One Reason Why I Love Cozy Mysteries

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(This article also appeared on the Cozy Mystery Magazine blog.)

I love cozy mysteries. . .okay, I just love mysteries, period. I have since I was a kid. Now I'm privileged to write cozy mysteries. I also watch as many as I can on television, as long as they hold true to what I believe is important to cozy mysteries--no graphic violence. I don't want to go to bed at night with gruesome images of bloody crime scenes in my mind.

The other night, hubby and I watched a 1945 black and white Sherlock Holmes movie starring Basil Rathbone. Although the personality of this particular Sherlock Holmes wasn’t totally in keeping with Doyle’s books, there were many things I liked about the movie, including how the directors handled the violence of the murder, which was done with shadows.

The movie had no splattering of blood and guts. No gruesome shots of human innards. The director used the reactions of the characters to portray the horror of the murders. For instance, when a police officer and Sherlock go to the coroner to observe the body, all we see is a woman’s face and sheet-covered body. When the sheet is pulled back, the camera focuses on the police officer’s expression. It’s his reaction to the body that indicates the awfulness of the crime.

Traditional cozies don’t show scene upon scene upon scene of the details of the blood, guts, and gore. They don't get deeply into the heads of freaky serial killers. They don't usually show the terror the victims experience as they're being murdered. There might be a brief description of the murder, but the brutality of crime scenes, and the weirdness of the criminals, comes more from the reactions of the characters. And some cozy mysteries have no murder at all, just an interesting crime.

In other words, I don't have to skip pages in a book or close my eyes until a scene in a movie or TV show is over. That lack of spilling guts and spurting blood is one of the reasons I love cozy mysteries.

 

 

My Latest Author News

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After a long time, I'm back in the saddle again, writing.  Without going into much detail at the moment, this is a miracle. This past summer I thought I'd end up bedridden, living in a bubble. That's not an exaggeration. The Lord led me to the answers I needed to get my health back on track. And now I'm working again. Living again! I am so grateful. (More about all of that in later posts.)

In the meantime, I have some great writing news! The first book in my new cozy mystery series will be released on January 2nd by Forget Me Not Romance. The title is An Untidy End.

In addition, I am the recipient of a contract from Barbour Books for a cozy mystery novella. This will be my eighth book with Barbour. More information about that at a later date.

Thanksgiving! White Rice and Peas

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What do white rice and peas have to do with Thanksgiving? They are two of the ten things I can eat. Yep. You read that right. I can only eat ten things. And for people like me who have immune diseases and whose food choices are severely limited, the holidays, especially Thanksgiving, can be a challenge.

(I am getting better and hope I can expand what I can eat soon. I'll write more about my health journey in future articles.)

On the surface, it seems that holidays are all about the food. My Facebook feed is full of recipes and pictures. People I know have been preparing for weeks for their Thanksgiving meals. I used to do that, too—pouring over recipes and spending hours in the kitchen making everything just right.

Having immune issues doesn't mean I can't cook. In fact, I can make anything I want, I just I can't eat it. And cooking without being able to taste it is hard. I never realized before how much I depended on taste testing things to make sure they were "just right." And if I'm totally honest, cooking a whole meal that I can't eat is difficult. Yeah, drooling. 'Nuf said. (*See note below)

So, when I woke up this Thanksgiving morning, I was (frankly) trying to get my thoughts in a right place. Self-pity tried to creep in. Poor Candice. Everyone else you know is going to enjoy stuffing today, and you can't have any, you poor, poor thing.

That got my attention. I despise self-pity. Whining and grumbling only lead to an ungrateful attitude, which doesn't please the Lord. In fact, He doesn't attend a pity party. So, I began to pray. That led to some self-examination and an archeological dig into my past.

Here's a portion of what I discovered:

When I look back on my favorite holiday meals, I don't remember the food—whether I ate bread or cornbread stuffing, pumpkin pie or apple pie, turkey or ham. What I do remember is the people I was with. For instance, when I was little we once celebrated Thanksgiving at my grandmother's in New Jersey. I remember standing next to her in the warm kitchen and feeling loved. Then there was one Thanksgiving when I hosted a bunch of college kids who were far from home. We had a blast playing games and laughing, but I can't remember a single thing I cooked. And then there was the the time I helped serve at the homeless shelter near the Christmas holiday--that'll make you think about priorities and gratefulness. . .

What does this all mean? It means (to be blunt) that stuffing my face with stuffing isn't the important thing. What matters is the stuff I'm stuffing in my brain. How I choose to think, and being grateful, no matter what. And me getting healthy again depends a great deal on having a positive mindset.

Isn't that what Thanksgiving is all about, anyway? Positive thoughts? Being thankful? Hey, I can even choose to be grateful for green peas and rice! Salted, with ghee? They're pretty good.

I'm not suggesting there's anything wrong with enjoying the preparation and eating of a fabulous holiday meal. In fact, as I recover my health, I expect I'll be able to indulge more in the future. But right now, I choose to concentrate on gratefulness and all the other good things God has put in my life. That will help me get well.

In the meantime, I leave you with this:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. Psalm 107:1

*And for those who wonder how my husband deals with all of this. . .he eats a lot of the things I do, which are (obviously) very basic. He's VERY supportive! Life right now would be much more difficult if he weren't. But to help make it easier for him, I often make him extra stuff to go with the basics. He also goes out to eat with friends to get his fill of the complicated stuff. 

 

Red Herrings ~ Something Fishy in Cozy Mysteries

A cozy mystery isn’t complete without the use of “red herrings.” A red herring is a false clue the author uses to send readers and the fictional sleuth in directions that don’t lead to the real villain. It is simply a tool to distract from the real culprit.

In the literal sense, no fish called a red herring exists; rather, the term refers to a fish that’s been strongly cured in brine or heavily smoked. The process makes the fish smell and turns the flesh a reddish color.

There is some debate about the etymology of the term red herring. The most common theory is that the strong smelling fish were used to train hunting dogs. The red herring would be dragged along a trail until a puppy learned to follow the scent. Later on, the trainer would drag a red herring perpendicular to the trail of the animal being hunted, and the dog would eventually learn to follow the trail of the animal. Another theory points to escaping convicts who used red herring to throw off hounds in pursuit.

No matter how the term came about, a cozy mystery wouldn’t be complete without red herrings to compel the book’s sleuth to go in directions that don’t point to the real villain. The cozy author can do this in several ways. The red herring used most often is giving other characters a motivation to kill the victim. Another technique used is to lead the sleuth astray with gossip or by planting false evidence at the scene of the crime. Sometimes the wrong victim is killed by accident—another red herring.

Cozy authors owe it to our readers to provide enough red herrings to make a story interesting. We also need to make sure all the red herrings are explained at the end of a book; for instance, if the sleuth uncovers a potential murder weapon at a possible suspect’s house, but that suspect turns out to the innocent, we need to know why the weapon was there. 

One notable example of the use of a red herring is the convict Seldon in “The Hound of the Baskervilles” by Sir Author Conan Doyle. The reader believes that Seldon must be involved in the murders, but he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I'd love to hear from our readers. What is your favorite red herring from a cozy mystery that you've recently read?