire my fellow Miss Demeanors will cause longing and dreaming (and, we hope, a little fear about the darkness lurking beneath all that beauty). The only remedy is to open up a book. Tracee: First off, I start with Switzerland! Everything about it is special. Kidding aside, when I develop my story I think about places in Switzerland that are special – meaning there is an element of unique to that place. A castle on the shore of Lac Leman? An elite boarding school set in a chalet? The world’s leading watch show? The task is to share these with readers without too much description. What is the essence of the place? Perhaps the people who are there (their behavior, clothing, actions); the smell (fresh air, smell of cows, chocolate); the architecture (new concrete, historic stone). I find myself diving in and then trimming the description, and trimming. People need enough to understand the atmosphere but not build the building. Paula: I fell in love with Vermont many years ago, and so I set A Borrowing of Bones there simply because Iwanted to visit this wonderful place in my mind as often as I could. The research trips where I get to go there in body as well as mind and spirit are a bonus. I put so much pro-Vermont content in the book–food and drink and wildlife and more–that my editor finally said to me, “Does everything in Vermont have to be the best?” Photo Credit: William Alexander  Michele: When I try to describe the lush natural beauty of St. John in the US Virgin Islands to people, I tell them if you picked up the state of Vermont in the summer and plopped it into the Caribbean, you’d have St. John. Culturally rich with history, music, art, and literature, the island is blessed with people who know how to live in contradiction. Inundated with tourists, yet juxtaposed in the kind of isolation unique to an island, the people of St. John are its essence. People who choose to live surrounded by water are by definition different. And after Irma and Maria blew through St. John with 286 mph winds, it is the people who are nurturing the island back after near devastation. The photo I am sharing is “my writing spot” under a tree at Hawksnest Beach. The tree no longer stands, but the water is still sparkling turquoise and warm. And I am #stillwriting. Cate: I tend to like contrasts in my settings: a claustrophobic cruise ship cabin surrounded by endless ocean, a crowded beach house beside a vast sea. I use water as a metaphor for escape in a lot of my work and the characters’ inability to enter it as a way of highlighting their trapped situations. There are a lot of moats in my stories. I also like the duality of water, we need it to live and too much of it can kill us. Susan: My Maggie Dove mysteries are set in a small village in the Hudson Valley, partly because I live in a small village in the Hudson Valley, but mainly because I think village life lends itself so perfectly to mystery writing. It’s difficult to be anonymous in a village. People know what you’re up to. Why is your Subaru parked in front of Mr. Andrew’s house? Are you paying a visit? Having an affair? Or killing him? People trust each other, but they’re also a little suspicious, especially of newcomers who’ve only lived here 30 years. I’m attaching a picture of our train station, which looks mysterious to me!   Alexia: The Gethsemane Brown mysteries are set in a small village that only exists in my head and on the page. I don’t have an answer for “Why Ireland?” other than, “Because Ireland.” (Because it’s green and beautiful and historic and modern and mythical and mysterious and friendly and familiar and exotic all at the same time.) “Why a village?” is easier. Because crime is expected in inner cities and, to a lesser extent, economically depressed rural areas. But villages and small towns and suburbs are viewed as safe, Norman Rockwellian, havens. Nothing bad is ever supposed to happen there. People flee to these bubbles to escape crime. But beneath their sedate, non-threatening veneers, ugliness and dysfunction and intolerance and evil lurk, waiting to strike and rock everyone’s seemingly happy, safe little world. I (perversely) love the idea of giving people who think they have nothing to worry about something to worry about. I also like the idea of showing the suspicion and mistrust and intolerance that hide beneath the polite veneer of small towns/villages. A result of growing up reading Miss Marple mysteries I guess. I try to communicate the danger underlying the calm surface by painting my village as a beautiful, charming, picture-postcard kind of place, then dropping a murder or five in the midst of it. Robin: What isn’t special about San Francisco? 
I love boats. They’re featured in the book out on submission right now and in a short story I’ve just submitted for my local SinC chapter’s anthology. Boats can be tranquil (the gentle roll of golden waves at sunset) or ominous (the setting sun cast shadows like spilled ink across the murky waters). They can be claustrophobic, like Cate said, or they can express freedom. Personally, I just think they’re a fun way to see the City from a unique perspective. It never gets old to me. I have a friend with a historic yacht and every time I go out I see or experience something new. This photo is from one of our trips just before the “dancing lights” came on at the Bay Bridge.

