Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Peg Cochran — Mysteries to Cozy Up With


SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Today I'm delighted to introduce Peg Cochran, author of Berried Secrets, the first in The Cranberry Cove series which will be published on August 4th. 

Congratulations on the new book and series, Peg, and welcome!




When Monica Albertson comes to Cranberry Cove—a charming town on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan—to help her half-brother Jeff on his cranberry farm, the last thing she expects to harvest is a dead body.

It seems that Sam Culbert, who ran the farm while Jeff was deployed overseas, had some juicy secrets that soon prove fatal, and Jeff is ripe for the picking as a prime suspect. Forming an uneasy alliance with her high-maintenance stepmother, Monica has her hands full trying to save the farm while searching for a killer. Culbert made plenty of enemies in the quaint small town…but which one was desperate enough to kill?



PEG COCHRAN: One of the fun things about being a writer is you get to do research on many varied topics.  And not just about police procedure and when does rigor mortis set it in and what’s the difference between a pistol and a revolver.  For my Sweet Nothings Lingerie series, I got to research vintage lingerie (and bullet bras!)  For my Gourmet De-Lite series it was healthy but delicious food (I was always hungry.)     

With my latest release, Berried Secrets, first in my Cranberry Cove series, I’m all about cranberries. Cranberries are one of three fruits native to North America (the Concord grape and blueberries are the other two) and are packed with vitamin C.  Whalers carried them on their ships to prevent scurvy.

Cranberries don’t grow in water as you might think if you pass a cranberry bog during harvest.  They grow on vines in sandy soil and most are “wet harvested.”  The bogs are flooded, the cranberries are beaten from the vine, and thanks to air pockets in the berries, they float.  Farmers use a boom to corral the berries toward a pipe which sucks them into a truck.

Cranberries are susceptible to frost and farmers combat that by flooding the bogs (which can be as much as 20 degrees colder than the surrounding area) when there’s a danger of frost.  The water freezing produces enough heat to protect the berries.

A man named Pegleg John discovered that good cranberries bounce. Folklore has it that he kept his berries on a loft in his barn, and unable to descend the stairs while carrying a basket due to his “pegleg” he poured the berries down the stairs.  The good berries bounced to the ground while the rotten berries stayed on the stairs.  This discovery gave rise to various sorting machines which are still used today to put the berries to the “bounce test.”

Most cranberries harvested go to Ocean Spray which is actually a cooperative owned by the farmers themselves.  Wisconsin produces the most cranberries with Massachusetts coming in second and my home state of New Jersey coming in third.  Cranberries are also grown in Oregon and Washington.

I was able to visit a cranberry bog in Michigan where I watched the harvest.  It’s a beautiful sight—the brilliant red cranberries bobbing in the water.  Their color can range from almost white to pink to the deepest red. 

The farmer was very patient, explaining everything to me and answering all my questions.  Except one.  When I asked him what he’d do if a body floated up in the bog, he didn’t know what to say!


SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Um, call 911, right? Kidding... 

See the things mystery authors do for us? Learn about guns! Try on bullet bras! Visit cranberry bogs! 

Peg, Reds and lovely readers, how far would you go to research a mystery? What wouldn't you do? Tell us in the comments!




Mystery writing lets Peg indulge her curiosity under the guise of “work.”  As a kid, she read the entire set of children’s encyclopedias her parents gave her has been known to read the dictionary.  She put pen to paper at age seven when she wrote plays and forced her cousins to perform them at Christmas dinner.   She switched to mysteries when she discovered the perfect hiding place for a body down the street from her house.

A former Jersey girl, Peg now resides in Michigan with her husband and Westhighland white terrier, Reg.  She is the author of the Sweet Nothings Lingerie series (written as Meg London), the Gourmet De-Lite series, the Lucille series and now the Cranberry Cove series.  Her newest series, the Farmer’s Daughter, debuts in 2016.


Visit Peg's web site at pegcochran.com. 

32 comments:

Joan Emerson said...

Cranberry research is so much fun. When I taught first grade, one of the favorite classroom activities was cranberry experimenting and the children were always surprised to discover that they would float.
I enjoyed your post, Peg, and I'm looking forward to reading "Berried Secrets."
As for the what wouldn't I do for research, I guess the easy answer is nothing illegal or immoral . . . .

