Tuesday, January 27, 2015
As I celebrate the recent release of my new cozy mystery, A Stitch in Crime, I find myself missing someone. Missing my plucky protagonist, Thea James, even amid much mention of her exploits. Once, her thoughts and movements and loves and concerns filled my head. They kept me company as I wrote recorded her adventures in the daytime and later, when I teetered on the edge of dreams, I’d plan what she might do tomorrow.
I was so drawn into Thea’s story, often I didn’t notice certain things. Important things. Like the night I rushed into the kitchen, cut up my favorite veggies – broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage – and arranged them in the steamer. I turned on the heat, covered the pot, and hurried back to my computer. To Thea. She was in the middle of a very bad situation, in need of immediate rescue. No one could help her except me. I had to write her out of that wrong. And be quick about it.
It took about forty-five minutes to move the story past that terrible part, allowing Thea a chance to escape, but I was focused. Determined. Single-minded, if you will. And finally managed to bring Thea through without real harm. Whew.
I sat back in my chair, happy, relaxed, breathing deep sighs of satisfaction. But wait. What was that smell? Straightening up, I did the head-cock thing. The veggies!
Like a rocket, I zoomed back into the kitchen and turned off the heat. Picking up the pot with the steamer inside, I noticed it seemed extra light. When I took off the lid, I saw why. No water. I’d forgotten to fill the bottom of the pot with water for steaming. And forgotten to set the timer. Thea’s dilemma had consumed my thoughts so much that now I had no dinner to consume.
Turning on the water, I allowed some to accumulate in the bottom of the pot. It sizzled resentfully. Steam rose up through the vegetables, moistening them. Hey, they didn’t look all that bad. I forked through and realized they weren’t burned. True, they had a curious smoked fragrance, but I didn’t see any burned broccoli. Of course, the pot was black as soot. I sent up a “thank You” that I’d used one of my heavy-duty, All-Clad pots that I love so much just for this reason. To accommodate my absent-minded, culinary skills. Especially on deadline.
What a relief. I’d saved Thea and the pots had saved dinner. A little butter, sprinkle of lemon pepper (my new favorite seasoning), a bit o'cheese, and it became a blackened feast. Okay, in truth, only the pot was blackened, but the dish had the hint of the old campfire about it, without the roasted marshmallows. Not bad.
Thea and I had many such side trips. Where her world seemed more real at times than mine. It certainly invaded most everything I did, everywhere I went, and every conversation. At Bible study, I’d admire the quilt on the back of a sofa and think, “I bet that would be a good quilt to put in the Blocks on the Walk Quilt Show.” I’d find out the details and make a note to self. At dinner with friends, someone would tell a funny story about a relative or say something in a way I’d never heard before. “Do you mind if I use that in the book?” I’d ask, writing it down.
Thea and I had a close relationship for some time and I enjoyed every companionable moment. Not thinking about her is an adjustment. It feels a bit like empty-nest-syndrome. And maybe I’m taking too much time to say “goodbye.” I need to do so pretty soon. Once she is settled in the hearts of new readers, living out her story, maybe then.
After all, many other characters are waiting, vying for their worlds to be created. For their stories to be told. I think it’s almost time to open the door and welcome them inside. I’ll wave to Thea as she goes and give her a high-five, knowing she’ll be okay.
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 cherishes time with her grandchildren. Cathy’s other plot-twisting works include Medals in the Attic and A Vase of Mistaken Identity.
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