I promised you I would highlight authors whose books I feel are well worth the read, and books by Anna Celeste Burke are well worth the read. I recently read her latest book, Murder at Catmmando Mountain, and knew I had to bring it to your attention. It’s wonderful on a number of different levels: characters you want more of, crisp dialogue, a believable plot, and most of all, at least for me, the charm of a theme park. At least, the kid in me sure loved it! I asked the author if she would write the backstory on it and here it is. Don’t miss the part about her being a chef at a theme park. The lady knows whereof she speaks!
When you wish upon a star
In Murder at Catmmando Mountain, Georgie Shaw works for the “Cat” at the “Cat Factory.” A famous cartoon cat, Catmmando Tom, to be more precise. Years ago I used to work for the “Mouse” at the “Mouse Factory,” our affectionate insider terms for roles at Walt Disney Company. Coincidence? No, completely contrived.
Drawing on Mark Twain’s insistence that writers should “write what you know,” those early experiences at the company that Mickey Mouse built, left a lasting impression. Only eighteen-years-old, my position as a Culinary Assistant at Walt Disney World was my first real job. Growing up in a large family I had already done a lot of odd jobs by then: babysitting, cleaning houses, tutoring, selling Avon, breeding fruit flies in a genetics lab used in experiments to extract DNA. I did say “odd” jobs.
Working in a theme park has its unusual moments too! “Too much pixie dust,” was a phrase we used for coworkers who got a little too much into the roles they played. That didn’t just happen to individuals charged with bringing Disney’s beloved cartoon characters to life either. Daily exposure to all the unbridled Disneyesque happiness, especially in the theme park, could push just about anyone to the brink of “pixelation.”
I didn’t work at Disney long—five years before returning to college and moving on to life as a professor. Warned that I might regret the decision to leave the “Disney Family,” I left on good terms with “readoption papers” on file. What a unique introduction to the world of work for a young woman.
Perhaps made more poignant by that fact that I grew up under the spell of Disney memes and myths. In Southern California in the fifties and sixties, Disney’s influence was everywhere. Not just on Sunday night television in Technicolor, but in Anaheim, not far from where I lived in San Diego. The “Disneyfication” of childhood awaited, brought to life in the Magic Kingdom. Princes and princesses, fairy godmothers, fairies, adventurers—some drawn from real life and others fantastical creations were everywhere. The list of animated yarns spun by Disney goes on and on: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Dumbo, Pinocchio and Peter Pan.
I wanted to believe a boy could fly. When I ran off at 17 with my prince charming, a high school dropout, and rock musician, there was an element of Wendy and Peter Pan to it. Made more believable by the fact that our destination was Hawaii, a place that bore more than a passing resemblance to Never-Neverland in my mind. When the rock band broke up, we found refuge in the happiest place on earth. As Culinary Assistants, we didn’t make much money, but we did eat!
I didn’t know it until much later, “Uncle Walt,” as we were asked to call him, had his problems. The entire Uncle Walt thing wreaks of paternalism, doesn’t it? Financial problems, bankruptcy, mental health issues, hypersensitivity to perceived slights, problems with labor relations, and a man who embroiled himself in McCarthy-era witch hunts against colleagues in the motion pictures industry. For a man who promoted a view of the world as a happy, magical place, he also experienced some incredibly bad luck at times. Like buying a brand new home for his parents that turned out to have a carbon monoxide leak, killing his beloved mother and putting his father in the hospital.
He dreamed big and made dreaming big seem possible for us all.
“When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you.”
Music to my ears. I fell for it hook, line, and sinker! You never know where life is going to take you, though, do you? Maybe Walt Disney and his fascination with science and technology showcased on TV and in “Tomorrow Land” influenced my decision to leave Disney and become a behavioral scientist at a university.
Retired now, I have often wondered what my life might have been like if I’d stayed at Disney. Hired with basic training from a short stint in cooking courses, Walt Disney World University trained me in their cooking school. I was one of the first women put into a leadership role in a Disney hotel kitchen. Like my character, Georgie Shaw, who joins Marvelous Marley World straight out of cooking school, in the 70s professional kitchens were male domains.
In Murder at Catmmando Mountain, Georgie tells a story about a red-faced chef waving a French knife and hollering “You do that like a housewife!” That line is taken straight from my real life. That angry European chef was yelling at a man in the kitchen, not me, so he intended it as a huge insult. Georgie Shaw, like me, starts out in the kitchen, working for the Cat at Marvelous Marley World. Only she sticks it out, moves out of the kitchen, but makes a career for herself at Marvelous Marley World in Food and Beverage Management. In fact, when I returned to college my original intent was to do the same. Move out of the kitchen and into management.
