Nancy Martin’s Miss Ruffles

A JKWryter Fav

Long a fan of Nancy Martin’s Blackbird Sisters Mysteries, recently I came upon her stand-alone mystery, Miss Ruffles Inherits Everything while trolling the mystery section at my local library. I’m very glad I checked it out because this mystery has all the elements I’ve enjoyed in Ms. Martin’s other work, plus more.

1) A resourceful, kind, likeable female amateur sleuth. In this book the lead is Sunny McKillip who becomes a dog’s caretaker. Miss Ruffles is a small, feisty, noisy cattle-herding dog, as yet untrained, that clearly shows her opinion for all she meets. If you pass approval, you get licks. If you don’t, you get growls and nips.

2) Spot-on observations like this one: “enough flowers for a royal wedding.”

3) Top writing skills: I really admired the way Ms. Martin introduced the major suspects of the mystery in Chapter 1 at the funeral of the very wealthy Honeybelle Hensley and then the supporting characters when Sunny walks Miss Ruffles home through the town.

4) A lively well-constructed mystery plot that climaxes in a hilarious, laugh-out-loud big scene with plenty of surprises along the way. (Miss Martin’s books aren’t formulaic.)

5) A manly, yet imperfect possible love interest.

To this mix, Ms. Martin added some fresh elements.

1) A setting different from her usual East Coast, Philadelphia area: a little Texas town called Mule Stop and its inhabitants.

2) A protagonist/narrator who’s an outsider, not an insider: As Sunny struggles to get to know the strange culture in which she finds herself, she casts a sharp eye on its foibles and the secrets of its inhabitants.

3) The dog is great.

I really liked Miss Ruffles Inherits Everything and highly recommend it.

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Juliet Kincaid writes the calendar historical mysteries set in Kansas City, a place that could get deadly a hundred years ago or so and the Cinderella, P. I. fairy tale mysteries for grown-ups featuring a favorite character twenty years, three kids and a few extra pounds after the ball. These stories and novels are available as eBooks and trade paperbacks from Amazon. Here’s the link to Juliet’s Amazon Author’s Central page: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1?ie=UTF8&text=Juliet+Kincaid&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Juliet+Kincaid&sort=relevancerank

The Business Girl

Earlier this year when I was working on Mischief in March, the third book in my calendar mystery series, I decided to find out if my heroine, Minty Wilcox, could have read the Ladies’ Home Journal in March 1900. So I launched a Google search and found out that sure enough she could.

In doing so, I stumbled upon a book called The Business Girl in Every Phase of her Life by Ruth Ashmore. Based on an advice column for young women in the Ladies’ Home Journal, the book first appeared in 1898. Written in the voice of a sympathetic older woman, it offers the business girl advice on twelve issues. These include behaving properly in the work place, getting along with her boss, living away from home, forming friendships, taking care of her clothes, and managing her money.

Now, one of the things I love about researching and writing historical fiction is making happy discoveries like this one. In this instance, I soon realized that Minty Wilcox, newly graduated from high school in 1898, would have read The Business Girl. And she would have taken its advice to heart in her decision to become a stenographer/typist, so she could help with the household’s finances and to make her own way in the world.

The real Eureka moment came for me when I realized that my great-aunt Melicent Perkins, on whom Minty Wilcox is based, undoubtedly read The Business Girl. Born on June 22, 1880, Aunt Melicent graduated from high school in 1898, went to business school, and then to work for the Daily Home News newspaper in New Brunswick, NJ in 1900. She worked there until she retired sixty-seven years later as the executive secretary/treasurer. She never married, perhaps because she, like the business girl Mrs. Ashmore addresses in the preface of the book, never met “her ideal” or because she had too many family responsibilities to wed.

(I have quite a different future in mind for Minty.)

I have two photographs of my aunt Melicent when she was young. Here she is, looking eager and perhaps a little nervous about her future when she graduated from high school, and some time later, looking serene and confident as the business girl.

Mischief in March is available for free for your Kindle reader from May 11 through May 14, Mother’s Day, at www.amazon.com/dp/B06XR1STRN

M. Louisa Locke’s Maids of Misfortune

Maids of Misfortune by M. Louisa Locke, a review by Juliet Kincaid

This historical novel, set in San Francisco in 1879, hooks you from the start with the widowed Annie Fuller receiving a letter claiming that she owes some gent the sum of $1,380 for a loan made to her late husband. If you keep in mind the statistic that what you could buy for a penny in 1900 would cost you a dollar in 2000, you’ll realize just how shocked Mrs. Fuller must have been with an unexpected debt of the equivalent of $138,000.

