Omaru is a gorgeous New Zealand town, much of which is built with stone taken from local queries. The white stone architecture is everywhere in this area. We had lunch just down the street from this building. The food was fabulous, and then we were back on the road for another adventure!
Barbara Silkstone writes comedic mysteries as well as Pride and Prejudice Regency variations. Lavender Toes is the fifth book in the Cold Cream Murders series.
When Barbara began writing Lavender Toes, she didn’t understand the importance of honey bees to the world’s food supplies and production. Now, all that has changed.
In Lavender Toes, Olive Peroni and Lizzy Kelly are partners in Nonna’s Cold Cream—a beachside shop in the charming town of Starfish Cove, Florida. Barbara said, “The essential ingredient in Nonna’s miracle cold cream is honey derived from Digby’s bees. Even more important is the special honey produced by the Soprano bees. Those little buzzers create the super-secret ingredient that changes the miracle cold cream into magical cold cream—able to erase wrinkles overnight.
“Until my character Olive discovered the need for Digby’s bees, I had only a passing knowledge of how valuable bees are in keeping the world fed. I’d thought I’d alert my readers to our need for bees. Honeybees both wild and domestic perform about 80% of the pollination in the world. A single bee colony can pollinate up to 300 million flowers each day!”
Barbara added that bees pollinate seventy of the top 100 human food crops—which supply 90% of the world’s nutrition. Those crops include fruits, nuts, vegetables, and coffee. “The honeybee population is less than half of what it was in the 1950s. If those little buzzers die off, we die too. Plus, they are dying at an unsustainable rate. I can do without some foods, but coffee? Oh, no!”
Stopping the decline
Barbara offered dos and don’ts for people who want to help:
- Support local beekeepers who produce honey
- Limit the use of garden pesticides at home.
- Never spray a swarm of bees.
“There are a hive of things that are killing off our little friends: habitat loss, disease, climate change, and a new class of pesticides,” Barbara said. “Neonicotinoids were first used in the early 1990s, drastically increasing the demise of honeybee colonies. People can also help by protesting chemical companies who manufacture and sell neonicotinoids. These products were banned in the European Union in 2018 unless they are being used in a closed greenhouse.”
The Love Investigator
“The craziest thing I ever did in the name of research was to set out across the country interviewing men about women. After surviving a short marriage and a brutal divorce during which I lost all my previously owned assets, including my lovely house on the bay in Florida, I set out on a quest for answers why I didn’t see the train bearing down on me. Had I been blindly in love or just gullible?
“I wanted to find out what made men tick. Surely there were some nice guys out there. My plan was to interview 1,000 men in one year—one on one, alone in their man caves, where they would share their deepest secrets about women, love, and heartbreak.
“I had no idea the guys would talk so much. It was in the sixth year of my adventure that I gave up. I met with just over five hundred men and listened without comment to their tales. I could go no further. If I had to listen to one more story, I would scream. Possessing a real estate license isn’t sufficient armor against the army of angst.”
Barbara boiled down her research into a short book called The Adventures of a Love Investigator. After that experience, she said, “I curled up in my woman cave and vowed to stick to writing comedy.”
Learn more about Barbara Silkstone at https://secondactcafe.com.
Morning coffee stops on our land tour were not long. The stop in Geraldine, New Zealand was typical, and for those of us to were willing to walk just a short distance, there was some old architecture to enjoy. This beautiful old stone building is St. Andrews Church.
More photos from New Zealand/Australia
Elizabeth Penney is an author, entrepreneur, and local food advocate living in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Her cozy mystery, Hems & Homicide, is the first in the Apron Shop mystery series.
The beginnings of Hems & Homicide
“Before I became an author, I worked as a business consultant, advising entrepreneurs how to launch and grow their businesses. I soon saw how creative the business start-up process is when a person takes a concept from an idea to reality. It’s even better when they can use their unique skills and talents to support themselves. My main character, Iris Buckley, started working for herself after being downsized from a fabric design position for a catalog company. She has turned her love for vintage aprons and textiles into a viable business, first by selling online and then in the storefront featured in the series.”
Elizabeth also said that Iris’s grandmother is an active part of the plot. She’s facing a new season of her life after losing her husband. She is a partner in the shop, a new venture for her, and she’s also involved in solving mysteries.
“An odd conundrum is that while main characters in cozies are often under thirty (as Iris is), the majority of readers are forty and older. I think depicting vibrant older characters in fiction is important and shows how adventures can happen at any age. The story also deals with the challenges and joys of running a business in a small town with a tourism economy. As in real life, my characters have to deal with seasonal swings, town politics, and the emergencies and opportunities that crop up.”
Aprons — a part of history
“Aprons are an iconic part of our domestic history with many cultural and personal associations. As a premise for a mystery series, their variety offers a lot of story possibilities, and each book will feature interesting examples. In recent years, aprons have experienced a surge of new popularity. They’re even sold in big box stores. Twenty-first century aprons are frillier, fancier, and prettier than ever. So, the combination of an interesting and relatable history (practically everyone has a mom or grandmother who wore an apron) and an apron renaissance gave me confidence that a publisher might also see the possibilities.”
