Dialoguing with Political Dynamo, Mayor Danby

I’m so very pleased to have Mayor Seraphina Danby from Wharton County visit today.  Also fondly known as Nana D, this dynamic woman is a force to be reckoned with.  Not only is she an important elected official and adored grandmother, she’s an ace dessert-maker and has won for biggest pumpkin at several fall festivals.  Once a notable clarinet player, she presently provides lessons for the woodwind instrument.  But perhaps her most laudable [and undisclosed] act: she sews blankets and hats for local shelters.

Two weeks ago, we had her grandson, amateur sleuth Kellan Ayrwick, drop by.  Equally fascinating on both personal and professional levels, this lively lady has a lot of goals—and we have no doubt she’ll accomplish all.

Without further delay, let’s learn what makes this grand-lady tick!

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Tell us how and why you came to be mayor.  Did you always have political ambitions?

Years ago, Wharton County was the strongest one in the whole state of Pennsylvania. We were model citizens who took care of one another and looked out for the land. As soon as the country started growing, and entertainment became more important than hard work, I saw my beloved homeland heading in the wrong direction. In the last twenty-five years, society has become too dependent on technology, industry, money, and greed. The wrong politicians were elected to run Wharton County and Braxton in particular. When that Stanton creep took over, I knew things were gonna get nasty. I let it go for a number of years, but then Kellan returned home. I realized there were still good people in the world who wanted to fix the problems, not just get richer. Kellan showed me that we could change, and when it came time to re-elect a new mayor, I threw my hat in the ring.

Kudos to you!  And what are your plans as mayor?

If you’d attended my inauguration, young lady, you wouldn’t ask me that question. My speech is public record, but if I must repeat myself here, I suppose I shall. To start with, all the red tape is being dismantled. It took months for my friend to sell her house last year because the county kept charging her for every little change that had been made on the home in the last few years. I’m not saying citizens shouldn’t pay their fair share, but the process has got to be more effective. People should spend time with their families and friends, not filling out forms and attending meetings to listen to complaints about the temperature of the library.

That said, I’m planning on reducing individual taxes, increasing tourism to offset such a loss, bring back family values, ensure our leaders are out in the community and not behind closed doors. And free ice cream in Wellington Park on Sundays. Since you’re not from these parts, I’ll share with you what that means. Long ago, before the calorie counters and sugar police got involved, we used to have ice cream parties with all the kids from the county. We held monthly polls to pick the flavors. Local businesses provided the money to pay for the event. Farmers who lived in Wharton County supplied the ice cream, from cows raised on local pastures. Parents brought their kids to play in the park together, not on those tablets and phones. We learned to support one another, and we need to do that again. If you can’t have dairy, we’ll provide almond milk. If you are diabetic, we’ll provide something else. We want everyone there, and rather than stop it, we look to fix it.

That’s quite commendable.  I wish you wholehearted luck with that.  Please share what you like—and don’t like—about Wharton County. 

I don’t like that the rich just keeping getting richer and the poor just keep getting poorer. Folks like Marcus Stanton and Hiram Grey sit back and stuff their wallets while honest families like the Roarkes can hardly make ends meet. I ousted Stanton. Grey is on my list next.

I love the sense of community that still exists deep within our souls. People talk to another. They drop by their local parish with a pie for the priest. They visit the hospital to share blankets and toys. We’re a small town, but we’ve got a big heart.

It does sound idyllic.  Tell us, Mayor, what makes you you?

I do what I say I’m gonna do. I say what needs to be said. You might think I’m a little too direct. You might think I ask for too much. You might think I can be a tad judgmental. But I’d give you the shirt off my back if you truly needed it. I don’t feel the need to sugarcoat anything. Whether it’s my granddaughter Emma or Father Elijah, I’ll treat you the same. People need not be afraid of the truth. They need to develop a thicker skin and stop all this nonsense of simply complaining about how things used to be, yet never lift a finger to fix it. Action speaks louder than words sometimes. It’s my job as mayor to set a good example and lead Wharton County back to its glory days, but with a modern touch.

