First, I was honored to be invited. These same writers, many of whom are members of Sisters-in-Crime Internet Chapter, are terrific mystery writers. I felt like a charlatan being in their company, but I put on my big girl panties, put fingers on keyboard and let the story flow. Many drafts later, I was satisfied with "Midnight in the Church of the Holy Grape" and submitted it. Yes, it's a send-up of In the Garden of Good and Evil. It's also a send-up of many New Age churches, including one out in San Francisco, the Church of the Holy Grape, which is authentic and exists so that the "leader" can buy wine without paying sales tax. But that's a story for a different blog post. Maybe.
Other stories include "Whose Wine Is It Anyway?" by Barb Goffman, "Love the Wine You're With" by Teresa Inge, "Wine, Women and Wrong" by Maggie King, "Life is a Cabernet" by Jayne Ormerod, and "Cobblestones and Cabernet" by Jenny Sparks. Yes, Cabernet had to be mentioned in the story to be included. Overall, there are seventeen stories in the collection.
Here's the plot.
Ryan is a member of this New Age church, the Church of the Holy Grape, which meets four times a year on the solstices and equinoxes to celebrate food and wine. He extracts a promise from,his reluctant wife to join him at the winter solstice meeting. First she reneges, then finally agrees to go one time only. He's ecstatic, because he is supposed to rise in the church to be a guide and wants Lucy to support him.
Things go horribly off track when the leader of the group, the Wrong Reverend Ruby Cabernet, intones a forbidden prayer and summons spirits of the past. These include The Mighty Zin and Madame Sauterne, among others. Mayhem ensues. Let's just say the evening goes so far off script that even Ryan can't see where it will end.
This collection will be out in March 2017. Look for many of us, in small groups or solos, to offer book signings at local wineries. Even if no one shows up to buy a book, we can always indulge in tastings. I wonder how far off script we can go next summer.
Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max, Unintended Consequences, and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I'm really excited that the trade paper edition of Uncharted Territory was released this week. Please follow me on my website, on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.