I've posted a blog article on Cozy Mystery Magazine about Guideposts continuity mysteries. If you like gentle, faith-filled mysteries, check out this article to learn more.
I've posted a blog article on Cozy Mystery Magazine about Guideposts continuity mysteries. If you like gentle, faith-filled mysteries, check out this article to learn more.
This blog article is dedicated to my sister, Diana, who loves a good organizational project more than I do, and that's saying something! She's been waiting almost month for me to finish this room and to finally see some pictures.
I love to sew. I have since I was a kid. Over the years I've made many things, but I think quilting is my favorite form of putting needle to fabric.
Last year, my dear hubby constructed a sewing room for me in the basement. It was the first dedicated sewing room I've ever had. I was SO GRATEFUL! Sewing, whether making quilts or garments, can be messy. Scraps of fabric and bits of thread (not to mention pins) find their way all over whatever room I'm working in. None of my projects are done in a day. Most of what I make are quilts, and they are lengthy projects--from planning to the final binding. It's nice to have a space to set up my cutting mat, ironing board, and sewing machine, and leave it all right where it is.
After hubby finished the room last year, I was ecstatic! I snatched whatever I could find around here to furnish it. I used old tables for sewing and cutting. I stored quilt fabric in a small white cabinet that I'd carried from house to house over the years. Shoe shelves that were made for closets were tucked under the tables to store things like "in progress" projects, and interfacing and patterns My most used tools were stored on a rolling cart. Extra thread and needles and other, numerous supplies, were stored in plastic drawers across the room.
But things just got better! For my birthday, we bought Ikea furniture for the room, in white, to match the little cabinet. White is nice in a basement room--it reflects light. Now, everything matches, and I have things on hand.
I'm happy with the results. There's something about having everything put away, out of sight, that calms my soul. It also makes being creative easier for me. I'm not shoving stuff out of my way all the time.
Below are a few before and afters, as well as other pictures of the room.
This is my new sewing area. Two Ikea drawers and a white Ikea countertop. I made the quilt pictures on the wall with cork and fabric. I can use them as bulletin boards. The lettering is a vinyl thing I bought.
The table raises and lowers with a handle, so I have the option of using it as a regular table as well as a cutting table. The little cart underneath used to hold supplies. Now it holds current projects. The cabinet on the right, which I already owned, holds quilting fabric. The left is (obviously) storage.
The Pegboard gives me a place to hang all the things I use at the table, including little containers of scissors, rotary cutters, and marking pens and pencils. And my cutting rulers are finally hung up.
That wooden box on the floor is a light table that hubby made for me. I use it to transfer patterns onto quilt tops for quilting.
Yes, it was all labeled, but kinda messy looking, and a lot of the stuff I used on a regular basis, like thread, was far away from the sewing table. (Some of this stuff was for other art work, like scrapbooking. It's been moved to another place.)
I have drawers all over the place in the room now! Lots of storage. My iron and ironing supplies are in the basket on top. I use my iron all the time, so it's nice to have it so accessible. And when I'm not ironing, the ironing board rests between the wall and storage cabinet.
We made this from foam insulation covered with quilt batting. As you can see, the pieces of a quilt stick nicely to the surface so I can lay things out before I sew. It's helpful to see how patterns and colors go together.
That square framed star on the shelf was one of the first quilt projects I ever made--in the early 1980s. It was a pillow. It started showing wear, so I decided to frame it.
I made the hanging applique mini-quilt, with all the orange, not long after I learned to quilt. That was back in the day when those colors were all the rage. I had it hanging over my sofa when my daughter was teeny.
I recently completed the blue and gold piece using old nine patches from a quilt of my grandmother's, which was in near tatters. I saved a few of the good blocks and appliqued them onto backing. I look at that and think of her.
The cross stitch pictures on the shelf were from my cross stitch stage--a few years before I began quilting.
The wedding ring piece draped on top of the cabinet was a consignment store find--I love wedding ring quilts. Yes, I'm going to make one some day. I'm already collecting fabric to do so.
The old sewing machine on top of the cabinet is obviously an antique. I'm sorely tempted to collect vintage and antique sewing machines because I love them, however, I'm going to. I don't have the room.
(This portion is mostly for my sister.)
Nice storage. Those are quilting gloves with rubbery tips. Makes machine quilting so much easier! My arms aren't worn out when I'm done. Lots of seam rippers! I think I have every one I've ever bought or been given. Now I can find all of them.
Regular sewing thread storage. I used kitchen drawer organizers for this. Yes, that's a lot of thread in the same shade. That's what happens when I don't know where everything is--I end up with duplicates. Now, that won't happen.
Pins and needles. I've been collecting them for a long time, too. And that's hand quilting thread in the back of that drawer. I usually machine quilt. The cardboard shoe box belonged to my husband's mother. She was a seamstress, and I got a few things from her when she passed away. They came in that box. So, I wanted to use it.
Finally, Miss Fidelia, my dress form.
Before the Acronym Became a Television Show
I’m a huge Miss Marple fan. What? What's she got to do with Sherlock Holmes, you ask? I'll tell you! She was the heroine of some of the first adult cozy mysteries I read. But even though she's one of my favorites, I have to admit that she didn’t use science like one of the very first literary sleuths ever--Sherlock Holmes.
Sir Author Conan Doyle gave his sleuth a brilliant scientific mind, and his crime scene technique was years ahead of real crime science. Take fingerprints, for example. Scotland Yard didn’t start using fingerprints until 1901. Sir Author Conan Doyle had Sherlock Holmes using fingerprint evidence in the Sign of Four, published in 1890. Holmes was also the first to analyze typewritten documents. In A Case of Identity, published in 1891, Holmes recognized that letters were typewritten, with no signature. He obtained a typewritten note from his suspect and analyzed the idiosyncrasies of the man’s typewriter. Case solved. The FBI only started a document section of the bureau in 1932.
