Buy Murder on the Last Frontier–Charlotte Brody Mystery #1
Buy Borrowing Death–Charlotte Brody Mystery #2
Buy Murder on Location–Charlotte Brody Mystery #3
Buy Caught in Amber!
Buy Deep Deception!
Category Archives: Alaska
Writers are often asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” For the Charlotte Brody Mystery series, my answer has been, “Local history.” For each book, I gleaned some bit of Cordova’s past and worked it into the story, with literary and artistic license, of course.
I used a local’s tale about the death of a “sporting woman” in Murder on the Last Frontier. In Borrowing Death, the cover up of a local businessman’s murder with a purposely set fire was an actual news item I read while perusing old editions of the Cordova Times.
The influence for Murder on Location, and its film-within-a-book North to Fortune, was a 1924 silent movie called The Cheechakos. This was the first full-length movie filmed entirely in Alaska. The man responsible for it, Austin “Cap” Lathrop, had hoped his film company, Alaska Moving Pictures, would produce more, but The Cheechakos was its only distributed work.
My Kid and I had the pleasure of attending a local screening of The Cheechakos while I was contemplating a premise for Charlotte’s third story. Kid suggested I have someone die during the filming of a similar movie, and Murder on Location was born. The idea of a Hollywoodland, California, crew experiencing Alaska sounds like a fun way to stage a murder, don’t you think?
In the Alaska Territory, suffragette Charlotte Brody is a newspaper reporter in the frontier town of Cordova. She’s a woman ahead of her time living on the rugged edge of civilization—but right now the most dangerous element she faces may come from sunny California . . .
An expedition has arrived in the frigid wilderness to shoot North to Fortune—an epic motion picture featuring authentic footage of majestic peaks, vast glaciers, homesteaders, and Alaska Natives. But the film’s fortunes begin to go south as a local Native group grows angry at how they’re portrayed in the movie, fights break out, and cast and crew are beset by accidents and assaults. Finally, production is halted when the inebriated director falls into a crevasse—and dies of exposure.
Soon Michael Brody—the town coroner and Charlotte’s brother—starts to suspect that Mother Nature was not responsible for Stanley Welsh’s death. Charlotte, who’s been writing about all the Hollywood glamor, is suddenly covering a cold-blooded crime story—and as springtime storms keep the suspects snowed in, she has to make sure the truth doesn’t get buried . . .
Pick up Murder on Location just about anywhere!
And other fine retailers!
To promote my latest release, Borrowing Death, I had scheduled a couple of signings in the Anchorage/Palmer area (Thanks, Barnes & Noble-Anchorage and Fireside Books in Palmer! You all rock!). In a brilliant fit of inspiration, my husband suggested we take a side trip to the remote (yeah, I know, Alaska…What ISN’T remote? ; P ) historical Kennecott/McCarthy.
The Charlotte Brody series has so far been set in Cordova in 1919/1920, but I have a proposal for the possible next three books in the works and #4 is mostly set in Kennecott/McCarthy. So far, I’d only had photographs and historical accounts I found on the internet, at the local museum, or gleaned from chatting with folks who had visited, to spark a story. I won’t deny the excited flutter I experienced at the idea of getting a real feel for the trek to the mine/town site. So, we made our ferry reservations and found a place to stay.
We live in a town that is only accessible by boat or plane. The decision to take the ferry was logical, as (1) we had planned to do some quarterly grocery shopping while in Anchorage, and (2) flying meant renting a car which (2-a) is pricey in Alaska in summer, and (2-b) many rental places prohibit taking their vehicles on certain roads (more on that in a bit). Originally, we were looking at riding the ferry for 6 hours then possibly driving another 8+ to the site. Husband considered options and felt adding a 6 hour leg to a closer ferry stop and driving less might be shorter, or at least less exhausting. It wasn’t, we found out later.
We left Cordova at 5am and arrived in Valdez at 6:30pm. By the time we stopped for food and gas and headed out of town, it was 7:30. No problem. Still pretty light, despite the clouds and spitty rain. And gorgeous? We were trying to move along so I didn’t get many pictures, but believe me when I say the Richardson Highway out of Valdez is incredible in a scenic sense.
