Tuesday, February 8, 2022

What Counts as Historical Fiction? by Catriona McPherson

LUCY BURDETTE: Today it's my pleasure to welcome our funny and talented Scottish/American pal, Catriona McPherson, to tell you about the genesis of her new book. (She also happens to be a retired president of Sisters in Crime International, like Hank and me! You've got brass on the blog today...)


CATRIONA MCPHERSON: I’ve been asking myself a lot recently what counts as historical fiction. Malice Domestic reckons it’s fiction from before 1960. Left Coast Crime says it has to be before 1950. But I think I’ve written a historical novel set in 2020.

SCOT MIST opens on Friday the 13th of March that year, the day the California governor (in real life) closed Disneyland and extended the tax-filing deadline. In fictional Cuento, CA, the residents of the Last Ditch Motel were deciding what to do in the event of a lockdown.

Can you remember what you were doing, thinking, saying, planning for, on that day? And doesn’t it feel like a long time ago? I wrote SCOT MIST in November and December of 2020 and even that feels like a different era from now – the current  time, which a librarian on Twitter, @Kellywellread, calls “the pandammit”.

Food was on our minds that March, wasn’t it? I was just about to learn how to make soda bread, the lazy cook’s sourdough, how to shop for two weeks at a time of two people eating every meal at home, and how to not buy things “just in case” despite the constant talk of the supply chain breaking. 

So I was mining my own experience, if not my own response, when I wrote a scene in which Lexy Campbell is deputized to go and lay in supplies for the newly formed community at the Ditch:

(In the Cuento Costco, Saturday 14th March 2020)

There was a crackle in the air as our brainstems told us to hide nuts and pick off impala (not sure what species this is; go with me) while our cerebra said maybe we could share it all and make sure no one went short. And I was shopping for seventeen. It is impossible to shop for seventeen, for ten days, more if we stretched it, and not look like a hoarder.

I stuffed my trolley with the breakfast choices of everyone from José – Bran Buds – to Navy – expensive mush with a name in such heartfelt font I couldn’t decipher it. I bought lamb for our Iranian night (Arif had packed his spices from home for exactly this eventuality and he talked me through how to choose garlic like an old French man training a truffle dog); I bought beef for our Mexican night (“Fat fat fat!” Maria had said, taking my face in her hands and shaking my head to make sure it went in. “Grasa! Grasa!” I got it. She had probably been fighting a losing battle with the Queens of Lean for all her years here north of the border.) I bought chicken for taco night, for Blaine’s clean-eating requirements, and for Todd’s eventual carb crash. I bought bacon for breakfast-for-dinner night, and fish fingers for the under tens, of which there were suddenly five! And bread and jam and peanut butter and crisps and dips and Oreos and beans and pasta and popping corn and a big paper sack of flour because everyone else was buying it and by now I was my lizard brain’s bitch. 

I didn’t ever do that or anything like it. In fact, I had no dramatic experiences in supermarkets at all. I did have one moment of random kindness and one moment of sisterly connection. 

The kindness: Neil and I were standing in the paper products aisle in mid-May, looking at the empty shelves, going “Wow. They were right then.” when a young couple came up and said “We picked up this TP because . . . reasons. But we don’t need it. You take it.” Readers, we took it.  And for months afterwards we asked what it was about us that looked particularly in need of toilet paper. It’s not a welcome thought. 

The connection: I was piling another two weeks’ worth of stuff onto the conveyor belt – organic this, wholewheat that, lettuce, spinach, lentils, plain yoghurt. Then came four family packs of Kettle Chips and a handful of huge Dairy Milk bars. The check-out operator caught my eye. I shrugged and said, “Eff it.” She nodded and said, “Good girl.” It’s not much of a war story as war stories go, but it still makes me smile and tear up when I remember.

I’m guessing pretty much everyone has stories of kindness and connection to share from those very strange early days of this very strange time. I would love to hear them. 



