Coffee & Chat

Coffee & Chat – Do you wander when you go shopping or are you focused on a prepared list?

Happy Monday! Can you believe that it’s the 16th of January already? This month is flying by. Weren’t we all just ringing in the new year and committing to a resolution? I’m not going to ask if you’ve broken your resolution yet. 🙂 Rather, we’re going to move onto our Coffee & Chat question, which is “do you wander when you go shopping, or are you focused on a prepared list?” Since I’m writing a food blogger amateur sleuth I’m going to focus on grocery shopping. Hope Early, the food blogger/sleuth in the series does a lot of grocery shopping and we do share the same method of shopping. I have a full cup of coffee so lets get chatting.

When I go weekly grocery shopping I do have a detailed list. I am a list maker. Always have been. For grocery shopping I use a steno pad and I break up my list by categories. Produce, canned goods, pasta, beverages, butcher department, diary, frozen, breads, personal care, etc. My grocery list is based on the design of my local Stop & Shop. I also include a brief menu for the coming week. I cross off the items I’ve added to my cart as I go through the store and make notes if I need to pick up an item at a different store. One time a sweet lady approached me while I was waiting for a couple of steaks and admired how organized I was with my list.

Here’s a look at one of the pages in the steno pad from a shopping trip.

I can’t imagine not having the list with me. I can’t. My goal is to get into the store and out as quickly as possible. Round trip, it usually takes me an hour to buy the groceries. And I do prefer self-checkout so that I can bag the groceries the way I want to. I do admit I’m a little OCD when it comes to the way the bags are packed but it’s really about being able to unpack the bags and put the groceries away quickly. Probably the least favorite part of grocery shopping is putting the groceries away.

There you have it. You now know how I grocery shop. 🙂 I’m going to finish my coffee now and I’d love to know if you’re a list maker or not.

If you prefer not to tell the world if you’re a list maker or not please feel free to say “hi” in the comments section!

Coffee & Chat

Coffee & Chat # 7 – Where do the your ideas come from?

Happy Monday!

I decided to start this series of posts because writers get a lot of questions from people and one of the most common questions is – where do your ideas come from. Every writer’s answer will be different and an interesting note is that a group of writers could be shown on photograph as a writing prompt and each writer would have a different story idea. And even if two writers had the same story idea, their story would be unique to her and to her genre. As you can tell by now, this isn’t an easy question to answer. But I think (I hope so) that you’ll enjoy the explanation of my process. I have a full cup of coffee so lets get chatting.

Luckily a story idea sparked just the other day for a series I am in the process of creating and because of that I can’t provide too many details. But I think I can share just enough for you to understand how this writer’s mind works. Shall we begin?

On New Year’s Eve I took my 13 year old Shih-Tzu (I hope she’ll forgive me for sharing her age) out to do a little shopping. We went to the local pet shop to buy food and bird seed. She greeted a bunch of people and she was lavished with attention from another Shih-Tzu mom who wanted to know where Susie went from grooming. After we packed the car I decided to take Susie for a walk over at an open space in town that used to house a state mental hospital. The property, which is over 180 acres, used to be a state run psychiatric hospital and now is owned by the town and is being re-purposed. But the project isn’t complete and there are still abandoned buildings on the property such as the one below.

Let me just say now that there is a creepy history to the property. The stories are endless since the buildings that housed and cared for thousands of patients were connected buy underground tunnels. Let that sink into your mind for a bit. Get the picture? Creepy. Anyway, the property is slowly being turned into a space where residents can walk, run, bike, horseback ride and there are open fields for sports. It’s also the place for concerts and art shows. But for a writer, like me, it’s also a place for ideas.