Inspired by my stint at Walt Disney World, how much of the story in Murder at Catmmando Mountain is true? Arcadia Park, the setting for murder and mystery, is imaginary meant as an homage to the Disney theme parks. Arcadia Park picks up on the nature theme showcased on Sunday night on Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, reimagined in an idyllic artificial and fanciful way. Some elements of my imaginary theme park come from my memories of the real thing.
Yes, at Disney World as in Arcadia Park, tunnels run beneath the surface of the park and efforts are made to camouflage exits that lead “backstage” to the underground city. Disney’s beloved characters and other cast members come and go through those hidden doors. Deliveries are brought into restaurants and shops that way, too. A system whisks away garbage taking it underground, only one cutting edge technology Disney introduced to run the Magic Kingdoms efficiently. Because of the underground conduits, no garbage or delivery trucks rumble through the park above ground to spoil the illusions created to entertain guests.
Future stories in the Georgie Shaw Cozy Mystery series will conger up new visions of life at Marvelous Marley World inspired by the genius of Walt Disney and his more business-minded brother, Roy. Walt Disney had passed on by the time I worked for the mouse, but efforts were made to hang on to the spirit of “imagineering” he set loose upon baby boomers everywhere. Was he megalomaniacal like “Mad” Max Marley in my Georgie Shaw series? It depends on who you talk to about Uncle Walt.
Was there ever a murder in the Disney theme park? No, not while I worked at the park and resorts. Even in the happiest place on earth, however, bad things happen, and death comes calling. In book 1, Georgie, who has abandoned her first love—food—to work in PR, talks about the many things that can and do go wrong even in magical places like Max Marley’s Arcadia Park. Many items on her list are incidents that occur in parks and resorts everywhere.
In Murder at Catmmando Mountain, Georgie Shaw faces about the worst thing imaginable in a theme park: Murder on Valentine’s Day! A PR nightmare, for sure. To make matters worse, someone implicates her in the crime. Another tenet of the “Disney Way,” however, is that some good may come from even the most challenging situations. For Georgie Shaw, good arrives in the form of the handsome, 50-something Detective Jack Wheeler. Leading the murder investigation, he sweeps into Georgie’s life, stirring up old issues and bringing new possibilities. Can Georgie free herself from her past?
Book 2 in the Georgie Shaw series, Love Notes in the Key of Sea takes Georgie and Jack to Corsario Cove on California’s Central Coast. More than memories haunt Georgie when she returns to the place where she grew up, and the love of her life disappeared. What happened to Danny Farrell? Could he still be alive after so many years? A new mystery brought Georgie and Jack together, will that old one drive them apart? Love Notes in the Key of Sea will be available for preorder in May, as part of a collection of summer beach reads. Set for release June 28th.
Book 3, All Hallow’s Eve in Arcadia Park, will be out fall, 2016. Georgie will have some big news, and there will also be more murder and mayhem at Marvelous Marley World. Can you imagine what kind of mischief might unfold on All Hallow’s Eve if the guests are in costume as well as the park staff and Marvelous Marley World characters?
I suppose a bit of pixie dust remains from my experience in the Mouse Factory. So, now I’m a mystery fiction writer—still dreaming big and wishing upon a star. I hope you’ll join me in my new adventure! You can find Murder at Catmmando Mountain on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback format at http://smarturl.it/georgie1
When you have a chance, I’d like to introduce you to Jessica Huntington. Her mystery stories are set in the beautiful Coachella Valley near Palm Springs. Jessica is a rich, 30-something, angst-ridden amateur sleuth who finds her privileged life turned upside down by a ruthlessly unfaithful husband. An unconventional sleuth with a fairy godmother complex, she learns the hard way that money can’t buy happiness or save your neck!
Books in The Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery series:
A Dead Husband http://smarturl.it/deadhus
A Dead Sister http://smarturl.it/deadsis
A Dead Daughter http://smarturl.it/deadsis
A Dead Mother out later this year
And the prequel to the series:
Love a Foot Above the Ground http://smarturl.it/loveabove
I’d also like to invite you to read Cowabunga Christmas! http://smarturl.it/cove1. The first book in the Corsario Cove Cozy Mystery Series features 20-something sleuths, Brien and Kim. Two characters who meet in the Jessica Huntington series, they’re young, in love, on their honeymoon, and a bit impulsive. The setting in Corsario Cove is perfect, except for the dead Santa in the swimming pool at the exclusive Sanctuary Resort & Spa!
Kim and Brien’s excellent honeymoon adventure continues inBook 2, Gnarly New Year, available for preorder in May, for release in June.
Again, I hope all of you enjoy her works as much as I do. Believe, it’s time well spent!