There are several reasons I don’t commit white-collar crime, in addition to the most obvious ones.

First and foremost: I don’t relish the thought of going to jail. Not to mention, it’d damage my moral compass.

Another reason, though, involves the FBI. What would they think if they perused the hard drive on my computer? Its agents would peg me for a wacko…or worse.

Check out my computer’s search history, and you’ll understand my fear. In the last week alone, I’ve researched the shelf life of arsenic, autopsy procedures specific to Louisiana, and the type of Glock officers carry in St. James County Parish.

It’s all part of writing a mystery series and trying to get the details right.  Since I began my career as a journalist—I wrote for publications like the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle—I’ve been trained to ferret out mistakes before they go to press.

Nothing’s worse than reading a book and stopping halfway through because the author didn’t know the difference between a beignet and a donut. (Beignets are made with fried choux paste, while donuts typically use yeast-rising dough.) While the difference is subtle, it tells me the author doesn’t know her subject as well as she should. So, I research everything my characters eat, wear, drive, etc., in order to avoid mistakes.

I’ve garnered some obscure knowledge along the way. Did you know women in the 1920s wore a knot on their cloche if they were married, or a bow otherwise?

However, nothing beats the time I researched voodoo for the second book in the series, titled Something Foul at Sweetwater.

Yes, the “dark arts” are alive and well in southern Louisiana, and high priests and priestesses still try to heal people with herbs and tokens, or punish them with voodoo dolls and spells.

At one point, a character in the book, Ruby Oubre, gives Missy a gris-gris. A gris-gris is a small colored pouch (the color is important) filled with objects thought to protect the wearer from evil spirits. This particular gris-gris contained a chicken bone, a pebble and a sprig of catnip, which combined to ward off evil. While Missy didn’t know what to make of her gift, her boyfriend did, since he often traveled to New Orleans as a college undergraduate.

Let’s just say I know more about voodoo now than I did before. It makes me think twice when I see salt sprinkled on the pavement in Louisiana (a trick for getting rid of door-to-door salesmen) or sweet basil planted next to a doorstep (the homeowner believes in good-luck charms).

Fortunately, not all my research involves such a dark subject, but I’ll still stay on the right side of the law…just in case.

 

Missy DuBois’s Louisiana hat studio is the destination for Southern brides who want to make a fashion statement. But designing headpieces isn’t her only talent, she’s also got a head for solving murders . . .

It’s not uncommon for folks to live it up a little too much on New Year’s Eve. But when Missy walks into her parking lot at Crowning Glory on New Year’s Day and discovers professional wedding planner Charlotte Deveraux inside a whiskey barrel, the poor woman isn’t just hung over . . . she’s dead. Since the murder weapon was an old hat stand that belonged to Missy, her customers are cancelling appointments and everyone in town seems to be turning up their noses at her. Despite plenty of intrigue to motivate a hatful of suspects, suspicion keeps falling squarely on Missy. All the more reason to clear her name—or the next veil she designs will come in a shade of black . . .

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