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Deb Baker as Hannah Reed on Bees, Books and Murder

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My guest today is Deb Baker, aka Hannah Reed, author of the Queen Bee mystery series. Welcome to OpEdNews, Deb. This is not your first series. Where did the beekeeper backstory come from? 

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photo credit: James G Baker, Jr. 

I have my agent to thank for that. We were brainstorming ideas one day and when she suggested a beekeeping mystery, I knew it was perfect for me.

You've created what certainly looks like an authentic beekeeping business and pepper your books with so many interesting facts about bees and the making of honey. Were you already well-versed on the subject or did you pick it up on the fly?

The first thing I did was contact my local beekeeping association and since it was spring, I had the opportunity to participate in introducing honeybees and queens to new hives. The research has been fascinating and a bit sad, considering all the diseases and parasites those valuable insects have to deal with.

What have you learned along the way? Share some juicy bee facts with us.

The first amazing fact I discovered during my research is that honeybees are gentle and inquisitive, nothing like the aggressive yellow jacket they are so often mistaken for. I found that out the very first time I visited an apiary. Within minutes, I was covered with honeybees, landing on my sleeved arms, shoulders, long pants, and not a single one stung me! Love at first sight.

And honeybees have such an important place in nature - pollinating our flowering plants as they scout for nectar and pollen, gifting us with bountiful crops and medicinal and delicious honey. Truly amazing.

It's one thing to fall in love with bees and another to create a credible storyline that includes them. How did Story Fischer, the Wild Clover market and all the bee-related products and recipes come together for you?

One of the most important writing lessons I learned, going way back, was that I have to really like and respect my protagonist. So I created a strong, determined young woman, who owns a small town Wisconsin grocery store, and is surrounded by family members and former classmates - some likable, some not so. And since a patch of clover is like heaven to a honeybee, the name of Story's store and the placement of honey products on the shelves fit naturally. It's been fun to introduce and educate the fictitious locals (and my readers) to the world of honeybees. Besides, what better place to sleuth for clues to mysteries than in a community gathering place like The Wild Clover:)

While Ms. Fischer educates her neighbors about bees, you're able to do the same with the readers. Besides for being underappreciated, I understand that bees are currently in crisis. Is that too strong a statement, Deb?

Their plight couldn't be more serious. Honeybees have been inflicted with Colony Collapse Disorder (C.C.D.), a phenomenon that destroys entire hives. Foraging bees simply don't return to their hives. Blame has been cast in every direction- a virus, fungus, mites, a combination, cell-phone signals that affect navigation - but, in the final analysis,  it appears that humans are the culprits. A new class of pesticides called neonicotinoids is being used to treat seeds and crops, and scientific experiments are proving that these pesticides are killing our honeybees. And since honeybees pollinate almonds, berries, fruits, and vegetables, they (and we) really are in crisis!  

You take this quite seriously. I see your website lists several projects that people can get involved in. Can you tell us about them?  

Two are particularly close to my heart. The Great Sunflower Project tracks honeybee populations. Every spring 50,000+ of us plant sunflowers and during particular time periods, we log honeybee visits to give scientists important regional population data. The second is Haagen Dazs Ice Cream. They've partnered with researchers and activists, and have a cool website where you can get involved in many ways. Links for more information can be found at my website. I encourage you to consider making a small contribution.

Sounds good. What's ahead for Story Fischer, Deb?   Is she going to run out of ornery neighbors and challenging family relationships any time soon?

Story's adventures will continue through at least three more books. Beeline to Trouble, book four, comes out December 4th and I'm writing Beewitched for next year's release. Luckily, Story's hometown is alive with visitors and tourists, plenty of folks to kill off in the future. Readers have asked me to give just desserts to a few nasty locals, so that's on the agenda too, as well as more facts about the wonderful society of honeybees.

my haul of local bee-ware from Skokie farmer's market
photo credit: Cindy Pollack

Fabulous! As if you're not busy enough, I understand that you have several other series going on. Can you tell us what else you've been working on that could possibly be as fascinating as the world of beekeeping?

As Deb Baker, I write a long standing mystery series set in the Michigan Upper Peninsula and featuring a 60ish female sleuth. Murder Passes the Buck was the first, and is available free right now as an ebook download (although Barnes and Noble has been slow to update*). Recently, I've also been contracted to write a three-book series set in the Scottish Highlands, and that one promises plenty of action and of course a murder or two or three.

Hmmm, this 60ish female sleuth sounds intriguing - I can certainly identify with her! What haven't we talked about yet? Any last thoughts before we wrap this up?

Let's finish on a positive note - we've seen an influx of new beekeepers, from New York rooftops to Washington backyards. While not all of us want to or should raise honeybees, we can do our part by limiting the number of pesticides we use and growing bee-friendly flowers. Thank you so much for this opportunity!

Thank you so much for talking with me, Deb. This was a lot of fun. You keep writing and I'll keep reading! 

Deb's blog

* Deb says: Unfortunately, Barnes and Noble has been slow in adding the free edition to their catalog, so if you have a Nook, please continue to check there for your freebie. 
Special thanks to Cindy Pollack for help with honey photo when she should have been doing her homework. 

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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