Speaking Engagements

I had a great talk at the Newburgh Library last Wednesday. I have two more coming up. On Sunday, October 23, I will be talking at the Orangeburg Library – in Rockland County, New York. The talk begins at 2.

The following Sunday, I will be speaking about witchcraft at my own library – the Goshen Public Library in Goshen, New York. Hard to believe but I have never spoken there. I felt shy pushing myself into a slot where I work.

Come and ask questions.

Witches and witchcraft – beyond Salem

Although I don’t address witchcraft of the trials in Death in Salem, I write about a period 100 years later, I do use it in The Devil’s Cold Dish.I am fascinated by the persistent belief in witches. Although the trials ended before 1700 and reparations began to be paid to surviving victims and families of the executed, belief in witches and the trials did not end then. As I have written in other posts, belief – and accusations – continued well into the 1800’s. ( And actually into modern times ). With Halloween only days away, it seems appropriate to address the topic again. The craze in Massacheusetts came after several centuries of the trials and burnings in Europe. Belief in magic was widespread. Girls used spells to try and see the faces of future husbands and superstitions regarding illness, birth, harvest were rife. Harelips were caused when the mother saw a rabbit, birth marks because the mother ate strawberries, for example. One of my favorites: to protect a mother and child during birth put an ear of corn on the mother’s belly. Reasons given for the explosion of belief and hangings in Salem are many. I just read several pieces on Tituba. Variously described as an Indian or a black slave, her testimony apparently drove much of the content of the stories and was a direct cause of the eventual hangings of women described as her confederates. (Although they all protested their innocence, sixteen were hanged. Tituba was set free.) A shadowy character, she has been also described as practicing voodoo. Her testimony. at least to me, reads more like the Christian belief in demons and the devil. Once she was released, however, she, like the girls whose fits started the terror, faded into obscurity. By the late eighteen hundreds her name was used to frighten children and she is shown in illustrations in the witches’s black dress holding her broom. Considering the amazing staying power of accusations, one has to wonder about the psychology behind these beliefs. Of course malice plays a huge role as does mysogyny. But why the belief in evil supernatural powers and submission to the Devil? I still have trouble wrapping my mind around it.

Goodreads Giveaway – Cradle to Grave

Beginning November 1, I am beginning a giveaway of twenty copies of Cradle to Grave.

cradle to grave

This is my third book and of the four I have published, and the one coming out next spring, is the one with the most emotional resonance for me. My daughter had had a baby the year before. There were some problems and she had to have a C-section. Then there were some problems with the baby, most of which he has grown out of of. That poor kid was in the hospital more times than I can count.

I had already come across the practice of warning out in my research for A Simple Murder and Death of a Dyer but it wasn’t an appropriate topic for those books. (And I must say, the research for the first two and then Death in Salem were a lot more fun. I love Salem, the Shakers are fascinating and, for Death of a Dyer, I messed around with dyes for months. The research was pretty grim for Cradle.) But I started thinking, what happens to single mothers? How would I feel if I had children and was trying to feed and raise them? What happens to orphans? How could a single mother even try to fight the power structure?

At the same time, I read an article in the New York Times about the practice in Las Vegas of rounding up the homeless and shipping them to California. The more things change, the more they remain the same, right?

I was also babysitting some older children so their mother could work. So, I based Jerusha, Simon and Nancy  on these kids, and the mixed race foundling that no one wanted is my first grandson.

I had to have a happy ending. Spoiler alert.

It may not be the best mystery of the lot but, for me, it has the most heart and the one that means the most to me.

 

 

Witches – Salem and more

I ‘ve had a couple of questions about my most recent book, Death in Salem. Why didn’t I fully explore the witchcraft angle? Well, as I’ve said in earlier posts, Salem by 1797, was a very cosmopolitan city. It was not only the sixth largest, one of the most diverse (with the first East Indian immigrant populations in the US) but it was also the wealthiest. Salem’s witchcraft past was more an embarrassment.

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House of one of the judges.

 

The witchcraft spell has never completely left Salem, however. On one of our tours, the guide was the descendent of one of the accused witches. Reminders of this past abound.

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Graveyard includes memorials to those that were executed.

 

 

Although Salem became something other – a huge center of shipping and trading, however, the belief in witchcraft did not fade. In an earlier blog I wrote about trials that continued, right up to one in Russia in 1999.

And I wonder what is behind these accusations? Belief? Greed, malice, revenge? Hatred of women. With Gamer gate and all of the Internet attacks on women we certainly cannot discount that as a motive.

Christianity certainly plays a part.I think most of us are familiar with the quote from the Bible about not suffering a witch to live. During the middle ages and right up to modern times this has been used to execute any number of innocent people, primarily women.

I will blog¬† in the future about my research into witchcraft and goddesses – I think the two are tied. I decided, that since I did not explore witchcraft and the psychologies behind it in Death in Salem, I would do so in the next book. That book, titled The Devil”s Cold Dish, will be coming out next year. Spoiler alert: it does not take place in Salem.

 

 

Death in Salem books

 

I am thrilled to announce that I have received my first copies of Death in Salem and they look stunning. Here is the cover:

death in salem

The books look even better in real life. I will probably be having another Goodreads giveaway later in the summer.

To summarize the plot: Will Rees is on a weaving trip and stops in Salem to buy some imported cloth for Lydia. He gets stopped by a funeral and sees an old friend at the head. Anstiss Boothe, the deceased, has been ill a long time but the very next day her husband Jacob. a wealthy Salem merchant, is dead and this time it is clearly murder. Rees has already left Salem but his friend rides after him and draws him back to investigate.

Smuggling, piracy, prostitution, and of course all the dynamics of interpersonal relationships keep Rees investigating.

I had a lot of fun roaming Salem when I researched this book.

Goodreads Giveaway ends

I am thrilled to announced that 880 people put their names in for “Death in Salem”. That is just about half the number in two weeks than “A Simple Murder” dd in four. Thanks everyone. Good luck!

Goodreads Giveaway – One Day Left

I cracked the 500 level of requests. Yay! I am so close to 600 I am optimistic that I will cross that too. So, if you want a free book, put your name in. Reviews have been great.

Weekend talks

Well, there was no housework done in the Kuhns household this weekend. I left the house on Saturday at 7 am to attend the steering committee meeting for my sisters-in crime chapter. The regular meeting began at 10:30 and I left at 12:30, after a very fascinating talk by a Colonie policeman, for a talk at Cohoes Public library.

What a great talk it was too. And I met an old friend from my days working with the New York Library Association.

On Sunday I spoke at a meeting of the Arlington Women’s group to an assemblage of 78 people. Another great talk. And they fed me lunch.

Now I have to return to real life. Sigh.

Goodreads Giveaway – one week in

So far about 275 people have requested a copy of my new book. I am surprised it isn’t more; for “A Simple Murder” there were many more requests. Of course it does mean that those who have put in their names have a better chance. But you can’t win it, if you aren’t in it.