Kansas City’s New England Building

Looking for Old K. C., Part 1

IMG_0024

Checking out sites for my calendar mysteries, set in Kansas City around 1900, can involve quite a bit of sleuthing. Take the New England Building at 9th Street and Wyandotte in Kansas City, MO, for instance.

While working on January Jinx, the first in the series, I decided to put Price Investigations in the New England Building instead of the New York Life Insurance Building, mostly because the upper floors of the latter were closed to visitors. (Indeed, when my friend Sally O and I sneaked down to the basement to scope out the placement for the café that appears in January Jinx, the building guard stood on the steps and called plaintively, “Ladies, ladies.” Giggling, we did come back upstairs and out of the building.) But on a later junket, I was able to get inside the New England Building and go up the steps to the second floor though not inside any of the offices.

The New England Building continues to serve as the site for Price Investigations in Fatal February, the second in the series, but now that I’m working on Mischief in March, I have some questions about the offices that I didn’t answer in my initial site visit. In particular, I’d like to actually see the inside of the New England Building’s most famous architectural feature, the oriel on the southwest corner, to figure out what George Mathison, the manager of my fictional detective agency, might have put in it, or indeed if it’s actually available to put anything inside it.

IMG_0263

I’d tried to figure out its size from the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps and tentatively decided, given the 60’ by 118’ overall size of the building, that the oriel is about five feet across at its widest. But the map gives no details about the floors above the first.

IMG_0264

An exquisite poster of the building made from an article in the American Architect and Building News that I found online shows the basic layouts of four of the floors. But the text isn’t distinct enough for me to find out details about the offices. Besides, now that I’m revising Mischief in March, I’m finding that Minty Wilcox, the heroine of the series, needs to navigate around more of the building than just up the stairs or elevator to the third floor.

So, recently I set off to the Kansas City site of the State Historical Society of Missouri, located in 302 Newcomb Hall on the University of Missouri-Kansas City to look at their collection of architectural drawings that included the New England Building.

An aside: doing historical research is so much easier these days than it was when I started the project in 2004. (Yikes!) Now you can scan documents to a flash drive instead of printing them out on a library machine. Also so much has been digitized and made available online, like the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, that you can download and print for free.

That’s the good news. The bad news about the scans of the drawings is they don’t have keys and most of the written info is too blurry to read when I blow the images up.

IMG_0265

Still, I was able to see inside the offices to figure out where the lights were and that most had little closets and sinks. Some suites had ladies and gents powder rooms. And after a quick referral back to the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, I found that the building had steam heat. Comparing the office layout with the roof layout, which included chimneys, I figured out where the radiators were, so I now can appropriately arrange the furniture inside Price Investigations.

IMG_0266

See? I told you researching historical fiction requires sleuthing.

Unfortunately, there are two parallel dotted lines across the narrow entrance to the oriel that I don’t understand. I’m tentatively thinking there would be room maybe for the ever-popular Boston fern. But I don’t know for sure.

By now, you’ve probably noticed that historical fiction writers obsess over the smallest details. That’s because some expert out there might make a fuss online about a tiny error. And that mistake could destroy the old Kansas City I’m trying to bring to life in my calendar mysteries. So I worry about the tiny details.

And so if at all possible, I’d like to get inside the New England Building. This might not be easy because recently it was purchased for redevelopment as loft apartments. I’ll keep you posted on what I find out.

Best, Juliet

If you haven’t read the first two calendar mysteries featuring Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price from newly met to newly wed and beyond in Kansas City where living could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago, you can buy them as trade paperbacks from Amazon or as Kindle eBooks:  January Jinx at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4 and Fatal February at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM

Making Progress

WiP Report # 17: Mischief in March

MM6x9

Shown here is the working cover for the third book in my Calendar Mystery Series. (I’m keeping what the actual cover will look like as a secret for now since it’s a spoiler.) I’m happy to report that I recently completed the draft of Mischief in March, well sort of anyway.

The “sort of” comes from my ending the current draft with an outline for the last twenty pages instead of writing those scenes. I’m not beating myself up about it though. I’ve been at this point with at least one previous book and it turned out fine.

What happened was recently I found myself making excuses to do other things (like mowing the lawn, which you know has to be desperation) instead of working on MiM, dear MiM, such a fun project it’s been to work on. I do this pretty often as I write, in fact, whenever my subconscious mind is trying to tell me something about what I’ve just written. But one morning recently I woke up realizing what the problem with the current WiP is. I won’t actually know which characters I need to put in the climactic parts of the book until I’ve revised the book from the start and found out who they are. Also, I need to do some on-site research on the settings before I can move my characters around in those places.

