Tuesday, April 19, 2016

8 Lessons My Cozy Characters Have Taught Me About Life

I know the title of this blog post must seem a little crazy. The characters in my cozy mystery books aren’t real people, after all. How can you learn something from somebody who's not real? But when you spend most of your waking hours with "fictional" characters like I do, you quickly discover that they're much more real than you initially give them credit for. They take on a life of their own, and watching them change, grow, and learn over the years is one of the best parts of being a writer.  

This last week, I got sick with a nasty stomach flu that put me out of commission for several long days. Luckily, I'm feeling much better and am finally getting back to work today. But the time spent away from the computer screen wasn't all bad (mostly bad, but not all!) It gave me a chance to reflect a little bit on what a privilege it is to spend so much time in the worlds of Christmas River, Dog Mountain, and Broken Hearts Junction. And it also gave me a chance to reflect on some of the important things that the characters from these series have given back to me over the years. In that spirit, I thought I’d share a few of the valuable lessons that Cinnamon Peters, Bitters Loveless, Freddie Wolf and the other supporting cast members of my cozy mysteries have taught me.

1. It’s never too late.

Cinnamon, her grandfather Warren, and of course Huckleberry the dog, have taught me this lesson the most. It truly never is too late. Ever. It’s never too late to find a forever home. It’s never too late to find true love. It’s never too late to start a new, exciting career. It’s never too late to pick up and go to Scotland for a year. It’s never too late to start walking in a new direction, to take a leap, or to shake things up. Life is a series of ups and downs, and one of the greatest things about it is that there’s always the element of possibility. And that there's more than one way to get to where you want to go.

2. Use butter and vegetable shortening in your pie crusts for the flakiest, tastiest pastry.

Well, I’ll be honest: my mom (who is a great cook) taught me this very important tip. But it’s one that Cinnamon uses in her pie shop all the time! You may be tempted to use an all-butter recipe. But if you want the flakiest pie crust, go with a butter-shortening combo. It does wonders!

3. A dog is so much more than a dog, and a cat is so much more than a cat…

Any pet owner will tell you how much value their pet adds to their life. Pets never fail to lift your spirits or to provide moments of happiness – both in life, and in fiction. Freddie Wolf, the ace reporter in The Dog Town USA Cozy Mystery series, knows this with her large orange cat, Buddy. And so do both Cinnamon Peters and Bitters Loveless with their respective pooches, Huckleberry and Hank. I couldn’t imagine writing about their worlds without these lovable animals in them. And it's hard to imagine my own life without the special dogs and cat that have blessed it.  

4. A cup of coffee and a warm slice of pie can solve almost anything. 

You will always feel better after a slice of soul-satisfying pie and a cup of coffee. Always, always, always.

5. Most of the time, you can't see the whole picture.

You might think you know a person or all the angles of any given situation. But chances are, plenty is going on behind the scenes that you might not know about. You never know what a person's going through at the moment.  My characters have taught me that it's important to reserve judgement and to have compassion for others. Especially since in most cases, you don't know what their whole picture looks like.

6. Take a leap every now and again. It makes you feel alive. 

Cinnamon's 80-plus-year-old grandfather Warren left his family and friends behind in Christmas River to study beer brewing in Scotland for a year. It was a scary thing to do for the old man, but it was just what the doctor ordered. Taking leaps and doing things out of the ordinary once and a while is good for the soul. 

7. If pie and coffee don't do the trick, put on your favorite song. 

This is a lesson straight from Bitters Loveless of The Broken Hearts Junction series. A familiar song or album always makes you feel better and lifts your spirits. It's worth having a go-to pile of music just for this purpose. Cinnamon likes anything by Otis Redding or Van Morrison. Meanwhile, Bitters's taste in music is a little more country, and she likes anything by Townes Van Zandt, Willie Nelson, and of course, Dwight Yoakam.

8. Everything you need to be happy is right in front of you. 

I think this is the mantra of every small, hardworking town. It's about realizing that you don't need a lot to be happy in life. Cinnamon Peters will tell you that life is about appreciating the simple, joyful things and finding the good in your life this very moment. She believes that everything you need is right there in front of you. All you have to do is know how to look at things the right way. It's a philosophy I try to use everyday in my own life!  

What have the characters of your favorite cozy mysteries taught you? Comment below to enter in a giveaway for a free digital copy of Mutts & Murder: A Dog Town USA Cozy Mystery! Two winners will be chosen at random to receive a digital copy of the book. Winners will be announced on Thursday of this week. Good Luck!


  1. Many of the characters in my favorite cozy mysteries have taught me to be a more caring friend, to become more involved in my community, and to enjoy everyday.

    1. Those are some great lessons, Peggy! I like in particular the part about being a more caring friend. How true! Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Meg, these eight lessons that your characters have taught you are awesome and priceless! I love this post so much, and it confirms what I've always sensed....more pie!!!! Hey, is the Meg Muldoon PopUp bakery opening up this weekend?