Back to the walk. We passed by the building above as we walked along the sidewalk but Susie wanted to get closer to the building (several of the buildings have warning signs to stay away for safety reasons but this building didn’t have a sign) and I tried to distract her, after all we had a walk to continue on with. She wasn’t budging. She wanted to get closer to the building. Now my imagination is kicking in. Did she hear something? Smell something? Sense something? I allowed her to continue forward and she sniffed her way up the steps and around the side of the building. I let her continue on while my mind started turning over a story question – what if….and that led me to an idea for a second book in a different series I’m outlining now. What if she (my protagonist) is out walking her dog at a similar location to Fairfield Hills and the dog leads her to a dead body and it’s the first of several as a serial killer emerges. Boom! Story idea!

That is how writers get ideas. From innocent walks with dogs, from ordinary trips to the grocery store to the nightly news. There’s a story idea practically in every thing a writer sees, hears, or experiences.

I’m going to finish my coffee now and I’d love to know what sparks your imagination.

Life

Snowy Sunday

Sunday is winding down and it’s been a cold, wintry day. We had snow yesterday and the temperature plunged. I snapped a few pictures today before we got to work clearing the snow.

I love this birdbath. The frog always makes me smile.

Our wintry backyard.

A new delivery of cozies perfect for curling up on a cold, winter’s night.

I hope you had a great weekend. Stay warm!

Coffee & Chat

Coffee & Chat # 6 – What genre are your books? What draws you to this genre?

Happy Monday!

We’re starting the week off a little colder and a little snowy. That’s right, it’s beginning to feel like winter here in Connecticut and by the middle of the week the temperatures will nose dive and there will be no turning back, winter has settled in to stay. And with the weather finally turning it’s a great time to curl up with a good book. I’m sure we all have a pretty tall stack of TBR (to be read) that we can choose our next read from and doesn’t that stack keep growing no matter how many books we pull out to read? 🙂 My stack is a combination of mysteries and romances and women’s fiction. I enjoy reading across genres and sub-genres but presently I’m not writing across genres (that’s a different post). When people find out that I am a writer the next question always is “what kind of book is it” and my answer is “mystery”. I’ve been asked a few times why I write mysteries and today that’s what this post is about. I have a full cup of coffee so lets get chatting.

q-a-over-coffee

For today’s post I want to focus in on the type of book I’ve written – a cozy culinary mystery and what draws me to this genre.

Cozy mysteries foster a sense of familiarity for the reader. Even though the story is usually set around a murder, there is a comfort in diving into the book. You’re visiting old friends and the town in which they call home. A skilled writer can keep the characters fresh by allowing them to grow with each book but yet keep them true to the character that they are. Relationships between the characters are often tested and strengthened during the course of the investigation because the sleuth is investigating on her own. This brings me to another reason why I’m drawn to cozy mysteries. The sleuth is usually an average woman who finds herself in extraordinary situations forcing her to step outside her comfort zone in order to find the real killer. I love that she has to become fearless, take on people who make it very clear that she’s sticking her nose in someone else’s business, that she’ll have to fight for her life at some point. As I flip each page of the book the sleuth becomes stronger and more determined.

Murder is a horrible crime, the most serious because a life is taken and at the end of the book the murderer has been revealed and justice will prevail. Sometimes in a cozy mystery a bad person is murder but he deserves justice also. The wrapping up of the murder reminds us that good can triumph over bad and that every life is precious. At the end of a cozy mystery typically the sense of normalcy that was present at the beginning of the book returns and it’s a reminder that life must go on, albeit different but life continues and we need to be a part of it.

I enjoy cooking and baking so I naturally gravitated towards cozies that feature food. I recall that the two first culinary mysteries I read were Joanne Pence’s Angie Amalfi series and Katherine Hall Page’s Faith Fairchild series. I’ve read every book in those series and loved them. Food is such an intregal part of our lives, we share food with loved ones and friends during the everydays in our lives to the most joyous or the saddest days in our lives. Food celebrates, nourishes, comforts so to weave it through a mystery where there is so much uncertainty it feels right to me.

I’m going to finish my coffee now and I’d love to know what genre of books you like to read and what draws you to them. If you don’t have a question, don’t be shy – say “hi” in the comments section!