When I finished writing and turned in the 10th Fresh Baked Mystery, The Candy Cane Cupcake Killer, I thought it was going to be the final visit with Phyllis Newsom and her friends. I was taking care of my father, and that was becoming a full time job. It was also the last book under contract and the publisher wasn't getting in any hurry to offer me a new contract. The books were still selling well, but there had been changes in the company and they were cutting back on their mysteries. So after much inner turmoil, I decided to end the series.
My father passed away August 17th, 2015. He left me the responsibility of being his executor, which was a new and complicated job. His house needed work, and Dad was a pack-rat, so there was a lot to go through. He had built their bathroom cabinets when he was almost eighty, and they were a bit of a mess. Rather than buy new materials, he used old homemade cabinets and re-cut them, added bolts to make the doors stay closed, and he wasn’t worried if they were the same size or how they looked as long as they functioned. My parents helped us build our first home when we got married. They knew we wanted to write, and the pay was undependable, so we never had to worry about a mortgage, we did it all ourselves. This meant I knew which side of the saw to use. I tore all of the doors out and gave the cabinets a new face. Did you know you can buy cabinet doors on Amazon in many sizes? I covered the facing with plywood to provide a smooth surface, adding boards behind to make the openings the same size, and painted it all. I enjoyed using the skills Daddy taught me.
While this was going on I had time to publish other authors’ books and make covers for them, but little time to write. After the full 10 yard, roll-off dumpster left Dad’s place, I started wanting to write again. Fans had written asking when the next Fresh Baked book was coming. Since I no longer had a contract with the previous publisher, I could write it when I had time and publish it through Fire Star Press, which is run by my business partner and friend Cheryl Pierson and myself. I had what I thought was a good title, so I designed the cover first to see if I could capture the feel of the series. Once I had the cover, it was time to get to work. But what would I write about?
I decided to have the victim work in a beauty shop. My mother and father had a beauty shop, Paul’s Beauty Shop, attached to our house. They were both licensed hair stylists. Daddy was a handsome ex-Marine, and Momma was a beautiful long-legged bleached blonde accountant. She started out a brown-haired beauty, but Daddy loved her as a blonde, so he bleached her hair. I will admit she did look good as a blonde. They built the shop and took classes when I was two. I heard the story many times about how I took a few years off Momma’s life by popping up on the roof when they were shingling it. I liked to climb, and there was a ladder…enough said. One of Momma’s clients was the elementary school principal. She talked Momma into going back to college and getting a teaching degree. She also helped get her hired as a first grade teacher when she graduated. Momma was the reason I had the idea of this series in the first place. She was a retired teacher at the time and devoting many hours to volunteering. Sadly she developed dementia and couldn’t read the first book when it was published. I couldn’t really share with her how much she influenced me with a love of reading, and how to cook, and the value of education. I helped Daddy take care of her for 10 years. Dementia sure does rob a family. Daddy was having trouble with it himself at the end. The man who taught me how to build a house could no longer take care of himself. It was heartbreaking. They were my heroes.
Family is the reason the series was created and family helps in all ways to this day. My husband James is with me from the beginning with plot suggestions, editing, and he is my main taste tester. (Unless it’s a dog biscuit. I have plenty of four-legged taste testers for those.) Shayna, my oldest daughter, a high school chemistry teacher, takes care of the home and our 5 dogs when we run off to write in a quiet cabin. Joanna, our youngest, is a third grade elementary teacher and gives the books their final edit. She has been doing this since book one.
So Black and Blueberry Die allowed me to revisit wonderful memories of growing up in a beauty shop with some fun twists of fiction. In conjunction with the big Third Birthday Bash celebrating Fire Star Press, Prairie Rose Publication, and the other imprints Cheryl and I publish, I will be giving away 2 early ebooks. The book doesn’t come out until September 2nd, which would have been Daddy’s 89th birthday. It will be released in trade paperback and ebook only. There will not be a mass market paperback edition.
Thank you all for helping me celebrate my latest book and our big Publishing Birthday Bash. The winners of the ebooks of Black and Blueberry Die will be announced Friday, September 19th. For a chance to win, just mention what your favorite food is to take to parties. I like to bring homemade rolls. They can be as difficult or easy as you want. A warm roll with a little butter is hard to beat.