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Killing in C Sharp, a Gethsemane Brown mystery

  KILLING IN C SHARP She saved Carraigfaire—but can she save her friends? Gethsemane Brown fought off an attack by a sleazy hotel developer who wanted to turn her Irish cottage into a tourist trap. Now she must face a vengeful ghost determined to exact revenge for her murder centuries ago. This ghost’s wrath spares no one—not Gethsemane’s students, Inspector Niall O’Reilly, fellow teacher Frankie Grennan, or a group of ghost hunters descended on Dunmullach to capture proof ghosts exist. Proof Gethsemane has to quash to keep Eamon, her resident ghost and friend, from becoming an internet sensation. As if a spiteful specter wasn’t bad enough, a crooked music reviewer turns up dead in the opera house orchestra pit, a famous composer is arrested for the crime, and Gethsemane must team up with a notorious true-crime author to clear his name. If she doesn’t, friends will die, a ghost she cares about will never know peace, and she’ll star in a final act gruesome enough for any opera.       TRACEE: Alexia thanks for going us today. LAUNCH DAY for Killing in C Sharp!  ROBIN: First, since we’re celebrating, a toast! To Book 3! TRACEE: Does everyone have an “Alexia favorite”? I follow her on Instagram and know exactly what she likes. (Whiskey anyone?) SUSAN: I will also toast your success, and I’ll ask if you have a signature drink for this celebration. ALEXIA: No, but I should have. Thanks for the suggestion. TRACEE: Before we get too far “into our cups” – do people still know what this means? – any real book questions? ROBIN: I’ve been really curious, maybe because setting has been on my mind so much this week – why Ireland?ALEXIA: I love Ireland and all things Irish. (Hibernophile is a real word.) I needed a setting where my main character would be out of place and I needed a place where a ghost wouldn’t seem unusual. Ireland fit the bill. ALISON: I’m still looking forward to the launch of my first book. Does this feel different from the launch of your first two?ALEXIA: Launch day #3 is less nerve-wracking than the first two. Between my day job and working on book 4, March 6 snuck up on me. I also didn’t buy the amount of swag for book 3 that I bought for the first two books. Just pens this time, and bookmarks. No mugs and posters and stickers and t-shirts, and… TRACEE: Can you give us a peek into your creative process for Gethsemane Brown’s third adventure? (Is it possible you had a very bad experience with a music critic? Care to name names?)ALEXIA: No bad experiences with music critics (not that I’d admit it if there had been, I know better than that.) Since this is a series, I already had my characters. I decided on the murder first, who and why, then I chose a topic that interested me (a legend I’d heard about a princess being walled into a castle to save her kingdom–I always wondered what the princess thought about being sacrificed against her will. Why couldn’t she have her revenge?), then I chose music to tie everything together. TRACEE: As an aside, in India there is a legend about a man being walled up in a fort as part of a ritual sacrifice to safe the people from an invading army. Then I saw the marker and realized it wasn’t a ‘legend.’ The fort did stand, and the people were saved…. Still. Now I have to look into the revenge aspect. MICHELE: I’d love to know how you plans to age Gethsemane over the life of the series. In real time or pokey a la Kinsey Millhone?    ALEXIA: I think I’m going ageless, a la Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. TRACEE: What about the ghosts! Tell us more! Is there research involved?ALEXIA: Does watching Ghost Adventures count as research? I love ghost stories. M.R. James is one of my favorite authors and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is one of my favorite movies. I like the idea of the living continuing to interact with the dead (at least in fiction where I can control the outcome). TRACEE: How are you spending launch week?ALEXIA: Working at the day job. On launch night, I’m attending the first lecture in a series called “Drinking Through the Decades with North Shore Distillery,” on the history of cocktails sponsored by our local community center. Research with samples. CATE: We knew it. There will be a special cocktail after all! TRACEE: Congratulations Alexia, and enjoy launch week. Fans can find links to learn more about Alexia and the Gethsemane Brown series here.    Killing in C Sharp available at:Amazon: amzn.to/2meis9YBarnes: bit.ly/2CJR8qgiTunes: apple.co/2CP33TTKobo: bit.ly/2CU9sRa Alexia Gordon BIO:A writer since childhood, I put literary endeavors on hold to finish medical school and Family Medicine residency training. Medical career established, I returned to writing fiction. I completed SMU’s Writer’s Path program in Dallas, Texas. Henery Press published my first novel, Murder in G Major, book one of the Gethsemane Brown mysteries, in September 2016. Book two, Death in D Minor, released July 11, 2017. Book three, Killing in C Sharp, comes out March 6, 2018. Murder in G Major won the Lefty Award for Best Debut Novel, was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best New Novel, and was selected one of Suspense Magazine’s Best Debuts. I listen to classical music, drink whiskey, and blog at www.missdemeanors.com, voted one of Writers’ Digest magazine’s 101 best websites for writers, and http://femmesfatales.typepad.com/my_weblog/              

