Saturday, April 30, 2011

Collecting for the Vintage Kitchen

I've been collecting for a few years now, and I have to say, I still don't have an overwhelmingly vintage kitchen. Areas of it are 'vintagey' (especially the Hoosier-style cabinet) but otherwise, it's pretty functional/cluttered. Part of my problem, I suppose, is that I get distracted easily; if I see something that I like, I buy it, even if it doesn't fit in my kitchen... yet.

That's the problem. I love so much stuff that I don't get any theme or overall look going. It's kind of haphazard. So in the interest of starting to really think about my collecting, I am doing some research, which I will share as I go along on my route to building the better vintage kitchen! First up... do I need a theme?

At C. Dianne Zweig's blog 'Kitsch 'n Stuff' (cute, right? 'Kitchen Stuff'?) she explores the use of a theme in her polka dots entry: Check it out; I just love the photos of the Fireking polka dot bowls! So retro! She suggests that narrowing to a theme makes the hunt for vintage more challenging, but more interesting, too.

Ideas for a theme for my kitchen could include narrowing the vintage hunt to a certain era, I suppose, or a single color theme, or some kind of harmony in pattern, but I love such a wide array of stuff. I've got old oil lamps, lots of vintage bowls, milk pitchers in the shape of animals, vintage Pyrex, tea paraphernalia, old kitchen utensils, vintage linens... and on and on. Narrowing it would mean breaking my heart by eliminating stuff! 

I'm going to have to find some way of making my collection actually look like a collection, though, so I will ponder this and make some decisions. I also collect teacups, and a friend made me a fabulous shelf that shows off eight of my best teacups and saucers as well as some of my cat-shaped teapots and creamers. I will post photos soon, as I love how it looks.

Tell me your tale; are there any collectors out there, of anything? Not just kitchen related, anything. How do you display your collection? Or do you let it become a happy jumble, like mine?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Miss Valetta Nibley, Spinster and Town Snoop

Over at Killer Characters today you will meet Valetta Nibley, pharmacist and town snoop with a heart of gold, from the Vintage Kitchen Mystery series.

Valetta is one of those characters that you don't realize, as you're writing away, how much they are sneaking into your heart. I don't think I even noticed at first how she's keeping an eye out on those she cares for. She's a Mama Hen with no chicks, and her 'snoopiness' is really just her way of caring.

Drop in and tell me what you think of small towns!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Vintage Hunting

I love hunting for vintage kitchenware. I like dusty little vintage shops, exciting rummage sales, fascinating thrift shops, mountainous piles of junk in a true junkyard, pretty little booths in antique market places, and vast garage sales where the owner just needs to get rid of stuff. I love the rainbow array of collectible hunting. Each has its unique challenge.

So here is my list of the downside and upside of each of these shopping experiences.

Garage Sales: The Downside... the person is only there for one day (probably) so you have to make up your mind quickly on whether you want a piece or not. The Upside... they want to get rid of the junk, and will make a deal! 

Dusty Little Vintage Shops: The Downside... I find it is hit or miss whether these are open on any given day. I think the proprietors are usually older and doing it because they love it, so if they are ill, busy, or gone to Florida for a few months, the shop just won't be open! The Upside... Those same proprietors are usually very knowledgeable and love to share their knowledge of unique vintage and antique collectibles. 

Rummage Sales: The Downside... you are usually in competition for the choice bits with dealers, who arrive early, pick quick, and are willing to buy huge amounts of stuff for their shop or online sales business. You have to move fast to beat them. The Upside... oh, the bargains! And helpful sales staff, often willing to make a deal if you are polite and cheery. They are generally volunteers who believe in the cause the rummage sale is supporting, whether it is the Rotary Club, or a church, or a charity.

Booths in Antique Markets: The Downside... the prices! These folks know the worth of their stuff, and can afford to let it sit for a while, knowing the right person will pay for that precious bit of Pyrex or china teacup. The Upside... the experience! I have seen the most beautiful things in these venues, and it is an education every time I wander through. I see stuff I won't see anywhere else, except on the internet!

The Real Deal Junkyard: The Downside... the sheer amount of crap you have to wade through to get something good! I have spent hour and hours in one huge barn of a junkplace, only to come out with two pieces of Pyrex and some cool old kitchen utensils. And be prepared to get dirty, because these places are dusty. Hope you're not allergic! The Upside... you can find some of the most unique and unusual things at a junkyard type sales barn, and get it dirt (and dirty) cheap.

