featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Agatha-nominated and national bestselling author Edith Maxwell writes the Local Foods Mysteries and the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, the Country Store Mysteries (as Maddie Day), and the Lauren Rousseau Mysteries (as Tace Baker), as well as award-winning short crime fiction. Learn more about Edith and her books at her website. 

Crafting a Cedar Chest

In the Country Store Mysteries, Robbie Jordan uses the carpentry skills she learned
from her cabinetmaker mother in Santa Barbara to renovate the old country store she buys in fictional South Lick, Indiana. She ripped out walls, installed insulation, updated wiring and plumbing – all the things you have to do to bring an 1870s-era building up to code, especially for a restaurant. She hired out for the electric and plumbing, but was proud to know how to do all the carpentry herself, especially as it brings her closer in spirit to her mother, who died suddenly a year earlier.

Readers are already asking if I, too, possess carpentry skills. My father taught me to saw and hammer when I was little, and I have dabbled in projects over the years: simple bookshelves here, a storage box for my garden shed there. Now I live with a man who himself renovates antique buildings. He’s got the full array of power tools. He makes mitered corners. He can tear out, insulate, and build walls, floors, and ceilings. He can put up wallboard without killing himself (or wrecking the wallboard.) So I don’t do much hammering and sawing anymore.
But some years ago I made a cedar chest from scratch. I still use it and am proud of my work, even if it might not win any awards. I wanted a chest to store blankets and sweaters in, and aromatic cedar has natural insect-repellant qualities. I hit up the local lumber store and bought tongue-and-groove cedar boards, which would normally be used to line a small closet. I bought lengths of 2x2 and, on a Father’s Day sale, a rotary power saw. I built the frame and then nailed the boards onto it.

This was way back before I had a husband or children, so I could fill my rental apartment kitchen with sawdust and ends of cedar boards. I was in heaven, working on my chest after work in the evenings and on weekends. The hinges almost defeated me, though. Have you ever tried to buy hinges? There’s a huge range. Inside, outside, inserted, and so on. But I finally figured out a workable solution, and that chest has been holding blankets, and now quite a few of my own late mother’s gorgeous quilts, for several decades.

In When the Grits Hit the Fan, book three of the Country Store Mysteries, which I’m writing now, Robbie finally has time to tear out the walls of her store’s second floor. She wants to create bed-and-breakfast rooms up there. But a couple of her discoveries, including an old pair of baby shoes and a secret door, prove more dangerous than she had imagined. Some of her finds come from finds of our own in the antique houses my boyfriend and I have renovated.

What’s your home improvement superpower? Do you love to build things, whether small or large, or would you rather leave that to the professionals – so you have more time to read?

Flipped for Murder
Book One in the Country Store Mysteries series

Nursing a broken heart, Robbie Jordan is trading in her life on the West Coast for the rolling hills of southern Indiana. After paying a visit to her Aunt Adele, she fell in love with the tiny town of South Lick. And when she spots a For Sale sign on a rundown country store, she decides to snap it up and put her skills as a cook and a carpenter to use. Everyone in town shows up for the grand re-opening of Pans ‘n Pancakes, but when the mayor's disagreeable assistant is found dead, Robbie realizes that not all press is good press. With all eyes on her, she'll have to summon her puzzle-solving skills to clear her name, unscramble the town's darkest secrets, and track down a cold-blooded killer--before she's the next to die...

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Vicki Batman, sassy writer said...

I'm impressed. Really impressed. I never did much woodworking. Lots of painting. Your chest is lovely.

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks so much, Vicki!

Angela Adams said...

I am in awe! Thanks for the post.