Miss Marple Knits a Mystery: Crafty Fiction 101

Miss+Marple+Knitting“Sitting here with one’s knitting, one just sees the facts,” says Miss Marple in The Blood-Stained Pavement, a short story from Agatha Christie’s The Thirteen Problems.

Throughout her long sleuthing career, the needle-wielding grand dame of British mysteries knits about 47 garments until, toward the end of her mystery-solving days, poor eyesight sadly forces her to give up her lifelong passion.

Yet, her influence can still be seen today as numerous crafty detectives continue to find the soothing influence of knitting helpful while solving crimes from knitting-store proprietresses, like Sally Goldenbaum’s Izzy Chambers, Mary Kruger’s Ariadne Evans, Anne Canadeo’s  Maggie Messina, and Barbara Bretton’s Chloe Hobbs (half-human/half sorceress) to knitting clubs as seen in the Maggie Sefton mysteries.

Knitting fiction has also broadened over the years, no longer fitting neatly into a mystery subcategory, almost becoming a genre of its own. Literary fiction, chick lit, and romance abound with plots centered around knitting from authors like Kate Jacobs, Terri Dulong, Debbie Macomber, Gil McNeil, Ann Hood, Rachael Herron, and even my own small contribution.

KnittingFictionCollageI first discovered knitting in fiction shortly before I learned how to knit through Anne Barlett’s Knitting. Its simple title hides a complex story about loss, acceptance, and an unlikely friendship between two women.

The novel came as a surprise to me, the author unknown, discovered, as are many of my favorite books, at a used bookstore. I devoured it, fascinated as one of the main characters, a textile artist, creates a knitted three-dimensional sculpture of a horse. I had never heard of such a thing, didn’t even realize it was possible, and from there I began to knit, although on a much smaller, simpler scale.

But it was also the beginning of my adventures in knitting fiction, which continues today, and which I’ve decided to share through a Facebook page. It’s all for fun—trivia, reviews, author news, and the like. Take a peek when you get a chance and if you enjoy what you see, a “like” would always be appreciated.

“I imagine you knitting headscarves and that sort of thing,” one of Miss Marple’s clients writes while requesting her services. “If that’s what you prefer to go on doing, that’s your decision. But if you prefer to serve the cause of justice, I hope you find it (the case) interesting.”

And, luckily for readers, she didn’t have to choose, happily pursuing both knitting and justice.

If I could knit and read at the same time...2

On the intersection of knitting, baseball, and writing

Finished! IMG_20150805_103757The afghan for my seven-year-old niece is finally complete–fringe added, yarn tails woven in, and ready to be delivered. The blues reflect her outdoorsy nature, as wide and expansive as the sky–a girl who is happiest collecting rocks and shells and watching frogs jump.

Baseball comes next… in the form of a Detroit-Tigers-themed blanket for my sports-loving nephew. The yarn has been selected–thankfully, Lion Brand Yarns has created a palette for the baseball season–and finalists for the pattern have been narrowed down.

Large Detroit Tiger’s Old English D by Rachael Tomasino

I might even challenge myself by adding the Detroit Tiger’s famous “Old English D.” That is, if I can figure out how to read the pattern–a possible stumbling block for someone who knits like the proverbial dancer but with two left hands instead of feet.

But none of this matters. Once the yarn slips through my fingers in a meditative repetition, I’ll be lost to the process, watching the afghan emerge stitch by stitch. There’s a peace to be found in knitting, a solitary craft–at least for me–in which the simple union of needle with yarn can yield hours of serenity (except, of course, when I drop a stitch!).

It reminds me at times of writing, the beauty of linking words like stitches and seeing a pattern emerge in a swirl of colors. Underneath it all is the hope that what is in my mind will be reflected on the page or needles, but also a reminder that part of the joy must come from the act of creation.

 

 

Love, Lattes, and Danger: It’s a dirty job, but some mutant’s got to do it…

Love,Lattes,andDangerThe characters from Love, Lattes, and Mutants (read my review) are back in Love, Lattes, and Danger (available today!), and the timing couldn’t be more perfect for a summer escape into author Sandra Cox‘s imaginative world of genetic engineering, mysteries, teen angst, and, of course, a few frothy lattes.