About Scot Mist: March 2020 and Operation Cocker is a go! The owners of the Last Ditch Motel, with a little help from their friend Lexy Campbell, are preparing to support one another through the oncoming lockdown, offering the motel’s spare rooms to a select few from the local area in need of sanctuary. 

While the newbies are settling in, an ambiguous banner appears demanding one of them return home. But who is it for? Lexy and her friends put a plan into action to ward off the perpetrator, but the very next night, a resident disappears and a message scrawled in human blood is found. 

As California shuts down, the Last Ditchers make another gruesome discovery. They tried to create a haven but now it seems as if everyone’s in danger. Is the motel under attack from someone on the outside?  Scary as that is, the alternative is worse by far.

About Catriona: National-bestselling and multi-award-winning author, Catriona McPherson (she/her), was born in Scotland and lived there until immigrating to the US in 2010. 

She writes historical detective stories set in the old country in the 1930s, featuring gently-born lady sleuth, Dandy Gilver. The latest of these is 2021’s THE MIRROR DANCE. After eight years in the new country, she kicked off the comic Last Ditch Motel series, which takes a wry but affectionate look at California life from the POV of a displaced Scot (where do we get our ideas, eh?). Book 4, SCOT MIST, came out in January. She also writes a strand of contemporary psychological thrillers. The latest of these is last year’s A GINGERBREAD HOUSE.

Catriona is a member of MWA, CWA, Society of Authors, and a proud lifetime member and former national president of Sisters in Crime.  www.catrionamcpherson.com 


75 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your newest book, Catriona . . . “Scot Mist” may be the one and only reason for revisiting those difficult days that began in mid-March 2020. I’m looking forward to reading it . . . .

    I can’t say that in any of my few forays to the grocery store we encountered hoarding folks or mean folks . . . everyone seemed particularly willing to share with the next shopper . . . in one instance, a young mom burst into tears in the jelly aisle because her children wanted peanut butter and jelly. She had the bread and the jelly, but there wasn’t a single jar of peanut butter on the shelf. Three of us took the jars of peanut butter out of our carts and put them in her cart [she cried harder] . . . I mean, kids need their peanut butter, right? It’s never hard to be kind . . . why does it take a pandemic to make us realize that?

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    1. Joan, that is such a sweet story. You and the other two shoppers gave that mother so much more than peanut butter.

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    2. Sweet, Joan. It's the one thing in my basket that would be the hardest to give up! If ever called upon to do so, I'd have bragged about it as though I'd stormed the beach at Normandy! You rock!!

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    3. Oh, how lovely and how heart-warming. It also reminds me of a very funny story: I worked as a Saturday shampoo girl in a hairdresser's when I was a teenager. One Christmas Eve the receptionist came back from a lunch-hour food shopping foray in Marks and Spencer and said "I lost it. It's a war zone in there. I put my basket down and sat down on the floor. I just couldn't carry on." What happened, we all wondered. She told us a store security guy came, took her into the office, made her a cup of tea, rang her purchases through the till for her, did the payment and brought the bags to her side. There was a beat. Then she said "I'm doing that every Christmas for the rest of my life now."

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  2. Awwwwww you are wonderful. That is so perfect and touching.

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  3. I just finished Scot Mist and my review goes up today, and might I just say, Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. I loved this book, even taking place in those horrible days. I know my husband thinks I'm cuckoo as I read the books in this series, as I sit and laugh and comment throughout. I apologize to you Catriona, because I should have had my review up last week, but you know, I read this book just when I needed some laughs, so there's that. Thank you for this series that has laughter and meaning for us all.

    I'm trying to unblock my mind from the last two years and try to remember any stories to share. I do remember the joy of finding some toilet paper at the drugstore when there wasn't any at the grocery. March was the beginning of my mother-in-law's decline, which culminated in her death in June. I was busy during that time making meals and desserts I thought she'd like and sharing them with her. She praised my dishes by saying I had really advanced in my cooking. Yes, I laughed about that with my husband and sister-in-law. MIL was never one to praise me much, but then she was an extraordinary cook in her day. I rather missed fixing dishes for her when she stopped eating the end of May. That time actually was a gift to my MIL and I, as we became closer than we'd ever been.

