New page for Lora!

Hi, everyone! You might not know who I am. I write mystery novels (listed here somewhere)–nine so far, and another one in gestation stage. And I do other things. I’m a medical editor, I procrastinate, and I think about my garden.
Now I’ve got this spiffy new page, with some old stuff on it. I’ll do something new, I promise. In the meantime, check out my once and future web page with three other writers at NMOMysteries.com (link on links page). And look at the people who published my last two books, Perseverance Press/Daniel and Daniel.

I’m not making any promises about frequent updates (see above: procrastination). But I will do things here as the spirit moves me. Maybe you want to say something too. I think that’s allowed.

Mrs. Beeton, The Domestic Art of Observation, and Sherlock Holmes

Mrs. Isabella Beeton was an intrepid young woman who saw her numerous younger siblings to adulthood on the untimely death of her mother, married and produced her own family, and found time to write and publish a thousand pages on every domestic issue known to woman before suffering an untimely death of her own. She existed in the real world not long before Sherlock Holmes came into being in the fictional world. Although I had read Conan Doyle before I was eleven, I was in my thirties when Mrs. Beeton really made her impact on me.

Like a host of PBS watchers, I had loved Upstairs Downstairs when it first aired. We were hooked on this turn-of-the-century soap opera, following the family and its servants through domestic and international catastrophes. Because of Upstairs Downstairs, I bought the facsimile edition of Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management when I saw it in the bookstore, and enjoyed the casual way she approached measurement in her recipes (“One small teacup full of rice, the weight of two eggs in butter and sugar”), and the strictures on how servants are hired, trained, and supervised. The housekeeper’s job was obviously a difficult one, involving a lot of executive ability and a strong back (and stomach). Mrs. Beeton made several points on the importance of observation and deduction in keeping a house clean and a staff in control.

I was still chewing that over when PBS showed Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes. In the earliest episodes, he had the mannerisms of the pre-Reichenbach Falls Holmes down perfectly. I especially enjoyed the episode where Irene Adler outsmarts him. I was inspired to create a woman, Charlotte Dodson, whose powers of detection equaled his, whose intellect stood beside his, and who would inspire him with a passion he couldn’t dismiss at the end of the story. And who should this woman be? Not an opera dancer or adventurer, because that’s a man’s conception of a fascinating woman. She would be a housekeeper, and Mrs. Beeton would hover over the story like a guardian angel by providing quotations to head each chapter. That book, The Affair of the Incognito Tenant, has gotten a lot of positive press since its spring 2004 release.

I think Sherlock Holmes would have approved of Isabella Beeton, with her active approach to managing a household. And I think Mrs. Beeton would have approved of Charlotte. Mrs. Beeton would not, however, have approved of Holmes. In her firmly-ruled household, no gentleman would ever discharge firearms in the parlor.

Another Fine Mess for Bridget

Long ago, children, before there was such a thing as AOL, I wrote my first mystery. I was inspired by local events in the quaint hamlet of Palo Alto, where a real estate frenzy raged and folks were tearing down nice old houses to build ugly monstrosities. (This was long ago, but some things never change.) I named that book Revolting Development, and introduced as sleuth someone who wasn’t seen much in mystery fiction in those ancient days: Bridget Montrose, overwhelmed mother of small children, pushing a stroller through the clean streets while she tried to figure out who had killed the real estate developer.

I always wanted to write another book from Bridget’s point of view, but then Liz Sullivan popped up in my mind and I wrote about her for a while instead. I used many of the same characters from Revolting Development, to avoid extra work. But in the back of my mind, I knew I would write more about Bridget some day.

Someday has finally come. Another Fine Mess finds Bridget coping with the unexpected success of her first novel, and totally blocked when it comes to writing the next one. An invitation to a prestigious writers’ retreat seems like the perfect thing. But tensions run high among the illustrious names invited to attend, and things are not what they seem. Though she doesn’t have to push the stroller, Bridget finds herself trying to figure things out so she can get back to working on her book.

In an especially nice touch of synergy, Perseverance Press, which published my first mystery, wanted to bring out Another Fine Mess. It was a pleasure to work with them again, and a real pleasure for me to find myself in Bridget’s head, as well as her kitchen, which has always been one of my favorite places, papier-mache dinosaurs and all.

Top Ten Reasons to be a Mystery Writer

  1. You have a reason other than parental burnout for locking yourself in your room where the kids can’t get at you.
  2. It’s okay to eavesdrop on the conversations of others.
  3. You can save by getting red pens by the gross.
  4. Your name is on the spine of a book, and you didn’t have to take out a Sharpie pen and put it there.
  5. Childhood trauma can end up as a profitable book.
  6. In fact, no experience goes unused. All are grist for the mill.
  7. Vacations are tax deductible research.
  8. It’s okay to live in a fantasy world.
  9. You get to hang out with writers, who are the coolest, nicest people in the world (most of them, anyway).
  10. There is a free lunch, and after it people actually listen to you talk, which never happens in any other sphere of your life.