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The Sirens of Suspense




Charles and Caroline Todd are a mother-and-son writing team who live on the east coast of the United States.Charles and Caroline have a rich storytelling heritage. Both spent many evenings on the porch listening to their fathers and grandfathers reminisce. And a maternal grandmother told marvelous ghost stories. This tradition allows them to write with passion about events before their own time. And an uncle/great-uncle who served as a flyer in WWI aroused an early interest in the Great War.

Writing together is a challenge, and both enjoy giving the other a hard time. The famous quote is that in revenge, Charles crashes Caroline's computer, and Caroline crashes his parties. Will they survive to write more novels together? Stay tuned! Their father/husband is holding the bets.


Find Charles and Caroline on Facebook.



I love travel, whether it’s a vacation, a book tour, or a chance to see some part of the world I’ve only read about. And I usually bring home something interesting as a memory of that place. Emphasis on interesting—to me.

When you do that often enough, you suddenly realize that you have got a “collection.”

Elephants, for instance. That started long before I knew about any political association with them. My parents subscribed to the National Geographic Magazine, and I loved looking at the elephants, wild ones with huge ears in Africa, or painted ones for religious ceremonies in Sri Lanka or weddings in Rajasthan. I remember as a child being disappointed when I discovered that not every continent had elephants roaming around. But I later discovered that places that don’t have elephants often have figures of them. One of my favorites is from Orkney, a butterscotch ceramic one I found in a National Trust style shop. Another very small one is of malachite from Russia. That’s the beautiful green stone you see in the palaces of Tsars, especially in the shape of large vases. A friend made an elephant for me out of a dollar bill, sort of an origami elephant. One of the oddest pieces in my collection is a “parade” of gray lead elephants in several sizes, holding on to each other’s tails. These were disentangled and used as opium weights in the hill country of north Thailand. The smallest elephant I own is probably a quarter of an inch and the largest is probably ten inches. He’s a cloth elephant from Guatemala. Oh, and I mustn’t forget the little stuffed Margate Elephant of New Jersey! Her name is Lucy.

The other collection of any size is bookmarks. I look for leather ones at shops you find in any important site, from the Grand Canyon to Blenheim Palace. I have one of those from Emily Bronte’s home in Yorkshire. Japan has lovely ones in bone with the patina of ivory. And the Irish are lacy. There’s a floral one from Austria—an edelweiss. China had Cloisonn, India had sandal wood, Mexico had alabaster. Amazing variety, and each one a reminder of the place it comes from. Friends bring them back too, and a woman at Magna Cum Murder Mystery Convention in Indianapolis shared her own collection with me when she heard about mine. It’s a rather neat item for a mystery writer to collect.

I have wood carvings from lots of places. I like the African animals in wood, although a kangaroo or a fox or a dachshund will make me happy, and I have the most marvelous hippo that I found—of all places—in a charity shop in England, one of those run for a Heart Society. I call him Kubu, because of Michael Stanley’s wonderful Botswanan detective whose nickname mean’s Hippo because he’s large. I found a beautiful little cheetah in St. David’s cathedral in Wales, where they had a number of items on sale from missionary stations. Another favorite are figures from the Ramayana, the great epic poem of India and her neighbors. These came from Indonesia. And there’s a boxwood Netsuke from Japan—modern because the old ones are expensive and for Collectors with a C.

It wouldn’t be hard for me to collect foxes or puffins or cats. Or local watercolors or Chinese snuff bottles. I’ve been tempted!

Fortunately all these collectibles are small—for one thing they have to travel home in a suitcase! For another—if they’re too large, where will I put them, if I want to look at them every day? These are memories, mine or a friend’s, about a lovely time or exciting place, and therefore intensely personal.

Charles collects seashells from around the world, and small ship models. You might think that he loves the sea. And you’d be right. In Paraguay I saw a collection of key chains—a huge room full of them, and of every size and description. I remember one with Snoopy, another one with a diver’s helmet in copper and brass, a few with Coke insignia, and so on. One friend collects Nutcrackers. Another one collects spoons from every state and country she’s visited. A woman who sews collects thimbles, and they are amazingly pretty. Then there’s Jay Leno and his collection of cars, way out of our league, but he must get the same pleasure from them as I do from the bookmark I bought for $2.50 at the Edgar Allan Poe House in Philadelphia.

There have been collectors in a few of our books. One character had inherited a collection of figures from Southeast Asia. They were of such quality that he wanted to build a museum to house them. Another collected tropical birds as a reminder of his exile. It’s a very human trait, and gives a little insight into a character’s background.

Is there something I would love to collect that is out of reach? Oh yes! The Faberge Easter Eggs made for the Tsars of Russia! They are so amazing, intricate and elegant. Not to mention $$$. People like Forbes buy those. I settled for a book about them.






WHAT DO YOU COLLECT? TELL US or leave a comment on the blog below or on our Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win a copy of RACING THE DEVIL! (US entrants only, please.)



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