Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!
I know I have been gushing for weeks and the day is finally here. Mary Daheim author of the Alpine Mystery Series and the Bed and Breakfast Mysteries is my guest today. Her stories were some of the first mysteries I read after my accident, before I even knew what a cozy mystery was. I have always been a fan of mysteries and thrillers and a friend thought I would enjoy the calmer tone of a cozy as I recovered. She came to my room with a stack of Mary’s books. One of the first books I held after my left hand started working again was The Alpine Advocate and I was hooked. If you would have told me then I would be able to converse with famous authors on a daily basis like I can today I would have told you that you were crazy! Loving technology!!
OUT OF CONTROL & NAMING NAMES
Why do characters in books do what they do?
They do as they please. Most writers insist that once characters are created, they take on a life of their own. I’ll vouch for that. Nowhere is it more evident than in my Emma Lord/Alpine series. What makes it even harder to deal with my often perverse protagonist is that I gave her a first person narrative. We see everything that happens through Emma’s eyes and her vision is often impaired, especially when it comes to love.
When I’m writing a book in that series, Emma and everybody else must act in a way that’s true to character. That’s not to say that these people don’t change over time—they do, Emma included. But over the years, she’s often driven me nuts. There’s nothing I can do about it, no more than I can in real life when someone is pigheadedly making a big mistake. I keep my mouth shut in the real world and in fiction I refrain from interfering via the keyboard.
It’s somewhat different with the B&B series. Having based the protagonist and her sidekick on my cousin Judy and me, I know how these two will react. I should clear up one misconception about Judith: She is not me. I’m the not-quite-as-kind Renie. I was named for my grandmothers, Mary and Serena. But Serena was always known as Rene (one syllable, rhymes with mean). Thus, my parents named me Mary Rene. Within the family, I’ve always been called Renie (rhymes with meanie). In more formal situations I was Mary Rene.
When I started grade school, I had a problem being Mary Rene Richardson. We were required to print our full names on one line at the top of the page. I’ve always had big handwriting (or printing, back then). I couldn’t get all those letters on one line. So I dropped the Rene. It’s a good thing I had practical and understanding parents. To this day, I still think of myself as Mary Rene, though most people call me Mary.
Which brings me back to Emma. By coincidence, I have an earlier Civil War historical romance I wrote in 1985 called Pride’s Captive that’s being re-released February first with a new title, Reunion. The heroine is named Serena and her goal is to become a journalist. I really can’t remember if I thought much about that coincidence when I chose a name for my Alpine protagonist. I’ve always liked my paternal grandmother’s names of Emma Serena, so I decided to go with the other half of her name. In 1991 when I started the Alpine series I didn’t know many Emmas in real life. Now it’s one of the most popular names for baby girls. I take no credit for this, of course, but it does make me smile. The name means “universal or all-containing.” Maybe that suits a journalist–but that isn’t why I chose it.
As for the B&Bs, Judith and Renie aren’t exact duplicates of their real-life counterparts. I wouldn’t want Judy suing me and I’m not sure how I could go about suing myself. In fact, many of the characters in the B&B books are based on family members, though some are composites. So far, none of them have threatened to sue me. Yet.
And yes—Gertrude and Aunt Deb are based on Judy’s mother and my mother. Though they were sisters in real life, they’re sisters-in-law in the books. I’m often asked if the real Gertrude is or was as ornery as she appears in the books. My answer is–not quite. My Aunt Kate had a sharp tongue and was very opinionated. She also had a wonderful sense of humor and a good heart.
Aunt Deb displays my mother’s martyr complex, if somewhat exaggerated. But Mom was very protective and demanded a lot of attention from her only child—just as Aunt Kate did with Judy. Mom was very smart and loved to laugh. She and my aunt would get into arguments over the phone, with Aunt Kate usually hanging up on Mom, who would then announce that her sister was an idiot. Judy tells me Aunt Kate would say the same thing about my mother.
For some reason, I’m thinking back to the night Aunt Kate died (well into her 90s) and of a comeback from Judy that will never make it into a book: Her mother had been hospitalized for a fairly minor problem. Around 8:30 one evening, Judy called to tell me her mother had died. Could my husband Dave and I meet her at the hospital? Of course we could. We arrived a few minutes ahead of Judy and we were talking to the nurse. The first question from Judy (a nurse in real life) was why her mother had died so suddenly. The nurse told Judy they Hi Everyone!! know what to put down as cause of death.
Judy looked at the nurse with a straight face and said, “I think we can rule out foul play.”
Sometimes life imitates art. Or is it the other way around?
To Find Out More About Mary Visit Her Website Here.
The Alpine Xanadu:
An Emma Lord Mystery (Emma Lord Mysteries)
24th in Series
Ballantine Books (January 29, 2013)
An Imprint of The Random House Publishing Group
Hardcover: 336 pages
E-Book File Size: 1085 KB
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0345535316
Things are crazy in Alpine! RestHaven, a new rehab and mental health facility is finally opening and the Advocate staff in on deadline to get the feature out that will introduce it to the community. The town is buzzing about the news that Emma and Sheriff Milo Dodge are engaged. Then that fool Wayne Eriks has climbed an electric pole in the middle of a storm and got himself electrocuted. Or did he? Something is not adding up for the sheriff. Add to that allegations that someone’s trying to kill the richest man in town . . . or whispers of a rash of indecent behavior at the local high school… and Vida Runkel, the Advocate’s stalwart House & Home editor, disappears into thin air. Milo and Emma have no time to even think about a wedding. They have too many mysteries to solve. Their happiness will just have to wait.
Every visit to Alpine is entertaining and fun! This edition is jam packed with action and keeps the reader on their toes. Twists and turns galore. It is hard not to get caught up in the tangled web of these characters lives.
I don’t know if my husband could away with some of the comments the sheriff makes to Emma but for Milo they just fit. Emma and Milo have grown into that comfy couple. They respect each other but at times one of them wants to strangle the other. When you talk about characters evolving over the life of a series Emma and Milo are excellent examples.
Now Vida is the one I want to strangle. She needs to take off one of those huge hats and hit her grandson Roger with it! That kid needs to grow up and get on with his life and she needs to stop coddling him. She is an absolute treasure to Alpine. Who else who keep all these friends, foes and relatives straight? but she is not helping that boy a bit.
My heart aches for Mitch and Brenda and their family. Dealing with a son in prison has to be tough especially when he keeps escaping.
Emma’s family takes a smaller role in this installment but Milo’s ex-wife and daughter are right on the scene. After 24 stories there are several characters the make minor appearances in these stories but Daheim does her best to keep us in the loop with as many families as possible. Each book is like a mini vacation to Alpine, Washington.
Mary Daheim writes intelligent and complex mysteries full of humor, intrigue and a bit of romance. In a previous review I called her a beacon on the cozy mystery horizon. She has created two longing running series and keeps them engaging and fresh. I look forward to each and every one.
Mary has sponsored a FANTASTIC GIVEAWAY!!!!
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”