If you want to learn more about the science of Sherlock Holmes and how he influenced the crime scene investigating field, there is a fascinating PBS show called How Sherlock Changed the World that you can watch for free if you're an Amazon Prime member, or you can buy the DVD.
And here are a couple of interesting websites, if you’d like to read more about the science behind Sherlock Holmes:
To close, sometimes, in my author-ish mind, I imagine what it would be like to talk to a fictional character. To spend time with them and follow them around. If I had to choose between Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes, I'd choose Miss Marple, despite Sherlock's abilities. I admire his fictional intelligence, and I love to read the stories because they're well written and fascinating (and I also like Dr. Watson), but Sherlock is an unlikable guy. Sociopathic in my opinion, which is probably how Doyle meant him to be. Miss Marple, on the other hand, is warm. She has people around her that she cares for. Both characters demonstrate a basic understanding of human nature, but her acumen came from core of warmth. His seemed to come from cynicism. Besides, I've dealt with enough sociopathic people in my life. I don't want to imagine spending time with one.
This is just my opinion, of course. I'd love to hear what my readers have to say.
Yes, that title is correct. These are chocolate cloud cookies with chocolate chips, thus the double chocolate.
I know I wouldn't win any food photography prizes for my picture, but you get the idea.
These cookies are great if you can't eat grains. They're very sweet, and I don't often indulge in sugary snacks, but eating a few for a periodic treat won't hurt. They're also not bad with coffee.
I'm hardcore organic, but you can substitute regular ingredients for any of the organic ingredients. And you can use any regular unsweetened cocoa powder in place of the cacao.
When I stored these in a sealed plastic bag, they got a little soft. I ended up opening the top of the bag just a little bit to keep the cookies hard, which is how I preferred them.
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.
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.
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?
(Please note: If this article sounds familiar, you may have read another version of the story that I posted on the Borrowed Book Blog several years ago.)
I love writing fictional mysteries--walking my sleuths through clues to a satisfying conclusion. I'm also fascinated by true-life mysteries. And when the mystery is one involving family, it’s even more fascinating.
This particular mystery began almost twenty-five years ago, when my grandmother and I were going through a box of old photos. I came upon this picture of a baby (see photo), and my Grandmother said, “That was Mabel. She was born two years before me (1896) and died when she was eight months old.”
“How did she die?” I asked.
My grandmother shrugged and said, “Some sickness called phantom.”
I questioned her further, but she remembered nothing else. I had no clues to aid me in discovering what this disease or illness was that killed little Mabel. At that time, in the early 1980s, computers weren’t personal, so I had no access to anything even resembling Google.
My wonderful grandmother died a few years after that discussion. With her passing, I lost the only person who remembered little Mabel and her tragic death. I entered her into my family tree, then wrote down the few facts I knew on the back of the cardboard picture and tucked it into my genealogy notebook. But I never forgot her or my desire to find the truth.
Fast forward about ten years when I got my first computer and internet access. I tried to research the disease in the relatively new online world. I assumed the word phantom was my grandmother’s interpretation of something she’d heard as a child. Kids often hear words wrong. I used the spellings “phantom,” “fantum,” and “fantom,” but found nothing in the online lists of old diseases available at that time. Eventually I stopped looking. Mabel’s memory and her picture were once again relegated to my genealogy notebook, but she never left my mind.
Little Mabel remained there until a couple years ago when my husband and I were watching Marshall Dillon (the show that preceded Gunsmoke). I’m fascinated by the history of medicine and disease, so when Doc Adams, the grizzled doctor in the show, diagnosed a cowboy with “brain fever,” I decided to Google it. One thing led to another, as often happens with internet exploration, and I found a site that contained a long list of old-timey diseases and the modern disease equivalents.
After I read about brain fever, I glanced down the list to check out other diseases. That’s when I spotted Cholera Infantum. Boom! Suddenly I knew what had happened to Mabel. In all likelihood, as a youngster, my grandmother heard about Mabel’s death, and her child’s mind remembered only the last portion of the disease: fantum. Now I had a likely cause of death to put in my genealogy album, along with Mabel’s picture.
Cholera infantum was a ruthless, brutal summertime killer of babies and small children during the 1800s. Despite its name, it was not really cholera and was not caused by the water-borne bacterium called Vibrio cholerae. The symptoms, however, were similar and included hot head, cold extremities, vomiting, and diarrhea, all of which rapidly led to dehydration and death in tiny children.
The online information I found about this disease is mixed. It includes antique medical texts, which make for fascinating reading, but are lacking in the medical knowledge we have today. Some of those texts say the disease was contagious, others say it was caused by heat. One even said it was caused by hysterical mother’s milk. Can you imagine holding your dying child and having the doctor tell you it was your hysteria and breast milk that caused the disease? Included in the information I found was a present day listing in Wikipedia (which may or may not be accurate) that states that cholera infantum is one of the diseases caused by a family of bacteria called campylobacte. You can read more about this at this link. In the article, cholera infantum is specifically mentioned under "history"
I didn’t pursue detailed research about the causes of cholera infantum because the purpose of my original search was to find Mabel’s killer, and I did that. The mystery of Mabel’s death is solved. I just wish I could tell my grandmother what I found. She would have enjoyed the story of my search, and she would have been fascinated to know what I’d found, just like I was.
Does anyone else have a story like this to share about a long ago family member?