So I’m happy with my decision to stop work on MiM temporarily. It has freed me up to knock off some of the smaller projects on my master plan. For example, I’ve almost finished editing a large print edition of Cinderella, P. I. and Other Fairy Tale Mystery Stories.

But now Minty Wilcox, the heroine of the Calendar mysteries, is calling to me from the wings of my mind and tapping her foot impatiently. “Come back,” she says. “How could you leave me and Daniel in the lurch on our . . .” Well, that’s all you get, dear reader except the assurance that I’ll get back to work on Mischief in March soon.

Best, Juliet

P. S. Check out this trailer for the new audio book of Cinderella, P. I. Around the World narrated by the very talented Alyx Morgan.

 

 

New from Juliet

C@Wrld9-28-14 Kindle

Cinderella, P. I. Around the World, featuring eight clever fairy tale mystery stories for grown-ups by Juliet Kincaid and Alyx Morgan’s brilliant voice characterizations, is now available as an audio book from iTunes, Amazon, and Audible. (Get it for free at http://www.audible.com/pd/Mysteries-Thrillers/Cinderella-P-I-Around-the-World-Audiobook/B01IWLXIIO/ref=a_search_c4_1_1_srImg?qid=1470060491&sr=1-1 when you join Audible.)

 

 

Good Deal for Mystery Readers

FF.ebook

Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price return in Fatal February for more adventure, mystery and romance in Kansas City, a place that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago. Now through May 7 only $0.99 at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM Buy it now to share with your mom or baby mama on Mother’s Day.

PRAISE FOR JANUARY JINX, THE FIRST CALENDER MYSTERY

The delightful, creative, and charming January Jinx introduces a terrific character in Minty Wilcox, a good old-fashioned cozy mystery persona who will surely be able to carry the planned-for series. It’s Minty who drives the readable narrative, and author Juliet Kincaid keeps the pace steady and fast at the same time for quite a readable experience. The writing is appropriate for the historical setting without ever being gimmicky or archaic. The unique setting of 1899 Kansas City is full of flavor that never overwhelms the story and characters. With a terrific, original, but still comfortable series concept, there are certainly big things afoot for Juliet Kincaid and Minty Wilcox’s Calendar Mysteries.

 

 

Missing Miss A

Our Last Basenji

Wednesday, March 30, 2016IMG_1353

This will be the last day for our sweet basenji girl Acacia, whom we usually call Miss A. For I have an appointment for us with the vet at 5:30 this evening.

This day has been coming for quite a while. About a year and a half ago, our vet showed me an x-ray and diagnosed Miss A with a mass, probably cancerous. “Okay,” I said soon after that. “We won’t do anything expensive for her like dentistry. But as long as she’s not suffering, we’ll keep going.” And so Miss A and I have kept walking around our tree-lined neighborhood, especially lovely this spring.

Progressively she’s lost weight, down to between seventeen and eighteen pounds from nearly thirty pounds when we began her diet and exercise program the day after we had to put our Cory boy, our second basenji, down almost exactly three years ago today. (Varlet was our first.)

(In case you might not know, the basenji is an African breed, and the smallest of the hounds, used in packs to hunt lions and other big cats. Basenjis have distinctive, curled tails and sharp-pointed, foxy ears. And they don’t bark. That’s the very best thing about them. They do, however, make some weird sounds or yodels. Cory was vocal for a basenji. As for Miss A, she sometimes whimpers, sometimes growls, and occasionally she can be teased into giving a hoarse “woo.”)

Now, Miss A is mostly skin and bones except for the mass, not as big around as a soccer ball, but not much smaller either. And she’s very weak. When she jumps off my bed, for instance, she totters around or even sits down at first.

Still, until this week she ate fairly well and walked with me two or three times a day except when it was rainy or very cold. But then on Monday she ate only one out of her three meals. Yesterday she ate nothing but three treats after the last of our walks. Amazingly, in spite on this, we walked three times yesterday, a lovely spring day, for a total of fifty-five minutes altogether. Then this morning, she wouldn’t walk and she didn’t eat her breakfast. She did eat some of her lunch, a tempting mix of warm water, canned dog food and dry cat food. We walked for fourteen minutes this afternoon.

