HH Com Rd 2 - #13 (35)

Hook here

Elsie stepped out of the airport shuttlebus and gazed around in horror. Cars lined both sides of the wide street in front of Mama’s house. There were only two reasons for so many cars—a party or …a death.

Mid-afternoon in a Florida retirement community. The stillness and silence were absolute. It wasn’t a party.

She barely noticed the shuttle driver dropping her suitcases and cat carrier on the sidewalk beside her. Surely she wasn’t too late? Tears filled her eyes as she stared at the front garden Mama had worked so hard to create—coral-flowered hibiscus, yellow ixora, violet bougainvillea, even orchids growing in a magnolia tree. It was flourishing, while Mama…

A short, sturdy woman hurried out Mama’s front door. Watching her hustle down the path, Elsie felt as wooden and heavy as an old oak tree. She didn’t move until the woman flung her arms around her and said, “Sweetpea, I’m sorry—”

Then Elsie Leabeck, librarian, gardener, equestrian and mature adult, gulped in a deep breath of the soft Florida air and screamed at the top of her lungs, “Mama, how could you?” (take out then)

Mama’s hugging arms had the strength of a woman who dug deep planting holes and hauled bags of peat and manure around her garden. But Mama wasn’t supposed to be strong.

“You said you were on your deathbed with pneumonia,” Elsie yelled. “I broke the lease on my townhouse, quit my job, put Emberly on a horse van and rushed down to take care of you.”

“I said I was sorry. Hello, beautiful kitty,” Mama cooed, picking up Sampson’s carrier.

“Put Sammy down. We’re not staying.”

“Oh, don’t get your knickers in a twist,” Mama said. “Aren’t you glad I’m not dying?”

Elsie gritted her teeth. I love my mama, I love my mama. Maybe if she repeated it enough times, she’d remember why.

“You know you hated that job and those horrible Maryland winters, Sweetpea. You kept saying you wished you could live in Florida, too.”


“When I heard about the scumbucket who pulled a knife on you, and all so he could be first for some silly library computer, I knew I had to get you out of there.” Mama’s face flushed an irritatingly healthy pink. “You just needed a little kick in the patootie to get you to do what you wanted to do all along.”

Elsie knew who she’d like to kick in the patootie. Instead she buried her face in her hands. Yes, she’d been scared when she saw that knife. Yes, she’d dreamed of living in a kinder gentler place than the DC suburbs. But why oh why had she told Mama? She should have known Mama would move heaven and earth to keep her “baby” safe and happy.

“Now, come on, slowpoke,” Mama called, heading for the house. “Everybody’s waiting for us.”

Elsie lifted her head. “Everybody who?”

“The Peas, of course. They wanted to give you a welcome party, so the least you can do is look happy.”

The Peas? Oh right, Mama’s community garden group, Peas on Earth. Her stomach growled when she thought of party dishes created by the old-fashioned “make it from scratch” housewives who probably belonged to the group.

First thing she’d do though, even before she had a bite to eat, was call her boss and her landlord, cancel the moving van and the horse transport, reverse everything she’d just done.

She was surprised at the heavy feeling that settled over her. She wanted to go home, didn’t she? Sure Maryland winters were a mess, and the library job was turning into ‘babysit the free computer users’ instead of the research and reader’s advisory that Elsie had always loved. And making a garden in Maryland clay was backbreaking work. But her friends were there and that’s where she belonged. Yes, she’d go home as soon as she made sure Mama was really all right.

Elsie snapped up the handles and dragged her suitcases down the front path lined with yellow daylilies, fragrant pink roses, and bouncy portulaca. The intense colors faded into a haze and Elsie rubbed her forehead. She must be more tired than she’d realized. Then she smelled it.

Smoke! Coming from Mama’s front windows

Ok, this is a good start in a cozy. The backstory fits in nicely with the action. It's a tad rotund in the writing, but I'd read 50 pages to see how it goes. And what is it with mothers in these writing samples?? We've had what..three?..that are maniacs? Grandmother Snark is elevating a tastefully threaded eyebrow and fixing Miss Snark with a beady eye.


Anonymous said...

This has a lively voice and it drew me right in. I'd definitely read on. (And I'm already on Mama's side: Trust me, Elsie, living in Florida is going to be a *lot* better than living in the DC suburbs.)

Anonymous said...