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    1. That is so special! We weren’t able to be with my MIL during her decline last year, but I remember how well-earned any word of praise was.

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    2. That's so nice that it became a time of bonding Kathy. Mother-in-laws can be tricky ground...

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    3. You've really advanced?!? Oh wow. My Godmother - Auntie Doreen - was the one in my life who did compliments oike that. e.g. "You're so lovely and tall." pause. "You can carry the weight".I miss her. Hugs, Kathy (despite the outrage of a late review!) Cx

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  4. I thought historical was 50 years in the past, so it was always changing and would be in the early 1970's at this point. I think the main thing is it requires a bit more research than a contemporary set piece.

    Having said that, setting a story at such a major event in our current lives certain makes for a historic is not historical setting. Not sure I'm quite ready to deal with that, even fictionally. But kudos to you for taking that on.

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    1. Mark, the Historical Novel Society agrees with you, but adds it is very much a "loose rule of thumb."

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    2. I know UK antique dealers say an antique is 100 years old. When I moved over here, seeing things I remembered in antique shops was a bit of a slap in the face!

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    3. Antique items (like furniture) are still at least 100 years old. Unless you're talking cars, and that's a completely different morass of definitions (they say a "classic" car is only 25 years old and I can't wrap my brain around a car manufactured in early 2000 as classic!).

      On the other hand, if we use that 50-year measure for historical, that means I am almost historical and I can't wrap my brain around that, either.

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  5. I remember signing off emails and calls with “Be well” and genuinely meaning it.

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    1. That's right, isn't it? Instead of "all the best" or whatever, I went to "Hope you're well. We're all fine here. Take care." I'm still doing the yoga sessions my teacher out on YouTube back then. At the end of each she says "stay home, stay safe". It's obsolete advice now (sort of), but the caring still feels good.

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  6. I love those connections, Catriona. And you were brave to take on the pandammit!

    That week I had just flown home with one son from an idyllic vacay with other son in Puerto Rico. I had agreed to have an author table at our local high school's career day. The principal had set out hand sanitizer everywhere and nobody was shaking hands, but there were no masks in sight. I greeted our smarmy state representative and he started going in for a hug. I stepped back and said, "Jim, we're not doing that any more, remember?" Grr.

    I think that was the last time I mingled with anyone for a year. But I did meet the two darling special needs girls who live on a long-term basis with a foster mother on my street, and ever since we smile and greet each other.

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    1. Aw, that's a silver lining and no mistake. And absolutely on the hugs! I know someone who has always hated hugging and has used the break to gather her nerve and tell people she's not starting it up again. When you think about it, that seems very reasonable, doesn't it?

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    2. I'm sure it's been a relief for the non-huggers, but I am NOT one of them. When I hug now (of course only fully vaxxed family and close friends), it's always extra long and extra strong.

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  8. CATRIONA: I certainly remember where I was on that "historic" day. I was in San Diego wondering what to do now. The city had abruptly shut down LCC that previous afternoon (BEST one-day LCC ever!). I could not fly back to Canada until March 17 and tourist attractions such as the Balboa Park museums, restaurants and stores were shutting down as the weekend progressed. I remember going to the beaches since they were still accessible.

    And like Mark mentioned above, I had thought that 1970 was now considered historical. Since I was born a few years before that, I am finding that a bit hard to accept, lol.

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    1. Agreed! The cars from that time may be classics, but we are still too young for that!

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    2. You were there before they shut the beaches! That was a rough development but they were packed and maskless. Since we're already at toilet paper, I'll go ahead and say this. In Edinburgh, they opened the beaches and parks after the lockdown but didn't open the public loos. Someone did not think that through.

