Name: Mimi Wolske (aka Mona Arizona, BB West, and Bradford Blair)
Age: I’m as old as my tongue but older than my teeth
Where are you from:
Mimi: “They” call us “Hoosiers” and I skipped, played, laughed, grew up, learned, participated in student activities and ran with the “Panthers” until a little over 1000 of us were graduated from one high school and we all have those family photos as proof. My first published pieces included a poem (during fourth grade) and my first essay (on the Indianapolis 500 at the age of 18 years). My first drawings of a tree and a clown were taught to me by art student Marie of The Ten Kids (a family with 10 kids down the road from our house…well, that’s the only name I ever knew her by). My first art show (and installation) happened as a Freshman at ASU and I sold that piece. But, that’s part of a different bio.
I spent four years maturing, learning from the best professors, expanding my creative potential and my critical thinking; playing with my Pug partner, Brutus; dating; going to football games; organizing rallies (including one speaker I managed to get to come to speak to the students was none other than Russell Means, Oglala Lakota activist for the rights of Native American people and libertarian political activist); graduated from Arizona State University with a double major (the college of English Lit (BA) and the college of Fine Art (BFA )) as a member of the ASU Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi.
- There wasn’t anything called Creative Writing when I attended University of Washington Extension in Silverdale, WA after work (after moving from the sublime “sunnyness” of Arizona to the ridiculous day-in-day-out rain of Washington), so I studied Writing, Rhetoric, and Language, and a course in Technical Writing, too.
- Married and adopted children from Korea
- Nominated for a White House Fellowship (which I did not receive)
- Nominated and named a member of Stanford’s Who’s Who (http://www.stanfordwhoswho.com/Mimi.Wolske.7131387.html)
- Member of the National Organization for Women and chaired two State Committees: Publicity and Public Relation
- And, I never did receive my MA — That’s the technical stuff.
Honors: White House Fellow nominee; National Achievement Award for HW Proposal; International Privacy Security Award; American Entrepreneur Award; member of Phi Beta Kappa and was graduated from ASU with honors; Listed in Stanford’s Who’s Who for 2009 and 2010
These days, I live year round in the Grand Canyon State of Arizona as an American Writer, Painter, Bohemian Pug Herder, and today’s Renaissance Woman. I have two beautiful, intelligent, and talented children, and two young and just as beautiful, intelligent, and talented grandchildren; and a Pug — Chance the Second/C2/Second Chance.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
- I am currently working on two books of poetry, one by Mimi Wolske and the other (erotic) by Mona Arizona, that, hopefully will be published by the end of 2016. Apologies, no titles yet.
Two (erotic) short stories by author name Mona Arizona were published in anthologies by RIP
- I have a mystery, “Thieving Magpie and Murder: An Eta Pie Mystery”, under the author name BB West, that will be published this year.
- I also have a fictional literature manuscript, “FADE”, under the author name Bradford Blair, I hope to see published in 2017.
- And, I have a couple of YA short stories in a new sub-genre I’m calling (I made up this name, but I suspect once it goes public, others with take it and run with it as if it always belonged in the Sci-Fi sub-genre) SciCo (Science Fiction/Psycho) under author name Mimi Wolske: “Keeper of The Japchae” and “Endangered”.
- ..I’m working on finishing a couple of paintings for an upcoming show.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Mimi: Since my first published piece occurred when I was in the fourth grade, I guess I started writing a little before that, but I was always regaling siblings and my grandmother with my tales and silly poems. I can’t remember there was ever a reason “why”; writing just had to occur because I didn’t (and still do not) know what to do with all those pictures in my head, because it’s magic coming to life, because writing makes me happy, and because it’s a way save myself from going mad. I write (or paint) nearly every day.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Mimi: When my favorite aunt came to visit and read my 4th grade published poem and said, “Now you are a poet; we have a writer in the family” and she took me out to celebrate—ice cream, I think. I’m pretty sure I stood a little taller after that.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Mimi: Believe it or not, a dream. I dreamed the entire book. Friends read my draft and encouraged me to enter an RWA contest. I was one of three new writers whose MS was chosen to be judged by a 3-person panel. My MS didn’t win, but it didn’t discourage me. I just changed it from an historical romance to a mystery…and that meant a great deal of rewriting and the addition of a new, female, protagonist.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Mimi: I already know the story, in fact, I have several stories already outlined. After I outline, I write, get anal about grammar and content and I, thankfully, found a good editor. Then, I revise. I’m not a by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer, which works out perfectly for me since I love writing about the mysteries my mind creates. I think my writing itself is probably more literary, expressive, and poetic than it is straightforward or a stream of consciousness. BUT, I’m also a nonconformist, meaning just because I outline doesn’t mean the seats of the pants of my characters’ don’t take control a good portion of the time.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Mimi: If we stick with the mystery “Thieving Magpie and Murder: An Eta Pie Mystery”, the “Thieving Magpie” part of the title is taken from Gioachino Rossini’s opera “La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie)”; one of the characters awakens from a dream of attending this opera. Eta Pie is the female protagonist and she is a funny, snoopy amateur who helps the constable of her parish, but she solves the mystery in this story. Her name is funny, she realizes that, but there is a very good reason for the name.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novella you want readers to grasp?
