Project Plants

Wednesday, June 24, 2015
If you’re a member of a local branch of the African Violet Society of America, chances are you’ve grow a project plant. Every member of the club gets a starter plant of the same cultivar (variety) during the summer and raises it at home. At the spring show and sale, members bring the plants they’ve raised and put them all in a display.

The idea is to show the public (and other members) how different growing conditions and methods can result in different looking plants. Each plant is accompanied by a sheet of paper on which the grower indicates the kind of lighting, the way the plant was watered, and what kind of fertilizer (if any) was used. Even if your plant dies, you’re supposed to bring in the empty pot. I suppose this is either to demonstrate what not to do or, alternatively, to divulge that even those who grow lots of African violets for a hobby sometimes kill plants.

I thought it would be fun this year to track my progress with the two varieties of project plants my club is raising. I’m hoping this will be an incentive to pay attention to them, unlike last year when I put my poor project plant into “quarantine” in a place where I promptly forgot about it. Needless to say, it died.

The two project plants this year are two miniatures. One is Mickey Mouse, that should have a lovely purple flower. The other is Orchard’s Bumble Magnet, a pink. These are photos of what they should look like:





Mickey Mouse











Orchard’s Bumble Magnet





Here are what mine look like, one day after I brought them home:

Mickey Mouse


Orchard's Bumble Magnet









They are now sitting in quarantine, away from my other plants, just in case they’ve brought any “guests” with them. It’s not uncommon for growers to have insect pests and, while these look clean, it’s better to wait a while before putting them too close to my other plants.

I’ll try to post my progress with these project plants every other Wednesday so you can follow along with how I’m doing.
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Murder Isn't Funny

Sunday, June 21, 2015
Over the past decade, the definition of a cozy mystery has narrowed significantly. Wikipedia defines them as:
“Cozy mysteries, also referred to simply as "cozies", are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.”
See, there’s that word: humorously.

This wasn’t a requirement in early cozy mysteries, like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple stories or even the Nancy Drew mysteries I devoured as a child. But it has become one today. If you don’t have “quirky characters” in your mystery today, readers of cozies are disappointed. I’m not such a curmudgeon that I don’t believe there’s room for humorous mysteries, but I’m dismayed by the number of them and the fact that they’ve squeezed out non-humorous stories from the category.



I’ve been particularly bothered by reviews of cozies that start out with something like: This was a great book! It had me laughing all the way through it.

Because, as was too well evidenced by the events in Charleston, South Carolina, this week, murder isn’t funny.

We’ve become inured to murder and violence in America. There have been lots of articles decrying the amount of violence in video games and questioning what effect it has on our youth. It’s in movies and television, too, with car crashes and explosions from which somehow our hero (or heroine) and the ones he or she is trying to save miraculously walk away unscathed. I think most of us have seen enough of real life to know this isn’t the way it happens.

I just can’t conceive of writing humorous mysteries of my own. Oh, I may have funny moments, just like I have romantic moments and moments of pathos. Fiction, like life, has to have a range of emotions. But “laughing all the way through” a murder mystery just doesn’t seem right to me.

For me, a murder mystery, whether a police procedural, detective fiction, or cozy, is about bringing order back to a world in chaos due to the horrendous event that precipitates it. It’s about bringing the killer to justice in the end. It’s about making things right. Or, to put it simply, the good guys win.

So you won’t see cartoon covers on my books and you’ll find few—if any—quirky characters. And, even though I often refer to them as “traditional mysteries” in order not to build expectations for something they’re not, I still consider them cozy mysteries.
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