I am thrilled today to welcome Elizabeth Craig to Escape With Dollycas.
Her Southern Quilting Mysteries are so much fun!
Writing the South?
You’ve Got Heaps of Material
By Elizabeth S. Craig
Why do I pick Southern settings for my books? Well, for one thing, it’s the only area of the world that I can write about with any degree of authority. As a lifelong Southerner, and an observer of all the South’s fun and foibles, it’s only natural I’d pick the settings I do.
For another—let’s face it. There’s just a lot of material to write about here. Everyone has at least one relative who’s a little bit batty (I claim several), there are family secrets, gossip, interesting diction choices, and quite-involved traditions and customs.
In many ways, the South is very old-fashioned. Most ladies of a particular age still adhere to the no-white-shoes-after-Labor Day rule. Even if you don’t wear pantyhose to work, you should wear it to church and funerals. And nobody wears white at weddings but the bride (wearing black at weddings is considered bad luck.) Take down the Christmas tree by New Year’s Day or else you’re cursed with bad luck for the year. Actually, there are a whole bunch of traditions related to luck and superstition. Eating black-eyed peas at New Year’s is another (this is one you should do, instead of avoid.)
Am I the only one here who was threatened with charm school when I used bad manners as a child? Children are cajoled and scolded into good behavior with plenty of ma’ams and sirs thrown in for good measure—and charm school is still around. Except now I think they call it etiquette class or something. Which doesn’t have the same appeal, to me, somehow.
So for this new book, Knot What It Seams, I figured I’d have to include a smattering of Southern funeral tradition. It might also be tradition where you live, and if it is, I’d love to hear it…or how your traditions differ. Although I only touched on this in the new book, most of my books include Southern funerals. They’re just so distinctive and such occasions for both grief and celebration that it’s tough to leave them out.
Funerals here in the South are occasions for food. Food is considered an amazing balm for the troubled spirit, here. The interesting thing is how heavy the food typically is—you’d think we’d all be a lot more health-conscious since we’ve got funerals on the brain. But there are no antioxidant super foods to be found after Southern funerals. There are plenty of casseroles, brought over by your neighbors, coworkers, church friends, family, and friends—thoughtfully put in throwaway containers with reheating instructions on them. My character in the new books, Meadow, mentions “a cornucopia of lovingly donated casseroles.”
And there will be ham. If you’ve lost a loved one here, the church ladies will descend upon your house with fiercely tender efficiency. They’ll organize the food, freezing some and putting others in the fridge. After your funeral when everyone drops by your house to be fed (does this happen elsewhere, too?), the church ladies will command your kitchen for you, shooing you out gently but firmly as they create a buffet line and serve plates of food to your grieving guests. Eventually, a party-like atmosphere may commence (particularly if the deceased was of an advanced age and the death was not an especially tragic occurrence.) It will be the first time many have seen their cousins and great aunts for years and they can’t resist the temptation to celebrate, despite their grief. Besides, Me-maw would have celebrated, too.
What about where you live? Have you got special customs related to weddings or funerals? What are they like?
Thank you so much Elizabeth for visiting today. Ham and church ladies run rampant here after funerals here in Wisconsin too:)
About This Author
Elizabeth’s latest book is Knot What it Seams, which released February 5. Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin/Berkley (as Riley Adams), the Southern Quilting mysteries for Penguin/NAL, and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink and independently.
Facebook: Riley Adams Author and Elizabeth Spann Craig Author.
Knot What It Seams:
A Southern Quilting Mystery
2nd in Series
Obsidian (February 5, 2013)
Published by New American Library
A Division of The Penguin Group
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
E-Book File Size: 716 KB
When former folk art curator Beatrice Coleman retired to Dappled Hills, North Carolina, for peace and quiet and quilting, she never expected that murder would disturb the peace…
Meadow Downey is on a quest to recruit new members for the Village Quilters Guild. She sets her sights on Jo Paxton, mail carrier, quilter, and judge for many of the nearby quilting contests. She is a much better quilter than mail carrier but all that mail gives her just enough information to cause trouble wherever she goes. Beatrice wonders if Jo is the right fit for the close knit Village Quilters. Before she can voice her concerns to Meadow Jo is killed in a car accident. Evidence shows that Jo’s crash was no accident – someone tampered with her vehicle. Meadow is sure someone is out to kill off the members of her guild. It is time for Beatrice to piece together some clues and pin down the killer before another quilter’s life is cut short.
