Monday, June 13, 2011

Guest - Joan Maze

Good morning all! Today's guest if offering some helpful insights into the world of research. I'm sure you'll find it as interesting as I did. Enjoy!

Joan has offered a giveaway of Murder By Mistake to one Star-Crossed Romance reader so make sure you leave a comment.



            Because I love historical novels, particularly those set in Scotland, I decided to try my hand at writing one. At the time I made this decision, I was taking a Viking/Scotland class and remembered something my mother had told me years earlier.

            It seems that, although all of us are of Norwegian descent, my maternal grandfather, who emigrated from Norway, had a Scottish name. This intrigued me, so I sent an email to the instructor and eventually learned his name had a Gaelic counterpart. Did this mean that I had long ago ancestors from before the year 1000? Possibly, as the Vikings invaded Scotland, and other parts of Europe, from 800 to 1000 A.D.

            I took as many classes about Scotland as I could and then, when HHRW announced a class about pirates, I eagerly signed up. That turned out to be a blessing. According to legend, there was a lady pirate by the name of Alfhild on one of those Viking Longboats. Unfortunately, historians never proved this, as the Vikings believed the written word to be evil and therefore did not have a written language.

            Nonetheless, I was delighted with this information. Alfhild, as I happen to know, is a rare name even in Norway. It was also my mother’s first name. So, I began designing my book, starting with the landing of Viking Pirates at Orkney, and created a main character Lars, the son of the captain and one who escapes the ship and makes his new life in Orkney.

            When a suggestion was made by an instructor, I tracked down a copy of The Orkneyinga Saga, a book written in the 1200s, 1258, I believe, and read it. It was there I discovered an earl by the name of Rongvold, which was my grandfather’s first name until he changed it to Walter.

            I’m not done researching. Who knows what will turn up next.

            I’d love to know if any of you have uncovered interesting facts about your family while researching for a book, or, for that matter, any unusual facts.


A dead artist is stalking Mollie Fenwick.  How inconvenient.

Mollie’s new life as a widow is turned upside down when she has a psychic vision of a murder being committed in her new apartment – and it comes true.  She knows she should put her trust in Detective Bartholomew, but she’d not only have to admit to being psychic, she’d be under another man’s control as she was with her husband.  Using her artistic ability, and with the help of her aunt and a former special forces Native American, she tracks down the killer, which puts her in danger, and at odds with the hunky detective. 

When they finally work together, they search for the killer among a gang of thieves and also try to learn the secret of the dead artist.  During their investigation, Mollie learns that keeping secrets can be deadly, and there’s a big difference between caring and controlling.

In this excerpt Mollie is introduced to Jack Wolf, a Native American, ex-special forces, artist and psychic.  Her aunt, Gladys, believing he can help with her visions, arranges for the introduction.  This character was a walk-on and absolutely refused to leave, which puts Mollie in the position of wondering, who should she choose, Bartholomew or Wolf

Knowing Gladys’ penchant for the unusual, I thought I was prepared, but when we walked into Jack Wolf’s studio, I darn near fainted. The man out-intimidated Bartholomew by a mile. Wolf’s black hair was long and loose, Indian style, his short-sleeved white shirt hung open, revealing the bronzed skin of his heritage and a six-pack I simply gaped at. He wore his jean shorts low, and his muscles made it obvious he still worked out regularly. He was tall, maybe six foot three or four, and his eyes were black. The room was lined with shelves containing art supplies, and three easels contained paintings in various stages of completion. The whole scene before me suggested emotions and feelings in a big way. There was also strength, as evidenced not only by the paintings themselves, but by the man.

Gladys stayed in the doorway. “Thanks, Wolf, for helping.” She introduced us and left, while I stood there, wondering if my legs were going to hold me up.

He smiled and said, “Let’s go get something to eat. Then we can talk.”

            I wanted to tell him I wasn’t hungry because it hadn’t been long since I’d eaten, but my throat had dried up and my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. Trust him, I said to myself, and followed him out of the studio.

            Wolf’s movements were purposeful, with no waste of motion, muscles rippling as he walked. His truck was a black and silver Ford with all the extras available to man, including a GPS system.

            “This is some truck,” I said. I stared at the height of the rig, wondering how in hell I was going to get up there.

            He looked at me, then at the truck, and before I could say anything, he picked me up and set me on the passenger seat.  Between Wolf and Bartholomew, I was in danger of forgetting how to get in a vehicle on my own.

            I’d expected to be taken to one of those restaurants with disgustingly healthy food. Instead, he picked up a bucket of chicken and took me to a lake I’d never heard of, one with an unpronounceable name. I couldn’t see much of the water because of the trees, but what I did see was very blue, sparkling.

