Monday, April 21, 2014

Character Interview: Dale McCord of The Face on Miss Fanny's Wall

TWP:  Welcome to The Word Place, Officer Dale McCord.
DM:  That’s Sgt. McCord.
TWP:  Excuse me, Sgt. McCord. I understand you’re working on an investigation at Miss Fanny’s, the bordello-turned-museum in Cedar Bluff.
DM:  I can’t talk about an on-going investigation.
TWP:  How about Tessa Steele? Can you talk about her?
DM:  It depends on what you want to know.
TWP:  You’re dating?
DM:  We’re good friends. We see each other when we can.
TWP:  Is the relationship going anywhere beyond friendship?
DM:  Possibly.
TWP:  She indicated to us that you’re opposed to her finding out why her great-grandmother was one of Miss Fanny’s ‘girls’.
DM:  Not at all. I think her genealogical research is just fine, but I’ve advised her to stay away from the museum until we get the current situation cleared up, and she…
TWP:  She isn’t cooperating.
DM:  She’s a grown woman, but she’s acting like an impulsive adolescent.
TWP:  Maybe she just doesn’t like being bossed around.
DM:  I’m giving her my best professional advice because I have a personal concern for her safety. She refuses to understand that--or she’s just ignoring it.
TWP:  So she’s involved in the ‘situation’ you mentioned?
DM:  There may be several situations, and yes, she could be involved in one of them. She just needs to be patient, and when things get straightened out, she can go on with her research.
TWP:  I’m sure you have her best interests at heart.
DM:  Yes, I do, and she needs to understand that. If she can’t respect my wishes--or at least, my professional judgment--then we don’t have much chance at a deeper relationship.
TWP:  Does she understand that?
DM:  I think Tessa understands what she wants to understand. That’s my pager. I’ve got to go.
TWP:  Well, thanks for stopping by. I hope everything works out, both for your investigation and for you and Tessa.
Read the first chapter of The Face on Miss Fanny’s Wall  at my website.
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Friday, April 18, 2014

Character Interview: Tessa Steele from The Face on Miss Fanny's Wall

Character Interview:  Tessa Steele
TWP:  Today we welcome Tessa Steele to The Word Place. Tell us a little about yourself, Tessa.
TS:  I’m a librarian at an elementary school in Cedar Bluff, Arkansas. It’s a town with a history.
TWP:  What kind of history?
TS:  Well, it’s on the Missouri border, so it saw a lot of fighting during the Civil War--mostly guerilla warfare. Afterwards it was a pretty rough place, and it had a very famous red-light district, which is what’s getting me into trouble right now.
TWP:  Wait a minute! You’d better explain that.
TS (giggles): The only ‘house’ left is now a museum, and during spring break before my senior year in college, some friends and I visited it. On the wall in one room are pictures of some of the ‘ladies’ who worked there, and I recognized one.
TWP:  Should I ask?
TS:  My great-grandmother, Hallie Reynolds Steele. Nobody in the family knows anything about here before she married my great-grandfather Merritt, who ran a newspaper. She’s sort of a mystery, but I’m dying to know how she ended up working in one of those places.
TWP:  What are you doing to find out?
TS:  I’ve gotten into genealogy. You know, hunting your ancestors for a family tree.
TWP:  Have you found out anything?
TS:  More than someone wants me to, I think, but I’m not giving up. That’s the other part of the problem.
TWP:  Which is?
TS: I’m dating a state police officer, Dale McCord, and he happens to be in charge of an investigation focusing on the museum.
TWP:  What’s going on?
TS:  Dale won’t tell me anything except to stay away from there. It really makes me mad. I’m a grown woman, and he doesn’t have any right to order me around.
TWP:  Maybe he’s worried about you getting into a dangerous situation.
TS:  I can’t imagine what could be dangerous at the museum. Of course, one of the docents is a little creepy, but…
TWP:  It sounds as if you should listen to Dale.
TS:  I’m going to find out about my great-grandmother, that’s for sure, and not even Dale McCord is going to stop me!
TWP:  Good luck then--but be careful.

Read the first chapter of The Face on Miss Fanny’s Wall at Someday Is Here.

Find Miss Fanny here. (

Monday, April 14, 2014

Historical 'Fun' Fact or Human Tragedy?