But I know very well that she will continue going down hill and so today’s her last day.

I already miss her, just thinking about that appointment. And I’m also thinking about what to do when she’s gone.

Some of that involves a pedestrian, rather heartless to-do list.

1) Now we can keep the doors open to the study and my daughter’s bedroom so Miss A won’t get in and eat the covers off the books in the bookcases.

2) I can put a quilt my mother made back on my bed and leave that door open, too, now that Miss A won’t be here to try to turn the bed covers back on her own. She was never very good at that and so I have no bed covers, blankets or top sheets that aren’t torn.

3) I can give away the last bag and can of dog food, and the rest of the marrowbone treats.

At this point, you might ask, “Aren’t you going to get another dog?”

If you’d asked me that question up until very recently, I would have said, “Of course I am. And she will be a basenji, possibly about two years old like Miss A was when we got her as a rescue dog to keep Cory company.”

But now I’ve decided that probably I won’t get another dog for assorted reasons.

1) My mother’s practical voice that speaks to me inside my head from time to time says, “A dog ties you down.” This didn’t keep her from adoring our Dottie, a beagle-dachshund mix (we think) we had back in the 50’s and 60’s.

2) Caring for and feeding pets can cost a lot.

3) Walking a dog might be too dangerous for me, now seventy-four.

Here’s why I say that.

A few weeks ago on a beautiful afternoon, as Miss A and I were walking down the next street, I was gawking at a neighbors’ yard looking for signs of spring instead of where I was going. So I didn’t see that the pavement ahead was uneven. I tripped. I fell–so hard that I thought I’d broken my nose. Suddenly I couldn’t see from all the blood in my eyes. After a minute, I sat up and found a paper towel in my pocket to staunch the flow. I managed to stand up and head toward home. Luckily I met up with some neighbors who got me more paper towels and walked me and Miss A home. Soon after that, my daughter drove me to the Emergency Room where the doctor on duty put eleven stitches in my forehead. That, the worst of my injuries, came from my sunglasses grinding up my nose and into the soft flesh of my forehead as I skidded along the pavement on my face. The cranberry-juice colored bruises faded away in about two and half weeks, but I’ll be hiding that scar with bangs and make-up the rest of my life.

Luckily, I had no broken bones. I didn’t have a concussion. But here’s the thing. Next time I might not be so lucky. So chances are slim to none that I’ll get another dog, basenji or otherwise. I have walked a basenji in my neighborhood for thirty years, but Miss A will be the last.

Goodbye, sweet girl. We will miss you.

MM6x9

Marching On

WiP Report # 17

IMG_1277

Sorry, but I couldn’t resist the pun in my title. You see, the current Work in Progress, the third in my Calendar Mysteries, takes place in Kansas City, a place that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago, in March 1900 and it’s called Mischief in March.

One of the most fun things about this WiP is working on it in springtime. Now I realize that probably daffodils and other flowers are blooming in 2016 three to four weeks earlier than they did in March 1900. Still, my heroine Minty Wilcox might very well see crocus like those pictured above blooming in a sheltered spot in front of her house.

Now, I must admit that I’m pretty far behind schedule on this book from where I’d hoped to be. My original concept for the series was to bring out a book a year during the month in the title. I managed to bring the eBook version of January Jinx out in January 2014 and the print version in January 2015. But I didn’t get Fatal February out until November 2015. (Sigh.)

Here are some reasons why I’m behind schedule.

1) If you’ve kept up with my periodic WiP Reports, you know that I wrote a 54,000 draft of Mischief in March during National Novel Writing Month 2015. But due to one thing and another, I didn’t get back to it until February 18.

2) And even then, it took me quite a while to regain my momentum. Tip to all you other writers out there: do it every day, so you don’t lose your momentum. So far my progress has been slow with an average production of 835 words per day. This is about half of the NaNoWriMo goal of 1,667 words a day.

3) As you might be able to tell from the photo of a corner store around 1900 below, I’m doing research as I go along. (In Mischief in March, Minty Wilcox, two of her country cousins, and the series villain visit a neighborhood grocery store similar to this one. Researching as I write also has slowed me down.

IMG_1330

But let’s shift to the upside here.

I’m telling myself that doing research as I go along might save me time in the long run since I’ll probably write fewer drafts than the ten or twelve January Jinx required. In fact, even though I did some research as I went along, Fatal February required only four drafts plus an overall line-by-line edit.

