The Easter Table: in my Sanctuary Point Whodunit Series

Let’s take a time-travel trip back to the 1940s to the fictitious village in my historical whodunit novel series: Sanctuary Point. The village is located on the south shore of Long Island. The original setters of Long Island were the Dutch, some German and French settled later, followed by the English, then the Irish and the Scots. Last came the great migrations from eastern and southern Europe after the two world wars.

Mrs. Brogna (heroine Erica Brogna’s mother in BURNING HEARTS) and Mrs. Lenart (heroine Katrina Lenart’s mother in GOODBYE NOEL) are best of friends and neither is a novice in the kitchen. They both hail from Czechoslovakia and both are ardent Christians who are faithful to their little church in Sanctuary Point. Mrs. Lenart plays the piano during worship.

Czech Wooden Easter egg. The design is inlaid.

Czech Wooden Easter egg. The design is inlaid.

 

The Czechs call the Wednesday before Easter Ugly Wednesday because traditionally it is the day Judas betrayed Jesus. In past generations, all Easter baking had to be done by the Tuesday of Easter week. Intense house cleaning begins on Wednesday which is a hold over from the ritual cleaning of Passover. Easter eggs are decorated on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Holy Thursday or Green Thursday to the Czechs and Moravians is the day Jesus ate the Last Supper with His disciples. This is a strict fast day when only vegetables can be eaten.

Good Friday in Czech traditions is the most solemn day on the calendar. In Czechoslovakia before the communist takeover, it was a day of prayer and fasting. The Czech Good Friday meal would be meatless, as it is in most European countries.

Easter Saturday is known as White Saturday in Czech tradition. It is the day new Christians are baptized in white robes.

As it is in the entire Christendom, Easter is the most important and the most triumphant feast day in the church Czech calendar. In the early days, red was the only color used to dye and decorate Czech Easter eggs, symbolizing the blood of Jesus. On Easter Sunday, Czech people greet each other by saying, “Christ is risen.” The response would be, “Indeed He is risen.” The Czech Easter table holds whatever the family likes best and features roast lamb, pork, or duck, and for those who hunt, roast rabbit. Many tables display a variety of smoked meats and sausage. Traditionally vegetables include braised red cabbage. There would be salads, hard boiled eggs, Easter breads and cakes with a cross cut into them. And of course strudel.

Roast Leg of LambIn PERILOUS SHADOWS, heroine and pioneer newswoman Kiera Devane wouldn’t know her way around a kitchen if her life depended on it. So, hero and ace radio broadcaster, Argus Nye, would most likely take her to the fabled Garden City Hotel for Easter dinner. In the novel, this is where he proposed to her. A 1940s restaurant Easter meal might consist of: a champagne or sparking cider toast, a crudite dish of celery stalks and carrot slices, oysters on the half-shell,  roast leg of lamb with roasted potatoes, buttered asparagus, tossed green salad, and praline sponge cake.

Lucinda Walsh, heroine in DARKEST HOUR, and her grandparents Nellie and Daniel Walsh, consider, as all Irish do, Easter to be the most important day in the Christian calendar. In their household, preparation for Easter starts at the beginning of Lent. The house has to be thoroughly cleaned. Many Irish refrain from eating any red meat for the entire forty days of Lent. This does not include Sundays, which are a feast day. They also refrain from indulging in a personal indulgence, such as alcohol, smoking, a favorite food, and the like. The Irish see the forty days of Lent as a time of self discipline.

The Irish take Good Friday very seriously. If they are in good health, many will fast for the entire day. Or at the very least will eat only a bite or two and take only a few sips of water. They remain in prayer from noon until three in the afternoon, the time Jesus hung on the cross.

The Eve of Holy Saturday is a vigil time for the Irish. A time of personal prayer and reflection.

Step Shoes

 

In Irish households, Easter is a time to break out and celebrate. This is the day to be decked out in new clothes. Each family has a feast of roast lamb or mutton, potatoes, stuffing,  and leeks, and the like. Easter eggs and chocolate eggs are given to children. This is a time for Irish step dancing.

