Friday, January 16, 2015


 Seek & Who Knows What You’ll Find?

By Cathy Elliott

People ask what kind of research one must do in order to write crime fiction. Since my amateur sleuth is sure to become entangled in a murder with eventual police involvement, some crime scene research is needed. I am grateful for a wise Sergeant’s advice on all police procedures, including that today’s officers choose to eat salads and sandwiches over donuts. I like to keep current, so his counsel is appreciated. No clichéd policemen for this cozy author. My fictive Detective Brewster, Officer Threet, and Canine Officer Justice, all conform to proper procedures. Most of the time. Which makes them very real to me.

Cozies are a special genre of crime fiction. I think of them as kinder, gentler mysteries where all the bad stuff, the give-you-nightmares stuff, happens off-stage.  A favorite definition is, “Cats or quilts and not a lot of blood.” My new novel, A Stitch in Crime, has it all. A calico cat named Betty, fiercely loved and protected by our hesitant sleuth, Thea James. A quilt show with a quilt reputed to contain the secret to great riches. And blood? What blood?

Okay, maybe a little.

Some research is needed, of course, but not necessarily too much about crime. For this book, I had to do extensive digging to understand how to orchestrate a quilt show. Interviews with a chairperson and on-the-job training at a real show gave me lots of fodder to help make it authentic for the story. And since a major Gold Rush display opened at the museum during my quilt show, I needed to know what to put in the cases, reflecting the forty-niner days of old. More research.

But cozies, just like any book, are largely observations of life, tweaked, and written down. I am in constant research mode, studying someone who might show me that next response from Thea or from Gram or Mum. I feel like a detective, always watching, trying to find the treasure in someone’s dialog or gesture or dress. Something I can steal for my character to make her more real, more believable. So she will breathe through the pages into the reader’s psyche. She’s already alive in mine.

Cozies are also filled with quirky characters. My protagonist is a clumsy, ‘fraidy-cat who procrastinates even more than me. I discovered her flaws from among my family and friends…a little nail-biting from this person, a little bad cooking from another, a sprinkle of kindness from my mom and voila! It’s spunky, clog-wearing Thea James. In the flesh.

Always on the lookout for things Thea might mess up, I keep my inner research light on at all times. Recently, I put cinnamon on my steamed veggies instead of seasoned salt, only realizing it after taking a big bite. Yuck!

But, on the other hand, Thea might do the same in a future adventure. Only she will be making dinner for her beau, Cole Mason. Perhaps she also invited the Mayor, hoping to impress.

Hmm, I wonder how that will work out? Maybe I should do more research.

BOOK SUMMARY for A Stitch in Crime:
Thea James thought working as co-chair for Larkindale’s first quilt show extravaganza would be a natural extension of her antique business. But while organizing the busy week’s premiere events would make anyone frayed, she doesn’t expect a complete unraveling!
   At the opening soirée, local matriarch Mary-Alice Wentworth is knocked unconscious and robbed of her diamond brooch. Soon a rare quilt—the main attraction and a rumored key to great riches—goes missing. Those who signed up to help Thea are strangely no help at all. What more could possibly happen?
   Amid a cast of colorful characters and a tight schedule of garden galas, tea parties, and televised socials, everything is falling apart at the seams – and nothing is quite what it seems. Can Thea sew everything back together?

Cathy Elliott is a full-time writer in northern California whose cozy mysteries reflect her personal interests from quilting and antique collecting to playing her fiddle with friends. She also leads music at church and enjoys time with her grandchildren. Cathy’s previous plot-twisting works include A Vase of Mistaken Identity and Medals in the Attic.

Visit Cathy at:
·         Facebook – Author Cathy Elliott
Question to blog readers:

What is your favorite crime story and why? Please comment with your answer.