Mimi: Hmmm; I believe the message of this first book (and future stories) is that a woman from a small parish in the early 19th c of England is smart enough to solve crimes; and to help the reader understand that at that time, even though the unpaid constable would be aware of every individual in the town where he lived, he generally fulfilled the job of constable for surrounding villages. Therefore, Miss Eta Pie, who is from a small village, knows everyone and she has just the right quirky personality and the logic needed to solve crimes. However, she must share everything, including how she figured out who committed the crime and what she found (clues) that gave them away (their mistakes).
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Mimi: It’s fiction; however, since the events in this particular mystery occur in the United Kingdom during the period when King George III was deemed unfit to rule and his son, the Prince of Wales, ruled as his proxy as Prince Regent, I tried to ensure the accuracy of the time (thus the reason Miss Eta Pie can’t actually solve the crime but has to share everything with a male/constable). As far as experiences, I think every writer incorporates a little bit from their experiences; the characters aren’t based on any one but they incorporate the characteristics, posture, personality of people I’ve known and some are just their own persona. Some of the scenes in the stories I write are events from my life or my family’s.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life? A mentor?
Mimi: I find this question prominent since I just read, a while ago, there’s a recent study (sorry, I already forgot who did the study) maintaining we retain more from reading a book… as an object of ink and paper that we hold in our hands … than when reading from a Kindle. Maybe that’s the reason so many of us choose one or two books from our youth or from our time in college. Consider the number of younger writers who might choose one of the Harry Potter books.
- I think from my childhood, the book of major impact is Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. It brought home the notion of suffering, dignity, and a reality far too many fail to see.
- With a note of thanks to the college of English at ASU, whose skilled teachers opened my eyes to a new realm of literature, I think I’d select from the non-fiction arena, “The Second Sex” by Simone De Beauvoir, which was one of the first to honestly explore the history of women’s suppression.
- From the fiction side of reading, “Cat’s Cradle” by Kurt Vonnegut, reignited the pilot light of my imagination like no other book had done in quite awhile. The whimsy of its narrative, which ended with the utter destruction of our world thanks to mankind, was stark, shocking, yet refreshing.
- But, my favorites are the mysteries:
“The Gold” by Edgar Allen Poe, which introduced a cipher and the protagonist’s attempt to solve it
“The Adventure of The Speckled Band” by the great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
“Gaudy Night” by Dorothy L. Sayers
“The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammett
“Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie.
Mentors: I was lucky.
My first was Mrs. Witte who taught our college-level writing class in high school. Her classroom presence was different from the other teachers: more professional, relaxed, soft spoken but serious, inquisitive about the poetry and stories, and remarkably patient. It wasn’t just what I learned from her explicitly, but that she carried herself in a way that I wanted to carry myself. She was a person who I wanted to emulate. I did extra work because I wanted to, and she was willing to read these draft. She talked to me about them as if they were serious works after the revisions. She didn’t push me, but the door was always open to me. None of this was a conscious decision I was 18. She just helped a young, eager writer who didn’t know how much she didn’t know.
My only other mentor was mentioned in a conversation with one of my friends. She told me about this really wonderful older poet. He was the one who showed me what a great reading series looks like, talked to me about staying involved in the community, and how to do it all while taking it seriously and still have a sense of humor about the whole thing. He also was a basketball junkie like me (because “Hoosier Hysteria” was invented in the State I grew up in — go ahead, Google Hoosier Hysteria), a dinner buddy, and a great friend. I screwed up a lot with my early writing, which he (for the most part) pointed out gently, and dealt with the ups and downs of my immaturity over the years we worked together. This established poet became a great mentor and he checked in on me now and then even after I graduated to see how my writing was while never explicitly saying I should do this or that, and maintained an interest in my work until I moved away and got married.
Fiona: Are there any new authors who have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Mimi: What strikes me about the works of the following writers is originality.
I’ve read the creative and weird horror stories by John Claude Smith for a few years and find his writing excites my imagination. He was nominated for the Bram Stoker Awards as Best New Author for 2015.