Never a dull moment in Dappled Hills. Thankfully Police Chief Downey can filter his wife’s comical hysteria and has an open enough mind to listen to Beatrice’s theories.
Beatrice has quickly made herself at home in her new town and is even learning to quilt. Meadow and Ramsey are the perfect couple. She is absolutely as crazy as the quilts she creates and always up to something. Ramsey is calm, cool and collected, and reads poetry to relax after a hard day of fighting crime. Miss Sissy is my absolute favorite character. She is off beat and unpredictable and I love her. Jo was a fabulous character as well. A true troublemaker. Too bad she had to die.
Craig’s whodunit was full of misdirection and curves with bits of humor sewn right in. There is a true Southern feel to the characters and events. More like Southern chaos instead of Southern charm. A fun and entertaining story. These are characters I can’t wait to visit again.
Would you like to win a copy of this wonderful book?
Thanks to the people at Penguin
I have 2 copies to giveaway!!
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What about where you live?
Have you got special customs related to weddings or funerals? What are they like?
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Comments on “Cozy Wednesday with Author Elizabeth Craig (Giveaway too!)”
Where did you get your ideas to write your books?
I live in Western New York, but I think my traditions are more to do with my ethnicity. I’m Polish and the big thing is the funeral breakfast. After the funeral mass, and burial (unless it’s winter-the body won’t be buried til Spring) everyone meets at a restaurant for the funeral breakfast. Generally, a good time is had by all as many people haven’t seen each other since the last death (or wedding) and we eat and drink. Yes, there is plenty of alcohol at a funeral breakfast here-and it better be an open bar! (If not you’re considered cheap!)
Katreader–You know, I think a funeral breakfast sounds like a great idea. Of course, I love breakfast food just about any time of day. Alcohol with breakfast would be a new experience for me, though…ha! Thanks so much for sharing your traditions.
Thanks so much for hosting me today, Dollycas!
My mom wanted a traditional church supper and my loving cousins arranged her funeral as mom wanted.
Church suppers are pure comfort, aren’t they? Sweet of your cousins to help out so much!
Here the food is served in the church basement, not in your home. I am looking forward to reading about the Southern way of funerals. Dee
Thanks, Dee! And I think there would be many advantages to having the meal in the church basement. No cleaning required during such a tough time!
In England it was considered good luck if a chimney sweep showed up at the wedding. The bride was given silver horseshoes (Paper) that hung by a white ribbon that she carried with her bouquet for luck.
Ann–Love the idea of the silver horseshoes! I had a penny in my shoe for luck on my wedding day. It rattled around in my shoe too much, though. 🙂
I do love a good book in the South…. Also, loved those funeral ‘meals’…
I have lived in the South my entire life and all of the traditions you mention are true. I was brought up with them instilled in me. Can’t wait to read this book.
Thanks so much, Sandy!
I am in Georgia.
For funerals, We make a line with cars, which is escorted by police to the burial site, usually all the cars have their head lights on, or flashers.
After the burial we have a “gathering” and the local community/friends cook for the family.
Thanks for a chance at the giveaway, and the book sounds like a fun read.
Jenna– Many years ago I was in the funeral procession for my great uncle’s funeral (not too far from an army base) and I remember the soldiers getting out of their vehicles and saluting when the procession went by. Very moving!
While I’ve lived in the South, I grew up in the Orthodox Jewish Community of NYC. When someone passes away the funeral takes place within 24 hours, unless a close relative lives in another city, state or country, then it is held on the 2nd day. A period of mourning called Shiva (from the Hebrew word seven) commences when the mourners re-enter their home after the funeral.
We share the tradition of bringing food for the mourner, since we don’t think they should have to cook or prepare anything during this period. The Temple members will meet in the house twice a day for regular prayers since the mourner can’t leave the house. (Men pray 3x a day)
After the seven days you ‘rise’ from Shiva and start Sheloshim, the thirty days after, when men don’t shave but do return to work and a semblance of normal life. The Kaddish (prayer for the dead) is said by the mourners for a full year, and they cannot take part in any festive occasions or parties.