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    3. CATRIONA: Yikes, that was poor planning decision in Edinburgh. And yes, I was lucky to go wander the San Diego beaches when they were not crowded.

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  9. Catriona, The Joy of Toilet Paper. It could be a series set during the pandammit. I remember going to the Kosher grocery store to get some chicken and arriving just as the clerk was stocking a shelf with tp. "Yes, yes, yes!" Using a great deal of restraint, I bought 1 package. Returning home triumphant I yelled, "I found toilet paper! Hah!"

    I love the Last Ditch stories and have no fear about revisiting March 2020. You are one of the few authors so far, willing to address this pandammit in your books. It certainly has changed "normal" for us all and I cannot recall any other event in my long life that has impacted the way we live as this has.

    Congratulations on Scot Mist! I'll be looking for it this morning.

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    1. JUDY: Good for you! Oddly, I don't remember the TP shortage happening here in Ottawa during the early days of the pandemic. But I did notice the shortage of AP flour as many of us joined in to the sourdough bread baking binge!

      I have read a few mystery books set shortly after the pandemic (The Madness of Crowds and Her Last Breath) but SCOT MIST is the first one I will be reading that is set during the early pandemic lockdown days.

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    2. Judy, it's interesting you say that about your life's experience. My mum and dad rember WWII and neither of them say think the early days of *this* were a breeze. On the one hand they were children and protected from some of it. But, on the other hand, they lived near bombing targets. We were very surprised that they didn't scoff and say the lockdown was nothing in comparison.

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    3. Grace, Michael Connelly also has his latest book, The Dark Hours set during the pandemic.

      Catriona, I was born after WWII but read lots of stories set during that time and I think that was much more difficult than the pandemic, especially in Europe and the Far East.

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  10. I don't know that I have any stories. We never did a big "stock up" because we didn't have to (our normal shopping patterns left us with plenty of basics). There was a lot of "well, they don't have that, what about this?" moments. A lot of staring at empty shelves thinking it was worse than shopping for a major snowstorm. I don't recall ever encountering any mean shoppers either. Everybody seemed kinder and more patient than usual (even if they didn't strictly follow the arrows on the floor).

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    1. Those arrows! I was ever remembering one more thing and sliding the wrong way a third of the way down just to grab the pickles or the cinnamon...

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    2. Oh those arrows. I remember one day in Winco and another shopper saying "Everywhere is Ikea now". Damn, I wish I'd put that line in the book.

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    3. Catriona, that is a great line.

      Edith, I was forever annoyed that the arrow was inevitably going the "wrong" way in the aisle I needed to be in, which meant I had to go all the way down the next aisle (which I wouldn't have been in) just so I could go the correct way. I'll admit to doing some backwards-walking and "line-breaking" especially if the item I wanted was mere feet from the end of the aisle. LOL

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  11. Kudos Catriona. Scot Mist was a thoughtful take on first reactions to the pandemic. It has lots of layers and is worth a second read I think.

    Bob and Joan? Seriously? And I’m still obsessing over the toenails. Hard to imagine those in conjunction with a love interest.

    Thank you for the fourth book in the Last Ditch trilogy. I adore Lexie and the minions

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    1. People, Lexy's boyfriend has unlovely feet. And I found out that this is Ann's line in the sand!

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    2. If I wasn't already planning to read Scot Mist, I'd have to after Ann's comments!

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  12. Catriona, I've somehow missed this series, but will definitely be looking out for Scot Mist--doesn't bother me that it's set at the beginning of lockdown.

    The first time I ventured out to do the grocery shopping was during the recently established senior hour--starting at 6 a.m. This was before sneeze guards went up, before masks were more in use. At check-out, one of the clerks was helping to bag--all of them older women--and a cough suddenly erupted from the bagger. Everyone froze--and I remember the look of shock and fear on her face. And there was a shared sense of concern--like everyone wanted to give her a hug. No one said anything nasty, she recovered, and she never missed any work, so it was, after all, just a cough.

