The Gardener

Recently, while working on a prequel story for my calendar mystery series called “The Barn Door” that takes place on the 4th of July weekend in 1898, I decided to give one of the characters a vegetable garden. And that led me to think about my dad and his gardens. Here’s my piece on that subject, originally published on my website in 2011 as “My Father’s Gardens.”

My father, Homer Dale Willman, Sr., used to say, “When the Corps hired me, they took a great farmer and made him into a half-assed engineer.”

Still, though he worked over twenty years for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, my father always had a garden if only three strips around the patio. Until his last summer, he grew at least a little something, maybe vibrant begonias, a geranium in a big pot, a climbing rose, possibly hollyhocks, usually mint so he could watch the telecast of the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May with an icy julep in hand. And always, always, he had a tomato plant or two.

Back in the fifties and sixties, the prime years of his backyard gardens, he put lots of effort into his tomatoes. We lived in the tri-state region of Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia where winters were mild (though Dad always hoped for some snow to put nitrogen into the dirt). After the ground warmed and softened along about Easter, Dad took his shovel out to his garden patch to prepare the soil.

My mom used to kid my dad about “digging to China” because to him preparation meant digging a pit eighteen inches across and three feet deep for each tomato plant. He partially refilled each hole with compost, manure and other nourishing substances mixed with loose dirt.

The newly planted tomato plants–named Big Boy, Better Boy, Early Boy and Rutgers–looked scrawny so far apart, their sparse leaves insufficient to fuel growth. They did grow though. Usually by the Fourth of July, Dad would push aside those leaves, releasing the acrid odor that set our stomachs to growling, and with a gentle tug, pick the first tomato of the season. Mom, Dad, my brother Dale, and I fought over that first tomato, so ripe the skin peeled off clean and biting the tongue with its acidity. By late summer, the plants, lovingly tied to their stakes with strips of old sheet, stood eight feet high and loaded with tomatoes Mom canned, made juice with or begged neighbors to haul away.

Maybe the secret of Dad’s tomatoes lay in his compost pile that he researched, built and maintained like a true engineer. The compost pile I remember best was a four-foot cube of vegetable peels and melon rinds, musty grass clippings, twigs, lime, and goat manure he got as partial payment for a ship model he built for a friend who owned a herd of goats.

Dad made a hole in the center of the compost pile so air got inside and furthered the controlled decay. Once, out of curiosity, he tied some string to a thermometer and lowered it into the hole. In less than a minute, the thermometer broke. Later, with Mom’s candy thermometer, Dad discovered that the compost pile had reached 135 degrees.

Usually, Dad scaled his gardens small, but back in the late forties when we lived in the aptly named Garden Court, he almost filled the back yard with his vegetable plot. Forty by sixty feet, it ran from the house back almost to the tree-lined creek. Pieces of string stretched between sticks defined the plot so meticulously it looked like Dad had laid the garden out with a surveyor’s transit.

Dad bragged about that garden having fifty different varieties of plants. They included tomatoes of course, potatoes, corn, green peppers, red peppers, scallions, onions, cucumbers, and Black-seeded Simpson leaf lettuce. Instead of cantaloupe, that Dad said didn’t prosper in our climate, he grew muskmelons. Radishes started the growing season and beets finished it. Many of the vegetables I’ve forgotten now, but I still love to recite exotic names like zucchini, kohlrabi, and cocazelle.

We all got involved in Dad’s gardens. One year we had so much cabbage that Mom canned it. Dad paid Dale a penny a hundred head to pick bugs and beetles out of the garden. Dad never let me forget that those pretty yellow hollyhocks I picked one year were actually squash blossoms. Once, we tried to shell tough-hulled soybeans by putting them through Mom’s washer wringer. The beans popped out the other side and Dale and I chased them as they bounced around the kitchen floor.

My father’s gardens . . . Whenever I think of them, I see a picture of him in my mind.

Small-boned, with a mustache, my father wears a billed cap to keep his scalp from burning, a tan shirt dark with sweat under the arms, tan pants cut off and neatly hemmed above his knobby knees, and muddy shoes too worn to wear to work anymore. He leans against a shovel stuck into a pile of dirt. And dreaming of fresh tomatoes by the Fourth of July, he grins.

I don’t have a picture of my dad in his gardening togs, but here’s one of him, taken around 1973 when he was 70, that shows his wonderful grin.