We turned off the Richardson at Chitina and onto the Edgerton Highway at 9pm with 63 miles to go. Now, on a designated highway in most places, that would be an hour-ish. Not so, here. The Edgerton, while amazing as far as scenery, is a bit winding, only partially paved and mostly not. Recent rains had essentially reversed the last grating. To say it was bumpy is an understatement. By now, it was starting to get darkish and my husband was having a grand time (/sarcasm) avoiding the potholes. Suffice it to say, we rattled a lot, and the final 15-20 miles was slow and rough.
The Kennecott River Lodge at the very end of the road, before foot access across the Kennicott River, was a welcome sight at 11pm. We parked outside our appointed cabin. I walked behind our pickup and noted something odd.
“Honey, what happened to the window of the camper shell?”
Yep, we’d lost the rear window somewhere along the 63 miles of “highway” but there was no sense worrying about it at that point. Luckily, there was only light rain in the forecast, and covering the opening with plastic and duct tape (all good Alaskans travel with some sort of heavy duty tape) would do for the time being.
“We’ll look for it on our way out,” DH said, and we went to bed.
The next morning, we walked across the river foot bridge. The water was rushing beneath us, shaking the pilings. DH recalled having to use a hand-operated tram when he and his friends visited 30 years prior. I was very glad the National Park Service had opted to build the footbridge when they purchased the area in the 90’s. A shuttle van would take us to McCarthy a mile away or to Kennecott, 5 miles in. We opted to start at Kennecott, a self-contained town back in the day at the base of what was a huge copper mine.
As with the Edgerton, the road was pitted and rough, but we had a nice time chatting with fellow passengers. Something that surprised me was the number of private homes/lands within the boundaries of the Park. Apparently, when the NPS opted to buy the site, there were so many private holders that they arranged to let them stay. People who live there mark their property so visitors don’t trespass unwittingly. Part of me was envious of their “backyard” but then I’d recall the effort of getting to it. Not something to do on a regular basis.
The van pulled into the Kennecott town site and I was immediately in awe. Pictures don’t do it justice, and the combination of renovated, partially renovated, and “left as is” buildings is an amazing testament of what was and how time and nature ravage what man makes. The NPS have been restoring Kennecott, recreating a town site that was essentially abandoned in the late 1930s and hardly looked at for the next 60 years. People were more or less free to come and go. Somehow, over all that time and neglect, a good number of the buildings were still standing, or standing enough to be fixed. Some, however, were beyond help and had deteriorated on their own or were razed for safety’s sake.
There are a number of buildings the public has access to on their own, but to get a better sense of the main mining operation (a goal for the research portion of the trip) we took the 2-hour long mill tour offered by St. Elias Alpine Guide Day Adventures. Our tour guide, Annie, gook the 14 of us through the town and into several closed buildings, including the huge mill where copper ore was processed. The mill, the town, everything is incredible in its engineering and self-sustainability (for the most part). The people who made it work, from the engineers to the manager to the miners to the supporting townsfolk, were made of sterner stuff than any of us 21st century dwellers could imagine.
We spent 8 hours or so in Kennecott, putting 10 miles on DH’s pedometer, then took the shuttle over to McCarthy, 4 miles away, so we could catch the museum there during open hours. McCarthy was the answer to Kennecott’s more upright/uptight rules, providing miners with drinking, gambling, and women that the company town forbade or frowned upon.
My head full of history and story bits, we returned to our cabin across the river and fell into deep sleep.
Back Toward Civilization
The next morning, we woke relatively early and headed to the café down the road for some coffee before facing the Edgerton’s 63 miles of window-snatching surface. As we were not in a great rush, we stopped along the way for pictures. The scenery was more incredible in the full light of day, and I easily imagined Charlotte being awed by it as she passed through on the train. And I imagined it was a MUCH smoother ride. The railway was trestled in a number of places to avoid sharp turns and hills.
Along the way, we kept an eye out for our missing window. My fear was it had broken and I didn’t want anyone to get a flat tire on that highway. Lo and behold, 43 miles from Kennecott, I spotted the window leaning against a rock on the side of the road. Someone had seen it, set it on the out-going side, probably figuring, “They’ll be by sooner or later.” Yep! Thank you, anonymous person! And to our surprise, the window wasn’t broken nor the frame bent. DH was sure he could get it back in place with the right materials (he did).
