Susan Sloate: On Historical Research Sunday, Aug 6 2017 

Please welcome Susan Slaote, to explain about the historical research she loves!

It’s Not Laziness—It’s Research!!

I love, love, LOVE American history, and have been reading and studying it all my life. I’ve also written a fair number of books based on history: 5 biographies (Lincoln, Amelia Earhart, Clara Barton, two books about Ray Charles), a book about baseball (BASEBALL’S HOTSHOTS: Greats of the Game When They Were Young), a history of Alcatraz Island (MYSTERIES UNWRAPPED: The Secrets of Alcatraz), and in later years, a time-travel thriller about the JFK assassination (FORWARD TO CAMELOT).
When I’m looking into a subject that fascinates me, like the Earhart disappearance, days and weeks can go by before I come out of the fog. I dive into old books, magazines, photographs, films, and everything that comes up on YouTube. I’ve traveled to Oklahoma City (home of the 99’s, the women’s aviation group) to read rare documents about Amelia Earhart. I’ve flown to Chicago and Dallas to attend forums about the Kennedy assassination. I even married a guy I met at a JFK assassination symposium, even though I guess that’s a little extreme.
As I said, I can easily get lost in mountains of facts and not surface until I’ve had my fill of information. (The latest one is about a conspiracy surrounding the Titanic, which will be my next book.) I keep digging for facts, until I usually have enough to write at least two books on the subject.
All this research, I hope, results in some very good books. Sometimes, I even manage to find an obscure fact so interesting that I build an entire book around it.
A case in point is my research for FORWARD TO CAMELOT, when in my reading I came across a paragraph in William Manchester’s DEATH OF A PRESIDENT, about LBJ taking the presidential oath of office on Air Force One in Dallas on November 22, 1963, with his hand on a Bible belonging to President Kennedy. According to Manchester, the Bible disappeared completely right after the ceremony, and no one had seen it since.

That was all I needed. I’d found the ultimate McGuffin, lost in history, and wasted no time deciding that my heroine, a time traveler, would travel back in time SPECIFICALLY to recover JFK’s lost Bible at the very moment when it was lost. (It took about two years to figure this out, but once we knew we were sending her back in time for the Bible, we got a lot more clarity on the storyline.) I checked, just to be sure, with the JFK Presidential Library in Boston, who said no, they didn’t have it, and no, they didn’t know where it was.
The book was published, in its original edition, in 2003, and a few years later, my co-author, Kevin Finn, called me in great agitation. “We have to pull the book,” he told me.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because I know where the Bible is,” he said. “It was the answer to a question on Jeopardy!”
Turns out the Bible had been given to Mrs. Johnson after the swearing-in, and she in turn gave it to Liz Carpenter, her press secretary, so she could show it to reporters who asked about the ceremony.
Except nobody asked. Nobody ever cared. The story was the dead president, not the new president (which must have been a real kick in LBJ’s massive ego). And when the LBJ Presidential Library was being built in Austin, Texas, the Johnsons offered the Bible (actually a Catholic missal, or prayer book) to the Kennedys, who said they felt it belonged in the Johnson presidency, not with Kennedy, who didn’t even own it for very long.
It’s on display, as it has been for years, in the LBJ Presidential Library, complete with JFK’s initials on the stamped leather. And it was never a McGuffin at all.
But we kept the book in print, until we re-edited and re-published it in a new edition in 2013. We kept the same storyline, and even kept the Bible as the McGuffin. No one has been the wiser.
Among the other fantastic tidbits of info we came up with, through diligent research, were that Joe Kennedy kept medicines for JFK stashed in multiple safe-deposit boxes in banks around the country, so no one would learn of his Addison’s disease. And Lee Oswald’s being a terrific dancer. All those endless hours of reading and research have paid off big-time, with most readers unable to determine what is fact and what is fiction in FORWARD TO CAMELOT.
And after all, isn’t that the whole point??

