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The Sirens of Suspense

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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Wendy Tyson is an author, lawyer and former therapist whose background has inspired her mysteries and thrillers.  Wendy writes two series, the Allison Campbell Mystery Series and the Greenhouse Mystery Series. The first Greenhouse mystery, A Muddied Murder, was released March 29, 2016 to strong reviews.  The first book in the Campbell Series, Killer Image, was named a 2014 best mystery for book clubs by Examiner.com.  Wendy is a member of Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers, and she is a contributing editor for The Big Thrill and The Thrill Begins, International Thriller Writers’ online magazines. Wendy and her family live on a micro-farm outside of Philadelphia.

 

Find Wendy on Twitter and Facebook.

http://www.watyson.com

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We live in a sidewalk neighborhood about eight miles from Philadelphia’s northern city limit. Our home is old—a century or so—and set on a smallish piece of property nestled amongst other smallish pieces of property near a park. Many of my neighbors commute into the city on one of the regional train lines that crisscross the area. If you walk through my community on a sunny Saturday afternoon, you’ll see pristine green lawns, neatly trimmed hedges, and mature oaks, maples and sycamores forming canopies over driveways that double as basketball courts. You’ll witness people walking their Labradors and rescued Pit Bulls, and you’ll hear kids playing baseball and softball in the park.

You will see many flower beds, but you will only see one micro-farm. And that’s ours.

About eight years ago, when the market took a down turn, my husband’s consulting job was affected. We realized if we wanted to continue eating organic produce, it’d be more economical to grow our own. Thankfully my husband had been raised near his grandparents, who were homesteaders/farmers long before it was fashionable to live “off grid.” He knew how to start seedlings, till the earth, compost…all the things that come in handy when you’re gardening. And he taught me, a suburbanite for whom tomatoes had formally marked the limit of my know-how (and they were begun with seedlings from The Home Depot). Inspired by his grandparents’ choices and the small kitchen gardens we’d seen all over Europe, we planned our own vegetable garden.

That first year, we started small: a patch of tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, basil and peppers. We loved being able to walk outside to pick dinner, and we liked the effect on our health and on our wallets. We educated ourselves on past and modern organic gardening practices, concentrated on improving the soil quality (heavy clay content in my area), and experimented with other crops. We tried mustards and kohlrabi, broccoli and eggplant, strawberries, raspberries and garlic. We developed favorites (spring spinach, Yukon Gold potatoes, and corn, fresh from the garden…wow) and learned which vegetables we could do without (one can only eat so many French breakfast radishes, pretty as they are). We employed four-season gardening techniques and built low tunnels and a hoop house in our yard. Over time, our one hundred square feet of garden space morphed into fifteen hundred square feet, replacing most of our grass with edible plants. We were hooked.

Eventually, we took the logical next step: we started an urban farm. Finding property to lease in the Philadelphia area was harder than we thought it would be. After months of requests, discussions and negotiations, we finally rented a few acres on a historic property. We incorporated, purchased insurance, pulled rocks from the ground, reserved our spot at a farmers market…and then local politics killed our plans. Disappointed and disheartened, we took our tools and went home. We were back to “farming” our third of an acre. These days, we may not produce for our community, but we grow enough fruit and vegetables to feed our family, with plenty left over to share.

So where does the murder come in? No, there are no bodies buried under our cauliflower, and no skeletons hidden in our root cellar. But it occurred to me that my passion for gardening and sustainable living would fit well as part of a mystery series. A cozy mystery series.

I recently had the honor of appearing on International Thriller Writers Next Steps Radio with Jenny Milchman. During the interview, which focused on gender and crime fiction, Jenny asked me why I went from writing edgier crime fiction (like my Allison Campbell Series) to writing cozies. The short answer? I wanted to work on something that incorporates a layered plot and small town charm. I wanted to write about complex relationships and strong women, women who overcome hardships in the pursuit of success. And I wanted to focus on organic gardening. The switch felt right.

Murder, like the farm I manage now, is imaginary. I’ve taken all I learned during our farm journey and created Washington Acres, a fictional organic farm in the fictional town of Winsome, Pennsylvania. In this idyllic countryside setting, amid the Colonial-era buildings, historic landmarks and rolling hills, secrets are concealed, evil intentions manifest, and people are slain. There’s not a lot of gore “on the page,” but this small town farm is anything but sedate.

 

 

 

DO YOU DO ANYTHING OFF THE GRID? TELL US or leave a comment on the blog below or on our Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win a copy of A MUDDIED MURDER! (US entrants only, please.)

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