 


Celebrate National Library Week ~ April 13-19

Library, PublicI recall visiting the public library quite a bit with my dad, and sometimes also with my mom. My dad was an English teacher, the school debate coach, and he also directed the senior play. He loved libraries, did a lot of research in them, and I loved to tag along.

 

This is National Library Week (April 13th – 19th) a time when we recognize the huge contribution libraries have made to the American culture.

Links:

American Library Association (ALA): http://www.ala.org/conferencesevents/celebrationweeks/natlibraryweek

ALA National Library Week Fact Sheet: http://www.ala.org/news/mediapresscenter/factsheets/nationallibraryweek

***Leave a comment about your fav experience(s) in a library. :)

 


Springtime Brings To My Mind ~ Beauty Without Cruelty

My big baby Roscoe

My big baby Roscoe

As we go into spring, I begin focusing on birds chirping away and I think of little bunnies frolicking merrily in the field. I think of puppies and kittens about to be born.

One of the distinguishing features in many of my novels is the presence of beloved pets. GOODBYE NOEL has Blanka, PERILOUS SHADOWS has Aggie. My new whodunit, HARMFUL INTENT, to come out at the end of the month, has Henry and Rascal.

Titania, from a Shakespearean comedy

Titania, from a Shakespearean comedy

 

Before I ever seriously put words together in a scene intending them to be published, I was an animal rescuer. Not long after I got saved, I met a gal through church friends who ran a rescue organization. And I joined up with her to rescue dogs and cats in Brooklyn. I even had a mini-selter in my basement with a four-by four-by four-foot cage for a large breed dog or two smaller breed canines, and three large cat cages. Lillian’s organization rescued hundreds of animals and I personally rescued about fifty. I trapped them, even chased a few down alleys. That was twenty-five years ago. Most of them got adopted, but my husband and I wound up keeping the eccentric ones. That’s code for unsocial and unadoptable. After I got out of rescuing, people would show up on my stoop with an animals they could not get adopted begging me to take the garrulous beast. With time, patience, and love they all turned into more than pets, family members. The photos in this article are the animals that wound up living with us in our home over the years . Some have passed, but most are still with us.

Trouble. Can you guess how he got his name?

Trouble. Can you guess how he got his name?

 

I tell you all this to say, that it saddens me to know an issue I thought had been fought and won has lost serious ground. That is animal testing by cosmetics, fragrance, and soap companies, quite a few designer labels. Many of the prominent companies that touted how enlightened they were and loudly proclaimed they were not testing on animals, seem to no longer be enlightened and compassionate. You see, China requires testing on animals if the product is to be sold withing its borders. These companies see huge profits via millions of sales in China and our little furry friends have lost out. Even though everyone knows it is NOT NECESSARY to test on animals.

Mimzie, a feral cat with asthma I trapped who cared so lovingly for her kittens. She and her babies have been with us for four years.

Mimzie, a feral cat with asthma I trapped who cared so lovingly for her kittens. She and her babies have been with us for four years.

 

I won’t go into any of the gory details of animals testing. Trust me they are horrific. I don’t know how people can go into work every day in these demonic places.

Below are links where you can find products that are not tested on animals. A few of the easily obtained and/or major brands are: Abercrombe & Fitch,  Aubrey Organics, Aveda, Bath and Body Works, The Body Shop, Bon Ami, Bonne Bell, Burts Bees, Calgon, Caswell-Massey, Christine Valmy, Conair, Crabtree & Evelyn, Disney Fairies, Disney Princess, Dr. Bronner’s, Freeman’s, Georgette Klinger, Hello Kitty, Henri Bendel, Jessica McClintock, Kirk’s Natural Products, Kiss My Face, Lander, Liz Claiborne, Martha Stewart Clean, Martha Stewart Pets, Mary Kay, Merle Norman, Milani, Mitchum Deodorant, Nordstrom Cosmetics, Nu Skin, Paul Mitchell, Physicians Formula, Perscriptives, Queene Helene, Stanley Home Products, Strawberry Shortcake, Tom’s of Maine, Tussy, Weleda, Wet ‘n Wild.