Synopsis

Joel Eisler is a mutant with special talents. He can detect an oil leak in the ocean simply by tasting the water. Because of this unique ability, he’s been purchased by a large oil company, along with his dolph-sister, Amy. The upside of spending his days and nights in the ocean is that it gives him the opportunity to save the lives of his brother dolphins. The downsides are life as a closely monitored slave—and that he can’t be with Piper, the dolph-girl he loves…

To make matters worse, Joel discovers the lab he grew up in has extracted his sperm and Piper’s egg and created a baby, and his handler, Craven, is plotting to kidnap Amy for more experiments. Now Joel must rescue the infant, bring her to Piper, and find a way to save Amy. And if that’s not enough of a challenge, he needs to convince Piper she belongs with him instead of her all-too-human boyfriend—if Craven doesn’t get to them first…

Buy Love, Lattes, and Danger

EKensington ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Kobo

Sandra2About the author

Multi-published author Sandra Cox writes YA Fantasy, Paranormal and Historical Romance, and Metaphysical Nonfiction. She lives in sunny North Carolina with her husband, a brood of critters and an occasional foster cat. Although shopping is high on the list, her greatest pleasure is sitting on her screened in porch, listening to the birds, sipping coffee and enjoying a good book. She’s a vegetarian and a Muay Thai enthusiast.

Find Sandra on the web

Blog ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mountain Biking with a Literary Ghost

While traveling through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—as I am now—my mind often takes a literary bend. Not uncommon for me, but it’s Great Lakes freighters, foreboding Lake Superior, stretching to endless depths, and rugged inhabitants (Yoopers), enduring winter for six months out of the year*, that come to most people’s minds when thinking of the U.P.

MTBYet, while mountain biking this week through the rolling, dense forest and rocky cliffs of Western U.P.’s massive trail systems, I found myself thinking about author Jim Harrison, once a summer resident of Grand Marais. The Woman Lit By Fireflies, his novella, has to be one of my favorite titles of all time, and in another novella, Brown Dog, he perfectly captured an aspect of the Yooper spirit and culture.

Two mystery series by Steve Hamilton and Joseph Heywood also pry their way into my consciousness, a reminder of my to-read list. The remote, semi-wild feel of the U.P. provides the perfect setting for murder and intrigue.

But it’s an older, somewhat forgotten writer, Robert Traver, attorney and author of Anatomy of a Murder, on which the classic film, starring Jimmy Stewart and a very young, sassy Lee Remick, was based, who most often joins me in my mental wanderings.  Although best known for that novel, Mr. Traver was actually a prolific outdoor writer, specializing in fly fishing.

It’s easy in the U.P. to conjure up long-gone authors. Time seems inconsequential, a nuisance best ignored. Quintessential cabins hug remote shorelines, as if they were always part of the landscape, created like the hills by glacial carvings.

And one afternoon, during a ride on those hills, I pedaled along a skinny trail with Carp River’s rapids churning below me. Waterfalls spilled over rocks, merging with the river in a silvery pathway, cutting its way through the earth. I pictured a lone angler, flies decorating his vest, casting next to the river. He murmured a greeting and tipped his cap but otherwise remained silent as sun and shadows flitted across his features.

The trail took me around a corner, swooping across a hill before forcing me to gear down for the next climb, leaving the ghost of Mr. Traver behind until my next visit to the U.P.

 

*During a cross-country ski trip to the U.P. earlier this year, I marveled at two elderly women as they skied, scarf-less, in single digits as a frigid wind slapped against my face. “We grew up here,” they informed me. “We like the cold.”

Interview with Erin Fanning

Erin:

I’m moonlighting for the next few weeks over at “Knitting before Knitting was Cool”–a wonderful blog for all things knitting.

Originally posted on Knitting before Knitting was Cool:

I am pleased to welcome Erin Fanning as my first guest blogger on this site!  Erin is the author of a new novel, Blood Stitches.  Erin will be posting once a week for the next few weeks talking about her work.

