A Very Very Very Fine House — Welcome Guest Kaitlyn Dunnett

Kimberley is the winner of Crime and Punctuation. Watch for an email from Kaitlyn.

We are delighted to celebrate Crime & Punctuation by prolific writer Kaitlyn Dunnett. It’s the first in a new series from Kensington. Kathy is giving away a copy (US only) to someone who leaves a comment!

Here’s a bit about the book: After splurging to buy her childhood home in the Catskills, recently widowed Mikki Lincoln emerges from retirement as a freelance editor. With her ability to spot details that others fail to see, it’s not long before Mikki earns clients—and realizes that the village of Lenape Hollow isn’t the thriving tourist destination it was decades ago. Not with a murderer on the loose . . . When perky novice writer Tiffany Scott knocks at her door holding a towering manuscript, Mikki expects another debut novel plagued by typos and sloppy prose. Instead, she finds a murder mystery ripped from the headlines of Lenape Hollow’s not-too-distant past. The opening scene is a graphic page-turner, but it sends a real chill down Mikki’s spine after the young author turns up dead just like the victim in her story . . .

Mikki refuses to believe that Tiffany’s death was accidental, and suspicions of foul play solidify as she uncovers a strange inconsistency in the manuscript and a possible motive in the notes. Then there’s Tiffany’s grandmother and husband, who aren’t exactly on friendly terms over the local area’s planned rejuvenation efforts . . . Unable to convince police that they are focused on the wrong suspect, Mikki must rely on her keen eyes to catch the truth hidden in Lenape Hollow. As she gets closer to cracking the case, only one person takes Mikki’s investigation seriously—the cunning killer who will do anything to make this chapter of her life come to a very abrupt ending . . .

My thanks to Sherry Harris and the other Wicked Cozy Authors for inviting me to blog here about my new “Deadly Edits” series. Crime & Punctuation, featuring amateur detective Mikki Lincoln, a retired-schoolteacher-turned-book-doctor, is in stores now in hardcover and ebook formats, with large print and audiobooks to come.

My grandparents’ farm

The first thing you need to know about me is that I’m sentimental about houses, especially those I lived in during significant periods of my life. When it comes time to create a home for one of my fictional characters, I almost always end up drawing a floor plan that bears a striking resemblance to someplace I knew well in real life. Years ago, when I wrote romance, I made use of my parents’ modular home in Florida and my grandparents’ farm in rural New York State, as well as houses I’d lived in myself. In the Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries, Liss and Dan’s house in Moosetookalook, Maine is loosely patterned on my other grandfather’s house.

My other grandparents’ house
My house 1960s

In the “Deadly Edits” series, Mikki Lincoln returns to her old home town after fifty years away and buys the house she grew up in. It not only looks just like the house I grew up in, it is located in the same place relative to other buildings in the village. I’d claim that it’s exactly like that house, except that I have no idea what changes various owners have made in the real place during the last fifty years. The house that Mikki moves into is what I imagine my house might be like today.

There are many advantages to using a familiar place as a setting. In this case, the most important one is that I can give Mikki the benefit of my memories. She knows what the house looked like back in the 1950s and 1960s and all the family stories that go with it. My father tore down the old barn in the back yard and used the wood to build a garage at the side of the house. So did Mikki’s. Mikki’s room as a teen was the one I had—right down to its own little balcony and a big, walk-in closet.

My house today

The reason Mikki sets up as a freelance editor has to do with the need to make repairs on the house. Her retirement income will only stretch so far! But since she has to have carpenters, plumbers, and electricians in the house anyway, and since she’s now going to sleep in the master bedroom, she opts to expand her former bedroom, making it into the office of her (and my) dreams.

I wish I had interior photos of the upstairs of my childhood home, but I do have have plenty of pictures of the living and dining room, thanks to holidays and birthdays. There are exterior photos, too, of both the front and the back of the house. What doesn’t really show are how close the neighbors are on both sides, something Mikki has forgotten during her time away and has to get used to again. Her memories of, shall we say “observing” her neighbors when she was young, weren’t hard to imagine. All I had to do was tap into my own memories.

As soon as she returns to Lenape Hollow, New York to live, Mikki reunites with a high school friend, Darlene, which meant I needed to design a house for her, too. I based it on my friend Leslie’s house, a place I visited so often that I knew it almost as well as I knew my own house. The school on Main Street is one I attended. The church is the church I went to. But I did run into one problem. I’d already transported my home town’s municipal building, containing the town office, the fire department, and the library, to Moosetookalook, Maine to use in the Liss MacCrimmon books. Fortunately, fifty years along, my old home town has both a new library and a new police station. So does Lenape Hollow.