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Love it Peg--welcome to Jungle Red! I saw a small cranberry bog earlier this summer and immediately thought of you:).

Tell us a little more about your sleuth--and how she's different or similar to the women starring in your other 2 wonderful series?

Hallie Ephron said...

So happy to have you on Jungle Red, Peg! We live in Massachusetts the #2 cranberry producing state, and often visit friends' summer camp/cottage in Plymouth where one of our favorite walks is around a cranberry bog. So cool. Yay Ocean Spray!

So what DO you do when a dead body is found floating in your cranberry bog?

FChurch said...

To Joan's list, I'd add, "nothing foolhardy." Like, I would not join the ice road truckers for a run. Most likely would not jump out of a plane. But, almost anything else goes!

Especially with a cozy, I appreciate when the author takes the time to do basic research and ground their stories in realistic settings--when you get the details right, then the 'willing suspension of disbelief' is easier to hold. As yesterday's blog post discussed, the amateur sleuth can be the hardest to do this with--but combine a good setting, fun characters, and (for me), a healthy dose of humor--and I'm in! Now I gotta go find that lingerie series....

Peg Cochran said...

Thanks for letting me join you today! What wouldn't I do for research? Hmmmm....I wouldn't ride a roller coaster--I can easily imagine how terrified I would be! And frankly, nothing truly dangerous--I have two daughters and a granddaughter and a husband who all want me to stick around. And yes, that includes things like jumping out of a plane--do you see a pattern here? I'm terrified of heights! But I do love learning how things are done--it's a bonus to being a writer.

My sleuth, Monica Albertson, is older than my protag in my Sweet Nothings Lingerie series and more mature. She's less impulsive and devil-may-care than Gigi in my Gourmet De-Lite series. She's known heartbreak--her father leaving for another woman and losing her fiance in a swimming accident. But she remains optimistic about life. She's altruistic--wanting to help her half-brother on his farm. And she loves to read mysteries!

Mary Sutton said...

If I was sure I wouldn't get arrested, I might engage in illegal activity (such as lock-picking or hacking). Obviously, I wouldn't actually harm anyone in the name of research.

Even if I were physically capable, I don't think I'd jump out of a plane. I have this thing about leaving a perfectly good airplane that is still in the air (my definition of "perfectly good" being one that is still flying under it's own power).

A bad knee limits what I can do, but emotionally I'm up for quite a lot.

And I love pictures of cranberry bogs. I don't know why. There's something so serene and earthy about them.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Love this, Peg! Hilarious..and SO visual! The bounce test is brilliant. I am always soothed, too, when I see the cranberry bogs-- (we live in Massachusetts, of course!). They;re so New England, and you;re right, it's quite special.

I'm also a fan of Craisins.

SO, let's see. A body would have had to have been there a while to float, right?

Kathie Johnson said...

I just finished reading Berried Secrets. ..loved the book Peg. I grew up and have now returned to the outskirts of Chicago. Farming communities surround me....kind of the best of both worlds. Late nights trying to beat the frost and snow are so real. Learning a bit about cranberry farming through you has been fun....especially the "bounce" factor of the good berries.

Peg Cochran said...

Waving to Kathie! Farming is incredibly hard work. I have a lot of respect for all farmers--there's no such thing as a day off when you work the land.

Patricia T said...

Interesting! I'm so glad you did your "homework". I think I'd draw the line at viewing an actual murder scene (victim included), though! :)

Judy Weaver said...

Very interesting! Thanks for sharing!

Diane Blaser said...

Fascinating research! I can't wait to read the book! Thank you!

Leslie Budewitz said...

I spell research E-A-T.

Congrats on a fun debut, Peg!

Deborah Crombie said...

Hi Peg! Fascinating stuff about cranberries, which I love. And the photos are so beautiful. I've never seen a cranberry bog, so if I have a fall book tour someday in a cranberry state, maybe I can arrange it. I did know that they bounce because I've dropped more than a few on my kitchen floor...

The new series sounds so much fun. Don't know how you do it!

As for scary things for research, I wouldn't jump out of a plane. But like you, I'm always very curious about how things are done. And I've probably already done my scariest research--sculling on the Thames with an Olympic gold medal rower for No Mark Upon Her. Fabulous and terrifying!

Mark Baker said...