Blood Stitches-highres

When did you start knitting?

I began knitting about eight years ago, after wanting to for years but thinking I wasn’t crafty enough to learn.

What drew you to knit and what is your favorite thing to knit?

My grandmother was an expert at needlework, and I always admired her ability. One of my greatest regrets is not taking her up on her offer to teach me how to knit and crochet, but school, activities, and insecurity about my lack of artistic ability got in the way. However, I finally forged ahead, and now my main knitting projects are blankets for my many, many nieces and nephews.

When did you…

View original 315 more words

A Souvenir of My Reading Self

FiftyBestFifty Best American Short Stories 1915-1965 sits on my bedside table. It’s an unusually heavy book and has burst from its spine, as if weighed down by the importance of the stories and authors contained in its covers. Pages tumble from the book like leaves falling from a tree or perhaps a branch, when a larger chunk of papers breaks apart from the binding.

But I have no intention of discarding it.

I keep it because I admire Editor Martha Foley’s confidence, no equivocation–so sure of herself.  “These are the best short stories spanning fifty years,” she seems to say, “and I dare you to disagree.”

It’s also a reminder of forgotten authors—Elsie Singmaster, Morley Callaghan—along with familiar ones—Ernest Hemingway, John Updike: a symbol of both the transitory and permanent nature of literature. But, most importantly, the book was a gift from my sister Kelly, which she rescued from a used book sale, knowing my love for unusual collections of short stories.

It also joined me one summer while traveling along the north shore of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It became my literary companion, as dark and somber as the depths of Lake Superior, which were always in view.

The collection began to disintegrate during that trip. At night, I’d grasp several pages and read Flannery O’Connor, James Thurber, or Bernard Malamud. I considered scattering pieces of these great stories across the U.P.–John Cheever in Grand Marais, a few pages of Dorothy Parker for Munising, and a smattering of Lionel Trilling in Marquette.

And now I wish I had… a souvenir of my reading self everywhere I went, to be picked up by a walker strolling next to a park bench or a waiter bussing a table, creating an endless cycle of reading and sharing, just as Martha Foley intended.

Cherry Pie and Landscape Quilts: A day of cycling

Beulah, Michigan’s Cherry Hut

I noticed the ad while thumbing through a local travel guide during lunch at Beulah’s Cherry Hut. Pie sat on my fork, waiting to be popped into my mouth. Ice cream melted on the plate in a swirl of plump cherries and creamy vanilla.

State of the Art Framing and Gallery, the ad read, along with a photograph of a quilt unlike anything I’d seen before. Northern Michigan’s forests and lakes exploded from the tiny picture, as if they’d always been created from fabric, needles, and thread. Landscape quilting, it was called, which seemed an understatement.

I had to see these quilts in person.

Time slipped around me, pooling into infinity, completely unimportant on a cloudless summer afternoon with nightfall hours and hours away. Our bikes were propped against a rack outside the Cherry Hut, and State of the Art Framing and Gallery, according to the ad, waited only a few blocks away.

Miles of riding stretched in front of us: a circumnavigation around Platte Lake then back along Lake Michigan to Frankfort, my favorite sort of afternoon—exploring the world by bicycle with stops along the way for cappuccinos, lunch, and cherry pie. The kind of day–without boundaries or agenda, as limitless as Lake Michigan’s sand dunes–that practically screams for a side-trip to a gallery.

A few minutes later, we pedaled down the quiet Beulah streets to the gallery’s simple storefront, but what waited inside belied the deceptive exterior. All the seasons burst from the walls in brilliant and muted colors. Trees, fields, flowers, and lakes came alive. Ann Loveless’s quilts brought the outdoors inside, as if she had the ability to sew nature.

Later, while biking next to Crystal Lake, I compared the blues of the water with Ms. Loveless’s creations. And it occurred to me how beauty and wonder are everywhere, whether watching a dragonfly flit over a pond or admiring the skill of a quilter. All it takes is the slow rhythms of a summer day and the freedom to allow oneself to explore it.