SUSAN SLOATE is the award-winning, best-selling author of 20 published books, both fiction and nonfiction. STEALING FIRE, her 2013 autobiographical love story, went to #2 in its category on Amazon, was a Hot New Release for its first 90 days and was honored in the 2014 Readers’ Favorite Book Award competition. FORWARD TO CAMELOT (co-authored with Kevin Finn), which was first published in 2003 and re-published in 2013, took honors in 3 literary competitions, went to #6 on Amazon and was optioned for film production by a Hollywood company. For REALIZING YOU (co-authored with Ron Doades), she invented a new genre: Self-Help FICTION.

“Susan lives in South Carolina, coaches aspiring authors and speaks frequently at writers conventions. Visit her online at

Alyssa Palombo: The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence: A Story of Botticelli Sunday, Jul 9 2017 

Palombo merges reality with history in a captivating way and returns to do it again with a story of Botticelli in The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence.

Inspired by Botticelli’s iconic painting The Birth of Venus, readers will be plunged into the Florence of the Medicis that has a surprisingly feminist view.

Palombo has the artist’s muse, Simonetta Vespucci, appearing here not just as his muse but as his mistress. Not difficult to imagine this might have been true, when in reality the artist asked to be buried at her feet.

Born into a glittering circle of the time, with writers, artists, and politicians of the day fawning over her, men are enthralled with Simonetta’s beauty. She saves her heart for the young Botticelli, becoming his muse after he invites her to pose for him.

Once she married Maraco Vespucci, Simonetta must learn how to massage both her marriage and her place in Medici society, while she and the painter dance around their growing love for each other, until they finally consummate their passion that leads to his most famous painting of her.

Don’t miss the author’s note that explains the historical research the author conducted and how she choose this version of events.

Christina Baker Kline: Oprhan Train Girl Sunday, Jun 25 2017 

Kline’s adult novels have been reviewed here, but Auntie M wanted to make mention of a wonderful middle grad reader, as many of you out there have young readers at home or may be looking for a gift for one. Great for summer reading, Kline’s Orphan Train Girl follows two storylines that overlap, and introduces real history in a version for this age group.

Vivian is now an adult living in Maine when young Molly comes to her to help her cleanup her attic, but before that, she was an Irish immigrant who was brought to New York and put on an “orphan train” that would take her to the Midwest and to a new home in Minnesota.

The real orphan trains existed between 1854 and 1929, carrying an estimated two hundred and fifty thousand children from the East Coast to the Midwest to being new lives. Many of them, like Vivian, were immigrants to the US.

As her story unwinds, Molly, who had resided in more foster homes than she should have, finds that she and the elderly widow have more in common than she could have imagined. Molly learns of other children Vivian met on the train, and she learns of the homes and adjustment Vivian has had to endure, even to having her name changed.

The lovely story included a brief history of the orphan trains at the end for young readers. A satisfying read for any age.

Leonard Goldberg: The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes Tuesday, Jun 13 2017 

Leonard Goldberg is a physician whose name readers might recognize from his many medical thrillers. In this newest outing, Goldberg ventures into the past of 1910 and Edwardian London, and brings a twist to the Sherlock Holmes canon with The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes.

It’s a winning combination of an elderly Dr. Watson, his physician son, also John, and a young woman who assists them in unraveling the supposed suicide of a young man after she and her young son witness the death.

The brilliant mind of Joanna Blalock soon leads Watson to confide in his son that she is none other than the daughter of the late Sherlock Holmes and the only woman who ever outwitted the great mind, Irene Adler. Watson is entrusted with that knowledge, and now John, Jr. is the second person who knows the truth of the young widow’s lineage.

It’s a fine setup as the book moves along, and fans of anything Sherlock will be captivated. This time it’s a female who has the brains to observe and deduce, which Joanna does in fine fashion in a compelling and readable storyline.

That she also happens to be beautiful and captivates John’s heart is an aside that adds to the texture and gladdens Watson’s heart.

The mystery surrounding the death ties into hidden treasure stolen during the Second Afghan War. As the body count rises, it will be up to this trio to figure out how the culprit is managing to kill the members of a special quartet, and how they can protect the remaining member.

It’s a fast-paced story, containing a cipher, a secret room, and enough Sherlockian ties to make readers flip pages fast. A quick, entertaining read, Auntie M hopes Mr. Goldberg plans to bring readers more of this new detecting team.

