Well-published, award-winning mystery writer Maryann Miller is here for Authors Helping Authors “Eggcerpt Exchange” on my blog. Miller mastered the art of storytelling as a child by spinning wild tales to her family at dinnertime, who couldn’t escape unless they forfeited their dinner. She is here to showcase her first indie release, Boxes for Beds, a historical mystery. It sounds fascinating! I’ve ordered a copy myself.
About the book:
The 1960s were a time of peace and love in California, but not so in Hot Springs, Arkansas where the mob still ruled. In Boxes For Beds, babies are being kidnapped, and the local sheriff has to put this case to bed before the bosses come down from Chicago for a big meeting. They don’t need the heat of an open investigation that could interest the Feds, and they have the local sheriff under their control. He thinks it’s a good move to arrest Leslie Richards, the new woman in town, even though there’s only thin circumstantial evidence against her. Better for it to be a stranger taking those babies and not one of their own. Leslie has left New York with her ten-year-old daughter, Mandy, hoping to escape from her past and the ruins of a relationship, only to discover that there is little peace for her in Pine Hollow, Arkansas.
Excerpt from the book:
“Hush little baby, don’t you cry … ” The plaintive melody whispered in the otherwise resounding silence.
One small candle flickered atop the dust-encrusted chest of drawers, the feeble light unable to dispel the gloom born of the murky darkness. The yellow flame wafted in a sudden draft, casting macabre patterns on a precarious stack of old boxes supported by an intricate network of cobwebs. The pale light briefly touched a figure hunched over an open trunk.
The figure loomed more like a shadow than a real person and reached out a hand to lightly trace the features of the tiny bundle nestled within the trunk’s musty interior.
“Would you listen to me? Singing to a doll-baby just like you was real.”
Wide, unblinking eyes stared back.
“Sometimes I wish … but no. It’s better this way. If you was real, then I’d have to tell you to hush for sure. The Man don’t let me play with no real babies. Says I might hurt ’em. But he don’t know. I can be real gentle. Ain’t my fault those others broke. You ain’t gonna do that are you?”
March 6, 1961
Leslie Richards sat on the ground, idly picking at the strands of dry grass beside her. No sign of green yet, not even in Pine Hollow, Arkansas. Not that she really expected it. Early March is still winter whether in Arkansas or New York, but at least the breeze blew a little warmer here. She definitely wouldn’t be sitting on the ground if she were still in New York.
Easing herself against the thick trunk of the old oak, which stretched leafless branches high into a shimmering blue sky, Leslie thought of how her agent had reacted to the news of her impending move. Merrill had stolen the response Leslie had expected from her parents.
“What on earth do you want to leave New York for?” Merrill rolled a well-chewed pencil between her slim fingers, staring at Leslie in frank astonishment.
“You’re the one who keeps telling me a writer should be well-traveled. Let’s just say I’m broadening my horizons.”
“Some podunk town in the South is hardly what I had in mind.”
“That ‘podunk town’, as you so colorfully put it, is part of my heritage. My grandmother was raised there. I can reconnect with my roots.”
“Right. Like that’s been a burning issue in your life.” Merrill flashed one of her lopsided smiles. “I think you’re holding out on me, kid.”
“Oh, Merrill,” The tears Leslie had vowed not to burden her friend with welled in her eyes and spilled unbidden down her cheeks. “Everything’s such a mess. Since Ronald … I can’t think. I can’t work.”
Boxes for Beds is available in paper, electronic, and audio. Links to all formats are on Maryann’s Book Page on her website: Boxes for Beds
Here’s a revealing interview with the character, Leslie Richards:
What would you do if you won the lottery?
What a great question. We all fantasize about that, don’t we? First, I’d buy the biggest, prettiest house in Pine Hollow. Despite all that has happened to me since I came here, I do love this small town and plan to stay. For my friend, Pauline, I’d buy her a larger space for her bookstore/library, and I’d stock it with a ton of books. Of course, I’d also have to put a lot of it away for Mandy’s college fund. Then I’d keep the rest to live on, just in case the writing doesn’t keep paying the bills.
What is my favorite place to visit? I enjoy going to Hot Springs and visiting one of the bath houses, and I even like going to the track now and then. And if I won the lottery, maybe I could even place a bet. While I love my life here, now that things have settled from the arrest and everything, I do like to go back to New York. It’s always great fun to meet my agent somewhere in Manhattan and remember what it’s like to get all dressed up and enjoy the night life. I visit my parents, too, and assure them that Mandy and I are just fine down here in Arkansas. This is a quieter, simpler place, and Mandy is thriving.
What is your level of education, Leslie, or are you self-taught?
Since I had Mandy not long after high school, I never did go to college. And I’m not even sure where the ability to write came from. I always have loved to read, and I started reading children’s books to Mandy. I discovered I enjoyed those books as much as I enjoyed ones for adults, so I started writing those.
What was the most difficult part of your life?
Well, you’d think being arrested for murder might have topped the list, but actually, it does not. Being an unwed mother in the early 60s was much different from what it has been for young girls in later years. There was a stigma attached and people judged me, so I kept to myself. Thank goodness my parents supported me when I decided to keep Mandy, otherwise I would not have been able to manage. I’m glad that things have changed and girls no longer need to hide like they’ve done something wrong. The worst part of that is the fact that it has always been okay for the guys to have sex. It’s almost a badge of honor or a rite of passage for them, but for women, for too long, it was a badge of dishonor.
About the Author:
Maryann Miller is a best-selling author of books, screenplays and stage plays. Boxes for Beds is her first indie release. Her previous books include a police-procedural mystery, Open Season, which is the first in a new series that features two women homicide detectives– think “Lethal Weapon” set in Dallas with female leads. Miller has won numerous awards for her screenplays and short fiction, including the Page Edwards Short Fiction Award, the New York Library Best Books for Teens Award, and first place in the screenwriting competition at the Houston Writer’s Conference.