The Thrift Shop: The Downside... you know what? I can't think of one! The Upside... new stock all the time, and the folks that run it price it to sell. I have found some of my best finds in thrift stores. Where else could I get some vintage Pyrex, a cool painting for the wall and some Liz Claiborne clothes, all at the same place? This is my idea of a fun afternoon!

So... all you collectors out there, whatever your passion is... I want to know about your best experience shopping for vintage finds. What did you get? Where did you get it? Do you enjoy the experience, and why??

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Stages and new mystery series...

Book 1 of my shiny new Vintage Kitchen Mystery series, A Deadly Grind, will not be published until May of 2012. For me, ADG is at the stage where I know so much about it (in fact, I'm done the first draft of Book 2 - Bowled Over) that I'm excited for other people to read it, to see if they like it as much as I do! I'm like a parent, I guess... will you all like my special little snowflake? I hope you do.

Writing is all about stages. I'm at a completely different stage with another series that I am planning, a historical mystery series that has me so excited I can't sleep at night. I'm at the very beginning, peering at it through the pearly haze of dawn and hoping it will be all I want it to be. I know some writers don't feel this way, but planning a new series is like... well, it's like seeing a bright, shiny gift under the Christmas tree and wondering what's in it. Do you remember that feeling? Remember dreaming about what's in that gift? Is it all you hoped for, you wonder? Will you unwrap it and gasp in glee? 

As the days go by, I make new discoveries about the series. I haven't rushed it, which is how I approach opening gifts, first untie the ribbon, then remove one maddening piece of tape at a time to preserve the pretty wrapping paper. 

But then, I tend to do the same with a new mystery series that I am thinking of diving into as a reader. I like to look around, find something I'm interested in, tiptoe toward it and look it over. How about you? Do you look for new series, then be sure to get Book 1, so you'll have the story from the beginning? Or do you dive in wherever you find a book that hooks your interest, then go back and get the others if you like it?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

And the moral of the story is...

I've learned a lot from books over the years. Fiction, and by definition the men and women who write it, has helped me form my moral code, made me think, outraged me, soothed me, given me food for thought. I like a book that has some meat to it, something that, after the back cover is closed, or the last page has flashed by on my ereader, leaves me thinking. Some books I go back to again and again in my thoughts, mulling the core values of the story, wondering what the author meant in certain spots, weighing the morals and lessons I glean from the conflicts and plotlines within the pages. 

But sometime I just want a good yarn, a story that entertains, lightly, and without hitting me over the head with a moral. And yet, I don't think that 'light' has to necessarily mean empty of value. I do believe that even the lightest and fluffiest of novels can have a moral compass guiding it.

We, as writers, have a powerful duty to be sure we know what we're doing, that the 'lessons' contained within the books we write resonate, hold power and meaning, add light to the world, and not darkness. That doesn't mean no grit in the plot, no darkness, no true representation of evil, it just means--to me--that at the end, that the reader takes some truth away. This is a very personal view, one I hold close to my heart. When I set aside a book as boring, I often find it's because the book has no moral story at its core. I want to be entertained, but I want to be provoked to think, too, and I can't imagine hanging in there with a series protagonist who wasn't seeking the truth of his or her own life in the people around them. 

The mystery series I have stayed with over the years- V. I. Warshawski, Kinsey Millhone, Deborah Knott... these are the ladies I hang out with the most and have for many years. Even when I don't agree with them, they are mighty fine company. I feel that way about my friends in real life, too. I may not always agree with them, but I usually learn something from their company and enjoy our disagreements.

So... how do you as readers feel? What do you get from the murder mysteries, cozy or otherwise, that you read?  Do you want to learn something, or feel something while reading? No moral judgment here if you don't... reading 'just' for entertainment is fine. I'm that way with TV. After all, I watch so-called 'Reality TV', where all I learn is, don't trust anyone who says 'trust me'. Heck, I watch Wipeout, too, and you won't learn a single thing from that except watching someone try to navigate the big red balls is funny as all get out! After a day of reading and writing, sometimes I just need escape, and Survivor, American Idol and the like offer that to me. 

But what about you?