Friday, March 11, 2016

Author Cheryl Hollon’s Exciting Adventure While Researching

It’s a pleasure today to welcome author Cheryl Hollon to Thoughts in Progress to talk about her most exciting adventure while doing research for her Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery series.

SHARDS OF MURDER, the second book in Cheryl’s series, was published by Kensington in February. Here’s a brief synopsis of it:

When a glass-making competition turns deadly, glass shop owner Savannah Webb must search for a window into a criminal's mind…
As the new proprietor of Webb's Glass Shop, Savannah has been appointed to fill her late father's shoes as a judge for the Spinnaker Arts Festival, held in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. With her innovative glass works, the clear winner is Megan Loyola, a student of Savannah's former mentor.
But when Megan doesn't show up to accept her $25,000 award, rumors start flying. And when Savannah discovers the woman's dead body on festival grounds, the police immediately suspect her of murder. To keep from appearing before a judge herself, Savannah sorts through the broken pieces of glass scattered around the victim for clues as to who took this killer competition too far. . .

Please join me in giving Cheryl a warm welcome to Thoughts in Progress. Welcome, Cheryl.

What was the most exciting research adventure for your Webb’s Glass Shop Mysteries?

I’m one of those writers that need to have first-hand experience with what I’m writing. Not murder, of course, but in the daily activities of my characters. For a future Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery, I plan for Savannah to take an ocean cruise. She will be a last-minute substitute for a team member that works on a cruise ship giving glass blowing demonstrations. 

So naturally, I needed to know all about that. In January, I booked a cruise on Celebrity Eclipse that offer glass blowing demonstrations on the upper deck. It was a five-day cruise that left out of Miami and stopped at Nassau and Cozumel then returned to Miami.

The Corning Museum of Glass collaborates with Celebrity Cruises to tell the world about glass. Three of Celebrity Cruises' line of Solstice class ships (Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Equinox, and Celebrity Eclipse) include a permanent hot shop on the top deck of the ship.

At sea the first evening, I was disappointed that the glass demonstration was canceled due to high winds. But the next day, the seas were calm and I made my way up to the seating area in front of the hot shop. Except that it turns out that the hot shop on these ships are not so typical at all.

The hot shop aboard the ship operates under a unique restriction. They cannot use an open flame. A major part of creating a mouth blown glass piece is to keep the work in progress at a high temperature so that it doesn’t cool too quickly and shatter. On land, this is handled with a blowtorch that heats up the piece as needed. However, on the cruise ships, all the equipment is heated by electricity. No flames are permitted.

This restriction causes the gaffer (the lead glassblower in charge of creating an artwork) to use an electric furnace to keep the glass at the right temperature. This means that even on a sweltering hot Caribbean afternoon, the gaffer can only work on the piece for a little over a minute at a time before putting it back in the furnace for re-heating. Talk about lots of exercise. Add to this that the tropics are plagued with unexpected gusts of wind and rain. The challenges are such that each gaffer is required to train in a special studio at the Corning facility for several weeks before they can join a team on board the ship. 

Teams of three glassblowers serve on the ships for an average of three months with staggered arrivals and departures so that each team has at least two members that are familiar with the operation. Most of them have more than ten years’ experience and enjoy making pieces in a non-production style venue. At each demonstration, the gaffers take turns making at least one artwork each. Since Corning sponsors the hot glass show, they don’t sell the pieces – they auction them off and donate the funds to a charity.

This was the most enjoyable research I’ve done so far for Webb’s Glass Shop Mysteries. What is the next dream research location? Italy, of course!

Cheryl, thanks for joining us today and sharing this research adventure. Learning about glassblowing itself would be an adventure for me, much less on a cruise ship, oh my!

Now for those who aren’t familiar with Cheryl, here’s a bit of background on her.

Author Cheryl Hollon
Cheryl Hollon writes full time after she left an engineering career designing and building military flight simulators in amazing countries such as England, Wales, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan and India. 

She is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and the Tampa Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. A mystery conference addict, she regularly attends SleuthFest in Florida, Malice Domestic in Washington, D.C., and New England Crime Bake in Dedham, MA. 

Fulfilling the dream of a lifetime, Cheryl combines her love of writing with a passion for creating glass art. She and her husband George live in St. Petersburg, FL in a 1920’s Craftsman Bungalow. In the small glass studio behind the house, Cheryl and George design, create, and produce fused glass, stained glass and painted glass artworks. 

The Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery series includes PANE& SUFFERING and SHARDSOF MURDER.

For more on Cheryl and her writing, visit her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks so much for stopping by today during Cheryl’s visit. Do you enjoy doing research? What grand adventure would you like to go on in the name of research?


  1. I've been on a cruise and I don't remember a glass blower. Either my ship didn't have one or I missed it. Bummer.
    You know how to do research right, Cheryl.
    And congratulations on the second book in the series.

  2. Glass blowing is so fascinating. That was probably a good idea they didn't allow and open flame on the cruise ship.

    1. The gaffers got a lot of exercise getting up from the chair to go to the furnace every minute or so. It took much longer to create a piece.

  3. What a cruise! And so interesting to learn about glass blowing, too. Thanks for sharing, both.

  4. Cheryl, I'm so excited to 'see' you here! I sat next to you at the recent Poisoned Pen Breakfast at Left Coast Crime. And I enjoyed talking with you so much and hearing about your books. We both enjoyed talking with Mary Anna Evans, I think. Anyway, I'm planning on reading your books very soon and I'll send you an email when I have a review up. I find glassblowing really amazing. I've seen people working and creating glass items in Oregon and Hot Springs, Arkansas, and probably other places as well. Just amazing to me.

    Good to hear about your research on the cruise ship. Boats are not for me, but I do hope you get to do some more research in Italy. Lovely.

    1. Hi Kay! I have admired Mary Anna Evans from afar for a long time. It was a treat to talk to her. Thanks for planning on reading Webb's Glass Shop Mysteries.

    2. I enjoyed talking to you two, too. And I was so excited to learn about Cheryl's books!

    3. I enjoyed talking to you two, too. And I was so excited to learn about Cheryl's books!

  5. How fascinating. Glass fascinates me, and the resident glass blower was always a huge treat on 'open days' at my father's workplace. I had never considered the difficulties with a no flame rule.
    And, yet another book to yearn for. Thank you. I think.

  6. I always thought it would be inspiring to live in Florida as a writer!

    1. Something about the heat and sunshine -- I don't know, but there are a LOT of writers here.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.