I also really like Gemma Files’ stories. In 2000, her award-winning story “The Emperor’s Old Bones” was reprinted in “The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror” Thirteenth Annual Collection. In 2010, her novelette “each thing i show you is a piece of my death” was nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award. Her short story “The Jacaranda Smile” was also a 2009 Shirley Jackson Award finalist. Her first novel, “A Book of Tongues”, won the 2010 Black Quill award for “Best Small Press Chill” from Dark Scribe Magazine. And, her novel Experimental Film, received the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel for 2015.
I love the Regency Romance novels by Anna Campbell; she has written ten multi-award-winning, full-length historical romances so far.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Mimi: Mrs. Witte, whom I mentioned earlier. If she hadn’t supported and encouraged me, I think I would have floundered.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Mimi: Simple answer; yes.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Mimi: So far, no.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Mimi: I’m not sure, but I remember in the first grade music class, which grades 1 through 6 inclusive participated, we told about a contest: an original short poem contest. This was my earliest lesson in plagiarism by a student and of cheating by adults because the winner’s poem was not his. I told my mom about the winner. She’s the one who told me “Fuzzy Wuzzy” originated in the 1800s by British Soldiers who gave the nickname, “fuzzy wuzzy” to the Hadendoa warriors; that Rudyard Kippling wrote a poem in 1890, Fuzzy Wuzzy that praised the Hadendoa warriors for their fighting skills; and that the Fuzzy Wuzzy poem that won the competition was a nursery rhyme that became the lyrics for a nursery song composed in the 1940s. But, the thrill of writing something of my own and learning there was public recognition for writing had already taken my writer’s soul and set it on its course.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Mimi: Thank you for asking; I’d love to share a little excerpt from “Thieving Magpie and Murder: An Eta Pie Mystery”. Here’s the setup for this scene. Lady Cravens plummeted to her death, pushed off the chalky Flamborough Head Cliffs. The three suspects and a couple of guests (along with their valets and companion), and Miss. Eta Pie are at Marquess Winterbourne’s country manor in Scarborough. The invited constable for Flamborough arrives.
“Well, Mr. Bullock,” Winterbourne said, setting down his glass and leaning comfortably back in his chair. “Please, regale us with your findings.”
All eyes turned to the man who just entered the room. Constable John Bullock appeared at ease and appreciative of knowing which of the people at the table he was to address. All were quiet, waiting for him to shed some new light, some further information from his investigation.
“It’s not my habit, nor do I have permission, to discuss the case with anyone who doesn’t need to know.” He scrutinized Winterbourne’s two friends and Lady Whitworth. “I see unexpected additions to the original Flamborough duo.”
Winterbourne quirked a single eyebrow in amusement and said, “I understand, and your assumptions may be right about Lady Whitworth. However, Lord MacAlister and Lord Ashford both served England well in the war and Ash sits in Parliament. Surely these two can be trusted. And, my aunt, well, I will vouch personally for her. I believe you have met before.” He only hoped Bullock had wits enough to say nothing about whom or what Miss Eta Pie truly was.
The constable turned and acknowledged Eta with a knowing smile, but he said nothing other than “good day.”
“I like that! I was Lady Cravens closest friend and I’m the only one at this table who is here to learn the truth of who done her in, so to say. I have every right to be here.”
“You don’t want to bother —”
“Bother my pretty little head, Mac?” She turned her attention to the constable. “Listen, Mr. Bullock, my own father, the Earl of Harrogate, has as much authority as Lord Ashford to see Mori’s murderer hanged. And, I have more right to be here than he. Therefore, about this case, what are the relevant facts?”
Bullock exchanged quick glances with Winterbourne. “I have a question for each of you before I begin. Why is everyone here and not in Flamborough? Why did I get a note saying Winterbourne and Mr. Cravens hied off to Winterbourne Manor?”
“Winterbourne invited me. I came because… because I am Lady Cravens’ spou—”
“Because he wanted to keep an eye on me,” Winterbourne interjected when Cravens fumbled for words.
Lines of anger furrowed across Cravens’ brow hearing the marquess’ response. “You know me, Bullock.”
Bullock nodded and then looked at the other two men and waited without saying a word.
Mac cleared his throat in a somewhat comical manner with one fist to his lips. “I’m here quite a bit, when I’m not at Ash’s. Came here hoping to just enjoy some camaraderie, but, as you can see, I got myself quite caught up in this investigation.” He gave a nervous glance at Hollis.
“And you, Lord Ashford?” Bullock said.
Ash held out his hand to Mac, palm up. “Six guineas.”
“I say, how did you know?” Mac asked.
“Know what?” Hollis said.
“Ash wagered me six guineas this man would ask why we are here. I say, old boy, let my valet collect my purse and I’ll pay you.”
Hollis turned her head away in disgust, her chin inching upward. “Gambling. Is there nothing you men will not gamble on?”