     Bordello, bawdy house, brothel, whorehouse, house of ill repute, red light district. All the words conjure up the same image: a place where women sold themselves.
      A friend once observed (with a wink) that I seemed to have an inordinate interest in the subject. I do, but it's not the obvious (whatever that is). I grew up in a town once so notorious for the wild and wooly life centered around its saloons (and what was upstairs) that the frontier fort commander often forbade the men to cross the river to vsit it when on leave. As late as the 1930s, my father had an office in a hotel where everyone knew the business that flourished on a higher floor. In the auto finance business at the time, he and his father loaned money to one of the "girls" who promptly disappeared with the car. The madam came to see Daddy and suggested that, in the future, he should check with her before financing a vehicle for anyone in her employ. And, the next morning, he found the missing car parked at the curb. Daddy told the story tongue-in-cheek and with a rueful chuckle from the hindsight of age and experience. But he didn't really think it was funny.
      One of my mother's bridge buddies opened an antique store on the historic 'old town' street and conducted tours upstairs to where a bordello allegedly flourished until being shut down by law enforcement in the late 40s. Along the hall leading to a back door 'escape' over the roof of another building, hung bells to be rung when a raid was eminent. Growing up after WW II, I became familiar with the old homes, now boarding houses, which had been part of the 'red light district' serving the men from two bases located in the town.
      I knew the stories in general, but it wasn't until much later that I consider the 'actors' in those long-ago and not-so-long-ago dramas. Only seeing their faces--some young and vulnerable, some old and hardened--in books and framed in tourist attractions, did I come to understand the human drama which took place in those establishments devoted to pleasure for some and perhaps a living hell for others.
      My 2012 novel, The Face on Miss Fanny's Wall, sprang from such an encounter and light-bulb moment. It is a romantic suspense which in no way glorifies those days. I struggled with bringing it to life and, in some ways, did a bit of 'preaching and pontificating' about the subject--though not, I hope, to the detriment of the story.
     I suppose I tried to incorporate sayings (There but for the grace of God...) and scripture (Judge not...) while building a story around historical fact. You can decide for yourself when you read the first chapter and view the trailer.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Good News, Bad News, and Just Plain News

The Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series continues to sell steadily. That's good news.

Royalty checks from The Wild Rose Press and Champagne Books point to an upsurge of sales for my traditionally-published books. I'm guessing this is related to Penelope's success. That's also good news.

My belief that there is an audience out there who wants a realistic-but-clean read has been validated. That's the best news of all.

The first book (Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland) of the new Dreamland Series is finished and has gone for editing. More good news.

I'm two chapters into Book #2 (Under the Silv'ry Moon), and it's going slowly. Bad news.

Book #3(Come with the Love Light Shining) isn't even formally thought out yet. Bad, bad news.

For you younger readers, "Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland" is an OLD song now in the public domain. I love the lilting, free-flowing music and, yes, I even like the sappy lyrics. For how it sounded when it was charting #1 in 1910, listen to Henry Burr's rendition on YouTube.

For a little later version, here's Glen Gray and his Casa Loma Orchestra. Yes, yes, chickadees, I know you never heard of Glen Gray, but my parents had a cabinet full of his records when I was growing up. What are records, you ask? How do I explain. Just listen and enjoy!

And don't miss this one! Once upon a time, dancing was...

What's ahead at The Word Place? I'll be reintroducing you to The Face on Miss Fanny's Wall (Champagne Books, 2012).

When a young woman sets out to discover why her great-grandmother worked in a notorious bordello, she stumbles on secrets buried for years, but which, if resurrected, may bury her.
  After recognizing her great-grandmother’s picture on the wall of a restored bordello-turned-museum, Tessa Steele sets out to track down exactly how Hallie became one of Miss Fanny’s ‘ladies’.  Threatening phone calls and letters warning her that Nosy little girls get into trouble become the least of her worries when she meets Sgt. Dale McCord, a state police officer investigating a series of so-called ‘hauntings’ at Miss Fanny’s.  Caught between her own curiosity about Miss Fanny’s and Dale’s disapproval, she goes ahead with her research. Each time she uncovers a new piece of information, she faces an even more sinister threat as well as Dale’s unexplained anger. She’s as determined to learn the truth as someone is to stop her. And Dale is determined to keep her alive—if he can.