Chicago author's new murder-mystery set in Geneva
Chicago author JB Michaels admits he has a soft spot in his heart for Geneva.
After all, he married Ashley Pedersen, a Geneva resident he met through online dating, and ultimately came to love not only his wife but also the town she lived in.
One might say he has a bit of an odd way of showing it, considering he's made Geneva and its annual Christmas festival the backdrop for his latest book -- a murder mystery titled "The Christmas Walk Caper."
Michaels, whose books have been on USA Today's bestseller list twice, will be at the Little Traveler from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, and noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, during Christmas Walk weekend to sign copies of his new book.
"I actually developed a strong affinity toward Geneva long before I'd met Ashley," said Michaels, who lives on the Southwest Side of Chicago with Ashley and their son. "My mom and sisters would go shopping and get lunch in Geneva, and then I visited and just fell in love with the town."
The Little Traveler stuck out, like it does for so many visitors, and Michaels made it part of his book under the name of "The Tiny Wanderer."
The book is something Geneva businessman and Little Traveler owner Mike Simon never thought he'd see.
"It's a murder mystery, and it's the owner of The Tiny Wanderer who gets murdered," Simon said. "Fortunately, the owner character is not based on me."
Simon calls the book "a fun, funny, quick read with lots of Geneva places and things mentioned."
The books are in stock at The Little Traveler now for those who may want a copy before Christmas Walk. All of Michaels' books are available on Amazon as well.
It's not the first time Michaels has staged a book signing at The Little Traveler. He was there in the fall of 2015 to sign his first book, "The Tannebaum Tailors and the Secret Snowball."
Since then, Michaels has made a point to try to be at The Little Traveler every two years or so, a scenario he says is possible only because "the staff and Mike Simon have always been so welcoming and wonderful to me."
For those wondering about the book, Michaels says that Ashley actually convinced him to get into the cozy mystery genre, as they are both big fans of "The Thin Man" characters Nick and Nora Charles and the TV show "Castle."
"We collaborated on the idea of setting a murder mystery in Geneva during Christmas Walk, and you can't write about Third Street without The Little Traveler," he said. "Hence, The Tiny Wanderer became the base of operations for one of the two protagonists in the book, Mac O'Malley."
For now, Michaels is just preparing for a fun night in Geneva during its wildly popular Christmas Walk. He's won six awards from Readers' Favorite International Books Awards and National Indie Excellence, as well as earning a recommendation from Kirkus Review.
Whether "The Christmas Walk Caper" can earn him some other honors remains to be seen. But he is certain there is some special karma at work on this one.
"Ashley and I had our early dates on Third Street, and I did actually profess my love to her on Third Street as well."
Mr. Rogers and Daddio's:
Daddio's Diner in Batavia has a soft spot in its heart for Mr. Rogers and the opening of the new movie "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," in which Tom Hanks plays Fred Rogers.
The diner at 134 W. Wilson St. kicked off its own promotion, "It's a Beautiful Day in OUR Neighborhood," by noting it was collecting nonperishable food for the Batavia Interfaith Pantry.
But in a toast to Fred Rogers, the diner also is offering various meal specials, such as "It's You I Like" and "King Friday XII."
And, in an interesting touch, those who come in donning a red Cardigan sweater like Fred Rogers, will get a free cup of coffee. Daddio's has tabbed this as its "Red Sweater Project."
"The kickoff event was a success last weekend," said Kristi Beltran of Daddio's. "We are collecting food throughout the holiday season and are hoping the Red Sweater Project spreads more giving, joy and kindness all season long."
Phones and kettles:
The Salvation Army bell ringers and their red kettles are out in force now for the important stretch run to Christmas Eve.
For several decades, those kettles have been stuffed with the extra cash that shoppers had in their pockets. Over time, fewer of us carry a lot of cash. It hasn't been as necessary as more credit and debit card products became available, as well as methods to pay using your smartphone.
So, here's a reminder that Salvation Army kettles have advanced right along with that technology by adding what is known as a Near Field Communication sticker to the kettles. Those NFC stickers allow people to make a cashless donation by tapping their phones and using Apple Pay or Google Pay to make a donation. The user taps the sticker, then enters the amount of the donation on their phone screen.
Older model phones will be able to scan a quick-response, or QR, code and make the donation through a credit card.
Ribs and hardware:
It wasn't the normal setting one would expect for a "barbecue trailer" or food truck, but the Team FIB truck had been quite popular in the parking lot of the Menard's home improvement store in Batavia along Randall Road.
Menard's and Team FIB agreed to a contract that allowed the truck to sell its barbecue ribs, pulled pork, beans, mac and cheese and other delights three days a week for the past two months.
It was somewhat open-ended as to how long the Team FIB truck would be part of the Menard's shopping experience, as the weather was going to play the key role. I did not see the truck there this past week, so it could be something the store may bring to us again in warmer weather.
Qualifies as crazy?:
It sounded like a great idea about six weeks ago. My brother-in-law called and said he was going to surprise my sister by bringing her into Chicago for the Bears game against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night, Dec. 5. He wanted me to go as well, and I said yes. My wife was smart enough to say no thanks.
Since then, of course, the Bears are playing football no better than my elementary school team from the early 1960s. As such, there is no real desire to watch them. Not even on TV.
To add insult to injury, the weather got bitter cold in early November, a signal that the same thing could happen again this week. That would make it even more undesirable.
But my sister and her husband are coming in from Albuquerque to brave the weather and to watch their favorite team, the Cowboys. That team has plenty of flaws as well, so maybe it will be an interesting match.
You have to be brave, and maybe a little crazy, to venture to a night game at Soldier Field at this time of year to watch a mediocre team.
Someone must think those are maybe two of my stronger traits.