Camille Minichino (aka Margaret Grace, Ada Madison, and Jean Flowers) has written more than 25 cozy mystery novels and short stories. Her latest release is Death Takes Priority, the first book in her new Postmistress Mystery series, writing as Jean Flowers. Learn more about Camille and her books at her website and blog.
How to Cheat with Crafts
You've probably heard of Frances Lee, whose dioramas were used to teach forensics to the police at special seminars. Her dioramas are still used for training. Lee gave new meaning to the phrase "starting from scratch," making tiny keys to fit into the doors; constructing fingernail-sized mousetraps that worked; knitting or sewing all stockings, clothing, carpeting, draperies in the scene. The blood spatter patterns in her crime scenes were forensically accurate!
Then there's me, not worthy of being in the same paragraph as Frances Lee. She'd be disgusted with me. I cheat at every turn. But some miniaturist who must have been just like me, gave what we do a name: using found objects.
Take my latest project, a miniature post office to celebrate the release on November 3, of my new series, the Postmistress Mysteries written as Jean Flowers. Here's one of the cheats I use: The post office boxes on the right are printed from a photo. You're supposed to look at that wall and think you can open the boxes and collect your mail. If they were Lee's boxes, you'd be able to. She'd probably make individual keys for every one of them and stuff them with tiny mail.
The same goes for the "priority mail" envelopes on the table behind my thumb—images printed out, glued to stiff paper—presto! The "packages" to be shipped are tiny pieces of Styrofoam wrapped in brown paper. Wouldn't you love to know what's in the large oblong box? A toy truck? A handmade afghan? It could be anything your imagination would like it to be.
In this way, making miniatures (models of life) and writing fiction (also models of life) have a lot in common. In each case, I'm creating a fictional world where things can be easier and often make more sense than in the real, life-size world.
Both endeavors also involve cheating!
When I put a roof on a dollhouse, I don't have to worry about the materials really being weatherproof. Dollhouse admirers assume all will be well if it rains. When I move my characters about in a novel, I'm not concerned about filling their cars with gas or giving them a rest stop on a long journey. Readers assume the mundane things are being taken care of.
(Oops, if you look closely at the phone on the desk in the post office, you'll see that there's no cord. I'd better fix that. Enough is enough as far as making demands on the viewer.)
In the world of dollhouses, there's no laundry to do, and a houseful of carpeting can be changed in a matter of minutes. In my mystery novels, the good guys always win and justice is always served.
Cheating? Maybe, but what could be more satisfying?
In the Post Office mysteries, Cassie Miller returns to her hometown in western Massachusetts to take over duties as postmistress. While she's adjusting to life in a small town, she faces challenges brought on by her friendship with the chief of police and the murder of an old boyfriend.
As a bonus, each book in the series includes fun facts and stories about the USPS.
Death Takes Priority
After caring for her dying aunt and being dumped by her fiancé, Cassie Miller decides to return to her small hometown in the Berkshires to lick her wounds and live in the house where she was raised. Leaving behind her managerial position in the Boston main postal office, Cassie trades in her tailored suits and high heels for the comfortable blue shirt and red, white, and blue striped scarf of the Postmaster for North Ashcot, Massachusetts.
Everything is business as usual until Cassie arrives at work one day to find that someone has broken into the post office building. The only items stolen: stacks of telephone books. Who steals phone books? Two days later, the body of an unidentified man is found in the woods. And when the handsome antiques dealer she just had lunch with is taken into custody, Cassie is suddenly drawn into the case. With a crime enveloped in mystery, she needs to track the killer—before another victim’s fate is sealed in the dead letter office…