William Christie: A Single Spy Sunday, May 7 2017 

William Christie’s newest thriller will be a hit with readers who enjoy spy novels, espionage plots, or are World War II aficionados. A Single Spy brings to life a young thief who catches the eye of the Soviet secret police, and is given a no-choice ultimatum: he can choose to be trained as a spy and infiltrate Nazi Germany under the identity of his best friend, no less, or he can be consigned to be lost forever.

What makes it even tougher is that Alexsi’s new identity is also the lost nephew of a Nazi leader, making it even harder as he assumes the mantel of this young man and pretends to be enamored of the Nazi ethos.

When Alexsi is promoted to an intelligence agent for a German spymaster, he lives to avoid the Gestapo finding out he’s sending reports back to the Soviets. Talk about being trapped between two bad choices. Yet Alexsi knows he must remain loyal to neither Stalin nor Hitler, but to one person: himself–if he is to survive.

Filled to the brim with accurate history, the Tehran conference between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin becomes the focal point for Alexsi in this fascinating novel that takes readers behind the scenes of what really happened during this period.

In Alexsi, Christie has the smarts to create a man readers can’t help but admire as he fights to survive on his wits. There’s something here for everyone, from action scenes to the history to the charming Aleksi, as Christie brings this period in our history to life.

Donna Fletcher Crow: The Monastery Murders Wednesday, Apr 19 2017 

Please welcome Donna Fletcher Crow, to explain the path her historical Monastery Murders series has taken. One lucky reader who leaves a comment will win a copy of one of Donna’s books, print or e-book, your preference! So all you lurkers out there who read but don’t comment, today’s your day!

The Monastery Murders: A Year of Life-changing Adventures

Felicity Howard is a young American woman studying in a theological college in a monastery in rural Yorkshire. And no one finds that more surprising than Felicity herself.

But teaching school was so boring (even in London) and what else can she do with a classics major? Besides, she makes all her decisions on impulse.

When she finds her favorite monk brutally murdered and Father Antony, her church history lecturer, covered in his blood, however, she begins to question the wisdom of this decision. An enigmatic book of poetry Father Dominic gave Felicity just before his death catapults Felicity and Antony into an adventure chasing and being chased by murderers across northern England.

Thus A Very Private Grave begins the Monastery Murders, a series that follows Felicity and Antony through the most tumultuous and transformative year of their lives.

In book 2, A Darkly Hidden Truth, Felicity is off to become a nun, in spite of the fact that Antony begs her to help him find a stolen valuable icon. Then her difficult mother arrives unexpectedly and a good friend turns up murdered. The ensuing chase takes them from London to the water-soaked Norfolk Broads.

In An Unholy Communion, Antony is leading a youth pilgrimage across Wales, and Felicity joins him for some much-needed relaxation—until their idyllic ramble turns into a life-and-death struggle between good and evil.

Book 4, A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary, finds Felicity off to translate a manuscript in a convent in Oxford. “What could be safer?” she asks Antony when he warns her to be careful. When severed body parts start showing up in ancient reliquaries, Felicity learns that murder can stalk even Oxford’s hallowed shrines.

An All-Consuming Fire brings the year full circle as Felicity plans their Christmastide wedding while Antony narrates a mini-series for the BBC. It will all be perfect. If only Felicity can keep her mother from turning the event into a royal production and escape the murderer stalking the Yorkshire Moors.

Donna Fletcher Crow is a lifelong Anglophile, former English teacher, and a Companion of the Community of the Resurrection, the monastery that serves as a model for this series. She conceived the series when her daughter Elizabeth found teaching classics in London to be boring, went off to study in a monastery in Yorkshire and married…

You can see information about all her books and pictures from her research trips at and follow her on Facebook at

Wilbur Smith: War Cry Sunday, Apr 9 2017 

Wilbur Smith’s Courtney family historical thrillers are so popular due to their complex plots and adventure focus. The newest is War Cry , set in the 1920s near the end of World War I onward.

The setting starts in Africa, Smith’s own homeland, but Leon Courtney’s daughter Saffron has left Kenya to study in Oxford, England. Another young man affected by history is Gerhard von Meerbach, the younger brother of the heir to an industrial fortune.

