Goodreads Giveaway

I am giving away ten copies of Death of a Dyer, my second Will Rees mystery on Goodreads.

In this book, Rees returns to his hometown and tries to settle down. Lydia accompanies him as his housekeeper -both are not sure where their feelings might take them. David also returns home although he and his father are still at odds.

Rees has been home for only a short time when he is asked to look into the murder of a childhood friend.

9781250033963

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Politics

The recent election was acrimonious and ugly. People have unfriended erstwhile friends or just simply stopped talking with them.  While there may be unusual facets to this election, those in the past were not nice or gentle. I am including a section from my new book: The Devil’s Cold Dish, where I describe some of the unfortunate aftereffects of politics. Now this was in 1797 and I wrote this in 2014, so the emotional tenor is based solely on my research.

Turning her gaze to Rees, Jerusha said, “Your cheek is bleeding.”

“Yes, it is,” Rees agreed.

“Fetch me a bowl, Abby,” Lydia said. “And put some warm water in it, please.” She urged Rees into the side room and into a chair, despite his protests. “What happened?”

“Oh, Tom McIntyre had another customer. Mr. Drummond, a gentleman from Virginia by his accent. One of those land speculators. He was holding forth on George Washington and why he should have been impeached. I don’t know why people can’t leave the man alone.” With last fall’s election, John Adams had won the presidency and Thomas Jefferson the vice presidency. Washington had gone into retirement, a battered, aging lion.

“Was Mr. Drummond the one who did this?” She gestured to the cut upon his cheek.

“No,” Rees said. Drummond had already left when the argument exploded.

“I suppose you had to speak up,” Lydia said, her voice dropping with disappointment. “I love your sense of justice but I do wish you didn’t feel the need to fight every battle.” A former Shaker, she abhorred violence. Besides, she worried about the consequences, especially now after the serious injury to Sam.

Rees knew how she felt. He was trying to curb his temper, mostly because he wanted Lydia and his adopted children to be happy in Dugard. But so far he’d broken every promise to do better that he’d made to himself.

“We wouldn’t have a country without the president’s leadership during the War for Independence,” Rees said, hearing the defensiveness in his voice. After fighting under General Washington during the War for Independence, Rees would hear no criticism of the man who’d become the first president. Those who hadn’t fought, or who had only belonged to the Continental Army between planting and harvest, could not possibly understand what Washington had achieved.

Rees hesitated, fighting the urge to justify himself, but finally bursting into speech. “Mac and that Drummond fellow both favor Jefferson and the French. Drummond said that President Washington’s actions during the Jay affair smacked of treason. And when I said that the president had done his very best and that if anyone was guilty of treason it was John Jay, Mac said that the problem was that General Washington was a tired, senile old man.” He stopped talking.

When McIntyre had called Washington senile, Rees’s temper had risen and he had pushed the smaller man with all his strength. Since Mac probably weighed barely more than nine stone, he flew backward into the side of the mill. Flour from his clothing rose up at the impact, filling the air with a fine dust. That was when Zadoc Ward, Mac’s cousin, jumped on Rees and began pummeling him. Rees had already had a previous fight with the belligerent black-haired fellow who was usually found in the center of every brawl. Rees had caught Ward bullying Sam in the tavern and would have knocked him down if Constable Caldwell hadn’t broken up the fight and sent Rees on his way.

Rees permitted himself a small smile of satisfaction. At the mill, he’d put down Ward like the mad dog he was. But by then Mac’s eldest son, Elijah, and some of the other mill employees had arrived. They’d grabbed Rees. In the ensuing altercation, Ward, who was looking for revenge, had hit Rees in the face and sent him crashing to the ground in his turn. But Rees had bloodied a few noses before that. He didn’t want to admit to Lydia that he had participated in the brawl just like a schoolboy, but he suspected she already knew. She frowned anxiously.

“Well, you can hardly blame Mr. McIntyre for his unhappiness,” she said, turning Rees’s face up to the light. “The British have continued capturing American ships. Wasn’t his brother impressed by the British into their navy? Anyway, it’s not only the French who were, and still are, angry about Mr. Jay’s treaty. You were the one who told me he was burned in effigy all up and down the coast. And that the cry was ‘Damn John Jay. Damn everyone who won’t damn John Jay and damn everyone who won’t stay up all night damning John Jay.’”

“Yes,” Rees admitted with some reluctance.

“And now, with the Bank of England withholding payments to American vendors, Mr. McIntyre might go broke and lose his mill.”

