—Author Unknown, quoted by Donna Diegel
Valentine’s Day celebrates early Christian saints of that name. Instead of promoting romance, Valentinus performed weddings that were forbidden, and ministered to Christians. He was a martyr who suffered prison and execution. Somehow, in the Middle Ages, Valentine’s Day became a festival of romantic love and Cupid, a Greek and Roman god of desire, became associated with it. Paintings and statues depicted him; later, flowers, cards, and chocolate candy became gifts of romance.
Today, Valentine’s Day is feverishly marketed with romantic cards and humorous ones popping up everywhere. Love songs may touch upon romance seriously or not. I remember one by Connie Francis. The lyrics start, “Stupid Cupid, you’re a real mean guy, I’d like to clip your wings so you can’t fly.” That song was a hit. Of course, romance is often part of a novel’s plot. In cozy mysteries, romance is almost always important—unless the amateur sleuth is elderly like Miss Marple, pompous like Hercule Poirot, or a priest like Father Brown.
Romance between the cozy mystery’s amateur sleuth and a local police officer happens pretty often. The setting is a small town, an English manor, an area like a fishing village or a Texas ranch. Both my novels, the Caroline Hargrove Hamilton Mystery Series, are set in DeWitt County near San Antonio, in Yorktown and in the country—mostly ranches. Couples appear in both books, although St. Valentine’s influence is more important than Cupid’s bow and arrow.
In Cemetery Whites, the first novel, Caroline Hargrove Hamilton moves from Houston to Yorktown. Her husband died in a car accident and her life has disintegrated. She hopes to reshape it with her father’s family, and her old friend and cousin Janet welcomes her with open arms. They drive around the country roads one day and visit the family cemetery where they find a dead man and call the police. Constable Bob Bennett enjoys meeting Caroline. St. Valentine, so to speak, presents him as a handsome man who takes good care of the people in his precinct. Other romances include one from the old days discovered in genealogy records.
Romantic Cupid might turn up at Billie’s Bar-B-Que where Caroline and her cousins go for dinner, dancing, and playing pool. Bob Bennett turns up too, and by the end of the book, he and Caroline are romantically involved at his ranch and her house in Yorktown.
My second novel, Chances Choices Changes Death, involves several couples falling in love. The main plot is the murder of Myra Cade and the solution of that homicide, but since the book is a cozy mystery, I’ve created subplots and characters with Western romance rather than grim suspense. Myra is a single mother looking for paternal support for her eight-year-old son. She was long in love with Danny Harrell, but they broke up and she had an affair with Danny’s best friend Richard Hurst and then a short fling with sleazy dude Brian Atkins. Did one of them stab Myra to death? Cupid took Myra on a date with Brian. A bad decision.
St. Valentine had better influence on Donny Harrell who spent the summer working on Robinson Ranch. Young Cathy Robinson fell in love with him, and her guest Chris took a liking to Donny’s twin brother Danny—but Danny didn’t fall in love with anyone anymore. His old friend Richard Hurst turned up and fell in love with Dora, Brian Atkins’ cousin’s widow. She loved him, too. They all got engaged, except Danny and Chris. The book ends at Billie’s Bar-B-Que with the wedding of a long-engaged couple, Martha McNair and Allen Boyce from San Antonio. And guess what happens when Bob and Caroline go home after the wedding reception? Bob asks a question, and Caroline says yes. That’s the start of Cozy Mystery No. 3.
Connie Knight’s interest in Texas history is reflected in Cemetery Whites. Murders in 1875 and 2010 are solved, with the detective’s family history unraveling to reveal information. Knight’s hobby of gardening produced the title Cemetery Whites. The victim’s body is found sprawled in a patch of white irises in an old family cemetery. The flowers with that name still exist today, at old homesteads and in current gardens, including Connie Knight’s.
Connie Knight now lives in Houston and has just finished a second mystery, Chances Choices Changes Death, a sequel to Cemetery Whites. She is now working on her third mystery novel in the Caroline Hargrove Hamilton Mystery series.
When he called I was writing the seventh in my Shadows Antique Print series, Shadows on a Maine Christmas. I was also editing Uncertain Glory, an historical for young people set in Maine during the first two weeks of the Civil War.
In short, I was busy.
Did I want to start a new series? My husband reminded me that I’d talked about new projects. I reminded him that a new cozy series hadn’t been on that list. And needlepoint? I knew next to nothing about needlepoint.
He reminded me that I loved to do research.
I called my agent back. Could the series be about knitting? I was pretty good at knitting.
I took a deep breath and agreed.
And I started blue skying. I checked: no needlepoint mysteries were set in New England. Many of my fans liked my books set in Maine.
My Shadows series is set in a small town on a tidal river, but I wanted this series to be different. I’d set it in a harbor town. So I created my setting: Haven Harbor. I sketched it out … three islands in the harbor. A lighthouse, a small rocky beach, a yacht club, a town pier, and a working waterfront with a lobsterman’s co-op and restaurant. A town green, of course. And shops, catering to both tourists and locals.
As the idea became a plan, I created my protagonist. Angie Curtis, a local kid who’d had a tough childhood, left Maine to escape it, but now was back, confronting her past. She’d be in her late twenties, and street savvy. She’d also know how to handle a gun. And the series would be written in the first person, from Angie’s point of view. Cozy, OK. But with an edge.
I even added a cat.
But where did the needlepoint come in?
Angie’s mother had disappeared when she was ten. Angie’d been brought up by her grandmother, an expert needlepointer. In the years Angie’d been away (working for a private investigator in Arizona, I decided,) her grandmother had started a small business: Mainely Needlepoint. She’d gathered a few local women (and men) to work for her business.
