Artful Dodging: the Torpedo Factory Murders

I’ve got M.S. Spencer on the blog today talking about a very unique setting for her book.

Here’s Ms. Spencer!

You’ll encounter misdirection, misfits, and miscreants in my contemporary romantic suspense novel Artful Dodging: the Torpedo Factory Murders. Set in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, I chose the setting for a number of good reasons, one of which is it’s my home.


Although I grew up in a small Maryland town that proudly declared itself the first summer resort for Washington, DC and then a hundred years later the first nuclear free-zone in the U.S., when I returned to the area years later, I settled in Virginia. This rattled my mother, who believed the only inhabitants in that other state bordering DC were Gog and Magog. Nonetheless, I found Old Town Alexandria to be a charming colonial city on (and sometimes under) the Potomac River. Packed with historic houses, cobblestoned streets, and ghosts, it’s a tourist’s dream, especially attractive at the end of a long day when the sidewalk restaurants beckon.


Old Town is sprinkled with oddly shaped, often unmarked structures, some of which cried out to be included in a story. For instance, Milo and Tristram meet in O’Connell’s, where the bar and booths are salvaged from Irish churches, monasteries and castles. A sunken circular wood trail where Milo and Tekla walk is the roundabout for a railroad that ran right through the town past the Torpedo Factory Art Center (where Milo discovers the victims). The strange brick tunnel to nowhere on Wilkes Street near Tristram’s house is the spot where the tracks made a ninety-degree turn and headed south to Orange, Virginia.

The Torpedo Factory itself has a remarkable history. Originally a Naval torpedo factory, the building, which sits smack dab on the main waterfront, lay abandoned after World War II. In the 1970s an intrepid band of local ladies convinced the City of Alexandria to lease it to them for an art center. Today it houses 82 studios, the Art League, the Friends of the Torpedo Factory, and an Archaeology center. Not to mention a couple of torpedoes and a few eccentric souls. In Artful Dodging, I introduce you to Milo Everhart and her merry band of artists. Milo makes beautiful needlepoint and her friend Tekla Spirikova makes large metal cones. Together they fight City Hall (literally) when it wants to give their beloved Torpedo Factory Art Center away. Things get complicated when their greatest adversary turns out to be the man Milo loves, and even more complicated when too many murder victims turn up. Read all about it in my best selling Artful Dodging: the Torpedo Factory Murders.




Waiting out the rain, Milo Everhart takes stock of her widowhood and the handsome man standing in the door to the bar.  Little does she know she will meet that man again and again under both passionate and terrifying circumstances.

Tristram Brody waits for his date, too conscious of the beautiful woman sitting by the door. Little does he know that she will hate him for trying to destroy her beloved art center, and even suspect him of murder. Nor that she will be drawn inevitably into his arms.

Little does either of them suspect they will be embroiled in not one, but two murders, in which the fate of the Torpedo Factory, an art center housed in an old munitions factory on the waterfront in Old Town Alexandria, will be decided.

EXCERPT (PG): The First Meeting


The bartender backed out past the man, who made no move to get out of his way. Milo frowned. The fellow appeared oblivious to the fact that his position inconvenienced everyone. At first she’d assumed he was waiting out the rain, but his body language said expectant. Every minute or so he’d poke his head out and look up and down King Street.

For lack of anything more exciting to do, she fell to observing him. The top of his head brushed the door jamb, making him about six feet three inches. His bulk didn’t jibe with his height though. She guessed him to weigh in at maybe 175 pounds stripped. He was undeniably her type—lean, trim, tall, clean-shaven—none of that painted-on five-o’clock shadow male celebrities sported nowadays. And old enough for once. Maybe forty? She could only see his profile at the moment, which revealed thick black hair curling over his ears, slices of silver gray relieving the dark waves at the temple, a straight nose, moderately rosy—from drink? Or the cold?—and a forceful chin. Without warning he pivoted and Milo caught the full impact of a deeply masculine face right in the kisser. Whew. Even with the Armani suit, definitely not gay.