The next couple of hours took us through more gorgeous country as we headed to Anchorage. It’s impossible to travel through Alaska without finding amazing scenery. There are times I don’t see the beauty of the place where I live, as there are often too many distractions of mundane life. But a trip like this, short as it was, is a great reminder.
Woo hoo! Borrowing Death, the second book of the Charlotte Brody Mystery Series hits the shelves, gets shipped from your favorite store, gets downloaded into your ereader of choice TODAY!
So very excited! I’ll be posting about the book, answering questions if y’all have them, that sort of thing over the next few days. But for today, I want to enjoy the fact Charlotte and company are out there again (still?).
What’s this second story about, you ask? Well, it’s November, 1919, and Charlotte’s been in Cordova for a few months. (ICYMI, in the first book, Murder on the Last Frontier, she’d just arrived in town that August/September.) Winter is setting in, but life is never dull in the Great Land.
Suffragette and journalist Charlotte Brody is bracing herself for her first winter in the frontier town of Cordova in the Alaska Territory. But the chilling murder of a local store owner is what really makes her blood run cold. . .
After three months in Cordova, Charlotte is getting accustomed to frontier life. She is filing articles for the local paper–including a provocative editorial against Prohibition–and enjoying a reunion with her brother Michael, the town doctor and coroner. Michael’s services are soon called upon when a fire claims the life of hardware store owner Lyle Fiske. A frontier firebug is suspected of arson, but when Michael determines Fiske was stabbed before his store was set ablaze, the town of Cordova has another murder to solve.
Her journalist’s curiosity whetted, Charlotte begins to sort through the smoldering ruins of Lyle Fiske’s life, only to discover any number of people who might have wanted him dead. As the days grow shorter, Charlotte’s investigation turns increasingly complex. She may be distant from the trappings of civilization, but untangling the motives for murder will require plumbing the very depths of Charlotte’s investigative acumen. . .
Here are some things that folks are saying about Borrowing Death.
“These new mysteries are a great mixture of history, mystery and a little bit of romance. The characters and setting are well-written and readers will be waiting impatiently for the next installment to come out.” ~Mary Lignor, Professional Librarian and Co-Owner of The Write Companion for Suspense Magazine (full review link coming)
An “entertaining follow-up…the reporter’s penchant for encouraging the aspirations of a local girl, hanging out with the town madam, snooping in neighbors’ houses, and employing hairpins as lock picks will satisfy.” ~Publishers Weekly (full review here)
In celebration of Borrowing Death officially being out in the world, I’m giving away a few items from Cordova or that represent Cordova and Alaska.
- Signed copies of Murder on the Last Frontier and Borrowing Death
- Copper River Fleece (local merchant) satchel with salmon and bear print trim
- Copper River Fleece forget-me-not headband
- 3 salmon-shaped chocolates (dark, milk, and white)
- 2 wooden bookmarks
- Alaska pin
- Wooden fish ornament
How do you win this lovely loot (over $100 in value)? I’m an old-fashioned sort of gal, so we’re doing this the old-fashioned way:
(1) Leave a comment below (Please play fair and leave just one comment/entry. Multiples will get tossed out) with a VALID email address. This is important! I need to be able to contact you.
(2) At the end of the giveaway, Tuesday, July 5, 2016 at midnight Alaska time, I’ll randomly choose a winner via a number generator, email that person and give them 48 hours to reply.
(3) If I don’t get a reply from that person in the allotted time, I will choose another winner. Sorry, but we can’t leave folks hanging, right?
(4) This is open to anyone, anywhere, but depending on your location the prize package could take some time to get to you. I’ll give you a heads up when it goes out and an estimated arrival date.
I promise not to spam you or do anything with your contact info except contact you personally as needed.