But why had Angie returned to Maine?
Her mother’s body has just been found. She wants to find her mother’s killer. And, to add to the complications, what if one of her grandmother’s needlepoint colleagues was also murdered …
And I had the beginning of my plot.
Because I love antiques and many of my Shadows series readers do, too, I decided Mainely Needlepoint would also be involved with identifying and conserving antique stitching. And to set the scene I’d put quotations about needlepoint at the beginning of each chapter.
Twisted Threads: A Mainely Needlepoint Mystery, the first in that series, was published this week.
I’ve already finished the second book in the series (Threads of Evidence), which will be released in August, and I‘m working on Thread and Gone, next January’s book.
No doubt about it: I’m writing a new series.
Maine author Lea Wait writes the Shadows Antique Print Mystery series, the most recent of which, Shadows on a Maine Christmas, Library Journal named one of the best Christmas reads for 2014, as well as the Mainely Needlepoint series. She also writes historicals for ages 8 and up, the most recent of which is Uncertain Glory. For more information about Lea and her books see www.leawaitcom. She also invites readers to friend her on Goodreads or Facebook.
I celebrate Christmas and it’s one of my most favorite times of the year. But whatever you choose to celebrate, I hope you take time to spend with family and friends and enjoy this holiday season!
Here’s a song written and performed by my friend Larry Whitler of WOCA The Source radio in Ocala FL. Enjoy!
It may seem like a strange way for a woman looking at a cookbook to react, but it isn’t, really. When people turn “Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes” over and start reading the back cover—which is a top-to-bottom list of all the contributors to the cookbook—that’s often the response I hear. That’s because “Cozy Food” isn’t only about recipes; it’s a who’s who of cozy mystery writers.
But let’s talk about the recipes for a minute. Because the cookbook features an international group of writers, recipes come from all over the world. Although most recipes are from the present day, one of multiple-time Agatha Award nominee Kaye George’s series is set in the time of Neanderthals so she submitted a recipe for mammoth meat jerky to feed a tribe (and a modified version for modern humans who have to settle for using beef.) Amy Myers included the in-verse version of The Poet’s Recipe for Salad from her Victorian Master Chef series. If you want a proper Salmagundy recipe from the table of a twentieth century British aristocrat, Judith Cutler contributed one.
If your culinary skill set involves opening a few boxes of mixes and dumping them in a bowl, there’s Susan Furlong Bollinger’s Chocolate Dump Cake. If you lean more to gourmet cooking, try Sally Berneathy’s (aka Sally Carleen, Sally Steward, and Sara Garrett) Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake. If you’re looking to make something fun with your kids or grandkids there’s Margaret Grace’s (aka Camille Minichino) No Bake Mini “Hamburger” Cookies. And Sparkle Abbey and Laurie Cass submitted several pet treat recipes lest we forgot our favorite four legged-detective assistants who so often grace the pages of cozy mysteries.
Because Elaine Orr’s has had cooking disasters in her personal life, she asked her friend Leigh Michaels, writer of over one-hundred regency romances and two cookbooks, if she could borrow a couple of muffin recipes for “Cozy Food.” Looking for comfort food? Try new Anthony Award winner Catriona McPhearson’s the tastiest Mac you ever did Cheese. Wishing you were in Hawaii? Cindy Sample offers you a Tikki Goddess. Vegetarian? Check. Vegan? Check. Gluten intolerant? Check. Insane about chocolate? Huge check. There’s a new favorite recipe for everyone in “Cozy Food.”
And then are those 128 authors. (129 actually, I forgot to count me.) They’ve submitted biographies written with the same wit and entertainment value found in their books. Recipes, authors, bios, and book buying links are all round-robined so you can see what your favorite character likes to cook or find a great recipe and track down the author who put it in the books, Any way you go, you’re sure to find fabulous recipes for all occasions and tastes and your next new favorite cozy mystery writer to read.
You can find Cozy Food and see Nancy’s other books on my Amazon Author Page here.
Read opening chapters from all the books at http://www.goodreadmysteries.com and say “Hi” at Goodreads
The Secrets of Famous Paranormal Places
By Theresa Argie & Eric Olsen
September 30, 2014
There are some places in America you simply shouldn’t visit alone. At Waverly Hills Sanatorium, thousands of patients died at the height of the tuberculosis epidemic in the early 1900s and their spirits never left. In the halls of Mackey’s Music World, demonic possessions were more common than musical performances. Aboard the decks of the Queen Mary in California, echoes of the cries of hundreds of lost sailors ring clear night and day. These are places that no sane person would ever truly explore – until now.
In America’s Most Haunted: The Secrets of Famous Paranormal Places, “Haunted Housewife” investigator Theresa Argie and journalist Eric Olsen combine spine-tingling stories, documented evidence and interviews with some of the top names in paranormal investigations, including the stars of televisions Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, and others take readers on a terrifying tour of our nation’s most haunted houses, hospitals and historic places.
Experience the crawl through the death tunnel, also known as the body chute, where visitors have reported sightings of an inhuman creature that creeps along the walls and ceilings. Get to know the spirits, ghosts, and other demons that wait in jails, lounge in mansions, fester in lunatic asylums, and even stay in the stately old hotel that served as inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining.
The evidence provided with these first-hand accounts, stories and personal testimonies will have readers sleeping with the lights on. Are you brave enough to take a look?
Theresa Argie is an experienced paranormal investigator who has worked with some of the field’s most respected experts. Eric Olsen is a leading journalist in the field of paranormal investigation. Together, the two host the internet radio show, America’s Most Haunted. They both live in Ohio. Visit the authors online at www.americas-most-haunted.com, www.facebook.com/amhaunted and www.twitter.com/amhaunted.