Some good news: last week my process sped up, and without even noticing, I blew through plot point 1, that is, the moment at which the hero (or heroes) begin the journey or the detective (or detectives) actively take on the case. That happened at 19,418 words on page 70. Multiply those stats by four and you get 77,672 words and 280 pages, a very nice size for a first draft. If I keep up the pace of 835 words a day, I should finish the current draft around the end of May.

If you haven’t read the first two in the series, January Jinx is available as an eBook at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4 and Fatal February is available as an eBook at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM. Both are available as trade paperbacks through Amazon.com.

If you have read the first two Calendar Mysteries that tell the story of Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price from newly met to newly wed and beyond, please review them on Amazon and Goodreads. As the old wisdom goes, word of mouth sells. (Of course sex sells, too. I’m working on getting some sex into Mischief in March. Minty and Daniel are definitely up for it.) And online reviews are the 21st Century version of word of mouth, one kind at least. Just a few sentences of positive comments help and I would appreciate it very much. All the best, Juliet

Encouraging Feedback on Fatal February

FF.ebook

My dear friend and fellow writer Anne Bauman recently wrote me this letter of praise for Fatal February, the second calendar mystery. (I’ve omitted or rephrased here and there to avoid spoilers.)

Dear Juliet,

 Congratulations on Fatal February, another terrific read. Yes, I enjoyed it immensely, both as a reader and a writer. Between the lines, it reveals lots of work, thought, skill and care.

It seems to me that your characters were even better developed than in January Jinx, though the characters were well-done in [it], too. In the second novel I enjoyed the actions and especially the dialogue. Each character is distinctly developed as his own person.

Minty seems to be maturing and improving as a character. I like the way you played off [Daniel Price, the love interest] to help develop the personality of each. It helps the reader to see Minty more clearly as she interacts with the other characters.

Of course, I always enjoy reading about Kansas City around the turn of the century. Since my grandmother was a young woman at the time of your books, it’s pleasant to imagine what K. C. was like at that time and how it helped her develop her independence and self-assurance. I like the details you use to develop Kansas City as a character, too.

All in all, Juliet, you’ve created a masterpiece and I’m now looking forward to March.

Thank you so much, Anne. And I’m happy to tell you and other readers that I’m working on Mischief in March, the third Calendar Mystery featuring Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price in Kansas City, a downright dangerous place a hundred years or so ago.

If, dear reader, you haven’t read the first two in the series, January Jinx is available on Kindle at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4 and Fatal February at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM. Both are also available as trade paperbacks through Amazon.com.

And if you like these books, please review them on Amazon and Goodreads. Just a few sentences help. I would appreciate it very much. All the best, Juliet

P. S. Didn’t my daughter do lovely work on the cover of Fatal February?

Phenomenal Flavia

IMG_1215

A Guest Post by Diann Markley

On Saturday January 16, 2016, at the meeting of the Mystery Writing Group of the Border Crimes Chapter of Sisters in Crime, my friend Diann Markley presented a thorough and very insightful analysis of Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Here are highlights of her presentation.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley is the story of a precocious eleven-year-old girl living in England in the 1950’s. Bradley has several problems to overcome in making Flavia de Luce believable as an amateur investigator.

The police are neither incompetent nor comical, yet as with any main character, Flavia must be the one to solve the mystery. The author carefully sets up this outcome by having Flavia’s mother vanish in the wilds of Tibet while her father, suffering from wartime PTSD, is only peripherally involved with his child, leaving her free to come and go with little to no supervision.

And she does have transportation–an ancient bike she has named Gladys.

Having lived her entire life in the town of Bishop’s Lacey, Flavia has contacts and inside knowledge of the residents not readily available to Inspector Lewis. Flavia is quite willing to flip her braids and flash her braces to convince witnesses she is only a sweet little girl they can spill any secrets to. Then there is her understanding of chemistry and a lab in which to do experiments. These confirm her suspicions on how the murder occurred. It doesn’t hurt a bit that Flavia is the one to find the dying man but conveniently forgets to mention his last words to the police.

Altogether a great read on a winter’s day! Diann Markley

The Mystery Writing Group of the Border Crimes Chapter of Sisters in Crime meets on the third Saturday of the month. All SinC members are welcome. Here’s our schedule for the next two months.

February 20: Ann Friedman will lead a discussion of Ellis Peters’ The Raven in the Foregate.