January Jinx, Fatal February, and Mischief in March, the first three calendar mysteries set in Kansas City a hundred years or so ago, are available as eBooks and trade paperbacks from Amazon.com. Look for “The Barn Door,” a calendar mystery prequel short story, coming soon as a Kindle eBook.

Dare I Say Bah Humbug?

WiP Report # 18

What I’ve named “my week from H3LL” threatened to turn me all Scroogish as I began the annual trek through the holidays this year.

You see, during the first week of every month, I usually have four meetings and a lunch in addition to my usual weekly activities of attending an art class; teaching a novel writing class; self-maintenance like going to four Jazzercise classes; running a household; and continuing my career as a self-published author.

But the first week of December 2016 became a week from H3LL for me even though I cut a meeting and a class.

Here are the extra things I did during the first week of December 2016.

1) I went to lunch not once but twice. (I spent the second lunch worrying about completing chore # 4 listed below in a timely fashion.)

2) I copyrighted and promoted the last book in my Cinderella, P. I. fairy tale mystery series.

3) I participated in an indie author event. Here I am, dressed up as Minty Wilcox, the heroine of my Calendar Mystery series, with fellow indie authors Joyce Ann Brown and Terry Showalter at Readers World in Lees Summit, MO, on December 3, 2016.

4) Recently, we bought a new car that I licensed on December 5.

5) I had to appear for jury duty at federal court. (I’m happy to report that I was dismissed so that I didn’t have to cancel any more of my novel-writing classes.)

All these tasks didn’t help me at all as I struggled to find time for the goal I’d set for myself—completing the current draft of my WiP, Mischief in March, the third novel in my Calendar Mystery series.

To add to the stress of performing these tasks, even the fun ones like a very special holiday dinner book club meeting, I developed insomnia. My novelist’s habit of creating worst-case scenarios at every turn compounded the stress. (You don’t want to hear the worst-case scenarios I’ve come up with since Donald J. Trump got elected.)

Still, I hung in there and I completed it though on the second Monday of the month, not the first. At 102,000 words, this draft is a bit longer than I like. But I’m pretty pleased with it otherwise. (An early reader said, “Mischief in March had a delightful sauciness to it.” Thank you so much, Peg.)

So now I’ve cast bah-humbugs aside and set myself free to enjoy holiday tasks like signing and addressing greeting cards and decorating a tiny Christmas tree.

Happy holidays to all of you, my friends.

P. S. You’ll find Cinderella, P. I., First Case to Last for $2.99 and free on Kindle Unlimited at www.amazon.com/dp/B01MXC0MED

P. S. S. My New Year’s resolution is to cut way back on extra commitments in 2017, especially those scheduled for the first week of the month, so I can write more. What’s yours?

New Story Collection Now Only $.99

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Seven fairy tale mystery stories for grown-ups now only $.99 from December 7 through December 13, 2016

CINDERELLA, P. I., FIRST CASE TO LAST
Enjoy the humor and fun you’ve come to expect from the Cinderella, P. I. fairy tale mystery short stories for grown-ups in this new short story collection from Juliet Kincaid. In the first story of the collection, our clever detective recounts her very first case, “Cinderella and the Holy Grail,” in which she runs into many experienced detectives with names like Hercules Pear and Ms. Marble, to name just two. She also recounts her last, “Cinderella’s Last Case,” and five other fairy tale mystery stories for grown-ups in between, twenty years (mostly), three kids and a few extra pounds after the ball. Happy endings guaranteed!

Cinderella, P. I., First Case to Last is now available exclusively as a Kindle eBook from Amazon.com at www.amazon.com/dp/B01MXC0MED for $2.99 and FREE to Kindle Unlimited Kindle Online Library members.

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Review of “Cinderella, P. I. and the Big Pumpkin,”
one of the seven stories included in Cinderella, P. I., First Case to Last
By Amazon top 1,000 reviewer Don Kidwell
“With a honk honk here and a honk honk there. Everywhere a honk honk, ya?”
More fun times as Cinderella, PI and [son] are on the case trying to uncover why the pumpkin has gone missing in the field of the Farmer-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (lest they break out into the popular verse). Having enjoyed every other book I’ve read of this author’s I’ve already gone on to purchase Cinderella, P. I. Around the World and look forward to reading that next.
Great series and I do recommend!

