I think every writer is well aware of the saying, “Write what you know.” I never thought I knew enough about anything to write a book which is what probably kept me from writing for so long. Then I read Stephen King’s book “On Writing.” He more or less says you don’t need to go to a lot of expensive workshops or have a master’s degree in journalism to write. What I took away from the book is that he said, “Just do it.” So what did I know? I know dogs and food, so I did it.
Voila! Perfect for a cozy mystery. I’m now well into two series, Cedar Bay Cozy Mystery Series and the Liz Lucas Cozy Mystery Series, and I love writing them, but lately I’ve been getting an itch to write a third cozy mystery series. I was an art and antique appraiser for many years and was fortunate enough to be flown all over the United States by an insurance company who specialized in clients with very high-end personal property that needed to be appraised. During that time, I was fortunate enough to appraise some incredible collections. I certainly didn’t consider myself to be an expert in everything, but I had over 140 people I could call on to either take on the appraisals with me or use for research.
So, I thought a series based on an art and antique appraiser living in a small California desert town would be fun. I have a fried who’s a psychic. Not a “think I’m a psychic person,” but one who’s good enough the University of California tested her and agreed, the lady has a sixth sense. So an appraiser with a sister who’s a psychic. It was coming together. As I played with it I started remembering things that happened when I was on appraisals, and as I’ve said in past posts, the protagonist is rarely the author, but experiences can certainly creep in, particularly if you’re writing about what you know!
A ring you say, what does that have to do with anything? Well, years ago I was doing a probate appraisal, and the decedent’s son told me his mother had owned a fabulous ring, and he couldn’t find it. Would I keep an eye out for it? Of course, but I couldn’t find it either.That night I was talking to my psychic friend and mentioned it. She asked if she could come to the house the next day and that she might be able to find it. I said absolutely. The next day she walked through each of the rooms while I was appraising items in the master bedroom.
She walked into the bedroom with a knife and a cutting board. Knives and guns make me nervous, and if I hadn’t known her better, I probably would have been terrified. She put the knife and cutting board on the bathroom counter and walked into the closet, returning with a styrofoam head. She put the head on the cutting board and just like in the movies, raised her arms over her head and brought the knife down, cutting the head in half. Yup, the ring flew out. That was too good not to make it into the book!
And the Monkey Band? What is a Monkey Band? The insurance company had flown me to Chicago to appraise a collection of Meissen china worth millions. In the collection was an authentic 18th century Monkey Band set. The set consisted of twenty-two five inch figurines in the form of monkeys dressed in 18th century costumes, and each one had an instrument, plus the conductor. It was charming and very expensive, worth well over a million dollars. Over the years, I’ve thought about that collection and one of the things that stayed with me is how frustrating it would be to almost have a complete set. Naturally that made it into the book – murder and people wanting to complete their set!
I guess maybe I’ve come full circle – I’m writing what I know about!!!