“But none of this was President Washington’s fault,” Rees argued. “He has always striven for fairness. To be neutral in all things. Personally, I blame Mr. Hamilton.”

“I’m certain Mr. Jefferson bears some of the responsibility,” Lydia said in an acerbic tone. “He is so pro-French.” Rees wished he didn’t agree. Although he concurred with many of Jefferson’s Republican ideals, the vice president was pro-French and a slaveholder besides. And Rees could not forgive Jefferson for turning on Washington and criticizing him. “Discussing politics is never wise,” Lydia continued. “You know better. Passions run so high. And I see your argument resulted in fisticuffs.”

“Mr. McIntyre struck me first,” Rees said as Lydia dabbed at the cut above his eyebrow. The hot water stung and he grunted involuntarily. “You know how emotional he is.” Mac had spent his life quivering in outrage over something or other, and for all his small size he had been embroiled in as many battles as Rees. But now, with the wisdom of hindsight, Rees was beginning to wonder why Mac had been so eager to quarrel with him. They’d always been friends. Yet Mac had been, well, almost hostile.

“He can’t weigh much more than one hundred twenty or so pounds soaking wet,” Lydia added in a reproachful tone.

“I know. This,” he gestured to the cut, “came from his cousin, Zadoc Ward.” In fact Ward would have continued the fight, but Elijah had held him back. “I knocked him down, though,” Rees said in some satisfaction. Lydia did not speak for several seconds, although she gave his wound an extra hard wipe.

My Mother always said never discuss politics or religion. Failing a neutral topic, fall back on the weather. I find that advice hard to take – I’m sure it was just as difficult to follow it in the past as well.

Horses, buggies and wagons, Part I

Think about this fact for a moment: humans have used horses and wagons for millennia. Yet, in the space of 100 years, less, actually, the use of horses had ended.
Most of us no longer have a connection to these beautiful animals or the really elegant inventions that shaped the wagons and buggies that were used for most of human civilization. True, the advances made for the creation of the humble axle did set up the use of axles in cars. How many of us think about this tool which was really the product of many years of trial and error investigation?

First came the wheel?
Not exactly. Remnants of sledges using rollers, not wheels, have been discovered n eastern Europe. There is a lot of discussion about the dating of these rollers and some estimates put it back to about 4000 B. C. (To my amazement, when I began researching wagons and horses, I discovered that Eastern Europe and the steppes were actually the home of many inventions that today we take entirely for granted. Axle is actually an evolved word (aks) from some Proto Indo-European tongue that spawned of the languages from Greek to German, Iranian to Celtic that we are familiar with today. Honey bees. Pigs. Sheep who were domesticated first for meat – they were short fibers so the wool was unspinnable. No one is sure whether it was a mutation or human intervention that created sheep with the wool we use today. )
But I digress.
Sledges had to be pulled by teams of oxen and were very heavy. Also, and this is where the axle comes in, they didn’t move smoothly. Drag is very important in the movement of objects since it pulls back. Think of trying to move something through heavy mud. Later wheeled wagons and of course our current cars don’t have drag – not from the wheels nor to this degree – because the wheels and axle and all the other pieces are constructed in such a way that the vehicle moves as though it is much lighter, without the clutch of another force holding it back. From mud to a smooth asphalt road, for example.
Are we to wheels yet?

Goodreads Giveaway

Last call for the giveaway of my second book, “Death of a Dyer

 

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The giveaway ends Sunday night. In “Death of a Dyer”, Rees goes home to Dugard. He is trying to mend fences with David, his son. Lydia has accompanied him as well, as a housekeeper. Both have baggage from previous relationships and are hesitant to begin again.

Rees is home for only a short while when he is asked to look into the death of Nate Bowditch, Rees’s boyhood friend. A weaver like Rees, Nate has become a dyer. This is a time before the coal tar dyes. Besides indigo and cochineal, most of the dyes used in Dugard would have been natural dyes: some madder, black walnut, butternut and so on. And both indigo and cochineal were very expensive.

I had a lot of fun with this book since I got to include tons of stuff about dyeing and weaving.

Kirkwall, Scotland

Our final stop, before sailing to London and flying out to home, was Kirkwall. It is in the Orkneys. We were told that the Orkneys do not want to separate from Great Britain but remain. That, of course, is not the common view in Scotland. The National Party just had a vote to leave and enter the EU as a separate country. The vote failed but who knows what will happen next time?