If you had a chance to do something differently, what would that be?

I’d probably spend more time with my husband before he had that heart attack. We were doing too much on the farm, and I should’ve recognized the impact it was having on him. I miss that man every day of my life, but we’ll be together in the future again. I’m living way past a hundred, so he’s just gonna have to wait a bit longer. Consider it revenge for him making me wait so long for him to finish remodeling our bedroom years ago.

…Some might describe you as feisty or sarcastic.  How do you view yourself?

I tell it like it is. Kellan is a good grandson. Don’t tell the others, but he’s my favorite. He’s got an ego at times, and it’s my job to knock him down a peg or two. Call me what you like, but it all comes down to passion. If I believe in something strongly, I’ll support it with every fiber of my being. When you say something with love, and you demonstrate you are committed to doing the right thing, you can accomplish anything you want. When that princess, Cecilia Castigliano, tried to intimidate me, I wouldn’t back down. She might be a foot taller than me and as gaunt as a devil in fancy Prada heels, but no one beats Nana D. I’m also seventy-five years old. I’ve seen war and famine. I’ve watched people die and go through the worst pain of their lives. When you’ve walked the walk, you can talk the talk, honey.

Of that, I have no doubt.  Where does “Nana D” come from?

My daughter Violet and I have on thing in common, and only one thing. Neither of us WPnanaintAlikes to think about aging. When my first grandkid was born, I didn’t want to be called Grandma. We couldn’t come up with an appropriate name until Hampton, that’s my oldest, visited the farm and followed the goats around. Somehow, he started calling me nanny. Eventually, it became Nanny Danny because he couldn’t pronounce the letter B properly. It became Nana D, and for the sake of consistency, I insisted everyone call me by that name, even my grandchildren’s friends.

As you’ve mentioned, you’re particularly fond of your “favorite” grandson, Kellan Ayrwick—and that he’s an amateur sleuth, among other things.  We had him here two weeks ago, but we’d love you to share your thoughts.  Tell us about him, won’t you please?

Kellan is my pride and joy. He spent a lot of time at the farm when he was younger. All my grandchildren did, but Kellan loved to visit the most. His two older siblings are a bit hoity toity for my taste. Gabriel and Eleanor visited a lot too, but they hung around Violet more. For some reason, Kellan just fit in best with Michael and me. It broke my heart when he chose to attend graduate school in Los Angeles, and I knew in my gut that he’d be gone for a long time. I tried to accept it, but when he lost Francesca in that car accident, I went out to Los Angeles for a few weeks to help him figure out how to move forward. We bonded again on that trip, and ever since then, he’s been the one who needs me the most. Or maybe I need him the most. Wait, don’t print that … I don’t want him to think I got all sappy and sentimental.

Kellan is a true gentleman. He’s intelligent and funny. He knows how to cook, clean, and raise a child. He’s generous and friendly. He volunteers and helps those who aren’t as fortunate as he is. He keeps himself in good shape and always lends a hand to those who need help. He learned that all from my late husband. That’s 95% of the time. Somehow, he’s got a little bit of his father, Wesley, in him for that other 5%. Wesley is a pompous ass, pardon my French. While Kellan isn’t as crusty as his father, he can be a little too sarcastic and egotistical. It’s my job to stop him from crossing a line. I used to worry who would keep doing that when I wasn’t around, but the sheriff, April Montague, and Kellan’s boss, Myriam Castle, seem to know how to keep my grandson in line. A man needs a good woman to show him the boundaries. I’m confident the three of us will ensure he doesn’t step in the wrong direction in the future.

I’m sure you will. Speaking of women, what are your thoughts about Kellan’s marriage and his ex-wife’s exploits?  A bit, hmm, shady perhaps?