Here are links for more companies….complete listings.

http://www.globalanimal.org/2010/12/06/companies-that-dont-test-on-animals-resource/

http://www.leapingbunny.org/shopsearch.php

This one has a complete listing you can go through by topic: makeup, hair, nails, body, skin. It even has cruelty free drug store finds. Go through the site carefully. It’s a fun site: http://www.mybeautybunny.com/

Meadow taking a winter's nap.

Meadow taking a winter’s nap.

 

 


Interview with Jay Mims on Christian Authors Writing in the General Market

The Gray Ghost InnI’ve been seeing a lot of discussion about Christian authors hoping to cross over into the general market…and also about Christians who are writing exclusively in the general market. So, naturally, I’m thrilled to have Jay Mims here today, as he’s a Christian who has been writing in the general market arena for quite a while. He’s the author of the cozy mystery, THE GRAY GHOST INN, which has been said to be shades of Agatha Christie without the solemnity. It also appears that Jay is a Dr. Who nut.

Nike: I understand that THE GRAY GHOST INN is not Christian fiction, yet you bring your Christian values to the story. Would it be fair to say there’s an underlying Christian sensibility at work?

Jay: I think it’s hard for me to write anything without my own personal values and sensibilities influencing the work. I’m blessed to have a wide variety of readership, including both my Mama and Grandma, and I’ve always had to pause and go “Are they going to enjoy reading this?” I think it’s this sensibility that has allowed me to develop my own personal writing style. It’s best described as family friendly, with sprinklings of snark and sarcasm, while at the same time tackling often very adult issues such as love, marriage and relationships.

 

Nike: I tend to use a lot of humor in my own writing and most often my quirky characters are Christians. My understanding is this THE GRAY GHOST INN gets a bit zany and is quite funny. Tell us about that. Would I be correct in thinking your characters do not necessarily have a religious or faith persuasion?

Jay: I would definitely warn readers, this is not a religious or “Christian fiction” book. And I should say, when I think “Christian fiction”, I think of the Amish Romance books written by Beverly Lewis. Which, I have a friend who LOVES those books, and I would also like to point out, she enjoys my books.  So, if you enjoy the work of Beverly Lewis, you MIGHT enjoy my books. My characters are human, flawed, and quite flirty. Dan Landis, the lead and a lovable P.I. tends to run off at the mouth and oozes personal charm. He also has a very cynical worldview, which I’m happy to report, changes over time thanks to the more positive influence of his partner Abbey. I think that would be the biggest appeal, and the closest connection for Christian readers, the developing relationship between Dan and Abbey. Abbey is actually a deeply spiritual character, and is also, in my opinion, the heart of the books. Abbey’s a PK, highly intelligent, and often a klutz. She doesn’t have Dan’s pop culture knowledge, but she also provides a very bright light into his life.

 

Nike: I’d like to know a bit about the relationship your PI Dan Landis has with his new partner? It seems she has a tendency to get him into trouble.

Jay: That’s a great question! Dan and Abbey have a fantastic relationship, and both play well off each other in terms of getting into trouble. I always consider Dan to be a trouble-magnet: In Five Santas, Dan keeps stumbling across bodies dressed in Santa Claus outfits, in Cult of Koo Kway he finds a body in his kitchen, and in Gray Ghost Inn Dan goes on vacation and behold, there’s a body in the library! At the same time, Abbey is just as much a trouble-magnet. But, most of her trouble comes from her tendency to take people at face value, her earnest and loving nature, and a general air of kindness. For me, that’s Abbey’s most important value as a character, because she brings the light of hope to Dan’s life. It’s always been my philosophy that, even in a murder mystery, readers still want hope.