There’s more to this that I can’t remember and I might even have made a mistake or two in the telling.
I’ve attended wakes for friends family members and do think it’s a lot easier that way.
I’d love to win a copy of this book for my home library and to share with my kids.
Nora–What an amazing way to honor the memory of the departed! I didn’t realize the mourners couldn’t leave and that there were so many rituals. But you’re so right…very lengthy. In a lot of ways, that would really be comforting, but I can see where wakes are easier. 🙂
Which is why I hate funerals and have no intention of showing up for my own. ;-P
Usually in Canada with funerals its traditional to have a wake with alot of food, I guess alot like southereners. I have to tell you I love your Memphis BBQ Mysteries. It’s my favorite cozy series. I’m a big Elvis fan and love reading about the south, Memphis and southern food. Can’t wait to read Knot what it seams. It sounds great.
Tina–Sounds like Southerners and Canadians have a lot more in common than we thought! And thanks so much for the kind words on the Memphis series. I have such a good time writing that! Next book in July for the series.
Found a new author.New series to put on the TBR list. No traditions in regards to weddings and funerals though.
I don’t think we have any traditions here. But a funeral will usually include a board of photos and some rememberances from friends and relatives. This is probably a tradition in most areas.
I live in NC and there are no real traditions in regards to marriages or funerals that I am aware of (no quirks or outrageous things anyway).
My family is quite small and there have not been a lot of weddings or funerals. The only wedding I have actually attended in the last 30 years was my son’s. His bride’s family took over everything and I was only told the date, time and place to arrive. She’s Filipino. At the reception, they had a roasted pig’s head on a special table. It was supposed to signify prosperity and happiness. Everyone was supposed to partake. Fortunately I’m not squeamish. Unfortunately, after only 5 years, they are separated and heading for divorce. Probably because so many didn’t want to eat any pig’s head.
Food seems to be a part of the tradition in many of the places I’ve lived, an expression of comfort and care. Your cozy series sounds wonderful!
Thanks so much, Diva!
Merry–Thanks so much for coming by!
Margie–I haven’t seen that, but it sounds like a wonderful idea. Have seen it at 50 year anniversary parties, etc., but how nice for a funeral!
Amanda–Thanks for coming by and commenting!
thanks for this wonderful post. traditions are many that we follow. Naming our babies after the deceased that we honor that way.
Burial within 24 hours and 7 days of mourning with family bringing food each day.
Irene–Oh my! I’m a little skittish about meats, so I probably wouldn’t have known what to say…might have had to come up with some sort of excuse (allergic to pig’s head? Allergic to seasonings? That would have been tough!)
I’m in the South too. Yes, we have different customs too. One is the food after a funeral. Sometimes I think my husband attends funerals just to eat the potato salad and baked beans after the service. I still have this feeling that shoes and pocketbook must match if going to church on Sunday. Like the title of your new book.
Anne–And that’s a lovely way to remember departed family members. Love that!
Very quick burial, but that does help bring closure quicker, I know. The food for seven days sounds like a wonderful tradition.
Tea–It’s one way to get husbands to funerals! And I’m with you on the matching shoes and pocketbook (and belt, if I’ve got one.)
There use to be family traditions, but now that everyone is gone none of the traditions are followed.
Peggy–I’ve noticed that with our extended family, too–the matriarchs and patriarchs were always the ones who kept up with the traditions.
No customs at all – got married in a British registry office, and can’t imagine what customs I would associate with funerals
Here in Kentucky, which is the South but not as Southern as Georgia or Alabama, food is almost always a huge part of the funeral process. The minute the word goes out that there’s been a death, everyone starts cooking. Before the arrangements are finalized people are bringing food to the house. Some times, the ladies of the community or the church organize everything and have the food taken to the church fellowship hall or the community center after the funeral. The meal after the funeral turns into a big family reunion with everyone having a good time and feeling guilty about it. And you’re right about the food; there is no health food at the funeral. Ham, fried chicken, casseroles, and rich desserts are the comfort food of the day. Nothing says, “Sorry for your loss” like something smothered in Campbell’s Cream of Something soup and Velveeta cheese.