Anything else? If you have questions, shoot me an email at email@example.com with the subject line “BD giveaway question” or something like it so I know you aren’t spam, or on Twitter @CathyPegau
And if you simply CANNOT wait…
Buy Borrowing Death at these fine locations, in brick and mortar stores, and elsewhere:
Kensington Books http://tinyurl.com/BDKens
Amazon USA http://tinyurl.com/BDusAmazon
Amazon UK http://tinyurl.com/BDAmazonuk
Amazon Aus http://tinyurl.com/BDAmazonaus
Thanks so much!!! Good luck!
Writers are often asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” Much of the time, in my case, something small sets off my brain. A commercial showing a bride flinging her veil out onto the road while she zoomed off in a convertible gave me the opening scene to one story (unpublished…for now). Watching a show about scam artists and thieves kicked off Rulebreaker, which led to Caught in Amber, which led to Deep Deception 🙂
The idea for Murder on the Last Frontier emerged after a conversation with a long-time resident of our town when my husband, daughter, and I went to investigate a local, little-known cemetery.
My husband serves on the city’s Planning and Zoning committee. At a meeting a few years ago, they were going over city land that could be sold or leased or what have you. A nice-sized plot in a residential neighborhood near the high school was marked “Not for Sale.” There were homes on either side of it, and it was large enough for a small house.
DH: Why is this plot not for sale?
Committee Guy: It’s a cemetery.
Committee Guy Who Had Been a Resident for 20 yrs: Really?
Like many people, I had been by that lot hundreds of times, either while trundling kids to/from school or our critters to/from the veterinarian whose practice is nearby. The lot is either overgrown with weeds or covered in snow most of the time, and there’s no sign of it being anything other than an empty lot. Little did we know it was far from empty.
One sunny spring Saturday not long after hearing about the cemetery, we were headed to the high school for some event and decided to check it out. Sure enough, among the weeds and saplings, a few graves. They had low headstones that were barely legible. One or two had those low iron fences around them. It was easy to see why if you were just driving or walking past you’d never know it was a cemetery.
As we made our way across the lot, we saw Marv, the man who owns one of the neighboring houses, puttering about his yard. He asked us what we were up to (in a nice way, as Marv is a nice guy, and it was obvious we were looking about, not out to cause trouble). We told him my husband’s P&Z committee story.
Marv smiled and nodded, saying not many folks were aware of it and that was fine by him. He gave us a neat little history lesson about the cemetery, including the unfortunate incident of some group coming in and “cleaning up” the old bits of wood which happened to be markers.
Then he told us another story.
Back in the 1930s or 1940s, a prostitute (yes, Cordova had a “red light” district for years, like a lot of towns) and her child were found murdered. One of them was buried in that little-known cemetery, the other in a different one (we have three, all fairly small). I don’t know if the woman had been pregnant or the child had been recently born or what the circumstances were, but it was quite sad.
We said our good-byes to Marv and went over to the school. We were kept busy at the event we attended, but I couldn’t shake the idea of the dead prostitute. My writerly brain locked onto its own scenario as to how and why this woman was killed.
And who would earnestly look into the murder of a “sporting” woman? I’m sure real-life local authorities investigated, but as a writer, I saw someone else–an outsider with her own secrets to keep–acting on behalf of the dead. She would need to stand up to convention and represent justice for all.
I had always been interested in the women of the suffrage movement and decided my protagonist would be a suffragette. Though they had their faults, I appreciated their bravery and efforts. The person mostly likely to really care about the death of a prostitute would be one who wanted all women treated fairly. She’d be an outsider, having come to Alaska Territory for her own reasons. She’d poke her nose into places it didn’t belong and stir up a few folks. That’s how suffragette and journalist Charlotte Brody was born.
The events and characters in Murder on the Last Frontier are, of course, fictional. I still haven’t hunted down the actual murder that set things off for the series. But I did go through a number of old editions of the local paper and came up with another murder for Charlotte. Borrowing Death (Kensington, July 2016) was also inspired by real events. And the third book Murder on Location employs the real-life occurrence of a movie crew coming to town.
So where do I get my ideas? Pretty much right outside my door.
Woo hoo! Today’s the day!!!!! Murder on the Last Frontier is officially out in the wide world!!!