Dr. Locke follows through on her strong opening with the revelation that Mrs. Fuller supplements her income running a boarding house by giving advice on investing and personal matters as Madam Sibyl, a clairvoyant. Sibyl charges $2 (or $200 in 2000 dollars) a sitting and worth every penny of it, at least according to her favorite client, who sadly has died under suspicious circumstances. And so Annie goes undercover as the new hire maid to find out what really happened to him in this lively first book in Dr. Locke’s Victorian San Francisco Mystery series.

A couple of quibbles . . . Descriptions of San Francisco seem a bit thin, though of course lots of that city as it was in 1879 disappeared in the great earthquake and subsequent fires of April 18, 1906. The romantic subplot with a handsome lawyer who soon shows up seems somewhat conventional. These reservations disappeared, though, as I read Uneasy Spirits and Bloody Lessons, the next two novels in the series as well as her collection of Victorian San Francisco stories. Obviously I remain hooked by the engaging Annie Fuller and I suspect that other fans of historical mysteries will enjoy the series as well.

FYI: Maids of Misfortune is permanently free for Kindle, Nook, and other eBook readers.

Looking for Old Kansas City, Part 2

Inside the New England Building

(See my blog post of August 25, 2016, for Part 1.)

When I began researching and writing my calendar mystery series set in Kansas City around a hundred years ago, I decided to place the detective agency my heroine Minty Wilcox works for in the historic New England Building, a handsome brownstone seven-story structure with a distinctive oriel on its southwest corner. It was the first building in Kansas City to have elevators.

Originally, Price Investigations was on an upper floor of the New York Life Insurance Building. But during a site visit several years ago, I discovered that I couldn’t get above the first floor of the New York Life Building, so I decided to move the agency just a little west on Ninth Street to the New England Life Insurance Building on Wyandotte. When I visited that building several years ago, I climbed the stairs inside to the third floor and looked around. But I didn’t go inside any of the offices. Still, taking a leap of imagination, I decided to place the agency in the third floor office that had the oriel.

This location served me well for the end of January Jinx and all of Fatal February. However, once I started Mischief in March, I realized I would have to know the interior layout of that two-room office suite because in the course of the first part of the book, it would become a crime scene! Yikes! The Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, an exquisite poster of the building showing four of its seven floors, and the original architectural drawings offered limited help. Particularly troublesome was that pesky oriel. Was it big enough for a chair? I wondered, or just for a Boston fern?

And so I decided I simply had to get into that building and walk around in that space. However, by that time, a new wrinkle to my search had developed. The New England Building had become a construction site as it was being converted into apartments and thus was off limits to the public.

Nevertheless, I called the company that now owns the building and they said they’d give me a tour. Another problem arose. When I actually got inside the New England Building, I discovered most of the interior walls were gone, but there still were marks on the floor showing where they’d been, so I got a feeling for the space. Here’s a shot of an original door with the mail slot and one of the fireplaces with a cast iron mantel.

And I got inside the oriel. It turns out it’s big enough to hold an easy chair where the agency manager might sit to read the Kansas City Star, and maybe also a potted Boston fern. But the big surprise to me, something I wouldn’t have known until I actually went there, is the oriel is two stories high both outside and inside as well. Here are some pictures. Isn’t that oriel the coolest thing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

January Jinx is available as a trade paperback and as a Kindle eBook for $3.99 at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4

Fatal February is available as a trade paperback and as a Kindle eBook for $3.99 at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM

Mischief in March will soon be available as a trade paperback and now is available as a Kindle eBook  at www.amazon.com/dp/B06XR1STRN  for $3.99.

Great Read only $0.99

From the Kansas City Star Tuesday, 6 February, 1900

A CAR KILLS A SCHOOL GIRL

Little Hortense Petty Horribly Mangled

On the Northeast Line

Hortense, the 12-year-old daughter of Wilfred Petty of 4116 St. John Avenue, was killed by an electric car at St. John and Jackson Avenues, almost directly in front of her own home at 8:30 o’clock this morning.