He tapped a highly polished Gucci loafer with impatience and pulled out a pocket watch. By this time Milo had dropped all pretence and openly scrutinized her subject. He thrust the watch back in his pocket with a scowl and spun around toward the bar, almost colliding with Tony. He took Milo’s glass from the startled bartender. “Thanks, just what the doctor ordered.”

Milo began to rise in protest. Tony looked at her and the man followed his gaze in surprise. He held up the whiskey. “Er, I take it this isn’t for me?”

Milo tried to come up with a flip response but his rich baritone rattled her. Tony stepped between them. “Yes, Sir, that drink belongs to the lady. May I get you something?”

The man didn’t answer. He stared at Milo more or less the way she was staring at him. Flustered, she plopped back down on the narrow bench, barely avoiding an embarrassing slide to the floor. He continued to stare. She resisted the impulse to pat her short fawn-colored ringlets which always appeared tousled no matter what she did, and blinked. He blinked back. Finally she blurted out, “Would you care to join me?”

He shook his head as though to clear it and replied, “Thank you. Forgive me—I’ve never seen such lovely eyes…I mean, eyes that color…I mean…sorry, what would you call them? Mahogany? Bronze?” His admiring gaze did wonders for Milo’s discomfiture and her mood took a decided uptick.

“I just call them brown. But thank you.”

 “I’m sorry about purloining your drink. Can I buy you a freshener in restitution?” 

“Okay. Did you want to sit down?”

“I’d better not. I’m waiting for someone.”

“Oh.” His plight, though not unexpected, depressed her. Of course Armani man had a date. He probably always has a date, even during Lent.

Tony brought another glass. The man paid him, then hesitated as though considering. “You know, she is awfully late. Since you’re right in the window seat with a commanding view of the entrance, may I change my mind and sit here until she arrives?”

Ulp. “Not at all.” Good—got that out without stuttering.

“Thanks.” He pulled a low barrel stool next to the bench and clinked her glass. “Cheers.”

 They sipped their whiskies in companionable silence. The rain pummeled both the sidewalk and the pedestrians with barely concealed antagonism. Milo decided her heart had settled down sufficiently to ensure a quaver-free sentence. “I’m Milo Everhart.” And I’m Gorgeous George. You don’t mind if I seduce you, do you? No, wait—he didn’t say that. I did. Hopefully in my head. “Um, I didn’t catch your name?”

“Tristram Brodie. Pleased to meet you.”

Artful Dodging is available in both eBook and Print (Full-length, M/F, 2 flames, published by Secret Cravings Publishing, 2012).

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Although M. S. Spencer has lived or traveled in five continents, the last 30 years have been spent mostly in Washington, D.C. as a librarian, Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter, editor, birdwatcher, kayaker, policy wonk, chair of a large volunteer program, and non-profit director.  She is blessed with two fabulous grown children, and the company of Iggy Pop the cat.

Ms. Spencer has published five contemporary romance novels. Lost in His Arms is set in the spinning world of 1991 when countries fell like flies and a CIA fixer had his hands full. In Lost and Found we follow a desperate wife searching the wilds of Maine for the husband who disappeared. Losers Keepers is a tale of love, lust and treachery set on the island of Chincoteague. In Triptych legend, history and romance intertwine in a triptych of suspense high above the Potomac River. Her latest release is Artful Dodging: the Torpedo Factory Murders. Look for her upcoming release Mai Tais and Mayhem: Murder at Mote Marine. Set on the Florida Gulf coast, it follows the adventures of Tessa Diamond as she deals with new love, old love, murder, sea turtles, big fish, smugglers, parrots, pigs, and the Russian mob, not necessarily in that order.


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Cindy here!

Thanks for being here, Ms Spencer! The torpedo factory sounds fascinating.

Until next time…



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