Camille Minichino is turning every aspect of her life into a mystery series and a miniatures project. Her protagonists in five series are a retired physicist, a miniaturist, a math professor, a postal worker, and the owner of a diner in Alaska. She’s published 28 novels and many short stories. Learn more about Camille at her website and blog.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by miniatures. Not teddy bears or baby dolls or little amorphous creatures with enormous ears (or no ears at all), but very small replicas of real life things. Dollhouses, roomboxes, standalone scenes.
To be more exact: a world where one foot gets mapped into one inch, the standard dollhouse scale.
I’ve also been fascinated by novels, another sort of modeling, where as readers and writers we map the real world into a different universe with fictional people and the furniture of our choice.
Combining these two passions, I’ve created dollhouses or separate scenes to match all my cozy mystery series. (You can go to my website and find a “Slideshow” under Mystery Novels.)
Probably not every miniaturist has a replica of a mortuary like the one that’s featured in the Periodic Table Mysteries, or a post office to complement my Postmistress Mysteries, but to me it seems the obvious thing to do.
Now it’s time for me to build a scene from my newest series, the Alaska Diner Mysteries, written as Elizabeth Logan. It will be a while before an entire miniature diner is ready, but here’s a sneak peak for Lois Winston/Anastasia Pollack’s crafty blog. The photos are a glimpse into a typical scene in both of the first two books of the series—my protagonist Charlotte “Charlie” Cooke loves sitting in her rocking chair with Benny, her orange tabby, on her lap, sometimes sharing the ups and downs of her day, sometimes reading aloud.
I’ve included photos with two versions of the scene. The photo above is a draft, much like the draft of a novel. I toss mini things around the way I toss ideas around, trying various combinations of words and scene elements. In the draft photo, I haven’t decided whether to use the brown or the white rocker, which plant to add, what “toys” to scatter on the floor, where to place Benny. Is the pizza stool good enough for a table or shall I use nicer furniture? Should there be a carpet in this family room? And so on.
The photo at the top of this post shows what I decided on as the final version, or close to it, one I was ready to glue down. You’ll see that I ditched the hat, for a possible Hawaii scene some other time! I added a tiny mouse, the way I might write a little humor, even into the plot of a murder investigation. I thought this second pose for Benny was more active, and the spoon was too over the top. I came up with a feather toy and more of the “yarn” that Benny likes.
In other words, I edited.
Which brings me to one more similarity between writing and miniaturing:
The mouse is no more a threat than a rodent that might appear in a chapter of my novel. They're both works of fiction.
When I put a roof on a dollhouse I don't have to worry about the materials really being weatherproof. Like readers, dollhouse admirers assume all will be well if it rains.
In the world of dollhouses, as in the world of novels, there's no laundry to do, and a houseful of carpeting can be changed in a matter of minutes. Complete remodeling may take a week!
In my dollhouses, all the plumbing works, as do all the appliances. In my mystery novels, the good guys always win and justice is always served.
No wonder both are so satisfying.
Fishing for Trouble
An Alaska Diner Mystery, Book 2
Summer has come to Elkview, Alaska, bringing twenty hours of sunlight every day, not to mention a surge of tourists and seasonal workers. Chef Charlie Cooke is eager for a busy yet relaxing season, but when a young man working a summer job at the local fish processing plant dies moments after walking into the Bear Claw Diner, she’s quickly swept into the investigation.
Soon, through her best friend Annie Jensen, Charlie learns that another student worker at J and M Processing has disappeared, leaving more questions and fewer answers. The near-endless sunlight gives plenty of time to search for clues, but Charlie will have to work with Annie and local reporter Chris Doucette to net the killer before anyone else gets hurt.