The Chicks are so happy to welcome Liz Ireland, author of the delightful Mrs. Claus Mysteries, to the blog today. Take it away, Liz!
A Cake Walk
Thank you, Ellen, and to all you Chicks for having me as your guest today!
Growing up, November was my favorite month. I loved that it fit snugly in the middle of Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas time. Also, four out of six people in my immediate family were born in November, which meant four distinct cake opportunities.
I’ve always been a fan of cake. How big? The tiny rural town where I grew up didn’t much going on most of the year, but we did have an annual Autumn festival, complete with a big carnival held in the school gymnasium. Parents and teachers would run various games and concessions. Highlights were all sorts of snacks, the traditional apple bobbing, a haunted house, and carnival games, including a cake walk.
In the context of the carnival, the cake walk had nothing to do with the African American dance of the same name. It was musical chairs, basically, without chairs. For one ticket you walked in a circle marked with numbers on the floor while music played, and when the music stopped, if you were standing on the number picked and called out by the game leader, you would win a cake one of the mothers had baked and donated.
When I was five, my mother baked a strawberry cake for the festival’s cake walk. Strawberry cake—made with frozen canned strawberries, cake mix, and a box of strawberry Jello-O—was my one of my favorites, and the idea of this treasure being given away at random outraged every fiber of my pre-school being. After my mom handed me a string of carnival tickets and told me to entertain myself (this was the 70s) while she ran the Frito Pie concession (this was Texas), I spent the following hour walking in circles to win back the family cake. Which I did—and then I kept going. I won four cakes before some Good Samaritan informed my mom that her child had come unhinged and she dragged me away from the cake walk. Worse, she made me give back three cakes, including the strawberry. I’d also won a coconut cake—which, let’s face it, even a five-year-old knows is better than strawberry.
I’ve moved around a lot since I left my small town, and I always enjoy the different traditions associated with autumn in different regions. I relocated to Canada over a decade ago, so now I get to celebrate two Thanksgivings. When it came to writing Mrs. Claus and the Halloween Homicide, the second in my Mrs. Claus cozy mystery series, it was fun to bring a new holiday to Christmastown and see how Santalanders would adapt. It turns out that elves have their own ideas about what’s spooky, and their own traditional scary stories that they adapt for costumes. Imagine, if you will, Christmastown filled with elf tots dressed as abominable snow monsters. But of course, all Santalanders aren’t down with change, and conflicts over carved pumpkins and trick-or-treating lead to serious mayhem.
I hope readers will want to see what happens when the North Pole tries to adapt itself to more than just Christmas in Mrs. Claus and the Halloween Homicide. Did you come from a small town with its own weird festivals? Have you ever moved to a different country and adopted its holidays on your own?
SYNOPSIS: For the first time ever, Christmastown is celebrating a strange new tradition—Halloween. But not everyone wants their winter wonderland to be overrun by carved pumpkins and costume parties. As a spooky crimewave hits Santaland, Mrs. Claus realizes having a role in the festivities could cost her family, friends—even her own life.
BIO: Elizabeth Bass writes the Mrs. Claus cozy mystery series for Kensington under her pen name Liz Ireland. Her next book, A Letter to Three Witches, a paranormal rom-com written under her own name, will be released in January 2022.
You can find Liz at her website https://lizireland.wordpress.com, or follow her on Twitter: @writes_liz.