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March 2019

In Conversation with Author S. C. Perkins

Today might look like a regular Tuesday, or the day I see my accountant to do taxes, but for a friend, S. C. Perkins, it’s a very special day. Her debut mystery, Murder Once Removed, is published today!

Murder won the 2017 Minotaur Books/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery competition, and is set in Austin, Texas. It follows a genealogist named Lucy who loves tracking down tacos and her clients’ ancestors. When a coworker is murdered, she realizes poking into long-buried family secrets is more dangerous than she expected.

A fifth-generation Texan who loves tacos herself, Perkins agreed to be grilled (heh) by me and our mutual friend Lauren of Malcolm Avenue Review.

The dedication in Murder Once Removed is broken, because bourbon is not mentioned ANYWHERE. I mean, Mom and Dad can get you only so far. What were your beverages of choice while writing?

So, there are the “whilst writing” beverages and the “post-writing” beverages, and then there’s your “this scene is not going as I planned and I’m about to scream and throw my computer at the wall” beverages. My writing go-to is tea—-hot or iced, but almost always black and unsweetened. Then after writing, I love me a glass of wine or a cocktail, with some of my favorites being an Old Fashioned, bourbon and Sprite, or a Cape Cod.

And for those moments when screaming is imminent, it’s a shot of Wild Turkey, baby. All the way.

We should’ve asked if you had a “I have to answer inane interview questions” drink. As an old-timey Texan, you must have plenty of fascinating family lore. Was there one particular story that made you want to dig deeper, into your family or genealogy in general? (Bonus points if it includes chaps.)

A bit o’ history here: Besides the formidable native Texans, naturally there are six nations that have claimed Texas as their own. One was Spain, which technically called dibs on a part of modern-day Texas in 1519, but treated it like the semi-useless slivers at the bottom of a glorious bag of tortilla chips until the 1700s, when they thought France was going to take it.

Then they got all, “It’s ours and you can’t have it, you silly French snail-eaters!” and began giving out land grants, or porciónes, to loyal Spanish subjects to govern and cultivate. One of them was my ancestor, José Matias Longoria Chapa. His porción is in modern-day Starr County, in South Texas. I’d love to dig deeper into that particular link to Texas history!

Since I do indeed own chaps, I would even be willing to wear them in honor of my findings. Or when I go riding, one or the other.

Annie Hewitt Photography

That is a very intriguing bit of family lore. Share three more details from your family history—two truths and one lie but don’t tell us which is which. 

  1. My great-great grandfather on my dad’s side was the pitcher of very first organized Latin-American baseball team in history. They won, too.
  2. My maternal great-grandfather was an obstetrician in Corpus Christi, Texas, and delivered close to 16,000 babies in his career, which amounted to around one-quarter the population of the time.
  3. I descend from Charlemagne, William the Conqueror, the Plantagenets, Pocahontas, the Hatfields, and the McCoys.

Hmm. They all sound truthful so let’s move on. If you had to be related to Lauren or Elyse, what story would you tell Elyse about the tree of Perkins weirdos to make her feel better that you chose me?

Are you sure Elyse and I aren’t already related? I haven’t checked the entire family tree but we’re both really short, the Force is strong within us, and we have the same taste in snacks and men.

My apologies to Mr. PCN, but I’m talking about Harrison Ford here. Rowr! As for snacks, the answer is just yes. HF might also qualify as a snack. (FOR THE EYES, Lo, for the eyes. Get your mind out of the gutter.)

But when it comes to gutter talk, love of dogs, and penchant for bourbon, you’re my cousin all the way, Lauren. There were no doubt some hooligans in my mom’s side of the family way back in England. It’s highly possible one of them was shipped off to Australia and we just haven’t found proof yet. I do get my love of bourbon from my maternal grandfather, so the possibility of a Lolo-Steph ancestral link could be a high one.

Now, what was the question? I’ve got the idea of Harrison Ford as a snack now firmly lodged in my mind…

We’re gonna need a moment to process that image. [Insert 7-minute intermission.] OK, we’re back. Which famous historical figures do you wish you were related to?

 I’m limiting this to three, because otherwise I’d never stop listing historical women and men I find fascinating and y’all would have send a SWAT team to Texas to take my keyboard away.

  1. Jane Austen. Holy cow, this woman could write! And she created Mr. Darcy, who, one could argue, is the Han Solo of the Georgian/Regency eras. He’s a snack for the mind.
  2. William J. “Wild Bill” Donovan, who headed the OSS during World War II. This might explain my fascination with anything spy related.
  3. Hedy Lamarr. She was smart as all get out, an inventor (hello, WiFi!), and an actress who killed it on the screen. Her style and beauty for days are fabulous extras, too. Total inspiration.