Am I excited? Just a wee bit 🙂
MotLF has been getting some mixed reviews (You can find them at GoodReads and Amazon, mostly) but overall people seem to enjoy the series. The setting, Alaska in 1919, and Charlotte’s identity as a suffragette are often noted as the draw. That’s cool. I like being a little different ; )
Let’s start this grand day with a giveaway of some ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies). They aren’t the “out in the store” prints, having the disclaimer of some minor, uncorrected boo-boos, but those who have read them haven’t pointed out issues.
If you’d like an ARC, leave a comment saying so. Make sure there’s viable email address so I can contact you for your mailing address (DO NOT put that in the comment. We don’t want you to have issue.) I am willing to send wherever. Yes, internationally. I’ll give away 5 or 10. We’ll see 😉
Thanks for sharing this with me!
Crikey Mikey! It’s November! Wasn’t it August just a week ago? Okay, three months ago, but who’s counting?
Live is good here in the Semi-Frozen North. In fact, it truly is semi-frozen now–We got our first snowfall! It’s very pretty and the roads aren’t hellish, so that helps. I prefer easing into winter than getting slammed by it.
So what’s been happening? We got DD1 off to school back east. She’s loving it. It’s odd to have your kid talk about all the adulting they’re doing when you have a tough time getting up the enthusiasm to wear pants on a daily basis. Kid2 is finding life as the only child in the house both rewarding and burdensome. Lots of great attention, but more chores. Hey, someone has to help me find my pants. DH got his moose, so we have meat in the freezer! Always a good thing. Berry picking went well this year too. Looking forward to local cranberries for cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving.
Why yes, I’m a little excited : ) There have been some very lovely reviews at Amazon and GoodReads and such, which I will share soon. I’m grateful to all who have reviewed and will review MotLF, and to those who have pre-ordered and will (hopefully!) pick up a copy.
Please, let me know what you think of the book! Ask me questions about it or Alaska or whatever. Chatting with readers is my favorite part of being an author : )
Okay, to be honest, we haven’t really had a winter here in South Central Alaska. Seriously. A bit of snow, some cold days, a decent amount of rain, but winter? No.
The local skiers are bummed. The local ski hill operator, also bummed. The heliskiing company that comes to town each season is doing well enough, but they take clients up up up to where the snow happens to be.
On the plus side, I have barely shoveled all winter.
On the minus side, I have barely shoveled all winter, one of my prime activities that gets me off my arse. While shoveling is not great joy, it is a necessary evil that does get me outside and moving. Ah, well. There’s always next year. And I’m pretty sure next year will not be the same.
It’s nearly April and spring is in the air. That doesn’t mean we won’t get snow. It could totally happen. And lots of it. But I’d be very surprised if it was more than a few inches, really. Not the way the weather has been of late. In the meantime, I’m loving the pussy willows, the spots of green shoots, the occasional warm (well, relatively warm) day.
Bears should be waking up soon. Always a fun time to find poo along the back of the house. But it’s also fun to see the mama black bear and her cubs that live around here. Other than the occasional freezer raid, they’re pretty quiet neighbors.
Most of Alaska has had a mild winter, some areas with record-breaking lack of snow. It’s difficult to look at what we experienced this season and what the middle and eastern parts of the continent have experienced and deny there’s something wonky with the climate. But that’s a post for another time.
So, here’s to Spring, friends! May your flowers bloom and your bears stay out of your freezer : )
Love Spanks 2015 is here!
It went fast, but what a ride! The stories have been read! The comments have been made and are being tabulated by a very sophisticated and advanced system of algorithms and….something. I have no idea. All I know is that Love Spanks 2015 is officially over as far as commenting. Now we wait a bit to see who won what!
All the stories are down because we are having an anthology put together. More on that at a later date. So if you missed any of the fab offerings, they’ll be available in one volume at a ridiculously low price 🙂
If you have any questions about Love Spanks 2015, head over to Ana’s and she’ll gladly help you out 🙂
Thanks again for reading and commenting and being your awesome selves! I was touched by all your kind words and encouragement about the setting and characters in Gold Rush. I’m seriously considering more with Pen and Rowena. I have a few things on my plate right now, but their story may be too compelling to ignore for long 🙂
I just received feedback from my lovely agent regarding a new manuscript I’m working on. Everything I’ve written or considered writing has had some sort of speculative fiction element to it. Whether characters are living on another planet or one’s a ghost or a shape shifter, I’ve always had a bit of “otherness” in my stories.