You got some whisky? I’m gonna need a drink to get through that conversation, honey. Since you look like a nice lady and seem to be of the friendly sort, I’ll keep my language in check. Francesca Castigliano is a hussy. She claims to love Kellan, and I’ve seen her be a good mother to Emma, so I can’t quite accept she’s irredeemable. But there was always something funny about that family. I knew it from the beginning, and I even told Kellan not to marry her so quickly. The boy didn’t listen to me. If they’d involved me in the whole Las Vargas and Castigliano showdown, things would’ve happened differently. At this point, I’m glad the trollop is back in Los Angeles and hopefully on her way to prison.

Oh my.  …Do you approve of his exciting sleuthing endeavors?  And, if so, might you like to be more involved?

I wholeheartedly approve of them. In fact, in most cases, I insisted he get involved. I pushed him to solve the first case when those grades changed and the baseball scout showed up. I demanded he look into Gwennie’s untimely death. I even set him up to deal with the flower show murder. The problem is … he’s doing too much. Kellan should be investigating crimes as his full-time job, but he needs to earn a living, so I understand why he’s still teaching and directing films. I would love to get more involved, and I have done so in my official role as the mayor. It’s my job to clear the hurdles and red tape when the sheriff tries to put her foot down and stop Kellan from investigating. I suspect I will get more involved in the next one. Did you hear the premonition that psychic lady made?

Do we believe it?  <wink>  Lastly, Mayor—Nana D—what are your views on family?  What do you hope for the Ayrwicks?

Violet needs to retire, so she and Wesley can travel the world together. Those two were meant to spend their future together. All my children have full and exciting lives. It’s time they just lived them and let me deal with the youngest generation. Above all, though, I want everyone to be happy. Eleanor seems to have met a nice, young man finally. She’ll probably screw that up soon. Hampton moved back home. I hear he’s already got himself into trouble with his father-in-law. Penelope and I never saw eye to eye. We had a disagreement years ago about her moving to New York, and I’m not sure she’s ever forgiven me. Gabriel, well, what can I say about Gabriel. I gave him the cottage, didn’t I? He might become my new buddy now that Kellan is so busy solving murders. I hope Gabrield and Sam stay together. It’s been a tough road for that boy, but I’m glad he finally told us the truth about his secret relationships. Long-distance ain’t easy. As for Kellan, well, I know he wants to give Emma a sibling, so I guess I hope he meets the right woman soon enough. Based on what I’ve started to see blossoming between him and the sheriff, it wouldn’t’ surprise me if … no … never mind. I shouldn’t say such foolish things out loud. Are we done yet? I need to get to a meeting to knock some sense into the town councilmen. Might need to slap someone’s bottom silly to get my point across, honey. Swift and fierce, that’s the only way to success.

Yes, we’re done.  You, Mayor Danby are indeed a force to be reckoned with.  Thanks so much for dropping by.  I wish you all the best in your political endeavors; I have no doubt you’ll do well and will accomplish much.  …And if you have any more banana flan, please feel free to drop it by!

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And for those of you interested in learning more about Kellan, her grandson—the accomplished amateur sleuth—please visit:

https://thisismytruthnow.com

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A Mayoral Conversation & Nana D’s Stupendous Banana Flan

Happy Saturday.  Not long ago we had a visit from Wharton County super sleuth Kellan Ayrwick.  As you may recall, he’s also a Braxton professor and single father.  A man of high standards and a staunch law conformist, he believes people should be held accountable for their actions.  That’s quite commendable.

Also commendable is the role Mayor Seraphina Danby—also known as Nana D—plays.  This important elected official wholeheartedly believes in setting a good example and leading Wharton County back to its glory days, but with a modern touch.

Please join us Wednesday, October 23rd when Nana D expounds upon her aims as mayor, notions on family, and perspectives re Kellan and sleuthing. WPkeyingredientDOTcom

Given Kellan’s love of desserts (and mine), on the way to a civic event, that lovely lady decided to drop off one of her favorites: banana flan.  How cool (nummy) is that?

Excuse me while I grab a fork and plate, and dash—hey guys, step aside, that slice is mine!!!