“Not now, Mac,” Winterbourne said. “Bullock, I invited everyone here, except for Lady Whitworth. I have no idea why she is here, other than her claim to be the deceased’s friend.”
Everyone fell silent and all eyes to her. With a choking expression, she looked at each of them and steadied her fingers around her cup of tea. Her lips parted, shifted…began to form words.
“She came here to see me,” Mac said.
Instantly, all eyes shifted to him, including hers, which were wide with surprise.
“I most certainly did not! I came to see him!” The index finger of her left hand pointed at Cravens. “He killed Mori, Lady Cravens, and I intend to see he hangs!”
“Well, there you have it, Bullock. Can’t trust a single one of us.” Ash flicked a hand in the air and laughed. “We all seem to have more than one explanation for why we’re here.”
“Don’t pay any attention to Ash. Look, Bullock, I trust Lady Whitworth will not take any information you share here and bandy it about London just as I trust, um, Miss Pie.” Winterbourne pinned Eta with his eyes and she nodded her head in a silent oath.
“Very well my lord. The first item I have to discuss with you is the matter of a man I was led to by information from one of the villagers. Said you ordered him to hang about and keep an eye on who came and went and what the gossip—”
Winterbourne cleared his throat. “Yes, well, he reported to me there was nothing unusual.” Okay, he thought, now Bullock knows I had eyes and ears in the small hamlet, but who told him? The man wasn’t trained like the men he used during his investigations when he was a war spy. He raised an eyebrow feeling his two friends’ surprise focus on him.
“Did he now? Isn’t that interesting? Nothing unusual.” Bullock opened an ordinary ivory notebook and pushed to one side a few pages of what appeared to be copious notes. After a few moments studying a few of the pages, his big, square-tipped fingers stopped. He let his gaze travel over the two seated next to him and the three aristocrats across from him and met Winterbourne’s cynical gaze.
“Also talked to a man who saw the figure of a woman the night Lady Cravens went missing at the suggestion of one of the villagers.” His broad face turned to look at Cravens. “You may perhaps remember the stable master at Cranes Inn where you stayed? Well, it was him who saw the figure in the fog, and he said you saw her, too.”
Cravens nodded and instantly coughed. “Yes, I recall seeing someone on the road, I told you as much when I met you on the cliffs after Lady Cravens disappeared.”
“Yes, and so did the stable master. He also added something he found strange,” Bullock added.
Every eye riveted on the Constable Bullock turned to Cravens. Cravens shifted in his chair and coughed again, but said nothing. He blinked several times as the first rays of light began to shine through the window pane.
Bullock’s own gaze raked all them again. “He said he thought you a queer sot searching in the early morn for your wife, then sending him to the figure of the woman on the road and tell her you waited in your room.” With that last thought, he glanced at Lady Hollis.
“As you are aware, I have an injured leg and, yes, I was looking for Lady Cravens. The woman in the road could have been anyone; I saw no reason for me to go see if it was Lady Cravens after he pointed her out. I didn’t know who she was.”
Bullock looked intently at his notes and flipped another page. “You’re certain that he pointed out the woman and that you told him to go and give her a message?”
“Yes. I said I did. Do you doubt my word at this late date?”
Bullock rubbed the side of his face with his left palm and gave Cravens an apologetic look. “No, no. Just that we constables are blamed sometimes for getting the facts incorrect and I just want to make sure I write everything down the way each person states it.”
“Did the stable master tell you differently?” Cravens demanded.
“His statements are in my notes. Never worry what anyone else says.”
“Well, I did tell him to go collect her.”
“I have that written down. Thank you.”
“That statement just shows how much you did not care about Mori. You couldn’t be bothered to go to her yourself, you coward. Just more proof you murdered her, you… you…!” Lady Whitworth accused.
Winterbourne quickly turned his gaze to her. What game was this? Wasn’t she the lady in the road? Her reaction to Bullock’s words were curious. Most curious.
“Lady Bluntworth,” Ash said, mispronouncing her name incorrectly once again. “Because an injured husband chooses not to go chasing after shadows in the fog to determine whether she belongs to him does not make him a murderer.” He angled a look at Cravens. “Were you not the least bit curious, old man? I dare say, I would have been.”
“You’re always curious, Ash. Cravens,” Winterbourne said, and watched Lady Whitworth as he continued, “it may have been to your advantage to investigate. It may have been the woman you followed to the shop in Bridlington.”
“You followed some woman into Bridlington? Who?”
“I don’t know.”
“You followed a woman and you don’t know who she was? Why would you do that?”
“I wasn’t following her into Bridlington. She was there when I arrived. I only followed her to the Pawn Shop.”
