I am a lifelong fan of mysteries and, now retired from a career with an academic press, I’ve turned my attention to writing mysteries. I read so many of them, I was just sure I could write one. I told myself I’d be content if I could just have one mystery in print. Now there are six in the Kelly O’Connell Mystery Series, three in the Blue Plate Mystery Series, and two in the Oak Grove Mysteries.
My latest mystery is the eighth in the Kelly O’Connell series, titled Contract for Chaos. It was released in November 2016. When four young men sign the rental contract on a Fairmount House, realtor Kelly O’Connell has no idea she has just signed a contract for chaos. But the racial tensions sweeping the country erupt in Fort Worth, and her tenants fan the flames. A young black policeman shoots an unarmed white teenage thief who charged him, the chief of police is shot by a sniper, and Kelly’s husband, Mike, is appointed interim chief of police. Life changes dramatically for Kelly and her family. Protests, threats, beatings, and graffiti mark daily life in Kelly’s beloved city. She must protect her infant, reassure her older daughters, and support Mike as he deals with the racism and dissension creeping through the police force and the city. How can she keep her family safe and stop the hate? Will the mayor’s city-wide Celebration of
Neighbors calm a city on the edge?
The book I wrote prior to that was The Gilded Cage which is my pride and joy. It’s actually not a novel but rather a historical-based story set in Chicago, the city of my youth, in the last half of the nineteenth century. Chronicling the life of Mrs. Potter Palmer (Bertha Honoré Palmer) it also chronicles the Great Fire, the Civil War years with a POW camp in the city, the labor troubles that erupted in a series of strikes and riots and the notable Haymarket Riot, and the Columbian Exposition. Potter Palmer, one of the most influential city fathers, built the Palmer House, an elegant hotel with its doors open to this day. One reviewer wrote, “I really enjoyed this picture of 19th century Chicago from a uniquely woman’s perspective. As a fan of historical fiction, I loved the weaving of accurate historical background with very rich characters. A definite favorite!”
I’ve been a writer since I was ten or twelve and distinctly remember submitting a story to Seventeen when I was about that age. But my first book, After Pa Was Shot, a young-adult novel, was published in 1978. Since then I’ve written fiction and nonfiction for young adults, adults, and even second graders. Give me a topic and I’ll write about it, but my focus for years was women of the American West, with novels about Jessie Benton Frémont, Elizabeth Bacon (Mrs. George Armstrong) Custer, Lucille Mulhall, the first woman roper, and Etta Place and the Sundance Kid.
I have had awards from the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame, the Texas Institute of Letters, and Western Writers of America, Inc., including their Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement, and I was inducted into the Hall of Fame in June 2015. I belong to Sisters in Crime, the Guppies subgroup of Sisters in Crime, and the Texas Institute of Letters. The Fort Worth Public Library elected me to their Texas Literary Hall of Fame.
I am also passionate about cooking. I have always loved to experiment on guests, entertain, and explore new tastes, new techniques. In the last two years, however, I’ve found myself living in a tiny house with a tiny kitchen and no stove, only a hot plate and a toaster oven. But I still cook family meals and host happy hours. You can read about my cottage living and share my favorite new recipes in my newest book, Gourmet on a Hot Plate: Tiny Kitchen Tips and Recipes. And check out my new interactive blog: “Gourmet on a Hot Plate.”
There’s a third major element to my life besides writing and cooking. I am the proud mother of four and grandmother of seven. All of them, thank goodness, live in Texas, but only one in Fort Worth—one daughter, one son-in-law, one grandchild. I see that grandson a lot and love it, only wish the others were close enough to spend the night with me more often.
The grandchildren used to love to stay at Camp Juju, the guest apartment attached to my garage. But now I’ve had the entire structure remodeled into a 600-square foot cottage that is my living space. I have an office area and a living-room area, a small but upscale bath, a huge walk-in closet, a small bedroom, and a tiny cooking area. My new home is called simply “The Cottage.” My local family has moved into the main house, and we enjoy being close but not too close.
When there are no kids or grandkids here, I am content in my cottage, with my dog Sophie, and a wonderful patio and view of the deck and yard. I am blessed with a bevy of friends, caring children, and plenty of writing to do. Keep up with me at my blog, Judy’s Stew or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The author and her clan during the 2017 Christmas holiday in Ruidoso, New Mexico!