Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Book Launch Day!!!

Today is that most exciting of author days--a new book is toddling its way out into the world!  I'm particularly excited about this new series, written as my Amanda Allen self, because it has to of my favorite things--my hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the 1920s.  My friend and fellow Crooked Lane Mysteries author Dorothy McFalls is joining me to talk about her own book release, and a town that holds her heart.  Comment on this post (or any for the rest of the week, where I'll be talking about the history and characters behind my book!) for a chance to win signed copies of either book (Dorothy will be giving away the first in her series, Asking for Truffle....)

From Amanda:

I've lived in Santa Fe with my husband, dog, and cat for just a few years, but I feel like I've been here my whole life!  My family started visiting Northern New Mexico (mostly Santa Fe and Taos) since I was about 3, and the place has been in my heart ever since.  It's a special land, with many different kinds of natural beauty (mountains, deserts, forests) and endless, bright blue skies.  It's filled with history, as well, the blending (harmonious and sometimes distinctly not so) of Spanish, Native American, and Anglo culture.  It's also a mecca for artists and writers, creative people of all sorts.  In the summer, I'm constantly going to the opera, chamber music concerts, and free music on the Plaza (which my dog Abigail also enjoys!0, as well as enjoying the great restaurants.  For a town of less than 70,000, it's a lot in a little.

I've also always loved the 1920s.  10 short years full of astonishing change!  New fashions, new haircuts, innovative music, cars, bootlegging.  Coco Chanel!  Phryne Fisher!  (okay, she is fictional, but I love her).  What's not to love??  But as I looked deeper, I saw it had a dark side, too.  The war, a terrible war that claimed millions of lives and left families devastated, was just over, along with a flu outbreak that killed millions more.  The certainties of old ways of life were gone forever, and no one knew what was going to replace them yet.  A person couldn't even get a legal cocktail to forget the pain!  (though there was always laudanum...)  It seemed like the perfect time for a murder mystery, and so I switched from my Elizabethan Mysteries series (another time period of enormous change and progress, which I also love) to 1922.

Maddie Vaughn-Alwin is a young woman, but she's seen upheaval for herself.  Born into a wealthy New York family, she always felt different.  She wanted to be an artist, not a society matron, and to marry her childhood sweetheart.  Her husband killed in the war, she leaves NYC for a new world, a world where she can find new freedom--Santa Fe.  Far from the culture mecca it is now, with million dollar vacation homes and tony shops, it's a dusty small town with great natural beauty (and cheaper lodgings--I often wished I had a time machine to go back, scoop up a place on Canyon Road, and then come back to the present with deed in hand, LOL).  It's also full of free spirits just like her, artists, writers, and family black sheep who feel they've found a new home where they can be themselves.  And Maddie does, too--until her housekeeper Juanita's husband is killed at La Fonda, the nicest hotel in town, and his teenaged son is accused of the crime.  Then she glimpses the darker side of her new home.

I hope you'll enjoy Maddie's journey as much as I have!  For the next week, I'll be posting about the history of some of the real-life places I've used in Santa Fe Mourning--La Fonda, the Museum of Art, Canyon Road, even my favorite grocery store, Kaune's (still in business!)

From Dorothy:

Back in the early 1990s, my husband and I designed and built a small one-bedroom beach house on the somewhat overlooked, artsy island of Folly Beach in South Carolina. We made our home there for the next twenty years. When we moved there, the town was still attracting those who saw the world a little differently. It was a hotspot for surfers, artists, and those who simply didn’t want to subscribe to society’s norms. It’s also a place for vacationers to flock to in the summer. Most of the houses around us were vacation rentals. Our joke to ourselves was always, “Don’t like your neighbors? Wait a week. You’ll get new ones.” It’s been quite a shock to move into a neighborhood and have to learn to deal with neighbors who aren’t transient.

I love this little island town with its downtown that spans just a few blocks. I love that it’s not a perfect resort community. There are still shacks interspersed among the newly built beachfront mansions, although those are rapidly disappearing. One this island you can find a house that was built around an old ship. You can also find the house where Gershwin stayed while writing Porgy and Bess. It’s not a fancy mansion, but a modest island home.

There’s a wildness to the island. The lawns aren’t neatly manicured. There’s a time in the spring when the islanders know to stop mowing in order to let the wildflowers grow and bloom. Bobcats, minks, raccoons, otters, and eagles have all visited our tiny yard.

When I set out to write my latest mystery series, the Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery series, I knew I wanted to feature this town and the quirky residents it’s attracted over the years. But I couldn’t really set it on Folly Beach, because the town I’d moved to and fell in love with twenty years ago is rapidly changing. As pressure to develop the coastline increases, the specialness and the undeveloped nature of the island is slipping away. So I decided to set the series on Camellia Beach, which is inspired by my experiences on Folly Beach. But it’s an island caught in the net of time. It’s more like the Folly Beach that existed in the past instead of even the Folly Beach that I left three years ago after my daughter was born.

At first glance, my main character Charity Penn, sees Camellia Beach as many viewed Folly Beach for years—a shabby community with very little value. But the more time she spends in this special little town, the more she comes to value the untouched and unpolished nature of the community. Within the confines of this series, I hope to capture and preserve a piece of Main Street Americana that is slowly disappearing from our nation’s landscape.

In Playing with Bonbon Fire, the second book in the Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery series, Penn is at it again—cooking up treats while working to keep everyone town of Camellia Beach safe. A threatening note, a dead musician, and decades of secrets put the town’s first beach music festival and its band members in grave danger. With the help from her meddling half-sister and a new flavor of chocolate sweets to ignite the senses, Penn follows the shifting tide of evidence to uncover a long-buried secret.

Dorothy St. James, known for the White House Gardener Mystery series, has gone back to her roots and setting a mystery series in a Southern beach town much like the one she’s called home for the past 20 years. The Southern Chocolate Shop Mysteries combine her love of fine chocolates, quirky Southern charm, with a dash of danger. Asking for Truffle is the first book in this exciting new series. Playing with Bonbon Fire came out in March 2018 and In Cold Chocolate is scheduled to release September 2018.

What are some places that have been special in your life?  And most important--what kind of chocolate is your favorite???


BookLuver88 said...

I like dove peanut butter and chocolate. I love d visiting England in bath and oxford.

templarlady said...

I loved visting durham cathedral in england. My favorite chocolate is see's.

sue Williams said...

Unfortunately I have never been anywhere. As for chocolate, I love all kinds. Chocolate anything is always a great mood buster. I do agree with the commenter above, templarlady, that See's has wonderful chocolate. It is the chocolate I grew up with. 😋

Karen Surprenant said...

Snow Caps and Tennessee

Amanda McCabe/Amanda Carmack/Laurel McKee said...

My grandmother always bought me a big box of See's candy for Christmas, and I would hide in my room to stuff myself with them! That was my annual holiday stomach ache. :) Oh, they were delicious