Welcome September!

To think the second day of September is almost gone! Not hard to tell fall’s coming when I look out and see the leaves on the lawn. The weather has held fair so far; today was quite warm in fact, but it’s supposed to cool of steadily during the next few days.

Some hummingbirds are still around. When I first stuck my nose out the door this morning, after I’d let Pookie in, I noticed a hummer peering down at me from the feeder just outside the door. And he stayed put as I shut the door and went past the hallway window and into the kitchen. I don’t know how long they’ll be with us, nor how many there are still around, but they were so frequent at the feeder today that I made fresh juice for them.

Swainson’s Hawk Drops In

Yesterday morning a hawk dropped into the yard and settled on the far side of our driveway not far from the garage. We had a young great-horned owl wander around our yard one morning a few years back, but have never seen a hawk land here before. In fact, when it first lit and strutted around a bit my first thought was “Turkey vulture.” It was dark and had a funny white “patch” on its nose, but I realized that no, this is nowhere near big enough to be a vulture and it has no red on its head.

I eyed it for a few minutes, picking up what particulars I could, then grabbed the binoculars. After a couple of minutes it caught sight of me peering at it through the hallway window — birds have amazing eyesight! — and decided it had a pressing engagement elsewhere.

For those who don’t know what a Swainson’s hawk looks like, here’s an article that describes it. The bird I saw was one of the dark phase, somewhat mottled but mostly dark brown, like the last two in the line of photos.

Our cats are bad for catching things, then leaving them around for other creatures to deal with. Yesterday Pookie must have caught a mother mouse (or shrew?) with a couple of wee babies with her, because he gnawed on the adult and left the little ones lying dead beside her. And left it all near our sidewalk. Yuck! I cleaned the mess up and tossed it, but it gave me a queer dream early this morning. (We were trying to raise a batch of baby gerbils and it was a frustrating with three cats ready to pounce on them. We’d try to find hiding places but it was a futile effort.) Silly how real life things work their way into your dreams.

This afternoon I noticed a couple more birds hopping around in the chokecherry bushes. Good luck to them if they’re hoping for a few berries; I think the robins cleaned every one up before they left. Haven’t seen a robin for about ten days now.

The birds I saw today were migrating warblers. The one could have been a fall blackpoll. They nest further north so we see a few of them coming through in spring when they’re black and white. In fall they are more yellow with distinct black & white wing bars, as this one had. Another warbler I saw today was more solid brown/olive, white tummy, and with a noticeable dot of yellow on its back end. And what fancy name does Audubon have for this one? A “yellow-rump warbler.” (Unless it’s a myrtle warbler. The thing wouldn’t sit still so identification was more guesswork than good vision.)

I also saw a hermit thrush sitting on a fence rail this evening. They are cute, plump little guys with grey coats and white fronts speckled at the throat. Again, we only see them passing through.

To change the subject entirely, I’ve recently gotten interested in an old book series: the Tommy & Tuppence mysteries written by Agatha Christie. I’ve read several; there are only about half a dozen — which is too bad. This series is much milder than her usual murder mysteries; in the one I’m reading now, titled N or M, the year is 1940 and T & T are trying to ferret out a German spy who’s plotting toward an invasion of England. Has anyone else read them?

Apart from that I’ve been working on sewing a dress — very slowly — and planning in my mind the party I’ve going to have at the end of the month to celebrate the end of my chemotherapy. Any suggestions what I should have written on my cake? Something like “THE END” or “It’s OVER!” or “SURVIVOR” or “It’s A Wonderful Life”?

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COZY Crafting

My husband and I were browsing in Chapters-Indigo bookstore yesterday and I wandered over to peruse the Mysteries section. I picked up a couple of paperbacks, read the front covers, and my upstairs wheels started turning.

Right then a tall, dark-haired young sales associate came up and asked me if I was searching for anything in particular. I held up a couple of the books I’d noticed. When I showed him One Foot in the Grape; a Cypress Cove Mystery he groaned, rolled his eyes, then expressed some skepticism — based on title alone — as to the quality of the content. He evidently wasn’t impressed with the skillful wordplay of the writer.

Whereas I realized that I’d possibly found my place in literature.