When the brothers find themselves on opposite sides of the Nazi question, it threatens everything Gerhard thought he knew about his family.

And into this is thrust Saffron and Leon and the spies and traitors who will cross their paths.

Filled with dramatic intrigue yet based on real events, this is a complex plot that feels made to be on the big screen, with its sweeping storylines and vistas.

Edith Maxwell: Delivering the Truth Friday, Apr 8 2016 

Edith Maxwell is one of the hardest working authors Auntie M knows, juggling now four series and bringing out books that have a wide readership. Today she’s talking about her new historical mystery, Delivering the Truth, the first in her Quaker Midwife Mysteries. Check out that neat cover and discover the mystery inside.

Delivering the TruthCover

Learning about the Past

Thanks for having me back, Auntie M!

My latest venture – historical mystery – involves a level of research I don’t need to do when I write my contemporary mysteries. I had so much to learn about the late 1800s. And there’s nobody still alive to ask.

How would a Quaker speak and act? What did women wear under their outer clothes? Did a modest New England home have indoor plumbing, gas lamps, a coal stove? What were matches like?

I’ve found a couple of good reference books for everyday life. Ruth Goodman’s How to Be a Victorian describes everything from toothbrushes to underwear. Miss Parloa’s New Cookbook and Marketing Guide from 1890 has all kinds of handy tips about the kitchen and foods available in the end of the century. Pinterest provides images of clothing. And then there’s Sarah Chrisman – who lives like someone in 1888 and writes about it!

I needed to learn about all the different types of horse-drawn vehicles. Carriages, wagons, buggies, drays, runabouts, broughtons, phaetons, surries – and so many more. Luckily for me, the town where the series is set, Amesbury, Massachusetts, is where I live and it was world-famed for its carriage manufacturing. There are antique carriages all over town, a thriving Carriage Museum, and many enthusiastic history buffs to call on.

Because my protagonist is a midwife, I delved into medical care of the time. Basic uncomplicated childbirth hasn’t changed that much. But did they know about the importance of washing hands yet? I learned that the germ theory of infection was known. Was there a hospital nearby in case of emergency? Yes, the hospital in the next town was eight years old at the time of Delivering the Truth. I found a midwifery textbook from the era. I learned that blood typing wasn’t yet used but that a lab could find out from a snip of hair if arsenic had been ingested.

Reading local newspapers from a hundred and thirty years ago provide much detail about both news and the prices of goods and services, as do the Sear & Roebuck catalog and the Montgomery Ward catalog, both of which are available on Amazon as reproductions. For example, you could buy a two-spring Phaeton (a single-horse kind of buggy with a roof) for $70, a drop-leaf desk for $9.50, and a pair of Irish lace curtains for $2.35. My midwife Rose bought a new bicycle for $45.
And because I write mysteries, there’s the all-important question of police procedure. I’ve found pictures of the local police force in town, and dug up The Massachusetts Peace Officer: A Manual for Sheriffs, Constables, Police, and other Civil Officers from 1890. An officer had to lay a hand on the shoulder of someone he was arresting, for example. I also learned that they didn’t yet use fingerprinting.

There’s more, of course. Local historical societies and museums are a rich resource. But at some point you just have to write the book!

Readers, do you like doing research? Where do you find resources to learn about the past, or about your current passion, whatever it is?


Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and the Local Foods Mysteries, the Country Store Mysteries (as Maddie Day), and the Lauren Rousseau Mysteries (as Tace Baker), as well as award-winning short crime fiction. Her short story, “A Questionable Death,” is nominated for a 2016 Agatha Award for Best Short Story. The tale features the 1888 setting and characters from her Quaker Midwife Mysteries series, which debuts with Delivering the Truth on April 8.

