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Posts Tagged ‘Caroline Cousins’

My cousin Aly is getting married Saturday on a plantation on Edisto Island, S.C. Aly is the daughter of Gail, my one-and-half times first cousin (our mamas are sisters and our daddies first cousins), and along with her sister Meg and me, make up the mystery-writing team of Caroline Cousins. We have written three cozy mysteries set on a South Carolina low country island we call Indigo, but which is a semi-disguised version of Edisto, where we spent summers as kids, where our parents retired, and where Meg and Gail eventually built houses next to each other on Sand Creek. I rent a beach house on Edisto in the fall/winter, or bunk in with my mom or the cousins for shorter visits.

I talked to Meg this morning, who wanted to know why I wasn’t there yet to help her green-in the wedding bouquets. Like Margaret Ann (Mam) in our books, she does wedding flowers. Unlike her one-half-times first cousin Lindsey in the books, I am not a free-lance writer and acting manager of Pinckney Plantation. And sister Gail, who is Bonnie in the books, is not an environmental lawyer. But she is a smart blonde. We have never found a dead body in an old plantation house, discovered a dying woman in the restroom at a reptile park, or tripped over skeletal remains in an overgrown cemetery. As we like to say, our books are all made up, except for the part that’s not. (Aunt Boodie’s name is really Boodie).

But I had to call Meg this morning. Because we have had the funny (as in funny-peculiar) experience of having had things we write about subsequently happen. We wrote about identity theft long before it made the cover of Newsweek. We invented a mobile meth lab before some rednecks borrowed the idea. And spookiest of all, we created a “ghost gator” out of thin air, and right when our book was published, the law came down on someone we knew about “rescuing” an albino alligator.

The mystery in our second book, Marsh Madness (2005), plays out against a plantation wedding. I called Meg because I wanted to make sure no bridesmaids have gone missing (although several have failed to RSVP for the elaborate luncheon we are having on Friday). We won’t have to worry about picking up jellyfish off the beach because the ceremony is not right on the ocean.

 “I hope we don’t have attacking seagulls,” Meg said, laughing. Probably not, because the bridesmaids are not carrying brandy snifters with goldfish in them (see bookjacket illustration). And she said she didn’t think she’d have to use kudzu for greenery in the flowers, but “you never know.”  The MOB — mother of the bride Gail — had gone to take flowers to the cake lady. “She doesn’t have hives, does she?” I asked. “Not yet,” Meg said. “I did tell you our caterer shut her business down till April. But she promises me she’ll have our chicken salad here at 9 a.m. Friday.”

Still, this wedding is not going to turn into marsh madness. Hurricane Lisa’s too far away.

People always want to know when we’re going to write another book. It’s been three years since Way Down Dead in Dixie, and we are still on hiatus. We three can’t seem to get on the same page what with weddings, graduations, grandbabies, funerals, sickness, work, vacations and family, family, family.  The latter give us our best material, though. Meg was just telling me that one of our aunts is real upset because she’s having to break in a new hairdresser. The woman who used to do her hair recently got sent to prison for murder.

Open Book: Obviously, this post is shameless self-promotion of Marsh Madness (John F. Blair). But you asked what was up with “the cousins.”

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chung-CHUNG! We interrupt this books blog to pay tribute to the television show Law & Order, which ends its original 20-year-run tonight with an episode involving a troubled blogger. Yikes! “‘Ripped from the headlines,” no doubt.

Seriously, I am a serious L&O fan and I think I have seen every episode at least once, and many multiple times, considering its ominipresence on cable. I was up at 5 Saturday morning to walk the dog and flipped on the TV. chung-Chung! Det. Lennie Briscoe was at the scene of yet another murder in New York’s fictional 27th district. When my cousins and I were writing our first Caroline Cousins mystery 10 years ago, we referenced L&O reruns as a reason for cable TV. One of our amateur sleuths is so addicted to L&O that she occasionally lapses into the lingo: “Hey, I’m the vic here!”

The leads have come and gone (and in some cases moved over to other L&Os — Special Victims Unit, Criminal Intent and the short Trial by Jury.) But creator Dick Wolf has sustained the mothership show’s symmetry: first half hour, the cops try to solve the case, second half, prosecuting attorneys follow up. Although “ripped from the headlines”  is often used in promos, the writers usually pull off fictional twists better than most true crimes.

In an SVU episode last year with similarities to the Casey Anthony case, a grandmother ran into the police station declaring her grandchild was missing. But then it turned out the child died from measles, and the law went after a mother who didn’t believe in vaccinations.

L&O in all its many versions and episodes has long been my go-to show on lupus fog days. If I fall asleep in the middle of one case and wake up in the middle of another, no problem. I’ve seen them enough to know the endings. Truth outs, although justice is not always served. Remember Ellen Pompeo pre-Grey’s Anatomy in the “Fool for Love” episode in which she played a character inspired by serial killer partner Karla Homolka?

The popularity of L&O has a lot to do with the appeal of a good mystery novel, be it police procedural, legal drama or some combination thereof. Crime is confined to a certain number of minutes or pages. Clues are discovered and deciphered. Questions asked and answered. Law and order is restored to an increasingly complicated world. We feel safer.

I will miss the original L&O, especially Jack McCoy. Wolf has hinted that he might bring it back as a movie, or it could be revived on cable. Meanwhile, SVU and CI continue, and come next fall, it’s Law & Order: Los Angeles. California, here I come. chung-CHUNG!

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Urban Think! Bookstore in downtown has an exclamation point after the “think” in its name. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be exclaiming in a headline over the closing of yet another independend bookstore. Yes, the nine-year-old indie in downtown Orlando — specifically, Thornton Park — will pack up shop the end of this month. I heard the news from friends over the weekend, and the e-mail to the store’s customers came today.

The owners cite the financial difficulties of operating in these current economic times, as well as the challenge to brick-and-mortar stores by the way in which people buy and read books in today’s technological climate. To be sure, chain bookstores and CostCos have pushed out many indies over the years, but on-line sales have become the real enemy, even as the stores have fought back with customer service, cafes, book readings, art shows and storytimes. Urban Think!, like many other indies, has succeeded as a convivial neighborhood gathering spot but couldn’t compete with the deep discounts and the ease of point-click sale and delivery. 

It’s a sad story being repeated across the country, and I share part of the blame. I always enjoyed going to Urban Think! store events and usually picked up a book or two but not as many as I have ordered over the internet. I did this, even though as an author I know that booksellers, especially independents, are a writer’s best friends.

Caroline Cousins, my other identity, would never have sold as many books if not for locally owned bookstores who hosted book signings and hand-sold multiple copies to customers. Urban Think! joins the increasingly long list of indies who supported Caroline Cousins the last seven years and are no longer in places like Greenville and Aiken, S.C.; Wilmington, N.C.; Atlanta, Ga.; and Gainesville and Mt. Dora, Fl. 

Meanwhile, Urban Think! is having a clearance sale. I’ll try to assauge some of my guilt over its closing by opening my wallet. Too little, too late, I know.

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