I wouldn’t want you to think I’m not using my imagination to write this new series. There’s plenty that’s pure fiction, starting with the characters. And I think I can guarantee that there will never be any real murders quite like the ones Mikki comes in contact with in Crime & Punctuation and next year’s sequel, Clause & Effect. A setting comes to life when it’s based on a real place. Basing characters on real people or plots on real crimes? Nope. In those areas, it’s much better to make stuff up.

Readers: Do you have a favorite house you’ve lived in? Or one that means a lot to you?

Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of more than fifty-five traditionally published books written under several names. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries and the “Deadly Edits” series (Crime & Punctuation—2018) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in a Cornish Alehouse) as Kathy. The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” mysteries and is set in Elizabethan England. Her most recent collection of short stories is Different Times, Different Crimes. Her websites are www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com and she maintains a website about women who lived in England between 1485 and 1603 at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women

64 Thoughts

  1. My favorite house belongs to friends who are more like family. It’s this wonderfully large, open-air place that overlooks a creek. I love visiting and never want to leave. And your new book sounds wonderful!

    1. Thanks, Maria. Houses near any kind of water are great. We have a stream that borders our property in Maine.

  2. Congratulations, Kathy! I am halfway through the book and loving it. I adored the house I grew up in in southern California. Lots of space, a big back yard, even a basement, which is unusual for there. Unfortunately after my stepmother died and we sold it, the new people cut down the big shade trees (in southern California you NEED shade) and did some supremely ugly renovations. One drive-by was enough…

    1. Thanks, Edith. And thanks for the reminder. Mikki’s house has a full basement and a root cellar. I really should do something with those!

      1. Absolutely! Except, you know, she can’t go down alone when the light isn’t working…but she could get pushed and locked in (which I did in one of my Local Foods books).

  3. Oh yes! My heroine Lee Barrett and Aunt Ibby live in a house on Winter Street in Salem! It was the home of a childhood friend and I loved being there. I’ve updated some of it in my imagination, and added an attic, (which I borrowed from my Aunt Carrie’s house, over on Mall Street.) Lee also has the vintage furniture I’d love to have. Looking forward to reading the new book!

    1. Thanks, Carol. The attic in my house was one of my favorite places. I loved the sound of rain on the roof.

  4. My favorite part of the house was the front porch. It wasn’t very large but we had two chairs on either side of the front door. During the summer, the rule was that I had to be home. So my best friend, who lived across the street, would sit on her porch and I on mine and continue to talk. That is, until our mothers told us to shut up and come inside!
    Congratulations on the publication of this new series. I look forward to reading it1

    1. Thanks, Kimberley. There’s wicker furniture on that porch in the 1960s photo so that’s what Mikki has, too, but I added a table so she could work out there on her laptop.

  5. My favorite house was in the area called the Redneck Riviera aka the Emerald Coast of Florida. It was a one level ranch with a great layout and was just the right size for my family. The fact that it had a pool and hot tub didn’t hurt.

  6. I love your Liss MacCrimmon mysteries and can’t wait to read this series. My favorite house is actually a friend of mine. She has a wonderful sun room that is a great place to relax, be close to outdoors but no worry of getting bit by a mosquito.

    1. Thanks, Karen. And I’ve just written a note to myself to have Mikki deal with the occasional bug when she’s working on her laptop out on her front porch or on that little balcony (my favorite place from which to view the world,)

  7. Love it, now I know why your settings are always so true to life. I’m picturing a pink princess phone in that 1960s house. Looking forward to meeting Mikki.

    1. Thanks, Kait. Sorry, no princess phone. We had a black wall model in the kitchen and later an extension, also black, that sat on a table in the upstairs hall. My grandparents had a party line at the farm, which provided my grandmother with many hours of free entertainment.

  8. Oh yes, I believe our houses shape us and are shaped by us. Congratulations on your new book, Kaitlyn! My favorite house was a crooked-chimneyed Victorian ark where we raised our four children. An investment banker bought it after us and made fabulous updates, additions and improvements. The tarted-up house is worth an enormous amount of money now. Very sad in many ways. Still, I know that the heart of that sweet, arky old house still beats underneath the new kitchen, gazebo addtion, patios and three car garage.

