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Anachronisms That Bite

The problem with doing historical research for our novels is that we are so accustomed to many many phrases, habits, behaviors, and objects in our environment that we never think to question them. For instance, in writing my novel, In Rembrandt’s Shadow, I wrote that my characters stepped out of a mansion onto a sidewalk in 17th century Paris. There were no sidewalks at that time. You stepped out onto the road. Another 17th century character used a match to light his lantern. Matches weren’t developed until the 19th century.

Fortunately I woke up to these anachronisms and changed them before publication. I hope there aren’t any others, but if readers find any, I hope they’ll point them out to me.

Recently, the Short Mystery Fiction Society had an online discussion of anachronism readers had found in recent books.  Here are a few:

  • A novel set in a 19th century Edinburgh pub in which the narrator referred to “Situational sex workers.”

  • Novels set in 19th century England in which characters say "You've got it," or "No problem."

  • A novel set in the West in the 1850s where a farm girl in jeans goes into a saloon and sits on a bar stool.

  • A novel set in 16th century London in which a servant goes on a date to the theatre on her “day off.”


I’ve listened to the lectures on poisonous plants at the Malice Domestic Conference for several years. The lectures are always interesting and sometimes quite creepy. So last week, I met friends for lunch at a local restaurant with attractive outdoor seating. Bordering the seating area was a beautiful and healthy stand of oleander. Every part of the oleander is poisonous. Take your enemies to lunch and drop a few leaves into their tea. No, no, I didn’t write that. Wrong. Erase that idea.










Oleander photo thanks to Crepessuzette


I love Antiques Roadshow, and I’ve recently been marathoning on Jane K. Cleland’s mysteries. Her character, Josie Prescott is an antiques appraiser and owns and antique store in New Hampshire. I’m picking up a lot of tips about how to appraise an antique or collectible and what’s involved in the antiques business. The writer seems to know what she’s writing about. According to the book jacket, Jane Cleland once owned a New Hampshire-based antiques and rare books business.

Oleander Thanks to crepessuzette.jpg
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Listen to my podcast interview by the Dark and Stormy Book Club -



Infinite Possibilities

See BLOG Page for complete column.


I once asked this literary agent what writing paid the best, and he said, ‘ransom notes.’


I love reading and writing mysteries. Here are two of my latest.

The Two-Sided Set-up


From Kirkus reviews -

“... fast-paced and multilayered thriller with well-developed characters and colorful settings.... An engaging tale for aficionados of psychological suspense.”

The House on

Hatemonger Hill


"“An engrossing tale of suspense, treachery, and bad choices made for good reasons…. Historical novel readers with special interest in a suspense story that embraces civil rights activism and gang activity will find The House on Hatemonger Hill hard to point down.”  – Midwest Book Review

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