|A Crafts Fair Photo by John Cummings|
Delia James writes her magical mysteries from her home near Ann Arbor, Michigan, assisted by her loving husband, Tim, her magnificent son, Alex, and her vocal cat, Buffy the Vermin Slayer. A Familiar Tail is the first of her Witch’s Cat Mysteries. Learn more about Delia and her books at her website.
In my latest series, the Witch’s Cat Mysteries, my main character Annabelle Britton does not start out as a witch (or as a cat for that matter.) But she is a freelance artist. I’m a writer, not an artist, but I know full-time freelancers and I have worked with them, and I’ve noticed a few things about them, and, for that matter about myself.
Those of us who do arts and/or crafts (I’m a baker in my spare time, and I’ve embroidered and cross-stitched, crocheted, knitted and quilled at various points in time) all start from a similar place. It’s a place of love and enjoyment. Sometimes it gets to be an insanely detailed and meticulous place where we get deep into conversations about the minutia of materials and techniques that leave those who love us best scratching their heads.
And for every one of us there comes a moment when the idea crosses our minds that I could do this for money. Maybe not full time of course but…
But. Well. Maybe yes. Maybe full time. Maybe I could. With Esty and all the other Internet venues, with fairs and Amazon and farmers markets and the strong artist and artisan movement, why not take that love, that intense interest and accumulated knowledge, and turn it into a living?
I am very familiar with this question. I never went there with my cookies or bread or needlework, but twenty (very) odd years ago, I went there with my writing. So, I can tell you in one word, the difference between the life of the passionate amateur and the life of the professional: Hustle.
As soon as the rent, the groceries, cat food, clothes and new materials become dependent on the money you raise from your art and your craft, everything changes. Time speeds up. There’s a spark and intensity to what you are doing, and it is not always a pleasant one. But, oh, when that check comes, and it’s for the sale of the work of your heart and hands, there is nothing like it in the world.
But is that worth the rest of it? The anxiety and the feelings of inadequacy, and the occasional bouts of anger and exhaustion. Because that’s part of the hustle, too, and it’s the question every amateur-turned-professional has to ask at some point.
It’s that hustle I channel for my unlucky-in-love artist Annabelle Britton. Anna arrives in Portsmouth with a depleted bank account, a career that’s feeling stalled out, and wondering what she’s going to do about her own future. She meets a magical cat, finds a corpse, and a family history she never knew she was a part of. Her magic builds on her art, but its her understanding of how to hustle that helps her solve the mysteries.
In order to make a living, freelancers must do their legwork. They search out their materials, their friends and like-minded practitioners, not to mention venues to sell their work. They are constantly learning, and constantly striving to improve their art and their craft. They know there are answers out there. They know there are ways to do something better, something more intricate, more interesting, and something they’ve never tried before. They just have to go out and find those answers and turn them into art.
No wonder they make such great sleuths.
A Familiar Tail
A Witch’s Cat Mystery
Unlucky-in-love artist Annabelle Britton decides that a visit to the seaside town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire is the perfect way to get over her problems. But when she stumbles upon a smoky gray cat named Alastair and follows him into a charming cottage, Annabelle finds herself in a whole spellbook full of trouble.
Suddenly saddled with a witch's wand and a furry familiar, Annabelle soon meets a friendly group of women who use their spells, charms, and potions to keep the people of Portsmouth safe. But despite their gifts, the witches can’t prevent every wicked deed in town....
Soon, the mystery surrounding Alistair’s former owner, who died under unusual circumstances, grows when another local turns up dead. Armed with magic, friends, and the charmed cat who adopted her more than the other way around, Annabelle sets out to paw through the evidence and uncover a killer.