“Ah, I see.” Bullock licked his graphite and wrote something on the piece of his vellum.
He shifted his eyes to Hollis. “Not only did Mr. Cravens here and the stable master both see a strange female, but Lord Winterbourne reported to me that the pawnbroker said he did not pay more attention to the woman who sold him the journal, the missing one belonging to Lady Cravens, than to note she was a lady and she had blonde hair. Do I have that right Lord Winterbourne?”
“Yes, you have it right.”
“You talked to Bullock after the day we both talked to him?” Cravens’ face went red with anger as he directed his challenges to the marquess. “Were you ever going to share that with me?”
“Cravens, keeping information from our constable does nothing to help him find what happened to your wife. Yes, I talked to him and no, I didn’t think it important for me to share that conversation with you.”
Cravens fell silent and the others shifted in their chairs, exchanging glances.
“There was the innkeeper, too,” Bullock added, still watching Lady Whitworth. “He saw that other woman right enough when she and her companion needed a room.”
Cravens responded with a defensive tone in his voice. “As to the woman of whom you refer, I never saw her or her companion inside the inn. Only the figure, more a shadow of a woman, on the road outside.” His eyes shifted from Bullock to Winterbourne. “Did you happen to see such a woman and companion and choose not to share that with me as well?”
Hollis shivered and her tea cup rattled ever so slightly as she placed it onto the saucer. All eyes were on her. Winterbourne missed neither of those nervous twitches from the blonde lady across from him.
Bullock said, “Seems she disappeared as fast as she appeared in the village. Got me to thinking what kind of a lady would be walking about with no servant or an escort in sight, and—”
“And, more precisely, what sort of woman would walk alone on a foggy road early in the morning while everyone slept? By Jove, Bullock! I think we all know. If I had known, I would surely have joined the hunting party. I might be interested in finding such a… Well, perhaps not.” Ash smiled at Hollis, who glared at him, and picked up his glass and took a long drink.
Cravens continued to shift and squirm in his chair trying to find a position where the sun wouldn’t shine in his eyes.
“A light skirt, is it what you be thinking, my lord?” Bullock said. Realizing who was at the table, he fumbled for words before he finally met Hollis’ gaze and said, “My deepest apologies, my lady. As it were, I posted my explanations and what questions I still have, and requested Sir Nathaniel send a couple of runners to do some further investigation and to assist me on this case.”
“I quite imagine we all have questions. Would you care to share yours? Perhaps about the light skirt?” Mac said.
Hollis glared at Mac this time.
“I was about to suggest the, um, female in question, who was a paying guest at Cranes Inn, was there to meet Cravens…” Bullock’s glance shifted to Cravens.
The other four’s eyes opened wide.
Squinting in the sunlight, Cravens rose from his chair shaking his fist at the investigator and yelling. “You idiot! Why would I have a woman of a sort like you infer come to the same inn where my wife and I were staying? Preposterous! You cannot accuse me!”
Bullock jumped up, knocking his chair and sending it backwards and crashing to the floor. “From that statement, I take it there is another woman. Mayhaps you didn’t know she chose the same inn as you. But, only a guilty man acts with such outrage and protests so loudly, sir,” he shouted back, pointing a thick finger at Cravens.
For the first time since the six took seats at the table, Eta, who had been sitting near the middle of the square room, rose defensively.
“How dare you?” shouted Cravens.
All eyes that shifted left, right, left, and right as the two shouted at each other.
“Gentlemen. Please,” Winterbourne said, as he leaned forward and interlocked the fingers of his hands resting on the table. “I didn’t hear Bullock actually accuse you, Cravens. He merely said certain points in the story had him contemplating possibilities.”
Eta walked, calm as you please, to the table where everyone sat, except for her. The men rose from their seats. “I wish to join you all.”
“Aun-tie,” Winterbourne said bitingly.
“Marquess Winterbourne, I do not wish to sit in that chair counting the number of times the pattern repeats in this rug for one more minute.” She looked at Bullock. “You, constable. I will take your chair and you can get a footman to bring you another.”
“Now just one minute Miss—” Winterbourne stopped himself before he said anything that would, well, he almost let her true identity slip. Instead, he walked around Mac and went to the bell pull. Hadley stepped into the closed room instantly.
“How many times does the pattern of this rug repeat?”
“Beg pardon, my lord?”
“If you do not know, bring in someone who can stand here and count and then have them report the number to you. I wish to know.”
All eyes were riveted on Winterbourne and the butler. “The pattern does not repeat, my lord. It begins its design in the center and works out from there.”
Hollis shrilled a giggle and immediately covered her mouth.
Ash’s bark of laughter almost drowned out hers.
Cravens closed his eyes and shook his head with every bit of impatience he felt.
