Guest Liz Milliron

Edith here, battling a nasty respiratory thing and finally on top of it (I think). And I’m excited to welcome Liz Milliron back to the blog with a debut mystery in a new historical series. In the late fall, she asked me if I would blurb it, and it was easy to offer an enthusiastic endorsement. Here’s the meat of it: “The story is riveting, Betty’s courage and persistence are a delight, and her sidekicks provide perfect support and caution. The Homefront Mysteries promise to keep you on the edge of your seat…and smiling as you read.”

First let’s hear about The Enemy We Don’t Know (and be sure to read down for a giveaway!):

November, 1942. Betty Ahern is doing her part for the war, working at Bell Aircraft while her older brother and fiancée are fighting overseas, but she really wants to be a private detective like her movie idol Sam Spade. When sabotage comes to the plant, and a suspected co-worker hires her to clear her name, Betty sees it as her big chance.

As her questions take her into Buffalo’s German neighborhood, Kaisertown, Betty finds herself digging into a group that is trying to resurrect the German-American Bund, a pro-Nazi organization. Have they elevated their activities past pamphlets and party-crashing? When the investigation leads Betty and her two friends into a tangle of counterfeiting and murder, as well as the Bund, the trio must crack the case–before one or more of them ends up in the Buffalo River…wearing concrete overshoes.

But I Don’t Write Historical

First, thanks to all the Wickeds for hosting me today and helping me celebrate the launch of my new book/series. “But I don’t write historical,” was me in the spring of 2016. I was participating in a short story challenge and Malice Domestic had just announced the theme of their anthology to be released in 2017 – Mystery Most Historical.

I’d never written historical. I wrote contemporary. There were too many details for historical, too much research, too much possibility of getting it wrong. And all of the story ideas I’d ever had were contemporary. The historical field was populated with such big names: Rhys Bowen, Edith Maxwell, Sujata Massey…what did I have to add to the canon? This was one I’d be skipping.

And yet…

A character started bugging me. A young lady who worked at Bell Aircraft during WWII, a girl very loosely based on my paternal grandmother. What if she was a movie buff who dearly wanted to be a private detective? What if she showed up to work one day and found her shift supervisor killed? What if she decided to solve the crime? What if…?

And a story was born.

It was intended to be one story. When I finished it, I swapped stories with friend Keenan Powell for critique and she said, “There needs to be more Betty stories.” But I was done with this character. Time to get back to modern times. After all, I didn’t write historical.

Or so I thought.

I still hadn’t sold the Laurel Highlands series. The question was, “Should I write a third in that series or do something different?” How much time did I want to spend on a series that might not go anywhere?

Betty piped up. “I’ve got one for ya,” she said.

Of course, I resisted. I still labored under the delusion that I was in charge, or at least sort of in charge. Silly me. Betty kept nagging me. I hadn’t involved her good friend Liam “Lee” Tillotson in the last story. He’d be mad. And she had a humdinger of a tale to tell. I told her, no. After all, I didn’t write historical.

Needless to say, Betty wore me down. And her story was pretty intriguing. Soon I found myself immersed in the history of the P-39, the events of WWII in November, 1942, Bureau of Labor Statistics wage tables, and what Buffalo, New York looked like in 1942 (my history-buff father was a great help with that). I looked at maps, and old pictures. I read books set in that time period and watched movies to get a feel for dialogue. I looked up pictures of fashion and work attire. I had to admit, I was having fun.

When I finished, I didn’t know what to do with the book. I put it aside and shortly thereafter, I sold the Laurel Highlands series. Betty seemed destined to wait in the wings. Then in 2019, my publisher announced they were starting a historical imprint, aptly named “Historia,” and were looking for manuscripts. I put up my hand. “I have a historical if you’d like to look at it.”

The rest, as they say, is history. I guess I write historicals after all.

Readers: What is something you always said you didn’t do only to find out you did it after all? I’ll send an ebook or print copy to one commenter (US/Canada only).

Liz Milliron is the author of The Laurel Highlands Mysteries series, set in the scenic Laurel Highlands and The Homefront Mysteries, set in Buffalo, NY during the early years of World War II. Heaven Has No Rage, the second in the Laurel Highlands Mysteries, was released in August 2019. The first book of the Homefront Mysteries, The Enemy We Don’t Know, was released in February 2020. Soon to be an empty-nester, Liz lives outside Pittsburgh with her husband, two children, and a retired-racer greyhound.