Anyway, ruins here make even the Iron Age farm seem relatively recent. There are standing stones, similar to Stonehenge.

standing stones

Like Stonehenge, they line up to the solar equinox. There are a lot of speculations about the purpose of the stones but no one really knows.

We also saw ruins that date to 3000 BC. (Is the US a young country or what?) Trash was used in the walls to insulate inside. Plus, just like the ruins in Crete, there were indoor toilets. What happened that this little luxury went extinct and had to be reinvented in modern times?

neolithic ruins

 

neo ruins two

It is thought that the sea was further away then; again no one is sure. But the water is coming in now and threatening the excavation. The people who lived here ate fish and other things from the sea. No one is sure what happened to these people although there is another settlement nearby and one of the theories is that they moved.

The land upon which these ruins were found has belonged to the same family for generations. Incredible.

It was very cold and windy. We did not hit warm weather until we reached London. And, as with the other places we visited, there were a lot of sheep.

 

 

orkney library two

For all my fellow librarians, here is the Orkney Library. I was told this is the oldest Carnegie in the world. Something that amazed me. I thought all the Carnegies were in the U. S. The Orkney Library looks like it has been added to several times.

orkney library

Next time: some random thoughts.

Iceland

Iceland is a beautiful country. Very dramatic with steep mountains, volcanoes and lakes and streams with waterfalls.

waterfall

Iceland is a geothermal country and is growing – slowly. Volcanoes are a big part of the landscape. We saw the volcano that erupted in 2010 (I can neither pronounce or spell the name) and stopped air traffic over Europe. The lava formations do indeed look like trolls, which are huge in the mythology. Our tour guide read us a troll fairy tale. (Another one sang America the Beautiful with us, since it was July 4th. A wonderful and very special memory.)

lava

The scale of the image does not show how enormous this outcropping is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because of the this activity, all the energy is geothermal. And signs of the geothermal activity are everywhere. Incelanders heat their homes with geothermal energy – we toured a power plant.

 

geyser

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This geyser is at Geysir – yes, folks, geyser is an Icelandic name. Another feature is the boiling water and mud that one can see everywhere

fumerole

 

 

 

 

Iceland was very green, with snow on the higher peaks. But it is too cold to grow many things so most of the produce – that is not imported – is grown in greenhouses. Here, even a degree or two can make a huge difference. Iceland is trying to establish plants so they have imported various trees and Alaskan lupines.

We bought more sweaters.

One interesting feature: the livestock. Almost feral horses that are thickly covered with hair. Cattle that are a very old breed (Iceland has strict laws on importing livestock since they want to keep their breeds pure). The cattle look very different from our modern cows. They are horned with long pointed horns, for one thing, and instead of a barrel shape their bodies hang from their prominent hips as though the flesh was on a coat hanger.

And there are more sheep than people: sheep everywhere.

I loved Iceland but I don’t think I could take the cold climate. And, in the north, we had almost 24 hours of day. I cannot imagine coping with 24 hours of night.

Witchcraft – Salem and More

I ‘ve had a couple of questions about my most recent book, Death in Salem. Why didn’t I fully explore the witchcraft angle? Well, as I’ve said in earlier posts, Salem by 1797, was a very cosmopolitan city. It was not only the sixth largest, one of the most diverse (with the first East Indian immigrant populations in the US) but it was also the wealthiest. Salem’s witchcraft past was more an embarrassment.

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House of one of the judges.

 

 

 

 

The witchcraft spell has never completely left Salem, however. On one of our tours, the guide was the descendent of one of the accused witches. Reminders of this past abound.

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Graveyard includes memorials to those that were executed.

 

 

 

 

Although Salem became something other – a huge center of shipping and trading, however, the belief in witchcraft did not fade. In an earlier blog I wrote about trials that continued, right up to one in Russia in 1999. Belief that women are witches never completely disappear.

And I wonder what is behind these accusations? Belief? Greed, malice, revenge? Hatred of women. With Gamer gate and all of the Internet attacks on women we  cannot discount that as a motive.

Christianity certainly plays a part.I think most of us are familiar with the quote from the Bible about not suffering a witch to live. During the middle ages and right up to modern times this has been used to execute any number of innocent people, primarily women.

I will blog  in the future about my research into witchcraft and goddesses – I think the two are tied.

To answer the question I have asked, I decided, that since I did not explore witchcraft and the psychologies behind it in Death in Salem, I would do so in the next book. That book, titled The Devil”s Cold Dish, will be coming out next year. Spoiler alert: it does not take place in Salem.