The little girl was on her way to school with her brother, Willy, 9 years old. They attended the Scarritt School, the little girl being in the fifth grade. There is no sidewalk along the north side of St. John Avenue west of Jackson and the two children were walking westward in the street along the north side of the track. The little boy says they heard no car coming. The cars run swiftly there, the neighbors say.

Just before the children reached Jackson Avenue, the little girl being at the left of her brother and a little in advance, started across the first car track. Just as she was stepping over the last rail of the first track the westbound car, running at high speed, struck her.

The man reading the previous evening’s newspaper lowered it to his lap. Across the bedroom a woman huddled against the wall. The lamplight transformed her red skirt into a pool of blood on the carpet around her.

That would work and well, the man thought. People constantly blundered onto the tracks of Kansas City’s streetcars, cable cars, and railway trains. The schoolgirl was the first of the month to die in that way, but undoubtedly not the last.

Not if he had anything to say about it at least.

He glanced over his shoulder at the rumpled bed and then at the girl. “Get up. You’re not hurt all that bad.”

“I’m sorry, sir. I’m not sure–“

“I told you to get up.”

“Yes, sir,” she said in her light, pretty voice and began a long, slow climb to standing, first her left foot, then hands flat on the floor as she got her right foot under her, but also on the hem of her dress. Still crouching, she yanked the red cloth out from under her scuffed shoe, and straightened, but never fully. Propping herself against the wall, she folded her arms across her hips and moaned softly.

“Quit your belly aching.”

“Okay.”

When she glanced toward the door, he said, “You’re not leaving until I’m good and ready.”

“But, sir,” she blubbered.

“Don’t worry. I’ll see that you get home.” It wasn’t his plan to take her home, but she wasn’t to know that.

He’d made a mistake with this one.

The others hadn’t mattered. But someone might care about this girl, a pretty thing with red hair. People might come looking for her, and if they found her alive, she might tell them what he’d done. That would never do.

Besides, she was ruined now, quite ruined. Why, if she knew what he planned, she’d probably thank him for ending her misery.

But evening was hours away and he needed darkness. Meanwhile, there was the bed and there was the girl. The newspaper dropped to the floor as he stood.

Then, quite by chance, somewhere nearby a train sounded its whistle, its great metal wheels rumbled on the tracks, and he smiled.

She surprised him by smiling in return.

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That morning, at her desk at Price Investigations, Minty Wilcox pounded the keys of her old Remington typewriter. She stopped and lifted the carriage of the blind strike machine to check the date on the report from earlier in the week that she was typing.

Did I get it right? she asked herself. Yes, she had. She had typed Wednesday February 7, 1900, and not the 1899 that she’d typed more times than she cared to admit so early in the year . . .

It’s February 1900, and a young woman has gone missing from a Kansas City garment factory. Price Investigations has been hired to find the girl, who may have come to harm. Minty Wilcox longs to help, but her boss doesn’t approve of women sleuthing. He also forbids any office romance at all, especially with the dashing detective, Daniel Price. When Minty decides to defy her boss and go undercover to find the girl, Daniel helps her, but he also hinders her with outrageous flirtation and other ploys. And, as she digs into the case, Minty comes into danger herself. Will Daniel rescue her? Will Minty even let him try? Read Fatal February to find out.

From January through December, the Calendar Mysteries tell the story of Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price from newly met to newly wed and beyond in Kansas City, a place that could get downright deadly a century or so ago.

Buy Fatal February from February 14 through February 20, 2017, for only 99 cents at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM.

Praise for January Jinx

Book 1 of the Calendar Mysteries

Mystery and romance in old Kansas City

By Juliet Kincaid

What fun it is to read a mystery set in a different locale, Kansas City in this case. Set at the turn of the last century, the book is well-researched and the details of daily life are woven into the story so expertly that you are transported. The characters are lively and everything they do and think is suitable for the era. The main character, Minty Wilcox, is the kind of young woman you root for: gutsy and daring for her time while still trying to maintain her manners. The love interest is fun, the plot engaging and the ending a surprise. Jump into another century with a rich variety of characters and have a good read.

The story moves with no dead spots at all. One little surprise after another triggers the wonder when the next in the series will arrive. Overall, an enjoyable few hours of reading. Cleverly done.

Sometimes a girl just can’t catch a break and that’s certainly true for Minty Wilcox. Everything just keeps getting worse, but Minty knows she’s not a murderer and she’s bound to prove it. January Jinx is a great mystery and a great kick-off for this series.

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.

 

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:

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.