Constable Bullock seemed to be attempting to count pattern repeats.
Mac’s attention remained glued on Hollis.
When Winterbourne’s eyes finally rested on Miss Eta Pie, she sat in Bullock’s chair, her arms crossed over her wide girth, and she wore a satisfied grin.
“Bring in another chair for Constable Bullock.”
“I anticipated one would be needed. A footman should be here any… ah, here it is, my lord. Set it down over there.”
Bullock took his new seat and Winterbourne repeated his last statement. “Before we were interrupted, I believe the constable was about to give us the possibilities he has considered. “ He addressed his statement to Bullock but watched Cravens. Bullock, like the others, looked at Cravens, too, but Winterbourne refocused his attention on Bullock inquiringly. As he hoped, Bullock felt compelled to answer.
“True enough, Lord Winterbourne, but I never said such,” Bullock said.
Eta sighed audibly. “Oh, Constable Bullock, that response didn’t satisfy anyone here. However, I have been close to the events surrounding Lady Cravens since the beginning. I know who the murder is. Or, whom they are, in this instance.”
“But, Miss Pie, it sure sounded like he was accusing Mr. Cravens to me, and I couldn’t agree more,” Hollis said, a smile of satisfaction curving her lips.
“No,” Ash said, flicking a hand in the air. “He merely said he thought the mysterious woman was there to meet Cravens. We did not permit him to finish.”
Winterbourne arched an eyebrow. “Well, Bullock? Do you have proof? Or, were you merely offering one of the many theories I am sure you must have considered?”
“Don’t forget,” Mac interrupted. “Someone also murdered several others. His wife’s maid and some shopkeeper.”
Hollis sat perfectly still for a hesitant moment glaring at Cravens, her biscuit hovering above her cup. “You… you… you fiend! You killed her abigail, too? You’re despicable!” Anguish spewed with every word. The biscuit fell from her hand into her cup of tea and a creamy ochre liquid fell in drops onto the table top. Wood against wood made an agonizing cry as she grabbed the arms of her chair and began scooting it backwards across the hardwood floor, as far from Cravens’ chair as she could, but not near the intricate parquet bordering the circumference the room’s floor.
The sun shone fully in both of their faces now. Winterbourne, Mac, and Ash watched Cravens squirm uncomfortably not only from the glaring light but from being accused of conspiring to murder his wife. And now her abigail. Cravens coughed. He rubbed his leg. Beads of sweat appeared above his upper lip and on his forehead.
“Well, there is sad news. But I hesitate to share it.” Bullock gave Eta a sidelong glance.
“One moment, Lady Whitworth,” Winterbourne said. “Bullock, what the bloody blue blazes is going on? Never say there’s been another murder.”
“Yes, my lord. Another woman. I found her myself when I paid a call at her request.”
The question plaguing Winterbourne like a fast-spreading cancer was why had the murderer not disposed of the body? Why leave it for the Bridlington Constable to discover? Winterbourne’s steely eyes penetrated Cravens and he said, “Did you do it, Cravens? Murder another defenseless female before we came here?”
“Of course not! Whatever happened to some other woman has nothing to do with me. This whole thing is absurd! I refuse to tolerate this witch hunt and any of these accusations!”
“Please, Cravens.” Ashford waved one hand. “Do remain seated. Is it truly necessary to protest so loudly? You’re hurting my ears.”
The affectation of his tone brought a sneer to Cravens’ lips.
Hollis’ ears pricked, but she didn’t hear the last part of what Lord Ashford said.
Winterbourne raised his arms and interlocked his fingers behind his head and leaned back in his chair, and gave a sidelong glance at Miss Pie, who sat forward in her chair and paid close attention to Bullock’s words. “I confess I don’t know who to believe did these dastardly things. Only Lady Cravens and her murderer know…and, her maid…and the shopkeeper in Bridlington… and now, another woman. Who is the other woman?” he asked.
He fixed his line of vision on the constable. “Could it not be,” at this point, the marquess brought his arms forward and placed them on the table and leaned forward giving Cravens a look, “the maid saw what happened that night and was seen by the murderer and was killed for what she saw? Well, perhaps this other woman saw something, too?”
“Well, my lord, that could explain her death, and I’m inclined to believe whole heartedly it is the reason for this last murder. But, it doesn’t explain the journal being sold and then bought again by the unknown female,” Bullock said, and gave Hollis a knowing look. “Or the murder of Mr. Greene, the pawnshop owner.”
“It was not I, Mr. Bullock!” Hollis said a little too loudly and a little too adamantly. “I was already on the road to come here.”
Bullock shook his head. “Don’t believe I said exactly when Mr. Greene was murdered. As for this other woman, the murderer done her in the morning of the day you all seem to have arrived here. Including you, Lady Hollis.”
