Friday, January 23, 2015

A Challenge with a Twist
Because I'm apparently a glutton for punishment and don't have enough on my plate yet, I found this challenge and decided to combine it with my Goodreads challenge of reading 50 books in a year. One book for one challenge. No cheating and applying more than one category to one book. Not one to do things the normal way, I want to choose as many of my cozy mysteries as possible to fill the requirements. It might be a stretch for a few since I generally don't care for romances. Last week's cozy will fill the slot of "A book you can finish in a day" as it only took me a few hours to read it (again). That will probably be the only book that isn't new to me. I've read it a couple times so far.

A few of the categories will have to be something other than a cozy since none that I know of are based on a true story, published more than 100 years ago, or are considered non-fiction. I also have yet to come across one with more than 500 pages. I want to use Pagan titles to complete the tougher categories. I am also open to suggestions from my readers. I already a book in mind for "a book that scares you". I started Heart-shaped Box by Joe Hill a couple of years ago and haven't finished it yet. The creep factor is much higher than my usual but the story is well written. I just need to clear some reading time during the day. Reading a quality ghost story at 2 a.m. leads to very little sleep and I need my sleep.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Cozy Mystery Monday - Witch Way to Murder

Welcome to the first installment of "Cozy Mystery Monday." As I mentioned in my previous post, I love a good mystery and like them even better when not bogged down in detailed accounts of sex or violence. That tends to get in the way of the whodunit. My intention here is to introduce my readers to as many of the witchy/paranormal/magickal cozies as I can find. I'll discuss each book in a series separately as the writers worked hard on each and deserve proper recognition for every story they share.

I've decided to start with Witch Way to Murder, the first book my all-time favorite witchy series, the Ophelia and Abby Mysteries. It is a seven-novel series about Ophelia Jensen, a small Iowa town librarian and reluctant clairvoyant, and her grandmother Abby McDonald, a wise woman with powers passed down through many generations. They use their gifts to solve crimes and protect those they care about. In this first story, Ophelia is still emotionally crippled by a tragedy from four years past, shutting out everyone for fear of hurting someone or getting hurt herself. That all changed when Rick Davis strolls into town claiming to be a chemical salesman, asking tons of questions about several recent petty crimes, including theft of anhydrous ammonia. Shortly thereafter, Ophelia stumbles onto a dead body and the investigating begins. I don't want to go into too much detail because every part of this story was a joy to discover without having it spoiled. What made this stand out for me over other series was the protagonist's struggle with her abilities and her trust issues. She never once shows disrespect for her grandmother's magick. She only fears letting herself embrace what she can do after she feels her gifts failed her (as she believed it did in the tragedy four years earlier). The story never felt forced and all of the secondary characters were believable and (mostly) likeable. It's also nice when law enforcement is not portrayed as bumbling idiots, forcing the protagonists into action.The answer to whodunit was well-plotted and not immediately obvious, at least not to me. Most importantly, the magick was handled very well. No silliness, no gimmick, no wand waving and shooting out a spell. Just respect. I appreciate when an author can pull that off.

Favorite quote: When asked if she is not Wiccan then what is it, Abby responds, "It's hard to explain. Some might call it sympathetic or white magick, but I think that's too simplistic. It's a seeing in your mind, looking beyond the physical. It's an understanding of nature and the world around you. Every thing, every place, has energy, a power--some more than others. I'm just a conduit for that power, to pull it inside me and send it back out. The power isn't me. It's there with or without me."

Five smoking guns for a great plot and five wands for the respectful magick. Oh, and a bonus for Ophelia's cat Queenie and her dog Lady and not making romance a huge factor in the story. (the ratings system will have handy icons soon)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Cozy Mysteries of the Magickal Variety

I’ve always been an avid reader and mysteries were my first love. I started like most kids, with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Then I found the best (IMO) mystery series for young adults of the time, the Three Investigators Series. The three boys from working class families were easier to relate to than Nancy’s upper class lifestyle. They were smart, resourceful, and expected to be home for dinner. They were my kind of protagonists. Over time, my reading tastes expanded to include science fiction, fantasy, and the occasional literary title. Then a co-worker introduced me to the Cat Who Series by Lilian Jackson Braun and my obsession with cozy mysteries was born. They have a slow-paced, charming quality I need after hours of retail work.

For those who aren’t aware of them, cozy mysteries “are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.” --definition courtesy of Wikipedia. The main character is usually not in law enforcement and the murder doesn’t happen on-stage. The most popular series have a theme of some sort, such as Laura Childs’ Tea Shop Mysteries, Monica Ferris’ Needlecraft Mysteries, and the aforementioned Cat Who Mysteries. Name a hobby and there is probably a cozy series to go with it. There are also lots of them with magickal or paranormal themes. These are my preference right now. Well, that and cats. I'm a sucker for cats. One fairly new series (6 books since 2011) combines the two with a pair of magickal cats. One can walk through walls and the other becomes invisible in the quest to find out whodunit. Naturally, those are high on my list of favorites. Next week, I start a regular series of posts talking about magickal/paranormal cozies, one book at a time. So join me on the 19th for Cozy Mystery Mondays where I'll introduce you to "Witch Way to Murder," the first book in the Ophelia and Abby Mystery series.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Do or do not. There is no try.

Gotta love that quote. For a fuzzy green muppet, Yoda was a pretty smart guy. :)

Every new year I make resolutions; blogging more, getting the online business in order, getting past roadblocks in my genealogy, writing my cozy mysteries. And every year I fail do any of it. Bragging about all of my big plans seems to just make me feel like a loser when I can't follow through. My results from NaNoWriMo 2014 are a prime example. I committed to 50k words knowing that much writing is beyond my capabilities for now. It'll take more experience as a writer to be that prolific that quickly. I don't intend to quit trying. The blog still needs posts. The stories must be written. Ancestors are waiting to be found. I simply won't make public proclamations about my intentions. Better to do what needs doing than talk it to death. I look forward to reporting my many successes instead.

The first thing I've done is merge my two blogs back into one. Trying to separate business and personal only made it twice as hard to accomplish either. And it made me feel like I was trying to be two different people. My spirituality informs everything in my life, so I don't really need to keep things separate. I only need to be myself and accept that not everyone will agree with my opinions. Second, I managed to survive another holiday season in retail with my sanity intact. The key was to stop letting the day job be so important to my self-worth, to stop letting it occupy so much of my life away from work. I don't plan to be at that job forever, only until I create something better for myself. In the meantime it pays the bills and gives me access to lots of books. My roomie recently helped me realize a way I already express my spirituality without even knowing. I have ancestor magick. Not in the aspect of literally speaking with the dead but through my genealogy. I've been working on improving my affinity for finding lost family hidden in historical records and honoring them properly. Goddess helps me in unexpected ways, such as the aforementioned access to books. Just last week we got in this book I can't wait to read. "Discovering more about our forebears and identifying inherited traits can help us realise our potential and assist us in overcoming obstacles that may be holding us back. As we learn about our ancestors, we can reclaim who we are, discover our creativity, and find our true soul path." This sounds absolutely fascinating and right up my alley. It was my need to connect with someone like myself (and a huge album of old family photos with names and dates) that started the search for my roots. It would be even better to connect on a spiritual level, to feel a connection beyond names, dates, and locations. Why do I feel an immediate connection to my maternal great-grandmother? Do we have more in common than basic genetics? Why don't I sense any real connection to my paternal line?

Okay, enough for tonight. I'll be back when I have progress to report. Or something important I need to share or vent. You never know what the day holds.