    1. Thanks, Marian. I know what you mean about improvements. Still, better than letting a place get run down or abandoning it. My grandparents’ farm was sold to a man we are pretty sure burned it down for the insurance. The other grandparents’ house was recently renovated and sold to a new family, which makes me very happy. My paternal grandfather actually built that house back around 1915.

  9. Hi Kaitlyn!!
    I’m so excited to read the new book and have it on hold at the library! I fell in love with the Liss McKinnon series and always eagerly wait for the newest book!
    My favorite house would have to be my grandparents house. My grandfather built the house in 1960 and it was a split level built on a high hill that was across the street from one of the lakes in my hometown. The house was surrounded by trees and the sound of blue jays calling to each other was a constant sound. When you entered through the garage, you could go up a big flight of stairs to the house. The basement had the required rec room of the 60’s, his workshop and a bathroom. There was a shower for my mother and her sisters to wash off the sand from when they came back from the beach down the road. The upstairs had a huge living room, a family room, dining room, big kitchen, den, and up the three stairs were two bathrooms and three big bedrooms. Every room had built in cupboards and drawers and a fantastic view from each window. Cozy is a good word to sum up the house. My grandparents sold the house in 1982 when it just became too big for them. My grandfather left his legacy there by using old iron piping for his mailbox stand and it’s still there today!

  10. Very excited for the new book! Always love reading new-to-me authors! My favorite house, only because of the memories, was my grandparents house in Phoenix. It was small, but I guess when you’re little, things seem bigger. No air conditioning and fans all over the place. But filled with love and happy memories, and a lot of time spent outside in the hot Arizona sun. I still Google it to see how much it’s changed.

    1. Thanks, Kristin. Isn’t Google great for that? Zillow is good, too. I once found a whole series of interior photos of my grandfather’s house while it was still listed for sale. The rooms did look small, but I recognized the bay window where he used to sit and watch the neighborhood.

  11. Your new series “Deadly Edits” sounds amazing and one I can’t wait to read. The first book, “Crime & Punctuation” starts it off with a bang. I love that you use your memories of places and homes in your stories. It makes it more personal and knowing that when I read it will give me a glimpse into your childhood giving extra meaning when I have the fortune to read your book.

    The home with the most memories for me would have to be the housing on base at Ft. Ord, CA. I’m a very proud Army brat. Part of my life as a dependent wasn’t your typical military moving around when my Dad got a stabilized assignment at Ft. Ord. It was special because we were at the same place for several years and not changing schools. Even though I was still making and losing friends on a regular basis, it was a very special time indeed. I also had my own room which was awesome.

    I will have to say that the home I live in now has special meaning to me and I’m working on the best lifelong memories with each and every day that passes. We found the perfect piece of property (7 acres) in our dream destination in the Ozark Mountains. It’s on the history register with the old stone fence across the front and back along with the old smoke house and well. It’s right at the city limits so we have the best of both worlds – close to everything in town but out in the country with no immediate neighbors. My husband and I drew up our floor plans designing our home around two existing 1853 large stone fireplaces still standing from the old home on the property we bought. Although we downsized to one bedroom, we now have a computer/office room and we put all the specials we had always dreamed out into the home. The floors are hand scraped hickory. The cabinets in kitchen and bath were made by the Amish in Shipshewana and shipped in. We picked out the granite we loved for the counter tops. A local artisan hand carves each mantel for the fireplaces as well as hand hammered the brackets to support the 320 lb. solid oak mantels. We have the large front porch that goes across the whole front of the house. The exterior is large rock that we found in a local quarry to perfectly match those on the fireplaces. Then to top it off we were fortunate enough to get a local Mennonite builder to see our dream and build it to our specifications along with his brothers. We moved in May of last year and have already started on a lifetime of memories in our new home.

    Thank you for wonderful chance to win a copy of “Crime & Punctuation”. Whoever is selected will be very fortunate and in for a wonderful read.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  12. My favorite house is the one I grew up in and my brother lives in it now. I was there a few weeks ago and spent a few nights in my old bedroom. It was a bit strange. It brought back lots of good memories and missing mom and dad. There are still a few neighbors living there that I’ve known my whole life and that is comforting that some things stay the same.

    Congrats on your new book!!

  13. Lots of wonderful memories here. I love books based on real places because I feel they sound so much more authentic. And I love the title of your book!