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    1. Those early days of fear and the unknown reminded me very much of the early days of AIDS. No one knew where or how it came from or was transmitted. Lots of misinformation.

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    2. We were faithful senior hour shoppers. Now they have ended, we still go at the crack of seven AM when the store opens!

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    3. The senior hours at Ottawa grocery stores have also ended. The two downtown grocery stores near me used to be open 24/7 before the pandemic. They have not been able to return to those opening hours due to a shortage of (healthy) grocery staff to cover all the overnight shifts.

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    4. Flora, thank you sincerely for the vote of confidence. It was a hard line to find, I can tell you. As to shopping, I still go before 7am and I still go once a fortnight. Luckily, the fruit and veg at out local fruitstand is sooooo fresh (the oranges right now are from five miles down the road!) that everything stays good. The one fall-out I didn't foresee was at Christmas 2020, when I looked in the fridge and thought "What have I forgotten?" Because our Christmas fridge looks the same - stuffed to the gunwhales - as the year-round fridge now!

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  13. I need to get crackin' and finish reading the third book so I can get to Scot Mist! Thanks, Catriona, for keeping us all entertained. Historical, indeed!

    The thing I most remember about those early days was how quiet it was, like the aftermath of 9/11. There were no planes flying overhead, and no traffic on our mile-long road, which connects two major streets and generally has a good number of cars as they cut through. More neighbors were out walking than we'd ever seen.

    It was also one of the reasons why my neighbor and I decided to put in a Little Free Library. The library and all the bookstores were closed for so long.

    One thing I didn't worry about was the toilet paper shortage, thanks to Costco. I always buy the big packages, and had not long before stocked up. (I did buy a two-pound package of yeast, out of panic; it's still unopened.) When stores finally did get stock they limited purchases. That was true of hand sanitizer, wipes, and stuff like thermometers, all in such short supply.

    Remember when everyone was sanitizing groceries? Our neighbors, 80 and 90 years old, were doing that, in masks. They'd have their deliveries taken to the garage, and they'd wipe down everything before it went in the house. A few months later I realized they were still isolating, not just from the outside world, but also from each other! It was making them both so depressed, and I finally was able to convince them it was okay to go back to goodnight kisses.

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    1. Message me your address, and I'll send it to you. I could never live long enough!

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    2. Karen, you're dead right. The period when we didn't know enough about surface to surface transmission was very strange. I've still got 980 pairs of the 1000 pairs of plastic gloves I ordered then. And yes, the quiet! Also - this is in reply to your comment above - I clearly remember being in the same fog about AIDS that I was about COVID. A flatmate's boyfriend came - slightly shame-faced - to tell his girlfriend (my friend) that he was having a herpes flare-up and all of us in the flat thought herpes was HIV. We huddled in the kitchen, thinking we didn't want to be inhospitable about him sleeping on our couch with a borrowed sleeping bag but we didn't know what was safe and what might literally kill us. (This was 1985.) Then someone finally got a grip and realised that "downstairs cold sores" were not AIDS. It's hard to credit that level of ignorance now. Thank God for the late Princess Di - shaking hands and giving out hugs in AIDS wards.

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    3. Karen, I remember those early days of the AIDS crisis vividly--I had friends who lived in Cinci then. I knew I was not at risk and hated those people who wouldn't even eat or drink anything (recalling a company Christmas party especially) except for cans of soda they'd brought, because we had an employee who was HIV-infected. I'm surprised even now that they showed up.

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    4. You guys probably won't see this, since it's so late now (out all day), but the first person to die of AIDS in Cincinnati was a dear friend of mine. We all suspected, but were never specifically told, that he was gay. His partner is still alive, and has never paired up with anyone since then, and that was the end of 1981. I clearly remember the time, because it was just a few months before Steve and I got married in March of 1982.