Fond childhood memories
“One of my first book-related memories is checking out a Nancy Drew book from the library at age seven. We had just moved to snowy Maine from sunny Virginia and I still remember traversing that long and icy driveway to the library, located in a historic Colonial house. So many treasures in that old library! As an introverted, imaginative child, books were a huge part of my life. Even now, one of my favorite things is to open a book and become immersed in a magical new world. My goal as an author is to create that experience for my readers. I also hope they will come to love my characters as much as I do. Around my house, we find ourselves talking about them as if they are real.”
The Maine mystique
Growing up, Elizabeth was part of an Air Force family. At age seven, her family moved to Maine after living in Europe and other states. “My dad grew up in New York City but spent many wonderful times in Maine visiting an uncle. We moved to the same town and even lived in the same house his uncle had owned! Maine has a mystique that draws millions of visitors each year, and I’m having a great time finding interesting history, activities, and trends to include.”
Elizabeth now lives about twenty miles from the Maine border, which makes it easy to take research trips to the coast. She believes that visiting a location allows a writer to include details of smell, taste, sound, and feel that cannot be experienced when looking at pictures.
“Although I have many memories of Maine, indulging in a refresher course has been fun,” Elizabeth said. “And so has enjoying (again) the many traditional dishes I include in my books: clam chowder, fried clams, steamed lobster, fresh corn on the cob, and blueberry pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Food often plays a large role in cozies, even the ones not focused on it, and I needed to be sure my readers can enjoy a good (vicarious) taste of Maine cuisine.”
Learn more about Elizabeth Penney at elizabethpenneyauthor.com.
We approached this passage with some trepidation. The Cook Strait has a reputation as both picturesque and dangerous. Unwilling to pass up an opportunity, I braved the high winds to shoot photos. There were a couple of times the winds were so strong that it was impossible to stand up straight (no pun intended!).
I discovered a spot on the fantail of the ferry where we were protected from the wind. The only problem? There were photographers aplenty!
More photos from New Zealand
Good morning from Indianapolis, which in January means cold and snow. Otherwise known as perfect weather to stay indoors with a warm drink and a good book.
Speaking of books, I’m thrilled to share with you the fact that A Mysterious Mix Up is my tenth published novel. My first seven novels were written in a different genre under a different name. When I moved to writing cozies, I took on a new pen name and got the rights to those novels back from the publishers. That way I could focus all of my energies on my mysteries. While that means those stories are out of print, I have every intention of publishing them again when the time is right.
One of the things I learned during my journey to double digits was to recognize my strengths, and weaknesses, as a writer. That’s what helped lead me to the mystery genre, especially cozies. Now, three books later, I’ve learned some valuable lessons that have helped me find my niche.
I’ve learned I love the whodunnit aspect of the cozy. I like the fact that justice prevails in these stories. It’s a lot of fun getting to know the characters over the course of a cozy series. There’s enough blood and gore in real life. I appreciate those things not being a part of cozies.
This writing journey of mine has followed an unpredictable path of self-discovery. One of the most exciting things is not knowing where this journey will take me. I’m confident it will include cozy mysteries. Shoot, I have a contract to write three more Allie Cobb Mysteries, so I’ll be spending time with the Rushing Creek crowd for the foreseeable future. But after that, who really knows? Not me, that’s for sure.
I’m proud of reaching double digits. I’m proud of the stories I’ve written and I’m looking forward to the ones I’ve yet to write. Maybe, when I finish book twenty, I’ll still be writing Allie’s adventures. Maybe, I’ll be writing about an entirely different sleuth.
I can’t wait to find out.
So, how about you? Do you have any accomplishments or hallmarks you’d like to share? Tell me, so we can celebrate together. Big or small, all successes are worth celebrating.
About the book
Murder hits the stacks when literary agent Allie Cobb investigates a fatality in the local library . . . Allie Cobb returns home from a book conference armed with hugs for her cat and her boyfriend, and dreams of a long, hot bath. She’s also getting ready to take the plunge by hiring an intern for her expanding literary agency. But it’s one for the books when Allie finds the town’s librarian—and her longtime role model—seconds away from death on the library floor. Who would want to poison Vicky Napier—one of Rushing Creek’s most beloved citizens—on the eve of her retirement? But it seems there were toxic people in her life, like the handyman with an obsessive crush, and a wood carver with a hair-trigger temper. The list of suspects includes Allie’s boyfriend, Brent, who’s in the running to take over as town librarian. Avenging her friend’s murder could be a trap as she goes up against a killer determined to write Allie’s epitaph . . .
About the author:
J.C. Kenney grew up in a household filled with books by legends Agatha Christie and Lilian Jackson Braun, among many others, so it was no surprise when he found himself writing mystery stories. When he’s not writing, you can find him following IndyCar racing or listening to music. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife, two kiddos, and a cat who is the inspiration for Ursula in the Allie Cobb Mysteries.
Learn more about J.C. Kenney at www.jckenney.com/a Rafflecopter giveaway