March 19: Juliet Kincaid will lead a discussion of Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.

If you’re a mystery fan, please share this blog with your friends and sign up through RSS to receive notifications for more blogs.

Best, Juliet

The Care and Feeding of Writers

Insights into the Life of an Indie Author

IMG_1199

Let’s say that you have a new favorite indie author. You loved the first two novels in her epic fantasy series filled with great action and fascinating characters, especially the sassy, yet dangerous female dragon that lurks in the river near the castle. But it’s been months and months since the last book came out. Where’s the third? Doesn’t she know how much you want to read it? What is that writer doing?

Believe me. She wants to get the third epic fantasy novel to you as soon as possible. But besides writing, revising, and editing that book, she’s running the business of being an independently published author. Her many tasks include book production and promoting.

At this point, you might say, “But wait. Can’t she hire people to do some of this stuff?”

She could, but quite possibly she can’t afford to. Sad to say, the world of indie publishing is like the Wild, Wild West. Mostly, the folks making money aren’t the folks out there panning for gold in the publishing stream, but the suppliers of goods and services.

And it’s fairly certain that your indie author is busy following at least some of these common pieces of advice: “You need a web site and you must post a blog on it once a week. Build your email list. You need author’s pages on Facebook and Goodreads. You have to tweet, link in, branch out, circle on Google, pin stuff up on Pinterest, post pictures on Instagram, and every once in while get a video of yourself up on YouTube.”

“But whoa there, indie author,” her advisors also say. “Slow down. Don’t get carried away. You can’t overdo the promotions because if you do, your emails will get marked as spam. You’ll be unfriended on Facebook and unfollowed on Twitter. Really you should only actively promote your work in every seventh email, tweet, or Facebook post. And anyway, you shouldn’t bother with any of this because it doesn’t work for authors to promote their own work.”

So what’s the poor indie author supposed to do? you wonder. How about this? You help her promote her work, so she can spend more time on that third book you long to read.

Here are some few simple things that will help her get the word out about her books and build a fan base for them.

1) When the author emails you about her new blog on her web site, forward the message to your friends to help her build her email list.

2) Subscribe to her web site, so you can keep up with her posts without her having to email you every time she posts a blog.

3) Retweet her tweets on Twitter.

4) Friend her personal page on Facebook, like her author’s page, and share her promotions with your friends.

5) Follow her on Goodreads and start some discussions there about how much you love her work.

Last and most important of all, review those first two epic fantasies on Goodreads, Amazon and other sites where she publishes her work. Here are some tips for your reviews.

1) Avoid spoilers. Instead, you might provide a pithy quotation that gives the flavor of the work.

2) You don’t have to say a lot. Two or three sentences are fine.

3) Judge the work within the author’s intention for it and its genre. For example, don’t slam a sweet cozy mystery set in a quaint little town with magical cats, patterns for knitted scarves, and recipes for chocolate cookies to die for because the book doesn’t have the mean streets and grit of the noir that you prefer.

4) Make sure you know what you’re talking about before you launch a negative comment about the writer’s expertise.

5) When you write a review, proofread it before you send it off. An error like saying “to much” when you should have said “too much” instantly discredits you as a reviewer.

6) Don’t nitpick. Instead, focus on what you liked best about the work.

7) We indie authors want only five-star reviews. But if you can’t honestly give an author that many, please don’t go lower than four stars.

Gentle readers, please know that writers are delicate creatures. We tend to dwell upon the few times we’ve been kicked instead of all the times we’ve been stroked. If you want us to continue to write the works that bring you laughter and tears, action and adventure, narrow escapes, heroes to admire, villains to scorn, stories to entertain you, and novels to make you wise, you have to nurture us.

All the best, Juliet

Currently, I’m promoting the audio book of Cinderella, P. I. and Other Fairy Tale Mystery Stories for grown-up, delightfully narrated by Alyx Morgan. It’s now available from iTunes, Amazon, and Audible. (It’s free when you join Audible.) You can listen to a sample at http://www.audible.com/pd/Mysteries-Thrillers/Cinderella-P-I-and-Other-Fairy-Tale-Mystery-Stories-Audiobook/B01977EVJ2/ref=a_search_c4_1_1_srTtl?qid=1450382804&sr=1-1

Twitter: JulietKincaid    Facebook: juliet.kincaid    Goodreads: Juliet_Kincaid