MORE PRAISE FOR THE CINDERELLA, P. I.
FAIRY TALE MYSTERIES FOR GROWN-UPS
“twenty years, three kids, and a few extra pounds
after the ball”
“Charming series . . . highly entertaining and delightful read”
“smart plotting and whimsical adventures”
“a fun romp through a fairy tale”
“a delightful little tale . . . a quick, funny read”
“snappy dialogue . . . new twists on familiar fairy tale figures”
“Charming series . . . highly entertaining and delightful read”
“smart plotting and whimsical adventures”
“a delightful little tale . . . a quick, funny read”
“snappy dialogue . . . new twists on familiar fairy tale figures”
“If you are looking for a fun book to listen to while driving around town, then I recommend [Cinderella, P. I. and Other Fairy Tale Mystery Stories audio book]. The reader, Alyx Morgan, is excellent. She gives all the characters distinct voices. She also has a good sense of timing with the comedy scenes. Juliet Kincaid has made the old Cinderella come alive for us older folks who were lost back in time with the Disney version. This Cinderella is a character you can relate to. She has a family and in-laws to deal with while solving mysteries in the kingdom. Many times these stories just make you laugh out loud!”

 

Perfect for your holiday drive!

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Are you hitting the road for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday? If so, take along Cinderella, P. I., as she travels from the castle to the deep dark woods and to several other spots around the world. Along the way you will encounter a Prince Charming (or two), a fairy godmother, some wicked Stepmothers, mean Stepsisters, too, and many more enchanting characters, all brought to life by Alyx Morgan’s delightful voice artistry.

If you enjoyed fairy tales when you were young, you’re sure to love the mystery, the adventure, and the little touch of romance in these eight fairy tale mystery stories for grown-ups. (Happy endings guaranteed.)

You’ll find the audio book of CINDERELLA, P. I. AROUND THE WORLD on iTunes, Amazon.com, and Audible (http://www.audible.com/…/B01IWLX…/ref=a_search_c4_1_1_srImg…) It’s free when you join Audible.

Click here for a sample of Juliet Kincaid’s clever fiction and Alyx Morgan’s voice-over talents. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOXypbHoG0s

Sleuth Around the World

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Join Cinderella, P. I. as she solves eight cases around the world and back at home in the castle, too, twenty years, three kids, and a few extra pounds after the ball. You never know who might show up in these clever fairy tale mystery stories for grown-ups. (Happy endings guaranteed.)

This week only, from 10/19 until 10/26/2016, you can get the Kindle eBook of Cinderella, P. I. Around the World for only $.99 at www.amazon.com/dp/B00NP9SSHU or for one penny less than a pound at www.amazon.co.uk/B00NPSSHU

PRAISE FOR JULIET KINCAID’S CINDERELLA, P. I. FAIRY TALE MYSTERIES FOR GROWN-UPS, “twenty years, three kids, and a few extra pounds after the ball”

“a must for anyone who loved fairy tales as a child and wants a more adult version of favorite . . . characters”

“plenty of smiles and giggles at all the witty references”

“charming series . . . a highly entertaining and delightful read . . . smart plotting and whimsical adventures”

“a fun romp through a fairy tale”

“snappy dialogue and new twists on familiar fairy tale figures”

“If you are looking for a fun book to listen to while driving around town, then I recommend this one. The reader, Alyx Morgan, is excellent. She gives all the characters distinct voices. She also has a good sense of timing with the comedy scenes. Juliet Kincaid has made the old Cinderella come alive for us older folks who were lost back in time with the Disney version. This Cinderella is a character you can relate to. She has a family and in-laws to deal with while solving mysteries in the kingdom. Many times these stories just make you laugh out loud!”

FYI: If you prefer to listen to your fiction instead of reading it off the page, Cinderella, P. I. Around the World is now available as an audio book on iTunes, Amazon, and Audible. (And it’s free when you join Audible.) Here’s the trailer:

12 stories only $.99

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Little Red Riding Hoodie meets Big Bad Wolf in the woods, in “Cinderella, P. I.,” just one of twelve fairy tale mystery stories for grown-ups only $0.99 (or a penny less than a pound for UK customers) for the whole collection from 10/15 to 10/19/16 (to 10/20/16 for UK customers).  You’ll find the Kindle eBook version at www.amazon.com/dp/B00GMMUSTI and www.amazon.co.uk/B00GMMUSTI

PRAISE FOR JULIET KINCAID’S CINDERELLA, P. I. FAIRY TALE MYSTERIES FOR GROWN-UPS, “twenty years, three kids, and a few extra pounds after the ball”

