Grousable Newsletter 15 June

Grousable Books Newletter banner

Book news

Well, I manned my table (yes, a woman can man a table) with my mystery books at the Once Upon a Book Fair in Escondido, but although there were many authors there were few customers. Blame the weather (see below) or the location, but it just wasn’t happening. Met some nice authors though. That’s always the good side of these things. And I did sell three paperbacks.

Lisa at fair table

The California Crime Writers Conference in Culver City just ended, my first in-person book conference, so I was glad it focused on mystery books. It was so fun! I got to meet some of my favorite cozy mystery book authors, such as Ellen Byron, and learn from her and other expert writers in the break-out sessions. I did a signing session for my books, and enjoyed talking with other authors, working out plot twists and sticky research situations.

My first Victorian mystery, Murder at Old St. Thomas’s, also received a wonderful Critic’s Report from BookLife Prize. Rarely does a review understand exactly what the author is trying to do, but this one did!

First drafting

Some authors work on one project till it’s published; others work on multiple books at once. I’m afraid I’m one of the latter. 

Blame the hypertext mind, which many of us have from spending so much time on the internet. I could actually feel that happening to me back in the 2010s. The hyperlink (we just say “link” now) was such a cool thing in the 1990s. You clicked an underlined word and–behold!–you were on another web page. Many of us clicked and clicked and clicked until we couldn’t focus on one page anymore. 

This reprogramming means that if I’m working on one novel, and I get stuck, I just open up the next one and work on that. So people ask, “what are you writing at the moment?” and I have to say:

  1. a prequel to the Tommy Jones Mysteries, where we learn about Tommy’s childhood and how he got adopted by Inspector Slaughter and his wife, except that I have two dead bodies, one on each side of the river, and I don’t know who the murderer is–or wait, do you think there should be more than one?
  2. a California beach cozy, wherein an old lady and her cat Hephaestus work with a local curmudgeon reporter to solve the mystery of the body on the beach–do you think it’s ok to have one of those paper cocktail umbrellas be a clue?
  3. a literary novel where I have three characters set up: an older man who lives alone in London, a female tour guide who hates her life in the same city, and a high school student from America who comes over there–not sure what happens yet?

People usually nod off in the middle of listening to me explain #1.

More England stuff

So I promised more about my trip to England. I went to the British Library, both to renew my card after the pandemic years made it expire, and to view some maps.

The cool thing about setting novels in Victorian London is that there are maps: Ordnance Survey maps, maps for tourists, maps showing things like fire department zones. At the British Library, you order from their catalog on the computer, choose a room to sit in (and a table you must remember the number of), then get your books from the desk. 

Ordering off the online catalog, I had no idea how big any of the maps were. I’d also never been to the Map Room. When I got there I noticed the tables were much bigger. I went up the the desk and asked for my order, and they brought out four small items and a book so huge they could barely carry it. I flipped through the small ones quickly, then opened the giant book.

It had huge maps of parts of London, with tons of detail.

Using my new necklace with the magnifying glass pendant, I had a closer look. The guard jumped up from his seat, advised me to ask at the desk for a larger magnifier, then showed me how to use large leather weights to hold the map flat for my photos. So helpful!

The Rose Code

Just finished Kate Quinn’s The Rose Code, and I highly recommend it. Not a Victorian mystery book, and unfortunately situated among the many many World War II novels, it’s about Bletchley Park during the war. I confess I’m a Bletchley fan. I watched The Bletchley Girls on TV, and The Imitation Game. I’ve visited Bletchley and talked with the people there (one of whom told me that the masking tape X’s on the windows wouldn’t have been there then); I’ve seen the bombe work and heard how it sounds. I’ve seen the tangle of wires the characters use to program it.

The Rose Code is a fictionalized account of three women, each from very different backgrounds, who worked there, and Quinn’s research is impeccable. She blends their personal stories, the working conditions at BP, and code knowledge effortlessly, adding in a bit of a thriller element in a rescue of one of them from an asylum. It shouldn’t work, but it does. 

So very Cal

It’s been May Gray and June Gloom here. Those nicknames imply that every May and June is cloudy in the San Diego area, but of course this year is different. Or, as another gardener commented, “I guess it rains here now.” Just hoping it won’t be a No Sky July.

The very rainy winter and spring means that plants look different. A lot of us didn’t realize how much good a little more water (especially water from the sky) could do. Fruit trees and berries are going nuts (and maybe nuts are too — I don’t have a nut tree). But without the sun, those tomatoes and squash we eager beavers put out in May are suffering and many won’t make it. I’m starting more seeds. In June! What the heck?

Continuing my adventure in growing poisonous plants, my first foxglove (digitalis). Garden now contains deadly nightshade, digitalis, pennyroyal, and delphinium.

All of this is due to climate change, of course, and its unpredictable weather cycles. I am trying to get my head around the approach of Monty Don, the king of British gardening. He lost a lot of plants in the wet/dry cycle they had there this year, and is introducing plants that are resilient, rather than those that die if it’s a little too cold, wet, or dry. 

Resilience is a wonderful idea, and not just for plants!