 

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An Interview with Braxton’s Brightest Sleuth

Ta-da!  He’s he-ere.  I’m thrilled to have Kellan Ayrwick from Wharton County visit today. In addition to serving as a part-time sleuth and single father, he’s a brilliant Braxton College professor who has also worked in TV.  He’s solved some exciting mysteries in a quaint and quiet part of Pennsylvania, Wharton County, where mob members, mystifying murders, and daunting ghosts are but a few of the challenges he’s encountered.

Without further ado . . . let’s get to know this dynamic sleuth that wee bit better.

Kellan Michael Ayrwick is such a distinguished name.  Would you please share the origins with us?

Absolutely. Thanks for asking. My first name is a bit unusual. I’m the middle child of five siblings. My parents wanted unique, older names for their children. I’ve been told they wanted it to start with that hard “c” or “k” sound, and they like repeated consonants, especially after a trip to Spain; hence, the double l. Just like in most Scottish and Irish families, children’s middle names come from their parents or grandparents. My older brother Hampton got my father’s name as his middle name, so when they chose mine, they went with Grandpa’s. He was Nana D’s husband, Michael Danby.

Ayrwick is a little more of a family story. My relatives originated in the town of Ayr in Scotland. They were candlemakers and, so, when the overseer and tax collector had to enumerate for our town, he’d listed it as Ayr, Wicks. Somehow, it was translated into Ayrwick on the official records when my ancestors immigrated to the United States.

Tell us what it’s like to be a professor, single father, and amateur sleuth.  Which role is the most challenging?  Why?

Being a single father is the most challenging. When I lived in Los Angeles, I relied on my in-laws, who often had their own ways of parenting. Trying to balance their styles with mine, without offending them anytime I’d suggest a different path, was not easy. I thought it’d get better when we moved back to Pennsylvania. Now, I have my parents and Nana D trying to tell me how to raise my daughter. They mean well, and I wouldn’t be able to survive without their help, but poor Emma is already turning into a mini Nana D. The world only needs one of them, right?

I obtained my PhD, but didn’t stay in academia in Los Angeles. I worked in Hollywood and learned all about the film industry. When I moved back to Pennsylvania and took the job as professor to help my dad out, I thought it was temporary. The opportunity to build a new film program at the school was too enticing, so now I’m back in academia full-time. I enjoy being able to work with young adults and new minds who love the entertainment business as much as I do, but I miss the challenge of solving complex puzzles.

I think that’s why I find being an amateur sleuth the most fun. Except for those few times where the killer almost succeeded in knocking me off too. I have high standards. Being able to hold people accountable for their actions is important to me. I obey the laws and dislike when others treat them carelessly.

If you could have pursued any profession, which would it have been?

I think I might have chosen the right one. Research is my expertise. I read people easily, and I know what questions to ask to find the right answers. Sometimes it takes a little longer than I’d like, and at others I am blindsided. But, ultimately, my instincts have been spot-on. If I went with a profession purely for fun and pleasure, I think I should’ve been a baker. I’d weigh three times as much and probably die sooner because I couldn’t stop eating all the time. But there’s a downside to every job, I suppose.

Did you do well in school?  What did you excel at?  What did you like most?

Do I really need to admit the truth here? I was a good student. I did well, but I was also the president of my fraternity and often got into a bit of trouble. I am great at anything that involves thinking and analyzing. I’m unusually smart when it comes to mechanical things, too. I can take almost anything apart and put it back together again. On the flip side, I wasn’t very strong in business classes and foreign languages. I don’t like to travel by plane, so it’s limited the places I can go. I never did have the ability to grasp grammar in other countries.

Who do you look up to?  Why?

Grandpop Michael, my mother’s father. He’s my idol. I love my father, but he focused more on my older brother. Grandpop Michael took me under his wing when I was a teenager, teaching me everything I know today. He was an honest man who understood people. He didn’t believe in acting tough, lying, or being ornery. There wasn’t a soul who disliked my grandpop, and that’s what I aim for every day of my life.

Which has proven your trickiest, most perplexing mystery (thus far)?

