Joyce and Jim Lavene write award-winning, bestselling mystery fiction as themselves, J.J. Cook, and Ellie Grant. They have written and published more than 60 novels for Harlequin, Berkley, Amazon and Gallery Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family. They are currently on tour with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours with their latest book MURDEROUS MATRIMONY. Joyce is here today guest blogging about the crafts found in the Ren Faire Mystery Series and you will find a contest at the bottom of the page, welcome Joyce.
Craft and the Ren Faire Mysteries
By Joyce Lavene
When my husband, Jim, and I first decided to write the Renaissance Faire Mysteries, we thought it would be fun to spotlight a specific craft in each book. After all, a trip to the Ren Faire is nothing without a stroll through all the colorful booths, and a peek at everything in the market.
We decided to let our protagonist, Jessie Morton, learn a craft in each book as well as solve a mystery! She began working on her dissertation: Renaissance Crafts in Modern Times.
So we started with Gullah basket weaving in the first book, Wicked Weaves. We visited with some basket weavers who were very helpful in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. There the shops along the road are filled with baskets of all shapes and sizes.
The second book, Ghastly Glass, was about a glass art maker in Renaissance Faire Village and Marketplace. We went to the source again, and learned everything we could about making glass dragons, unicorns, and other beautiful art.
Deadly Daggers, the third book, took us in another direction – sword making! Our protagonist spent some time with a sword maker where she also learned to use a sword.
The fourth book, Harrowing Hats, Jessie was apprenticed to a hat maker who had once spent time in Hollywood. They worked on hats for all the characters in the Village.
The fifth book, Treacherous Toys, is about wooden toy making. We had a wonderful Father Christmas and his large family making splendid toys. Jessie worked with them, and learned to make toys too.
In book six, Murderous Matrimony, Jessie is getting married to her long-time beau, Bailiff Chase Manhattan, but she is also the director of the new Arts and Crafts Museum in the Village. Her first guest is a tapestry maker who enchants the crowds with his history of tapestry weaving as well as the wonderful old loom he’s working on.
Jessie has learned all kinds of things through this series, and so have we. It’s been fun following her exploits, and finding a new craft for each book!
Visit them at www.joyceandjimlavene.com
Amazon : amazon.com/author/jlavene
In less than two short weeks, Jessie Morton will marry Chase Manhattan at Renaissance Faire Village and Marketplace. But so much can go wrong in that short time. A man is murdered in Jessie’s new Arts and Crafts Museum and her assistant is being scrutinized for the deed. Chase’s brother and parents have arrived and are still against their marriage. Wanda’s ghost is busy making Jessie’s life miserable. The Ren Faire wedding of her dreams may never take place. Can Jessie talk Chase into eloping before it’s too late?
Before I could call out again, the principle wonder of Madame Lucinda’s tent walked immediately in front of me in a challenging stance.
I know. There was no way the dragon, the size of a large terrier, was real. Believe me I had investigated every other possibility.
It wasn’t a puppet. It wasn’t a holographic image. It wasn’t a person in a costume, like Fred the Red Dragon. I checked out all those ideas.
The green dragon had yellow eyes that were fastened on me. Its mouth showed rows of sharp teeth. I’d seen it spit fire before. Though it seemed impossible, even here at the Renaissance Faire, I was pretty sure the dragon was real. I don’t know how it was possible, but I had no other answer for it.
When I’d mentioned it to other residents of the Village, they were all fine with the idea that there was a dragon inside the purple and gold tent. No one even seemed to question how a real dragon could be there.
Of course, residents of the Village are not always the most logical, practical people in the world. Let’s face it, we live in a fantasy land where visitors from outside come to be immersed in another time and place. We’re encouraging people to use their imaginations.
My imagination was having a hard time wrapping itself around this very real dragon confronting me like a guard dog. I feinted one way, and he followed me. I was definitely in his sights.
“Oh. It’s you, Jessie.” Madame Lucinda suddenly appeared in the quiet darkness of the tent. “I’m sorry about Buttercup. She doesn’t like surprises, or unannounced visitors, for that matter.”
“Buttercup? It’s a girl dragon?”
Madame Lucinda laughed daintily as though my ignorance was amusing. She was a deeply stooped older woman who always wore a long purple robe. She had a hard time walking. I thought maybe she was crippled, or in some way injured, since she hid herself in here, even after the Village was closed each day.
She moved her long, gray hair away from her face as she sat down carefully in her chair behind the tiny table with the glowing glass ball on it. “Actually, in their fight to survive, dragons have learned to be flexible in their gender. Buttercup is a female right now. She may be a male someday. She’s not old enough to mate as yet. We’ll see when the time comes.”
I moved quickly as Buttercup jumped up on a shelf where she usually perched above Madame Lucinda. I took the chair opposite the fortune teller at the table.
“Are you telling me Buttercup is a real dragon?” I said it with all the authority of a master’s degree in medieval history could bring. “Because you know dragons were only mythology. They weren’t even like dinosaurs. At least existed and went extinct.”
I just wanted to hear her say it. I don’t know why since I probably wouldn’t believe it.
“Mythology is hard to define,” she said in a gruff voice. “One person’s mythology is another person’s truth.”
I looked up at the dragon that made a kind of purring noise on the shelf above us. “That doesn’t really answer my question.”
I’ve read quite a few books by the authors but never one from this series. Perhaps I would feel differently if I had started the series from the beginning, but I felt no connection to the characters, I didn’t ‘see’ them. I also felt giving characters names like Chase Manhattan and Oliver Northman was a bit too twee. I like the premise – a group of people that not only work but live in a Renaissance Village that is a public entertainment park. And I have even come to accept things like ghosts and witches in cozy mysteries, something I know many don’t like. There is a blue naked ghost who hums Credence Clearwater Revival, Morgan LeFay, in this one. But ghosts aside, I like a book to be real or fantasy – and I tend not to read fantasy. And I think by having a character, Madame Lucinda, who is half human and half dragon crosses that line from cozy into fantasy. This is no longer real people living in what is essentially an amusement park in South Carolina, there are fantasy creatures. When I have the time, I will go back and read the beginning of this series and perhaps I will revise my opinion but even the writing did not seem up to the standard I have found in the authors’ other books so for me I am afraid this one was only ♥♥♥
The authors are giving away to one winner a copy of each of the 5 print books (US only) in the Ren Faire mystery series as well as the E- novella, Perilous Pranks. and an E- copy of Murderous Matrimony. The entire collection, for now, of their Ren Faire Mysteries. Plus a Ren Faire Mystery tote bag to hold all of them. To enter to win 1) comment below then 2) go HERE.
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