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Stormy Weather

 I’m scheduled to host a book signing today (Thursday) to promote my second novel, Death in D Minor. I’ve booked a venue and a caterer, I’ve ordered pastries from the local bakery, I have swag and gift bags. And I have my fingers crossed I don’t get washed out. Horrid, extreme weather has hit my area with the force of a crashing meteor. Flooding, power outages, early business closures. A sharknado spinning by wouldn’t surprise me. The dark clouds that rolled across yesterday’s morning sky made 9 a.m. look like 9 p.m. Traffic was more terrifying than a Doré engraving. The weather people predict more of the same for today. Please let them be as wrong as they are when they predict sun on my days off. Yesterday’s bad weather did get me thinking about weather in literature. Weather, usually extreme, often sets the scene and creates an atmosphere without which the story wouldn’t be the same. Would The Shining be as terrifying on a warm spring day? Would Cat on a Hot Tin Roof feel as sultry and on-edge in the dead of winter? Can you imagine Usher’s house falling at noon in the summer sun? Moving beyond “a dark and stormy night,” weather often plays a more pivotal plot role than atmospheric backdrop. A drought sets The Grapes of Wrath in motion. A tempest does the same for The Tempest. Dorothy needed a tornado to get her to Oz. Robinson Crusoe needed a storm to shipwreck him. Arctic cold saves the world from the Blob. Weather is sine qua non in Gothic fiction. It mirrors characters’ feelings, foreshadows events, and highlights action. Weather can even be a character. The titular tornado in Twister proves a formidable foe. What are some of your favorite works of mystery fiction where weather serves as a plot device?And, if you’re in the Lake Forest, IL area, hope for decent weather and stop by LifeWorking Coworking, 717 Forest Ave, for a book signing (and food!) between 5:30 and 7:30 pm

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Party at the Deer Path Inn

 Yesterday was book launch day or, as I prefer to call it, book birthday for Death in D Minor, the second book in the Gethsemane Brown series. Thank you to my fellow Missdemeanors for hosting a blog party. I was in meetings all day at my, to borrow a phrase, daytime situation so I appreciate their help making the day a success.
After work, I celebrated my new novel’s release at one of my favorite places, the Deer Path Inn. This historic inn opened in its current location in 1929. Architect William C. Jones of Holabird and Root fashioned it after a Tudor manor house in Chiddingstone, Kent, England so it looks as if it came straight out of an Agatha Christie mystery. When I arrived at the inn, after a hearty “Welcome back” from several staff members (yes, I visit a lot), I headed for the White Hart Pub. I started with a new (to me) cocktail called The Chancellor, a slightly sweet, completely delicious concoction of Balvenie 12yr scotch, 10yr tawny port, and campano vermouth. I followed up with the charcuterie (a French word that, a friend explains, translates to “big ole pile of cured meat”) tray and topped the evening off with coffee and chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream. Then I went home and slept until around 1 a.m. when lightning flashed so close it illuminated my bedroom and thunder boomed loudly enough to shake the house. I interpreted these as a celestial fireworks show celebrating my new book instead of harbingers of the power-outing, stoplight-frying, flood-inducing storm that’s created a Chicagoland traffic nightmare this morning.

What places do you frequent that transport you into your favorite mystery? 

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Murder In D Minor is Born!