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  14. I'm a HUGE FAN, Catriona! So happy to see you here. In the early days of the pandemic I pretty much did not leave the house. What became SO IMPORTANT were neighbors, and in that department it turns out I hit the jackpot. I'm surrounded by the best people. (I still have the yeast I bought thinking I'd bake bread... it's probably aged out. And a huge cache of jigsaw puzzles.) And YES this sounds very much like historical fiction to me. Especailly now as we seem (fingers crossed) to be emerging from it.

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    1. Keep your yeast in the freezer, Hallie, and it will last for years! I still have the yeast my mother gave me where back when I lived in a different house. I moved from that house in 2005!

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    2. That means a great deal, Hallie. Thank you. Funnily enough, our yeast just aged out last week. We found this out by means of a 2lb doorstop that couldn't even be made into breadcrumbs in a blender!

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    3. About the yeast. I bake bread all the time and ordered a pound from Amazon. It seemed way too expensive, but when 3 pounds arrived, I just froze 2. Last week I opened the 3rd. pound of yeast.

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  15. I remember picking my granddaughter up from school. She was buried under a ton of books, clothes and sports equipment. She did not look happy as she explained that the school might be closing, so just in case, she had to clean out her locker. For me, that was the start.

    Catriona, I really want to read Scot Mist. How could I not after reading what everyone is saying about it? But I've been thinking about how that couple gave you their toilet paper. It wasn't about how needy you may or may not have looked; it was about them. They knew they didn't really need it and you were there, so you won!

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    1. Neil came home from his office on Monday the 16th, pretty much the same way. Every book, paper, note, flashdrive and photocopy he might need "for a month". He went back in May 2021 praying that he hadn't left a banana in a desk drawer. In the meantime he taught two classes on epidemiological method as part of a "global disease epidemic" major. That was quite something to overhear in the house, I can tell you. The day he said on the first Zoom "Okay, we need to decide if we're going to stick to Ebola, foot and mouth in pigs, and leaf roll on grapevines, or . . . " In the end the students unanimously voted to use COVID, saying that a forum to talk about the science and only the science made them feel less powerless.

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  16. I remember staring down the paper products aisle at my grocery store which was almost completely empty. It was like something out of a sci-fi novel. For weeks after that if a store had toilet paper I bought one package until I had enough stocked up to last perhaps a month. And I learned to use a lot less to than normal; who knew 4 squares was enough!

    SCOT MIST sounds like a good read!

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    1. I had completly forgotten that friends from cultures who don't use tp were very . . . well some of them were kind but some of them were really smug! The thing that always puzzled me back then was that the CDC was saying "wash your hands" and yet the soap never ran out. Clorox wipes were a daydream, sanitizer was like gold dust. But the soap was there throughout. Weird.

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  17. I'm up! Here on the west coast. Thank you for having, Reds. And thnak you so much for these wonderful memories, everyone. There are a couple of things I wish I had put in the book now! Cx

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  18. Hi Catriona! It's always such a treat to have you here! I can't wait to read Scot Mist (fabulous cover, by the way!) I love the idea of a communal bubble because we felt so isolated during those first months. We never ran out of anything, but I remember the panic of not being able to find things like dried beans! Or flour, of course.

    I remember the quiet, too. We live on a very busy street and suddenly there were no cars, but I've never seen so many people walking their dogs. We'd pass very carefully on the other side of the street and wave.

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    1. Ha. Yes. The lockdown rules in Scotland were strictly enforced - including one hour twice a day of outdoor exercise. Suddenly my sister's sons were keen to make good on the promise they'd been letting slide for years. You know the one: "if we get a dog, Mum, we'll do everything. You won't even know she exists."

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  19. CATRIONA,

    Welcome to the Jungle Reds! I just woke up so I am late to the party again! To me historical novels are set before I was born. LOL. I love your Dandy Gilver series and I just got your THE MIRROR DANCE in the mail. Your SCOT MIST novel sounds interesting! I bought the first book in that series at the Vancouver conference.

