Fall seems to have taken its sweet time arriving here in southern New Mexico. The trees are still holding on to their leaves and many of them are still green. A warm sweater or jacket is welcome in the mornings and evenings, but a short-sleeved t-shirt feels just fine in the middle of the day. And a bowl of hearty stew sounds perfect for dinner, but for lunch, something much lighter feels called for.
Still, there's one word I find myself using to describe this time of year, and that's "cozy". Whatever your definition of cozy might be, here's mine:
The smell of pumpkin bread baking.
The crackle of a fire in a woodstove or fireplace.
A hand-crocheted afghan.
Marshmallows melting in a swirl of hot cocoa.
The glow of a porch light as you pull into the driveway after dark.
These are just a few things that I use to describe "cozy", but they all convey the same idea: "cozy" means something familiar, comforting, welcoming. A feeling of being home in a place you love and where you feel loved.
It was no accident that the mysteries I write are labeled "cozies". There are many genres of books and many sub-genres as well. I write mysteries, but they aren't police procedurals, or thrillers, or suspense. They are cozies. What, exactly, does that mean?
Well, for one thing, they generally take place in a location that feels very much like one's ideal of a home should be. Many times they take place in a small town, like my Black Horse Campground series does, and the mysteries involve a cast of characters that can be best (or worst) described as ordinary people. Of course, "ordinary" can be a compliment or an insult, but many "ordinary" people are actually quite extraordinary or do extraordinary things. That's what makes them so interesting.
Also, in cozies, there is usually a rather large cast of characters that the reader becomes familiar with; in fact, they become old friends, in the sense that the reader knows exactly how they're going to react in a given situation and which ones will be helpful, which ones won't, which ones are good for a laugh, and which ones make you grit your teeth in frustration. Very much like real life, right?
That, really, seems to be the defining feature of cozies--reading them seems to be like reading about your own life, your own home. Even before I began writing my stories, I looked forward to reading stories like them. When I'd see a new title in a cozy series, I'd be as excited as someone who had just booked a trip home for the holidays. It meant that soon I'd be in a place that was familiar and comfortable, with people I knew well and who knew me. That I'd soon be very much involved in the lives of those people and following the events of their day-to-day life as a problem would appear and we (myself included) would band together to solve it and restore order and peace to our little corner of the world.
Soon, I hope, I'll be booking (pun intended!) a trip back to Bonney County for my readers and I hope they are just as eager for the visit as I am.
Happy November, everyone!