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Mystery in Miniature

I have been writing for as long as I could hold a pencil.

I’ve been making minatures for about as long as I could hold a bottle of glue.

Why yes, they do cross over each other.  So I can’t help letting loose sometimes and create miniatures scenes and figures representing Detectives and The Scene of the Crime.

First up, The Detectives.

We begin with the Divine Miss M.  Miss Jane Marple, of St. Mary Mead.

Miss Marple, in the Garden with the Binoculars

Miss Marple, in the Garden with the Binoculars (yes, they’re in her trug basket)

I bought the bisque doll, based on the Joan Hickson incarnation (of course), from a miniature dolls creator, and dressed her in her everyday clothes. The ensemble she would wear for puttering around her garden, visiting the neighbours, marketing in The High, or sitting by her window keeping an eye on where the vicar is headed at this time of day.

Miss Marple

You can’t go wrong with a silk blouse, a lacy knitted cardigan with pearl buttons, Mother’s brooch, and a good hat for keeping the sun off.

I made up Jane and her garden for a raffle prize at an Ontario Miniatures Gathering, an annual minis get-together involving friends, minis, food, workshops, displays, food, sales, drinks and food.

 

Brother Cadfael was fun to create.

Brother Cadfael in his library

This is the only time I’ve ever made the doll myself, entirely from scratch, using Fimo. I couldn’t find a suitable doll to fill the bill.

Again, he was a raffle prize at the Minis Gathering. Gosh, that was 1997.

The herbarium was a ton of fun too.

Brother C in his element

Yes…. just a touch of monkshood.

 

Next, Jessica Fletcher, of Cabot Cover, Maine and other international locales….

Jessica Fletcher

Jessica Fletcher, the prototype created by Linda for our class.

I took a workshop to dress a Jessica Fletcher doll, given by miniature dollmaker Linda Beaupré at another Minis Gathering, when the theme was A Little Mystery.

I’m quite happy with my own Jessica, in her writing element.

Other mystery-related items I picked up that weekend: the extremely deadly Gloriosa Lily (created by Carolyn Roach), a silver Borgia casket (by Don Spratling) and a Sherlock Holmes teapot (by Janice Crawley).  Also on the wicker desk (by Debi Kolenchuk) are a Clarice Cliff tea set (no, the tea isn’t poisoned) by Janice Crawley, my dear cat Lucky, by Karl Blindheim, and Eileen Charenduk’s Lily of the Valley (also severely poisonous). Handwoven rug by Rita Valois and painting by Caroline Grimes.

 

Finally, my all-time favourite fictional detective and mystery writer, Harriet D. Vane.

Harriet D Vane

Another fabulous workshop from Linda Beaupré, when the Minis Gathering theme was Murder on the Orient Express. We made a 1930s Orient Express traveller, and I immediately recognized her has Harriet.

Harriet on the way

Once Harriet escaped the noose, she became a huge bestseller, and could afford to Go in Style.

There are probably more I’d like to tackle. Trixie Belden, maybe? We’ll see….

 

Next time: The Scene of the Crime.

Meanwhile, find out about the Miniature Enthusiasts of Toronto and their annual Minis Show and Sale

Check out another MinLit adventure

link to Pandora

Pandora in Blue Jeans

Recently I waxed excited about my story’s inclusion in Judy Penz Sheluk’s anthology from Superior Shores Press, The Best Laid Plans.

It’s here. It’s now. You can order it from a variety of online sources in paperback or e-copy.

Spirit River Dam” is a tale of potential art fraud with very high stakes.

The Drive, Tom Thomson 1916-17

Tom Thomson’s The Drive, Winter 1916-1917

Imogen runs a trendy art gallery in Toronto in the Sixties. She is surprised and delighted and wary in equal parts when her ex walks in with Spirit River Dam, a painting that could very well be a long lost work by Canadian artist, Tom Thomson.

The painting looks right; it feels right. It ticks all the right boxes. Except for one little detail.

Now, if they could just make that one little detail disappear…. And to what lengths will they go?

* * *

Does the mysterious painting, Spirit River Dam, look a little like The Drive, above?

Or maybe like this one?

Tea Lake Dam, Tom Thomson, 1915

Tom Thomson remains one of Canada’s best-loved and admired artists. His ground-breaking paintings of the early twentieth century, including depictions of Algonquin Park, became the the basis for a whole new school of Canadian art.

Tom, Fishing in Algonquin Park

You can explore Tom Thomson’s entire catalogue here, including all his painting of dams.

And you can order your copy of The Best Laid Plans here.

Hanging out with Philip

My latest story “My Night with the Duke of Edinburgh” is now available in the anthology Fishy Business.

Along with 21 other stories this is a caper tale, where just about any scheme might be put to the test, and pulled off. Or go horribly awry.

The Princess & the Duke visit Toronto, 1951

October 1951. The lovely and popular Princess Elizabeth is making a cross-Canada tour, standing in for her father, the ailing King George VI.  Escorting her is her glowing sun god of a husband, The Duke of Edinburgh.

Four university students decide the Royal visit to Toronto will provide an excellent opportunity to make a stand against the oppression of The Monarchy. What better plan than to kidnap the Duke of Edinburgh? Or at least, his waxwork effigy. All they have to do is break into the Royal Ontario Museum at night, and spirit him away.

The Duke

What could possibly go wrong?

I took the inspiration for the story from a real-life 1960 adventure when a group of entitled young men decided to steal Antony Armstrong-Jones (remember him?) from Madame Tussaud’s. Since few people remember Princess Margaret’s ex-husband, and even fewer care, I hit upon more memorable royals for my story.

You can listen to that intriguing tale here, at BBC’s Short Cuts. Start at 2:59.