“It wasn’t I and I certainly don’t know who done her in,” Cravens said, and shifted in his chair again. “I say, Winterbourne, might you close those draperies?”
“They do not close,” Winterbourne said, a bit too abruptly. “Who is this other woman, Bullock?”
“It has never been Lady Cravens’ personality to take off in the middle of the night without a servant or escort. She was never witless or lacking propriety, I can assure you.” Hollis clasped her hands and let them rest on her lap trying not to notice how the constable kept watching her. “And, if Cravens could have murdered her abigail and this other woman you refer to now, couldn’t he?”
“I fear everything I have learned indicates Mr. Cravens did not work alone, my lady. There was another person, the woman on the road perhaps, who —”
Cravens rose from his chair and again and pointed an angry, accusatory finger at Hollis. “It was her! She was the one who sold my wife’s journal!”
“Me-ee!” Hollis shrieked, and just like a shrew hung silently in the room. Another reminder she had lost all restraint, all tact…diplomacy.
Winterbourne noticed her eyebrows drew upwards toward the middle of her forehead causing short lines to appear across her forehead. It was slight but it was there and it was an indication of stress… it could also be an indication she was lying. But, the bitter grimace on Cravens’ face reminded Winterbourne there was a bit of bloodlust in every man… if the sword was placed in his hand. Even himself. He, Winterbourne, was the last to see Lady Cravens at the bottom of the cliffs. But he did not see who the other woman, only heard her before she disappeared.
“Lady Whitworth? I do no’ believe it! Nae, ’tis no her!” Mac said, rising from his chair in defense of Lady Hollis Whitworth.
She offered him a weak smile but stood defensively ready for further attacks from Mori’s husband.
Cravens coughed. “Ask her how she happens to be traveling with a bottle of my wife’s perfume! Rawlins found it in her trunk.”
Unable to keep her anger under control, Lady Whitworth shouted back at Cravens. “You’re despicable! By what right do you go through my trunks and…”
Winterbourne held up one hand and the accusations and arguments ceased. He gave Hollis a rueful look before addressing Cravens. “First, and regardless of what you think or even suspect, Cravens,” he said, trying to rein in his anger, “you nor your servant have a right to enter anyone’s room in this house. You and your man have acted like despicable bounders. If you suspected her, why didn’t you seek me out and let me handle the matter?”
He paused and the muscles in his cheeks hardened; he leaned forward and pressed his palms to the tabletop. “I want your man to leave my home this day. No! never dare imagine I wish to hear any excuses. I can’t trust your man not to feel free to enter any room and search, and God only knows what else. As it is, I shall have Hadley and Wunde der Stein lead a search of everything in every room in my house to assure me nothing is missing.”
Cravens began his nervous coughing and rubbed his injured leg.
“The problem with his leaving is that he may be involved in these murders,” Eta said.
Winterbourne threw the papers in his hand and they skated across the top of the table. His eyes traveled to Hollis and he said, “You have my most ardent apologies, Lady Whitworth. Never in my life have I had any guest send their servant to snoop the rooms of other guests. How dare you Cravens?” he said, biting back his disgust. “I invite you as a guest in my home and this is how you repay me?” He stepped away from the table and walked to the side of one of the large paintings and pulled the bell pull.
Cravens continued to cough and lowered his head.
Winterbourne, his voice controlled once more, said, “Mac, can we prove it is impossible for Lady Whitworth to have committed any murder? If so, we can eliminate her name. We must be certain beyond a doubt but I would love to have that certainty this minute. We can look at who is left. Work with Bullock if you find anything.”
“This is intolerable! You are all against me. It wasn’t me, I tell you” Cravens protested and laughed. As if his words were a cue, all eyes went to Cravens. “I have further proof Lady Whitworth is the murderer.”
He pulled the ring from his waistcoat and tossed it on the table. “That was Mori’s wedding ring, also found in the same trunk. The only person who would have it is the person who murdered her.”
The din of protests, accusations, and denials rose again. Winterbourne stared at the ring as it danced and twirled. Seeing his arched eyebrow, each person grew silent almost in turn. He said, “I strongly suspect Bullock has another name on his list. Is that not true? Yes, I thought there was. Mine, I am certain. But, surely you will have now determined to add Lady Whitworth’s.” His silvery-gray eyes pinned her for a moment before he glared at Cravens.
Bullock glanced from Lady Whitworth to Cravens. “While perfume and your wife’s ring are not sufficient to accuse anyone of murder, I do agree the lady is now officially on my list of suspects. Still, we have only your word that your valet found them in Lady Whitworth’s trunk. They just as easily could have come from one of your own traveling bags. And, it still does not excuse you or your valet for invading her room.”