Tammy–Absolutely! It’s all about the comfort food. And yes, a big jolly family reunion with lots of laughter. We always do end up feeling guilty over it, too!
I live in North Central PA. I know that the VFW Aux has had ham at funerals held there. I know that the Ladies Guild at the Catholic Church has a phone tree and they all make something for funerals. I have not been to a wedding here for some time. They usually have money dances – pay to dance with bride or the grooms.
Rachelle–Interesting! I hadn’t heard of a money dance, but that would sure be a great way to start out the newlywed couple.
Your book cover is so cute. Sounds like a great read. When I was younger and my relatives would pass you would have a church funeral. And yes the church ladies cooked up an awesome meal. And those ladies always make you feel so welcome. And you could see relatives you haven’t seen in awhile. A lot of them now are just at the funeral home. At least the ones I have gone to lately. I think food always brings people together. We always had weddings with polka bands when I was growing up too. So fun.
Sue–I’ve seen more visitations at the funeral homes lately, too. And thanks about the cover! 🙂
The new book looks great! Can’t wait to read it! Here in Minnesota, food in the church hall or basement is certainly still done. Sometimes it’s just cookies (lots of cookies and bars) or sometimes it’s the whole spread, with lots of hot dishes!
I’m never one to turn down cookies! That would definitely help to sweeten the general mood. 🙂
Thank you for the chance to win this book. Reading this series makes me wish I could sew.
I forgot to answer Elizabeth’s question. I live in Florida. We don’t have any customs regarding weddings and funerals.
We have no unusual wedding or funeral customs in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Nyline–We could always bring up some of ours…seems a shame to miss out on the food!
I don’t think we have any unusual traditions for weddings or funerals here in So Cal. At least none that I have attended.
Vesper–Sometimes efficiency is even better than tradition! 🙂
I love mysteries, but theme mysteries are even better… especially crafty cozy ones! This one looks great!
Vanessa–Thanks so much! And I love them, too. 🙂
Love this new series! I may have been born north of the Madison Dixon Line, but my parents and their families were all southern born and raised, so I relate to all those southern traditions, as I was raised with them. I think that is one of the many reasons I enjoy your books so much, the people in them feel like family…and yes we do have a few “batty” ones in the family. LOL!!
I grew up in Indiana and now live in Texas. I actually went to charm school where you learn how to eat without making noises. walk with a book balanced on your head, the lady like way to cross your legs, how to make introductions and on and on. Also, when we had funerals, tons of food were brought over by relatives and neighbors. If you back into family history, you will find some southern roots!
I am in AZ- I cant really think of any regional traditions we have- maybe more old west weddings then most
I am in Canada. I think its the same as most places, family, friends & neighbors all rush in with food , help & love
We have wonderful church ladies here in exurban Virginia, too — at many churches, at least. But I think there may be more differences between different faiths and denominations than there are regional differences. Quakers, for instance, have memorial services instead of funerals, and everyone is welcome to speak, sharing memories of the deceased. In some denominations it’s traditional to invite everyone to the viewing as well as the funeral, or to hold a wake (and sometimes the words wake and viewing are seen as interchangeable.) At both my father-in-law’s viewing and his funeral, there was an honor guard of Knights of Columbus in full regalia.
The constants seem to be gathering together to remember the deceased, and members of the community providing food for the family and for mourners who attend the funeral. The latter seems to be nearly universal, at least in the U.S.
This Yankee would love to read a good cozy and learn about some Southern traditions at the same time.
Oops–I forgot to answer your question. I don’t know whether this is just my family or a local tradition—but everyone in the our family is expected to send flowers to a family funeral.
I don’t know if anyone still does this but when my grandmother died the funeral procession drove by her house on the way to the church. My parents said everyone used to do that
We don’t have any special traditions – pretty much the same as others; car procession to the cemetary and food in the church basement. The good thing about both weddings and funerals is that they bring family members together who may not see each other much otherwise.
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