Five Real-Life Stories That Made it in my Cozy Mysteries
This morning, a friend sent me an article about a woman who was arrested for breaking and entering based on the evidence of Cheeto dust. Maybe my friend just wanted to share how weird her town of Tulsa is or maybe she realized this is the kind of story I would use in my CafFUNated Mysteries.
Either way, I responded that nobody can make this stuff up. And I proceeded to tell her where I got the idea for the unique murder weapon in A Caffeine Conundrum. I thought I'd share with you too. So here are five real-life stories that inspired my mystery series.
My husband's coworker went to the hospital for what he thought was a heart attack. They tested him and found out his heart was fine, but his blood showed an amount of caffeine that could only be found in over 30 cups of coffee. Since he'd only drank his usual thermos that morning, he wasn't sure where the caffeine came from. He went home and told his wife who responded, "Honey, we were out of coffee grinds. What did you make coffee with?" He'd apparently poured instant coffee into their coffee filter, which dripped coffee so strong nobody else in the house had drank it. This was a good thing since his in-laws had been visiting, and that much caffeine could have killed someone older or with heart issues. We were very glad Jim's coworker survived, but I knew I'd found the murder weapon for my first cozy mystery novel.
Another one of my husband's office stories includes the time a nearby bank was robbed. His company got alerts, so from their office vantage point, he and his coworkers looked out the window and could see the robber below. They also saw the police cars race right past him. They called 911 and gave cops the play by play of where the man was hiding behind a car. If they hadn't done this, the man might not have been caught. I used such a scenario at the beginning of A Latte Difficulty.
While visiting my brother-in-law, his wife returned home to find blood spatters all over their house. Though this sounds like a scene from a horror movie, it turned out to be a result of their dog whacking his tail open then continuing to wag it as he ran around the house. The vet diagnosed their dog with "happy tail syndrome," and I knew I had to use this in A Latte Difficulty.
After I wrote A Cuppa Trouble, which was all about car theft, I met a former prison inmate who had become a Christian. I was kind of bummed I hadn't met her before because when I mentioned car theft, she'd immediately respond with things like, "Oh yeah. I used to boost cars and drive them to Portland where I sold them to a chop shop." I'd really like to write her story someday, but for this book I resorted to researching online. All the crazy stuff that happens in the book has happened in real life. A ten-year-old really did steal a car from a lot. There really was a carjacker who got stuffed in the trunk by the car's owner. And there really was a vehicle whose owner chained it to a post to keep from getting it stolen, but the next day she found it chained backwards to the post with a note that read, "We can take your car anytime we want." Bonus: It really is illegal in Ohio to leave your automobile running when it's unlocked and you're not in it.
For my upcoming book, A Mug of Mayhem, the real-life stories revolve around an old folks home. My dad, daughters, and best friend all worked at a ritzy retirement community, and their stories are the best. There's a former spy who uses her skills to sneak cookies. There's a former plumber with dementia who causes floods by taking apart toilets. Then Facebook friends told me the story of a man who kept trying to sneak out of the memory care ward, so the staff posted a picture of him next to the door with a warning not to let him out. I fell in love with these characters along with the messages we can learn from them, and I'm so excited for you to read this last novel in the series coming out in September!!!
I'm done writing mystery novels for now, but I still love stories like this. If you have any real-life stories that are stranger than fiction, share them here! If I ever use it in a book or I share it with a writer friend who uses it in a book, I'll send you an autographed copy. It doesn't even have to be something you experienced. It could just be a story you heard about like the Cheeto dust story.
What's a real-life story that should be used in a book?