Monthly Archives: March 2015

Lost Along the Byways

There’s a lot to be said for the road less traveled. When I was a child, my father liked to go for long drives in the country on the weekends. Invariably he became “lost,” sometimes for hours, during which he skillfully avoided any signs of civilization. My mother would get excited and start to worry, and he would laugh, and I would enjoy myself immensely, sitting in the back seat off on an adventure, happy to be lost for the day. Eventually he would find his way back to a small town with a recognizable highway and pronounce us “rescued.” My mother would breathe a sigh of relief and begin to enjoy herself again, and I would always be a little sad that we were no longer lost in a world of narrow lanes, forests, and open fields with something new and unexpected around every corner.



This may account for my continued love of wandering over the countryside, this time with my husband, who is never lost, but who is able to find such obscure back roads that I can spend days with no real idea of where I am. And thanks to my father, I don’t care. Being lost doesn’t scare me. I just love being along for the ride, and I live in an area where the ride is fascinating–and beautiful.



Spring, summer, fall or winter, there are flowers and trees and lakes and streams. There are birds and llamas and cattle and herds of wild horses rescued from overcrowded or disappearing habitats in the West and let loose to roam huge swathes of ranchland in Oklahoma. There are hills and prairies and red dirt and sandstone. And small towns linked by old highways and kept alive by farmers and ranchers and people driving through and stopping to spend a few hours wandering among the antique shops and flea markets and craft stores–where peaches are sold along the roadside in early summer and farmers’ produce stands line the rural highways.



For me, the road less traveled reveals a land of endless wonder. As a writer, it fuels my imagination and makes me want to translate what I’m discovering into something I can share with others. And as wondrous as the land is, the people who populate it are just as amazing. Young and old, rich and poor, good and bad, full of hope and burdened by despair–people are the heart and soul, the breath and blood–the life–of any town, any land, any story.



So this is my inspiration. Because when I’m lost along the byway, I know it’s only for the day. As darkness falls, I will find my way home again. But there are others who will linger in my imagination, lost still, unable to find their way back, waiting to be rescued, and these will eventually find their way to the town of Myrtle Grove and the adventures waiting for them there. Because this, after all, is a place where mysteries, and adventure and justice are a part of life, and where the ladies of the Myrtle Grove Garden Club offer rescue to anyone wandering alone and lost on the byways of life.

The Lure of the Village

There’s something almost mythic about the draw of a small town in a country setting. The image conjured is of cottages, rose gardens, sidewalks and narrow streets. It’s a place where cats sit in windows, dogs play in the park with children, and neighbors talk over picket fences while sipping their morning coffee. Villages are cozy and comforting and the kind of places that the secret heart of almost everyone yearns for, at least in his or her imagination. The pace of life is slower and sweeter. Friendships are easier. Families are closer.

Almost surely this is why cozy mysteries came to be called “cozies.” They are set in small towns where everyone knows everyone else and are linked by an alluring sense of community and shared bonds. In these rural, intimate settings, the cozy reader grows to feel comfortable and comforted. Recurring characters become friends, and with each new book in the cozy series, the reader has a chance to revisit this familiar little town and reconnect with the old friends who live there.
I can’t speak for every writer of a cozy series, but with each new Myrtle Grove Garden Club mystery I write, I enjoy every minute I spend in the company of Jesse, Vivian and Sophia and all of the other ladies of the garden club. I love the town of Myrtle Grove itself, and all of the regular characters who live there and contribute to each story. For me, each book is a homecoming.

And while the town of Myrtle Grove itself is fictional, it is a composite of many small towns and reflects elements that are real. Antique shops abound in hamlets woven between lakes and streams, farms and ranches, tucked down country roads and old highways bypassed by modern traffic. Tea shops still serve lunches to residents and tourists on vintage china in 80-year-old shops with creaking wood floors, high ceilings and plaster walls in place. Farmers’ markets enliven the weekends with local produce and hand-made crafts. These towns are part of a disappearing landscape that struggles to survive in a world quickly leaving them behind.

But they remain, and Myrtle Grove speaks for them. Small-town America is out there. Villages still exist, and if you go looking for them, you will find them. Growing old and imperfect in places, a little dingy and decrepit at times, and not always the thing of fairytales–they are there, waiting to be discovered, cozy and comforting. And the thing of dreams, at least for some of us.