Tipping the Research Iceberg in Austin, Texas

By K.P. Gresham

In the process of writing the fifth novel in The Pastor Matt Hayden Mystery Series, I needed to find a venue for a fictional FFA Fundraising Gala at a revered, historical venue. My husband and I enjoyed going to such a place when we first moved to Austin, Texas, years ago.

Enter Green Pastures, a 6,000 square foot Victorian home built in 1895. The original structure was constructed with Louisiana pine, a naturally termite-resilient wood, and parts of the home, such as the staircase, banisters, and all of the fireplace mantels are still the original materials. Between its history, its delicious Southern meets French cuisine, and its wandering peacocks, the place was exactly what I needed for my book.

But that was only the tip of the iceberg. The more I read about Green Pastures, the more interesting it became.

For example, John Henry Faulk, an Austin judge, and his wife, “Mattie”, bought the home in 1916. They had five children, two of which figure prominently in Austin’s history.

John Henry Faulk II (1913 – 1990) was an American storyteller and radio show host. His successful lawsuit against the entertainment industry helped to bring an end to the Hollywood blacklist. In 1955, Faulk earned the ill will of the blacklisting organization when he and other members took control of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists from officers who did not share his dedication to civil rights long before it was “hip” to fight racism. In reprisal, the now-deposed union officers labeled Faulk a Communist. He took the group to court when he discovered they had actively been keeping radio stations from carrying his radio show.

Faulk’s book, Fear on Trial, (1963) was made into an Emmy award-winning TV movie in 1975 by CBS television with William Devane portraying Faulk and George C. Scott playing Faulk’s lawyer. Other supporters of the blacklist struggle included radio pioneer, Parks Johnson, and reporter and CBS television news anchor Walter Cronkite.

Then there’s the story of his sister, Martha Faulk (1910 – 1996). When their father passed, he left the property to his daughter who was known as a socialite with terrific hospitality qualities. She and her husband, Chester Koock, opened a restaurant in the home in 1945 by converting the downstairs bedrooms into dining spaces while the upstairs remained private family space. This restaurant has a very special legacy of being inclusive and non-discriminatory towards people of all races and color prior to when the law required businesses to do so.

Though the restaurant went through several owners after she passed, they have stayed true to the history of the home and its reputation for excellent food. I know. I went their last night to do my research for my book. I found it very important to my novel’s authenticity to sample the milk punch, the fried green tomatoes and the “Mattie’s Fried Chicken” (which WILL appear in the book).

Finally, I’d like to mention the beautiful peafowl that roam the expansive grounds. Peafowl is the correct generic name of the majestic, plumed birds. Peacocks are just the male of the species; peahens the females, and peachicks are the babies. (Tho’ in Texas these are sometimes called chickpeas. Gotta love a Texas colloquialism 😊.)  The birds don’t belong to Green Pastures, but a friend of theirs who owns an exotic bird farm takes care of them.

What I needed was a venue, but I got a whole lot more. I love to “tip the iceberg over” when I do my research. And Green Pastures of Austin was a house with many stories to tell.

P.S. The restaurant’s fried chicken is delicious, and don’t forget to order the milk punch!

K.P. Gresham, Author

Professional Character Assassin

K.P. Gresham is the award-winning author of the Pastor Matt Hayden Mystery Series as well as several stand-alone novels.  Active in Sisters in Crime and the Writers League of Texas, she has won Best Novel awards from the Bay Area Writers League as well as the Mystery Writers of America.

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Website: http://www.kpgresham.com/

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Books by

K.P. Gresham

Three Days at Wrigley Field

The Pastor Matt Hayden Mystery Series

The Preacher’s First Murder

Murder in the Second Pew

Murder on the Third Try

Four Reasons to Die

Facing a Writing Challenge

by N. M. Cedeño

Many writers find motivation in challenging themselves in various ways. Some attempt to write a novel length manuscript each November as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Some writers set daily, weekly, or monthly word count targets as challenges to meet. Most do this because they know that when they challenge themselves, they find out what they are capable of accomplishing and learn to push themselves to accomplish more.

Sometimes we writers set these goals for ourselves, other times someone, like an editor in need of a story, provides the challenge for us.

Opportunity Knocks:

In the last week of May 2022, I received an unexpected writing challenge. It arrived in the form of an email from an editor, inviting me to submit a short crime fiction story for an anthology. The catch was that the original deadline, which the editor was willing to extend for me, was only about a week away.

I read the submission criteria, considered my options, and reviewed what was already on my schedule. Then I asked for a month, June, to submit the story, not knowing if that would work for the editor’s timeline.

Could I have said no? Sure. But I recognized that the challenge was also an opportunity to show myself and the editor what I was capable of doing. I was afraid the editor might need the story sooner than my suggested deadline and that he might say no.

The editor replied to my email, agreeing to give me until the end of June to submit the story.

Hooray! And Yikes! I had a deadline to meet.

Meeting the Deadline:

The short story had to fit the specifications for the anthology in question which meant that it had to be set during a particular time period and incorporate some historical event. The time in question happens to be the decade in which I was born, so I have no personal memories of historical events from then. I had to do research. Normally, I research until I get a good grasp for an era before writing. I’ve been known to fall down research rabbit holes and find far more material than I need. My research process had to be curtailed to cover only what was essential: the time and place where I was going to set the story.

Next, I selected a previously created character to make a second appearance in my new story. That character, a private detective named Jerry Milam, appeared in a story called “Nice Girls Don’t” which I wrote for the anthology Groovy Gumshoes: Private Eyes in the Psychedelic Sixties. Already having a protagonist saved me from having to create a main character from scratch.

After researching the decade and selecting a protagonist, writing the first draft took about three days, resulting in a manuscript that was missing some details. Then, I left on a previously scheduled, nine-day, family vacation, taking my laptop, but knowing I wouldn’t have time to do much work. As it turned out, I only opened the laptop twice during my trip, both times late in the evening.

Once I returned home, I went to work in earnest adding the details I knew were missing. The middle of the story felt muddled, so I reworked it in another draft the following day. Satisfied that the manuscript was complete, I emailed the story to two of the world’s best beta readers, two analytical and detail-oriented people who know that I WANT them to point out every possible error. They know I can take criticism. (I’d rather hear about errors from them than have the story rejected for those same errors!) Both returned notes on the story within a few days, for which I am extremely grateful. (Thanks, Mike and Deb!) After reviewing what errors my beta readers noticed, I corrected and completed the final draft of the story.

In the next few days, I reviewed word choices and line edited the entire document. I made MSWord read the story to me, so I could proofread by listening for errors. Finally, I submitted the story to the editor on June 18, almost exactly four weeks after I received the initial invitation to submit.

Did I hesitate before hitting “send” to submit the manuscript, wondering if I needed to review it one more time?


Did I send it anyway?



A week later, I heard back from the editor. The story was accepted for the anthology. I’ll provide more details on the story closer to publication.

I met the challenge and learned something. I could have done it in even less time. I’m glad that when an opportunity dropped in my lap, I was able to rise to the occasion. I’m grateful that the editor gave me the opportunity to meet this challenge.

Leave me a comment on writing challenges you’ve met!


N. M. Cedeño is a short story writer and novelist living in Texas. She is active in Sisters in Crime- Heart of Texas Chapter and is a member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Find out more at nmcedeno.com.