I love cranberries, so this was fascinating. Like learning who Ocean Spray is. Bought plenty of their juice over the years. I've found some very delicious dried cranberries I am buying from Trader Joe's at the moment.

This book is already on my TBR pile, and I'm looking forward to it.

Julia said...

Hi, Peg!

I had no idea cranberry production was so big on the Pacific coast and Wisconsin - I always thought of them as a New England specialty!

I think farms and rural communities are the perfect places to set mysteries. Isolation, lots of hard-working, competent people with dangerous tools at hand, and so much pressure - for a lot of farmers, one or two crops a year can make or break them.

Kathy Reel said...

What a fascinating post, Peg! It was so much fun learning about cranberries, which I love to eat and enjoy cranberry juice in drinks. I had no idea that they originally grew in dry soil and then were flooded to create the bog. The bouncing test info is just the quirky sort of knowledge I enjoy most. And, Ocean Spray. So interesting. Like Julia, I, too, thought of cranberry bogs as a New England fixture. Now, I doubt that I'll ever have my go-to cocktail, Cape Codder, without thinking of my newfound cranberry knowledge. So cool. Of course, I'll have to read Berried Secrets to further my craving for cranberry knowledge. Thanks, Peg!

Peg Cochran said...

Hank, you're right about the body floating. The body in my book (I was going to say "my body" but that didn't sound right!) isn't actually floating. My protag catches the body on her rake as she is raking the cranberries and that brings it to the surface.

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

Welcome, Peg! The book sounds terrific -- and I never knew anything about cranberries before! I definitely thought cranberry bogs were a New England thing....

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

Craving cranberry juice now....

Sharon Fisher said...

I have my copy of your book and can't wait to get started reading! I also thought that cranberries were mainly a product of the northeast. It was always interesting to see the cranberry bogs behind the cottage we rented on Cape Cod and I remember the big Ocean Spray building we used to pass on our drive. My aunt used to make the best cranberry orange relish but never gave anyone the recipe. :(

NoraA said...

Not a big cranberry fan but I do have seven gallons of blueberries in the freezer. They are just so expensive out of season. My partner uses them in her breakfast every day and in smoothies.

I'm looking forward to reading Berried secrets when my local library gets it in.

Sheryl Hagan-Booth said...

I never knew they flooded the bogs. I always thought they did grow in water thanks to the Ocean Spray commercials. I love berries so much and eat a ton of fresh ones when I can. I bet that farmer had a lot to talk about after you left. Did you send him a copy of your book? Thanks for the contest and I can't wait to learn what someone WOULD do if they found a floating body in a cranberry bog. Would that mean it's good???

Robin Coxon said...

Thanks Peg for sharing your cranberry knowledge. I'm a fan of cranberries, whether in juice, bread, or salads. I've added your book to my to be read list. Congratulations on a wonderful new book. robeader53@yahoo.com

mary kennedy said...

No need to enter me in the drawing, just wanted to say hi to my pal, Peg and wish her all the best on her new release! A great series.

Peg Cochran said...

Thanks, Mary! And Sharon, where on Cape Cod did you stay? We went to Eastham every summer when I was a kid and my parents lived in Orleans for awhile.

Reine said...

I don't think there is a scarier place in the world than a fogged in cranberry bog. I had a summer job in Ogunquit, Maine when I was a teenager. To get there I had to drive through cranberry bogs in Massachusetts on a road not much wider than my car in the early morning fog. It was terrifying to be driving along, singing with the radio as loud as it got, and then see rolls of low-laying fog moving in from both sides... curling and twisting and smothering the car. Never again. Perfect setting for a mystery series! Congratulations!

Reine said...

Sharon Fisher, I got my favorite cranberry-orange relish recipe from the back of a bag of fresh Ocean Spray cranberries. It's been on the bag for years. Maybe that's the one your aunt used.

Liz Straw said...

Research is one of the fun parts of writing. I am currently reading the original Nancy Drew mysteries as part of my research. Such hard work, sigh.

Peg Cochran said...

Reine, I have to borrow that scene for my next book! Wonderful! Glad you survived.

Antonette Nyman said...

Love the facts on cranberries. I always thought they grew in water. Must try to get to Wis. cranberry festival. I love the.

Helen Kotowske said...

I love cranberries; I buy up bags of them to freeze every winter.