 
Nike: The norm as far as romance, sensuality and language is very different in the general market. How do you handle that in your cozy novel?

Jay: My books do tend to have elements of love and romance in them, in as much as all life has subtext of love, romance and complex relationships. I have strived to make the friendship and relationship between Dan and Abbey to grow organically, to develop slowly, and to build things between them over several books instead of smashing them together. It’s important for readers to understand: These books are very G/PG. Murders take place exclusively off-screen, there is no nudity or sex, and almost no language. I won’t say there is never any profanity ever, because one of the most memorable conversations with my Mama happened as a result of The Five Santas. She called me up and said “I like the book, but I don’t appreciate you using foul language.” I paused and went “What language?” She replied, “You used the word bast***.” So, if you are offended by that word, you might not enjoy my books. Now, let me make something clear when it comes to sensuality. Dan is a very flirty individual, and that shows in his interactions with multiple characters. There is a very electric undercurrent of sensuality running between Dan and his friends, however, it doesn’t extend beyond the barest of innuendo. So, if you can watch a sitcom such as “Big Bang Theory” or even “Three’s Company”, then you’d definitely enjoy my books.

 

Dr. Who, Malek

Nike: Last but not least, would you call yourself a Dr. Who fanatic? And tell us about your roommate Steve, the passive-aggressive Dalek. Oh, and what’s a Dalek?

Jay: I absolutely love Doctor Who. I actually blogged (http://themimsey.blogspot.com/2014/03/trust-me-im-doctor-five-lessons-i.html) one time about how much influence that show has had on my life personally, but let me summarize for your readers: Doctor Who is a show about an alien, The Doctor, who believes that every problem has a solution and violence is never the answer. He travels through time and space in his blue phone box, The TARDIS, and always tries to help people. As Craig Ferguson (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9P4SxtphJ4) sang, it’s a show about how intellect and romance will always triumph over brute force and cynicism. He’s a force for good, and if you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend catching an episode or two. But be warned, just like potato chips, that thing is addictive. Daleks are the arch-nemesis of The Doctor. They’re a species that became so twisted and filled with hate that they wrapped themselves in a machine body and refuse to see the light of day. Their entire goal in life is to exterminate all life. EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE! They also make fantastic relaxation instructors: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJSQFzw1pEE
Steve, the passive-aggressive Dalek came from a running gag between myself and my friends, about the concept of “What if you had a Dalek for a roommate?” And inevitably, it had to be a passive-aggressive roommate, who would leave you notes like “YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN THE MILK! AGAIN!” or “THERE IS NO TOILET PAPER IN THIS HOUSE! THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!” Again, if you have never heard them talk, you have to first listen to how a Dalek speaks for those sentences to have their desired effect. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bua6g79Pf5o

Jay Mims

 

It’s obvious that Jay Mims is a very interesting fellow.

 

Purchase Links for THE GRAY GHOST INN:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1oH7jeM

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/Oscdvg

Smashwords: http://bit.ly/1emdg77

 


Read an Excerpt from HARMFUL INTENT ~ releasing this spring

I took this photo while I was doing research for a novel that is a bit of a departure from the 1940s historical mysteries I’ve been writing. I have a contemporary whodunit coming out this spring. HARMFUL INTENT is a detective story with realistic police procedure and tons of humor. There are more than enough quirky characters in this story. The conversations swirling around this stable prompted me to write the excerpt below.

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HARMFUL INTENT, Chapter 22, Scene 3

Buffalo Gap
Day Twelve, Late Morning
Deputy Sergeant Dawson Hughes

I waved Patti down, got a check, and paid with a credit card. After one last sip of coffee, I grinned at Ronnie over my cup. “It might interest you to know I’ve got somethin’ up my sleeve this mornin’. Today happens to be the day of the Buffalo Gap Cross-Country Trail Competition. It’s sort of an endurance test for horse and rider. If we hurry we’ll see a few of them cross the finish line.”