Is this interview over yet?

If a vegan showed up at a party thrown by Lucy, would there be vegetarian tacos, or would said vegan be forced to spend the evening out in the back forty tied to the mechanical bull? 

Y’all need to come to Austin. It loves its vegetarians and vegans almost as much as California does, no kidding.

I’m a huge fan of veggie fajitas myself, especially with warm, clarified butter and homemade flour tortillas, and I’d willingly share a big, sizzling cast-iron skillet full of them with you. Sure, I might have to sneak in a beef taco al carbon on the side, but I’d just point wildly out the window, say something like, “Hey, look it’s a jackalope!” and shovel said beef taco in my mouth while you’re falling for my ruse. Plus, guacamole and queso are both vegetarian, and the guac is vegan. High five!

No need for fake jackalope sightings. Feel free to scarf all the tacos. Now for the most important question: how much booze and cake will be involved in your pub day celebration?

There will be lots of wine and cookies at my launch party, and as much eating and booze as I can get my hands on at all other points surrounding my pub date. And I will send a toast y’all’s way! Cheers to my wonderful, bookish, geeky, bourbon-and-Star-Wars-loving gang! Y’all are the best and I absolutely loved doing this interview! xoxo

Thank you, and happy pub day! 

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March 2019 Reading Roundup

March is supposed to usher in spring, but you couldn’t tell from the L.A. weather. This week we’ve had rainstorms complete with thunder and lightning, which gave me good reason to hole up for days, eat lots of pho, and read. I walked around wearing a blanket like a sweater, and didn’t talk to anyone besides Mr. PCN and the UPS man who brought all the books.

Below are the March titles I’ve read and hope to read this month.


Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones and the Six has been featured everywhere, but it deserves all the attention.

In my review for Shelf Awareness, I wrote that this oral history of a fictional ’70s rock band and its mysterious breakup “is more than sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, though there’s plenty of that. It cracks open the creative process and shows how much it costs sometimes to make art that resonates.” I also mentioned that the characters are “inspiring and tough and messy and heartbreaking. Rock stars—they’re just like us.”

You don’t have to love rock ‘n’ roll or to have been alive during the ’70s to devour this book. You just have to love vivid, incisive writing. I liked it so much I can’t wait for the audiobook version, which has a full cast, featuring Jennifer Beals as Daisy and Benjamin Bratt as Billy, lead singer of The Six.

Find out more/buy it now

The other outstanding March title is Samantha Downing’s My Lovely Wife. The husband and wife in this domestic thriller use murder to spice up their sex life. It’s SO messed up, but Downing held me hostage for the one day it took me to rip through this book. In my Shelf Awareness Maximum Shelf review, I wrote, “Millicent is not a character readers will soon forget. She is refreshingly unapologetic; there’s no sad backstory to explain or mitigate her behavior. Millicent isn’t conflicted about her actions; she revels in them.”

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I went blind into Christi Daugherty’s A Beautiful Corpse, as I do with most books, and was delighted to find it takes place in Savannah, GA, which I visited for the first time only two months ago. I was all, “Yay! I walked through that area where the dead body is!” Plus, the protag is a news reporter, like me in my former life. I’m not far into the story yet but hope to finish it soon. Even while I’m not reading it, I like staring at that beautiful cover.

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Like Daugherty, Candice Fox is a new-to-me author, and she’s based in Australia, where Redemption Point is set. Not sure what this is about (see above re: going in blind), but it’s book 2 in the Crimson Lake series, and book 1 received strong reviews. Australia is another place I got to visit not too long ago, and I always get an extra kick from reading books with familiar locations.

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The book on the left is Rajeev Balasubramanyam’s Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss, and it’s on my nightstand because I like waking up to blue skies. Professor Chandra is a cantankerous man, and books about grumpy folks looking for their happy place are practically about me. I want to dive into that serene cover and follow the story wherever it leads.

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I’ve been meaning to read Elly Griffiths for years, and The Stranger Diaries looks like a great place to start. This standalone is a book about literature, y’all, and I’m a sucker for those. Apparently it also has a haunted house and mysterious diary entries so what’s not to like?

The pitch email for T. J. Martinson’s The Reign of the Kingfisher mentioned superheroes and journalists and comics and suspense and Emily St. John Mandel calling it stunning so I was like, “YES, PLEASE.” I’d be excited for just one or two of those elements, but all together in one place? Can’t wait to dig in.

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Which March books are you excited about? What are you reading?

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