   We’re celebrating the book birthday of Alexia Gordon’s “Death in D Minor” today. The Miss Demeanors love a party, especially a book birthday party for one our own. We asked Alexia to share a little about the process of transforming Death in D Minor from an embryo to a beautiful baby. Here’s what the Birthday Girl had to say. Miss Demeanors (“MD”): So what the new book about, Alexia? Alexia:   In Death in D Minor, Gethsemane has to clear her brother-in-law of antiques theft charges, herself of murder charges, bring Eamon back from wherever he’s got to, and save Carraigfaire from a greedy hotel developer, all while dodging a killer and outwitting a law enforcement agent who may not be what she seems. And she has to do it all by Epiphany. Luckily, the ghost of a dashing 18th century sea captain shows up to help her. (No, writing back cover copy is not my forte.) MD: Was writing your second book as painful for you as many authors describe?  Alexia: Book two was excruciating. If self-doubt was a bus, I’d be road kill. I was afraid to write for fear I’d “violate canon”. Yeah, I was actually afraid to play in the world I’d created lest I mess things up and disappoint readers. How’s that for neurotic? MD: What inspired the story for Murder in D Minor? Alexia: Death in D Minor was inspired by My personal interests. Needlework, particularly embroidery, is a hobby. Colonial-era history and art crime are fields that interest me. I decided to work my interests into the story because it’s always more fun to write about what interests you. Especially when you’re in the midst of an imposter syndrome-induced nervous breakdown and have deadlines looming. Plus, I had an excuse to finagle a behind-the-scenes tour of Colonial Williamsburg.  MD: When you started your series did you know the plot or theme for the first and second one? Or did the second one come about organically? Alexia:   I knew I had to the up certain loose ends from book one in book 2 and I knew which characters I had to carry over to book 2. But the actual plot for book 2 came about organically. I pulled some ideas from my mental Rolodex (How many people who read this will totally not get that reference?) –art crime, antique embroidery, Colonial history– and puzzled out a way to make them for together with the characters I already had. M.D.:    Gethsemane talked about her family in book one. Now, in book two, we see one of her family members. How did that family dynamic change writing her character? Could we see more family members in the future Alexia:   Actually including a family member in the story meant I had to imagine how Gethsemane would interact with someone who knew her history (and secret nickname) and who would interact with her differently from someone she’d recently met. We all (at least I do) speak about our absent family differently than we act in their presence. Yes, I plan to have more family members as characters in the future. MD: Does your protagonist Gethsemane ever annoy you? Alexia:  Gethsemane doesn’t annoy me. My challenge is not to let Gethsemane become my channel to express my annoyance with other people. My fatal flaw is not suffering fools lightly. It’s hard to keep that off the page. MD: Any questions for the Birthday Girl, please chime in. After we’re done partying, we’re off to buy a copy of Murder in D Minor.   

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It's only for research purposes

 My second novel, Death in D Minor, officially premieres tomorrow, July 11. I’ve been busy revising the third book in the series, A Killing in C Sharp, so I haven’t had time to freak out about release day for my sophomore effort. I resisted the urge to repeat my debut novel swag buying frenzy. With Murder in G Major, I put my book cover on everything—hats, t-shirts, posters, calendars, tote bags, mugs, pens, stickers—you get the idea. For Death in D Minor, I limited myself to pens, postcards, bottle opener key rings, and combination flashlight/laser pointers. I’ve scheduled a book signing on July 13, my first official book signing not associated with a conference panel. Stop by if you’re anywhere near Lake Forest, IL. I’ve also been doing research for future novels. When you write about ghosts, research consists of streaming episodes of Ghost Adventures on Sling TV, listening to paranormal podcasts on Stitcher, and—my favorite—listening to M. R. James’s ghost stories on Audible. Montague Rhodes James, a respected medievalist scholar, college provost (King’s College, Cambridge and Eton), and museum director, wrote the most disturbing ghost story I’ve ever read—”Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad.” The. Most. Disturbing. Ever. I had issues with bed sheets for months after I first read it. (No spoilers in this blog. You’ll have to read the story to see what I mean.) James possessed a gift for turning the disarmingly bucolic English country village into the scene of your darkest nightmare. Think Jane Austen tossed with Stephen King, seasoned with a dash of razor-edged satire on the English academic establishment. And a sprinkling of golf jokes. James pokes fun of golfers a lot. His biography attracted me to his ghost stories as much as his writing style. I’m looking at a photo of the man as I write this. He looks like you’d expect an antiquarian scholar/college administrator to look: conservative haircut, receding hair line, wire-rimmed glasses, appropriately stern look. The son of Anglican clergy and a naval officer’s daughter, he had what sounds like a well-adjusted childhood, an excellent education, and a satisfactory career. He never married, spent most of his adult life in an academic setting, and won an Order of Merit. No reports of family dysfunction, childhood traumas, scandals, nervous breakdowns, or any of the other drama so often associated with authors of dark fiction. The mind that translated the Apocrypha and, according to Wikipedia, wrote a Latin hagiography of Aethelbert II of East Anglia also penned dozens of tales featuring cursed objects, demonic creatures, and horrible deaths. The normalcy of the man who wrote such paranormal tales makes the stories seem all the creepier. Still waters run deep.  The best thing about James’s stories? He read them aloud as Christmas presents to friends and students. Christmas presents! No socks or puddings from Professor James. Oh no. How about a demonic painting found in an old book in a church library? Field glasses made from human bones? A killer ash tree?This aspect of his stories—their oral presentation—inspired me to take the advice given in the introduction to a volume of his collected works to experience the stories the way they were meant to be experienced and listen to someone read them. I started with You Tube where I found a surprising collection of audiobooks. Then I discovered Audible. With Audible, I could not only listen to James’s stories, I could listen to them read by Derek Jacobi and David Suchet. And never again look at the English countryside—or a sedate college don—the same. (Images public domain from Wikimedia Commons)

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