    Yes, I remember the lockdown because I flew home from the Left Coast Crime conference in San Diego the same day of the lockdown! I remember that several authors had to cancel at the last minute the week before and did not attend the conference. I almost did not go, but then I thought everyone would take precautions. I got an email from the conference and the hotel saying there will be hand sanitation dispensers everywhere. And I had not seen my BFF for a while so we were going to celebrate our birthdays too. I always get sick in American hotels so I decided to stay one night anyway so I already made plans to leave that day. I remember a few people at the conference were wearing masks. At the airport going home, all of the airport employees were wearing masks. At the gate / security check, there was a Prince Harry look alike who signed to me asking if I needed help because he heard me trying to talk to the security x ray person when I was checking my carry on bag. He said his parents are deaf. I flew home and took off my clothes at home and put everything in the laundry. The next morning I found out about the lockdown. That week was the first time in years that I saw blue skies because there were fewer vehicles on the road. I am worried that things will get worse after February 15 because I just learned that since the rate went down by 65 percent, masks will not be required though they will still ask UNVACCINATED people to continue wearing masks. I wish that they waited until the rate went down by 99 percent before saying it was OK to stop wearing masks.

    Diana

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    1. Thank heavens for that signing airport guy. How interesting it is to hear you say you are pro-mask, Diana. I've heard hearing people wheel out lip-reading as a reason to ban masks. Hmmmmmmmmmm.

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    2. Yes, there are special masks where there is a "window" for reading lips. Whenever someone takes off their mask, I turn my back because I do not want to catch the covid. LOL.

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  20. I'm afraid I don't have any shopping stories of triumph or despair. I used the pandemic as an excuse to not shop at all. My husband can't stay home, contentedly, so I sent his antsy bod out to do the shopping. Still do.

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    1. Ha! I like shopping for food so I never went to online ordering. I hate shopping for clothes, though, and I haven't bought anything for two years. I will need to get some clothes for Left Coast Crime in April. (always assuming . . .)

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  21. Another new series to read! More books on the TBR pile. Life is good.

    I was in Colorado in March 2020 to attend my father's funeral. I had a flight booked to return home to Canada on March 17, two days after the border was closed. I hadn't received my Canadian citizenship yet, so was travelling on the strength of my Permanent Residence card, hoping that was good enough. It was. Pearson Airport, the 3rd (?) busiest airport in North America was almost empty. It took me 20 minutes to clear border patrol, baggage claim and customs. It was eerie. Then, when I got home, I was in 14 day quarantine. Grocery delivery was our saving grace.

    The day after I got home someone started a FB page called Caremongering. Someone asks for help and someone else helps them. No questions asked. No judgements. Just help. It is still in operation and going strong. One of the best things to come from the desire to reach out that manifested at the beginning.

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    1. Oh Ed, I can only imagine how that time was for you. I am so sorry. But thanks for sharing the concept and the term "caremongering". I love both!

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  22. Nipping in super late because of morning doctor's appointment, errands, etc. I just wanted to say, yes, March 2020 feels like history. It felt like history when I was living it because we all knew we were experiencing a unique, world-wide, once-in-a-lifetime event, like the folks who lived through WWII.

    As an avid reader of history and historical fiction, I always wondered what people in the past felt like when momentous events happened. Now I know.

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  23. That's a very good angle on it, Julia. We do have a better understanding of that psychic split between "nothing is the same" and yet "I need to wash some clothes and pay the gas bill".

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  24. Congrats on Scot Mist, Catriona! I love this series so much. And, yes, I feel as if I've aged 10 years in the past 2. Ugh.

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  25. That is one of the best masks I've seen!
    Over these last crazy years I bought a t shirt that says "In a world where you can be anything, be kind." It pleases me to wear it.

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  26. I think it takes guts to write about events almost as they are hapnening. Props to you, Catriona! I'm looking forward to reading it.

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    1. Thank you, Triss. It did feel a wee bit like throwing my cap over a wall and hoping it didn't land "where the horses have been", as Jane Austen put it.

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