Ivanhoe’s Drive-In

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Chocolate.

In the small Indiana town of Upland lies an unlikely hero.

In 1965 this drive-in opened to sell burgers and shakes, like so many others. It’s expanded and changed with time, but it’s also specialized and become internationally famous for its impressive dessert lineup. Continue reading

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Soda

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Chocolate.

The next installment in my chocolate sampling series! And I just plain forgot to plug in my mic for this one, so the camera mic was picking up background noises and my dog Undómiel warning off some nocturnal creature outside. My apologies. Also my camera was a bit high, but at least that means you get to see a better view of Mr. Snaggles, one of my dinosaurs. Continue reading

Guest Post: Garrett Hutson on Choosing a Place and Time

Please welcome with me to the blog today Garrett Hutson, whom I have the advantage of having as a very useful critique partner in my writing group. Garrett writes mysteries and spy novels set in various historical contexts, and I always learn something new when I’m reading his pages! He’s come here today to talk about choosing a time and place for his new mystery series, which starts with The Jade Dragon.

Choosing a Place and Time

I was surfing the internet a few years ago, when I stumbled upon a news story about a sort of rebirth of the old Shanghai jazz scene from the 1920s and ‘30s, and it really intrigued me.  I followed links, learned more—and in the way internet surfing often does, it led me down all sorts of rabbit holes of information about the golden age of Shanghai, the “Paris of the Orient,” with its glitz, glamor, and intrigue.

Perfect back-drop for a story, right? That’s exactly what I thought.  With all of the corruption—I mean, the head of the largest opium syndicate in Asia was the commissioner for the Anti-Opium board in Shanghai, so come on!—I knew it was ideal for a murder mystery.  There was so much potential in this setting—radical extremes of wealth and poverty, even more than usual for the 1930s; an International Settlement governed by representatives of fifteen nations, but under nominal Chinese sovereignty; Korean exiles maintaining a provisional government right under the noses of the Japanese—I was in love with the idea.

I began to imagine a basic plot—a pair of Americans out on the town, enjoying the famous Shanghai nightlife, when one of them gets murdered.  I would need lots of potential murderers, of course, and the world of 1930s Shanghai offered all kinds of possibilities.  There could be some connection with the drug gang, of course, and maybe corrupt police.  There were Chinese communists hiding out in Shanghai at the time, waging a clandestine war with the government, so that could be fun to bring in.  Oh, and a Japanese spy—I’d weave that in somehow.

I’ve always loved imagining what it was like to live in a different place and time, so naturally History was my favorite class in school, and as both a reader and a writer I have been drawn to historical fiction.  History is so much more than dates and events—it is about people and their stories.  As a writer, I have been drawn to the lesser-known stories, which is why I had a ball researching the world of Shanghai during the inter-war period.

I found all kinds of fun things, including a 1934 Guidebook chock full of authentic details on anything and everything, and the published memoir of a British police officer who served on the Shanghai Municipal Police from 1929 until 1936.  Both were invaluable, and made the setting real.

There is a wealth of stock photographs of Shanghai from this time period that really helped to bring the setting to life for me.  I learned that many of the Art Deco buildings from the time are still standing, and modern tourists have posted beautiful color photos of these places on their travel blogs.  These made it so easy—and fun—to immerse myself in the setting, and really imagine what it was like.  Real people passed through these places, with real dreams and concerns, and I wanted to make it feel that real to my characters—and ultimately, to my readers.

That is my favorite part of writing a novel, and I am so excited when it comes together as it did.  If readers love it as much as I did, then my joy is complete.

Garrett Hutson is the author of The Jade Dragon a literary historical mystery set in 1935 Shanghai, available from Amazon. For more information about the author and his books, visit his website at www.garretthutson.com

Like Garrett, I sometimes come across a setting which begs for a story, instead of inventing a premise first, and it’s great when that happens — because then I know the story will be organic to that setting, rather than shoehorned in and ill-fitting. And sometimes we’d never have the audacity to dream up stuff as wild as real life, such as the opium syndicate head serving as anti-opium commissioner! Truth is truly stranger than fiction.

The Jade Dragon released June 4, 2017, and is available in ebook and paperback.

Japanese Chocolate and Japanese Fiction

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Chocolate.

This is the first in a new series of posts, and I don’t know how many there will be, on chocolate.

Because chocolate.

My intention is to share some unusual chocolate thing and tell you why it’s remarkable. Continue reading

A Winner is You!

A Winner Is YouYou did it, you fabulous readers, you.

You voted for Nova & Reaver and you won. Continue reading

Equus: Fight and Launch!

Vote for War Unicorns!YOU GUYS ARE AWESOME.

I asked for help when Nova & Reaver made the #EquusFight semi-finals, and you came out in droves. Herds. Voting closed at 100-33 in favor of the trained war unicorns. You rock.

And thus, we come to the finals. Continue reading

Contest for Hall of Heroes

Hall of HeroesTo celebrate the release of the anthology Hall of Heroes, I’m having a contest.

I have two stories in this anthology, “And Only the Eyes of Children” and “Teamwork.” To enter the contest, you must answer this question: Continue reading

Vote, Maybe Even Win, & Get a Free Book Just For Reading This Post

Vote for War Unicorns!No, seriously, it’s all that simple. (Well, and you have to click a link or two.)

First up: Nova and Reaver, my highly-trained war unicorns from my story “Rue the Day” in the fantabulous upcoming Equus, have advanced to the semi-finals.

Ready for action? Click here and comment that you want Nova and Reaver to win. Sure, a kelpie is cool and all, but we’re talking trained war unicorns. Just click and comment. Continue reading

#EquusFight: The Saga Continues

white horse head with black title text EQUUSThe drama continues over at #EquusFight, the contest where the equine stars of the anthology Equus are pitted against one another in a Battle Royale!

My trained war unicorns Nova and Reaver made it through the first competition, but they are neck-and-neck with a Sleipnir-inspired rival. Now, normally you know I’d be all supportive of Sleipnir, because of The Songweaver’s Vow and other stories, but not this time. This time it’s war. Unicorn war. Continue reading

MerMay Giveaway!

It’s #MerMay on the internet, and that means beautiful sirens and sea-people!

Or sometimes carnivorous and cannibalistic seductive monsters. You know, it can vary.

So I’m participating in a #MerMay giveaway, and you can jump right in, the water’s fine!

There are plenty of cool books to check out, and together we are giving away this lovely mermaid journal:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

It’s worth paddling over there just to see some of the covers. Pretty.

BAIT by Laura VanArendonk Baugh. BAIT. They eat us to live. We eat them to live forever.Not sure you’re ready for the deep end? You can just get your feet wet with a free preview of my novella Bait, available here.

The giveaway contest runs May 4-18, 2017. Good luck!