            “Aren’t you afraid of ticks?” I asked when he spread a blanket on the ground near a large oak. 

            He gave me another of those crooked half smiles. “I’ll check you out before we leave.”




This page also includes books that aren’t mine. I have just 3 – Murder By Mistake, Framed In Fear, Murder For Kicks


Barnes & Noble only has Murder By Mistake


I grew up in Chicago, studied voice at Northwestern University, and then moved to Minnesota, where I finished my degree at Metropolitan State University, changing my major to the arts and including anything and everything to help me with my writing. I’ve been writing for years, and use all the arts, music, art and writing, in my books by way of my characters. I joined RWA and then KOD and Lethaladies five years ago and since have succeeded in getting three books published as ebooks. Two are part of my cozy mystery series: Murder By Mistake and Murder For Kicks, and I’m working on the third, Murder By Spook. I credit my recent success to the wonderful members of Lethaladies. Aside from writing, I also enjoy painting, crocheting and singing and being with my two girls, one son and seven grandchildren.


-- Lynda Again
    Fascinating article on research! I haven't done any research that involves my family but admit I can be lost in research for days at a time. I've forgotten to cook and had to be reminded by a hungry child and husband. I've stayed up late until I realized that in just a few short hours I'd have to be up and heading out to the day job. My experience is that research is addictive but a whole lot of fun ;-)

    Don't forget to leave a comment! On Friday, Joan will choose a winner from all the commenters and she'll post the winner's name here. Good luck!


Jacqueline Seewald said...

Most novels demand research, but historical novels are much more demanding. This one sounds like a winner!

Best wishes,


donnas said...

This is the first I have heard of this one and it sounds really good. Thanks for sharing today.

bacchus76 at myself dot com

SiNn said...

wow just wow it sounds awesome full on awesoem sauce deff adding this to my wish list ty for the chance

Joya said...

Great post, Joan. You're so right. Research is a lot of fun. I found my grandmother's name on a passenger list when I researched our family history. Thanks for sharing your story and best wishes for big sales. :)

McKenna Darby said...

Awesome last line. You sure know how to hook a reader. And I bet your heroine went from dry mouth to salivating in an instant, LOL!

I've never tried to research my family, so I can't speak to that, but when I've put something in my novels as a placeholder and then gone to research what was true for the period, I've always found that my placeholder was dead on. I either learned a lot more in school than I'm consciously aware of, or I'm channeling someone from the period.

Carol said...

You've picked a winning combination: A topic that engages you as the writer and research that you enjoy and that enhances not only your work but also your life. Best of luck on the new book. I look forward to reading it.

Ruby Johnson said...

One of the things I love about history is learning how the people lived, the clothes they wore, the foods they ate and their daily activites etc, though I guess that is more antropology than history. Actual events, wars and how they impacted on the people lends itself to lots of stories.
Your book sounds interesting
and I would love to read it.

TessStJohn said...

Love it, Joan! Can't wait to read it!

Anonymous said...

Family genealogy can be fun, exciting and weird. Especially in today’s world, single mothers are the standard and fathers are seldom seen in a child’s world. My parents were divorced and my father recently died.

I didn’t know much of anything about his family, just his mom, my grandma, and the cemetery where she laid.

I’d go every year on memorial weekend and put flowers on her grave. After he died, I researched his family and I never realized that they could have traced 4 generations back to that cemetery.

I had ancestors who married and had different names, and they were buried right behind grandma and never knew it! Some dated back to 1829. They were the oldest there.
I say they, because the mounment stone is long and has the whole family’s name on it. Back then they buried families on top of each other. Weird huh? But kind of cool!

Pat Dale said...

Fascinating research, Joan. I, too, have ancestry that delves through Ireland back to Scotland and some interchange with the Vikings. There are many tales of Celtic women who led bands of men into battle and conquest before the Vikings were part of the scene. But, to find a member of your family's name in the archives is priceless. Good going, lady!
Pat Dale

Viola Russell said...

I also have Irish ancestry,and right now, I'm researching a lady pirate named Grace O'Malley. I love it when women take the helm in times when they were supposed to be sitting quietly and knitting.

Vanessa A. Johnson said...

Very interesting reaserch, Joan. Facinating indeed. I've started doing research on my ancestry. I've done partials on both my maternal and paternal ancesters, and have only gone back to the 1800s. I do have plans to continue though because I love it. Your excerpt is indeed interesting. I love murder mysteries. Continued blessings.

Pauline B Jones said...

Your excerpt made me laugh, having grown up with ticks in the surrounding hills. Fun excerpt and good blog. thanks for the fun info.

J K Maze said...

The winner of Murder By Mistake is Joya. Please contact me:

J K Maze said...

The winner of a copy of Murder By Mistake is Joya. Joya, please contact me at