This ghost who’s been haunting my house. I can’t tell if (s)he’s real or fake. I never believed in that paranormal side of life, but after my experience in the spooky corn maze, my entire mindset has changed. I can solve a problem when I can talk to a person, ask questions, and get at the core of the situation. When I can’t actually connect with something tangible, I’m at a loss. Hopefully, I’ll solve it soon, as I really want to move into the new house without worrying about a ghost trying to kill me. Did you see the message (s)he left on the basement door?  WPghostgreenspace1DOTme

I did indeed—spoo-ookingly scary!   … Tell us, please, what do you like most about Wharton County?

It’s got the best of everything. Four seasons, even if I dislike the cold. Mountains, valleys, farms, rivers, lakes, forests, and an urban center. It’s only a few hundred square miles, and it’s relatively close to bigger cities like Philadelphia and Buffalo. Then again, you can hide out and never be found for years too. It’s the type of place to raise your children among family and friends who support one another. Up until recently, they had relatively few murders. I’m not sure what happened in the last six months since I returned. Maybe the ghost has been more active than we knew about.

There was quite a bit of hoopla surrounding Francesca’s death—including mobster ties.  Would you share a little about that?

It’s barely been three months. I think we’re all still recovering from that explosive reveal. I’m grateful that Emma has taken the news so well. It’s not every day that your mother comes back from the dead. If I had known my wife was part of a mob family, I might have thought twice before asking her to marry me. I always knew those Castiglianos were trouble, but I couldn’t have predicted this outcome. We lost a family member in that mob war last summer. It doesn’t matter who did what, death is never easy. After it happened, I spent days with my daughter, ensuring she recovered from being kidnapped by that crazed villain. It’s only now that I see shades of my daughter returning back to her innocent youth.

What has been the most precious or special moment in your life?

Definitely the day Emma was born. After her, I think reconnecting with my family after a decade’s absence. We kept in touch and visited once a year, but it never felt the same. It’s taken a few months, but I now feel like we’re ready to trust one another again. It’s not like anything major happened to separate us … just that family is incredibly important. Sometimes you don’t realize something until you almost lose it.

What’s your greatest achievement?

If we’re speaking outside of family events, I think accomplishing so much in such a short-time period. I’ve worked in Hollywood, become a professor who specializes in film studies, joined the team to convert Braxton from a college to a university, and solved seven murders. I couldn’t choose between any of those, but being able to balance all of it together and raise my daughter, now that’s something to be proud of. I never put that all together until just now. Thank you for making me see it was such an achievement.

Do you have any regrets—about anything?

Grandpop Michael always told me not to regret the things I’ve done. Every action has consequences, and if you change even the slightest, the ripple effect is beyond anyone’s understanding. That said, if I could change a few things about the past, I’d probably try to stop Gabriel from leaving Braxton years ago. Too much happened to our family that changed the landscape of our future. I’m glad to have him back, but we lost more than five years of being brothers. That’s a lot of time, especially when we were once so close.

What floats your boat?

Are we talking literally or figuratively? I don’t own a boat, so I’m assuming you mean figuratively. That’s easy. Desserts. I will do anything for dessert. I can’t help it. I have uncontrollable cravings, and since it’s not caused any problems with my health, I will continue to devour any and all desserts. I have noticed my workouts need to happen more frequently, and I am occasionally defying the limits of gravity with my clothing. If for any reason my health or the size of my pants were to change, I’d cut back. I love having a racing horse for a metabolism. Until that time things change, my boat floats to desserts. Got anything new for me to try?

<LOL>  I’ll let you know later.  Last question, Kellan: who is your favorite detective?  Why?

If I don’t say April or Connor, am I in trouble? Please let the record show, they are my favorites. If you torture me to say another name, I’d admit to loving Sherlock Holmes. He’s arrogant but clever. People sometimes think I’m a little too sarcastic, but it’s different when you hear me speak. I’m witty and funny and light about it … I’m never mean-spirited, and I often laugh at myself. A few people have written opinions about me (I won’t name names) that I seem banal or pretentious. Nothing could be further from the truth. I just tend to be a little humorous rather than so serious all the time.

