Monday, July 14, 2014

Cozy Mystery Blog Tour Author Guest Post & Giveaway: Silence of the Lamb's Wool (Yarn Retreat #2) by Betty Hechtman

Dessert chef Casey Feldstein has learned one end of a knitting needle from the other after inheriting her aunt’s yarn retreat business, but a murder threatens to unravel her latest event . . .

Casey’s running a new retreat called "From Sheep to Shawl” at a resort on the atmospheric Monterey Peninsula. Participants will learn about sheep-shearing, fixing up the fleece, and spinning, and will eventually knit a lovely shawl.

Nicole Welton has been hired to teach the fleece-to-fiber portion of the retreat. She’s an expert spinner, and her small shop in Cadbury by the Sea houses a beautiful assortment of spinning wheels and drop spindles. But when the new teacher fails to show up for class and is found lying dead on the boardwalk, it leaves everyone’s nerves frayed.

Now Casey has to knit together clues faster than she can count stitches before someone else at the retreat gets dropped . . .

Includes a knitting pattern and a recipe!

by Betty Hechtman
When I started writing SILENCE OF THE LAMB'S WOOL and decided that Casey Feldstein was going to call her upcoming retreat Sheep to Shawl, I knew I was in for some interesting research.  The title implied that they were going to start out getting wool from some sheep, spin it into yarn and knit a shawl.  I had tried spinning at a yarn show and so had that covered.  However I had never seen a sheep shorn or knew what you did with the fleece once it was off the sheep.  There is always You Tube, but I prefer seeing things in person if at all possible.  

That's why I was thrilled when I saw that the agricultural school at the local community college was having a farm fair and one of the activities was sheep shearing.  The community college is on 400 acres of land and a large portion of it is given over to planted fields, grazing land and animal areas  I really felt like I was out on a farm somewhere instead of in the middle of Fernando Valley when I walked down the dirt road to the sheep enclosure.  The actual sheering was faster than I would have expected and the sheep didn't seem to mind at all.  The shears looked like the kind barbers use only bigger, much bigger.  I talked to the shearer, and got to pet the newly shorn sheep.  She was amazingly affectionate and butted against e when I stopped petting her to ask for more attention.  The horizontal pupils of her eyes were a little unsettling as it was hard to figure exactly where she was looking.  

But it turned out to be only the beginning of my sheep knowledge.  A few weks later on a side trip from the Malice Domestic conference, I went to the Maryland Sheep and Wook Festival.  Wow.  I had thought that sheep were all pretty much like the Little Bo Peep variety.  Not exactly.  They come in all different sizes, colors and fleece types.  Some looked like they had dreadlocks.  The only thing they all had in common is being very sweet animals.  I found something else there that I needed.  Handspun yarn.  The Sheep to Shawl retreat in the book was going to end with my characters knitting shawls out of the yarn they'd spun.  I wanted the experience of knitting with handspun yarn before I wrote about it.  

There is also a part between the shearing of the sheep and the spinning of the wool.  I decided to try that process first hand with the fleece I had accumulated on my various sheep excursions.  The fleece has to be washed to remove the lanolin and bits of dirt.  It has to be done carefully or you end up with a big clump of wool.  Once it's rinsed and dried, it gets carded.  Carding is really brushing the fibers and I actually used some dog brushes to do it with.  

I got a little more information at the Stitches Yarn show when a vendor pointed out a pair of sharp and deadly wool combs and suggested I include them in the book.  What a good idea.  It was great to have had all those real experiences when I sat down to write.  

Some research has a bonus.  Casey Feldstein is a dessert chef and I always include some of her recipes.  Casey and I have something in common.  We both would rather bake desserts than do everyday cooking.  When I research the recipes I.e. bake them, my family are my tasters.  They love the job and keep trying to talk me into putting more recipes in each book. 

SILENCE OF THE LAMB'S WOOL is the second book in the national bestselling Yarn Retreat series that features dessert chef Casey Feldstein who puts on yarn retreats at a slightly sinister hotel and conference center on California's Monterey peninsula.  Betty Hechtman also writes the national bestselling Crochet Mystery series.  All books in both series include patterns and recipes.  She says it is like a dream come true to be able to mix her love of mystery with her love of making things.  She grew up in Chicago and has a degree in Fine Art.  In addition she has studied everything from improv comedy to magic.  She has written newspaper and magazine pieces, short stories and scripts.  She lives in Southern California and Chicago and has yarn stashes in both cities.  

Thanks to the awesome ladies at Penguin, I have 1 paperback copy of Silence of the Lamb's Wool by Betty Hechtman to give away to one of my lucky readers!  Just enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win, and be sure to keep checking back for more awesome giveaways!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard said...

As a knitter, I have GOT to read this series!

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