I really, really like the character of Mama. I don't like mysteries but if the rest is this good, I'd buy for me and my mystery-reading Mama.

Anonymous said...

The writing's good, but the set-up rings false. If my mother were dying in Florida, I would hop on the first plane out, not waste time quitting my job and selling my house. If you're expecting someone to die (and that's what "on her deathbed" implies), wouldn't you expect to go back home after the funeral? Why stick around?

Maybe it would make more sense if her mother told her she had some kind of chronic or degenerative condition. Then she might reasonably need someone to move in and take care of her long-term.

Anonymous said...

I read very few cozies, and I don't know that I'd buy this one either, but it was well-written and interesting, and I'm sure if I bought it anyway I'd enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Miss Snark, for your time and effort. I've learned a lot. I will try to be less rotund!

A Paperback Writer said...

Oh, I am amused here. I feel like I know the narrator already -- and I KNOW I know the mama, doesn't everybody know a mother like that?
Great start.

Fuchsia Groan said...

I'm having trouble buying the premise. Maybe I'm an awful daughter, but I would NEVER uproot myself (plus cat and horse!) without visiting mom first. A drop-everything visit to supposedly moribund Mama followed by a considered move makes more sense to me... but I realize you need this setup, and the voice is charming and fun.

I'd be seriously pissed at anyone who tricked me into moving to Florida. They have cockroaches the size of mice there!

Anonymous said...

I was confused at first, thinking there was a funeral and the main character knew it. Then it turns out she's expecting her Mama to be alive, but sick.

Good luck.

McKoala said...

I don't read cozies (until recently I didn't even know what they were!), but there didn't seem to be much wrong with this. Maybe a little slow? I didn't like the 'EL, Librarian...etc' part, but maybe that type of explanation is usual in this genre.

Georgiana said...

You're saying Maryland winters are worse than Florida summers? That's sadly funny.

Put me down as a MD resident who was annoyed nine times in your 750 words. I do believe that's a record. Five for bashing my adopted home state and the rest for those ellipses and dashes.

Does anyone want to tell me what a cozy is? I'm guessing this hasn't got much to do with tea.

Anonymous said...

Good job getting across that Elsie does want an excuse to get out of MD, but I still don't really buy that she quit her job already.

I like this.

Maybe Elsie and Mom are from the South(I mean natives of), and that's why they're so hyper about a state where they get snow? I live in a "snowy" state that hasn't had a bad winter in ten years, yet last October -- OCTOBER -- somebody from TN came up here in her winter coat. I looked at her and thought, "Get a grip," but I know it's all in your perception.

Anonymous said...

There's a certain naughtiness to Mama that is endearing. And the daughter has her wits about her without being condescending. I like this a lot! One false note, though: pneumonia is a fast-moving disease. There would not be time to do anything other than hop on a plane if you had any hope of seeing the afflicted alive. Better to come up with some other, more long-term disease for Mama, one that would require a daughter's care.

Nancy Beck said...


From this article:


is this explanation:

"A cozy is a mystery which includes a bloodless crime and contains very little violence, sex, or coarse language. By the end of the story, the criminal is punished and order is restored to the community.

"The character solving the crime is often an amateur sleuth who becomes involved because of personal reasons but it is also possible for the character to be a professional: police officer, medical examiner, or private detective.

"Many cozies invite the reader to solve the crime first. In those instances, clues should be evident and fair. Red herrings (apparent clues which distract the reader) may be included and all the suspects might appear guilty along the way but these falsehoods should be explained by the end. The missing candlestick was taken by a child for a school project; the averted glance which suggested guilt actually represented guilt for snacking at midnight.

"The novels of Agatha Christie and the mystery stories in Woman's World are examples of cozies."

Hope that helps. :-)


Xopher said...

I'd consider starting with Elsie Leabeck, librarian, gardener, equestrian and mature adult, gulped in a deep breath of the soft Florida air and screamed at the top of her lungs, “Mama, how could you?”

Now that would grab the reader right away.

Anonymous said...

Your librarian complaint is on the nose. Here, we still call it the "reference desk," but it's 95% "how to use the free Internet" desk.

Engaging writing. I thought the lists of flowers were slightly too long, yet I appreciate the visuals.

The set-up was a little confusing, but it was cleared up quickly, and it's not a serious problem in the context of a whole novel. Overall, this has good color, voice, and movement. Makes me wonder what happens next.