A certain blogger has accused me of being “hooked on horrible puns.” And I will confess that I do enjoy a well punned turn of phrase, though certain folks find me rather pun-gnacious. However, here on the cozy mystery shelves I’ve found kindred spirits aplenty.

I’ll list a few titles as an example:

Peaches and Scream; a Georgia peach orchard mystery
By Hook or By Crook; a Yarn Retreat mystery
A Deal to Die for; a Good Buy Girls mystery
Dye No More; a Hair Salon Beauty mystery
Delivering the Truth; A Quaker Midwife mystery
The Cracked Spine; a Scottish Bookshop mystery
Berried Secrets; a Cranberry Cove mystery

There are many uniquely named food-related cozies as well:

RaspBuried Torte; a Black Cat Café mystery
Brutal Brulée; a Lexi Baker mystery
Assault and Batter; a Donut Shop mystery
Fudging the Books; a Cookbook Nook mystery
If Onions Could Spring Leeks; a Country Cooking School mystery
Farmed and Dangerous; a Local Foods mystery
Death of an English Muffin; a Merry Muffin mystery
Flourless to Stop Him; a Baker’s Treat mystery

There are cozies that feature cats as assistants or even sleuths. For example:
Paws and Effect
A Spirited Tail
Killer Tails
The Purrfect Lie
Pawsitively Dead

The back cover book blurbs usually make lavish use of puns. For example:

Glazed Murder: A Donut Shop Mystery (Book 1)

Suzanne Hart is the owner and operator of Donut Hearts coffee shop in April Springs, NC…
But when a dead body is dumped on her doorstep like a sack of flour, Suzanne’s cozy little shop becomes an all-out crime scene. Now, everyone in town is dropping by for glazed donuts and gruesome details… Soon Suzanne—who finds snooping as irresistible as donuts—is poking holes in everyone’s alibis…

Please Note: I haven’t read any of these, nor do I wish to promote any one or any particular writer. You can look up the authors online if you wish. However, it leaves me feeling almost normal now that I’ve discovered I’m one of a crowd of wacky writers who love puns. I’m not one lonely eccentric on the planet.

I’ve taken note that cozy mystery series settings include: old restored inns; cooking schools; cafes; farms and/or farmer’s markets; detective agencies; beauty salons; dressmaker’s, book, second-hand and quilt shops; crochet, knitting, bargain hunter gals clubs; pet sitters; cat lovers; cat rescue organizations, etc. One of my favorites series is the Chocoholic* mystery series by JoAnna Carl.

A lot of books include recipes, knitting or crochet patterns, information about their subject (such as the history of chocolate*,) tips on where to find good bargains, etc.

Like today’s romance novels, cozies tend to be formulaic. However the setting may vary, the crimes are usually neat with victims dispatched speedily. No hate crimes, racism, brutality, or violence against women per se. The writers almost always tie up all the loose strands at the end. In most of the mysteries I have read—or read about—in the past year, the female MC usually falls for the good-looking cop or detective MC. (By now this is getting to be a cliché.)

The first book in the series is often a freebie; the following books may sell for $7-8. They can often be purchased online, on sale, for $2 or less. In other words, unless you’re a really well known writer—or until you get to be one— your profit isn’t going to be much. Still, readers expect a well crafted book. I know I do.

Armed with all this information, I see where I might carve out my own little niche. I could do a series based on the sightings of Olive Nestor, a middle-aged ornithologist -turned sleuth. I’ve even come up with a long list of potential titles:

— Trail of the Broken Rail
— The Twisted Tern
— The Flighty Flycatcher
— The Murdered Magpie
— The Case of the Jilted Stilt
— The Canvasback Cashes In
— The Prank of the Pilfered Puffin
— The Premature Peewee
— Who Crowned the Kinglet?
— The Tale of the Tongue-Tied Tattler

(I do hope you are well enough, Ron, to read through this list of unique titles. Laughter is good medicine, they say. ☺)

It may take me some years to actually come up with plots for all these stories, but in the meantime, if you happen to be naming a book, a baby or a business, feel free to contact me. I’m sure I can come up with a list of suggestions for you.

There’s got to be some profitable use for this talent. 🙂

By the way, my friend and fellow writer, Janice Dick, reviews a mystery novel on her latest blog post. If you enjoy mysteries, you may want to check this one out.