Maxwell is Vice-President of Sisters in Crime New England and Clerk of Amesbury Friends Meeting. She lives north of Boston with her beau and three cats, and blogs with the other Wicked Cozy Authors. You can find her on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, and at her web site,

Arnaldur Indridason: Into Oblivion Wednesday, Mar 16 2016 

Arnaldur Indirdason’s Icelandic thriller series, featuring Inspector Erlendur, continues with this look into his early days as a detective in Into Oblivion, an aspect first explored in last year’s acclaimed Reykjavik Nights. The CWA Gold Dagger Award winner is the only author to win the Glass Key Award for Best Nordic Crime Novel two years in a row, and with good reason.

The book opens a few years after Erlandur decides he wants to be a detective. It’s 1979 and the year springs to life, the mood set by the music, clothing and social mores of the era. The detective is working with Marion Briem, an older, more experienced detective, when the body of man is found in a blue lagoon known for its healing waters.

Examination reveals that the man has fallen from a great height and died before his body was moved to the lagoon. Could he have fallen from a plane? The only immense height in the area is an aircraft hanger on the grounds of the controversial US military base nearby.

When it becomes apparent the base is involved, Erlandur and Briem find themselves tiptoeing around the base to investigate after the US powers that be have stalled their investigation and denied them access to the hanger. It will take an unlikely accomplice to help them get to the bottom of the man’s death, thwarted by a rogue CIA agent.

As the action unfolds, Erlandur also takes it upon himself to run a parallel cold case investigation. A young teen went missing on her way to school, her body never found, and as both cases heat up, the young detective finds himself in his element, conducting interviews and following slender leads to find resolution.

Another hit that gives insight into what made Erlandur the detective he becomes.

Paula Brackston: The Return of the Witch Monday, Mar 14 2016 


Readers, I’m in cahoots with St. Martin’s to offer you THREE giveaway copies of Paula Brackston’s sequel to last year’s debut novel The Witch’s Daughter. This was the little book that could–with a captivating story, remarkable heroine, and eye-catching package, it has now netted over 200,000 copies in all formats.

Now Paula returns with its sequel The Return of the Witch, another bewitching tale of love and magic, featuring her signature blend of gorgeous writing, a fabulous and intriguing historical backdrop, and a headstrong and relatable heroine readers will cheer for.

After five years in the Summerlands, Gideon has gained his freedom. Elizabeth knows he will go straight for Tegan, and that she must protect the girl she had come to regard as her own daughter. In the time since the dramatic night in Batchcombe woods, Tegan has traveled the world learning from all manner of witches, and she is no longer the awkward teenager and novice spellcaster she once was.

However, her skills are no match for Gideon’s dark, vengeful power, and he succeeds in capturing her. Will Elizabeth be able to find her? Will they be able to defeat their nemesis once and for all?

In a breathless journey that takes them through history to the 17th and 19th centuries, witch pursues warlock. Three people steeped in magic weave a new story, but not all will survive until the end. Crime of a different kind here, with suspense and action.

In case you missed The Witch’s Daughter, this is its synopsis:

My name is Elizabeth Anne Hawksmith, and my age is three hundred and eighty-four years. If you will listen, I will tell you a tale of witches. A tale of magic and love and loss. A story of how simple ignorance breeds fear, and how deadly that fear can be. Let me tell you what it means to be a witch.

In the spring of 1628, the Witchfinder of Wessex finds himself a true Witch. As Bess Hawksmith watches her mother swing from the Hanging Tree she knows that only one man can save her from the same fate: the Warlock Gideon Masters.

Secluded at his cottage, Gideon instructs Bess, awakening formidable powers she didn’t know she had. She couldn’t have foreseen that even now, centuries later, he would be hunting her across time, determined to claim payment for saving her life.

In present-day England, Elizabeth has built a quiet life. She has spent the centuries in solitude, moving from place to place, surviving plagues, wars, and the heartbreak that comes with immortality. Her loneliness comes to an abrupt end when she is befriended by a teenage girl called Tegan.

Against her better judgment, Elizabeth opens her heart to Tegan and begins teaching her the ways of the Hedge Witch. But will she be able to stand against Gideon—who will stop at nothing to reclaim her soul—in order to protect the girl who has become the daughter she never had?

THREE lucky winners who leave a comment will be sent copies of the sequel directly from the publisher. To enter the drawing, leave a comment and we’ll use an impartial draw to find the lucky winners. Good luck!!

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