Chick Chat: Seeds of Mirth–or Murder?

Today we Chicks share our (mostly) humorous experiences from real life that inspired an element in our writing: books, series, characters, scenes–you name it. Read on and feel free to add a few of your own!

Lisa Q. Mathews

Years ago, my mom moved into a condo in a lovely assisted living community in Florida. I spent a lot of time there, helping her move, fix the place up, and later visiting. I soon discovered the place had a lot of rules. One of them was not to be late for formal 5:30 pm dinners in the dining room. I was in the elevator coming from the pool, soaking wet with no chance of making dinner, when a spry 80-something jumped on, still buttoning her Talbots blouse. “Appearances,” she said to me with a sigh. “It never ends.” Then she stepped off the elevator, with a last pat to her hair, completely composed. I knew right then I’d found my sleuth Dorothy Westin for the Ladies Smythe & Westin series.

 Ellen Byron

We were visiting my Nonna in Astoria one day when my mother shared a story with me that I’ve never forgotten. Apparently, the late spouse of one of Nonna’s friends appeared to his widow in a dream to complain he’d been buried without shoes. So, when the next pisane shuffled off his mortal coil, they put an extra pair of shoes into the casket with him to deliver to the poor, barefoot soul.

Cut to me writing Long Island Iced Tina, my second Catering Hall Mystery. (Maria DiRico, my pen name for the series, happens to be my late Nonna’s maiden name.) I could think of no better B-story than one where my protagonist Mia’s grandmother keeps crashing funerals in Astoria to find one where she can discreetly drop a pair of shoes in the casket in order to help a friend who had a dream about her footwear-challenged late husband.

Excited, I told my mother I’d used the story in book. Her response? “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Leslie Karst

My newest book, The Fragrance of Death, finds Sally waking up on page one horrified to discover that she’s completely lost her sense of smell—not a good thing for someone who cooks for a living. You may suspect that this plot device is based on the plight of the myriad people who lost their sense of smell as a result of Covid, but it was actually inspired by personal experience, something completely unrelated to the pandemic. For I suffered through my own horror story when, some years back, after having a particularly vicious sinus infection, I thought I’d recovered—only to wake up one morning unable to smell a thing.

It’s an exceedingly bizarre experience to brew your morning pot of coffee and then suddenly realize you can’t detect any aroma whatsoever from those beans you’re grinding. And then to have my ENT inform me that my sense of smell may never ever return? That it all depended on whether or not the nerves regenerated on their own? Horror of horrors!

I almost balked at throwing such a traumatic experience at my protagonist. After four books, I’d grown quite fond of her, and it seemed somehow, well…mean to saddle her with such a plight. But it is a murder mystery, so I figured she could take it—Sally’s a tough gal. And, after all, my sense of smell did thank goodness eventually return—though not for six long, miserable and excruciating weeks. But you’ll just have to read the book discover what happens to poor Sally….

Kathleen Valenti

My inspired-by-real-events contribution isn’t ha-ha funny, but it is well-that’s-odd funny. My first book, PROTOCOL, features a storyline in which my protagonist receives messages intended for someone else on the used phone she purchased. This was inspired by an accidental hard drive switcheroo that happened when we sent our laptop to the manufacturer for repair. It came back with someone else’s hard drive, which contained all manner of sensitive information. Our hard drive suffered the same fate. It took a while to get to the bottom of the issue–and, fun fact, we never got our hard drive back. But I did get the idea for a plot driven by a powerful technological snafu.

Jennifer Chow

In Death By Bubble Tea, there’s a reference to a long-ago Disneyland trip taken by the two cousins that did not turn out as dreamily as Yale envisioned. Yale shares about the teacup ride, which made her insides squirm. Yes, that was inspired by real life!

We went to Disneyland as a family, and I got on that glorious ride. Afterward, my parents asked me how it went. “It was dizzy,” I said. They thought I’d replied with “It was easy.” They were ready to send me back in line for round two!  

Readers, have an inspiring story to share? Or one you think should be incorporated into “fiction”? Tell us in the comments!

34 thoughts on “Chick Chat: Seeds of Mirth–or Murder?