He paused and gave Hollis a pointed stare.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Mimi: Just sitting still long enough to produce my pages. I get sidetracked so easily and can be distracted by just about everything…the phone, email, my Pub. AND, edits; edits are a challenge because I have to really think how to rewrite some pieces after parts are red-lined out of the MS.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Mimi: Not yet.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Mimi: I’m talking with an artist right now.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Mimi: I’m laughing… SPIN THE WHEEL OF VICTIMS! Choosing the victim wisely—and by “wisely” I mean with all the wicked, sadistic power within my twisted soul. I can kill ANYONE I WANT TO. More than one if I want! The world’s my oyster… I just have to—shiver, shuck—that baby and find the pearl.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Mimi: Many things, but most importantly my protagonist needed to be someone unique. When it came down to it, my heroine, my sleuth needed to be unique because the hard-boiled private eye, the spinster librarian, the cop-turned-lawyer or criminal-turned-cop had all been done. Miss Eta Pie had to be someone the reader would believe and find interesting. So, I learned how to make her effective as a detective… and it turned out that her ability to blend into the background, her shrewd intelligence hidden behind her physical appearance, and her love of cooking, talking, and gossip were the perfect characteristics. Hopefully I managed to create her unassuming enough she would be often overlooked by other characters, thus giving her the freedom to pursue the truth . Criminals and murderers, hopefully, failed to realize that with every slip of her tongue and each cup of flour she is not only making biscuits, but solving the crime.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead?
Mimi: I honestly hadn’t thought about it; but, I think, maybe, Melissa McCarthy.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Mimi: Read. Not just the genre you choose to write, but every genre. Read, read, and read some more. And, write every day. Even if it’s only a few hundred words, practice makes us better for the Olympics of writing a good story.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Mimi: Thanks. Hey, maybe you are familiar with my poetry or my short stories; if you are and choose to read my first novella, “Thieving Magpie and Murder: An Eta Pie Mystery”, thanks for taking a chance on me and I hope you enjoy it. If you are not familiar with anything I’ve done so far and you decide to give my first novella a chance, please remember when you review it that I have tender feelings. Thanks.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Mimi: “Dreaming Spies: A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes” by Laurie R. King and “Lullaby” by the author of “Fight Club” and “Choke”, Chuck Palachniuk.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Mimi: No, but I remember the first book I bought with birthday money from a family member, and then read: “Pippi Longstocking” by Astrid Lindgren. I remember being excited because it was about a girl around my age who’s mother died and who’s father was a sea captain lost at sea who lived on her own with her pet monkey, a suitcase filled with pieces of gold, and a pet horse. I remember she was gifted with superhuman strength and countless other eccentricities and she had great adventures.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Mimi: Good puns, seeing someone else laughing and not knowing why, and when a child does something that makes me kind of giggle and they repeat it and I laugh a little harder and a little longer and they repeat it again with smiles and giggles of their own because they made me laugh.
Loss makes me cry; the loss of parents, the loss of a pet; the sadness and crying of a friend; some sad movies can drag a few tears from me; when a child is hurt by bullying…well, that makes me angry, too.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
Mimi: One of the archangels Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, or Uriel. I have questions.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
Mimi: I know we’re supposed to pick something tasteful (read as BORING), but I want something that will make the people reading it smile and know a little bit more about me:
My Last Mystery—Who Knew The Victim Would Be MIMI?
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Mimi: I paint, I’m an amateur star watcher, and I’m learning to make hats.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Mimi: I like PBS (Public Broadcasting System): Masterpiece Theatre, American Masters, Sherlock, Masterpiece Mystery, the PBS comedy shows, MSNBC Rachel Maddow, MSNBC Morning Joe, and CNN Wolf Blitzer, and, this one is going to make you laugh out loud, but I like watching reports about space esp. when they talk about aliens
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Fave Foods: carrots! asparagus! salmon! pears! avocados! doughnuts!
Fave Colors: ALL — well, I’m an artist, too… I think I like purples and turquoise this month
Fave Music: Ride of The Valkyrie by Richard Wagner —
Carl Orff – O Fortuna ~ Carmina Burana —
Gioacchino Rossini – La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie) – Overture
Anything by The Beatles or Elton John or Joni Mitchell
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Mimi: be an attorney who paints
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Mimi: You can hang with the Tumbleweed Contessa for a bit of poetry, a few shorts, a piece of my mind, and silliness and Please, tell everyone you know. It’s the nice thing to do. For cake? And Vodka? Vodka Cake?
You can also see a couple of places my poetry has haunted:
My poetry as been published in Canada, France, Mexico, England, Madeira, the UK, and the USA.