33 Thoughts

  1. Well, I always said I would never join a book club. Then last year, the local library started a mystery book club and now I’m not only a part of it but I look forward to it. I’m always thinking of titles to suggest and trying to expand the group’s membership.

    Congratulations on the new book Liz!

  2. Congrats, Liz! I love that this was inspired by your grandmother. There aren’t that many homefront books and it always fascinated me, how everyone pulled together in a common cause. A fascinating time in history.

  3. I’m so excited to see Betty get a series! I love her. She’s the personality everyone would gravitate to at work, full of zip. Congrats on new series!

    1. Thanks! You get a special shout-out in the acknowledgements on this one. I really never intended to write any more stories until you suggested it.

  4. First may I say, Edith I hope you get to feeling back to your spunky self real soon. It’s the pits feeling under the weather.

    Congratulations Liz! I can’t wait for the opportunity to read all about Betty’s adventures in “The Enemy We Don’t Know”.

    Don’t know for sure if this qualifies, but I would have told you that I do not take risks. I enjoyed the known reliable life. Then 3 years ago, believe it or not, it was me that said “You know I think it would be great to pick up and move to the Ozarks.” It meant selling out and leaving a place that had been my home for 50 years and the same home for 20 years leaving behind everything I was use to and comfortable in. Best thing that I ever said – and did. That opened my eyes up to taking risks. Since then, I’ve flown in a helicopter (again my idea) when I have a great fear of heights. Taken up photography when I had never been able to take a photo without cutting of heads or it being blurry even taking photos of black bears within 30 feet of me. I now find that I’m open to “try” more things. I may fail but I can at least say I tried.

    Thank you for the chance to win a copy of this wonderful sounding book! Shared and hoping to be the fortunate one selected.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  5. Liz, this sounds terrific! Congratulations! I’m daunted by the idea of writing a historical as well. But now I feel as if I’m tempting the fates by writing that.

  6. Lately there are so many good stories about average people that turn out to be not so average during WWII, and this sounds like one of them. Betty sounds fascinating and this story has all the elements I love. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

    Not sure if this was what you had in mind but I always considered myself quiet, shy and unwilling or too afraid to get involved. I’ve begun to look back and find that’s not true at all. Maybe not as much as Betty, but I guess I’m not the introvert I thought I was.

    1. Yeah, WWII brought out the “not so average” in a lot of people. My dad seems to think Grandma mostly did assembly of the plane fuselages. I wish I had been forward-thinking enough to ask her to tell stories when I was younger.

      And good for you for being willing to put yourself out there!

  7. Congrats on breaking out of the box and writing historicals. I’m looking forward to reading your first. I love historical mysteries. I learn so much history that way.

    When in college, my worst subjects were computer programming and accounting. I ended up being the
    IT person for a company just becoming computerized (obviously a long time ago) and I became Assistant Finance Director of the same company later on. Then my husband and I bought a business and, yep, I was the computer and finance person.

    1. Funny how that works out. My son hates English and reading. Guess which subject he generally does best in when it comes to in-class tests/essays?

  8. I’m not a runner. Or at least I wasn’t until I heard about mud runs. 10 years later, I’m a runner, just not a long distance runner. We will see if that lasts.

    Congrats on the new book. I love WWII history, so I definitely want to read this one. (That’s a please enter me.)

    1. I had a friend in college who was like that. She hated running and swimming. Years later, she started doing triathlons and distance running. Who knew? (And you’re entered. 🙂 )

  9. My Mom was allergic to seafood, so my childhood was literally seafood free, and we kind of grew up thinking that if it was bad for Mom that it was bad for us. On a trip to Hawaii, I finally tried sushi, and I’m glad that I did because I love it and eat it all the time ~

    I’m so glad that Betty was tenacious and made you write this book! I look forward to reading it.

  10. Picture me rubbing my hands together to get started reading this book. I am in love with the cover, and can’t wait to dig in. I have family in Buffalo, they lived there during the War so I’ve heard all sorts of stories, and my Dad helped start the Aeronautical division of Otis Elevator in Harrison, NJ so I grew up on those stories and on his stories of supervising a nearly all female workforce.

    What did I do that I said I never would? Hum, a toughie because I’m a daredevil so just thinking I never would makes me want to do whatever.

  11. Welcome back to the Wickeds, Liz. I’d don’t write historicals but I love to read this and this period of “near history” is particularly compelling. As is the Buffalo setting. Off to purchase…

  12. I never thought that I would drive, cook, bake, or have a smart phone. My dad (who had super bad eyesight like me) worked on planes at Lock Haven, PA in World War II. I love historical books so yours sounds interesting.

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