Sunday, May 21, 2017

Cozy Mystery Inspired by Nancy Drew

Here's an excerpt from my cozy mystery about a teenage sleuth who goes on vacation with her father and friends and becomes part of the investigation when a docent at Oak Alley Plantation is found dead inside the famous mansion. Part travelogue, party ghost story, this book mixes voodoo, ghosts, and bayous into a spicy gumbo of a whodunit.

In the following scene, the tour group goes to Oak Alley
and finds the dead body:

As the tour bus traveled to Oak Alley Plantation, the docent told them that the famous pink mansion was built in 1837. "It is best known for the double rows of live oaks leading up to the plantation. The trees were planted before the house was built. The design of the building is Greek revival with some of the features of Caribbean architecture. She asked the crowd, "Anybody know what that looks like?”

Once again, Nancy raised her hand and waited to be called on.  The guide told the crowd, “It’s nice to see that some young people on this bus have good manners.”  The troublesome teenage boy who made fun of the guide earlier rolled his eyes upon hearing this.

The guide told Nancy, “Yes, young lady.  What is your answer?”

“It means that it has shutters on the windows to keep out high winds and an open floor plan to keep the house as cool as possible.”

A man on the tour bus said, “Like some of the houses in Key West.”

“Very good,” the tour guide said.  “Because it’s so warm in these here parts, we need as much air circulation as possible; so the many windows and open floor plan provide that.”  She paused to catch her breath and continued, “Okay. Y'alls’ architecture lesson continues.  The exterior of the home has a free standing colonnade of 28 Doric columns on all four sides.  Has anyone ever been to Greece?  Or seen pictures of the Parthenon?” Several people raised their hands.  “Imagine,” she said.  “A little bit of ancient Greece right here in the good old U.S. of A.”

The bratty kid asked her, “Don’t you think you’re trying a little too much to sound like Paula Deen?  Is that really how you actually talk?”

At this point, Hannah, Nancy's tomboy friend, got up out of her seat and walked over to him.  “We all have had just about enough of you and your mouth.  I, personally, am about ready to throw you off this bus.”  She glared at his sheepish looking parents and said, “Can you please do something to stifle him?”

Everyone on the bus applauded.  Hannah bowed and took her seat.  “Carry on,” she told the tour guide.

“Well, well.  We sure have an interesting group of young people on this bus this morning.  How’s about I just stop talking and let ya’ll enjoy the scenery, okay? Feel free to ask me any questions.”  With that, she whispered something to the bus driver and they both laughed as she sat down.  It was a beautiful drive and everyone became excited when they see the tunnel of oak trees leading up to the plantation house.  They got off the bus and were eager to take a look inside the house.  Several people took pictures of the beautiful alley of trees.  Nancy gushed, “This is just how I imagined it.  It is so wonderful!”

The tour guide told them to take a look around, but don’t journey too far away. After waiting about 20 minutes, everyone started getting restless for the tour inside to begin.  Another bus load of tourists had just pulled up, disgorging all of its passengers.  Nancy’s guide told her group to stay together and guaranteed them that they will go first.  “The docent was supposed to open the door for us. I can't find her anywhere."  

The churlish boy said to her, “Why don’t you just unlock the door?  Don’t you people have your own set of keys?”

Their tour guide finally loses her cool with him and snaps, “Duh!!  Do you think we’d be standing around here looking helpless if we did?”

He answered, “This is so lame.”

Nancy told Hannah, “Control yourself.  Count to ten.”

“I’d sure like to sucker-punch him.”

“I know.  I know.  Just try to chill.”

Their tour guide told the crowd to hang on while she called the manager of the tour company.

To her father, Nancy said, “Evangeline was supposed to be the first docent here this morning.  I hope nothing’s happened to her!”

About 15 minutes later, the tour guides' boss arrived with the key to open up the plantation house.  He and the guides walked in first, telling everyone to stay back outside.  Suddenly, everyone heard a loud scream coming from inside.

Nancy was first to run inside the house to see what’s happened.  When she saw Evangeline, the concierge at her hotel, stretched out on the floor of the parlor, she told the crowd, “Stand back.  I know CPR.  Somebody call 911.”

It was suddenly bedlam with everyone rushing inside to see what’s happened. The tour boss told them, “Everyone get outside!  Don’t make things even worse than they already are.”  Nancy was not able to revive Evangeline and noticed that the poor woman had been having another bloody nose this morning: blood was caked on her nostrils and a bloody Kleenex lay nearby.  People came up with all sorts of theories about what happened: some thought she was murdered; others said she had a heart attack; and some even raised the idea that she was scared to death by a ghost.  “Poor, poor Evangeline,” is all that Nancy could say.
Would you like to read what happens next?

This cozy mystery is available at all your favorite on line books stores including Amazon, where it's also available in paperback.  Here's their direct link:

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Regency Period and Jane Austen

Here is an excerpt from The Forgotten Sister: A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice 

My family and I are visiting Brighton today.  My sisters’ husbands have stayed behind. Everyone thinks that the fresh sea air will be good for our constitutions.  I must admit that it’s nice to get out of Longbourn for a change.  It’s so provincial.  I am hoping to see what “the real world” is like.

Whilst there, my sisters got it into their heads that they wanted to rent a bathing machine.  I had never seen one of these contraptions and was eager to learn all about them.  They are basically large covered wagons attached to a horse who tows people out into several feet of water. Once there, the the swimmer undresses inside the machines, puts on her bathing costume, and is lowered into the water by a female attendant.  Once in the water, one may swim or hang on to a rope attached to the “machine” while the waves wash over you.

I had never swam in the ocean.  I have dipped my feet into the waves a few times, but this was a first. Once inside the wagon, I found it was small, badly lit, and poorly ventilated.  The only light that came in was from small openings placed high up to deter voyeurs.  We changed into our bathing costumes and an old hag of a bathing attendant who seemed to have imbibed in the sherry a bit too much assisted us as we boldly dropped into the sea.

Mama demanded to go first.  Once in the water, she screamed, “It’s too cold!  I’m going to die of hypothermia!  Quick! Somebody get me out of here!”
Lydia said, “For heaven’s sake, Mama!”
The attendant helped Mama back up into the covered wagon and wrapped her with a blanket.
To show everyone that she wasn’t afraid, Lydia jumped into the water with the confidence of Aphrodite riding ashore on an oyster shell.  “Come on,” she told us sisters.  “The water is fine!”
The rest of us followed suit.  I must admit, I did not care for it.  Mama was right: it was too cold! I didn’t stay in the water for very long and asked the attendant to help me up.  The old woman thought she’d regale us with her stories.  She said that women and men swam miles apart in Brighton.  She went on to say that men swam nude.
Once Lydia heard that, her ears perked up.  She asked the hag to lift her out and inquired, “Where exactly do the men swim nude?”
My sister Jane chastised her saying, “We mustn’t go there.  What would people say?!”
Elizabeth, my other sister, said, “Papa would be appalled.”

My sister Kitty started coughing and frantically asked to be pulled out of the sea.  I’ve been worrying about her.  She’s had this cough for a long time.  I hope she doesn’t have consumption!  I shall demand that Papa have a doctor give the poor girl a thorough checkup the minute we arrive home.

Would you like to read what happens next?

Please check out The Forgotten Sister: A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice 
by Louise Hathaway.