“a must for anyone who loved fairy tales as a child and wants a more adult version of favorite . . . characters”

“plenty of smiles and giggles at all the witty references”

“charming series . . . a highly entertaining and delightful read . . . smart plotting and whimsical adventures”

“a fun romp through a fairy tale”

“snappy dialogue and new twists on familiar fairy tale figures”

“If you are looking for a fun book to listen to while driving around town, then I recommend this one. The reader, Alyx Morgan, is excellent. She gives all the characters distinct voices. She also has a good sense of timing with the comedy scenes. Juliet Kincaid has made the old Cinderella come alive for us older folks who were lost back in time with the Disney version. This Cinderella is a character you can relate to. She has a family and in-laws to deal with while solving mysteries in the kingdom. Many times these stories just make you laugh out loud!”

FYI: If you prefer to listen to your fiction instead of reading it off the page, Cinderella, P. I. and Other Fairy Tale Mystery Stories, is now available as an audio book on iTunes, Amazon, and Audible. (And it’s free when you join Audible.) Here’s the trailer:

 

Grown-up Cinderella Meets Big Bad Wolf in the Woods

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When a big bad wolf scares her little girl, Cinderella goes undercover in the woods to find him in the slightly salacious “Cinderella, Undercover.” For fun and fantasy twenty years, three kids, and a few extra pounds after the ball, get “Cinderella, Undercover,” a fairy tale mystery story for grown-ups, for FREE on Kindle 9/16/16 through 9/18/2016. Here’s the link to the story: www.amazon.com/dp/B00BSF08US

PRAISE FOR JULIET KINCAID’S CINDERELLA, P. I. FAIRY TALE MYSTERIES FOR GROWN-UPS

“a must for anyone who loved fairy tales as a child and wants a more adult version of favorite . . . characters”

“plenty of smiles and giggles at all the witty references”

“charming series . . . a highly entertaining and delightful read . . . smart plotting and whimsical adventures”

“a fun romp through a fairy tale”

“snappy dialogue and new twists on familiar fairy tale figures”

“If you are looking for a fun book to listen to while driving around town, then I recommend this one. The reader, Alyx Morgan, is excellent. She gives all the characters distinct voices. She also has a good sense of timing with the comedy scenes. Juliet Kincaid has made the old Cinderella come alive for us older folks who were lost back in time with the Disney version. This Cinderella is a character you can relate to. She has a family and in-laws to deal with while solving mysteries in the kingdom. Many times these stories just make you laugh out loud!”

FYI: If you prefer to listen to your fiction instead of reading it off the page, “Cinderella, Undercover” is included in Cinderella, P. I. and Other Fairy Tale Mystery Stories, now available on iTunes, Amazon, and Audible. (And it’s free when you join Audible.) Here’s the trailer:

 

Free Story

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When a very special magic wand goes missing, Cinderella takes the case, twenty years, three kids, and a few extra pounds after the ball. For fun and fantasy, get “Cinderella, P. I.,” a fairy tale mystery story for grown-ups, for FREE on Kindle 9/9 through 9/11/2016. Here’s the link to the story: www.amazon.com/dp/B00BAZPXEM

PRAISE FOR JULIET KINCAID’S CINDERELLA, P. I. FAIRY TALE MYSTERIES FOR GROWN-UPS

“a must for anyone who loved fairy tales as a child and wants a more adult version of favorite . . . characters”

“plenty of smiles and giggles at all the witty references”

“charming series . . . a highly entertaining and delightful read . . . smart plotting and whimsical adventures”

“a fun romp through a fairy tale”

“snappy dialogue and new twists on familiar fairy tale figures”

“If you are looking for a fun book to listen to while driving around town, then I recommend this one. The reader, Alyx Morgan, is excellent. She gives all the characters distinct voices. She also has a good sense of timing with the comedy scenes. Juliet Kincaid has made the old Cinderella come alive for us older folks who were lost back in time with the Disney version. This Cinderella is a character you can relate to. She has a family and in-laws to deal with while solving mysteries in the kingdom. Many times these stories just make you laugh out loud!”

FYI: If you prefer to listen to your fiction instead of reading it off the page, “Cinderella, P. I.” is the first story in Cinderella, P. I. and Other Fairy Tale Mystery Stories, now available on iTunes, Amazon, and Audible. (And it’s free when you join Audible.) Here’s the trailer:

 

New from Juliet

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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

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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.