    I’ve lived in several homes that I really loved and I have a lot of great memories. I think one of the hardest things I have ever had to do (and I’ve had to do it twice) was moving from a beloved home and seeing how future owners have “ruined” them with ghastly changes. I accept that they are no longer my houses, but it is hard nonetheless.

    Really looking forward to getting started on this fascinating sounding series.

    1. Thanks Ginny. I think the fear of what changes may have been made is one reason I don’t really want to see what the inside of my house looks like now.

  14. Wow, that’s a lot of snow in the one picture! One favorite old house belonged to family friends when I was growing up. They had a greenhouse in the back section of the property and a wonderful old house, complete with a turret section. The porch was like those old farmhouses, it ran around two sides of the home, the floor was wood and even as a kid, I could tell it had been painted a lot.

  15. I think the house I’m most attached to is the house I grew up in, the house my parents still live in. (And don’t enter me in the drawing, please.)

    1. The family farm held so many memories for me that even after more years than I want to count, they are still vivid. I suspect the places we loved as small children stick with us forever.

  16. Hi Kaitlyn,
    Your book sounds very good! I think it’s neat that you brought your home
    life in the book!
    I loved the house I grew up in. But I always loved going to my great Aunt and Uncles homes. It was neat going on a ride trip as a family and those homes hold a lot of special memories.

    1. Thanks, Sherry. I loved visiting my uncle’s house as a kid. He had a closet hidden behind a bookcase. I should use that in a mystery sometime!

  17. Unfortunately, I don’t really have a favorite house I have ever lived in. They were just houses. My current house is a money pit. I am ready to downsize and move into a condo.
    I am a huge fan of your numerous series and I would love a hardback copy of your latest book. I am very excited about your new series. Good luck.

    1. Thanks, Annette. I’ve lived in a few places that had nothing special about them, too, but even some of them have gotten into books. Villains have to live somewhere!

  18. I’m reading Crime and Punctuation now and I LOVE it!

    One of the things I learned when I started scrapbooking is the you need to shot photos of what I call the B roll. Pictures of bedrooms, schools, cars. How often I’ve looked at photos of my grandparents with some couple, I have no idea who they are but I remember so fondly the car they’re all standing in front of.

    1. Thanks, Barb. I wish I’d been smart enough to take more pictures, especially inside shots, but I suppose, back in the day, that meant using a flash attachment on a real camera and just seemed like too much bother. It’s so much easier to take pictures of everything and anything these days.

    2. That’s why it is so important to make every picture with every name, and location and date if known. Someday, somebody will want to know. Yes, it takes, time, but well worth it to lot lose memories.

  19. Congrats on your new book & series! I’m attached to my grandparents’ house. After they passed away, my cousin moved in. Luckily it’s still in the family & I can visit any time when I’m in the area.

  20. I still live in my childhood home which holds a lot of memories. Now I’m retired, I’m trying to fix things up a little.

    I really enjoy all your other series so eager to try this one.

  21. My Sister and I have a house in Michigan and when you walk in the door, you see the nature preserve behind the house. It’s such a peaceful setting, I’m looking forward to moving there permanently. Like the sound of “Crime and Punctuation”. A retired widow sounds like an awesome sleuth.

  22. One of my dearest friends has a house with an AMAZING backyard. i lived in his basement when I was going through a life transition and that backyard (and the tree swing there) healed me. Three years after I lived there, I had my wedding there. it will always be a special place. Congratulations on the new series!

  23. I rent so I have not had many i liked as living space is just what I can afford which means I have never been able to live in a house except for one . It was on 7 acres , it had huge Windows overlooking the coast, huge country kitchen, hardwood floors, fireplace, big garage. . I was happy for the first time in my life with my 2 cats. The landlady said I could rent it as long as I wanted. Then she sold it abruptly and I had to move. I am still heartbroken years later. Leaving the only house I ever lived in and adored completely broke my spirit. Since then it’s been one rental disaster after another. I have never been happy again.

  24. I grew up in the House my Grandfather built, my Dad was born in….. in Missouri, Very, Very Cold in the winter! Taught me how to dress quickly & I slept under Several quilts, which my Great-aunt Letha probably made! Still very proud of it, no longer in the family……

  25. Looks like an interesting book. Like many in the 50s, I was dragged from pillar to post and have no particular growing-up house to look back on. Just as I would start to settle in and make friends we would move so I would again be the new kid in town saddled with looking out for my younger siblings, thus delaying any social contacts for myself.

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