1 December 2023

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1 December

Included within is a free short story, a fun time at the Encinitas Holiday Fair, a book update, railways in Britain, and a Guilty Pleasure movie. Welcome to new subscribers!

Free short story

I’m offering the e-book for “Murder Steampunk Style” free to new newsletter subscribers. But that’s not fair since you already subscribe. Download it here but please don’t share the link. It’s not historical, but it’s fun, and has a guest star. 

Murder Steampunk Style cover

When obnoxious steampunk author Vernon Sledge is found dead at the 19th Annual Steampunk Convention in San Diego, it is up to high school teacher Emily Carter and her students to help un- ravel the mystery. Assisted by convention attendees in their neo-Victorian finery and at least one Sherlock Holmes, the team follows the clues from the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, the vendor tables, and author interviews to discover whodunnit. 

Selling books in costume

What happens when five historical fiction authors sell books at a holiday street fair in Encinitas? Well, things get interesting!

five authors dressed up

Anna Bushi, me, Mary Knight, Celeste Barclay, and Jolie Tunnell

We each dressed in the timeframe of one of our novels, and we looked fabulous! And although the day started drizzly, it ended up sunny and bright. (A little too sunny — I didn’t bring sunscreen and wished I had.) 


I look forward to doing more appearances in California beach towns, especially once Bummer at Luna Beach is released in April.  It’s revision time since I just received the manuscript from my brilliant editor. Cover reveal coming soon!

If you’re looking for a classic mystery, I just finished reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. I know, it’s a shame I haven’t read it before. No spoilers here, but it’s a classic because of who the murderer turns out to be. It’s a trick so famous that few authors have used it since. So I already knew whodunnit, but I didn’t know the story, and in this one Hercules Poirot is continually keeping things up his sleeve. Although that does get annoying, his questioning of suspects often seems to focus on the trivial, and you keep reading to figure out what he’s up to. 

In new books, I’m very much enjoying A Fire at the Exhibition. I met T. E. Kinsey at Bouchercon, and he’s as delightful as his work.  Although this is Book 10 in the Lady Hardcastle series and I’ve yet to read the others, it stands alone. Lady Hardcastle and her assistant/companion are friends despite the class difference (a motif that Kinsey told me he enjoys exploring). They solve mysteries together. In this case a valuable book and two artworks have gone missing, a fire set to clear the exhibit, then there’s a murder.

It’s funny that we both happened to have created titles that reference Mussorsky’s musical composition “Pictures at an Exhibition”, both of us deliberately (mine is Murder at an Exhibition).

Train travel in the U.K. 

I have to admit I was still jet-lagged at the Encinitas fair. This time my trip to England went further afield, including to Scotland.

When I first went to the UK, in the 80s, the railway was nationalized (it would be privatized in 1993). Most of the trains ran on time. The Beeching cuts of the 1960s were still a problem, of course — many of the smaller lines had been eliminated. Some of those have reopened to carry the much larger demand. But rail drivers have gone on strike repeatedly, as have other staff, and I wanted to see why.

Trains were cancelling all over the place. Trains were delayed because the crew couldn’t get there from another train, or there were landslips, or there was something on the line (a British woman I spoke with said dismissively, “it’s the old leaves-on-the-rails excuse”). I had splurged for a First Class Britrail Pass (the joys of being an elder stateswoman), but received only one hot meal and a few cups of tea despite many train rides. There clearly weren’t enough staff on the trains, workers were exhausted as they tried desperately to look fresh and helpful, and there were mechanical problems. 

But have I mentioned to views were incredible? If my train from Inverness to Edinburgh hadn’t cancelled, I never would have taken a roundabout route via Aberdeen and seen the east coast of Scotland.

coast of Scotland

So I am not complaining, except about the companies who are, as another Brit told me, buying routes and then removing them from service to make more money. Clearly no one is getting paid enough; they are currently seeking driver trainees for the Harry Potter train in Scotland because there aren’t enough drivers. 

Guilty Pleasure

I have a number of films that I consider Guilty Pleasures, not only because they are unusual movies, but because I know them so well I can recite whole swathes of the screenplay.

One of these would be To Catch a Thief (1955), where I do know practically every line.

To Catch a Theif

The scene where she tells him she knows he’s The Cat.

It’s Alfred Hitchcock, but not at all like Psycho or Frenzy. It’s the tale of a man (Cary Grant) who stole jewelry for the French Resistance during the war, and since then has lived well off his proceeds. He now has a maid and a house in the hills above the French Riviera. He was known as The Cat for his ability to prowl rooftops. Similar robberies having recently occurred, the police naturally think it’s him. He must catch the real thief before they arrest him or his old Resistance friends kill him.

Romance comes in the form of Francie (Grace Kelly), an American heiress holidaying with her mother (Jessie Royce Landis) in the Riviera. She wants the excitement of life with a cat burglar, which is exactly what he’s trying to leave behind. The movie has it all: suspense, romance, murder, jewel heists, stunning costumes, and the gorgeous Riviera in the sun. Plus the background: Grace Kelly met her future husband, the Prince of Monaco, while making the film. 

And more!

  • Want to read previous newsletters? They’re located here at my website, where you can also find information and buy links to all my books. You can post comments there too.
  • Want to read my blog posts on historical research and writing? They’re here.

Until next time, keep grousing!