Awesome.  Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and share. 

For those of you not familiar with Kellan’s sleuthing, I highly recommend you check out:

♦  Academic Curveball  ♦  Broken Heart Attack  ♦  Flower Power Trip  ♦  Mistaken Identity Crisis  ♦  Haunted House Ghost

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Curious to learn more?  Please visit these two awesome sites: https://jamesjcudney.com and https://thisismytruthnow.com.

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By the by, Kellan’s charming grandmother and go-getting mayor, Nana D, will be here on the 23rd of this month! 

Head’s Up

October 9th is riding in like a frenetic witch on a motorized broom—and it’s proving to be positively spoo-ooky in Wharton County, Pennsylvania.

That day, I’m quite pleased, if not tickled pink, to feature one of my favorite amateur sleuths: Kellan Michael Ayrwick.  In addition to detecting part-time, he’s an accomplished Braxton College professor who has worked extensively in TV—surely you’ve seen the popular show Dark Reality?  Most importantly perhaps, Kellan is the loving single father of Emma, a clever and most charming girl of six going on sixteen, as he likes to teasingly state.

Please drop by for an enlightening and entertaining interview … discover fascinating family facts and learn which “case”, to date, has proven the most challenging for our budding sleuth.

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Spoo-ooky!

The latest Braxton Campus Mystery Haunted House Ghost by James J. Cudney IV—Jay—is the best yet.  Okay, I’m [particularly] partial to haunted houses—not those with grotesque demons or hideous monsters, but ones with ghosts (real or otherwise).  It’s fun to follow a detective, professional or non, as he or she solves mysterious ghastly goings-on.  And all the better if a creepy cemetery, bumps [or howls] in the night, and a skeleton or two enter the picture, uh, plot.

Jay has always proven to be a solid writer with interesting tales to tell.  There’s also a definite evolution in talent/skill.  Intense depth and details twine through Haunted House Ghost, painting superbly vivid pictures and characters.  You see and experience all that Kellan, the protagonist, does: shivers upon sensing “something” in an old house, pride and protectiveness as only a father can possess, and frustration that uncooperative (if not downright loopy) people may encourage.

What a great time to release the book—a few weeks from Hallowe’en.  If this book doesn’t get you into the mood for ghouls and goblins, pumpkin pie and candy corn, nothing will.

This isn’t an official review, but two thumb’s up to Jay—he’s penned a tight, fun, and entertaining mystery.  If you relish stories featuring amateur sleuths, Haunted House Ghost is a must for you.

Have a spookingly enjoyable read!

And please check out Jay at these sites . . .

https://jamesjcudney.com      https://thisismytruthnow.com

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Jumping on the Blog Tour Bandwagon

The Writer’s Grab-Bag isn’t a stop on the book tour, and the original plan was to wait until the end  . . .  but what the heck?  Let’s aim for sooner than later.

James J. Cudney IV—Jay—has a fourth book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries called Mistaken Identity Crisis.  I had an opportunity to read it a wee while back and thoroughly enjoyed it, as I did the others.  It has all the elements of a cozy— an affable protagonist [with adorable young daughter], likable regulars, a host of suspects, and the putting-together-the-pieces-of-the-puzzle mystery. WPJay3

Kellan is a Braxton professor and amateur sleuth.  He has a supportive family, love interest, and eccentric in-your-face grandmother you gotta love. The case officially begins when a missing ruby is found near an electrified dead body during the campus cable-car redesign project.  Not only must Kellan must locate the real killer to protect his brother, he has a delicate if not dangerous personal family matter to resolve.  Add a sundry of jewel thefts to the murder, feuding mobsters, and you have a thrilling, fun whodunit.

Come visit Wharton County.  Get to know the townspeople.  Learn how Nana D does as the new mayor.  Follow Kellan as he sorts through the suspect list . . . and solves the case.

A worthwhile read, my friends.  Enjoy!

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Learn more about Jay’s books at https://jamesjcudney.com.