She grinned. “Wouldn’t want to miss this.”

I ushered her out and guided her toward my Ram. “Why don’t you leave that baby buggy here and ride with me, then I’ll bring you back later?”

“That would work.”

I drove down side streets, just beyond the edge of the village, and found parking in a field turned into a makeshift lot for the event. Then we walked an eighth of a mile down a dusty road to the Bar None Stable, a low whitewashed rectangular structure with a huge red and white sliding door in front. It was the starting and finish line for this competition.

Horse trailers pulled by SUVs and pickups dotted the parking area in front as well as the small knoll sloping down to paddocks where several horses grazed.

Desmond LeBlanc greeted us, looking every bit the surfer dude. Matthew McConaughey had nothing on him. LeBlanc’s baritone carried on the breeze. Todd and I went way back to Iraq with the man. Fifty something, but didn’t look a day over forty-five. After a distinguished military career, he grew out his dirty blond hair and spent some time in Hollywood as a stunt double, then transplanted to Texas and opened the stable.

He planted a hand on his hip. “Look who’s deemed to grace us and brought a fine young lady with him. You know something, Hughes, she’s way outta your league.” He slapped me on the back while a wicked grin ate his unlined face.

The thought struck me he might’ve gone under the knife when he was in tinsel town. Might’ve tinted his hair too. Not a speck of gray.

I made introductions. “Ronnie, when Todd and I first got over to Iraq, we had to take crap from this guy. He was a sergeant without mercy and hasn’t let up since.”

LeBlanc kicked a rock in the parking lot with the toe of his dusty boot. “Well, it’s been awhile since Iraq.”

I nodded. “Who won today?”

LeBlanc chuckled. “You know him pretty good too. Pete, the rodeo clown.”

Ronnie broke out into a smile. “Pete won?”

“Yes, ma’am. A lotta ladies rode in the competition today. It came down to Pete and Janie West, the champion barrel racer. They were neck ‘n neck when they came outta those trees ‘n into the clearing. Pete showed her no quarter and crossed that finish line in a break-neck gallop. That was something to see, all right. I got it on video. Show you later, if you want.”

A silver haired lady entered the clearing, spurred her mount and rode across the finish line at a trot. LeBlanc excused himself and helped the woman dismount.

I nudged Ronnie. “Let’s go into the stable and see if we can find Pete. They’ll have a farrier in there takin’ care of any shoe or hoof problems. Some’ll be hosin’ off their horses out back.”

Riders who rented stalls, carried pitchforks laden with fresh hay for their horses to nibble.

As we continued walking toward the back, we heard LeBlanc call out, “The last rider has crossed the line.”

A cowboy, with burnished tones in his brown hair, darted into the stable, took his Stetson off, and bowed as a woman rider entered. “Ava Chandler congratulations on finishin’ third from the bottom. ‘Course my wife finished right after you and right before that girl who fell off and her horse run away.” He slapped his hat on his thigh and cackled.

I wheeled around and Ronnie pivoted with me.

Ava Chandler dismounted an outstanding Arabian mare. “Gus, I suppose that passes for humor in your book?”

Gus balanced his hat on the back of his head and splayed both palms out, facing the Chandler woman. “Now, there were no insult intended.”

She stared him down. “None taken.” It seemed she hardly moved her lips.

The man’s shoulders slumped at her rebuke. He rocked from boot-to-boot as he made his way out of the stable.

“Deputy Hughes, are you followin’ me? That would be a violation of my rights and my husband won’t like that.” Her glare had not softened.

I approached her, Ronnie at my side. “Mrs. Chandler, good day. We came to see what Desmond LeBlanc had goin’ on here today. Had no idea you were competin’. This is a public place. There’s no expectation of privacy.”

Her auburn hair sailed over her shoulder as she spun on her heel and stormed away, pulling her horse by the reins, none too gentle on the mare’s mouth.

