Sunday, April 22, 2018

Time Flies - Guest Post

I'm happy to let Marty Wingate take over Cozy Up With Kathy today. Marty writes the  Birds of a Feather Mystery series. Farewell, My Cuckoo is the fourth book in the series and was released April 10th.

Time Flies – Or not, depending on what the author wants
By Marty Wingate

Time is fluid – and I don’t mean in any metaphysical, string-theory sort of way. No, I mean in the pages of your favorite mysteries. How else can we account for the Dorian Gray-like life of Richard Jury – Martha Grimes’s famous British policeman who has been solving crime since 1981 and hasn’t aged a day. And neither has his friend’s Aunt Agatha, apparently.

How the years go by is different for us mere mortals from how it is for characters in a series. It’s a choice that the author makes – and as the 24th Richard Jury book is out this year, Grimes must be doing something right, no matter how slow time moves.

Sue Grafton chose a different route for her protagonist, Kinsey Millhone. A is for Alibi came out in 1982, and Grafton decided to free Kinsey within that decade. So, even as our years went by, Kinsey plodded along only a few months at a time, using an answering service instead of getting messages on her phone, and a street directory to find an address. This had to be hard work, remembering the ’80s – Grafton once said she kept forgetting how big our hair was back then.

For Julia Lanchester and the other recurring characters in my Birds of a Feather mysteries, I’ve taken a middle-of-the-road approach. When I’m in Julia’s world, I know how fast time is going by for her – and it’s always tied into the natural world and the movements of birds. Perhaps for me – for Julia – it isn’t the year so much as the season. When I arrived at the idea for Farewell, My Cuckoo, I knew it would be tied into the old rhyme:

The cuckoo comes in April,
And sings its song in May.
In June it changes tune,
And July it flies away.

Right, so I had the time of year down (the book begins in June) – but which year was it? This is book four in the series, and so I looked back at what had happened last. Book three, Every Trick in the Rook, had taken place in spring. Could Cuckoo follow hot on its heels and start up only a month later?

No, it couldn’t. Too many things had happened in Rook for Julia, Michael and the rest of them to pick up and fly forward so quickly. Things needed to settle down, patterns needed to be established, relationships find a new level. And so, I knew that an entire year had gone by before the opening pages of the new book.

What would they be doing a year later? I knew instantly – and I had my opening scene in a flash.

I hadn’t taken quite so long between book one (The Rhyme of the Magpie) and book two (Empty Nest). That had been a matter of only a few months, just enough time for Julia to grow to love her little Pipit Cottage before she was turfed out so that some major repairs could be undertaken. First she got settled, then she became unsettled – and then settled again, but for a different reason each time. When a person re-settles, it’s never quite back into the same old ways.

Here’s another difference related to how time passes in a series. Because I know these characters are living through events that will change their circumstances, I want to see them grow (and get old – eventually!). The passage of time happens to us all.

It happened to John Rebus in Ian Rankin’s books – the author took his policeman through each year just as we all live through them. And when Rebus arrived at the (then) mandatory retirement age of 60 in 2007, Rankin retired him. You can imagine the uproar from his fans (me included!) We’re fortunate Rebus has come back, and, although he’s one of those consultant-types, he’s still the same old rascal.

Apart from Christmas books, it isn’t often that an author releases a book suited to its place in the calendar. But Farewell, My Cuckoo is about working our way into summer, and so, although the book doesn’t actually start in April, I’m delighted that it’s being released during this most important month. Although, of course, I don’t expect you to take all the way to July to read it!


Farewell, My Cuckoo By Marty Wingate
Cozy Mystery - 4th in series
Alibi April 10, 2018
Julia Lanchester must defend her love nest from an invasive species: her boyfriend’s sister. And then there’s the little matter of murder . . . “The cuckoo comes in April and sings its song in May. In June it changes tune and July it flies away.” Wedding bells are ringing in the small British village of Smeaton-under-Lyme. Julia Lanchester’s second-in-command at the local tourist center is finally getting married, and the lovebirds are giving Julia and her live-in boyfriend, Michael Sedgwick, ideas about their own future. But before anyone can say “Will you,” Michael’s flighty older sister, Pammy, crashes the party, fresh off a breakup and lugging all her worldly possessions around with her in a tangle of plastic bags. Before long, Julia’s cozy cottage starts feeling more like Pammy’s bachelorette pad. To keep herself from going cuckoo, Julia throws herself into her pet projects at work—until death disrupts her plans. First a body is found on the estate. Then the police discover that Pammy was the last one to see the man alive. And soon Julia gets the feeling that if she ever wants her home—or her boyfriend—back, she’ll have to get to the bottom of this mystery, even if it means breaking a few eggs.  

About the Author

Marty Wingate is a Seattle-based writer and speaker who shares her love of Britain in her two mystery series. The Potting Shed books feature Pru Parke, a middle-aged American gardener transplanted from Texas to England, and Birds of a Feather follows Julia Lanchester, bird lover, who runs a tourist office in a Suffolk village. Marty writes garden articles for magazines including Country Gardens and the American Gardener. She is a member of the Royal Horticultural Society, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Crime Writers Association. She leads garden tours to England, Scotland, and Ireland, spending free moments deep in research for her books. Or in pubs. Marty Wingate’s captivating mysteries can be enjoyed together or separately, in any order:



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1 comment:

  1. I'm going to have to start this series. It sounds great! Thank you for writing a series I'd really be interested in!