But not for this one.
This story is a historical piece based on a local murder from back in the day. I got caught up in the idea after one of the locals was giving us some information about a cemetery. Being a writer, I immediately started to wonder about the woman who was killed and why. Now, I have no idea what the facts might be, but my brain has managed to fill in its own version.
So I’m working on a proposal for an Alaska historical murder mystery. No space ships. No ghosts. No weird things living in the woods. Just…people who have human motivations and abilities. And few flush toilets.
It’s a bit disconcerting to be out of my normal mode, but exciting too. I’ve fallen in love with our local history and with the era I’m focused on. People who came up to Canada then here for the gold rushes of the late 19th century were tough, and the women were often tougher. My story is set a bit later, but there will be connections to that earlier time.
It’s going well so far, and I love my heroine, Charlotte. She’s a journalist for a women’s magazine who likes the bigger stories (like the Suffragette movement and the Volstead Act, for which she is for and against, respectively ; ). She’s in Alaska visiting her brother, the town doctor, and writing a series of articles about life on the wild frontier. She’s also trying to escape some things in her recent past. Throw in a dead prostitute who was hiding something and a handsome lawman, and we have a story.
Will my change in genre fly? I hope so.
When’s the last time you changed things up in your world? How’d it go?
I love researching new stories. I love gathering information that adds layers to the worlds I’m building and fleshes out the characters I’m creating. Ninety-plus percent of what a writer learns in the course of research probably doesn’t need to be in the story (Note: I read a suspense/thriller novel a few years ago where the author spent pages-PAGES!-explaining the DNA comparison technique used by the local PD. End result: Protagonist learns the dead person is related to the suspect. Technique used had NOTHING to add to the plot or result.) But we like having it in our heads as we write.
Now and again, research is a way to avoid actually writing the story. Yes, there IS such thing as too much. Or at least spending too much time on it. Background info and facts for the story is one thing. Procrastination is quite another. Yeah, I’m guilty of that too.
Recently, I had a different sort of research-related issue occur. A few month ago, I had woken up with what amounted to a back cover copy of a book as clear in my head as any storyline I’d imagined. It sounded great! Something fun! Something different! I was raring to go on it.
The story, a post-apocalyptic tale set in a location near my town, would require some background info on the site as well as some historical research. I wanted to learn what folks prior to the current level of tech did as far as food, industry etc. because my characters would be living in a somewhat “throw-back” society. With that in mind, I borrowed books from the library, bought local history books, scoured the Internet for info. I absolutely fell in love with Alaska and Canada in that time period.
I started writing the post-apoc story. I loved the characters. Loved the setting. A bit of the denouement was fuzzy at the moment, but it wouldn’t be the first time I wrote a book without having it completely sussed out in my head. With some fits and starts, I managed to get over forty pages hammered out.
Then…then I spoke to a local man. My husband, oldest daughter and I were wandering through an old cemetery site that almost no one in town knew existed. It’s located between two homes, and as we searched (only two standing headstones) one of the neighbors was outside cutting wood. We got to talking to Marv, and he told us some interesting bits about the cemetery (like how in the 70s some group decided to help clean up by picking up bits of wood strewn about. Unfortunately, a lot of that strewn wood turned out to be wooden placques that had names and dates) and local history. “Yeah,” he said, “There’s a baby buried here somewhere. Its mother was a prostitute found dead by the railroad tressle back in the day. She’s not buried here though.”
And this is where my WIP train went off the tracks. Suddenly, my research into pre-tech age society became fodder for a historical murder.
As a result, I did MORE research, and I’m looking forward to chatting with the museum curator about the local “sporting women” who plied their trade here. The post-apocalyptic story is on the back burner, but not forgotten. My husband suggested doing a three book related series involving the area and murder. If I can come up with a present or near-present day tale, I might just do that.
But it’s time to put all that amazing information to work and get words on the page. If you need me, I’ll be in early 20th century Alaska with the good time girls and US marshals. Twenty-three skidoo!