I leaned over and whispered to Ronnie. “She’s just this side of a loose cannon. That woman bears watchin’. Winslow Chandler isn’t the type to make too many mistakes, but his lovely wife might make a few. Would be nice if we had eyes and ears there to catch her when she does.”

Top Edge RibbonAt his time I’m enthusiastically awaiting my cover. The talented Ellen Sallas (Ellen C. Maze) is presently working on it.  She’s a very talented gal.


BROKEN ALLEGIANCE by Mark Young ~ nobody gets out alive from a gang

Broken AllegianceAn accident that killed his son, shattered Detective Tom Kagan’s life. The offending driver, a gang-banger, ran from the scene and was never brought to justice. Now back from a temporary assignment with the FBI, he’s once again hunting down gang members in Santa Rosa, CA.

The author pulled me into the emotional turmoil that is Tom Kagan’s life. Although he deeply loves his wife Sara, since the accident, he has shut down all emotion and is often remote from her. We see Tom with all his warts. He drinks too much and is also a first class cheap skate who begrudges tips he gives to waitresses.

Having been called to the murder crime scene of Paco, a high ranking, seemingly untouchable, “all good” member of the Nuestra Familia (NF) street gang, he knows this could become a no holds barred fight within the gang with innocent people getting hurt along the way. What he doesn’t know is a gang leader named Ghost is calling the shots from his cell within Pelican Bay State Prison, CA.

Kagan has a history with the Hispanic gangs since the accident that killed his son — a bad one. His sergeant thinks he’s a loose cannon who should be retired back to patrol, but the chief wants Tom in gangs. The detective has been receiving photographs of himself, his wife, and his partner’s wife with the message: we’re watching you. His partner, grounded in the spirituality of his Christian religion, is a sharp contrast from Tom’s depression and rage. Kagan keeps knowledge of this surveillance from his supervisors out of fear he will be removed from working on gangs, which is where he gets intelligence with which to protect his wife.

When Kagan and Hector Garcia, a gang expert with the Special Services Unit (SSU), visit Ghost in Pelican Bay, the gang-banger taunts Tom. He says he was the one driving the car that killed Tom’s young son, years ago. Agent Garcia has to hold Tom back. Ghost screams, “You’re a dead man.”

After an assault on Ghost in the prison, he’s transferred from Pelican Bay to a community hospital from which he escapes. Now the gang-banger is hunting Tom Kagan and his partner Detective Bill Stevenson. There is an emotionally wrenching scene where Tom and his wife go to his partner’s home for dinner, unaware that Ghost lurks outside watching the house. Bill reads his young son a story and then he and Tom listens as the boy says his prayers before bed. They have no clue there is evil lurking outside.

It is obvious the author has personal, career experience in law enforcement with gangs. He is totally successful in getting across how senseless gang violence is, that nobody gets out alive from a gang. Regardless of the demand for loyalty by the gang, there is no loyalty within. Eventually every gang member is killed by a rival gang, or by a stronger member of his own gang who seeks power. This novel is well written and readers who are thrilled by a good detective novel will love this one’s authenticity.

Amazon/Kindle. http://amzn.to/1keJgBd


The Glamorous Digs of an NYPD Precinct Detective

We all see the pristine, spacious offices and shiny cubicles of police detectives on television. So, I was somewhat shocked to see my where the detectives were quartered at my local police precinct.

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I’m sure I must’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere.

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Actually, this seems to be it.

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Yes, indeed, this is it. Right up there it says, “DETECTIVES.”

Actually, I’m impressed with the way they’ve handled shabby-chic to perfection.

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What impeccable interior decorating skills. I can only conclude that these aging file cabinets are here solely for their “vintage effect.”

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Taking a closer look, I see this is the door through which detectives go for “roll call.” Oh, my, this doesn’t look anything like the duty rooms I’ve seen on television. Clearly the interior decorator who designed this precinct was going for another look. That’s got to be it.