You can enjoy the actual tour (sans kidnapping) at the National Film Board of Canada’s website. Click on the picture.

The Royal Journey

The latest Sisters in Crime Guppies anthology is now available–in Paperback and e-Book– from Wildside Press and other popular purveyors of the printed word.

Fishy Business

fishy tales

22 Delicious Caper Tales

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Best Laid Plans

I just got the good news.

My latest story, “Spirit River Dam”, has been selected for Judy Penz Sheluk’s upcoming anthology, The Best Laid Plans, coming in June from her imprint, Superior Shores Press.

I first met Judy, fellow Sister in Crime, when we were billed together in The Whole She-Bang 2, my first outing as a published crime writer. Judy’s the author of several crime novels and story collections, which you can read all about here.

Me and Judy at Sleuth of Baker Street, Toronto.

I tend to need a theme and a deadline before I can jump into a short crime story. So I was immediately taken by the reminder of Burns’s poem, “To a Mouse“, with its warning,

“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley….”

(I don’t have to explain “agley” do I? Or Burns?) It goes on,

An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Yeah…. All that promis’d joy, all that grief an’ pain. Theme. Big time.

So let’s see….someone has an old painting in their house, going back generations. A painting of a dam on a river in what could be Algonquin Park. Kind of in the style of Tom Thomson. Kind of like this one.

Tea Lake Dam, Tom Thomson, 1915

Is it a Thomson? Isn’t it? Might it be? And if it isn’t, then what if….?

Yes, you’re right. It was inspired by a story in the news last year. With a joyful ($480,000) ending. My story, being fiction, might not go so well. Might go agley, in fact.

Or not.

I’ll keep you all posted, closer to launch day.

Today marks the Eve of St. Agnes, when a maiden may, after performing a defined bedtime ritual, dream of her future lover.

It was 200 years ago, in 1819,  that John Keats wrote his poem about the bitter chill night of January 20. It’s a tale of a lover risking all to gaze upon his beloved, with a happy ending when Madeline and Porphyro flee away into the night.

St. Agnes’ Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was!
       The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
       The hare limp’d trembling through the frozen grass,
       And silent was the flock in woolly fold….
a British Red Cross Christmas Card

Sheep in their woolly fold

It’s to be a cold cold night here in Toronto, but the snow has stopped, and the sky is clear, so perhaps we’ll see the full moon and lunar eclipse, perfect for Saint Agnes’ Eve (in the poem, a storm blows up later in the night).

My own copy was printed by my brother Pat on his home printing press in 1974.

The Eve of Saint Agnes, from The Daly Press

Saint Agnes’ Eve– ah bitter chill it was!

 

So take down your copy of Keats from the shelf, or find the poem here, or find the audio here. Then curl up by the fire and enjoy.

Well, new to me.

If you look back here at my post from (oh gosh!) 2009, you’ll see the story of my mother’s nativity scene, which she began assembling in 1945.

In that post, I said “I think we could now call the whole scene complete.”

I was wrong. On my second trip to Florence in 2015, I toured a few museums, led by some excellent art guides. That’s when I learned about the symbolism in the medieval Nativity paints. I won’t go into them all, but what sticks in my mind was learning the three wise men, White, Brown and Black, represent, respectively, the people of Europe, Asia and Africa.

Well done, Mom.

Africa, Europe and Asia. All there. With camel.

And the Donkey (aka Ass), at Jesus’s feet, represents the Gentiles. The Ox, at his head, stands for the Jews.

Wait….Ox?

For the first time ever, I feel there’s someone missing.

So, when I get home, I start searching online. A lot of unsuitable (and frankly crass) oxen offer themselves. But once I start including words like “vintage” and “Italian” I narrow it down to more suitable candidates. But oh, so pricey. How much do I want it?

I decide to keep an eye open at rummage sales and the like for a while.

Nothing, of course. So this December I search online again and find a couple of candidates. Including this one, from a dealer appropriately called Memories Found.

The original price sticker on the bottom says 29¢

With shipping and exchange, it’s about $25. I stew over this at my Monday afternoon Quilting group. They all say, Buy it!

So I go home and do so. And it arrived Friday, December 21st. Just in time!  I’m thrilled with it. There is just enough room at the stable.

So the Ox, representing the Jews, sits at Jesus’s head in my mother’s Nativity Scene.

Now we can call it complete.

Oh, I guess I didn’t mention Santa Claus flying in on a Canada Goose. This was a gift many years ago from my dear friend Leslie, who died in1998. This figure represents all the peoples of Canada, right up to the North Pole.

(Click on any pic to enlarge it)

Why yes, it has been a while. Because I haven’t got a new story coming out until sometime early next year.

So, let’s talk about Christmas.  Miniature Christmas.

About a million Miniature years ago, I put together a nice little Christmas room in one inch scale.

Around, oh 1990?

Over the years, I’ve been adding to it, and redecorating the tree, and putting down more presents.

In 2012 I decided to use it for a Christmas card, and so put old family pics on the wall.

When Robin Betterley offered a Weihnachtspyramid kit (I’d wondered for years how to make one) I swear I was the first in line ordering it.

I found some Dollarama lights to put on the tree.

I was given some lovely Spode (well, Spode-ish) dishes. You know the ones, with the Christmas tree.

My brother and sister-in-law in Germany sent me a nice little Bûche de Noël (which I think of as mainly from Québec, and which I make for real every year) so that went in.

I found a vintage plush chair and ottoman when another miniaturist was clearing out some old stuff…. Don’t they look comfy?

My Christmas Room as it is today: Christmas Morning from sometime in my 1950s childhood

And now, it’s perfect. Well, until I find more lovely things to add.

Click on any pic to enlarge it.

(I started this post weeks ago, and somehow got busy, and only just remembered to post it now)

 

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