  1. For many years I had looked forward to going on a cruise and finally we were able to afford to go on one. We fly to Ft Lauderdale and go to get our luggage and my suitcase went to Orlando. The airline says no problem we can get it to you before the ship sales. We are at the early sitting for dinner as we start sailing and still no suitcase. I am wearing a heavy pant suit as when we left NH it was cold enough to scrap the windows and I thought I could change when I got on the ship. I then went to customer service after dinner and they called the airline and they said no problem the suitcase will be at Key West when you get there the next day. I have to where the same pant suit to go on our tour and we get back to our cabin no suitcase. By now I am crying. Our cabin stewardess asks what is wrong and she went down to the hold of the ship and came back with my suitcase. She got a great tip at the end of the cruise. Tip: Never pack just your clothes all in one suitcase, put some in your husbands and now I put a change in my carryon. Everyone kept saying now you have an excuse to buy new clothes. The problem was they were already new clothes.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Oh my gosh, thank goodness you got the case back! Sounds like Logan Airport. As a fellow 603-er, I would relate to the horror of wearing fleeces and fuzzies in Key West. Aaargh!! Melting…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Lisa, We flew out of Manchester and there happened to be someone flying to Orlando with the same last name as us. The guy checking us in says your ticket says you are going to Ft Lauderdale but we show you going to Orlando. I freak out as he already sent our luggage on the belt telling him no we are going to Ft Lauderdale. He goes out back with new luggage tags but missed one. One of the Orlando bags ended up in Ft Lauderdale.

        I was so hot and all the crew was telling me how great I looked. I was quite a bit overweight at the time and it wasn’t easy to find clothes in my size. None on the ship unless I wanted a men’s tshirt. Thank goodness the airline got the bag to me in Key West.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wow! What a nightmare! But great advice about not packing all your clothes in one bag. My husband and I generally share a bag when we travel together. We each get a side. But now I’ll make sure to pack a spare outfit in my carry-on.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. We’ve had our luggage lost twice by the airline, but it was no problem for us. Why? Both times they mislaid our suitcases on the way home instead of on our outbound flight!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Oh yes, lost luggage stories. The same thing happened to my dad on a cruise. They had to keep going port to port and trying to find the suitcase. (Also, my hubby has a story where they totally lost his luggage–never found it–and he had to stock up at 7-Eleven.)

      Liked by 3 people

  2. These are great! My favorite was probably Lisa’s, because I can just picture some lady doing that. I’ve heard people saying that!
    They say truth is stranger than fiction. So of course the Chicks on the Case have to prove it.
    My biggest IRL move into fiction is probably my character Cheryl, who is based on an actual person. Everyone tells me I need to tone her down, but I refuse to most of the time. Because most of what she does in the stories (except the job aspect) are words and actions directly out of the real person’s mouth.
    I mean, when someone spends an extra $600 to fly back from the Dominican Republic the day AFTER they arrive, because the hotel they booked DID NOT have room service, and her HUSBAND wasn’t there to FILL the coffee maker, how can you not use that person in a story?

    Liked by 5 people

  3. What fun stories, everyone! My younger kiddo is a music education major at Ball State University. His main instrument is the trombone. His girlfriend is also a music education major who plays percussion.

    When it came time for a new series a few years back, I knew it had to involve music. I set it in a fictional small town right outside Ball State’s home of Muncie, Indiana and made the protagonist, Darcy Gaughan, a drummer in honor of Aidan’s girlfriend. I made Darcy’s mentor a trombone player and retired Ball State professor as a top of the hat to Aidan. I:ve also added a comic book store to the community in honor of older kiddo Shea’s job.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. We live on the busy main street of our town, and for some reason our driveway is a catch-all for urban effluvia–fast food wrappers, hub caps, beer cans, etc. One day I found a crumpled up photo of a high school girl with some illegible writing on the back. When I uncrumpled it and saw what it was, the words, “She’s dead!” went through my mind. I never did find out if I was right, but the incident sparked the story that explained the central mystery in my Natalie McMasters novel Revenge!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Tom, what a find! I found a bookmark in a book from the library taht I’ve always wanted to use in a story but haven’t yet. You’ll notice I’m not sharing the details, lol!


  5. What an awesome story, Tom–and that’s quite a twist you added, brr! (Also, that was my second encounter with the word “effluvia” in 14 hours. I had to look it up the first time!)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Kathy–that hard drive story reminds me of a tech issue that made it into one of my books, where someone sends an email to the wrong person. One of my editors made the comment that it wasn’t realistic, and I said it most certainly was! Who HASN’T done this (or come awfully close to doing so)?

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Sorry I was too drowning in the first week of the semester to contribute, but I LOVED this post. Really terrific glimpses behind the curtains. Fascinating, every one.

    Leslie, you reminded me of how post-radioactive iodine, I lost my sense of smell and taste for about two months. Strange and disconcerting indeed.


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